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"Ehtridge Was Thrilled When Man First Flew", The Daily Advance (Elizabeth City, N.C.), 18 November 1932
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ETHERIDGE WAS THRILLED WHEN MAN FIRST FLEW
Coast Guardsman who Witnessed First Flight and Assisted the Wrights with
Plane Living in Manteo
Had Seen So Many Gliding Experiments Work Out that He had Belief in the
Manteo, November 18 - "I was pretty sure those boys were going to fly
successfully that day." says Adam Etheridge, one of the three living
survivors of the group that witnessed the birth of aviation. "I'd seen
them do a lot of gliding and that motor was pretty light. And I could see
that they thought they could fly, so I thought so too."
"John Daniels and I talked about it after they had flown, and we agreed
that something was coming of it in the future. Of course we had no idea
that flying would be as successful as it has as soon as it has, But the
Wrights didn't think so either.
In this connection it might be said that in 1908, Wilbur Wright expressed
the opinion that it would never be possible to fly the Atlantic Ocean in a
plane powered by a gas engine.
"I liked them both fine; they were good boys," declared Etheridge. "Hard
workers they were too. If weather wouldn't let them work outdoors they
went inside. They always managed to get a day's work done."
The former Coast Guardsman got a big kick out of watching the experiments.
"I never enjoyed anything in my life as much as I did watching those boys
fly. And I watched them a lot. Over at the station we used to spend all
our spare time over there and whenever we could find an excuse, we'd head
right straight for that camp.
"When their first power flight was a success I guess we were as about
tickled at it as the Wrights were." By then, according to Etheridge, the
Coast Guard detail was devoted to the two brothers took more than just a
friendly interest to their well-being [well
His version of the first flight varies but little from that of John
Daniels', except that Etheridge admittedly does not remember the exact
reason why the plane came down after it's short hop.
"I saw them practice gliding until they were as good as birds, and I saw
them make the first airplane flight, but the only time I was ever really
afraid for their safety was a few years after the first flight when they
came back to experiment some more with gliders. "That day," he said "there
was a heavy wind blowing, but that didn't stop 'em. They weighted the
front end of the glider down with a long hanging weight and then stuck her
in the air. she'd stand on her tail and look like she was going on over,
but those boys knew what they were doing and could hold the glider up in
the air almost a stand still. Finally when they got ready they would set
her down a few feet behind where they had launched her."
[Caption] Adam Etheridge, left, and John T.
Daniels, former Coast Guardsmen who witnessed the first successful flight
made by the Wrights at Kitty Hawk. Both assisted in carrying the plane
back to the take-off rail after the flights.
Etheridge described the method of launching both the plane and the gliders.
According to him, the gliders were so light that they could easily be
carried by two men who would run down the side of the hill and then throw
the machine into the air. After that it was up to the pilot.
The plane, on the other hand took off from the flat surface at the bottom
of the hill under it's own power. And then according to the witness, "it
looked like all they would have had to do was to get it high enough to
clear all those sand dunes and they could have flown for miles. But I
don't think they cared about getting it very high; what they wanted was to
see if it would fly."
Mr. Etheridge likes the pylon-shaped beacon commemorating this occasion and
thinks it a fitting reward. "John and I were talking about it the other
day, about how it marked a spot where we had some mighty good and might
interesting times, and about how we would like to be able to go back there
to live. We think it would be nice for us to be there; not because it's
us, bit because we just happen to have actually seen this thing that has
meant so much to the world and that everybody who comes to see the
monument will be interested in.
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