If anything characterised the 20th century, it was surely the advancement of the art and science of Flying. Beginning with such notable early pioneers in Europe as the Montgolfier Brothers, who took to the sky in a hot air balloon over Paris in 1783, whilst in America Benjamin Franklin was still experimenting with kites. In 1853, in Yorkshire, England, an employee of Sir George Cayley, flew across a valley in the first, heavier-than-air glider. The early advances in air travel predominantly took place in Europe. By 1900 the airship, thanks to Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, was all the rage. Another luminary of this period was Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont who’s motivation was inspired by an attempt to win the 100,000 franc Deutsch Prize (for the first dirigible to fly the 7 miles from Saint Cloud in Paris to the Eiffel Tower), a prize he eventually won in November 1901 in his airship No.6 after various failed attempts.
From the beginning of the 20th Century, the first two decades was dominated by those bicycle building brothers from Kittyhawk, North Carolina (residence Ohio), the Wright Brothers when in December 17th 1903 Wilbur achieved the first powered heavier-than-air flight. This was the breakthrough which gave rise to the achievements of men such as Gabriel Voisin, Louis Bleriot and Alberto Santos-Dumont in France and Samuel F. Cody in the USA, in Britain it was mainly the military who carried out the early pioneering of flight.
FIRST FREE FLIGHT BY HUMANS IS HAILED ( PARIS NOVEMBER 21, 1783)
Adventurer Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis D’Arlandes, an aristocrat, made the first manned balloon ascent today from the French capital. Despite the strong wind early on, the balloon created by the Montgolfier Brothers took off from its launch site in the grounds of the royal Chateau La Muette , in the Bois de Boulonge just before 2pm, in front of a large expectant crowd.
With the aeronauts stationed on either side of the gallery to maintain the craft’s balance, the giant blue and gold sphere, as tall as a seven story building, climbed to a height estimated to be 3000 feet before descending to a lower altitude and drifting across the Seine. But then the aeronauts realised that the fire in the wire mesh basket was burning holes in the balloon fabric and threatening the ropes connecting the balloon to the gallery. The two men used wet sponges to extinguish the flames. Descending uncomfortably close to the Parisian rooftops, de Rozier and d’Arlandes threw more straw onto the brazier and rose again. Twenty-five minutes late they landed between two mill houses,some five miles from their take-off point.
ENGLISHMEN SOAR TO DIZZY NEW HEIGHTS (SEPTEMBER 5, 1862 WOLVERHAMPTON)
Two intrepid British aeronauts today ascended higher above the earth than anyone before them: Henry Coxwell, son of a naval officer, and distinguished meteorologist James Glaisher.
Today they lifted off from Wolverhampton in England at 1.03pm in a balloon carrying many scientific instruments. Passing through a layer of cloud, they emerged into bright sunshine and by 1.22pm had reached 10,560 feet. By 21,000 feet the air was becoming thin and cold, still they rose. At 26,000 feet the valve line became tangled in the ropes; the pair knew they would have to free it, or they would not be able to control their rapid ascent by releasing gas. Coxwell climbed high into the rigging to free the valve line. Soon they were apparent ly at 29,000 feet where the air is very thin and the temperature below freezing. Glaisher found that he could no longer see to read his instruments, and then he lost the use of his arms. Finally he blacked out completely.
Meanwhile Coxwell managed to free the valve line, only to find his hands frozen to hold it. In the end he tugged it with his teeth and began to release gas. From a reported 30,000 feet the unconscious men descended at last to warm oxygen-rich air below. They have now recovered.
FRENCH ‘BAT-PLANE’ HOPS (OCTOBER 9, 1890)
Electrical engineer and inventor, Clement Ader today managed to coax his bat-like airplane (Eole) clear of the ground for a very brief hop. If it had actually flown it would surely have crashed, for Ader had provided no means of controlling it in the air. He is one of the growing band of would-be aviators who concern themselves only with lift and thrust, imagining that all they need to do is mount powerful and light enough engines aboard their machines in order to be transported into the skies.
