IN EUROPE, INTEREST in heavier-than-air flight virtually died when Lilienthal and Percy Pilcher went to their graves. For a time, the only active experimenter was a Frenchman, Ferdinand Ferber. He was an artillery captain who commanded a battery, but the nation was at peace and he saw little prospect of martial glory. Bored with military routine, he developed a strong interest in flight.
He started by writing letters, corresponding with Lilienthal's brother Gustav and with Clement Ader, builder of the Eole. He went forward by constructing a series of homebuilt craft, starting with a kite and proceeding to develop a version of Lilienthal's monoplane glider. His readings and correspondence led him to Octave Chanute, who welcomed him as one more of aviation's acolytes. Chanute sent him a copy of the 1901 paper by Wilbur Wright, “Some Aeronautical Experiments, ”which discussed the Wright glider of that year.
Ferber found it fascinating, and used it as a guide when he began to build his next glider. Right at the outset, however, he faced diffi-