Julia Clark – The Daring Bird Girl

Julia Clark.jpg

  • Julia Clark: December 21, 1880 in London, England, Great Britain – June 17, 1912 in Springfield, Illinois, United States of America.

The one true thing I can state about Julia Clark, is that she was a pioneer pilot.

The second true thing I can say about her, is that she was the third woman to gain a pilot’s license from the Aero Club of America – No. 133, gaining it on May 19, 1912.

If you glance up at Julia’s date of death, you’ll notice she had her pilot’s license for just over one month.

What’s worse, is that Julia Clark was married to a man the newspapers only referred to as Mr. Clark… so we don’t even know what her maiden name was.

Sigh… dead these past 106 years, Julia Clark has become a footnote in the annals of aviation history.

While she was indeed the third American woman to earn her pilot’s license, and subsequently become the third woman in the world to perish in an aviation accident – both good and crappy footnotes, what is galling is that there appears to be some confusion as to just where the poor person was born.


May 19, 1912, Julia Clark is all smiles after receiving her pilot’s license.

Wikipedia boldly states that Julia was born in Bangor, Michigan on December 21, 1880, which would have made her 31 years old when she died. Uh… no.

Everywhere else says she was born in London, England on that date, while some sites calls her a Chicago girl or from Denver.

The truth, as always, falls in between.

Julia Clark was born in London, her family emigrated to the U.S., lived in Bangor Michigan, moved to Denver Colorado where she was a stenographer for an undisclosed aviation company, and where she might have been married. Or, Denver is simply where her parents were living.

From there, she traveled to San Diego, California to take flying lessons, which may have lead to her estrangement from her husband (Mr. Clark).

As stated, Clark appears to be her married name…. so what the heck was her maiden name?

A newspaper seems to verify this, saying she arrived in the U.S. from London, England and shortly thereafter married an American – last name Clark. When and where, however, was not stated. See below:

According to the Webster City freeman newspaper of Webster City, Iowa, June 18, 1912 edition, “Miss Clark was a native of London and was married soon after her arrival in America, friends here made known last night. She had not been living with Mr. Clark for some time, they averred.”

If she was married, why was she called Miss Clark in the above newspaper article. And… don’t they usually give the full male name in a newspaper… or was it because she and her husband had been separated, that decorum suggest they not identify that man?

I understand that she was only flying for one month, but she was the third-ever female pilot in the U.S.! Surely someone knows more about her!

I have looked at over 40 American newspaper articles of the day that mention Julia Clark. Only one newspaper provides information of Julia Clark BEFORE her death, with the remainder providing a write-up on her accident-causing death.

Just Give Me A Chance!
Here’s what we do know about her based on the newspaper data:

She first became interested in aviation after hearing about Harriet Quimby gaining her license on August 1, 1911 becoming the first U.S. woman to earn an Aero Club of America aviator’s certificate.

Then, after attending the 1911 Chicago International Aviation Meet held August 12 to August 20, 1911 at Grant Park in Chicago, Clark wanted to become a pilot.

From her stenographer’s job for an undisclosed aviation company in Denver (I think), she saved her money and traveled to the Curtiss Flying School at North Island in San Diego, California in late 1911, or January 1912. I’d go with the later.

She asked instructor McCaskey to let her join the school, but because owner Glenn Curtiss was a sexist pig (apparently) and was against women learning how to be aviators, Curtiss told McCaskey to refuse.

Clarke wouldn’t give up, however, and befriended the wife of Glenn Curtiss, Lena Pearl Neff (married from 1898-1930), who convinced her husband to stop being a jackass and to let Julia Clark into his flying school.

You can see Julia in the Curtiss Flying School class of 1912 below:

Curtiss Flying School 1912

Curtiss Flying School, Class of 1912 at North Island, San Diego (from left): 1. Floyd E. Barlow; 2. John G. Kaminski; 3. Floyd Smith; 4. W.A. (or W.B) Davis; 5. Roy B. Russell; 6. Mohan M. Singh; 7. John Lansing (Lanny) Callan; 8. Julia Clark; 9. George Milton Dunlap; 10. Kono Takeshi. Photo from the Callan Collection of the Curtiss Museum.