Today’s hop took place in the grounds of the Chateau de Armainvilliers, near Paris. Ader started to roll along the prepared 650 foot runway at 4.04pm, and two minutes later he boosted the propeller's speed and felt himself take off with a jolt. The only witnesses , Ader’s foremen Eloi Vallier and Espinoza, said that the machine was about 8 inches clear of the ground for a distance of about 165 feet.
MAXIM’S HUGE BIPLANE HURTLES BRIEFLY ALOFT (KENT, ENGLAND JULY 31, 1894)
Sir Hiram Maxim’s giant biplane made a truly awesome sight as it took to the air today. The machine, with a wingspan of 104 feet, and weighing a massive 8,000lbs, thundered down its broad-gage launching track at 42mph. With its two 180hp steam engines supplying great power to vast propellers, and using just 600 feet of the 1800 feet rail available, it lunged upwards. Maxim and his 3 man crew held on tight. But then things went wrong.
There were wooden guard rails 2 feet above the track to restrict the flight. But the powerful machine suddenly broke through them and floated free like a giant kite.
ZEPPELIN FLIES OVER LAKE CONSTANCE (GERMANY JULY 2, 1900)
Fishermen on Lake Constance witnessed an extraordinary sight today when a great cigar shaped object sailed above them for about 20 minutes. What the astonished locals were seeing was the first flight of the L.Z.1 a powered dirigible (steerable) airship which is the brainchild of army general Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin.
Zeppelin, 62, has been interested in airships for nearly 30 years, having seen them used in the American Civil War. It was 1893, however, before he submitted a design to the War Ministry. A government commission refused to sponsor the project, but the count went on to join up to with top German engineers to found his own airship company two years ago - and the Luftschiff Zeppelin 1 is the result. Designed as a cylinder tapering to a point at each end, it is 420 feet long and 38 feet wide.
METHODICAL CYCLE MAKERS TRY OUT GLIDER DESIGNS (DEC. 1 1900 N. CAROLINA)
A remarkable series of experiments has just been concluded on the desolate sand dunes of the North Carolina coast. For the last two months Wilbur Wright (33) and his 29 year-old brother Orville, bicycle manufacturers from Dayton, Ohio, have been testing a biplane glider with flexible wings and forward ‘horizontal rudder’ which enables them to maintain control in a moving current of air.
Their choice of remote Kittyhawk was dictated by the need for constant wind - and soft ground, in case of accidents!
Advice from the U.S. Weather Bureau indicated that such conditions, with steady 20-25 mph winds blowing onshore, were most likely to be found on the Atlantic seaboard.
Most of the experiments have been conducted from the ground,with ropes attached to the wings and the glider flying much like a kite, although some involve, one of the brothers lying on the lower wing..
The striking thing about the work of the pair is the quiet precision with which they approach each element of the mystery of flight. Drawing on old documents and the records of the latest experimenters, they examine and test everything in a detailed process of discovery. Most valuable to date have proved the dynamic calculations of German pioneer Otto Lilenthal, killed in 1896, and the work of Octave Chanute, whose rigging system the glider has used.. The brothers also have introduced their own ideas, particularly the so-called ‘wing-warping’ system for lateral control.
LUCKY BRAZILIAN ESCAPES DEATH WHEN AIRSHIP CRASH-LANDS ON HOTEL
(PARIS, AUGUST 8, 1901)
Skill, tenacity and a lot of luck today saved the life of Alberto Santos-Dumont, the famous and colourful flyer, when he failed spectacularly in a second bid to win the 100,000 franc Deutsch prize.
Santos-Dumont’s first attempt, on July 13, ended up in a chestnut tree. Today, as he rounded the Eiffel Tower his airship No.5 began to lose gas. To stop the propellers severing the suspension ropes, Santos-Dumont cut the motor. Before thousands of onlookers the drooping sinking ship fell between the two roofs of the Trocadero Hotel and the pilot was left dangling upside down 35 feet above the street. To great cheers he skilfully clambered up to a ledge, from where he was rescued..
