SolarStratos solar plane unveiled

002-copyright-zeppelin-solarstratos-web-1024x684.jpgPayerne, Switzerland—On December 7, 2016, Raphael Domjan’s stratospheric solar plane was unveiled in Payerne, Switzerland, to 300 guests, including ambassadors, partners, government representatives and the world’s media.

SolarStratos is the first commercial two-seater solar plane in history and plans to be the first manned solar plane to penetrate the stratosphere.

The unique 8.5-meter-long aircraft has a wingspan of 24.8 meters, weighs 450 kilograms and is covered with 22m2 of solar panels. Calin Gologan (Elektra-Solar GmbH – technical partner SolarStratos) is the designer.

“This is a great day for the SolarStratos team,” says Raphael Domjan, creator of PlanetSolar, the first solar-powered boat to do a circumnavigation in 2012 and the initiator and pilot of the SolarStratos project.

“Our goal is to demonstrate that current technology offers us the possibility to achieve above and beyond what fossil fuels offer. Electric and solar vehicles are amongst the major challenges of the 21st century. Our aircraft can fly at an altitude of 25,000 meters and this opens the door to the possibility of electric and solar commercial aviation, close to space,” he continues.

Reaching the stratosphere over the past century has required large quantities of energy or helium. Today, the SolarStratos aircraft offers clean solar and electric aviation for the equivalent environmental footprint of an electric car.

“We are extremely pleased with the positive feedback and encouragement that we have received,” says Roland Loos, chief executive officer of SolarXplorers S.A., the organization in charge of the development and future applications of this endeavor. “Our project brings hope and makes both children and adults dream. It also opens the door to new scientific knowledge – at an affordable price, exploration and the peaceful use of our stratosphere.”

SolarStratos Specifications

  • Length: 8.5 meters (27.89 feet);
  • Wingspan: 24.8 meters (81.37 feet);
  • Weight: 450 kg (992.08 pounds) ;
  • Autonomy more than 24 hours;
  • Propulsion: propeller, 2.2 m (7.22 feet), three blades;
  • Engine: electrical, max. 32 kW / 2200 rpm;
  • Engine efficiency: 90%;
  • Seating: Two-seater in tandem;
  • Energy: solar;
  • Solar cells: 22 square meters (236.806 square feet) ;
  • Cells efficiency: 22-24%;
  • Battery: Lithium-ion, 20 kWh

Actually – this data might be a little wonky… I did notice that (on the SolarStratos website)  says there are four blades on the propellers, but the photo shows only three… I adjusted accordingly… but who knows if the specifications above are from a working model and design and NOT the final product.   

Check out the website at

Images courtesy of SolarStatos.

Posted in Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, News, Pilots | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #48 – “Kimball”.

card-48History Behind The Card: “Kimball”.
Card #48 of 50, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1910

  • Wilbur Ravel Kimball, January 28, 1863 in Woburn, Massachusetts, United States of America – July 30, 1940, Manhattan, New York, United States of America

Kimball… that’s what the front of the card says… and after a perusal of the reverse of the card, I came away knowing very little about what the Kimball was, let alone who built the formidable aeroplane with eight motors.

It was a guess that the name of the aircraft would also be the name of its designer—and it was…

… the thing is… there’s a much more famous Kimball in aviation history… the guy who helped design the Super Gee, my favorite buzz bomb speed racing aircraft of the 1930s. But apparently not the same guy.

The Kimball of Card #48 is a bit more elusive an individual, as perhaps these last few cards created for the 50-card Wills’s Aviation series, were late additions… and as such, not as much historical data had been compiled by the people putting the set together.

Try typing in Kimball airplane into Google and not much relating to this card appears – except for images depicting this card. That would imply the plane never flew… but let’s find out for sure.

Still, the card is correct on the reverse… the aeroplane is not called “Kimball” but rather “New York“.


Anyhow, from what I can determine, Wilbur Kimball is actually better known for his building of the very first helicopter in the United States.

According to a newspaper article published at the time of his death, Kimball was more into electrical components than aviation—or at least was more successful with electrical.

He was an aide to Alexander Graham Bell, the creator of the telephone.

He was a helper to Thomas Edison who devised the phonograph amongst his hundreds of inventions.

He devised a system for underground transmission of power.

However, he was also an early pioneer of aviation, particularly with helicopter design, and was a member of the Aeronautic Society in New York.


Wilbur Kimball in 1911… standing in front of some sort of aviation device…

Born to Maria and Wilbur F. Kimball, Wilbur Kimball married Elizabeth Norton Gurney of Brockton, Massachusetts.

As mentioned, the Kimball Helicopter of 1908 was his first big attempt at aviation. With it, we can first see his penchant for having lots of propellers with his machines.


Kimball Helicopter 1908.

The helicopter’s vertical thrust came from the 24 small four-bladed propellers that were all driven by a single, central engine.

He decided to test it out in the public’s eye in Belmont Park in New York, but it failed to fly.

Next, Kimball decided to create a non-powered glider… his first aerodynamic testing to achieve flight with a more conventional aeroplane design.

Here’s what the New York Times newspaper dated March 30, 1909 had to say about this:

Aeronaut had a bad fall.
Kimball’s New glider turned turtle when the wind caught it.
Wilbur R. Kimball, one of the leading members of the Aeronautic Society, received the congratulations of his friends yesterday over his narrow escape last Saturday at Morris Park from serious injury. Mr. Kimball who had just completed a large aeroplane on novel lines, made his first venture in his new gliding machine, which he built for experimental flights before making an effort to get his aeroplane in the air.
He used the catapult at Morris Park which shoots the glider along a mono rail, the force coming from a heavy weight dropped from a perpendicular. A strong wind was blowing, and in his second trial, when about thirty feet in the air, the wind hurled the glider back, tipping it completely over. It fell with great force on the rail. The glider was smashed, and Mr. Kimball was badly bruised about the back and head. He said yesterday that he did not know when he would renew his aerial experiments.

When I read the description of the catapult to launch the glider, it made me think of the Wright Brother’s and their wheeless Wright Flyer that – along with the motor – propelled the aircraft into the air.

Hey, at least Kimball got the glider into the air…but why the heck does the newspaper article state that Kimball has already built an aeroplane, and that he’s doing this glider test to make sure his plane can fly?

Shouldn’t you do the test first, and then construct an aircraft dependent of those results?

This could explain a lot.

Then came the eight-propeller driven aeroplane – another very public event with a movie star present, as well as the press.

But… in a news article of the day, it mentioned that this aeroplane was Kimball’s second.

The first never got off the ground – but it was publicized… so I assume that Kimball No. 1 was more than likely the airplane Kimball had built just before his glider incident.

According to another New York Times article of 1909 (not sure of the month):

“A previous model, with six propellers, never got off the ground at its much-publicized unveiling at Morris Park.”

But, ever the showman, Kimball decided to unveil his latest aircraft with much media fanfare and a famous New York actress of the day.

Building up to the event months in advance, the New York Times of March 12, 1909 wrote:
Anna Held to name an airship.
Anna Held, it was announced yesterday, will name Wilbur R. Kimball’s big aeroplane “New York No.1” at Morris Park. The machine was built at Morris Park under the direction of the American Aeronautic Society, and several short flights have been made in it by officers of the society. After naming the aeroplane, Miss Held will take a trip in it with Mr. Kimball.

By the way… Morris Park, as you can see from the photo a few paragraphs below, was a horse race track in the Bronx, New York.

It was named after John Albert Morris (July 1836 – May 25, 1895), an American businessman widely known as the “Lottery King” and a prominent figure in the sport of thoroughbred horse racing. He built the Morris Park Racecourse, which existed from 1889 until 1910… so just one more year after the event above took place.

In 1890 the Morris Park Racecourse hosted both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes,  the latter continued to be run there until 1905.

The track was later used for auto racing and was the site of the first public air show – which is what is going on with Kimball and his plane.

After a 1910 fire, the property was divided into lots for the current neighborhood. Several streets in the Morris Park area including Cruger, Holland, Radcliffe, Colden, Paulding, and Hone Avenues, are named after 18th and 19th century mayors of New York City.

Back to Kimball… from what I understand, Anna Held was a pretty and famous actress who was part of the Ziegfield Follies. Va-va-voom. There’s a photo of her way down this article.



Actress Anna Held christening Wilbur Kimball’s aeroplane The New York, on May 18, 1909 at Morris Park in New York City.

