Reprinted From
August 2, 1896




Flying Machine of Octave Chanute on
the Principles of Bird Flight - Plan of
 W.W.McEwen, the Parachutist, to Ascend
 on a Mammoth Rocket - He will Go Up
 Like a Bullet from a Gun - Outline of His
 Theory - Wings Automatically Regulated.

Flying machines are the order of the day. For a number of years there has been considerable investigation along the line of aerial navigation, but until recently the great difficulty has been experienced that the flying machines would not fly. Beginning, however, with Maxim and his adaptation of the aeroplane, it would seem that a new state of affairs had come to pass, and that the right track had been hit upon at last. Of late several machines have been brought forward, most of them of the aeroplane type and nearly all of them give promise of a fair share of ultimate success. Two of the latest ideas come from the West, and have Chicago as their center of operation.

  The design of these has already been described by  THE TRIBUNE. It is the airship invented by Octave Chanute, former President of the Society of Engineers. In it the principles derived from a study of the flight of birds, the line along which there seems the greatest likelihood of success in aerial navigation, have been closely followed, and Mr. Chanute believes that he has mastered and successfully applied these.

   At first glance the Chanute airship looks very much like a ship with all sails spread. There is a resemblance to a ship, too, in the details. The frame which supports a man, is of willow and spruce, shaped in a general way like a canoe, save that there is a greater curvature of deck plane and keel. Made as it is, this frame is light, though rigid to a degree, and sufficiently strong to support a man above the average weight.

   Extending from the boat shaped frame there are six pairs of wings. The ribs for these are of willow covered with a light silk, saturated in a preparation of gum cotton, sufficiently strong to prevent penetration by either water or air. Each wing is curved on a parabola of one-twelfth of its width of two feet, and each is seven feet long, thus furnishing a surface of something over fifteen feet square. The outside ends of the wings are connected with a width of prepared silk, acting as a keel to the airship.

Wings Automatically Regulated

  The chief improvement over other airships, however, is found in the automatic regulation of the wings, by which they are kept at an angle with the plane of the air current. If upon exhaustive experiment the regulator acts as it has in the early trials it is believed that the question of navigating the air has been is settled, at least such are the claims of the inventor. The propelling of a ship through the air has never occasioned great trouble; it is the sustaining it and carrying it in the face of the wind which have bothered the inventors. Large birds will suddenly turn and sail off in the very teeth of a strong wind without a movement of the wings, and the obtaining of the same power in an airship has been the dream of inventors. This Mr. Chanute believes has been accomplished by its automatic regulator.
The experiments which have been carried out seem to show that in a great measure success has been achieved. They have also showed the weak points in the present construction, and suggested improvements in the apparatus for the better carrying out of the principles which has been proved correct. The experiments are being made on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, near Miller, Ind. Though but little more than thirty miles from Chicago, the sandy stretch chosen is almost a wilderness and no better place could be found for the avoiding of publicity. Mr. Chanute with A.M. Herring, William Paul and William Avery, all aeronauts of considerate expertise went to this place, taking with them the machine constructed for the experiments. The machine itself was 14 feet in width, 15 feet in length, and weighed 36 pounds.

Experiments a Success

The first experiment was made without the use of a propeller or motor of any sort, and simply for the investigation of "bird flight" as applied to airships. Mr. Avery ran along the crest of a hill with the machine, and then jumping out into the air, governed the apparatus in the wind gusts. The first flight carried the operator fifty feet, he being at the times never less than two feet above the ground. This was considered an astounding result, considering that absolutely no motive power beyond the wind was used, and it demonstrated that the idea of the automatic regulator was correct in principle.

After that first skim the two assistants of Mr. Chanute made between 150 and 200 jumps all without the slightest accident, either to themselves ore the machine. These jumps varied in length from 50 to 100 feet, and each one proved beyond the question of a doubt that the apparatus is perfectly manageable, automatically stable, strong enough in every part and capable of aspirating, under proper conditions, in high altitudes.

   As the result of his experiments Mr. Chanute sets up the claim that he has proven that the element of safety has been secured, and he considers it almost as valuable as other proven conditions that his machine can make way against the wind and cross currents.

Up with a Rocket

The other flying machine, brought out be a western man is the work of W. W. McEwen of Jackson, Mich. It is the most audacious idea advanced since Mark Twain invited his friends to jump of the Alps with an open umbrella for a parachute, but it is the result, Mr. McEwen claims, of long study of existing conditions and is planned on a strictly scientific basis. It is nothing less than an ascent by rocket, sixty feet in length, Mr. McEwen proposes to go up into the clouds in a few seconds, after which, deserting the rocket for a parachute, he will descend slowly. To the average mind this latter part appears to be doubtful, but the inventor professes absolute confidence in his scheme, and declares that he will undertake the ascent without fear of a hurried drop at the end.

Newspaper and Eyewitness Accounts

1896 1897 1898
June 24 - Chicago Tribune
August 2 - Chicago Tribune September 5 - Times-Herald November 11 - Elmira, NY 
Daily Advertiser
September 8 - Chicago Tribune September 8 - Times-Herald
September 11 - Chicago Chronicle September 12 - Times-Herald
September 12 - Chicago Tribune
September 28 - Chicago Record
October 3 - Westchester Tribune