PITTSBURG, TX (KLTV) - The Ezekiel Airship was based on kite technology, and inspired by a book in the Bible. It supposedly flew a year before the Wright Brothers, and it happened right here in East Texas.
There is a replica of the aircraft at the Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Museum in Pittsburg, and it doesn't look like anything we've seen flying around.
Vernon Holcomb used to work on planes, but none like the Ezekiel Airship reproduction which was put into the museum:
"A hundred years after it flew," Holcomb said.
It supposedly flew in 1902.
"A year before the Wright brothers," Holcomb stated.
Sawmiller, inventor and Minister Burrell Cannon said the plans for it were right there in Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10. That's how it got its name.
"He says he built it according to that: wheel in a wheel," Holcomb explained.
So he had it built, and one Sunday one of his guys hauled out the air paddle contraption and flew it:
"About 12-15 feet high and 167 feet," Holcomb said.
And four people, who were sworn to secrecy, saw it fly.
"They saw it rise above the trees," Holcomb said.
But the pilot couldn't really control the shaking craft so the potential first pilot set it down.
"He took a chain from the saw mill and that's what he put on it, and that is what caused it to vibrate, we're thinking," Holcomb surmised.
Cannon had used a cheap chain because needed more money, so Cannon took Ezekiel on the road, or tracks, rather, looking for investors. He was headed to the World's Fair in St Louis.
"He got as far as Texarkana. He was on a side rail there, and there was a big wind that came through, blew it off and destroyed the airship," Holcomb said.
Cannon built another airship that didn't survive testing, but he got several other patents.
"He was something of a civil engineer so he knew what he was doing," Holcomb stated.
The gasoline engine supposedly spun the air paddles up to 1,200 rpm. That would push some air.
"It reminds me of a bee," I observed.
"Technically, a bumblebee can't fly, but it does," Holcomb laughed.
Planes might look pretty different if the Ezekiel "flight" was covered by the media.
The airship is on permanent display at the Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Museum in Pittsburg. It's open Thursday through Saturday from 10-4 if you'd like to see it in person.