MAN HAS ALWAYS been intrigued by the thought of flying through his own physical power, without the aid of any heavy mechanism. The man who has come closest to that dream was Clem Sohn.
Sohn, an air-show performer in the 1930’s, had perfected a way of gliding through the air with home-made wings. He had himself dropped from an airplane at a height of approximately 20,000 feet and then, he would float downward some three miles or so until he was but 800 or 1,000 feet from the ground, at which point he would open up his parachute for the final descent.
Clem, who hailed from Lansing, Michigan, made his wings out of zephyr cloth and mounted them on steel tubes to form a large web which was clasped to his hips. A loose cloth formed another web between his legs. His large goggles gave him an appearance which justifiably led to his becoming known as “The Batman.”
Sohn’s amazing act came to an end on April 25, 1937,in Vincennes, France. Before taking off, Clem had remarked, “I feel as safe as you would in your grandmother’s kitchen.” But during his descent on that day, his parachute didn’t open. A terror-stricken crowd of 100,000 watched him frantically tug on the ripcord of his emergency chute, but that failed, too; and Clem Sohn, only 26 years old, plunged to his death.