This is primarily because documentary evidence is largely lacking, as Brodbeck’s drawings or blueprints for his airplane have not survived and descriptions from eyewitnesses (e.g. letters, journal entries, or newspaper reports) have never been found.
William records that, in Eilmer's youth, he had read and believed the Greek fable of Daedalus. Thus, Eilmer fixed wings to his hands and feet and launched himself from the top of a tower at Malmesbury Abbey:
He was a man learned for those times, of ripe old age, and in his early youth had hazarded a deed of remarkable boldness. He had by some means, I scarcely know what, fastened wings to his hands and feet so that, mistaking fable for truth, he might fly like Daedalus, and, collecting the breeze upon the summit of a tower, flew for more than a furlong [201 metres]. But agitated by the violence of the wind and the swirling of air, as well as by the awareness of his rash attempt, he fell, broke both his legs and was lame ever after. He used to relate as the cause of his failure, his forgetting to provide himself a tail.
Given the geography of the abbey, his landing site, and the account of his flight, to travel for "more than a furlong" (220 yards, 201 metres) he would have had to have been airborne for about 15 seconds. His exact flightpath is not known, nor how long he was in the air, because today’s abbey is not the abbey of the 11th century, when it was probably smaller, although the tower was probably close to the present height. "Olivers Lane", off the present-day High Street and about 200 metres (660 ft) from the abbey, is reputed locally to be the site where Eilmer landed. That would have taken him over many buildings. Maxwell Woosnam's study concluded that he is more likely to have descended the steep hill off to the southwest of the abbey, rather than the town centre to the south.
William records that, in Eilmer's youth, he had read and believed the Greek fable of Daedalus.
In the year 559, several prisoners of Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi, including Yuan Huangtou of Ye, were forced to launch themselves from a tower attached to a kite, as an experiment. Yuan Huangtou was the sole survivor, successfully gliding over the city walls. He was later executed.
Abbas Ibn Firnas (810–887), a Muslim Andalusian polymath, is rumored to have made a successful attempt at flying, according to the account of the historian Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari seven centuries later. He built his own glider, and launched himself from a mountain.
In the early 11th century (possibly first decade), Eilmer of Malmesbury, an English Benedictine monk, attempted a gliding flight using wings. According to the Gesta Regum Anglorum, Eilmer travelled over a furlong (660 feet, 201 metres) through the air before falling and breaking both his legs, rendering him lame for the rest of his life.