Flying: Aliens, Idea of flying and Practical efforts by the forgotten Middle Ages Aviators.
Syed Mohd. Saleh Uddin
Introduction: If students of the Aviation History are asked, do you know Ibn Firnas or Wan ho, the answer of the majority may be, we heard the name first. Though flying by flying machines are very recent yet idea of flying is as old as human civilization. Hence idea is developed continuously by evolution through the ages. Philosophers of very old time thought to fly in the sky like birds. In the history their names did not come. In the popular history of aviation they are ignored. Being the students of Aviation History you should try to know them to honour their departed soul. Besides you are interested about aliens, so few lines are included here about aliens’ episodes.
Aliens: According to ancients’ theorists, extraterrestrials with superior knowledge of science and engineering landed on earth thousands of years ago, sharing their expertise with early ancient civilizations and changed the course of nature of the human history. Some also dared to say even long before the human civilization on earths they have visited the earth. So, many movies were made in the Hollywood and elsewhere based on aliens’ episodes. What happened before human civilization or that actually happened or not it is not our concern. So, here I will cite few examples what our thinkers think about their roles in our civilization. A western writer cited verse from the Bible to prove fallen angels and ancient aliens handed down the so called ‘High Technology’. About mysterious temples of Palenque some believe that a massive skull carving at the entrance of temple of the skull in Plenque, Mexico is a representation of an extraterrestrial. The 14,000 years old Puma Punku ruins of Bolivia created a mystery. There was a civilization that constructed sophisticated and intricately carved blocks that interlocks and suggests the site was not built and inhabited by humans, but by advanced extraterrestrials. The Mayan conspiracy episode suggests that the ancient Maya were given their knowledge of the mathematics and the astronomy by extraterrestrials. However our object is not their role about development of human civilization but to tell the idea of planetary flight even in ancient days of human civilization whose crafts landed here. By the by, the episode of King Pakel’s journey through the Milky Way galaxy can be cited. However to know more you will have to study about the aliens.
Idea of flying: Idea of flying is as old as human civilization. It is believed by the followers of major religions of the world, particularly followers of the Devine books that first intelligent human being is created by the creator in an unknown planet in the universe that is away from our earth. In the holy Quran of the Muslim that place is named heaven. First man and woman were Adam and Eve (Hawa). They were created for this earth to rule over it. So, this earth was made worthy for his intellectual beings the human beings. History says how! Bigger animals like Dinosaurs were destroyed in this process. The earth was decorated in a new way in absence of those big creatures. That process continued for the billions and billions of the years.
Modern thinkers thought about aliens. Some of the dared to say even before Adam and eve the extraterrestrial beings visited this earth.
Muslim religious book Al- Quran taught us, once the creator Allah expressed his idea to create human beings. So, he did. We were taught the above couple were sent to earth. But it was not told, how! In ancient works it is said Adam was landed in a mountain peak of present Sri Lanka. That place later geographers named Adam’s peak. Hawa was landed to a place of Arabian Peninsula. Later it was named Jeddah. They were certainly carried here by supernatural crafts.
In ancient religious faiths in India, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Scandinavia, Maya civilization of America etc and among the aborigines of Africa, Asia and even Bangladesh idea of Dev-Davis are present. All the followers of them believe in their control over them. So, they make flight to monitor their followers. They come and back flying. Miraj is favourite Islamic believe. In the holy Quran by Buraq last Prophet of Islam (PBUH) visited Masjidul Haram of Mecca to Masjidul Aksa of Jerusalem. By Hadiths, various narrations and other works Muslims faith of prophet visit to Arsha Mualla by supernatural convoy is too firm. From there he made return flight by the same conveyances (Buraq & Rafraf) where angel Gabriel was his guide. Islamic other favourite belief is lifting of Jesus in the first sky (some where in the outer space), instead of the Christian beliefs on his crucifixion. However such flight requires supernatural crafts. I made above discussion to show existing idea of flight from the beginning of human civilization. Human being has faith in flight of supernatural bodies. I did not discuss here the logics of possibility. During the last prophet (PBUH) in various traditions (hadith of sahaba) we see certain sahaba expressed his idea, Alas! If I would be a bird. It proves birds’ inspiration during that time.
