Jan Wnek
1828 - 1869

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Model Of Jan Wnek's Glider

Model Of Jan Wnek's Glider At The Museum Of Ethnography - Cracow (Krakow), Poland

Memorial to Jan Wnek, Odporyszow, Poland
Memorial To Jan Wnek, Odporyszow, Poland,
Near The Location Of His 1869 Fall
The Sign Reads: "Sculptor Jan Wnek - 1828 1869 - Forerunner Of World Gliding - First Aviator"

Jan Wnek was born in 1828, at Kaczowka, Poland. His family operated a farm, and young Jan seemed destined for life as a farmer in rural Poland. He apprenticed to a wood worker and became skilled at carpentry. His artistic abilities are demonstrated by the numerous religious sculptures he produced for the Odporyszow parish, under the encouragement of Father Stanislaw Morgenstern. Some of Jan Wnek's sculptures may be seen today at Cracow's (Krakow's) Museum of Ethnography, and in a museum devoted to his work, located at Odporyszow, Poland.

Jan Wnek's Sculptures, Odporyszow, Poland
Jan Wnek's Sculptures, Odporyszow, Poland

Roman Catholic Church, Odporyszow, Poland
Roman Catholic Church, Odporyszow, Poland,
From The Bell Tower Of Which Jan Wnek Fell In 1869

Entrance To Jan Wnek Museum, Odporyszow, Poland
Entrance (On The Right) To The Jan Wnek Museum, Odporyszow, Poland

Jan Wnek is reported to have constructed a glider from ash wood and linen in 1866, which he named Loty ("Flights"), and to have managed a flight with that glider in June of that same year. The tail-less glider had a span of approximately 26 feet and was apparently controlled by lines attached to the trailing edge of the wing ribs and shifted by movements of foot stippups. The wing ribs were said to be cambered, as can be seen on the model of Wnek's Loty. The date of the model is unknown. Wnek reportedly made gliding flights during religious festivals, such as Pentecost. He is reported to have made a number of other flights through 1869, especially at church carnivals, apparently using the same ash wood and linen glider. It's said that church records documents his aerial activities. His aeronautical work is essentially unknown outside of Poland.

The distances involved in his glides are said to have been substantial, aided by a prevailing thermal updraft. There does seem to be reason to believe that he may have made at least a few true glides in his aerial apparatus. Jan Wnek reportedly died from injuries sustained in a failed flight made during the Pentecost Carnival held in May of 1869 at Odporyszow (some sources cite June of 1869, but Pentecost fell on May 16 in 1869). An assistant, Michal Sowinski, was reported to be implicated in his death, in some fashion. Jan Wnek's injuries were not immediately fatal (a fact which adds weight to the belief that he had used a gliding device to slow his fall) - he lived another two months before passing away.

Very special thanks are due to Marcin Kulon, a mechanical engineer living near Odporyszow, for providing the images and links to information about Jan Wnek. Additional information is being sought and will be posted when found.

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