Sun, Jul 06, 2003
Virgin Atlantic Chief Gets All Dolled Up To Fly 1853 Glider
You know, it's hard to outdo
someone who's determined to do the impossible. Especially if
he's got a lot of money and time on his hands.
Virgin Airways honcho Sir Richard Branson wanted to replicate
the 1853 flight of the world's first glider. It was 150 years
ago that Sir George Cayley sent his coachman aloft in the
primitive, unpowered machine -- much to the coachman's chagrin. In
Branson's duplicate attempt Saturday, this British knight did his
own flying, thanks awfully.
Branson, ever the fashion plate, wore a 19th century
braid-trimmed coat and lace cravat for the flight in the same field
where Cayley's glider took off -- at Brompton Dale near Scarborough
in the northern English county of Yorkshire. His first attempt
failed. On his second try, Branson made it into the air for a few
seconds, as a crowd of about 1500 aviation fans cheered.
"Brilliant. We've done it, we've done it!" Branson exclaimed
after the successful flight, which lasted only a few seconds. A few
moments later, he took a few sips of champagne and told reporters,
"That was fantastic. I can fly, we can fly. That was
In what appeared to be a calculated attempt to snub the
Centennial of Flight celebrations here in America this year,
Branson said most people assume Wilbur and Orville Wright made the
first manned flight. "The real birth of modern aviation was
achieved by a British pioneer 50 years previously."
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