As for the biplane, let’s call it Kimball No.2/New York No. 1, here’s a description of it from the New York Times:

Among the many aeroplanes which are being built in the United States, a very interesting one is the Kimball biplane. The two main planes are of 37 ft. spread, have a depth of. 6i ft., and are placed 4 ft. 2 ins. apart. There is a biplane elevator in front, but no rear rudder, although at the ends of the two main planes are controllable extensions measuring 4 ft. by 4 ft. At each end the rear edges of the main planes are connected by a shutter of the Venetian blind type, which can be manipulated by the aviator for steering purposes. The aeroplane is to be propelled by eight large propellers placed between the planes and driven by an endless steel cable, the power being furnished by a 40-h.p. two-cycle engine.


I believe this is a close-up of Kimball No. 2 – but it seems to have been taken at the same time as the headshot above (same hat, same windy tie/cravat… and same man to the right wearing the same clothes) … and THAT photograph claims to have been 1911… meaning this is another aeroplane he was working on, or he was still attempting to get his Kimball No. 2 up in the air to impress the very pressable actress Anna Held.

Okay… the way I read that, is that all of the propellers are connected to the motor by one really long piece of steel cable.

Steel is pretty heavy… but even if it could work, if that steel cable should break from stress or friction, every single propeller on that plane would all at once fail to receive power from the one motor.

All I can say is: Ms. Held… don’t go on a aeroplane journey in this plane!

Those moveable things on the wing tips seem similar to an aileron for side to side control, but I’m unsure how effective it would actually be.

So… what happened to Kimball No.2/New York No.1?

Here’s what the May 19, 1909 edition of the New York Times newspaper had to say about Kimball’s flight attempt on May 18, 1909.

Wilbur R. Kimball’s new eight-propeller aeroplane gave evidence of being a real bird of flight yesterday … [ ] … something went wrong with the steering gear, and instead of keeping in the middle of the roadway the aeroplane skidded over the two or three foot bank bordering the track, finally stopping in a damaged condition.

Thank goodness the then 38-year-old Held wasn’t part of this debacle.


Anna Held… holy crap! What a wasp body!

Want to know about Anna Held – the common-law wife of Mr. Ziegfield himself? Click HERE.

Later notes from the New York Times suggest that for whatever reason, not all of the propellers were working at the time of the Kimball No.2/New York No.1 crash… implying something happened to that steel cable to prevent power from the small motor to move all of the propellers… or… maybe the motor was too weak to turn all the propellers…

Here’s what we know about that infamous steel cable:
Transmission is effected by means of a small steel endless cable. This cable, which is only one-eighth of an inch in diameter is composed of 114 fine wire threads twisted in six strands of nineteen wires each, and is as flexible as a silken cord. Its tensile strength is 2,000 pounds. Tests have shown that a pull of only 80 to 90 pounds is sufficient to turn the propellers.

Hmm… so it should have worked. Then again… it depends on the aeroplane’s sturdiness of construction, its power to weight ratio, its center of gravity, aerodynamics, and so much more.

Anyhow… if there’s more information out there on Wilbur Kimball, it’s probably in books or other newspapers that I currently do not have access too… and because I’m writing a blog, not a novel. He doesn’t appear to have gotten his aeroplanes off the ground – despite the drawing on our Wills’s aviation card.

Kimball died at a good old age on July 30, 1940 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan, and is buried in Woodbrook Cemetery in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Posted in Failures, Heavier-Than-Air, Helicopters, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Various Balloon Fantasies

batson-aero-yachtI don’t know Daniel Berek, but he has compiled a grouping of images depicting fantasy aircraft before the Wright Brothers… of men and women who thought of things just a bit differently.

Such as the Batson Aero Yacht… a flying boat that cost  US$50,000 in 1913… it weighted 5,000 pounds… and while it floated well enough, no one really had built an aeroplane motor(s) strong enough to make this beast fly.

Check out his “Dreams Of Crossing Oceans” visual Flicker blog HERE


Posted in Aviation Art, Balloons, Concepts, Heavier-Than-Air, Lighter-Than-Air, Zeppelins & Dirigibles | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #47 – “Jerme” Biplane.

card-47History Behind The Card: “Jerme” Biplane.
Card #47 of 50, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1910

  • Charles-Marie-Joseph Germe, in France

This one was a challenge to find out all the information I wanted to discover.

I couldn’t even find out the designer’s birth or death information… but I did come across a very important factor about this Card #47 – namely that the name of the plane, and its creator, is spelled incorrectly.

It is Germe with a “G”, not a “J”.


Germe: The man, the myth, the semi-legend. Still – there was a postcard made of himself and his aeroplane!

Charles-Marie-Joseph Germe does not appear to have been more than a minor footnote in the history of aviation, despite his immortality in this card series.

From what I can fathom, Germe only ever built two aircraft—biplanes that were inspired by the Wright Flyer.


According to the back of the Wills’s card, the Germe plane(s) were based on the Wright Flyer aeroplane built by the Wright Brothers, as well as those built under the Herring-Curtiss Company banner.

I would assume that most successful biplane from that era would be based on something the Wright Brothers or Curtiss had built. It would have to be.

Here’s a crappy English translation of the patent Germe received for his aircraft (noting that I have shortened it for brevity), that was given out on May 10, 1911.

French Republic, National Office of Industrial Property
Marine and navigation, Ballooning, aviation

Improvements on airplanes

“The present invention relates to improvements  to the various parts of airplanes. These improvements include:

  • The displacement of the propeller around one of its points, and in his plan;
  • The shift variable of the rear part of the wings, and;
  • The augmentation of braking of the landing pad by adding a pad articulates.”

Okay – I was going to provide an entire English translation of the patent, but Google Translate – combined with my failure to type out the French words with the appropriate accents gave me a moderate translation but still with enough things to make me go “Huh” as I tilt my head in confusion. So… no… the gist above will suffice.

I do know that the patent cost a whopping 1 French Franc.

Germe No. I, for lack of a better term… this is MY naming of the aircraft,  was actually entered to fly during the 1909 City of Douai North Aviation Competition held Monday June 28 – through Sunday July 18th,  1909 at the town of Douai in France.


Ville de Douhai Nord Concourse d’Aviation/City of Douai North Aviation Competition 1909 aviation meet poster. On the wings of an angel…

Top prizes offered by the village of Douai was:

  • FF (French Francs)  3,000 francs for a speed competition over two kilometers  (the Prix du Nord, sponsored by the railway company Compagnie du Chemin de Fer du Nord, the regional council of the Nord department and the town of Douai);
  • 1,000 francs for a one kilometer speed competition (the Prix Mahieu, named after its sponsor)
  • 10,000 francs closed-course distance competition (the Grand Prix de Douai, sponsored by the town);
  • A cross-country distance competition to be contested over the flat fields between Douai and Arras, 25 kilometers to the west.

There were, of course other races and prizes offered throughout the meet, with a total prize amount of FF26,000 offered.

Twelve airplanes and 11 pilots were entered into the event:

  1. Louis Blériot (Blériot monoplane);
  2. Louis Breguet (with two Breguet biplanes);
  3. Pierre de Caters (Voisin biplane);
  4. Charles-Marie-Joseph Germe (Germe biplane);
  5. Jean Gobron (Voisin biplane);
  6. Lasternas (Lasternas biplane);
  7. Hubert Latham (Antoinette monoplane);
  8. Louis Paulhan (Voisin biplane);
  9. Henri Rougier (Voisin biplane);
  10. “F. de Rue”/Ferdinand Ferber (Voisin biplane);
  11. Paul Tissandier (Wright biplane)

But… because the Germe No. I biplane only first flew on August 11, 1909 over Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, the air meet was long over.

The engine on the Germe No. I has two screw propellers each with two blades mounted one behind each other (so it looks like a single propeller).


Germe No. I biplane in 1909.

Specifications Germe No. I:

  • Wingspan: 12 meters (39.37 feet);
  • Weight: 400 kilograms (881.85 pounds);
  • Motor: Anzani three-cylinder engine putting out five horsepower.

A second plane was built and tested throughout 1910, but its first test flight was in February of 1911 – and it crashed.

I have no idea if the second Germe aircraft was different from the first, but I’m guessing it was – perhaps with a stronger engine, or a different wing length… something…

Perhaps the crash of Germe No. II was straw that broke the camels back, as either Germe lost his private funding, he, himself was now broke, or lost his nerve.

Regardless, no further aircraft were built with Germe involvement, despite having a very picturesque Wills’s Aviation card.

Posted in Air Shows, Aviation Art, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Orville Wright’s Gag Check

orville-wright-gag-checkAbove is a gag check created by one Mr. Orville Wright.

One might believe that with all the secrecy he and his brother Wilbur exhibited to protect their aeroplane from 1903-1908, and with subsequent lawsuits for patent infringement, that the boys wouldn’t have much of a sense of a humor.

Well… here’s proof that Orville did.

Up for sale at a current Christie’s auction – a cheque/check  dated December 25, 1932 and signed by Orville Wright.

It was sent to his longtime correspondent and defender Earl Findley for “all the mud he has slung at me.”