IMPROVED WRIGHT GLIDER STILL NOT PERFECT.
(NORTH CAROLINA SEPT. 1 1901)
Returning again to Kittyhawk, the scene of their successful experiments of last year, the Wright brothers have brought with them an improved design of glider, having a greater wing-span at 22 feet and proper arrangements for the aerial pilot to adjust the flying control surfaces as he lies on the lower wing.
But, launched repeatedly from a prime location on Big Kill Devil Hill, these improvements seem only to have introduced new problems. Initially lateral control proved almost impossible; although it was mastered later, with glides of some 300 feet, attempts to turn, using the wing-warping system sent the machine spinning into the ground.
They made four flights in all, the last by Wilbur at noon. He flew for 59 seconds and covered 852 feet. The Flyer was then damaged when a gust of wind flipped it over before a fifth flight could be made. The brothers decided to call it a day and hurried to telegraph the news to their father in Dayton. The brothers scientific approach to their work has enabled them to succeed where others have failed. In their four years of gliding among the storm-battered dunes near Kitty Hawk, they have never taken unnecessary risks, always seeking to understand what they were doing before attempting it and backing up their efforts with a firm grasp of aerodynamic theory. Tests carried out last autumn were very successful, and the brothers spent the winter at their bicycle workshops in Dayton developing a suitable engine and propellers to power the Flyer. But on arrival at Kitty Hawk three months ago to start powered experiments, they suffered a series of delays which made them fear that they would be beaten into the air by Samuel Langley. When his Aerodrome crashed into the Potomac on December 8, they knew they still had a chance.
Winter was closing in. They had promised to be home for Christmas but were also determined to fly. Their first try was on December 14. The Flyer left the track but fell back to the ground: Wilbur was unused to the controls. Repairs were completed yesterday, but the wind was too light. Today conditions were almost ideal - and the brothers made history!
WILBUR WRIGHT FLIES AIRCRAFT IN A CIRCLE (SIMMS STATION, OHIO SEP. 20 1904)
Wilbur Wright, by now a seasoned operator of the flying machines made by him and his brother Orville, today managed to fly in a complete circle. He was flying the second Wright Flyer an improved version of the machine that made first controlled powered flight last December. The brothers have moved from the dunes where that first flight was made to a large field, owned by a dairy farmer, eight miles east of Dayton.
They have so far been content to make short straight hops. But they realise that a useful aircraft must be able to turn and have been steadily gaining experience in manoeuvring their machine in the air. At first they could not turn fast enough to go round in a complete circle within the confines of the field - which has tall trees on two sides - and they have had to land in order to avoid flying over neighbouring property..
Now with increased confidence, they are able to judge their turns. The fact that they can go round and round means they will be able to make much longer flights. The brothers shun publicity, however, they have no plans to fly any nearer Dayton itself.
WILBUR FLIES FOR A RECORD 38 MINUTES (SIMMS STATION, OHIO,
OCTOBER 5, 1905)
Orville and Wilbur Wright are making amazing progress in turning their flying machines into a practical means of transport. In the past month they have made five flights, each longer than the last, and today Wilbur flew the brothers latest machine Flyer III for 38mins 3secs, covering over 24 miles. It is the brothers first flight of more than half an hour.
The Flyer III has the same general arrangement as the earlier designs. The Wrights have retained the superb 15/16bhp engine used in their machine last year but added new propellers. As in the previous designs, the pilot flies the machine from a prone position on the wing. Throughout the year the Wrights have been trying to interest the military authorities in the United States and Britain in their flying machine for use as scouting aircraft. So far they have not had much luck, but the success of the 37mph FlyerIII will encourage them to try again.
BRITISH MILITARY REJECTS WRIGHTS’ MACHINE. London February 8, 1906.
