Blue Ridge Country - November/December 2017 - 42
birds fly and thought, 'You know,
there's no reason why a man can't
do that, too,'" Turnage says. "And
so he began to work with different
things in an attempt to get something to fly and figure out what
caused flight, how to get up there,
then how to steer when you got
up there and then how to come
"Jack Allen, of
has brought Dyer's
drawings to life-in
But to fly like an eagle was
not considered a sane idea by
the general public, Turnage says.
"They just could not conceive of
something that could fly in the
air. It was a crazy idea back in the
Still, Dyer persisted in his plans.
And to make his invention come
to life, Turnage says, this dreamer used whatever materials were
available. "And he managed to do
all this without
the usual education or connections. He never
went to school
above the seventh grade."
Jack Allen, of
Blairsville, Georgia, has brought
to life-in miniature.
Allen built a
model in 2013,
Dyer's plans, as
a gift that is now
on display at the Union County
Historical Society Museum in
"They needed somebody to
build a model," he says, "so they
Good thing: Allen is a retired
airline machinist. "I worked on
airplanes most of
my life," says Allen, 79. "I fly myself. And I'm always interested in
things that fly."
poplar wood to
build the model.
Yet building it
to scale "was up
for guess," Allen
gave any dimensions or anything. I couldn't
tell you the scale,
because nobody knows how big it
was. All we had to work with was
what was written in the patent
and the drawing."
That patent, No. 154,654, was
granted on Sept. 1, 1874. Dyer's
idea was not called an "airplane,"
according to Turnage, but "an apparatus for navigating the air."
A state highway, Ga. 180, now
takes its name for Dyer, as it goes
past his old homestead in the Blairsville area. It was there, according to
Turnage, that Dyer took flight with
what family members remembered
as a "flying machine," built with
boiled corn shucks, thin sheets of
pine, river cane and possibly birch.
"Nobody recorded the date,"
says Turnage, 78. "What he was
showing was how it could be directed. There were these hot air
balloon-type things, but nobody
knew how to make it turn the way
they wanted it to and all that sort
Dyer's design incorporated a balloon at the top with what Allen
called a "gondola" for the pilot.
In the 1880s, Dyer sought inves-