The Famous Bulgarians: Assen Jordanoff
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Forgive me for my superficial observations, but if we held a beauty contest for all the famous Bulgarians decking these halls, Jerry here would win hands down. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, we can move on to his actual and incredibly impressive achievements. His interest in aviation was sparked at a very young age. Like most kids, he liked to build kites and fly them around, but unlike most, he took things a step further. As an adolescent, he began attending lectures in physics at the local university and soon made his first invention – the dark box. It was a sidfmple, smaller substitute for the dark room used in photo development. At the age of 16 he had created a working glider and did a flight test in the presence of an official committee. At 17 he decided to join the army and served as a car driver, but spent most of his time at the air-plane hangers. A mere two years later, using the expertise he gained from the military, this charming devil designed and built the first Bulgarian-made plane. The model was later replicated and the Bulgarian military had their first 23 planes in only a year! And that is why he is considered the father of Bulgarian aviation.
After the First World War, Assen Jordanoff and his friend Alexander Stoyanov. with great support from the Bulgarian government, decided to fly to America for a contest. Turns out Around the World in 80 days isn’t completely fictitious! The challenge was to do it in a 100, however once they arrived, they came to the unfortunate realization that they were the sole contenders! The contest was then cancelled, but he remained in the US despite not knowing a single word of English. His first job there was shovelling snow in New York and later, a construction job working on a skyscraper. That’s when he decided to Anglicize his name from Yordanov to Jordanoff (even he felt the pressures of fitting in) and got the nickname Jerry, which stuck with him for the rest of his life. After learning the language, he took courses in physics, aeronautics, engineering, radio electronics and chemistry, while attending flying school at the same time. He got a job at Curtiss-Wright and was not only a test pilot and later flight instructor, but gained near legendary status in all of his roles. Side note: at this point he was still in his late 20’s. Feeling worthless yet? No? Allow me to continue.
He went on to start his own business enterprises and collaborated with the likes of Lockheed, Curtiss-Wright, McDonnell, Boeing, North American, and Consolidated. As designer and creator of many legendary military planes, Jordanoff wrote a number of descriptive books and instruction manuals that gained Bible status among aviators worldwide. Thanks to his many publications, editorials and commentaries on the subject, he came to be considered an authoritative figure in the sphere. So much so that he eventually became the largest American publisher and editor of specialized military manuals. He was assigned the task of preparing military manuals by the actual Department of Defense of the US of A! Among his other patents around airplanes, he created the Jordaphone – it was the first wireless phone with an amplifier as well as answering and intercom functions and the predecessor of the answering machine.
A bag for life is one thing, but a bag that can save your life?
Among his many contributions, the airbag was one that found application outside the field of aviation. The original purpose was to protect airplane passengers in the unfortunate case of a crash landing. The puppy in the photo serves to represent the child that could be seated in the parent’s lap. It would also be protected thanks to the innovative airbag design. Obviously, the design was replicated in the automobile industry and has prevented many fatalities.