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Friday, September 19, 2014

First manned flight September 20, 1865

Jacob Brodbeck was born in the duchy of W├╝rttemberg on October 13, 1821. He sailed for Texas with his brother George on August 25, 1846. He reached Fredericksburg, Texas in March 1847, where he became a teacher. Brodbeck eventually became the county surveyor, district school supervisor, and county commissioner. But he is most famous for his attempts at powered flight almost forty years before the famous success of Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Brodbeck worked on his design for twenty years. In 1863, he built a scale model of the craft with a rudder, wings, and a propeller powered by coiled springs. He would show the model at various county fairs, and bouyed by the success of the model, began looking for funding to build a full scale version.

Brodbeck wrote:

I will give a few ideas indicating generally the character of the air ship, and what it will be able to accomplish. The air ship consists of three main parts:

1. The lower suspended portion, formed like a ship with a short prow to cut the air; it serves to hold the aeronaut, and also the power of producing engine with all the steering apparatus. This portion is shut up all around to prevent the rapid motion from affecting the breathing of the man within. In this, as low as possible, lies the center of gravity of the whole structure, so as to steady the motion. At the back end of the ship, there is a propeller screw which will make it possible to navigate in the water, in case by any accident the aeronaut should have to descend while he is above water. In this case, the ship can be detached from the flying apparatus.

2. The upper portion, or flying apparatus, which makes use of the resistance of the air, consists of wings, partly movable, partly immovable, presenting the appearance of horizontal sails, but having functions entirely different from the sails of vessels.

3. The portion producing the forward motion consists of two screws, which can be revolved with equal or unequal motion, as to serve the purpose of lateral steering, or of wings of a peculiar construction. The preference to be given to one or the other depends on the nature of the motive power.

Another apparatus regulates the ascending motion. The material is so selected as to combine the greatest strength with the least weight. When the air ship is in motion, the aeronaut has in each hand a crank, one to guide the ascending and descending action, the other the lateral steerage. Immediately in front of him is the compass, while a barometer with a scale made for the purpose, shows him the approximate height. Another apparatus, similar to the ball regulator of a steam engine, shows him the velocity, as well as the distance passed over. It is self-evident that the speed of the air depends upon motive power and on the direction of the winds; according to my experiments and calculations it will be from 30 to 100 miles per hour.

Now, it depends on who you talk to as to what happened next. Some say that Brodbeck made his first attempt in Luckenbach, Texas. The reports indicate that the craft got twelve feet in the air and traveled about 100 feet before the springs unwound completely and the machine crashed to the ground.

Some folks say that he made his first flight in San Pedro Park, San Antonio, where a bust of Brodbeck commemorates the event. There are some who say the flight took place in 1868. But everyone agrees that the flight wasn't successful.

After the crash, Brodbeck couldn't find any local investors, so he began a US tour to raise funds to continue his work. But after his papers were stolen in Michigan, he couldn't persuade anyone to invest in his scheme.

Brodbeck returned to his home near Luckenbach, where he died in 1910, and was buried on the farm. Since no copies of his plans survive, Brodbeck's aeronautical adventures are in doubt.

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