According to the Christie’s description:  Wright alters a partly-printed check, crossing out the local bank name and replacing it with “(Left) Bank of the Potomac” and crossing out the Dayton dateline with “Washington, D.C.” ordering to Earl B. Fridley [sic]” to “Pay back… $00000000” or, as spelled out: “All the mud he has slung at me————“ while adding along the left margin “c/Shoes Fan Belt Gardner Aldrin.”

Winning bidder of the check/cheque will receive a typed letter from Mabel Beck (I believe she may have been Findley’s secretary noting that the check settles “in full his account with you.”

Expected bid to be from US$2,000 to $3,000.

Click HERE for a direct link to the upcoming Christie’s Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts (including Americana) auction to be held in New York on December 14, 2016. Happy Bidding on this and many other aviation articles.

Posted in Heavier-Than-Air, News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Wills’s Aviation Card #46 – “Herring-Curtiss”.

card-46History Behind The Card: “Herring-Curtiss” Biplane.

Card #46 of 50, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1910

  • Glenn Hammond Curtiss, in Hammondsport, New York, United States of America, May 21, 1878 – July 23, 1930, Buffalo, New York, United States of America.
  • Augustus Moore Herring, in Covington, Georgia, United States of America, August 3, 1867 – July 17, 1926, New York City, New York, United States of America.

This is an interesting card. The title on the front does not exactly match the title given on the back.

The card is called the “Herring-Curtiss Biplane” on the front of the card, but the reverse omits the word biplane.

But that in itself is not what is a red herring… it’s the information provided on the reverse of the card.


It purports that the Herring-Curtiss aircraft pictured on the card is the result of the American half of the famed Aerial Experiment Association (AEA)—a group of some of the finest engineering minds alive, who created Canada’s first aeroplane – the Silver Dart. See Card #43.

Card #46, however, says that the AEA was half-American and half-Canadian, and that the American half created the Herring-Curtiss.

Uh… no.

There were two Americans in the AEA: Glenn Curtiss, and Lt. Thomas Selfridge… with the latter dying after a Wright Flyer crashed with him aboard, becoming the very first airplane casualty, ever, on September 17, 1908.

That makes it three Canadians and one American remaining in the AEA at the time of their greatest successes… unless you want to include Alexander Graham Bell’s wife Mabel, who was an American and paid the AEA expenses… then again, while Bell himself had become a Canadian and created the telephone there, he was actually born in Scotland.

Anyhow… little things.

Card #46 also makes one think that the Herring-Curtiss aircraft was truly born from the AEA, but no… it was born from Curtiss himself, who was a key component of the AEA.


Glenn Curtiss doing what he does best – flying a plane he designed.

The card says that it was after the AEA split up, that the Canadian contingent came up with the Silver Dart aircraft. Nope. It was while they were still a group, less the now-deceased Selfridge that the Silver Dart became THE plane.

The card correctly states that the Herring-Curtiss was not part of the AEA’s design or focus.

So… who the heck is Herring and why was there no information about him/her on the back of this card… also, why was the Herring-Curtiss even given consideration to appear in this 50-card aviation series? Let’s find out. As I write this, I have no idea.

First off, Curtiss was one of early aviation pioneers… a true genius. Period.

Herring… he was more of a glider man…  Card #32.


Augustus Moore Herring

Born to a wealthy cotton broker, Herring studied in Switzerland and Germany, with his family settling in New York in 1884.

He studied at the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1885 and 1886, and was already constructing models of flying aircraft. Herring… he gave in a thesis paper entitled “The Flying Machine as an Engineering Problem”, but it was rejected by the school, and he left it, not graduating.

In 1893, Herring built his own glider, crashing it pretty much as he tried to leave the ground. This caused him to begin studying the glider work of Otto Lilenthal (see Card #29), and in 1894 he constructed a Type 11 monoplane glider based on the same originally constructed by Lilenthal.

Perhaps impressed by his ingenuity, Herring was hired by famed glider expert Octave Chanute (see Card #32), where he helped construct and test flying models created by both Chanute and himself.

In 1895, Samuel Pierpont Langley hired Herring to help him with his experiments. For more on Langley and his testing of aircraft that nearly beat the Wright Brothers, see Card #36.

Hmmm… lots of cross pollination of tobacco cards in this write-up!

Notice how Herring doesn’t sit still for very long? Was it a personality thing, or was he ADHD, or was it because he was interested in so many different aspects of aviation, or was he simply just that knowledgeable and his services were in great demand?

I can’t answer that. No one can truly answer that without first-hand knowledge of the person.

So, with the dawning of January 1896, Herring was off again, this time rejoining Chanute and his gliders, but also continuing his own work on the side.

In December 1896, he applied for a patent of a man-supporting, heavier-than-air “flying machine” that was motor-powered and controllable, but the patent application was rejected.

Apparently, the patent was NOT rejected based upon the fact that Herring had copied the glider work of Lilenthal, when applying for a patent on a biplane with a wheeled chassis, horizontal and vertical rudder featuring flexible controls, and a special curvature of the wings. Please note that there was no aileron or anything resembling them, in the patent drawings.

No, it was rejected—and this is even with 20 new claims in the patent request—because: “… no power driven aeroplane has yet been raised into the air with the aeronaut or kept its course wholly detached from the earth for such considerable time as to constitute proof of practical usefulness.”

Owtch. Patent rejected for a heavier-than-air flying machine because no has proven one can actually exist.

I suppose it must have been in the way Herring worded his application.

Despite all of this, Herring kept himself front and center in the pre-aviation industry by writing many scientific articles and pieces for the newspapers and magazines, so much so that he was considered to be quite knowledgeable on the subject of aviation, and was elected as one of the earliest members of the Aero Club of America, which Herring reveled in, being a frequent visitor to their New York headquarters.

A man of great self-promotion, I assume, it was on October 10, 1898, that Herring telegraphed Chanute to come and watch him fly a powered aeroplane of his own design, based on the Chanute-type biplane structure, using a compressed air engine at Silver Beach Amusement Park in St. Joseph, Michigan.

Needless to say, Herring couldn’t get it up. Yes, I said it.

The point of contention, however, is that on October 22, 1898, Herring says he made a sustained flight… and that there were two witnesses. Whomever they were.

The aircraft was powered by a two-cylinder, three horsepower compressed air engine, that reportedly would only have enough oomph to work for 30 seconds at a time.

Think about this – a very modest modern gas-powered lawnmower has 10 horsepower, and it’s in no danger of taking off mostly because it is under-powered… and the Wright Brothers’ Flyer aeroplane… it had a 12 horsepower engine.

How the heck was a three horsepower engines supposed to lift a person up into the air? Well… a three horsepower engine could lift up a small modern hovercraft… but I simply don’t see it being able to actively lift a person and flying wing up into the air. Especially when we are talking about a motor from 1898.

According to Herring, the aircraft was difficult to steer. But for those who saw the craft, it looked to be a traditional hang-glider with an engine…

but what about the two witnesses? Exactly.

There does not appear to be any documented evidence like the Wright Bros. had in 1903, and as such, Herring’s 1898 claims for having been the first heavier-than-air successful flight have been almost universally rejected. The State of Michigan likes to think it was a success but, no one else does.

The big problem appears to be the fact that there’s little information on what Herring did after 1898 through 1909 when he popped up as a partner to famed aviator Glen Curtiss.

Seriously… if you claim you had constructed a successful aeroplane back in 1898… and even if it got wrecked, wouldn’t you build another one in the ensuing 11 years? Several of them? So where’s the proof?

Maybe there’s a book or books all about Herring and those elusive 11 years, but it’s like what happened to Jesus in all those years from when he was a young kid to when it was time to be crucified. We can speculate all we want – that he was traveling and learning about different religions in different lands, but like Herring, we just don’t know.

I’m not comparing Herring to Jesus in any manner except that I don’t know much about what happened to each during a missing period of years, but I do know that after his attempts to motorize the glider, Herring suffered a double whammy: his shop burned down and his financier died.

As a result, Herring went back to work with Chanute, testing Chanute’s “oscillating wing” glider at the same place at Kitty Hawk where the Wright’s were working.

Chanute’s glider was a bomb. However, in 1902 Herring did get to see the Wright Brothers test a glider, seeing how it handled pitch, roll and yaw.

Maybe this is why Herring’s name isn’t such a huge deal in aviation anymore. He was a jerk.

After seeing what he saw of the Wright Brother’s glider work, he went to Washington to tell Professor Samuel Langley (see Card #36) what he had seen. Langley, to his credit, wanted nothing to do with the sneaky Herring.

Then, nine days after the Wright Brother’s achieved the first heavier-than-air flight in 1903, Herring wrote to the Wright Brothers and boldly offered them a partnership (three-way), claiming their plane was based on the Chanute-Herring glider, and that he (Herring) was the actually inventor of that glider.

