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"Science and science fiction, how do you even distinguish the two?"
- Jerry Pournelle
Some part of this account is factually true. There was a Mr. Langley, of the Smithsonian Institution, who was working on the idea of flying machines in the early 1890's.
As far as I know, Mr. Langley never brought his machines to fruition.
|But the ambition of mankind is to control the air at a reasonable distance from the earth’s surface and to navigate an element that is entirely free from all obstructions. The aim is to so control an ærial machine that it will not drift before every wind, but cleave the air and move along its course in defiance of the storm. To this must be added a guarantee of safety that the public is certain to exact before embarking upon an ærial voyage. Ærial navigation, no doubt, offers vast attractions but while sailing through the air, with the ease and grace of a bird, it might prove very inconvenient for passengers to fall out at a height of a mile or two and land through the roof of some peaceful, happy home or find themselves while unceremoniously falling securely hooked in the fork of a tree. Such little mishaps in ærial navigation had to be guarded against.
Ærial navigation was perfected about the The First Airships, year 1925. After repeated failures of the Langley system from 1896 to 1920, the learned Washington professor changed his plans. Instead of endeavoring to lift flat-irons with wings from the ground, and watching turkey buzzards at anchor in the air over the Potomac river, Langley finally created an ærial machine that was operated by electricity and moved by a large, swiftly revolving propeller, somewhat resembling those employed in steam navigation, but with blades at a more abrupt angle.
The flying machines which were constructed from 1920 to 1999 on the Langley plan, were built of Nickalum, an alloy of aluminum, crystalized, within a magnetic field. The specific gravity of Nickalum, as employed in the manufacture of ærodromes, or flying machines, was .512. It was lighter than a thin strip of pine wood, malleable as gold and impenetrable as steel. Ærodromes could not have been successfully manufactured in 1920 if Nickalum had not been employed in their construction...
Ærodromes weighing four hundred pounds only, in 1925, could easily carry ten persons and cleave their way like an arrow through a high wind. Small ærodromes carrying four persons, weighed only one hundred pounds...
If the wind were favorable on their regular trips, the high grade express ærodromes Some Fast Traveling.in 1999, belonging to the popular Sky-Scraper line, could easily make the trip from Manhattan (formerly New York) to Washington, in the State of Mexico, a distance of 1,949 miles in a direct air-line, in fifteen hours, making brief stops for meals at Columbia, D. C., (formerly called Washington) and at New Orleans.
|From Looking Forward: A Dream of the United States of the Americas in 1999,
by Arthur Bird.
Published by L.C. Childs & Son in 1899
Additional resources -
The creation of such a versatile device lead to many uses:
Bridal couples in 1999 were frequently married in an ærodrome as it rested on a Airship Wedding in 1999.city square or in a modest village green. Standing around the airship, which was always decorated with multi-colored flags and floral designs, were invited guests, friends and spectators. After the ceremony was over and congratulations exchanged, the minister, as well as the nearest relatives alighted from the ærodrome, which immediately commenced to ascend amidst the hand-clappings, hurrahs and Godspeeds of the gathering. As the ærodrome gracefully arose about ten feet above terra firma, a few handsful of rice were thrown at the happy pair, who retaliated by throwing roses and other flowers at their friends below. When the ærodrome attained a height of about one hundred feet, the navigator steered the ærial ship in the direction required and the journey then commenced.
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