You may have noticed that I have used this photo twice before, in the biographies of Mohan Singh (HERE) and Kono Takeshi (HERE), as Julia Clark was in their class.

The Curtiss school not only taught students how to fly HIS plane, but Curtiss would sell them HIS plane as well. A perfect storm for Glenn Curtiss.

The San Francisco call. newspaper wrote in the Tuesday, February 13, 1912 edition:

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 12.—Mrs. Julia Clarke of Chicago, a pupil at the Curtiss Aviation school, lost control of her machine this afternoon when it was caught in a gust of wind and overturned. She fell 20 feet to the ground. The machine was wrecked and Mrs. Clark was injured. She will recover and says she will not abandon her determination to learn to fly.

Obviously not, as she graduated. Then on May 19, 1912 Clark received her pilot’s license from the Aero Club of America, becoming the third American woman to earn her aviator’s certificate.

She flew her test using a 1911 Curtiss Model D aircraft, flying in a 15 miles per hour (24.14 kilometers per hour) wind at 800 – 1,000 feet (243.84 – 304.8 meters).

Thankful to Curtiss, or perhaps fulfilling her end of the agreement to let her into his flying school, Clark purchased a Curtiss Model D.

I am unsure just where the heck she got her money from.

She was a stenographer – estranged from her husband – had traveled to San Diego by train, I assume, paid for her lessons and for accommodations and food et al… and THEN purchased an aeroplane?

Perhaps it was purchased with a down-payment, with Clark having to pay Curtiss back quickly… which may have been why she was only too glad to join William Pickens’ Wright-Curtiss (or Curtiss-Wright) flying circus – to earn money… which she earned as long as she was flying… but more on that later.

The 1911 Curtiss Model D

The Curtiss Model D pusher (motor and propeller are behind the pilot) bi-plane was built mostly of spruce, some ash for parts of the engine bearers and undercarriage beams with doped linen over it, and bamboo outrigger beams. The aircraft also used a wheeled tricycle undercarriage.

Depending on who you ask, the origin of the aileron is a sticky subject.

He chose not to use wing-warping per the Wright Brothers and their patents, but used the between-the-wing-panels “inter-plane” ailerons – which is what he used on several earlier aeroplanes of his, such as the Curtiss No. 1 and Curtiss No. 2.

To work the ailerons, the pilot had to “lean-into” the turn to make them work, using a shoulder cradle attached to the pilot and aileron control cabeling.

Historically, the Curtiss Model D was flown by Eugene Ely on November 14, 1910 to take off from the USS Birmingham – the first time an aeroplane had taken off from a ship. On January 18, 1911, Ely landed a Model D aboard the USS Pennsylvania and became the first to land an aeroplane on a ship.

Specifications of Curtis Model D (Type IV)

  • Crew: one;
  • Length: 29 feet 3 inches (8.92 meters);
  • Wingspan: 38 feet 3 inches (11.66 meters);
  • Height: 7 feet 10 inches (2.39 meters);
  • Empty weight: 700 pounds (318 kilograms);
  • Loaded weight: 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss E-4, with 40 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour);
  • Endurance: 2.5 hours.

After purchasing a Curtiss Model D, Clarke joined the Curtiss-Wright Aviators exhibition team, who billed her as “The Daring Bird-Girl” and contracted for several exhibitions in the Midwest of the United States of America.

I should point out that one newspaper article

The Curtiss-Wright grouping was the forerunner to the Curtiss-Wright Corporation  – which is currently an American-based, global diversified product manufacturer and service provider for the commercial, industrial, defense, and energy markets.

Formed in 1929 with the consolidation of Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, (founded January 1916 by Glenn Curtiss), Wright Aeronautical (founded by Glenn L. Martin and the Wright brothers as Wright-Martin), and various supplier companies.

By the time WWII ended, it was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States, supplying whole aircraft in large numbers to the U.S. Armed Forces.

Nowadays, it is a component manufacturer specializing in actuators, aircraft controls, valves, and surface treatment services, and also supplies to commercial nuclear power, nuclear navy systems, industrial vehicles and to the oil and gas industries.

