HOW IT FEELS TO FLY
REPORTER TRIES AN AEROCURVE
With One of A. M. Herring's Flying Machines
110 Feet on the First Trial -- Description of His Experience.
Any man endowed with an average amount of nerve, a cool head and a
quick eye and a fair muscular development, can soar through the air nowadays, provided
he is equipped with a ma-chine like the one being used by A. M. Herring among the
sand dunes near Dune Park, Ind. All that is necessary for him to do is to seize
the machine with a firm grasp, say a prayer, take a running jump into space and
trust to luck for finding a soft place when he alights. His chances of getting hurt
are about one in a thousand in his favor, while having more sport to the second
than he ever dreamed possible.
Mr. Herring has been making flights with his machine for more than
a week. Last year with a machine almost identical in construction he made daily
experiments in flying for over a month. He made several hundred ventures into the
air, ranging over distances from 100 to 600 feet, and in none of them did he receive
as much as a scratch. William A. Avery, who was one of the party to which Mr. Herring
belonged, took the same risk fully as many times, and he, too, has yet to spend
a cent for arnica or court plaster as a result of his seeming recklessness.
Reporter Takes a Flight
With all these arguments before him in favor of the docility of the
flying machine, a reporter for Time TIMES-HERALD persuaded himself yesterday afternoon
that he would like to hitch himself to the airy steed and try conclusions with a
fish eagle that circled over his head a mile or so. He had witnessed the success
of Mr. Herring half a dozen times. It looked so very easy. Just a little jump off
the end of a plank, and then a swift glide downward for 200 or 300 feet in the space
of five seconds, a gentle drop on the soft sand, and it was all over. It was a thousand
per cent better fun to look at than shooting the chutes.
It was not a good day for coasting on the air, although Mr. Herring
had found the conditions suitable for several very interesting and successful demonstrations
of the merits of the machine. The wind was blowing from the south at the rate of
eighteen or twenty miles an hour, but it blew irregularly. This was unfavorable
to the making of any long flights, and the best he could do was to fly about 300
feet from his starting point on the crest of a sand hall. He was about to conclude
his experiments for the day when the feasibility of a greenhorn making a flight
was suggested, and the machine was placed in the hands of the young man who made
Getting Ready to Start
One will never know what it is to sail through the air at a speed of
thirty or forty miles an hour, sometimes at a height of ten feet and at the next
moment three times as high, until he has tackled the aerocurve, or gliding machine.
The first step is to get under the apparatus, and, after all, this is the most difficult
part of the performance. The machine weighs only twenty-three pounds, but it is
as big as the bay window of a cottage and has an alarming tendency to topple over
on a man's head at a critical moment. With but two small upright sticks to grasp
and a frail wooden bar under each arm on which to support the weight of the body
one is not deeply impressed with the stability of the machine on coming into actual
Once underneath the machine one finds himself standing on a wide plank
which rests on the sloping side of a sand hill. The hill is about 100 feet high
and steep enough to test the lungs and legs of the strongest man. You face the wind
as squarely as possible and shift the machine to and fro until you feel that it
is balanced fairly on your arms. You are suddenly aware that the broad expanse of
varnished silk above your head is pulling on your arms and trying to get away from
you with each gust of the freshening wind. At the same time you remember the caution
to keep the front edge of the machine depressed until the instant of your departure
Hard Work to Start
It becomes necessary to start, of course, if one wants to fly. Just
at this time, when one finds himself starting down the side of a steep hill and
sees a stump sticking out of the sand at the bottom, he wonders whether he will
hit or miss it in his downward flight . He sees a small tree, and shudders at the
thought of landing in its top. One of his friends about half way down the hill suddenly
comes within the range of his vision, and his cautioned to move a half mile to the
side. In the meantime a sickening fear comes over one that he may lose his balance
and plow a long and deep furrow in the sand with his nose.
The wind grows stronger, and blows with surprising steadiness. Somebody
-- one can't turn his head to see who it is -- mutters that the wind is just right,
and that it is a good time to start. Grasping the uprights with a grim determination
to never let loose, and drawing a deep breath, one takes four or five running steps
down the plank and jumps off, expecting to drop like a stone to the sand. To his
surprise and pleasure he experiences about the same sensations felt by a man when
taking his first ascension in an elevator. There is the same queer feeling of being
lifted from beneath and a corresponding exhilaration as the sense of motion is realized.
As the machine mounts in the air one sees the ground sinking beneath.
He imagines he is a hundred feet in the air, and begins to wonder if he will ever
come down and be able to see his folks again in this world.
Ups and Downs of Flying
The thought no sooner comes when the machine suddenly begins
to descend with lightning speed. The wind rushes in the face of the operator like
a hurricane and hums through the network of fine wire that forms part of the framework
with a high, shrill note. There is a rustling sound, as of sand rushing over the
white silk surfaces that sustain the machine in the air. All of these things are
noted in a moment of dread, for the earth is rising all the time, as though to strike
Just as one stretches his legs out expecting to plant his feet on something
solid, the wind suddenly lifts the machine again toward the sky. As it mounts upward
one's confidence returns. It is not so dangerous after all, just as Mr. Chanute
and Mr. Herring and Mr. Avery said, and the possibility of flying across the valley
and returning to the starting point is mentally revolved. Then the bottom of every-thing
seems to have dropped out, and one realizes that the wind is not blowing at all.
The machine settles down slowly and steadily, and to the disappointment of the operator
his feet strike the sand. His experience in the air is over.
He turns around and looks up the side of the hill, feeling that he
has traveled at least a thousand yards. When the tapeline is brought out, however,
he is somewhat disgusted to find that he is only 110 feet away from his starting
point. He wonders how this can be, when he was up in the air at least ten minutes.
Then he receives another shock, when he is told that his flight lasted just five
seconds. He still fails to understand, knowing positively that he was at least 100
feet up in the air, but some of the observers tell him that he was never more
than thirty feet above the earth. This is the funny part of coasting on the air
when one is beginning. It's different when you know how.
Mr. Herring expects to break camp to-day and return to the city. He
is satisfied that nothing more can be accomplished for the benefit of science by
continuing the experiments with the machine which he and Octave Chanute have jointly
invented. He expects before many months, however, to make a practical test of a
motor in connection with the machine. If it works, Mr. Herring says, the problem
of mechanical flight will be solved.