Cover image for The unwelcome assistant : Edward C. Huffaker and the birth of aviation
The unwelcome assistant : Edward C. Huffaker and the birth of aviation
Hensley, Steven, 1943-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Johnson City, Tenn. : Overmountain Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
viii, 160 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL540.H84 U58 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In 1957, a boy cleaning out his grandmother's barn in East Tennessee discovers the discarded correspondence of aviation's forgotten pioneer. They were the letters of Edward Huffaker -- written to Samuel Langley, Octave Chanute, and other early aviation scientists. It seems that he had discovered the secrets of how birds fly years before any of the distinguished researchers. These rare letters and unseen photos are reproduced in this work in time for the centennial celebration of flight in December 2003.

Author Notes

Steven Hensley was born in 1943 and raised in Chuckey, Tennessee. He graduated from East Tennessee State University with a Master's degree in both biology and education. Logging over 6000 hours of flying time, Steven was a pilot, a certified flight instructor, and an FAA-authorized inspector. His study of E. C. Huffaker's career spanned thirty years, most of it accomplished on days when the weather was too bad for flying. nSteven has also studied freshwater mussels in the southeastern United States and in central Mexico. He identified a new species during a field survey in southern Alabama, which was given the name Escambiana Hensleyorum
Julia Hensley was born in 1952. Her family moved to Greeneville, Tennessee, in 1969. She received her BA from Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee, and her MA in education from East Tennessee State University. A high school English teacher, Julia has also worked in Christian education in the United Methodist Church

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

In the Wright brothers saga, Edward Huffaker enters and exits Kitty Hawk in 1901, before the fabled first controlled manned flight in 1903. Rescuing this figure from obscurity, the authors admirably refrain from overplaying his significance. The value of their short, straightforward biography is that Huffaker's place in aviation history might have been lost had not the late Steven Hensley found, in the 1950s, Huffaker's letters strewn about a Tennessee barn. What they reveal is that Huffaker dreamt of flight, constructed models of flying machines, and, as the Wrights did, sought out the era's recognized experts, Samuel Langley and Octave Chanute. The latter two recognized that Huffaker was serious, and Langley even hired him, so why Huffaker abandoned the field after 1901 and returned to his previous occupation (surveying) remains a bit of a mystery. In any event, the authors credit Huffaker with a crucial insight about flight (that the Bernoulli effect explains a wing's lift), and that in itself is enough to lure aviation buffs to this biography. GilbertTaylor.

Table of Contents

The Quest for Flightp. 1
Early Life and Careerp. 4
First Steps into Aviationp. 11
Second Marriagep. 23
Langley and the Smithsonian Institutionp. 29
Collaboration with Octave Chanutep. 49
With the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawkp. 60
The Latter Yearsp. 70
In Search of Bernoullip. 76
A Rightful Placep. 87
A. Chronology of the Life of Edward Chalmers Huffaker (1856-1937)p. 91
B. Review of Literaturep. 97
C. Correspondence of Edward Chalmers Huffakerp. 108
D. Huffaker Family Genealogyp. 150
Referencesp. 154
Bibliography of Works Relevant to E. C. Huffakerp. 158