When The Bough Breaks

After one month of flying, we now come to the tragic death of Julia Clark on June 17, 1912.

Four weeks earlier in Milwaukee, Clark was not allowed to fly because someone felt her aircraft was unsafe… but it was overhauled since then and considered sound.

This implies that Clark…. a relatively inexperienced pilot, had been forced to sit for four weeks without flying.

According to the Rock Island Argus newspaper, June 18, 1912 (of Rock Island Illinois), “She had intended to make several flights throughout the week.”

That article also notes that in conversation with friends, she said it was her desire to “master the right-hand turn”, saying that no woman had mastered the feat… and it is believed that while attempting to do a right hand turn, the accident occurred.

Almost every newspaper article says Clark had taken her aeroplane up into the dusk of June 17, 1912, noting that visibility was poor. Heck, Wikipedia says that, too.

Some newspapers say that Clark was trying to enter as many state fairs as possible to earn enough money for a trip to Europe – I assume that was to take her plane there and fly and make more money. Anyhow… that may be why she was anxious to take the aeroplane up to get some practice time in.

According to the Webster City freeman of Webster City, Iowa, June 18, 1912 edition, “Miss Clark was a native of London and was married soon after her arrival in America, friends here made known last night. She had not been living with Mr. Clark for some time, they averred. She was arranging for a two weeks’ course at the Chicago field, having no practice for a month after getting her license, when the engagement at Springfield was made and she felt she would be able to keep it in spite of her little recent flying practice.”

The article below from the June 18, 1912 edition of The Daily News newspaper of Chattanooga, Tennessee, says the accident occurred in the afternoon, every other article says the accident occurred after 6:30PM or as late as 7PM.

“Mrs. Julia Clark, one of the three licensed woman aviators in the United States, was killed in a fall here this afternoon, when a tip of a wing on her biplane struck a tree and the machine crashed to the ground. Admittedly unprepared for exhibition flights, she had contracted to make here Friday and Saturday, the young woman was trying out her machine in the race track enclosure at the fair grounds. But few persons watched her as she guided the machine from the ground and started her spin at low altitude. Whether she lost control or whether it was a case of mistaken judgement which caused the machine to go close to the tree has not been explained. The end of a wing struck the tree, the machine toppled and crashed to the ground. The young woman’s skull was fractured, and she died soon after reaching a hospital, to which she was rushed in an automobile.
Decisions of Milwaukee authorities were partly responsible for Mrs. Clark not having any recent practice. She had intended to make a flight there two weeks ago, but they refused to allow her to go up because it was deemed her machine was unsafe. It had been a month since she had made a flight, but she nevertheless felt confidence in her ability to fill her contract here. She had arranged for a two weeks practice at the Chicago field after her proposed flights here Friday and Saturday.
Mrs. Clark was a native of London, and, it is said, married Mr. Clark soon after arriving in America. It is said she had not been living with her husband for some time. She resided for some time in Chicago, but recently had been making her headquarters in Denver, to which city the body will be shipped.
Mrs. Clark is the second woman to be killed in aeroplane accidents. The other was Miss Susanne Bernard, who lost her life at the Farman school at Pau, France, about two months ago.”

The account is decent enough, but I found errors or inconsistencies.

The newspaper did get a few things incorrect… for one, Miss Deniz Moore in July of 1911 is supposed to be the first woman to die in an aeroplane accident, Susanne Bernard is  the second, making Julia Clark the third.

While it is true that she was refused permission to fly one month earlier in Milwaukee, the above article does NOT make it clear that the aeroplane was overhauled and deemed safe for flight.

Other newspaper accounts say that Clark had been previously warned about the clump of trees within the enclosure of the inner race track where pilots would be flying.

And, when the plane hit the bough of a tree, her aeroplane “turned turtle”. While not stated otherwise, I wanted to clarify that Clark did not fall out of the plane, but the plane did hit the ground upside down.

Whether she fell 40 feet, 50 -feet or 100-feet (depending on the newspaper source), the few eyewitness accounts to the crash were never sure.

