(May 3, 2012) — The conquest of air and space has changed the world. The diminishing time traveled between great distances has increased the exchange of ideas and development of technology. Air has changed the footprint of war, and as seen in WWII, expedited its end. What if history had taken a different path? What if the airplane was invented fifty years before the Wright Brothers’ historic flight? And what if it had been flown by Confederate pilots, who used them to bomb and decimate Union troops?
In the mid-1860’s, Dr. Roderick O. Davidson had such an idea. It is said he tested a steam powered flying machine tethered to a train roaring down the tracks. And when he approached Confederate leaders with the idea to produce a fleet of 500 bombers, he was given $1500 in Confederate currency and 12 weeks to build a working prototype. After a windstorm destroyed what he had constructed, the idea was lost to history.
150 years later, National Geographic approached Mad Systems, an a/v integration and themed entertainment technology company whose clients include SeaWorld, Landrys Restaurants, and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, to build a duplicate of the plane in three months, using as close to the original materials as possible, with the modern equivalent of Davidson’s 1864 budget.
Did they succeed? Find out May 10 at 8:00 pm on the National Geographic Channel and follow a live twitter discussion @madsystems during the broadcast.