Unlocking the Sky
Glenn Hammond Curtiss and the Race to Invent the AirplaneBook - 2002
The first public flight in the United States. The first commercially sold airplane. The remarkable first flight from one American city to another. The first pilot license issued in this country. These were just a few of the milestones in the career of Glenn Hammond Curtiss, perhaps the greatest aviator and aeronautical inventor of all time.
Unlocking the Sky tells his extraordinary story -- a tale of the race to design, refine, and manufacture a manned flying machine that took place in the air, on the ground, on the water, and in the courtrooms of America. Who would be the first to make a workable airplane, and almost as critical, who would control the right to use or sell this revolutionary technology?
While Orville and Wilbur Wright threw a veil of secrecy over their own flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903, Curtiss teamed up with engineers in America and abroad, freely exchanging information in an attempt to resolve the most difficult challenges in constructing a reliable and stable airplane. In 1908, Curtiss piloted his groundbreaking June Bug in the first public flight in America. Fiercely jealous, the Wright brothers took to the courts to keep Curtiss and his airplanes out of the sky and off the market.
Unlocking the Sky elevates Curtiss to his rightful place as an all-American hero. Ultimately, the Wright brothers were unsuccessful in their efforts to monopolize the airplane. With plot-twisting interventions from Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Samuel P. Langley, and, of course, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Seth Shulman's gripping narrative captures the dynamism of an era, a time much like our own, dominated by the struggle for control over fast-paced and unsettling technological change. It is a story of invention and adventure that shatters longheld myths about the birth of the airplane and raises profound questions about the way we remember history.