The Wright Brother’s chose to ignore his claims and his “partnership offer”.

To retaliate – maybe – Herring bid against the Wright Brother in 1908 for the U.S. Army contract to construct an aeroplane for them.

At least the Wright Brothers had an aeroplane. Herring had none… still, because his bid was $5,000 less than the Wright Brother’s they ALSO offered Herring a contract.

Herring showed up on judgement day at Fort Meyer, Virginia with two suitcases and something he called his “innovation trunk” that he said fulfilled the Army’s contract. Riiiiight.

Then, when Orville Wright piloted and crashed his Flyer aeroplane and needed time to recover and was granted a contract extension, Herring suddenly decided to withdraw from the competition, claiming he had better offers, which he might have.

Herring went to Curtiss, who was already quite famous for his work on the Silver Dart and June Bug aeroplanes and someone who was already on the Wright Brother’s radar as someone to sue.

The Wright Brothers held the patent on the lateral control method of wing-warping.

However, Curtiss (and the AEA) had created an alternate method for lateral control – the aileron, which controlled roll in flight – and, of course, revolutionized aviation as we know it today.

Herring told Curtiss he had patents for an aeroplane that pre-dated the Wright Brothers aircraft.

So, on March 20, 1909, Herring joined Glenn Curtiss to create the Herring-Curtiss Company.

This ticked off the Wright Brothers, who promptly sued the Herring-Curtiss Company.

We’ll come back to the lawsuit after we take a look at the planes built under the Herring-Curtiss partnership… though it is actually doubtful that Herring had anything to do with the actual design, seeing as Herring had never really achieved the construction of an aircraft capable of heavier-than-air flight.

Herring-Curtiss biplane flown by Curtiss.jpg

The Curtiss-Herring No.1 aka “The Golden Flier” was built in 1909… later stripped down by Curtiss and used to fly and win the Michelin Cup in Europe as the Rheims Flier.

Say what you will, but Curtiss had a real knack for making things fly.

Drawings of the Herring-Curtiss 1909-10 biplane.jpg

The Curtiss Model D biplane with the ailerons placed on the rear wing struts. Taken from the 1912 published Hayward instructions that allowed anyone to construct their own plane.

The first plane constructed (finished) under the new Herring-Curtiss Company was the Curtiss Model D biplane… a slightly different precursor to the Curtiss Model D Headless biplane that would become the most popular American aeroplane in the pioneer age of aviation.

Key differences are where the ailerons were placed on the two planes.

On the Herring-Curtiss biplane, also known as the Curtiss Golden Flier or Curtiss Gold Bug, or even more specifically as the Curtiss No. 1—the one pictured, but not named as such on the Wills’s tobacco card – the ailerons were placed on the front wing struts. On the later Curtiss Model D biplane, the ailerons were placed on the rear wing struts.

Now… there’s a bit of conflict here. Some sources say that Curtiss crashed his Curtisss No. 1, and built a new plane – the Curtiss No. 2, while others say he merely modified the Curtiss No. 1 to make it into more of a racer.

I am more inclined to believe that the No.1 crashed, and then building a completely new plane, he based it on the original design, but modified it. This is Curtiss No.2. also known as the Reims Racer.

The name came about because—while still under the Herring-Curtiss Company banner, Curtiss took the Curtiss No. 2 and entered it in the Grande Semaine d’Aviation de 14 (Great Aviation Week of 1914)  event—the very first international aviation meet held August 22-29, 1909 at Reims, France to try and win the Gordon Bennett Cup race. You can read all about that race HERE and HEREAGAIN.

From Wikipedia: “The Reims Flier was an open-framework biplane with two-bay unstaggered wings of equal span. It had a monoplane tail that controlled the rudder but the elevators were carried forward of the pilot as a biplane canard unit. The landing gear was wheeled and tricycle in configuration, with each unit carrying a single wheel. Large ailerons were carried in the interplane gap. Curtiss modified the Golden Flyer into the Reims Racer by adding a covered stabilizer unit at the canard, increasing the wing size, modifying the interplane elevators and replacing the four cylinder inline Curtiss OX engine with that of a Curtiss OX V8 that had been stripped down and specially lightened for the race. A new, lighter fuel tank was exchanged for the older, heavier one.”

The plan was to make the plane more maneuverable while sacrificing speed, as Curtiss (pilot) planned to make quicker turns over the race, which was two circuits of 10 kilometers each.

His first run took him 15-minutes and 50.4 seconds. Louis Belriot did the course in 15-minutes, 56.2 seconds, meaning Curtiss won by 5.8 seconds, claiming the prize of  FF25,000.

The Reims Racer/Curtiss No. 2‘s average speed was 75.48 kilometers per hour (47.06 miles per hour) which gave Curtiss a new speed record over the 20 kilometer distance.

More from Wikipedia: “After Reims, Curtiss took the aircraft to Italy, where he won events at a competition at the Air Show in Brescia in September. There, he won the overall grand prize by flying the required five 10 km circuits in 49 minutes 24 seconds. He also won the quick starting prize, starting his engine in 8.2 seconds, and took second place to Henri Rougier in the altitude prize, climbing to 165 ft (51 m). While at Brescia, Curtiss gave Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio a short joyride, but declined a similar request by Princess Laetitia on the grounds that the seat would be unsuitable. Returning to the United States, Curtiss flew the Reims Racer in the country’s first air meet at Los Angeles  in October, setting a new airspeed record of 88 kilometers per hour (55 miles per hour).”


The Curtiss Reims racer.

General characteristics Reims Racer/Curtiss No. 2

  • Crew: One pilot
  • Capacity: 1 passenger
  • Length: 30 ft 4 in (9.25 m)
  • Wingspan: 34 ft 0 in (10.37 m)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss V-8, 63 hp (47 kW)

You will notice, however, that the aeroplane does NOT have Herring’s name in the description, even though by this time, Curtiss and Herring had a partnership and company together.

I can only assume it was because Curtiss designed and built this aircraft himself, with little to no input from Herring.

Back to the Wright Brother’s lawsuit against the Herring-Curtiss Company.

When Curtiss confronted Herring and asked him to produce his patents that showed he had designed an aeroplane BEFORE The Wright Brothers, rather than show Curtiss the rejected patent (perhaps unfairly rejected patent), Herring didn’t show up to the official meeting, and skipped town.

Curtiss then decided to completely rid himself of Curtiss by declaring bankruptcy and dissolving the company… though it did magically reappear soon afterwards as the Curtiss Aeroplane Company – still in 1910.

So – after WWI, thanks to Curtiss’ success in selling his aircraft to the U.S. Army, he was a rich man. Guess who came a-calling?

Yup – Herring. Suing Curtiss, Herring claimed that the Herring-Curtiss Company was never legally dissolved, even though Curtiss had declared bankruptcy, and so was entitled to monies Curtiss earned afterwards when Curtiss reformed as the Curtiss Aeroplane Company.

Herring says that he was cheated out of property and ideas by Curtiss… even though his proof would have been that rejected patent… still… could one partner declare bankruptcy in a company—Herring-Curtiss—without proper remuneration to the surviving partner?

We’ll come back to the lawsuit shortly.

The next year, Herring left Curtiss and joined W. Starling Burgess in Marblehead, Massachusetts to design and build aeroplanes – which he actually did with the newly formed Herring-Burgess Company.

The first aeronautical product of the Herring-Burgess collaboration, the Herring-Burgess Model A, made its inaugural flight on February 28, 1910, traveling 110 meters (360 feet), reaching an altitude of nine meters (30 feet).


The Herring-Burgess Company Flying Fish – note the cool-looking fins on the top wing.

A revised version of the Model A3  known as the Flying Fish was test-flown by Herring on April 17, 1910, flying over Plum Island as the second-ever heavier-than-air flight in New England.

Here’s a cool drawing of a Model C aeroplane – drawn in 1911, but after the Herring-Burgess partnership had dissolved, noting that it is based on a Curtiss design:


Shortly thereafter he terminated his association with Burgess because of a disagreement with another Burgess partner, one Greely S. Curtis. I guess Herring couldn’t get along with people named Curtis(sic). Anyhow, Burgess then formed another partnership with Greely Curtis called the Herring-Curtis Company, I think.

That Herring-Burgess Flying Fish airplane was sold to Joseph C. Shoemaker sometime in 1910 or early 1911, who, along with Fred C. Chanonhouse, modified it yet again. By August, the airplane was capable of executing basic flight maneuvers, including circles and figure eights. After a crash on September 2, 1911, which resulted in only slight damage, the airplane does not appear to have been flown again.

So what happened to Herring from 1912-1926? I don’t know.

