Experimenter Flies With Bat Wings (Jul, 1931)

Experimenter Flies With Bat Wings

RESURRECTING an ancient theory of the Greeks which had to do with the flight of humans equipped with bird wings, Adolph Matz, an aeronaut of Brookline, Mass., recently gave a demonstration of a novel means of self propulsion through the air by the use of bat’s wings.

Made of heavy cloth and braced with wooden ribs, the wings are strapped to the body as illustrated in the photo below.

  1. xritl says: May 11, 200912:06 am

    Seriously? Did they have anything to back this story up? Witnesses or something? I saw Wile E. Coyote do pretty well (for a few minutes) with those exact same wings [http://www.animationusa.com/picts/wbpict/2_Splatman.jpg], but other than that I’m a little skeptical.

  2. Eamonn says: May 11, 200912:21 am

    At least with a rocket Wile E. Coyote had some method of propulsion. Its sad when you’re out-designed by ACME.

    Even to fill space this article is pretty bad.

  3. Repack Rider says: May 11, 20091:47 am

    What exactly might this “demonstration” have consisted of?

  4. George says: May 11, 20094:58 am

    I think he jumped off of whatever that is behind him.

    What a different era when men wore suits to test experimental flying machines requiring huge physical exertion!

  5. Airmon says: May 11, 200912:30 pm

    “Experimenter FALLS with bat wings.”

    There, fixed it for you.

  6. JM says: May 11, 20091:57 pm

    Wow… and this was in 1931!!… Where was this amazing experimenter when WWII began? Why we don’t see pictures of invasions of soldiers wearing bat wings in History books? What a loss to mankind!!

    Just in case, I was being ironic ¬¬ …

  7. slim says: May 11, 20092:56 pm

    I wonder how many kids saw this and tried to copy it.

  8. Randy says: May 11, 20093:00 pm

    From his posture, it looks like he’s standing on a stool or something that was airbrushed out.

  9. -DOUG- says: May 11, 20094:17 pm

    What REALLY happened is, the article turned a hoax into a true story. In fact, there was a considerable number of ‘Bat Wingers’ in that era, performing at air shows. You had an article on the late Clem Sohn that ‘Modern Mechanix’ ran just 4 years later. He got started on it after seeing some article in 1931 and believing it was true. I think ‘The Jetman,’ the Frenchman who recently flew with the jetpack and wings, cited Sohn as an inspiration. As is so often said, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.


    1) A Bat Winger jumped from an airplane wearing a parachute on his back as well as his wings that often attached the length between his wrists and ankles. Flying squirrel would be a better comparison than a bat. After glding around overhead for awhile, he needed the ‘chute to land. And yes, more than half of them eventually died in action. If you lost control and tumbled, your ‘Time of Useable Consciousness’ was too short for you to pull the ripcord.

    2) Arm strength was urgently needed. If you wanted to be trained by a real Bat Winger, he would make you demonstrate your endurance by having you perform some feat like putting a hand or a foot on each of the 4 chairs he set up so you could hold yourself up spread eagle for minutes at a time. If you could stay up for the period then get out of that position without flattening your face, you had potential. How many died even before they figured out such screening techniques?

    3) The French military put a soldier to work developing the gliding technique that would allow airborne troops to jump from the plane and glide under control to the landing site and land on their feet without a parachute, and he was almost there. In fact he was testing the final apparatus that he expected to be the one to do it when it was damaged as he stumbled while exiting the plane, (It’s theorized one side caught the wind first and pulled him) and, uh, you can guess. Observers said he was still trying to get to the ripcord as he neared the ground, but the tumbling is too disorienting. They decided even with a working system the risks were too high, and it was abandoned.

    I’m sure many a bat winger started off imaging just the image offered in this article. In 1937 he was the best known, and Sohn met the fate of so many bat wingers, tumbling to his death over France. A witness was quoted in ‘Time’ as saying it sounded like an explosion when he hit the ground. He had just told the crowd he felt as safe as a baby in grandma’s arms. A boy at the show would be inspired to follow in his footsteps, and tried to develop the ultimate bat wing system for the military. The Jetman would say he was inspired by both. If you think this little ‘Inquiring minds wanna know’ article above is strange, try reading the true adventures.

  10. -DOUG- says: May 11, 20094:30 pm

    And I should have included that in the novel ‘Angels and Demons,’ the character played by Tom Hanks in the movie is a champion swimmer, and has to have a Clem Sohn moment to save himself. It’s one of those “NOOOOOWAAAAAAYYYY!!!!!!” moments, so I don’t know if it made it into the movie. If you don’t know, the sequel to this novel was ‘The Da Vinci code,’ so just another example of the author who takes threadbare possibilities and treats them as facts.

  11. Steve says: May 12, 200912:03 am

    “Made of heavy cloth and braced with wooden ribs…”

    How brilliant of them to use HEAVY cloth.

  12. werewolf says: June 7, 20097:28 pm

    i thought they told how to make them? anyone know how to make these? i want to try it if its in my bugdet

  13. JMyint says: June 7, 200910:10 pm

    I would say the photo is a composite, a cut and paste job in the literal sense. Mr. Matz was photographed with wings standing on the ground. His image was cut from that photo and pasted onto the new background. Just check out his shoes.

    These types of photo manipulations were easy to pull with the low resolution of print media of the past.

  14. -DOUG- says: June 8, 20092:22 am

    There is a website for people determined to build things like this:


    They don’t offer designs, though. Perhaps you could gain inspiration by studying an umbrella for it’s ribbed structure. A few other sites that might offer ideas:



    And Godspeed you quest to improve the gene pool.

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