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May 24, 2022

It happens every Sunday

One vision lifted mankind into skies
Jim Montgomery held a rope about 10 feet down the slope from the
crest of the mesa. When his older brother shouted

Now!

both men ran a few steps and Jim dropped the rope when it
tightened.
His brother soared free with the rope dangling from his

aeroplane

which banked and turned gracefully 15 feet above their family’s
ranch near San Diego until it landed gently 600 feet away.
One vision lifted mankind into skies

Jim Montgomery held a rope about 10 feet down the slope from the crest of the mesa. When his older brother shouted “Now!” both men ran a few steps and Jim dropped the rope when it tightened.

His brother soared free with the rope dangling from his “aeroplane” which banked and turned gracefully 15 feet above their family’s ranch near San Diego until it landed gently 600 feet away.

It was the morning of Aug. 28, 1883, and John J. Montgomery had completed the first manned, controlled heavier-than-air flight in the United States, 20 years before the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk.

Birds and kites had fascinated Montgomery since childhood. He was born in Yuba City in 1858 and raised in Oakland where the family moved when he was 5. At 11 he saw an aeronaut pilot a steam-propelled hydrogen balloon at a July 4th outing, and went home and made a scale model.

Montgomery matriculated at Santa Clara College but transferred to St. Ignatius Academy in San Francisco. After earning a master of science degree, he returned to his family ranch and sat up a workshop in the barn. His sister Jane pumped the bellows while he created cambered wings resembling those of birds. He named his first aeroplane “The Gull Glider.”

Following its flight, Montgomery’s life was devoted to aerodynamics and flying. He taught mathematics at high schools in Northern California but away from the classroom was either designing a new glider, flying, or writing papers on aerodynamics.

In 1893 at the Columbia World’s Fair in Chicago he addressed the Aeronautical Congress, and later corresponded with the Wright Brothers

While attending Santa Clara to earn his Ph.D., Montgomery worked with Father Richard H. Bell on improving Marconi’s wireless and also devised an electric typewriter.

In 1905, Montgomery and Daniel Maloney, a circus daredevil who parachuted from balloons, made plans for Maloney to ascend in the aeroplane borne by a balloon to 4,000 feet from where he would cut it loose. The descent took 20 minutes and the craft executed a graceful series of maneuvers until it landed.

It was repeated at the Leonard Ranch in Aptos, in San Juan Bautista, then at Santa Clara College where scores of newsmen watched. But shortly after, something went wrong and Maloney headed to earth in an uncontrolled spin. He waved once gallantly just before the fatal impact.

Montgomery’s grief eventually gave way to activity in making more flights. During two weeks in October 1911, he flew 55 times despite his doctor’s advice to quit. He needed just one more flight to test a new control. On Oct. 31, his craft went into a sideslip, and then crashed. One wing was barely damaged but a bolt penetrated Montgomery’s brain and he was dead at 53.

Last year in Aptos during the Centennial Celebration of Soaring Flight, the Dean of American Aviation was memorialized for his vision and dedication in helping lift Man to the realm of the skies – and beyond.

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