Herring did some aviation design work for the United States Army during World War I, he later was partially paralyzed by a series of strokes.

I assume he was bitter. Then there was that lawsuit was Glenn Curtiss…

Herring died in 1926, but the lawsuit continued, with his wife eventually receiving around US $500,000 in damages.

Despite being correct in his partnership not being dissolved upon Curtiss’s bankruptcy, Herring’s behavior throughout most of his partnerships appears to have been pure acrimony at best.

As for the Wills’s Herring-Curtiss aeroplane so proudly shown on the tobacco card… it seems to have been an all-Curtiss production, with Herring simply around to provide assistance – even monies, perhaps…

Still… Curtiss is the name everyone recalls when discussing service to aviation beginnings, while the name of Herring is a difficult one to trace.

As for aeroplanes created by Herring-Curtiss… that one-year period was pretty much it.

Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Air Shows, Aviation Art, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Pilots, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It Sucked To Be An Early Innovative Aviation Inventor


I’m guessing that 7 wasn’t a lucky number. They should have had eight wings… eight is infinity sideways… to infinity and beyond!

By the time the general populous heard of the Wright Brother’s and their fabulous new aeroplane, they had actually had five successful years to improve upon their original flight, and put in numerous years previous working out aerodynamics, power-to-weight ratios, how gliders worked and much, much more.

The fact that two brothers who owned a successful bicycle repair shop never thought to utilize wheels on their invention is a fascinating topic of discussion for another day… but the point is, they worked at their craft before success came their way.

In the field of aviation, the truly success pioneers had put in years and even decades thinking about the principles of flight and physics, though I suppose sometimes some guy sitting in his living room reading the newspaper exploits of these daring young men in their flying machines, and wondered “why not me?”


Dude… Red Bull gives you wiings.

Unlike most of us, these brave thinkers went out and tried to build an aeroplane… sometimes they figured that if it looks like a bird, it should fly like a bird, realizing only afterwards that they should have used eagle feathers rather than feathers from the near-flightless chicken. I kid, but you know what I mean.


A fantastic attempt, you have to wonder just why it was thought that this configuration would work and not end poorly.

Others still figured that if the Wright Brothers Wright Flyer had two wings, then adding more should make it even more flyable. Uh… no.

Others… well… sometimes you just have to get the crazy ideas out of the way so you can concentrate on the good ones.

How else can we explain how monoplanes first flown in the very early days of heavier-than-air aviation, soon fell out of favor, but led the charge for air dominance in the late 1930s through nowadays.

Heck… back in the mid-1970s, delta-wing jets were the “it” thing, until someone realized that the wide triangle wing pattern made it easier to hit with bullets or missiles… and yet… as of the 2010s, stealth technology has made the delta wing an attractive look again.

Anyhow… sometimes a dud is a dud. Let’s take a look at a newspaper article published on December 5, 1909 of The Sunday News (Charleston, South Carolina), on Page 28.

As of this writing, I haven’t even read the article yet – just the headline – so let’s see if this article is a dud or a flying success (though I did notice alternate spellings for Whitehead/Whithead):

Wrecks At Morris Park Tell Of Disappointed Hopes
Flying Machine Business Precarious. Only One Inventor Out of Thirty Near Success—Two Return to Arkansas By Rail Instead of Airship.

“This airship and flying machine business is a precarious proposition,” declared an inventor at the old Morris Park race course, New York, as he viewed the remains of several wrecked fliers scattered about the lawn where members of the Aeronautic Society have workshops.
The most discouraging part of it all is that not one of these graveyard specimens have ever flown. Many a dream has gone astray in their construction, and it has been mostly sacrificed without gain.
Some of the inventors have risked the small fortunes on their flying machines, but the failure has not brought discouragement. There is hardly one to be found among them who would not be willing to try again. He is sure it would come out all right the next time. Every Wright or Bleriot success acts like a stimulant, and when one of those aerial dreamers hears of the formation of a $1,000,000 corporation he immediately gets busy with a new scheme.
Out of thirty or more inventors, only one has met with any degree of success. Dr. William Greene recently made a few short flights with a biplane. This success is said to have brought him capital and it is understood that he will be at the head of a factory for the production of aeroplanes.
The inventors are as varied in character as in ideas. On the colony of workers are two dentists, Dr. William Green and Dr. Henry Walden; a lawyer, R.F. Raiche; and actor, Charles Lawrence; a plumber, Pineus Brauner; and editor, Stanley Y. Beach; a patent medicine man, John A. Riggs; a consulting engineer, Wilbur R. Kimball; an Arkansas farmer, Joel T. Rice; a mechanician and young college graduate, C.J. Hendrickson.
When the workshops opened a year ago Mr. Kimball was the sole inventor on the ground. He had built a helicopter which gave great promise, but never made good. After several attempts to get into the air it went to smash.
Then Mr. Kimball constructed a biplane that eventually met the same fate. He is at present engaged in a third machine.
Stanley Y. Beach and Gustav Whitehead built an aeroplane with which they hoped to win the $500 prize offered by promotors of the aeronautic exhibition held at Arlington, N.J. It proved a perfectly good aeroplane with the exception that it failed to fly. Thereupon the inventors fell out.
Aeronaut Beach was convinced that the mistake was on making the machine a biplane. He insisted it should have been a monoplane. Aeronaut Whithead was satisfied that the whole trouble was that they had not built a triplane.
Aeronaut Beach took matters into his own hands, demolished the biplane and constructed a monoplane. When he had finished it, he looked about for the engine and found it missing. Then more trouble started.
His partner, disgusted, had seized the engine. The indignant Mr. Beach thereupon started legal proceedings to recover the engine. Mr. Whitehead vowed that he would never give it up until Mr. Beach consented to build a triplane. He kept his vow for a week, but then his resolution broke down. He sent for his former partner and told him he could have the engine and build a monoplane or any other kind of plane he wanted to.
The engine arrived, and Mr. Beach tried out his new scheme, and still his invention showed no birdlike tendency. It is housed at Morris Park, and occasionally, its inventor takes it out and runs it around the track on wheels.
Fred Schneider built a big white biplane which in appearance was much like the Wright machine, but in making a trial it was wrecked. The undamaged parts were kept, and the inventor is busy rebuilding it.
Morris Bokon constructed a triplane which never got off the ground, but with which he took the $500 prize at the Arlington aerial carnival for the best constructed aeroplane. Louis Adams, a manufacturer, took a hand at flying machine building. He turned out a contrivance that looked much like a butterfly, but it never exhibited flying qualities.
Mr. Henrickson, the college graduate, tried the bat scheme, but without success. A Mr. Rickman built a helicopter with thirty-two propellers, forming a sunflower shaped parachute. It’s skeleton hangs in the loft of the workshop.
Dr. Henry Walden made a double biplane in which he thought he had solved the problem of automatic equilibrium, but before he had demonstrated his theories a wind storm came along and demolished the machine.
Joel T. Rice and John A. Roggs spent the entire summer months working out the scheme of the largest dirigible ever built in this country. They had no more inflated the big 105-foot long envelope when a gust of wind blew over the tent and about $800 worth of gas went to waste. The inventors had planned to reach their Arkansas home by flight in their airship. After they had viewed the wreckage they decided that flying was a hazardous proposition and that the best way to get home was by rail.
In spite of the wreck heaps on the grounds a new crop of inventors has sprung up, and before spring the sheds will be filled with new flying apparatus.
– 30 –

A brief an amusing look at some of the trials and tribulations of the aviation pioneer.

What the heck is a “mechanician”? Never saw that term before, but I can work with it.

I would have been interested to learn whether or not Stanley Y. Beach gave the triplane idea a try to placate partner and engine-their Gustav Whitehead. He stole the engine! Brilliant!

I love that Morris Bokon won $500 for best-constructed aeroplane… even though the plane couldn’t fly. Remember, kiddies… it is better to look good than to feel good.

Say wha—a flying machine that looks like a butterfly?  Yes… butterflies in nature certainly can fly… but if manufacturer Louis Adams had actually observed the flight of a butterfly, he would have seen that it floats like a drunk sailor atop the main deck during a typhoon – erratic and prone to being blown around by the wind.

I love that planes are being blown over by wind storms—I mean sad for them, but still… come one… tie those things down properly. How the heck did they loose all of that gas? What was it packaged in? Wicker baskets?

Of course… my favorite part of this article was the reason for me to have even found this article over at Readex, A Division of NewsBank – thanks!

Wills’s Card #49 shows an image of the Rickman Helicopter… as though this was going to be the next-best thing in aviation since someone thought it more prudent to place the motor in front of the pilot so the aviator scarf doesn’t get all tangled up in the rotors to cause that whole strangly-death thing.


Rickman helicopter card I found on the internet. My card is car nicer than this one, but I’m saving it for MY apparently very short write-up.

