Fight Not Improbable: Octave Chanute and the Worldwide Race Toward Flight by Simine Short

Drawing upon primary sources, our friend and noted aviation historian Simine Short focuses on the period between roughly 1886 and 1910 and the pivotal role that Octave Chanute played in transitioning aviation from the realm of dreamers and crackpots to a serious enterprise that resulted in practical flight. Without Chanute, the history of the airplane would be dramatically different, as would the impact aviation had in shaping the contemporary world. This companion volume to her earlier book Locomotive to Aeromotive helps to clarify his enormous and lasting contributions.   

From the publisher: This book is a must read for all those interested in the evolution of flying machines. Chanute is best known for his scientific and collaborative approach to the engineering problems related to the development of flight and for the support he gave to the many aeronautical pioneers, including the Wright Brothers. But this engineer's contributions in the aeronautical field are usually greatly underestimated, even though almost every famous and not so famous aeronautical enthusiast contacted him and used the readily available drawings of his glider to build and then learn to fly in their own design without concern over patent infringement or fear of litigation. Chanute's biplane glider design, developed and flown first in 1896 in the Indiana Dunes along Lake Michigan, proved to be a key step in the evolution process of the flying machine. By freely sharing not only drawings of the general design of this aircraft but also the lessons learned, the biplane became the starting point or prototype for many experimenters and can be considered the foundation for the modern airplane.

This book focuses on Chanute's work in aeronautics and how his tutelage, guidance and encouragement helped many would-be aeronauts achieve their goal to fly and fly safely. Chanute was a man who believed in and acted upon his notion of cooperation, openness and knowledge sharing. Not having the internet of today, he became the post-box of early aeronautics, not only because of his landmark book Progress in Flying Machines but also because of his strong connections to anyone and everyone who worked in the aeronautical field. He believed in learning throughout his own life, and he strongly believed in sharing knowledge, fostering and mentoring people who were willing to learn.

About the Author: Simine Short has written more than 150 articles on early aviation, especially on the history of motorless flight as well as a previous book Locomotive to Aeromotive, published in 2011 by the University of Illinois Press. The accomplishments of Octave Chanute have intrigued Simine throughout her professional career in science and technology, and she is considered a leading expert on his contributions to, and influence on early aviation. Her new book, Flight Not Improbable, (Springer, 2023) focuses on how Chanute's input, guidance and encouragement helped many would-be aeronauts achieve their goal to fly successfully and safely.

Locomotive to Aeromotive: Octave Chanute and the Transportation Revolution by Simine Short

Drawing upon decades of research, Simine Short has written the definitive biography of Octave Chanute.

"French-born and self-trained civil engineer Octave Chanute designed America's two largest stockyards, created innovative and influential structures such as the Kansas City Bridge over the previously "unbridgeable" Missouri River, and was a passionate aviation pioneer whose collaborative approach to aeronautical engineering problems helped the Wright brothers take flight. Drawing on a rich trove of archival material and exclusive family sources, Locomotive to Aeromotive is the first detailed examination of Chanute's life and his immeasurable contributions to the fields of engineering and transportation, from the ground transportation revolution of the mid-nineteenth century to the early days of aviation."

Ordering information:

University of Illinois Press (800) 621-2736. Copies may be purchased in ebook, paperback, or hardcover format from the U of I online store, Amazon, and other online vendors.

Kitty Hawk: The Wright Brothers' Journey of Invention

A first-class documentary on the Wright brothers and the invention of the airplane. The producer/director David Garrigus did an outstanding job. Buy your personal copy of Kitty Hawk: The Wright Brothers' Journey of Invention, and be the envy of everyone in your neighborhood!

The documentary is a visual feast. Not only are innumerable photographs included, Garrigus has also incorporated contemporary reconstructions of Wright craft in flight, 3-D models of important phenomena, and narration by astronauts Neil Armstrong and John Glenn. Garrigus also relied on many expert aviation historians, including Drs. Tom Crouch and Peter Jakab of the Smithsonian, and noted biographers Fred Howard and James Tobin.

Kitty Hawk: The Wright Brothers' Journey of Invention on DVD or VHS
Call Toll-Free 1-877-821-5326
Only $19.95 plus $5 shipping & handling
Texas residents add 8.25% tax ($1.65) per order.

Wright Brothers Lithographs

The Festival of Flight Gift Shop has some handsome lithographs of Wright craft in flight. These have been restored from their damaged condition and look wonderful!

"We are proud to offer these historic lithographs. The original photos were taken 100 years ago with the Wright Brother's own camera. They have been restored to their original pristine state and printed in an archival four-color process on acid-free matte paper. Each lithograph print is 12" x 16" with an image area of 8 1/4" x 11", and includes a "shadow box" pseudo-matte printed right on the lithograph making matting optional. Just $18 each or a set of four for $65. S&H add $7.50 for one print. $10.50 up to 4 prints."

Please contact us directly with questions or to place orders
Call or Fax: (910) 235-9234
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Important Historical Books
Aeronautical Publishers has released reprint editions of several important historical sources. These include the English version of Birdflight as the Basis of Aviation, The Aeronautical Annual for 1895, 1896, and 1897, and a volume I am not familiar with, Those Magnificent First Flying Machines. My copies are all on order! Buy yours from
Free Paper Model

A company called "Fiddlers' Green" has some paper models of the Chanute Hang Glider, the 1902 Wright Glider, the 1903 Wright Flyer with catapult and workshop, and the Bleriot XI Channel Crosser. On the way are the Vin Fiz Wright model B Transcontinental Flyer and the 1895 Lilienthal Hang Glider. The 1902 glider model is free!

Editor's note: I've run across some interesting products that people may be interested in. Please note that I don't sell this stuff. If you want me to list something, send email to If I feel it is appropriate, I'll include it in my next update.