Jan Wnęk

Jan Wnęk

Jan Wnęk (b. 1828 in Kaczówka - July 10, 1869 in Odporyszów, Austria-Hungary).

Jan Wnek is believed to have been an aviation pioneer; He was illiterate but known to be very intelligent. Trained as a carpenter, this Polish peasant had a keen sense of detail and was also able to restore paintings. Under the encouragement of the Roman Catholic Father Stanislaw Morgenstern, Wnęk became a prolific wood and stone sculptor for churches and cemeteries in Kraków and Odporyszów. The angels he sculpted are described to 'have have wings of exceptional beauty.' He also possessed an instinctive talent for mechanics and improved some contemporary agricultural machinery. He also acted in some village plays.

Jan Wnęk is remembered in Poland to have been an early aviation pioneer. He was self-taught and could only count on his knowledge about nature based on the observation of bird flight and on his own builder and carver skills. He noted that some soaring birds made use of rising air currents in facilitating climb and identified the optimal weather conditions for his flights. He also spent considerable time (years) studying a dead duck's wing and observing how live birds manage their wings and tail for controlled flight.

Wnęk built several wing models and although he did not understand the aerodynamics of lift, he mimicked the upper curvature of a bird's wing.Fact|date=August 2007 He tested his weighted models by throwing them by hand. In 1866 he started construction of an ash wood wing 'skeleton', which he covered with linen impregnated with varnish. After several months of work he completed construction and he named his glider "Loty" (Flyer). Jan Wnęk was firmly strapped to the glider by the chest and hips and controlled his glider by twisting the wing's trailing edge via strings attached to stirrups at his feet. [ [http://www.dziecidodzieci.republika.pl/wnekfr.htm Jan Wnęk ] ] [Prof. Tadeusz Seweryn suggests the glider may have been an ornithopter - or human powered flapping wing airaft. No proof is presented, nor a specific document quoted or made available upon request.] Wnęk managed his first short controlled flights in June of that same year from a small hill. After several flights, some adjustments and learning his glider behavior, Wnęk felt confident enough to ask for authorization from the Odporyszow village church priest -Stanisław Morgenstern- to build a special ramp on top of the church tower to launch from. The tower stood 45 m high and was located on top of a 50 m hill, making a 95 m (311 ft) high launch above the valley below.

On late June 1866, Wnęk timed his 'big flight' to coincide with an upcoming Pentecost church celebration. It is reported that huge crowds came to church celebrations and also to purchase goods from shops and nearby town markets. The summer breeze must have been perfect as he launched for a flawless flight of substantial distance -probably aided by a prevailing thermal updraft- quoted as 1800 meters (about 1 mile). [ [http://www.avia.tarman.pl/index.php?action=histwnek Modelarstwo - Klub modelarski AVIA TARNÓW ] ] [ [http://www.dziecidodzieci.republika.pl/wnekfr.htm Jan Wnęk ] ]

Church records indicate that Jan Wnęk made several public flights between 1866 - 1869 especially during religious festivals, carnivals and New Year celebrations.Fact|date=August 2007 His fame spread to nearby villages and was said that 'he was either blessed or had dealings with the Devil.'

During the Pentecost Carnival held in May 16, 1869 at Odporyszow, Wnęk's did his final flight that ended in a tragic fall. An assistant, Michal Sowinski, was reported to be implicated in his death, in one fashion or another. He died a few weeks later at age 41, leaving a wife -Marianna Ciomborówna- and three children. His flying activities spanned about four years in time and, although his flights preceded Otto Lilienthal's by 25 years, Wnęk left no known written records or drawings, thus having no impact on aviation progress.

The fact is that there is no description of the glider and the presented model and control feature (if any) are speculations. But there does seem to be reason to believe that Wnęk may have made at least a few true glides in his machine. Oral descriptions of these events were transferred from one generation to the next throughout the whole region. Recently, Professor Tadeusz Seweryn, former director of the Kraków Museum of Ethnography [http://www.krakow-info.com/museums.htm] , claims that he has unearthed some church records with descriptions of Jan Wnęk's activities. These have so far, not been available for verification.

References

Flying Machines - The pioneer Aviation Group [http://www.flyingmachines.org/wnek.html]

Polish aviation history. By Dr. Stanislawice Konstanty Wałęga [http://www.avia.tarman.pl/index.php?action=histwnek]

Krakow's Museum of Ethnograpgy [http://www.mek.krakow.pl/menu_ang.htm]

Photo of the Odporyszów church tower: [http://www.hotel.tarnovia.pl/files/church4.jpg]

Jan Wnęk Museum in Odporyszów [http://www.zabno.pl/?strona=00148] , [http://szlak.wrotamalopolski.pl/PL/Obiekty.aspx?id=55]

Some scultpures and paintings by Jan Wnęk [http://www.zabno.pl/?fotogaleria=00036]

Photo of monument dedicated to Jan Wnęk: [http://www.dziecidodzieci.republika.pl/wnek-ikar.htm]

Jan Wnęk. Biography - in Polish and French language. [http://www.dziecidodzieci.republika.pl/wnekfr.htm] , [http://www.gim2dt.miasto.net.pl/index%20wnek.htm] , [http://www.zabno.pl/?strona=00152] [http://www.dziecidodzieci.republika.pl/seweryn.htm]


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