Santa Clara, California
On this day when powered flight is celebrated and aviation heritage is on our minds, we can also celebrate the accomplishments of other early aviation pioneers, like John Joseph Montgomery. Montgomery's legacy is not only featured prominently at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, but is the subject of a new award-nominated book "Quest for Flight" by Craig Harwood and Gary Fogel, and a forthcoming film from Sierra Coast Productions.
John Montgomery was the first person in the United States to make controlled flights with heavier than air aircraft in the mid 1880’s on Otay Mesa near San Diego. This was ten years before Otto Lilienthal in Germany and seventeen years before the Wright Brothers started their glider experiments at Kitty Hawk.
Although John Montgomery’s legacy faded after his death in 1911, during his lifetime, he was recognized worldwide as the originator of modern aviation for his mastery of controlled flight by inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell and internationally as far away as the Government of Austria. “Most people don’t realize that California contributed several pillars to aviation and John Montgomery was there at the start.” according to Jeff Bass, CEO of the Hiller Aviation Museum where all of the Montgomery Gliders are on exhibit.
When no other man had flown higher than a few hundred feet for flights lasting mere seconds, Montgomery's glider was lifted to 4,000 feet by balloon, gliding for twenty minutes under the controls of aeronaut Daniel Maloney to safely land at a predetermined location for the crowds at multiple events, including the California State Fair. These demonstrations were reported around the world - Montgomery's design was the first to master the high air. “There are monuments to Montgomery here on the campus of Santa Clara University, and on Evergreen Hill in San Jose. There are schools and streets named for him and even the airport in San Diego and a stretch of Interstate 5 honor his contribution to early aviation by bearing his name, but we have lost him in our history books. It is time to bring him back,” urges Godfrey Mungal, Dean of Engineering at Santa Clara University.
A new film under development by Sierra Coast Productions rediscovers the accomplishments of those early aviation pioneers and the life of John Montgomery, a genius and a great man who lived in an amazing time of scientific miracles.
“The story of early aviation is over simplified and eclipsed by our focus on the Wright Brothers. John Montgomery’s story really shines as an inspiring example how a forgotten man can shape history.” says John Giddings, a pilot and Executive Producer with Sierra Coast Productions who are making the forthcoming film. “The real story hidden behind what the history books tell us of how aviation came to be is both richer and more inspiring than a simple tale of two brothers. It’s a story that everyone will be excited to learn.” says Veronica Craven, the film’s Producer.