14 November 2006

Short Downward Flights

I recently acquired a copy of a book titled Progress in Flying Machines, by Octave Chanute.

As you might guess by the guy's first name, he lived a long time ago. He was born in 1832, and came to the US from Paris with his parents at the age of 6.

He published Progress in 1894. The Smithsonian Institute recommended Wilber Wright read it, as he and his brother began their pioneering work.

The US Air Force eventually named Chanute Air Force Base after good old Octave. (My dad was stationed at Chanute for a few years, when I was a kid, and I have many fond memories of that area. The base was closed in 1993).

I mention this because, aside from being a fascinating look at the history of failed attempts at manned flight, there's a very funny line, describing the aviation experiments of a French locksmith named Besnier. He designed the clever contraption pictured here, and Chanute said he "took short downward flights aided by gravity."

Short downward flights aided by gravity? I think there's another name for that: falling.


Steve Sherlock said...

I like that phrase.

The phrase also says that the recent fancy for "sanitation engineers", and "vertically challenged people" is not all that recent.

Dan said...

Thanks, Steve! Good observation about our tendency to create euphemisms to describe simple things...