Unwelcome Assistant, The

by
In 1957, a boy cleaning out his grandmother’s barn in East Tennessee discovered the discarded correspondence of aviation’s forgotten pioneer. They were the letters of Edward Huffaker—written to Samuel Langley, Octave Chanute, and other early aviation scientists. It seems that he had discovered the secrets of how birds fly years before any of the distinguished researchers. These rare letters and unseen photos were reproduced in this work in time for the centennial celebration of flight in December 2003.

Best known as an unwelcome assistant to the Wright brothers during their tests at Kitty Hawk in 1901, Huffaker’s contributions to the achievement of artificial flight lay undiscovered, until now. His independent studies led him to the brilliant insight that Bernoulli’s principle of fluid movement accounts for aerodynamic lift, years before the rest of the world caught on. He worked with Langley, Chanute, and the Wright brothers, all recognized pioneers of aviation. Now through the discovery of a cache of his personal correspondence, Huffaker’s true legacy can be known to the world, and he can take his rightful place in history as one of the pioneers who never doubted that man could fly.


"In the Wright brothers saga, Edward Huffaker enters and exits Kitty Hawk in 1901, before the fabled first controlled manned flight in 1903. Rescuing this figure from obscurity, the authors admirably refrain from overplaying his significance. The value of their short, straightforward biography is that Huffaker's place in aviation history might have been lost had not the late Steven Hensley found, in the 1950s, Huffaker's letters strewn about a Tennessee barn. What they reveal is that Huffaker dreamt of flight, constructed models of flying machines, and, as the Wrights did, sought out the era's recognized experts, Samuel Langley and Octave Chanute. The latter two recognized that Huffaker was serious, and Langley even hired him, so why Huffaker abandoned the field after 1901 and returned to his previous occupation (surveying) remains a bit of a mystery. In any event, the authors credit Huffaker with a crucial insight about flight (that the Bernoulli effect explains a wing's lift), and that in itself is enough to lure aviation buffs to this biography."
—Booklist
  • 6 x 9 Hardcover 192pp.
  • Subject: Appalachian History, North Carolina Interest, Tennessee Interest

Condition: New

ISBN: 978-1-57072-150-2

$24.95
In stock