Chanute and his four assistants pitched their tents on a spot within the present city limits of Gary, Indiana, on June 22, 1896. Augustus Herring, the most experienced member of the group, had brought a glider based on the standard Lilienthal monoplane design. William Avery, a Chicago carpenter, had constructed a multi-wing glider designed by Chanute, while William Butusov would attempt to launch his own glider, the Albatross, down a wooden ramp. Dr. James Ricketts, a Chicago physician with "a slack practice and a taste for aeronautics," would cook for the group and provide emergency medical service as required. Chanute's dogs, Rags and Tatters, rounded out the party.
The Albatros was the invention of Butusov, who claimed that he had already attained success in soaring flight with it, and as this closely resembled the machine of Captain Le Bris, who was said to have sailed with such a machine in France, in 1867, it was determined to give the design a trial.
It was a complicated apparatus. Over the top was an aeroplane, below which two great wings extended, 40 feet across, and beneath which again there was a boat-like frame which could be transformed into a skiff by enclosing it with oiled canvas. The whole spread of supporting surface was 266 square feet and it weighed 190 pounds. As this could not, like the other machines, be carried about on a man's shoulders, special appliances were required to launch it.
This appliance consisted of trestle work built down the slope of the hill. It involved the great disadvantage that it could only be used when the wind blew straight up the trestle, a rare occurrence. Nevertheless two launches were made, but in ballast, as there was no absolute certainty about the equilibrium. On the first occasion, with 130 pounds of ballast, it went off very well indeed, but did not sail very far. In alighting, some of the ribs of the boat-frame were cracked but were replaced in an hour. On the second trial, with 90 pounds of ballast, but in a quartering, unfavorable wind, the latter swung the machine around, after it left the ways, and upon one of the wings striking a tree, the apparatus fell and was broken. On neither occasion would the operator have been hurt had he been in the machine, but it was evidently much too heavy and too cumbrous to be successfully used in experiments designed solely to work out the problem of equilibrium.