Part of that problem, was that it was supposed to be dusk.

However… I question that… it was July  – sometime between 6:30PM and 7PM… it ain’t dusk. That sun is up – especially in Illinois for at least another hour. At least. It could be two more hours… but dusk it ain’t.

Perhaps the skies were overcast… but dusk had nothing to do with it.

Some newspaper reports say the left side of her skull was fractured, she had internal bleeding, and a broken left leg, and was quickly attended to after the crash, but was unconscious then, never regaining consciousness.

While some newspapers state she died en rout to the hospital, others say she died one hour after arriving at Springfield Hospital about one mile away from the fair grounds.

According to a Washington Times June 18, 1912 article: “In a note which she left in anticipation of an accident she asked that her body be sent to Denver for cremation.”

Her body was indeed sent back to Denver, according to Wikipedia, but I can find newspaper evidence of any funeral for Julia Clark in any Colorado newspaper from that time period.

As for historical posterity, Clark was indeed the third female pilot to die in an aeroplane crash, but she was the very first American woman to die, and the very first licensed female pilot to die, as the two French women were unlicensed. Clark predeceased her hero Harriet Quimby by two weeks, who died on July 1, 1912.

If you have data on Julia Clark and can help straighten up any mistakes or guesses I have made here, please share.

In the meantime, the above information is correct based on the multiple newspaper reports I went though. Of course, sometimes it depends on what the subject tells you is true.


Posted in Firsts, Flying Schools, Heavier-Than-Air, Pilots, Stunt Flying | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Mohan Singh – The Flying Hindu


I have been called the “whitest Brown guy” by many a person – recently even… which I am meant to take as a compliment. Yes, even I… a Brown guy …. do love hockey and baseball, and know more about both sports than most (not all) people (part of the plan to try and fit in), so I guess they are correct. Heck, I’m even a Catholic!

My parents were born in India (I’ve never been there), and I was born in London, England, raised and am living in Canada, and spent three years teaching junior high school English in Japan.

To say the least, I don’t fit in anywhere where someone isn’t going to look at me and think me an outsider… and this is 2018.

I can only imagine what it was like in 1912 when a fellow named Mohan M. Singh made his way from India to become known in the U.S. as the Flying Hindu.

Hailing from Himmatputra, a village in the Moga District of Punjab, in northwest India, Singh shipped over to the U.S. in 1906 and worked as a servant in Chicago for a few years until he saw his first flying machine.

We do NOT have a birth date for Singh… nor, it seems a death date. Some websites cite his death date as sometime in 1942, but that is incorrect, as they have him confused with another Indian pilot with a similar name.

Think about it… if he came to the US and worked as a servant, he might have been as young as 14 in 1906. Now add the required number of years for him to have “died as a pilot in 1942 fighting the Japanese.” He would have been 50.

While there’s nothing wrong with a 50-year-old pilot, that would not have been the norm during WWII.

Like many people in the first decade of the 20th century, Singh caught the flying bug.

He saved up his money, and enrolled in the Glenn Curtiss Flying School located at North Island, San Diego in 1912.

His flying class was an odd mix of characters to say the least:

Curtiss Flying School 1912.jpg

Curtiss Flying School, Class of 1912 at North Island, San Diego (from left): 1. Floyd E. Barlow; 2. John G. Kaminski; 3. Floyd Smith; 4. W.A. (or W.B) Davis; 5. Roy B. Russell; 6. Mohan M. Singh; 7. John Lansing (Lanny) Callan; 8. Julia Clark; 9. George Milton Dunlap; 10. Kono Takeshi. Photo from the Callan Collection of the Curtiss Museum.

Yup… that’s him showing off his leg bound in a leather boot. You’ll see better in another photo below.

The Curtiss Flying School had attracted students from Poland and Japan, and even had a woman who dared to buck social traditions, too.

According to media of the day, the school was called “the most cosmopolitan gathering of flyers and pupils ever assembled.”

Singh only added to the melting pot, and was often an intriguing target for the media who saw the tall, slim Singh wearing a turban, and became fascinated with him.