I couldn’t find much information on just who this Rickman was, and whether or not he ever did anything else again.

I couldn’t find out where he was born, when he died… heck, I couldn’t even find out what his first name was!

When in doubt, old newspapers are an excellent source of vitamins and information.

The only newspaper article I was able to come across was the one presented above… meaning that unless some miracle occurs and some historical helicopter association I found on Facebook can help me over the next month, well… I’m afraid I’m going to present my shortest card biography on aviation ever. It’s Card #49, so we still have a ways to go… even though I have actually already written Cards #46, 47 and #48.

So… if anyone out there has some information on the man or woman who designed and built the Rickman Helicopter, lay it on me. Please and Thank-you.

Posted in Commentary, Concepts, Heavier-Than-Air, Helicopters, Lighter-Than-Air, News, People, Research, Stories | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #45 – Santos Dumont’s Monoplane, No. XIX.

card-45History Behind The Card: Santos Dumont’s Monoplane, No. XIX.

Card #45 of 50, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1910

  • Alberto Santos Dumont, July 20, 1873 in Palmira, (a town now named Santos Dumont), in Minas Gerais, Brazil – July 23, 1932 in Guarujá, São Paulo, Brazil.

I have written quite a bit about Alberto Santos Dumont because along with the above card, Wills’s also produced two others within this 50-card Aviation series for 1910: Card #8 and Card #33.The former for his dirigible exploits and great successes, and the later for his successes and exploits with aeroplanes.

Each of those two cards has a history of Santos Dumont, so I’m not going to repeat myself further.

First… his surname: Santos Dumont. Should it be hyphenated? YES.

Santos Dumont often used an equal sign rather than a hyphen as a means of showing respect to the Brazilian and Portuguese sides of his family Santos=Dumont).

However, out of respect for the Wills’s trading card which did NOT use a hyphen, I will not use a hyphen, even though I DO THINK a hyphen should be used between Santos-Dumont. Hell – even Wills’s is wrong… should just be Wills’, but it’s their trading card.

So… Santos Dumont is famous for being the first European to achieve a heavier-than-air flight in Europe… and was thought to be the first person to have actually flown a plane on October 23, 1906 in his 14-bis before a large crowd in Paris for a distance of 60 meters (197 feet) at a height of about five meters (16 feet).


However, the Wright Brothers and their secretive flights had already flown their own Wright Flyer III in a controlled flight for over 30 minutes. You can read more on the Wright Brothers via Card #35.

Here’s an interesting fact about Santos Dumont. Back in 1904, he told his buddy Louis Cartier about how difficult it was to fly the dirigibles when he needed a free hand to check his pocket watch for time.

Cartier, who was a watchmaker, created for Santos Dumont the first Cartier‘s men’s wristwatch featuring a leather band and small buckle.

Nowadays, Cartier sells both wristwatches and sunglasses named after Santos Dumont.


The modern Cartier Santos Dumont wristwatch costs 10s of thousands of dollars. I wish I had one. It’s beautiful. I can’t afford to have a new battery put into my 30-year-old Seiko.

The Santos Dumont watch was officially placed on display at the Paris Air Museum on October 20, 1979.

Anyhow, let’s take a look at what Santos Dumont had done to warrant his third tobacco card in this series with Card #45.


Well… from reading the card, we can see that this is the 19th plane built by Santos Dumont – and it’s still only 1910!

Next, of equal importance – or more – is the fact that this is a monoplane… a single-winged aircraft at a time when people were still thinking that more wings were better. Evidence of that is WWI a few years later when almost all planes were biplanes or triplanes.

The XIX looks like a glorified kite, but it was one of the earlier planes to feature a single wing just like what we fly around in nowadays. Of course, most of the earliest designs of aeroplanes pre-Wright Brothers were based on the ‘single wing’ design patterned after birds, but with the success of the Wright Brothers, the biplanes aeroplanes were thought to be “it”.

And yet, here was Santos Dumont have success in 1909 with a single-winged aircraft.


Although not yet described as the Demoiselle, that was the name of the XIX monoplane. Demoiselle is the name given to the Damselfly… an insect that looks very similar to a dragonfly, but are smaller and slimmer.

It utilized a two-cylinder opposed air-cooled Dutheil-Chalmers engine that could create up to 20 horsepower. It featured a forward elevator placed ahead of the plane’s chassis, level with the axle.

The wing’s themselves had a sharp dihedral angle to them, and were fairly rectangular. The tail was a crusiform-shape mounted onto the rear.

On November 16-17, 1907, the Demoiselle made many flights, including best attempts of 200 meters, 100 meters and 200 meters at Issy-les-Moulineaux, in the southwestern suburban area of Paris, France.

However, by October of 1908, Santos Dumont had created a new version of the Demoiselle, with the elevator not included, and with the 24 horsepower Antoinette engine powering it.

Santos Dumont continued to test the aircraft throughout 1909, making the first French cross-country flight of around eight kilometers from St. Cyr to Buc on September 13, 1909, returning the next day.

On September 17, 1909 he flew the plane 18 kilometers in 16 minutes.

On January 4, 1910, Santos Dumont made his final flight as a pilot in  Demoiselle aircraft (he had made planes and sold versions of the Demoiselle).

After a bracing wire snapped while flying at an altitude of 25 meters (80 feet), a wing collapsed causing the aeroplane to crash. While he suffered only a few bruises, Santos Dumont made the decision to not fly anymore, perhaps because the multiple sclerosis he had been previously diagnosed with was causing him issues.

In fact, in March of 1910, Santos-Dumont announced his retirement from aviation, sold his aircraft and workshop.

In 1911, he moved to Benerville (now Benerville-sur-Mer) on the seaside and took up astronomy.

But, by 1914 when WWI broke out, the French in the area knew nothing of his illustrious past, and after seeing his telescope, and hearing his odd (to them) Brazilian accent, thought him some sort of German spy, which led to the police searching his rooms.

Despondent from the allegations and the illness, Santos Dumont burned all of his papers and his drawings, sold his notes and moved back to Brazil. It is why we don’t have any of his drawings around today.

Back in Petrópolis, Brazil, he built a nice home for himself  – it is now a museum.

Depressed beyond belief over various things including the use of aeroplanes in the 1909 São Paulo Constitutionalist Revolution begun in July, Santos Dumont committed suicide by hanging on July 23, 1932.

His death certificate says death was caused by cardiac arrest (heart attack). Perhaps a final kindness from the scientific community to him.


  • 1905 – Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur
  • 1909 – Officier de la Légion d’Honneur
  • 1913 – Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur
  • 1929 – Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur

He is buried in the São João Batista Cemetery in Brazil.

Gone, but not forgotten, the name of Santos Dumont still commands respect in the aviation world.

One of my favorite honors for the man is that the official Brazil Presidential Aircraft is named after Alberto Santos Dumont, christened as the “Santos-Dumont“. It has the tail number 2101.


Posted in Aviation Art, Motors and Engines, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #44 – “Cody” Biplane.

#44.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Cody” Biplane.

Card #44 of 50, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1910

  • Samuel Cody, nee Samuel Franklin Cowdery, March 6, 1867 in Davenport, Iowa, United States of America – August 7, 1913, Farnborough, Great Britain (now United Kingdom).

Samuel Cody is an interesting man… born as Samuel Franklin Cowdery, he was, above all else, a showman. He says he took the name Cody when he was a boy, but all it did in later years was confuse him with the illustrious showman Buffalo Bill Cody, who had achieved that nickname about a year after Cody was born… so at least you know who came first – Buffalo Bill.

But… when it came to aviation, Cody was more than just a showman – he was the real deal pioneer of aviation.

I have actually written quite a bit about Colonel Cody, and for a deeper understanding of who he is through 1908 when he flew his last dirigible, read Card #9 and Card #13. This blog is about the years after that.

It’s interesting to me that Colonel Cody actually received three notations in this set of 50 cards. Yes, he was an American who worked a lot in England, but really, I suspect the British were bamboozled a bit by his showmanship.

That’s not to say that Cody wasn’t a successful aviation – he was… just not in the same vein as the Wright Bros. or Henri Farman or the AEA’s Glenn Curtiss.


Samuel Franklin Cody

So… Read Card #9 and #13’s description for the early years of Cody, and let’s take a closer look at his early work on aeroplanes, namely the Cody Biplane… and then we’ll detail a bit more on Cody’s latter part of his life.

After the Wright Bros. first flew in 1903, you’d thing everyone would have jumped on the bandwagon and had successful flights… but the brothers… they kept their first heavier-than-air flight under wraps… with the world not truly hearing about their success until around 1908.

That’s when every country wanted to achieve air superiority, and by that I mean their government’s wanted it.

