COBWEB CORNERS: Flying... pre-airplane
By Mel McFarland
Back in 1897 many people were attempting to fly. With our high hills and breezes, it was bound to happen here. A fellow came to this area to try his wings. He actually had a set of wings, tail and fins. No, this was not an early airplane; it was called a “flying costume.”
He took his gear to the top of Pike's Peak, I assume on the train, where he attracted a bit of a crowd. I can imagine so! He jumped from the roof of the Summit House! He was surprised when he crashed to the ground, only 10 or so feet below. He was not done.
The next day he was seen all over, looking for just the right spot. There were reports of him in Ute Pass, the Garden of the Gods and Colorado City. The man's name was Felts, and he was getting well known. He even was willing to make bets on how far he could fly. A few days later, the remains of his gear were found in Englemann Canyon, but no sign of him.
Some hardy lads at the cog railway recovered his gear from the canyon and started making repairs. A few changes were made, as ideas for improvements were suggested. One of the crew wore the costume for a jump from the hill off Ruxton Avenue below the cog station near the Midland trestle. He landed in a pile, severely jolted. He stated that doing it with an umbrella would have gone as well. Another of the crew went up and readjusted the gear. He went higher up the hill, thinking this would provide more time to get a cushion of air built up. Indeed, it too was a disaster. Instead of getting a cushion, he flipped over, tumbling down the hillside. When he finally stopped, the gear was destroyed, and the man was badly bruised and battered. It was fortunate that none of his bones were as badly bashed as the wings!
The whole idea was given up. It was said that the story of the two cog boys' flying attempts brought laughs in the shops for many years. I must agree. I have seen attempts to hang-glide off the summit, and with the extreme down drafts up there, you would be lucky to just land hard.