In many Arab and Indian works about magical flying men were mentioned. Without any devices they just flew. Even famous African traveller Ibn Batutawritten in his ‘Safr name’, while he was travelling in India an Indian Yogi flew in a room without any device. So, he was frightened and lost his sense for some time. In Alif Laila man flight on ghost and big bird (named Rok) are also favourite to children till today. So, the idea of Flying is our idea what naturally developed on us. In Bangladesh from ancient time mothers, grandmas ( Dadi, Nani), aunt ( Khala, Fufu) are good story tellers for the babies of own family. Even In remote villages’ children grow up listening about flying King Nimrod (Nomrud) on the back of a vulture to fight against creator, King Solomon’s ‘Takht-e-Solamani’ the flying throne and its travel , Queen of Sheba Bisques’ (Bilkis) visit to King Solomon court and HudHud bird matter, all of these create idea of flying in our child brain.
About forgotten aviators: From the Greek legendary Aviators Daedlus & Icarus to Wright brothers and later days aviation scientists there are mentions in the Aviation History. But there were few very important aviators about whom in the history very less is written. I have mentioned the names of Armen Firman and Ibne Firnas in the Introduction of the article, though few expressed their views that they might be the same man because about the former they came to know only in a primary source al Maqqari. But many other mention him as the inspirer of Ibne Firnas and even Eilmer of Malseburi a Christian monk aviator. But in many works about Firnas works are written. So, there is no doubt about him. In Spain Firnas was known as a scientist who had few inventions in his credit. He is specially remembered for his flying efforts. It is said he had a sky simulation room in his base ment. There was a machine in that room showing how the planet moves. People who entered the room were astonished to see the stars, clouds, thunders and lighting are produced by the hidden mechanism in the room.
Ibn Firnas made the history as the first man to make the controlled flight. It is believed that in China, monks were flown up by kites which were controlled in the ground as the control of present days kite. Idea of such flight might reach to Muslim empires through the Silk Road by the traders. It might be one of the inspirations by potential Muslim flyers. It is said Ibn Firnas had a parachute jump from a minaret of the Grand Mosque at Cordova in 852 AD as mentioned by John H. Lienhard in 2004 (in a radio programme in USA) as being a huge wing like cloak (some also mentioned it was the effort of Armen Firman what Ibn Firnas witnessed, few also mentioned the name is Latinized form of Ibn Firnas name). Whatever the case may be there was a tower jump in the 852 AD what was also a part of aviation history. The attempt was not successful. The aviator sustained minor injury as the wing like dress slowed the fall (in present days by more developed such dress amateur aviators are seen flying and successful landing).
If that was the Firnas first jump, he had to wait for another 23 years for the second jump. But during that jump if he only was an observer what inspired him then by next 23 years he took preparation for his solo flight. He devoted himself in studying birds. He developed a device to fly. His design appears to be that of a hang glider. It had two sets of wings to adjust altitudes and directions. At the age of 65 in 875 AD in front of a large crowd from a mountain height he tried fly. It was not also that successful. Firnas had to make crash landing that injured his back. So, he further investigated, later he came to conclusion that he had failed to provide stability mechanism like a bird which could slow down his landing. Due to injury from the crash landing and old age he failed to attempt again. About after two years at the age of 77 he died in 877/78.
Lynn White speculates that “a successful glider flight was made in the year 875AD by a Moorish inventor named Abbas Ibn Firnas living in Cordova, Spain. It’s entirely possible that word of Ibn Firnas flight was brought to Elmer of Malmesbury……by returning crusaders”.
But it is unknown, if Elmer design were able to replicate Ibn Firnas success though some writers mentioned Firnas to be his inspiration. Elmer was also not so mentioned in the history of Aviation. He was a monk of Malmesbury Abbey also known as Oliver. He attempted a flight using mechanical wings. He lived in the middle ages England. He was an 11thcentury Benedictine monk who lived in Malmesbury. The thought to be the story of Daedalus was real. He made a winged glider in 1005 AD. He climbed in a tower in the Abbey. Then put his wings on and jumped himself into the air. He was able to glide about 200 meters, then he lost his control and fallen into the earth. Luckily he was able to survive. But both of his legs broke for what he was lame for the rest of his life. The cause of his failure was he failed to accommodate with a tail for stability in his glider.
History ignored another Muslim aviator named Hezarfen Ahmed celebi. He was a legendary ottoman aviator of the 17th century Constantinople (present day Istanbul). Traveller and writer Evliya Celebi purported that he had achieved sustain unpowered flight. In his 17th century writing he relate this story of Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi, Circa 1630-32.
