How To Fly

According to aeronautical pioneer (and Wright Brothers' arch-nemesis) Glenn Hammond Curtiss



Do Get Into Bicycle Repair
It's easy to forget, but biking was a high-tech, geeky hobby around the turn of the 20th century. Chains, gears, and rotors formed the backbone of brand new field of motor engine development and adaptations in lighter, more aerodynamic bike construction gave a boost to would-be flyboys. In fact, you might say that bike repair was to airplane invention what hacking would one day be to the creation of the home computer. In that train of thought, the Bill Gates of biking was definitely New Yorker Glenn Hammond Curtiss. A champion cyclist and self-taught mechanic, Curtiss spent the first few years of the 20th century designing the world's best racing bikes and light, powerful motorcycle engines. Then he went into the airplane business and ended up the most praised and simultaneously reviled figure in the history of flight. He also ended up filthy rich.
Don't Be Afraid to Be the Bad Guy
Curtiss moustache-twirling reputation began in 1906 with a fateful (some might say, mercenary) visit to the Wright Brothers' Dayton, Ohio workshop. Technically, Curtiss was just in Dayton for the state fair where he was helping a friend demonstrate some dirigibles. But after the Wrights helped corral a particularly feisty airship, the three bonded over their mutual interest in flying machines and headed back to the Wright's place for a guided tour. Although they'd flown at Kitty Hawk three years previous, the Wrights were still knee-deep in the patent process and wouldn't show off their plane. However, they did discuss the flier's mechanics in enough detail that when Curtiss suddenly became an airplane entrepreneur a year later, the Wrights sued him.

Do Justify Bad Behavior with Good Technology
A lot of historical accounts begin and end with Curtiss' bad boy side. But, here at mental_floss, we are objective and, thus, willing to point out that, whether or not he stole his original ideas from the Wrights, Curtiss was hands-down the better innovator. Case in point: First flight. The Wrights' 1903 jaunt at Kitty Hawk was a success, as we all know. But just barely. Only a couple feet off the ground, the Wrights managed cover only a few hundred feet in distance and couldn't stay airborne longer than a minute before crash-landing. In comparison, Curtiss made the first public flight in U.S. history in 1908, behind the controls of his "June Bug" plane. He flew for over a mile and won the Scientific American Trophy. The next year, he went up against the Wrights at the first international aviation exposition in France. They brought three different planes and were expected to dominate the event. But Curtiss' one plane ended up besting them in every category. He went on to start the first airplane manufacturing company, design the first hydroplane, and make the first plane capable of taking off and landing on a ship.

Don't Let Old Feuds Stand in the Way of Future Profits
Shortly after his public success with the June Bug, Curtiss got a letter from the Wrights "reminding" him that if he were going to commercially manufacture airplanes, he'd need to pay them a cut. Curtiss apparently filed the letter in the waste bin, thus touching off nine years of increasingly hostile litigation. Curtiss' legal battles with the Wright Company even outlasted the Wrights themselves; after Wilbur's early death, Orville Wright sold his share of their company in 1915. The Curtiss/Wright conflict wasn't resolved until 1917, when the U.S. government simplified their World War I manufacturing by pooling all aircraft patents into one, thus nullifying the Wright Company's claims for restitution. With this forced peace, Curtiss and the Wright Company joined forces. Today, Curtiss-Wright still designs engines and components for aircraft and spacecraft.

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Win a Trip to Any National Park By Instagramming Your Travels
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If you're planning out your summer vacation, make sure to add a few national parks to your itinerary. Every time you share your travels on Instagram, you can increase your chances of winning a VIP trip for two to the national park of your choice.

The National Park Foundation is hosting its "Pic Your Park" sweepstakes now through September 28. To participate, post your selfies from visits to National Park System (NPS) properties on Instagram using the hashtag #PicYourParkContest and a geotag of the location. Making the trek to multiple parks increases your points, with less-visited parks in the system having the highest value. During certain months, the point values of some sites are doubled. You can find a list of participating properties and a schedule of boost periods here.

Following the contest run, the National Park Foundation will decide a winner based on most points earned. The grand prize is a three-day, two-night trip for the winner and a guest to any NPS property within the contiguous U.S. Round-trip airfare and hotel lodging are included. The reward also comes with a 30-day lease of a car from Subaru, the contest's sponsor.

The contest is already underway, with a leader board on the website keeping track of the competition. If you're looking to catch up, this national parks road trip route isn't a bad place to start.

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15 Dad Facts for Father's Day
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Gather 'round the grill and toast Dad for Father's Day—the national holiday so awesome that Americans have celebrated it for more than a century. Here are 15 Dad facts you can wow him with today.

1. Halsey Taylor invented the drinking fountain in 1912 as a tribute to his father, who succumbed to typhoid fever after drinking from a contaminated public water supply in 1896.

2. George Washington, the celebrated father of our country, had no children of his own. A 2004 study suggested that a type of tuberculosis that Washington contracted in childhood may have rendered him sterile. He did adopt the two children from Martha Custis's first marriage.

3. In Thailand, the king's birthday also serves as National Father's Day. The celebration includes fireworks, speeches, and acts of charity and honor—the most distinct being the donation of blood and the liberation of captive animals.

4. In 1950, after a Washington Post music critic gave Harry Truman's daughter Margaret's concert a negative review, the president came out swinging: "Some day I hope to meet you," he wrote. "When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!"

5. A.A. Milne created Winnie the Pooh for his son, Christopher Robin. Pooh was based on Robin's teddy bear, Edward, a gift Christopher had received for his first birthday, and on their father/son visits to the London Zoo, where the bear named Winnie was Christopher's favorite. Pooh comes from the name of Christopher's pet swan.

6. Kurt Vonnegut was (for a short time) Geraldo Rivera's father-in-law. Rivera's marriage to Edith Vonnegut ended in 1974 because of his womanizing. Her ever-protective father was quoted as saying, "If I see Gerry again, I'll spit in his face." He also included an unflattering character named Jerry Rivers (a chauffeur) in a few of his books.

7. Andre Agassi's father represented Iran in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics as a boxer.

8. Charlemagne, the 8th-century king of the Franks, united much of Western Europe through military campaigns and has been called the "king and father of Europe" [PDF]. Charlemagne was also a devoted dad to about 18 children, and today, most Europeans may be able to claim Charlemagne as their ancestor.

9. The voice of Papa Smurf, Don Messick, also provided the voice of Scooby-Doo, Ranger Smith on Yogi Bear, and Astro and RUDI on The Jetsons.

10. In 2001, Yuri Usachev, cosmonaut and commander of the International Space Station, received a talking picture frame from his 12-year-old daughter while in orbit. The gift was made possible by RadioShack, which filmed the presentation of the gift for a TV commercial.

11. The only father-daughter collaboration to hit the top spot on the Billboard pop music chart was the 1967 hit single "Something Stupid" by Frank & Nancy Sinatra.

12. In the underwater world of the seahorse, it's the male that gets to carry the eggs and birth the babies.

13. If show creator/producer Sherwood Schwartz had gotten his way, Gene Hackman would have portrayed the role of father Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch.

14. The Stevie Wonder song "Isn't She Lovely" is about his newborn daughter, Aisha. If you listen closely, you can hear Aisha crying during the song.

15. Dick Hoyt has pushed and pulled his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy, through hundreds of marathons and triathlons. Rick cannot speak, but using a custom-designed computer he has been able to communicate. They ran their first five-mile race together when Rick was in high school. When they were done, Rick sent his father this message: "Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!"

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