ASME-Landmark:Montgomery Glider


In 1883, at his family's ranch at Fruitland in Otay Valley, California, John Montgomery (1858 - 1911) observed the natural airfoil shape of birds' wings and incorporated that shape into the development of the Montgomery glider—the first heavier-than-air-human-carrying aircraft to achieve controlled piloted flight. He designed a parabolic wing section with more curvature toward the front of the wing, giving it a gull-like wing shape and high lift. Montgomery also created the glider's stabilizing and control surfaces at the rear of the fuselage. On his first successful flight, August 28, 1883, John Montgomery soared at about 600 feet.

Montgomery's 1883 flight preceded by some 10 years the famous glider flights of Otto Lilienthal, and by 20 years the historic powered flights of the Wright brothers. The first glider flown was destroyed when the rope caught the gull during an 1883 flight and it crashed. A replica was created in 1962 by Judy and Howard Ace Campbell, who followed John Montgomery's 1882 hand-drawn plans for their entry in a competition sponsored by the Self-Soar Association, and is on display at the Hiller Aircraft Museum, at the San Carlos Airport.

Although ASME's landmark program typically excludes replicas, an exception has been made for the replica of the Montgomery due to its fundamental significance to an industry largely associated with mechanical engineering; the Montgomery glider's success demonstrated aerodynamic principles and designs fundamental to the modern aircraft. See ASME website for more information