Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen and Blasting into Space
As far back as stories go, pioneers have reached for the skies. In the last two hundred years, they have mastered the air and made the modern world possible. Today they are bringing outer space within our reach. They're inventors and toymakers, amateurs and adventurers, visionaries, dreamers and, yes, crackpots. Some have called them irresponsible, even dangerous. But Richard Branson has met many of them. He has worked with them, funded them, and flown with them. He admires them, and trusts them, and thinks they and their kind are our future. In this book Richard Branson looks at the history of flight through the stories and people who have inspired him throughout his life. In these pages you will find tales of miraculous rescues; of records made and broken; of surprising feats of endurance and survival, including some of his own adventures, as well as developments in the future of air travel (and space travel). It is a story of pioneers, and of course it includes the world famous Montgolfiers and the Wright brothers, but he also wants to describe some of the lesser-known trailblazers. People like Tony Jannus, who in 1914 created the first scheduled commercial flight in the world, flying his passengers over the waters of Tampa Bay at an altitude of just fifty feet! The 'bird man' Leo Valentin, who in the 1950s jumped from 9,000 feet with wooden wings attached to his shoulders. And Branson's friend Steve Fossett, who dedicated his life to breaking records and having adventures. This is their story. It is also, in a small way, his own.