And so, after some minor success with his dirigibles for Great Britain, the British Army wanted an aeroplane of their own.

Colonel Cody, seeing £-signs in his eyes, set about building the British Army Aeroplane No. 1 (at least you know where you stand with British aviation names).

The aeroplane was first tested in September of 1908, and it pretty much was under-powered and never got off the ground except for a few hops. But… he continued to lengthen his aeroplane’s hops, eventually achieving a distance of 420 meters (1,390 feet) on October 16, 1908, and a speed of 25 to 30 miles per hour.

Outfitted with the British flag the Union Jack at the top of the plane’s rear strut, British Army Aeroplane No. 1 piloted by Cody, took off from Farnborough Field in England. It used a 50 horse power Antoinette engine taken from his Nulli Secundus  dirigible and… and it was in front of the British Army brass.

The aircraft hopped, dipped and crashed after a sharp turn was made to avoid crashing into some trees with the left wing hitting the ground – for a total time of 27 seconds in the air – but this did not matter, as the British Army was now airborne and was the first sustained flight in the United Kingdom of a heavier-than-air powered aeroplane.

British Army Aeroplane No. 1 Crash.jpg

The British Army Aeroplane No.1  – despite the crash upon landing is considered the first successful British heavier-than-air flying machine.

It just wasn’t a successful flight, as rules of the game suggest that the landing must be a successful one. At least in my opinion. Great Britain thought otherwise, as does the United Kingdom nowadays.

It was this era that gave us the advice that “any landing you can walk away from is a good landing” – still… it wasn’t really a successful event.

 ENGINE 1 x 50hp Antoinette 8-cylinder water-cooled V-type engine
    Take-off weight 1152 kilograms 2540 pounds
    Wingspan 15.85 meters 52 feet
    Length 13.41 meters 44 feet
    Height 3.96 meters 13 feet
    Maximum speed 64 kilometers per hour 40 miles per hour

Upon examination of the aeroplane afterwards, it was badly damaged, taking many months to fix before it could fly again in January of 1909, when the aeroplane was renamed British Army Aeroplane No. 1B.

Very little of the previous machine remained, just the engine really, with the wings and chassis having to be completely rebuilt.

Over the following weeks and months Cody was constantly changing the configuration of the aircraft trying simultaneously to perfect the balance of the aircraft and find the ideal arrangement for the control surfaces.

But it wasn’t enough.

The British War Office decided it couldn’t see the value in heavier-than-air aircraft and decided to stop funding to Cody, ending his contract in April of 1909.

At least they gave Cody the aircraft… although the plane’s engine was still the property of the British Army, who at least gave him permission to keep using it.

That’s when he rightfully changed the name of the aeroplane to Cody No. 1.

He was allowed by the British Army to build a shed on Laffan’s Plain to continue his aviation experiments. While he had lost the finances from the British government, and additional manpower from the Royal Engineers, his shed locale was right smack dab in the middle of a windy area, with plenty of trees and shrubs abound – not the type of area you’d want to try and fly in in those days.

His aeroplane looked somewhat similar in design to the Wright Flyer, but he did not copy it to the extent that it was an exact copy… he should have… then the plane would have flown.

The Wright Brothers had only debuted their flying machines to the public at large six weeks prior to Cody’s flight… and Cody says he actually had the plane built long before that… but if that were true, you can bet he would have flown it a heck of a lot sooner… and certainly not a whole six weeks after news spread of the Wright Brothers (not to mention they did it even earlier in secret back in 1903).

Without the benefit of an exact copy and thus the many years the Wright Bros. had spent on aerodynamics et al, Cody’s Cody No. 1 aka the Cody Biplane underwent a plethora of adjustments before he was able to take it from mere hops, to an actual flight, as you can see by the back of this tobacco card.


On August 12, 1909, he finished the  Cody No. 1C  – also known as The Cathedral), made its first flight.

The pilot’s seat was placed in front of an ENV engine in an effort to improve the plane’s center of gravity.

On August 14, 1909, Cody flew Colonel Capper and then Lela Cody as his first passengers. In fact, Cody enjoyed taking people up in his aircraft, calling his aeroplanes an ‘aerial omnibus’.

Not stupid, Cody did charge a nominal fee to be a passenger, as I would assume fuel needed to be covered – plus a meal of two.

In the photo below, you can see Colonel Capper’s wife in the passenger seat behind pilot Cody… head thrust at an odd angle because of the plane’s construction. This was on September 27, 2909.

Colonel Cody Cody No. 1C.jpg

Mrs. Capper looks comfortable – not.

In October of 1909, Cody became a citizen of Great Britain during the Doncaster Aviation Meet.

In June of 1910, Cody completed his next aircraft, the Cody No. II  – perhaps his best. It was also known as the Cody Flyer and the Michelin Cup Machine, proving those in the aircraft naming committee lacked an imagination.

The big difference between the Cody No. II and other machines, was the installation of one large propeller at the rear and a 60 horsepower Green motor. Previous aircraft had two forward propellers and used the ENV engine.

On its second flight, the Cody No. II crashed taking Cody out for a while, but he recovered soon enough to enter the aircraft in Bournemouth Aviation Meeting in July of 1910.

In August of 1910, Cody entered the Cody No. II at the the Lanark Aviation Meeting, replacing the Green motor with the old ENV engine

He had taken out the Green motor in an effort to have a replica of it built and to then install dual Green engines, but he was unable to get them synchronized.

By the time 1910 closed, he had replaced the ENV with a single Green motor so he could take the Cody No. II into the Michelin Cup Trophy event that had all entrants having to use a British-made engine.

On December 31, 1910, Cody won the Michelin Cup after flying the Cody No. II for an endurance time of four hours and 47 minutes, flying a distance of 185.46 miles – both British aviation records.


This image shows Cody flying the Cody No. II on December 31, 1910.

Buoyed by his success and corresponding celebrity, in February of 1911, Cody convinced his friend and biographer, G.A. Broomfield to go up in the Cody No. II while standing on the wing. Everyone survived this early daredevil stunt.

After flying the Cody No. II in front of his Highness King George V (Great Britain), he stored the aircraft, fiddling with its engine adding a 100 horsepower Green motor later in the year.

This is where stuff gets confusing. Is this still the Cody No. II, or is now what others call the Cody No. III because it has a more powerful motor?

I’m not sure… the Cody No. III might be a completely new aeroplane, or it might be a re-naming of the Cody No. II.

I don’t think he renamed it the Cody No. III. I think he built a second plane, while he altered the appearance of the Cody No. II, eventually fitting it, in 1913, with a 120 horsepower Austro-Daimler engine, twin rear rudders and four extra seats for passengers… nicknaming it the Cody Omnibus.

As for the other aeroplane—the Cody No. III—because many other documents are calling it as such.

In 1911 the Daily Mail newspaper offered a monetary prize of £10,000 for the first pilot to complete a circuit of Great Britain – a total of 1,010 miles (1,624.44 kilometers) – in a competition. Nine British aircraft entered out of 21 flying machines in total, including Cody piloting his Cody III.

The Cody III, built in June of 1911 was considered to be the smallest of Cody’s aeroplanes with a wingspan of 43 feet (13 meters) and was then propelled by a 60 HP Green motor.

The competition began on July 21, 1911, with the aircraft flying and landing and taking off again – as it was obviously such a long trek that no one could do it without several stops for fuel.

For whatever reason, Cody liked to stop along the way and give lectures on flying and his past life as a showman, but eventually gave that up as it was slowing him down. He ended up finishing in fourth place, completing the course some 10 days after the winning French machine but his biplane was the only British built aircraft to complete the course.

Late in 1911, Cody installed the 100 horsepower Green motor into the Cody No. III, which then went on to win two more Michelin trophies before it was cashed and badly damaged by one of Cody’s pupils on July 3, 1912.

Cody never really built more than one-off’s of his aircraft, so when he lost that plane, it was a huge deal. He had planned on entering it in the upcoming Military Trials to be held in August on Salisbury Plain, with the winning entry earning a £5,000 prize from the British War Office.

Now, as luck would have it, Cody had begun work on his next plane – the Cody No. IV, but it was damaged after it collided with a cow.

As if that wasn’t enough, Cody was then involved in litigation over the death of the same cow in the crash.

The judge wasn’t buying it when Cody suggested (seriously) that the cow had committed suicide by getting in the plane’s way. Now that’s udderly ridiculous.

Cody lost the case, and was forced to pay £18 in damages to the farmer.

I have no idea if Cody was given custody of the deceased cow, because that’s what his £18 should have got him, but we do know that he at least had  a 120 horsepower Austro-Daimler engine and the wreckage of two aeroplanes – holy cow!

