Monday, December 1, 2003

Celebrating flight across the years and across the magazines


By David Gewirtz

I'm writing this on December 14, 2003. One hundred years ago, today, the Wright Brothers attempted their first powered flight. It took another three days, until December 17, 1903, for them to perfect control, balance, engine, and manage the winds of Kitty Hawk.

Like many boys, I was fascinated by the story of the invention of the first airplane. It wasn't until I became an adult, received formal training as an engineer, and embarked on my own engineering projects that I was able to appreciate the accomplishments of these men.

While ZATZ (the publishing company I co-founded that publishes this magazine) covers mostly computer-related technology, I felt it was incredibly important that we honor the accomplishment of these inventors, developers, and entrepreneurs. A few months ago, I asked our readers to contribute articles on flight. Acceptance criteria was broad: the articles had to be well-written, but the topic was open -- as long as it was related to flight.

I wanted to capture the essence of flight as it exists today, in 2003. I wanted to reveal not only the technological accomplishments, but what flying means to the human soul. I wanted us all to meet real people and through them, experience the wonder that is flight. I wanted to make sure that this triumphant transition in the human condition was acknowledged, reflected upon, and celebrated.

I have to say, I'm thrilled with the results. In addition to this editorial, we've got fifteen exceptional articles on all aspects of flight. We'll be running these articles across all our magazines this week, three articles per magazine. We've got articles by pilots and by passengers. We've got articles about history and about thrills. We've got some amazing photographs and some stories so moving, you may get a tear in your eye.

And we get to meet some amazing people. Not only do we get to reacquaint ourselves with Wilbur and Orville, we get to meet Mardell Haskins, a great grandmother who's competed and won the world's largest women's air race. We get to meet Marilyn Dash, and aerobatic flyer who races planes 50 feet off the desert floor at top speeds. We get to meet Kathy Walker, a nurse, flight instructor, and airline transport pilot who tells the story of a little girl's dreams of the sky.

And yes, they're women. In my preparation for this series, I was surprised (I probably shouldn't have been) to discover just how many amazing women flyers there are out there. It makes sense, and has a sense of history about it. The Wrights are reputed to have gotten their mechanical skills from their mother, and sister Katherine Wright was a big part of the Wright's persuit of flight.