A dream of flying men

08 agosto 2007

At the beginning of the XX century, balloon pilots risked their lives flying on the first motorized dirigibles. In 1900, using a motorcycle engine and an aerodynamic hydrogen filled balloon, Thomas Scott Baldwin created the dirigible "California Arrow", which underwent the first controlled circular flight in America on August 3, 1904.

From 1900 to 1908 Baldwin built a great number of small non-rigid airships of cigar shape which were driven by small gasoline engines and these he exhibited at various county fairs. He traveled to East Asia and other countries showcasing the "California Arrow", a flying machine never seen in most countries.

These kind of dirigibles, a large gas bag with a gondola framework below for the pilot and engine, were controlled by the pilot simply moving backward or forward on the gondola to ascend or descend. Pilots actually risked their lives in every show.

The crowds watched in awe as pilots stunned them with their frail balloons. But, in those days, the glamor of the airplane began to grow as everybody talked about the Wright brothers invention.

The first major U.S. airshow took place at Dominguez Field, just south of Los Angeles, in 1910. In this airshow, Lincoln Beachey, the best of the balloon pilots who worked for Baldwin, sensed the end of an era for his dirigible as the star attraction of meets. When an airplane roared overhead Beachey remarked to a friend: "Boy, our racket is dead!" Beachey bacame later one of the best airplane pilots ever. The intrusion of the airplane was the death of the dirigible.

Images courtesy of www.earlyaviator.com