Still… he also had an old 100 horsepower Green engine from a previous crashed aeroplane… so he built a new plane, the Cody No. V, and entered it in the Michelin flying contest, winning the prize for the fastest time covering a cross country circuit of 186 miles in October of 1912.

Then he replaced the 100 horsepower engine with the 120 horsepower engine, and slightly renamed the aircraft as Cody No. V A/ The Military Trials Biplane No. 1.

Not a huge aeroplane, it had twin triangular-shaped read rudders and a single four-bladed propeller and that fairly powerful 120 horsepower Austro-Daimler engine.

Believe it or not, the Cody No. V A/Military Trials Biplane No. 1 won the Military Trials competition, even though by this date his aircraft was considered to already be ‘outmoded’.

Regardless, Cody made sure his aeroplane fulfilled every single one of the War Office’s previously agreed upon requirements.

It was purchased by the Army and handed over to the Royal Flying Corps. in November of 1912, and flew until April of 1913 when it was damaged during a crash.

However, the lads must have liked it because before the crash occurred, in February a second plane was ordered: the Cody No. V B aka The Military Trials Biplane No. 2.

It crashed in November of 1913 and has given to The Science Museum, where it is displayed to this day.

As for that original Cody No. II, Cody added the 120 horsepower Austro-Daimler, and then be renamed as the Cody Omnibus. I think. To be honest, the data I found immediately below seemed to contradict other data I had researched… but the new data was from a reliable source… what to do…

The following chart and notes in italics are from Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft 1913 manual – page 45, but I have added in my own best guesses on what the plane’s actually were.

Specifications 1911 4-seater biplane 1913 4-seater biplane

 May 1912
Length feet (m) 38 (11.60) 38 (11.60) 38 (11.60)
Span feet (m) 43 (13) 43 (13) 43½ (13.25)
Area sq. feet (m²) 484 (44¾) 483 (44¾) 260 (19)
Weight total lbs. (kgs) 1900 (862) 1900 (862) 2400 (1088)
useful lbs. (kgs) 1000 (453) 1000 (453) 700
Motor 60 HP Green, later a 100 HP Green 120 HP Austro-Daimler 120 HP Austro- Daimler
Speed max mph (km) 70 (115) 75 (120) 83 (135)
min mph (km) 47 (75) 47 (75) 58 (95)
Number built to end of last year 1 1 1

Remarks.—The 1911 is the famous Cody, which, as a 60 h.p., won both Michelin 1911 prizes, and completed the Daily Mail circuit. (Ed. Note: Note that this was not yet known on the Wills’s tobacco card, as it is a 1910 series… still, the card was correct in insisting that Cody’s planes were becoming better.)

At a top speed of 100 h.p. it won the 1912 Michelin cross-country. By the end of 1912 it is said to have flown a total of 7000 miles. The 1913 is practically a duplicate with a more powerful engine. Special features of the biplanes, maximum camber to lower plane. Both planes equal span. Very strong landing gear. Propeller chain driven: 1¾ to 1 gearing. In February, 1913, four biplanes were ordered for the British Army.

Cody lists a mono. for 1913 a trifle longer than the above; also five variations on the biplane of from 35 to 160 h.p., which can be built if required.

Okay, back to me.

Cody’s last machine was a water plane – the Cody No. VI built in 1913 to compete in the Daily Mail’s Aeroplane Race around Britain. This aeroplane was Cody’s largest flying machine, with a wing span of nearly 60 feet (19.288 meters), fitted with a 100 horsepower Green engine, a single rear rudder, a four-bladed propeller and a large skid forward.

In June of 1913, the skid was removed and one large central float and two wing floats were fitted and the machine was tested for its floatability on Basingstoke Canal.

I should note that the Cody No. VI water plane never actually flew with the floats on, and as of July of that year, the Cody No. VI was altered again, with the floats removed and then converted to a flying ambulance, where the four-seater could carry the pilot and three medical orderlies.

The aircraft was also equipped with a stretcher, an operating table, plus additional supplies for medical emergencies.

I would imagine that the Cody No. VI was not going to transport patients, rather to be used in times of war to fly medical personnel to the emergency zone – but since it was never used in an actual emergency, who can say what Cody actually planned.

However… the Cody No. VI was involved in one emergency.

On August 7, 1913, Cody took aloft his second passenger of the way – (Mr.) W.H.B Evans, a cricket player for Hampshire.

During the flight, the plane flew over the Bramshot golf course and was heading back to the airfield when the plane came apart in the air, crashing into some trees, causing Cody and Evans to plunge to their deaths.


The final resting place of the Cody No. VI after its deadly crash into a patch of oak trees.

Witness 1 saw: “(the) rear part of the machine leave the other part…. The rear part fell first…. The front part turned up… then the bodies fell, thrown out by the jerk, Cody fell first then Evans…. Plane fell from 300 to 400 feet…”

Witness 2: “Right plane went upwards… the body of the machine then seemed to dip and fall, the whole lot crumbling up… I did not see any part break away…. Both men fell together.”

Witness 3: “Possible cause could be the bursting of the propeller.  Part of this could have gone through the planes, and the wind blowing through would cause the whole lot to collapse.”

Witness 4: “The aeroplane was no more than 100 or 150 feet from the ground.”

In other words, because of people’s unfamiliarity with aviation and the newness of aeroplanes, no one could give a real description of just what it was they were seeing.

Look at the differences in plane height from two witnesses: 100-150 feet or 300-400 feet…

A third-hand witness was the secretary of the Royal Aero Club: “The top right-hand section of the wing, he was given to understand, was picked up about 100 yards away from the trees where the machine actually fell.  It appeared that it was the piece that was seen floating away.”

Really? “He was given to understand”? That means someone speaking on behalf of the secretary gave his view of what happened based on the opinion of an actual witness.

Why does the Royal Aero Club care? Well, earlier in 1913, the club had begun to issue accident reports.

The Aero Clubs official statement was that the Cody No. VI crashed: “The failure of the aircraft was due to inherent structural weakness” adding that the eyewitness accounts were conflicting of each other.

So… Cody was dead, and so was his aeroplane. It’s tough to argue the virtues of an aeroplane that kills its designer and pilot.

At the full military honors funeral in Aldershot, it was attended by up to 100,000 mourners. Cody is buried in the Aldershot military cemetery.

A full-size replica of the British Army Aeroplane No. 1 was built in 2008 to commemorate the 100-anniversary of his flight and remains on permanent display at the Fast Museum.


2008 replica of the Samuel Cody British Army Aeroplane No 1. Flimsy-looking doesn’t begin to describe it – but that darn thing flew!

In conclusion, the American born Samuel Franklin Cody flew a 30-second flight in October of 1908 becoming the first pilot in Great Britain to fly an aeroplane.

After dying on August 7, 1913 at Farnborough Common in Hampshire where his historic flight took place, in 2013 – the centenary of his death, the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust placed a bronze statue there.

It is the only such commemoration of Cody, ensuring that at least for now (until an EMP hits), that he and his achievement will not be forgotten.

Posted in Air Shows, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Pilots, Tobacco Card, Uncategorized, Zeppelins & Dirigibles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Avro Arrow Blueprints


Here’s something I bet you don’t see every day.

For fans of Canada’s airplane the AVRO Arrow, here are some photos I took of a copy of blueprints I have.

If you aren’t sure what it is… it’s the Canadian CF-105 delta-winged interceptor designed and built by Avro Canada – introduced in October of 1957 and shut down in February of 1959.

At the time, the Arrow was considered to be one of the technologically-advanced airplanes in the world, that was believed capable of hitting Mach 3.5… speeds which are near impossible, except for my favorite aircraft the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

Obviously, the Arrow didn’t get  to attempt those speeds, but that was part of its allure… and its plan…

As for why the aircraft was shut down, some believe that then Prime Minister Diefenbaker took a huge personal bribe from the U.S. who were embarrassed that Canada was able to construct such a technologically advanced creation. I should point out that there were a heck of a lot of Brits working at Avro at that time, too.

Anyhow… when the deal to further test and build the Arrow was scuttled, so too was Avro.

What happened next was the greatest brain drain in the history of Canada, as some of the finest minds in the great white north were offered (and accepted) jobs with NASA… most of whom were directly involved in getting the U.S. to the Moon first.

You mention the Avro Avro to Canadians of a certain vintage, and you seem to get universal anger… anger at a government that  – for whatever real reason – essentially took Canada out of the space race as a technological leader.

I wasn’t even born when the Avro Arro was canceled, but I knew all about it as a kid.

I grew up very near the Avro buildings… and even went to Our Lady of Airways school… a school long since closed and abandoned like the Arrow herself.

Anyhow… there are books upon books and television dramas on the subject. No matter what anyone says, the truth is still out there.










Posted in Aviation Art, Fighters, Heavier-Than-Air, Myth, Research | Tagged , | Leave a comment