First Heavier than Air, Controllable Flight
Mary Ann Henderson
Montgomery was the first American to build a glider that flew. He was also the
first to achieve practical control of his craft in the air. He began his
experiments in 1883, and, by 1905, was giving public demonstrations in and
around the Santa Clara Valley. Montgomery studied and tested his aeroplanes in
between college teaching assignments in Northern California. He earned his Ph.D.
from Santa Clara College in 1901.
used hot-air balloons to lift his glider into the air. After being released from
the balloon, the “aeroplane” could be piloted to Earth.
A circus daredevil that parachuted from balloons, Daniel John Maloney,
approached him, saying, "I will have a balloon hoist me in your aeroplane
to the four-thousand foot level, then I'll cut it loose and glide to the
ground." Maloney's first flight, a twenty-minute graceful descent, was a
delight to behold.
most spectacular demonstration was when his monoplane glider, Santa Clara, was
cut loose from a balloon several thousand feet in the air and flew 8 miles (13
km) in 1905. Montgomery Hill
in the Evergreen Valley is named after him and is the place where in 1911, after
a crash landing, he met his end cradled in the arms of his bride.
A special thanks goes to E. Charles Vivian and his History of Aeronautics and Theodore W. Fuller for his San Diego Originals.