This week marks the 107th anniversary of the first manned flight by the Wright Brothers. Most history books won't tell you that there is evidence of an even earlier flying machine right here in Texas. In this week's Lone Star Adventure, FOX 4's Richard Ray takes us to Pittsburg, Texas and a cool little museum dedicated to the Ezekiel Airship.
At the turn of the last century, the race was on as inventors around the world vied to be the first to invent a flying machine. History records that the first people to conquer the mystery of powered flight were the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17th, 1903.
Was the Wright's airplane really the first one in the air? Residents of the northeast Texas town of Pittsburg tell a very different story about the Ezekiel Airship. It's an odd tale you can learn about it at the town's local museum where a full size replica of the airship is on display. Locals say this machine beat the Wright brothers by almost a year.
The Ezekiel Airship was designed by a Baptist preacher and mechanical genius named Burrell Cannon. He was inspired by the first chapter of Ezekiel where the prophet describes angelic vehicles composed of wheels within wheels.
As the story goes, Cannon was away preaching one Sunday while others were working on the flying machine outside. They were tinkering with the engine, got a little more power out of it and ended up dragging one person off the ground by a rope. Witnesses say the man was carried 168 feet horizontally and 25 feet above the ground.
Bob Turner is a retired aeronautical engineer who has studied the Ezekiel Airship's design carefully. He says the machine's compulsion force would have been something like a helicopter. Turner says he believes the machine did fly.
Shortly after its first and only flight, the Ezekiel Airship was on a rail car headed for the World's Fair in St. Louis when it was hit by a microburst storm, blown of the train and destroyed.
Cannon is quoted as saying that God had not willed his airship to fly and he'd have no more to do with it. But, late in life, he tried to refinance another project but it never got off the ground. The Ezekiel Airship thus faded into history, except in northeast Texas where people knew what they'd seen.
For more information about the Ezekiel Airship please visit the Pittsburg Museum's website.
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