Aviator John Joseph Montgomery

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Returning to Santa Clara College, Montgomery began experimenting with larger, weighted models which were trigger-released from cables stretched across a small canyon. He built wind tunnels to study parabolic wing curve and length, and rudder and rear-stabilizer control. His intensive research culminated on April 29, 1905. A hot-air balloon lifted aeronaut Daniel J. Maloney 4,000 feet astride the aeroplane Santa Clara. Cutting himself loose, Maloney gracefully maneuvered the glider for 15-20 minutes, alighting gently on his feet at a target near the Santa Clara campus.


Montgomery seated at the

Photograph taken before the April 29, 1905 flight at Santa Clara. From left to right: Association Justice W. G. Lorigan, Frank Hamilton (owner of the hot-air balloon), J. J. Montgomery, and aeronaut Dan Maloney. Within three months Maloney would die in a similar flight attempt; Montgomery was killed in an aviation accident six years later. - University of Santa Clara Archives

The correspondent to the Scientific American wrote in the May 20, 1905 issue: "An aeroplane has been constructed that in all circumstances will retain its equilibrium and is subject in its gliding flight to the control and guidance of an operator."

On October 31, 1911, after two weeks of successful flights, Montgomery was killed when his craft turned abruptly, throwing his head against a protruding stove bolt. The world lost a dedicated scientist who lives today in the annuals of aviation history as the father of basic flying. In the February 24, 1946 Humboldt Times, Will Speegle wrote:

... While at St. Joseph's he experimented earnestly in the creation of flying machines... Many times I have talked with the late Senator John F. Quinn who was a student at the Academy and he assured me that Montgomery made considerable progress in his plane while in this county. Fred Houck, who was also a student there, remembers well how Montgomery carried on his experiments ...

Information from: John Joseph Montgomery: Father of Basic Flying, by Arthur D. Spearman, S. J. University of Santa Clara, 1967.

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