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Scientific Wonders of Bulgaria: The Bulgarian pilot who taught America how to fly

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Scientific Wonders of Bulgaria: The Bulgarian pilot who taught America how to fly

Today we will tell the incredible story of the great aviator and inventor Assen Yordanov, father of the first BG plane and the "Flying Fortress" B-17. Whle Cyril and Methodius created an alphabet to get the word of God to the Bulgarians and other Slavic peoples, during the last century a Bulgarian wrote the pilot Bible for all pilots in the world, which they swear on even today when inaugurated.

In America, Jordanoff gained almost legendary status for his many roles as test pilot, airmail and air taxis pilot, stunt pilot, and flying instructor.

Assen Yordanov was born in Sofia in 1896 in a family of a chemical engineer. In the summer of 1912 his father Hristo Yordanov took him a tour of the technical exhibitions and museums in Italy, Switzerland and France. From a very young age, Asen Yordanov was interested in flight. He built kites as a child, and as an adolescent attended lectures on physics at the local university. In his teens, Yordanov invented a dark box, a simple substitution to the use of an entire dark room in photograph development.

In 1912, at the age of 16, Yordanov built his first workable glider.The exact date of the first flight is unclear, but after it, on February 5, the young flier made a second test flight in the presence of an official commission.

He attended the well-known Blériot school in Étampes in France.

Then however, the war started and at 17, Asen Yordanov volunteered for the army, with his father's reluctant consent. Though never in any imminent danger, Asen Yordanov served his part during the war as car driver; most of his time he frequented the airplane hangars.

Then in the summer of 1915, as Asen Yordanov gained expertise, he designed the first Bulgarian-made airplane. Yordanov test flew the plane, and it was subsequently named the Diplane (biplane) Yordanov-1.He sold the planes design to the military and they started to produce it. In one year's time Bulgaria already had 23 airplanes.

August 10, 1915 was considered as the beginning of Bulgarian aircraft industry. Yordanov already became known as designer, mathematician, and inventor at his young age. He introduced a valuable new device, namely a feature which prevents the plane from losing altitude, into the new plane.

In May 1921 Asen Yordanov and his wartime friend, Alexander Stoyanov, read about a contest to fly around the Earth in 100 days. The first plane to make it would win one million dollars. Yordanov and his partner were fully supported by the then prime-minister Aleksandar Stamboliyski and were granted $6,000 USD /participation fee-$2500 USD/ by the Bulgarian Ministry of War to participate in the initiative and they traveled to the USA. However, Yordanov and Stoyanov were the only candidates and therefore the contest was postponed and later canceled. Nonetheless, Yordanov decided to remain in the United States, where he later found his new home. He also anglicized his surname to "Jordanoff".

Faced with the dilemma of knowing absolutely no English, Assen Jordanoff began his life in America shoveling snow in New York for small pay. After the snow melted, Jordanoff was able to find a job at a construction work on a skyscraper. Having a job he spent all his free time at the Public Library, studying English by himself or reading books and manuals on subjects such as aeronautics, machinery, and mechanics. At that time he become known among his friends and colleagues as Jerry, rather than Assen, a familiar name that would stick with him for the rest of his life.

Jordanoff then got a job at the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. Having his English improved, Assen Jordanoff went on to take university courses in engineering, aeronautics, radio electronics, physics, and chemistry. At the same time he graduated from a flying school; his instructor was William Winston, who was also Charles Lindbergh's flight instructor. Jordanoff moved later to Curtiss-Wright, therefrom he would emerge as a test pilot and in parallel as a sales manager, a pilot of air taxis, a stunt pilot and above all a flying instructor. He also specialized in flying under complex weather conditions. Jordanoff was still just in his late 20s. Jordanoff was invited by Thomas Edison to visit him at his home in Menlo Park, New Jersey as Edison was at the stage of developing a proto-radar and was also interested in helicopters, a research project in which Assen Jordanoff was involved at the same time. They collaborated designs and worked together for several months.

In the 1930s and early 1940s Jordanoff wrote a number of illustrated books on problems of aviation, which became a Bible for future aviators. More than 750,000 copies of his books were sold in the USA. Some of them were translated in other languages.

After 1940 began a major period in Assen Jordanoff's career. During the next ten years, he established and presided over his own business enterprises: The Jordanoff Aviation Corporation, followed by The Jordanoff Corporation and then The Jordanoff Company, before the creation in 1946 of Jordanoff Electronics. In aeronautics, the Jordanoff companies collaborated with such firms as Douglas, Chance-Vought, Lockheed, Curtiss-Wright, McDonnell, Boeing, North American, Consolidated, and Piper.

At the request of many, Jordanoff, as a designer and engineer within his own enterprise, compiled instruction books and manuals for the operation and maintenance, inspection and repair for some well-known aircraft such as the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, a very versatile aircraft used during World War II mainly as high-speed, high-altitude fighter, long-range escort fighter and photo reconnaissance plane; the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, America's foremost fighter in service when World War II began; the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-29 Super Fortress, the best long-range bombers in World War II; the Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the North American B-25 Mitchell bombers, and the Douglas DC-3 transport aircraft.

A very important activity was the preparation and the distribution of thousands of copies of descriptive books and practical manuals for aircraft. Jordanoff also became renowned for his many articles and publishing on aviation, as well as his commentaries and editorials. He was presented as a prominent authority on all the areas of aviation. Jordanoff eventually became the largest American publisher and editor of specialized military manuals.

In the 1940s Jordanoff was assigned the task by the United States Department of Defense to prepare instruction manuals for military aircraft, submarines and aircraft carriers, on topics like land support with radio equipment, air meteorology, theoretic and flight preparation of the pilots for diurnal and nocturnal piloting. These were for crew use, inspection, maintenance and repair.

Aside from his many patents on plane design, Jordanoff also introduced the so-called Jordaphone from his Electronics company, a wireless telephone, with an answering function and amplifier and intercom functions. It was the first of its kind, and preceded the modern inventions of the answering machine and tape recorder by 5 to 30 years. Another invention was the Frozen Gasoline System for airplanes

Jordanoff's popularity in America became almost legendary, as he was often the subject of many anecdotes and arguments. Jordanoff was made an honorary citizen of New York City, his name appeared in Who's Who. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum holds his papers and mementoes.

Sources: Standart, Wikipedia


Which are the top 10 scientific wonders of Bulgaria? How have they changed the history of our country and society today? What is their echo in the world? These sre the questions of Standart's new campaign in coopeartion with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences titled Scientific Wonders of Bulgaria.

The vote will take place on a special website in two categories - "Scientific Wonders of Bulgaria" and "Young Explorers".


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