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Ritchel Dirigicyle / Flying Car



Connecticut inventor Charles F. Ritchel made his mark in aviation history—and the cover of Harper’s Weekly magazine—by building a dirigible of his own and sponsoring the first controlled flight of a dirigible in America in Hartford in 1878.
Having been first flown outdoors less than two weeks before by Mark Quinlan in Bridgeport, Connecticut; Charles F. Ritchel began exhibiting his flying machine – also known as the Dirigicyle, or Flying Car – at Boston’s Tremont Temple on June 24, 1878. The demonstration, arranged by William McMahon, who played a major role in introducing Edison’s phonograph to the public, was a complete success. In addition to the indoor flights, Quinlan made an exciting ascension from Boston Common. Once in the air, the propeller gears jammed, allowing the balloon to rise dangerously high. Without a valve to relieve the increased pressure of the expanding lift gas, the envelope swelled, breaking several of the bands from which the frame was suspended. Quinlan could not slit his envelope, for there was no netting in which the fabric could gather to form a parachute. He had little choice but to tie one hand and ankle to the frame, then drop beneath the craft to make repairs with a jackknife as his only tool. He finally descended at Farnumsville, 44 miles from the Common, after a flight of one hour and twenty minutes.

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