For what it’s worth, Singh either played up his role as a mysterious man from India, or that really was his style. I’m guessing more of the former, only because he must have had a more flamboyant streak in him if he was part of the Curtiss Flying School and later part of the Curtiss Aerial Circus.

Singh apparently rarely spoke or smiled, and it was reported he was a vegetarian who only drank water… maybe he was shy, or tried a different tact to get people interested in him.

He told reporters that he was on leave from the British Indian Army (India only gained independence from Great Britain in 1947),which was why he had the time to learn how to fly at the school.

Singh says that the Army wanted him to learn how to be a pilot and to serve in its soon-to-exist aeroplane corps.

That might be true. But I can’t find evidence that it was.

Media called him an Indian Prince, a Major and a Captain, and was either from Delhi (called Delhi or New Delhi interchangeably) or Bombay (now known as Mumbai).

So which was he? How could the media get it so wrong? I’m guessing he was feeding the media different stories in order to maintain an air of mystery (pun intended).

We do know that Singh graduated from Curtiss flying school, earned pilot’s license #123 (in the U.S.), and was the first pilot from India to earn his aviator license.

After securing his license, Singh performed for the Curtiss-Wright Aviators aerial circus, and was billed as the “Only Hindu Flyer in the World.”

At least the circus didn’t have him act as an Indian rubber man, but treated him as an equal in the air.


As you can see in the advertisement above, Singh is listed as a Major with the Army of India… so… why isn’t he back in India doing flying stuff for them? Why does he have all of this free time to be an aerial pilot and performer?

I’m pretty sure the Army – any army – wouldn’t allow someone still under their jurisdiction to work a second job. They kind of frown on that sort of stuff, unless that same work is actually work for the Army.

After traveling to Hammondsport, New York, Singh learned how to fly a Curtiss Hydroplane (an aeroplane that lands and takes-off from the water).

Singh apparently became quite good at flying the hydroplane, and in 1913, Curtiss asked him to help him promote his products in Europe when it seemed that the world would be heading towards some sort of world war.

Mohan Singh AJ.jpg

Wow… Singh is a pretty good pilot, so much so that Curtiss… one of the era’s preeminent aviation gurus wants him to help sell his aviation machines in Europe?  The skies the limit!

Except… one year later when the Great War (aka WWI) broke out on July 28, 1914, our man Singh was not headed back to India to help with the military there… nor did he go to Britain to help train the new flyboys… instead, Singh was in Los Angeles, California working as a butler and chauffeur for some rich family.

Why? Maybe he was a pacifist? Maybe he wasn’t really in the military? Maybe he liked driving cars and delivering martinis by the pool?

Singh wanted to be an American citizen, and tried to be one… the only problem was, that the United States would only let immigrants who were classified as Caucasian try and become citizens… you know, to keep out the riff-raff.

Back then, no one was sure just what the fug sub-continent Indians were! Negroes and Orientals definitely weren’t Caucasian.  Heck… I have a 1930s Canadian encyclopedia set that declares that the Aboriginals from Australia are a class of sub-human. That’s right… not human, but sub-human. No finger pointing… that’s just how things were back then.

After many years of legal battles, Singh gained his American citizenship… but then had did taken away in 1924 after the United States Supreme Court ruled that South Asians could not be considered White, and did not qualify for citizenship.

Back then, Caucasian meant White… regardless of the scientific definition. But pssst… I’ll let you in on a little secret… nowadays, Indians are classified as Caucasian. Singh missed out by a few decades.

Not wanting to go back to India, and still yearning to enjoy life in the United States, Singh decided to change things up.

If he couldn’t be White, he could still hang with them… changing his persona to the stereotype that people back in the 1920s expected of someone of his color.

Wearing orange robes, he became the Yogi Hari Rama.

He figured few people would realize his name was based on the the 15th century poem  (and chant):

Hare Krsna Hare Krysna
Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

Some of you may have heard the poem being chanted by a sect of Hare Krishna’s at the airports, but that’s not anything to do with anything here.

As the new Yogi Hari Rama, Singh created his own Super Yoga Science using real exercises and writings he stole from others.

