A Project for Flying

Robert Hardley

A Project for Flying, by Robert Hardley

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Title: A Project for Flying In Earnest at Last!
Author: Robert Hardley
Release Date: February 23, 2004 [EBook #11244]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

Produced by Distributed Proofreaders

A Project for Flying.
In Earnest at Last!

A Project for Flying.
In Earnest At Last.

The following appeared in one of our public journals of the date indicated
To the Editor of the Tribune.
SIR:--You rightly appreciate the interest with which the popular mind regards all efforts in the direction of navigating the air.
One man of my acquaintance was deeply interested to know the results of the California Experiment, because he alone, as he believed, had questioned Nature and learned from her the great secret of aerial navigation.
To-day's Tribune brings us the full account of the machine, its performance and modus operandi; and without the authority of my friend, I can pronounce at once that the thing is simply ridiculous. It is the same old useless effort, with the same impossible agents. But to-day, within twenty miles of Trinity steeple, lives the man who can give to the world the secret of navigating the air, in calm or in storm, with the wind or against it; skimming the earth, or in the highest currents, just as he wills, with all the ease, and all the swiftness, and all the exactitude of a bird.
My friend is only waiting for an opportunity to perfect his plan, when he will make it known.
Yours truly,
New York; June 14th, 1869.
Two years have passed and no progress has been made in aerial navigation.
The California Experiment failed. The great Airship "CITY OF NEW YORK," had previously escaped the same fate, only because more prudent than her successor she declined a trial. The promising and ambitious enterprise of Mr. Henson has hardly been spoken of for a quarter of a century. And notwithstanding the fact that the number of ascensions in balloons in the United States and Europe must be counted by thousands, and although the exigencies of recent wars have made them useful, yet it must be confessed that the art of navigating the air remains in much the same state in which the brothers Montgolfiers left it at the close of the last century.
The reason for this want of progress in the art referred to, is not to be sought in any want of interest in the subject, or of enthusiasm in prosecuting experiments. Certainly not for want of interest in the subject because to fly, has been the great desideratum of the race since Adam. And we find in the literature of every age suggestions for means of achieving flight through the air, in imitation of birds; or for the construction of ingenious machines for aerial navigation. And if history and traditions are to be credited, it would be equally an error to suppose that our age alone had attempted to put theory into practice in reference to navigating the air.
Even the fables of the ancients abound with stories about flying: that of Dedalus and his son Icarius, will occur to every reader. And the representations of the POETS, and the allusions in HOLY WRIT equally prove how natural and dear to the mind of man is the idea of possessing "wings like a dove."
But it is safe enough to assert, that hitherto, all attempts at navigating the air have been failures.
Floating through the atmosphere in a balloon, at the mercy not only of every wind but of every breath of air, is in no adequate sense aerial navigation. And I do not hesitate to say, that balloons are absolutely incapable of being directed.
All the analogies by which inventors have been encouraged in their expectations are false, the rudders of ships and the tails of birds are no exceptions. They will never be able to guide balloons as sailors do ships, by a rudder, because ships do not float suspended in the water as balloons float in the air; nor do birds float through the air in any sense. They are not bouyant--lighter than the element in which they move, but immensely heavier; besides they do not guide themselves wholly by their tails. We may depend upon it, if we ever succeed in navigating the air, it will be by a strict adherence to the principles upon which birds fly, and a close imitation of the means which they employ to effect that object.
It is true, that in respect to the means to
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