Wismar, Germany March, 1635
Flight had taken hold of Johann Rommel. Since the thirty-something merchant from Wismar first saw the American air force in action last October, he had decided he wanted one of their strange flying beasts, something they called an air craft, for himself. After several months of designing, waiting, and building the machine, he stood on a shallow slope overlooking the Baltic sea, waiting for his rendezvous with destiny.
The weather wasn't perfect, he thought. It was overcast. The wind had died down, for now, but it could pick up at any second. After making one final check of his craft, he was satisfied and strapped himself in. The crowd that had gathered despite the cold began to clap. His oldest son, who had helped attack this project with an enthusiasm only found in a teenager, waited to start the engine mounted behind him.
As the engine roared to life, drowning out the crowd's applause, Johann thought back to the beginning of the project. Designing the aircraft had been the easy part. He had used a picture of what the Americans called an "ultralight" to create a similar design with a large triangular wing mounted above a small engine and an open air wicker "saddle" to sit in. He soon learned that most of the materials that the Americans used, like aluminum, nylon, and some material referred to as plastic were no longer available. He would instead have to rely on silk and bamboo, which would have to come through Venice. Those materials hadn't come cheap. Or very quickly. Winter had arrived in full force by the time he had ordered the items, and it took almost six months for the courier to deliver them.