Report says, first he practised by flying over the pulpit of Okmeidani eight or nine times with eagle wings using the force of the winds. Then, as the Sultan Murad khan (Murad iv) was watching from the Sinan Pasha mansion at Sarayburnu, he flew from the very top of the Galata Tower ( in Karakoy of present day) and land in Dogancilar square in the Uskodar, with help of the south west wind. Then Murad khan granted him a sack of Gold coins, and said, “this is a scary man. He is capable doing he wishes. It is not right to keep such people”. Sultan sent him to Algeria in exile. He died there.
In a report of 1648, John Wilkins cites Busbeck , the Austrian Ambassador to Constantinople (1544-62) as recorded that ‘a Turk in Constantinople’ attempted to fly (his name is quite impossible to find now a days). However, if accurate this citation refers to an event nearly a century prior to exploits reported by Evliya Celebi. (It is worth mentioning here that Hezarfen’s glide path from the Galata district in Europe to the Uskudar district of Istanbul (Asian Side) was 3.358Km (about 2 miles).
Lagari Hasan Celebi was Hezarfen’s brother. He earned fame for rocketry. Evliya Celebi (also known as Mehmed Zilli was an ottoman Turk who travelled the empire for about 4o years and who wrote “Seyahatname” means travelogue) reported that in 1633, Lagari Hasan Celebi launched in a 7 winged rocket used 50 okka (140 lbs) of gunpowder to launch from Sarayburnu the point below the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The flight was said to be undertaken at the time of birth of Sultan Murad iv’s daughter. After ascending in the rocket he landed in the sea then he swam ashore. This citation is from the work of Evliya Celebi. According to him Hasan made a successful rocket flight. He also reported that his brother Hezarfen Ahmed made a flight by glider a year earlier i.e. in 1632 AD.
ConcludingStories: After this article a book is in front of you Titled ‘TAROKALOKER BADSHAH’ (The king of the Heaven) for Bengali knowing readers. I am sorry because others among the readers will unable to read it. For them few short concluding stories are told what is related about ancient Chinese aviators about whom the History of Aviation we have now is very silent.
It is Muslim religious faith that after death each soul will fly to his earned abode ‘Illin or sijjin’ where he will stay till the day of judgement and then he will again fly to his final abode ‘HELL OR HEAVEN’. The soul will be awarded the Heaven i.e. Jannat, will be the king of his own Jannat (planet) because it is his own abode what he earned when he was alive in the earth. In the other hand hell will be the abode of wrong doers in the earth.
The Idea of the heaven is as old as the human civilization. It was among the ancient Chinese also. The Monks were very concerned about it. So, we see after the invention of kites in the 5th century BC by Chinese philosophers Mozi ( Mo Di) and Lu Ban ( Gongshu Ban) that rapidly developed to be used for different purposes. Monks took it to be the media to reach nearer to the heaven by ground control big kites. There is no story now that they finally wanted to reach heaven by only kites.
Now we know Chinese were also the inventors of primary rockets. In 228 AD the Wei state used torches attached to arrow. In the 9th century AD Chinese Taoist Alchemists invented ‘Black powder’ (Gun powder). Then war scientists put gunpowder directly inside the arrows. So, rocket technology started its journey. The first recorded use of rocket in a battle was by the Chinese in 1232 against Mongol hordes. By Silk Road this technology carried to Islamic empires and then to Europe where it developed tremendously. However, those Chinese inventors and primary Muslims and Europeans who dealt to develop it, most of them are ignored in history.
Now, I shall conclude this article with the story of first recorded manned rocket developer Wan ho. He had a long lasting dream to reach his Heaven by rockets. He was a Ming Dynasty official around 1500 AD. To reach the space (heaven) he made special types of chair. He made 47 small rockets that were attached beneath the chair. 47 attendants were ready to lit (one each) fire on the rocket. Wan ho dressed on his finest clothing. He sat down in the chair holding the strings of two kites, so that he is helped to guide his flight by the flying kites while he is in the space. In due time on his order, the rockets were lighted. Sounds of explosions were heard far and near. There were thick black smokes around the chair. Gentle breeze came to clear smoke. But no trace of Wan ho left (modern science can explain easily, what happened after the explosions). May the creator keep his soul there where he wanted to reach with his body by his rocket craft! May he be the king of his abode in the heaven!
References: Banglapedia, Wikipedia, navigationtalk.wordpress.com and publications of the writer.