Negotiations between the Wright brothers and the British government over the sale of one of their Flyer III machines finally broke down today when C.F. Hadden the director of artillery at the British War Office wrote rejecting their terms . The final “no” from London ends months of stop - start talks during which the Wrights refused to demonstrate the machine to this or any government in advance of a firm sale agreement, conditional on successful demonstrations. It seems that their reluctance to reveal anything about their aeroplane has cost them the chance of a sale.
The brothers first made contact with the British through Col. Capper, assistant superintendent of the Balloon School at Farnborough in England. Meanwhile French interest in the Wrights continues. The brothers closed an agreement with Paris syndicate - formed because the French government has been slow to act - to provide a machine for FF1,000,000.
BRAZILIAN ACHIEVES FIRST POWERED FLIGHT IN EUROPE (PARIS, OCTOBER 23, 1906)
A huge crowd of spectators at the Bagatelle, on the outskirts of Paris, watched in delight today as the celebrated aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont made the first sustained aeroplane flight in Europe. The dapper Brazilian flew his machine the No14 bis, for 197 feet in a straight line at a height of about 10 feet to win the Archdeacon prize of FF3,000 for the first aeroplane to achieve a sustained flight of over 25 metres.(82feet)
The No14 bis, a biplane built on a fabric covered pine frame with a 24hp Antoinette motor at the rear and a box-like combined rudder-elevator at the front; the pilot stands upright in a wicker basket forward of the wing. Preliminary tests on July 29, in which the No14 bis, was suspended from a cable and pulled by a donkey, caused much amusement among the onlookers. But on September 13 “Santos” as he is known, lifted his machine just over 2 feet off the ground to make a “hop” of just under 20 feet - Europe’s first powered flight. Today’s more sustained effort by the Brazilian should silence those few who remain sceptical about aviation.
BLERIOT SUCCEEDS DESPITE A NEW CRASH (PARIS, SEPTEMBER 17 1907)
Only a spectacular stunt saved the life of French aviator Louis Bleriot at Issy-Les Moulineaux today, when his latest aeroplane, the modified tandem-wing Bleriot No. VI or Liblleule crumpled upon impact with the ground and was wrecked. Bleriot took off quickly, but when he reached a height of about 80 feet, the engine suddenly cut out and the aircraft began to plummet.
A sliding seat by which the pilots weight could be shifted forward or backward, was intended to control the attitude of the nose of the aircraft, but it was not sufficient to right the machine
Thinking fast, Bleriot left his seat to throw himself towards the tail. Just in time, the machine levelled out enough to prevent a tragic accident. Miraculously Bleriot walked away unhurt and intends to continue flying.
The loss of the Libellule is unfortunate,as it seems to hold considerable promise. In July and August it managed 11 flights the longest 492 feet, lasting 10 seconds. Both Bleriot and his friend Louis Peyret undertook early tests as he had been mainly responsible for its conception.
Or the latest series of trials, the Libellule was fitted with a 50 hp Antoniette in place of the original 24hp engine. The 50hp Libellule had made five earlier flights, the longest lasting 17 seconds and covering 603 feet.
BLERIOT NO. VII CRASHES. (PARIS DECEMBER 18, 1907)
Louis Bleriot as well known for his spectacular accidents as his brief flights, crashed again at Issy-es-Moulineaux today in his No.VII monoplane. It was his sixth flight in this aircraft since November 10.; he had previously flown it twice for 45 seconds and covered a distance of 1640 feet. After today’s mishaps it is now likely to be abandoned.
The No. VII is the third powered aeroplane built by Bleriot. In design it is very different from the No. V which was abandoned in April after crashing at Bagatelle Meadows, and the tandem wing No.VI or Libellule which fell back from the sky only three months ago. The No. VII is a monoplane with its wings low mounted at the forward end of the fuselage, unlike the No.V. It has proved inherently unstable, with only a tiny rudder and huge elevators at the tail for control. A 50hp Antoinette engine is at the nose, driving a four blade propeller. An unusual feature of the machine is that the entire airframe is covered with a strong paper parchment.
