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Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West    by Craig Harwood & Gary Fogel order for
Quest for Flight
by Craig Harwood
Order:  USA  Can
University of Oklahoma, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

The Wright brothers may get the credit for successfully making the first controlled, powered flight in 1903, but there's much more to the story, and much of it unfolds in California.

Leading up to that day on the sandy beach of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, a lot of experimentation with balloons and gliders took place in the years before the Wrights made headlines.

Conquering the skies was a collective effort involving a number of individuals in both the United States and Europe. Although he is often overlooked, John J. Montgomery, California's Father of the Aeroplane, is one of the individuals who laid the groundwork for making the dream of human-controlled flight a reality.

The story of this intriguing individual is told in Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West by Craig Harwood and Gary Fogel.

After charting Montgomery's early days growing up in both Northern and Southern California, the narrative settles on the young man taking a position in the late 1890s at Santa Clara College, where he taught English and Math. It was this academic environment just north of San Jose that nurtured the young man's desire to continue his experiments with gliders and small-scale flying models.

As with any inventor, Montgomery was anxious to try his innovative designs for gliders. Flights launched from hot-air balloons were one of the ways to test the aeronautical theories incorporated into the inventor's gliders.

Although they took place at a number of places in Northern California, Aptos located in the Monterey Bay area figured prominently in some of these 1905 experiments. Daniel Maloney, an aerial specialist, was the test pilot.

A number of glider test flights followed in other locations and these are all addressed in the book, along with Montgomery's untimely death and the struggles to get his groundbreaking work recognized in later years.

A distant relative of Montgomery, Craig Harwood is an engineering geologist who lives in Ben Lomond, California. This highly readable biography is well illustrated with over thirty vintage photos and diagrams that assist in telling the story of this aviation pioneer. Anyone interested in the history of American aviation and California's role in the development of early, controlled glider flight must read this book.

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