John Goodman Houshold flew in the 1870’s, well before the wright brothers!!!

‘Immortality lost.’

John Goodman Houshold son of a Karkloof farmer actually anticipated the success of the Wright brothers by being the first person to actually fly. Unfortunately his effort is in direct proportion to the lack of the evidence.

After studying a welter of documents, P.D Jackson concludes: “It can be reasonably assumed that between 1871 and 1875 John Goodman Houshold made at least two successful flights from a ridge at Karkloof.” This on the family farm then called ‘Der Magtenberg’, in the Karkloof area of Kwa- Zulu Natal.

J.G. Houshold

Apparently Goodman’s dream was to create ‘a flying machine heavier than air.’

He obtained a hard, dry flat bull-hide and attached to it a long reign. This hide he then put on top of a thorn tree, sat on it and told his farm labourers to grab the reigns and run as hard as they could. Did Houshold’s flying carpet fly, we think not, however the story goes on.

After the flying carpet dismal failure, Houshold began studying the flight of birds and especially the ratio of wingspan to weight. He shot a vulture, (some say an Eagle), weighed it carefully, and measured its wingspan.

From this he derived calculations that he submitted to a certain Bishop Colenso, who was also a noted mathematician. The Bishop found Household’s calculations to be correct, but (says Jackson): “this does not mean that man can fly.”

Houshold now prepared for his first adult flight: He and his brother built a glider from wood and oiled paper (or silk). The first few attempts with this glider were most likely failures, resulting in modifications.

The first successful flight was just under half a kilometre, and at a height of 50 to 80 meters after he had launched himself from the top of a 300 metre precipice on the family farm.

We know from various sources that after this first success he was wildly enthusiastic and began work on a second machine.

It is quite possible that he did order steel tubes and silk for this glider, and used the facilities at the blacksmith shop at Howick.

On his second successful flight in his new glider, now made from the steel and silk material, he soared for a while before beginning a rapid descent in which the glider clipped a tree and crashed, and he was flung out of his seat and into the waters of the farm dam, breaking his leg in the process. This flight was estimated about a kilometre in length.

With his foot injured, his mother got to hear of his experiments, and made him promise never to attempt to fly again as long as she was alive. She firmly believed that he was tampering with the powers of darkness, and had a fear that the family would incur the wrath of God for challenging their natural state of being earthbound. Even his friends branded him as insane.

It was the first ever recorded heavier-than-air flight and Goodman and his brother could have been accorded a place in history had it not been for their beloved but strict & religious mother.

It is believed that the glider was stored in a barn.

The glider, all drawings, sketches and calculations were supposedly burned at John Houshold’s insistence so he would abide by his promise to his mother never to discuss or attempt flying again.

After the flying debacle, John tried other innovations, but they never brought him any riches.

The Goodman Household Monument memorial stone has been erected near Curry’s Post on the massive timber estate owned by SAPPI now called DeMagdeberg to commemorate his achievement.

John Goodman Houshold died on 13th March 1906 in Pietermaritzburg.

This oversight of not recording the event or preserving the glider and drawings allowed the German Otto Lilienthal to take the honour when he made a successful glider flight in 1896. Eight years later, Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first powered flight at Kittyhawk in the United States. It was the dawning of a new era.

NOTE: Most researchers spell his name incorrectly, it is ‘Houshold’, not Household.


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