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  • A Bone-breaking Country Flight in Italy, c. 1920 December 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A Bone-breaking Country Flight in Italy, c. 1920

    This early aeronautics story comes from central Italy in the 1940s. A mysterious aged man lives up in a secluded valley, a man who is spoken about in hushed terms. It seems this man is almost a wizard in terms of mechanical objects. When he was young he made a bicycle entirely out of wood, […]

    The Last of 2973 October 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The Last of 2973

    From June to September 1940 2937 pilots flew in RAF fighters to retain British air superiority over the Home Counties in a scrap that has been remembered by history as ‘the Battle of Britain’. Immortalized by Churchill as ‘the few’ these men have come, even more than the Dunkirk-bound BEF, to symbolise the British achievement […]

    Dowding and the Fairies! October 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dowding and the Fairies!

    Hugh Dowding (1970 obit) is a British hero. It was his expert shepherding of Fighter Command in the summer of 1940 that allowed British victory against the Luftwaffe, or at least a convincing draw that could be passed off as a victory. He stands with Slim and Cunningham as one of Britain’s three great 1939-1945 […]

    Prison Breaks with Planes September 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Prison Breaks with Planes

    You are in prison and you have a friend with a plane. How can that plane get you out of prison? Well, at Colditz they built a glider in the castle attic; a glider that perhaps fortunately was never used. Then there are the various helicopter escapes, for which Beachcombing recommends an excellent wikipedia page. […]

    Bomber Command and War Guilt July 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Bomber Command and War Guilt

    One of the most terrifying statistics of the Second World War is that more died in planes flying out of British airfields than in British cities. Leaving the US out of this around 60,000 British and Dominion aircrew were killed defending British airspace or attacking enemy territory. About 40,000 British civilians, meanwhile, died in the […]

    Nashville Debutante Fights Imperial Japan May 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nashville Debutante Fights Imperial Japan

    ***With thanks to Larry*** A wish-i’d-been-there moment from 1941. Cornelia Fort was a twenty-three-year-old pilot and instructor flying a Cadet out of Honolulu in that year. Incredibly though CF had only been flying for a matter of months she was already deemed good enough to work as an instructor, putting a young Hawaiian through his […]

    Zombie Planes May 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Zombie Planes

    ***Dedicated to Ricardo*** Beach is properly modest about his knowledge of aeronautics – apart from perhaps the prehistory of flight. But he is as moved as the next man to see the spitfire test in First of the Few or (1.37.40)  or, for that matter, Corky sweating in Tales of the Golden Monkey as a […]

    Freedoms Fliers by J. Todd Moye April 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Freedoms Fliers by J. Todd Moye

    Wars have the habit of shaking up the social order in a way that a hoary old conservative like Beachcombing finds rather disturbing. Children join militias: think the moving photographs of fourteen and fifteen year German ‘soldiers’ guarding the Atlantic wall or ‘that scene’ in Doctor Zhivago. Gender relations are bent in knots: women are […]

    John Goodman Household: Africa’s First Flier November 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    John Goodman Household: Africa's First Flier

    Beach has now spent a year looking at legends and stories about early pre-Wrightian fliers. Essentially they fall into three categories. The Tower Jumpers, 3000 BC to 1500 AD: lunatics who jumped from heights, hoped for the best and typically died. The Renaissance Gliders, 1500-1800 AD: men who sketched out flying contraptions but for the […]

    A Seventeenth-Century Icarus October 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Seventeenth-Century Icarus

    Another episode in early failed or imaginary flying exploits. The following extracts are from the letters of Marin Mersenne (obit 1648) and were translated (frustratingly Beach doesn’t have the originals to hand) by Hart [132-133]. Enjoy these rumours from Paris from around the middle of the seventeenth century. Here they are talking about a man […]

    Thinking of Flying in the Eighteenth Century September 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Thinking of Flying in the Eighteenth Century

    It is always curious to compare the reality of the future with the way that future was viewed in the past. Take speculations over flying. There seems to have come a point in the eighteenth century when the bien pensants realised – perhaps a bit like deep space exploration for the modern world – that […]

    D’Annunzio Over Vienna August 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    D'Annunzio Over Vienna

    Gabrielle D’Annunzio – poet, fighter and proto-fascist – is one of the few individuals in Beachcombing’s reference cabinet to have a file all to himself: he started his life in ‘Italian Eccentrics’ but there was just so much material that he was shunted out into a manila folder of his own. In the many foolscap […]

    Flight in Eleventh-Century England August 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Flight in Eleventh-Century England

    As regular readers will know Beachcombing is one of those irritating sceptics, who looks askance at most historical records of the ‘impossible’. But every so often even he has to shake his head and admit that the evidence for the ‘impossible’ is frighteningly good. Take this record from William of Malmesbury’s Deeds of the Kings […]

    Flight in Seventeenth-Century Warsaw? August 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flight in Seventeenth-Century Warsaw?

    This is an interesting and largely overlooked reference (Frank) to flight from an English newspaper, c. 1650. The newspaper in question, The Moderate, was typically made up of a good many letters from amateur foreign correspondents and one of these came from Warsaw. It would be fascinating to see if there were any other accounts […]

    Leonardo’s Dream and the Kite July 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Leonardo's Dream and the Kite

    Another case study from the historic dream series. This time the only dream to be recorded from Leonardo da Vinci’s snoozes. The record appears in  a notebook dating to c. 1504 replete with sketches and considerations of flight: This writing in such a distinct manner about the kite seems to be my destiny, because in […]

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