Man’s first recorded flight was in Malmesbury

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Published in Malmesbury Top Trumps
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Some time during the first decade of the 1000's, Eilmer the Monk fixed wings to his hands and feet and launched himself from the top of a tower of Malmesbury Abbey.

To perform the maneuver of gliding downward against the breeze, utilizing both gravity and the wind, Eilmer employed an apparatus somewhat resembling a gliding bird.

However being unable to balance himself forward and backwards, as does a bird by slight movements of its wings, head and legs, he would have needed a large tail to maintain equilibrium.

Eilmer could not have achieved true soaring flight in any event, but he might have glided down in safety if he had had a tail. Afterwards, Eilmer remarked that the cause of his crash was that "he had forgotten to provide himself with a tail."

Eilmer had flown approximately 660ft!

Crippled for life but undaunted, Eilmer believed that he could make a more controlled landing if his glider was equipped with a tail, and he was preparing for a second flight when the abbot of Malmesbury Abbey forbade him from risking his life in any further experiments.

Given the geography of the abbey, his landing site, and the account of his flight, to travel for "more than a furlong" (220 yards, 201 metres) he would have had to have been airborne for about 15 seconds. His exact flightpath is not known, nor how long he was in the air, because today’s abbey is not the abbey of the eleventh century, when it was probably smaller, although the tower was probably close to the present height. "Olivers Lane", off the present-day High Street and about 200 metres (660 ft) from the abbey, is reputed locally to be the site where Eilmer landed. That would have taken him over many buildings. Maxwell Woosnam's study concluded that he is more likely to have descended the steep hill off to the southwest of the abbey, rather than the town centre to the south.

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