John Joseph Montgomery

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
John Joseph Montgomery
04-02392 John J. Montgomery.jpg
Born (1858-02-15)February 15, 1858
Yuba City, California
Died October 31, 1911(1911-10-31) (aged 53)
Evergreen, California
Resting place
Colma, California
Occupation aviation pioneer, inventor, professor, physicist
Spouse(s) Regina Cleary

John Joseph Montgomery (February 15, 1858 – October 31, 1911) was an American aviation pioneer, inventor, and professor at Santa Clara College in Santa Clara, California. He studied in San Francisco at Saint Ignatius College (forerunner of the University of San Francisco) receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in 1879 and his Master of Science Degree in 1880.[1]


In 1884 Montgomery, a native of Yuba City, CA, is said to have made the first manned, controlled, heavier-than-air flights in the United States, using a glider in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego, California (after European pioneers such as those of George Cayley's coachman in 1853 and Jean-Marie Le Bris in 1856).

In 1893 Montgomery visited the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where he met Octave Chanute, who was chairing a conference on "Aerial Navigation". Montgomery participated in the discussion and his comments were included in the conference proceedings, Discussions on the Various Papers on Soaring Flight[2] Following this meeting, Chanute included Montgomery's account of his earlier experiments in Progress in Flying Machines.

John J. Montgomery and his tandem-wing glider The Santa Clara (1905)

On March 16, 17 and 20th 1905, Montgomery's pilot Daniel Maloney made several successful flights at Leonard's ranch (now known as Seascape) Aptos, California and on April 29, 1905 at Santa Clara, California using a tandem wing Montgomery glider launched from a hot air balloon, but was killed on July 18, 1905 when the aircraft suffered a structural failure.[3] John Montgomery filed for patent on April 26, 1905 (issued as U.S. Patent #831,173 [4] on September 18, 1906) for his invention of an aeroplane. He was a member of the Aero Club of Illinois (1910) and member of the research committee of the Technical Board of the Aeronautical Society of New York (1911).

Montgomery died in the crash of his glider "The Evergreen" on October 31, 1911 on the hill (now known as "Montgomery Hill") just behind Evergreen Valley College, which is located in the east foothills of San Jose, California and was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California on November 3, 1911. Evergreen Valley College honors his memory with a green space (Montgomery Grove), a lecture hall (Montgomery Hall), and an observatory (Montgomery Hill Observatory). There is also a memorial park located at the intersection of Yerba Buena Road and San Felipe Road on the way to the college.

In 1946, John J. Montgomery's life was portrayed in the movie Gallant Journey starring Glenn Ford and Janet Blair, and directed by William Wellman. The chief pilot for the movie was Paul Mantz. The movie debuted in San Diego, California.

Recognition and Honors[edit]

John J. Montgomery landing "The Evergreen" monoplane glider (1911).
Silver Wing monument at Montgomery-Waller Recreation Center in Otay Mesa, San Diego, California

Two California Historical Landmarks (Montgomery Memorial, Otay Mesa;[5] Montgomery Hill, San Jose[6] near Evergreen Valley College have been named in his honor as has one section of the Interstate 5 freeway (John J. Montgomery Freeway) in San Diego, California and a recreation center near the location of his first claimed glide (Montgomery-Waller Recreation Center, San Diego, California[7]). The Montgomery Memorial in San Diego features a silver static test wing panel for the Consolidated B-32 Dominator mounted upright that is visible for miles.

California schools that have been named in his honor:

and one Civil Air Patrol Squadron (John J. Montgomery Memorial Cadet Squadron 36[13]). Chapter 338 of the Experimental Aircraft Association in San Jose is named in Montgomery's honor. San Diego's Montgomery Field (MYF), one of the busiest airports for small planes in the United States, is named for him as well.

John J. Montgomery was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1964 and U.S. Soaring Hall of Fame[14] in 2002.

In 1996, Montgomery's 1883 glider was recognized as an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. On March 19, 2005, John J. Montgomery was the focus of a Centennial Celebration of Soaring Flight, held in Aptos, California at the location of some of his early glider experiments. At this celebration, a marker was placed in Aptos in honor of the first high altitude flights by man.[15]

On March 15, 2008, a sculpture was unveiled at San Felipe and Yerba Buena roads in San Jose, California as a tribute to the pioneering aviation accomplishments of John Montgomery. The 30-foot-tall steel structure of a glider wing was placed on a 32-foot-diameter plaza designed by San Francisco artist Kent Roberts.[16]

On April 5, 2008, a celebration of the 125th anniversary of John Montgomery's first glide took place at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California.[17]

In October, 2012, the University of Oklahoma Press released a biography of John J. Montgomery co-authored by Craig S. Harwood and Gary B. Fogel.

See also[edit]


  • Montgomery, John J. Discussions on the Various Papers on Soaring Flight Proceedings of the International Conference on Aerial Navigation, Chicago, Aug. 1-4. 1893 pp. 246–249.
  • Montgomery, John J. Soaring Flight, manuscript, 1895.
  • Montgomery, John J. The Mechanics Involved in a Bird's Wing in Soaring and Their Relation to Aeronautics, Address to the Southern California Academy of Sciences, Los Angeles, Nov. 9, 1897.
  • Montgomery, John J. The Aeroplane, The Aeroplane Advertising Co., Santa Clara, CA
  • Montgomery, John J. New Principles in Aerial Flight, Scientific American, November 25, 1905.
  • Montgomery, John J. Principles Involved in the Formation of Winged Surfaces and the Phenomenon of Soaring, presented at the Aeronautics Congress, New York, Oct. 28-29, 1907. Published in Aeronautics Vol. 3, No. 5, November, 1908.
  • Montgomery, John J. Some Early Gliding Experiments in America, Aeronautics, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1909, pp. 47–50.
  • Montgomery, John J. Our Tutors in the Art of Flying, Aeronautics, September 22, 1915, pp. 99–100 (article printed posthumously).



  • The Montgomery Aeroplane, Scientific American, May 20, 1904, pp. 404.
  • Most Daring Test of Flying-Machine Ever Made, Popular Mechanics, June Vol. 7, No. 6, 1905.
  • The Montgomery Aeroplane, Popular Mechanics, July Vol. 7, No. 7, 1905 pp. 703–707.
  • Josselyn, Winsor He Flew in 1883, Harper's Magazine, Vol. 181, June, 1940.
  • Spearman, Arthur Dunning John J. Montgomery: Father of Basic Flying. Santa Clara University 1967 and 2nd ed. 1977.
  • Harwood, Craig S. and Fogel, Gary B. Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West. University of Oklahoma Press 2012.

External links[edit]