Gould, Lee Arthur / The Flying Cathedral
Author Gould, Lee Arthur
Title The Flying Cathedral
Publisher Methuen & Co. Ltd
Pub Place London, UK
Publish Date 07/1965
Synopsis ”Among all the pioneers of British aviation, the most remarkable was the flamboyant Texan, Samuel Franklin Cody, the first man to build and fly an aeroplane in Britain. From boyhood he knew only the prairie life of cowboy, buffalo hunter, bronco-buster, then of goldminer, then of circus sharpshooter. For years he and his English family toured Europe with Wild West shows and contests, until he settled to barnstorming Britain with a purple melodrama, The Klondyke Nugget. Yet, despite this showman existence, he became one of the most famous aviators of his time. The change came out of his strange passion for flying kites, immense man-carriers, in which he made hundreds of ascents. When they were adopted by the War Office, he became the Army Kiting Instructor. Aldershot knew him well as ’Colonel’ Cody, with goatee and shoulder-long hair, riding his white stallion, in frock coat, ten-gallon Stetson, cowboy boots, and Mexican spurs. But because this unlettered plainsman was an inventive genius, he designed and constructed an aeroplane, on which he made his historic first flight in October, 19o8. Months of further experiment followed, with frequent crashes and the derision of a sceptical press. Then came the legendary Flying Cathedral, the largest plane in existence, on which he flew 40 miles cross-country, a world record. A British subject now, he built a succession of these big biplanes, on which he went from success to success, his most stupendous triumph being in August, 1912, when he and his Cathedral won the Government Military Trials against the competition of the world’s greatest aeroplane constructors and pilots. He was now Britain’s premier and most popular pilot. But a year later, tragedy came, for his newest Cathedral broke up in the air. His ceremonial military funeral, unparalleled honour for a civilian, with its half mile-long cortege of soldiers, sailors and airmen, was witnessed by 50,000 people. In this impressive fashion did former cowboy and showman Cody make his dramatic final exit.”