ALBERT DE PISCHOFF OPTS FOR ANZANI ENGINE
(PARIS DEC. 5 1907)
Alfred de Pischoff, a Hungarian by birth, today made brief hops at the military parade ground of Issy-les-Moulineaux to join the short but growing list of aviators who have actually flown heavier-than-air machines.
His machine shows several novel features. A biplane, it has the engine and propeller at the front. Underneath are three wheels, two in front and one at the rear. At the back is the cruciform tail. There are no elevators or rudders in front. De Pischoff’s engine is one never before used in a flying machine. Designed by a Milanese engineer, Alessandro Anzani, its three air-cooled cylinders give 25hp. This neat engine drives a beautiful propeller of carved wood - much more efficient than the bent metal sheet propellers usually seen.
FIRST ALL - BRITISH MACHINE IN TRIAL FLIGHT. (ESSEX JULY 23, 1909)
Alliott Verdon Roe today took his triplane out from its hanger under an arch of a railroad bridge over the River Lea at Walthamstow, near London, took off and made a straight flight covering 899 feet. His triplane makes history; it is the first airworthy machine designed and piloted by a Briton. Shorter flights largely ignored by the public, have been made since June 5. The triplane named the Avroplane after its inventor, has only a 9hp JAP engine. This is, however, all Roe needs, since the aircraft is extraordinarily light, weighing just 399 pounds with himself aboard.
AMERICAN GLENN CURTISS BEATS BLERIOT BY 5.8 SECONDS TO SNATCH GORDON BENNETT CUP.
(REIMS, FRANCE AUG. 29, 1909)
Everyone expected that the Gordon Bennett trophy race would provide a thrilling conclusion to the Reims week, and they were not disappointed. In the glorious sunshine 150,000 spectators turned out to watch Glen Curtiss win a gripping contest, in which pilots representing Great Britain. France and the U.S. Had to complete two 1-kilometre (6.2 mile) circuits in the fastest time. Curtiss in his own Reims Racer a pusher biplane, was the only American hope. He was first out and crossed the starting line at 500 feet so that a gradual descent would give him extra speed. With sharp turns and full throttle he did his two laps in 15 minutes 50.4 seconds an average speed of 46.6mph.
Britain’s one entrant, George Cockburn, followed Curtiss, but his slow Farman failed to manage even one lap and hit a haystack on landing. The field was thus clear for the 3-man French team of Latham, Lefebvre and Bleriot. Latham’s Antoinette monoplane finished in 17 minutes 32 seconds, over 5mph slower than Curtiss; Lefebvre, in a Wright biplane, could coax only 34.8mph out of his machine and took nearly 21 minutes. Bleriot in his XII monoplane knocked 10 seconds off Curtiss on the first lap. In the end however it was the Stars and Stripes that was raised as Bleriot had taken 5.8 seconds more than Curtiss.
Louis Bleriot today became the first person to fly across the English Channel in an aeroplane. The flight, in his type XI monoplane, took him under 37 minutes. This has dashed the hopes of British pilot Hubert Latham and Charles, Compte de Lambert; both of whom were on the point of making their own attempts. Apart from his place in history, Bleriot has won the £1000, Daily Mail prize for the first Channel crossing by air in daylight.. The weather made flights look unlikely all weekend.
All yesterday (Saturday) and through last night the wind stayed high and the seas rough. At Les Barragues, Bleriot who was suffering from a burn on his foot, got up at 2.30am. Everyone in Latham’s camp at nearby Sangatte meanwhile snored on. Bleriot decide to go for a drive. Then came an amazing stroke of luck; the weather suddenly calmed. Bleriot raced back to the barn hanger at Les Barraques and ordered a test flight. His naval escort, the rench destroyer, Escopette was notified of his imminent departure. Bleriot took off at 4.35am. He had no compass or watch and flew between 15 and 300 feet at about a speed of 45mph. He followed three ships he guessed were heading for Dover and at an opening in the cliff he saw a French journalist waving a tricolor flag. He cut his engine and the machine dropped and he landed on Northfall Meadow near Dover and the landing was witnessed only by a police constable
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