The early 1900's saw competition between European engineers to produce "heavier than air" aircrafts at an all-time height. (While hot air balloons and blimps function using a mix of gases designed to make the craft float by displacing the air around it, hence the name "lighter than air", "heavier than air" aircrafts had yet to be invented). The Wright Brothers invented the Flyer III in 1903, but they were hesitant to make public demonstrations for fear of another engineer stealing their intellectual property. Therefore, many did not believe the Wright Brothers until a demonstration of their aircraft in August of 1908.
According to Doctorow, Houdini paid $5000 for his Voisin biplane 1909. He made the first "heavier than air flight" in Australia on March 18, 1910. He was competing against Ralph Banks and Fred Custance to set the record in Australia according to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale; all three were magicians aspiring to make aviation a part of their remarkable repertoire. Houdini made at least 18 more flights before shipping his airplane back to England, never to fly it again.
Doctorow also points out an interaction between Houdini and Archduke Franz Ferdinand in which Ferdinand congratulates Houdini for the invention of the airplane. However, there is no evidence that Ferdinand and Houdini ever met.
Dramaturgy for the Ragtime musical and novel.
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