The Wright Brothers were wimps.
Or so you might think after reading this account of their unsung but even more daring rivals—the men and women who strapped wings to their backs and took to the sky. If only for a few seconds.
People have been dying to fly, quite literally, since the dawn of history. They’ve made wings of feather and bone, leather and wood, canvas and taffeta, and thrown themselves off the highest places they could find. Theirs is the world’s first and still most dangerous extreme sport, and its full history has never been told.
Birdmen, Batmen, and Skyflyers is a thrilling, hilarious, and often touching chronicle of these obsessive inventors and eccentric daredevils. It traces the story of winged flight from its doomed early pioneers to their glorious high-tech descendants, who’ve at last conquered gravity (sometimes, anyway). Michael Abrams gives us a brilliant bird’s-eye view of what it’s like to fly with wings. And then, inevitably, to fall.
In the Immortal Words of Great Birdmen...
“Someday I think that everyone will have wings and be able to soar from the housetops. But there must be a lot more experimenting before that can happen.” —Clem Sohn, the world’s first batman, who plummeted to his death at the Paris Air Show in 1937
“The trouble was that he went only halfway up the radio tower. If he had gone clear to the top it would have been different.” —Amadeo Catao Lopes in 1946, explaining the broken legs of the man who tried his wings
“One day, a jump will be the last. The jump of death. But that idea does not hold me back.” —Rudolf Richard Boehlen, who died of jump-related injuries in 1953
“It turned out that almost everyone from the thirties and forties had died. That just made me want to do it more.” —Garth Taggart, stunt jumper for The Gypsy Moths , filmed in 1968
“You have to be the first one. The second one is the first loser.” —Felix Baumgartner, who in 2003 became the first birdman to cross the English Channel
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Birdmen, Batmen, and Skyflyers|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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Birdmen, Batmen, and Skyflyers
One Small Step for Man = One Giant Step for Man
For those of us who fly in our dreams, rarely is there any flapping of the arms, nor are there hidden jets or superhero capes. No air, really. The means of propulsion, even for daytime nihilists, is some kind of faith–just a matter of knowing it can be done–that keeps the body suspended and moving. And as that faith wanes, maybe from some creeping knowledge that it must be a dream, instead of plummeting to the ground there’s just a slow, soft descent. Sometimes there’s only enough faith to hover a few inches or feet above the ground. But those inches are miles when compared to how high we expect to fly after our morning cup of coffee. In the waking world we are utterly certain that any step off a mountain, roof, or table will have the same result: blind obedience to the draconian laws of physics.
We can fantasize that if we could just muster up enough faith, we could launch ourselves off some precipice and hover there like Wile E. Coyote before he notices the earth’s no longer beneath him. But to go any further with the fantasy is to feel gravity’s tug. No one will ever persuade us to jump–without a parachute–from anything much higher than the kitchen counter. Fasting, lashing the flesh, walking on coals: these are the limits of what the faithful are asked to do. What religion or cult has ever suggested to its followers that with enough faith they could fly?
And yet every century has had its birdmen, people with enough faith in the possibility of humans taking flight–and enough faith in whatever accoutrements they had devised–to take the lite