It must have worked, because he made money as the Yogi, proving he was smarter than the average bear, er guy, as he traveled across the United States teaching his fake religion. I can see the oxymoron there that some of you have identified.

And then… after his tour ended in 1928, Singh simply vanishes… gone… leaving behind 13 Americans he had appointed as teachers of his Super Yoga Science, and a national organization called The Benares League of America, the largest yoga organization in the country.

A con man? Is this what has become of our Flying Hindu? Did he lie to his Super Yoga Science students when he told them he could fly? Did he mean levitation, or was it just a nod to his past as a pioneer of aviation?

So… whatever happened to Singh?

A guess might be that he ticked off the wrong people with his Super Yoga Science and simply went the way of Jimmy Hoffa… or perhaps he made his fortune and traveled back home to… to where indeed? India? A guy who desperately wanted to be American isn’t going to slink back to India.

Did he die soon after his religious tour? Did he simply fade away and live off his dirty money? Did he die in some unknown aviation accident?

No one really knows… and so in life, as in death, Mohan M. Singh aka Yogi Hari Rama is a mystery.


PS… I used the story from the Smithsonian website (HERE), for a fair bit of information on Singh.



Posted in Air Shows, Firsts, Flying Schools, Heavier-Than-Air, People, Pilots, Seaplanes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bessie Coleman – First Black Female Licensed Pilot

Bessie Coleman.jpg

  • Bessie Coleman, January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, United States of America – April 30, 1926 in Jacksonville, Florida, United States of America.

In honor of Black History Month in the U.S., let’s take a look at Bessie Coleman, the first Black female licensed pilot.

Much of the personal history of Coleman was taken from: http://www.bessiecoleman.org/bio-bessie-coleman.php, the official Bessie Coleman website.

There may be some confusion as to who was the first Black/African-American woman to earn her pilot’s license.

Willa Brown Chappell earned was the first African American woman to do so in the United States, earning it in 1938, which you can read about HERE.

However, Chappell was not the first Black American woman to receive a pilot’s license – that honor belongs to Bessie Coleman, who did so in 1921, 17 years earlier, in France.

Because of rampant racism in the United States at that time, Coleman could not prove her worth as a pilot in America, and instead traveled to France where she earned her pilot’s license.

Sadly, I could not find an aviation card depicting her heroic achievement – something that MUST be rectified should any enterprising company decide to issue a new set of historical aviation trading cards.

Urban Intellectuals has produced a card with her image on it, but the 52-card set was created to honor Black history achievement, and is not aviation industry specific.

Still, for those interested, you can purchase a set by clicking HERE.

Bessie Coleman.jpgColeman’s background is interesting, in that she was one of 13 kids, with a Black mother (Susan) and a father (George) who was of American Indian and Black descent.

Pre-1900, the Coleman’s moved to Waxahachie, Texas – but perhaps because of her father’s Indian background, he decided it might be safer for him if he left, and so in 1900 he returned to Oklahoma, which was then Indian Territory. Oklahoma became a State in 1907.

I’m reading a book on General Custer right now, that does not paint a pretty picture about how Native Americans were treated pre-1900 – which we all knew – but if you feel like reading an excellent recount on that era, I heartily recommend the non-fiction book: A Terrible Glory by James Donovan.

Susan Coleman, Bessie’s mom, remained in Waxahachie with the kids – because, I assume, just how safe would it have been for “Black half-breeds” in Indian Territory.

Racism runs both ways. Both in Coleman’s family, perhaps not.

The family picked cotton and helped washing clothes to make extra money.

Now, despite being the stereotypical Black woman picking cotton and taking in laundry, Bessie finished high school (unlike most Americans, regardless of color), and went to Langston Industrial College, which is now Langston University in Oklahoma.

Unfortunately, all that cotton picking and laundry work was only enough for her to attend a single semester, and moved to Chicago to stay with older brother, John.

Bessie Coleman stamp.jpg

Bessie Coleman was honored with the issuance of a 32-cent commemorative stamp on April 27, 1995. You can in the photo above this, where US Mail got the image for the stamp.

In 1915, she went to the Burnham School of Beauty Culture to learn how to be a manicurist, and by 1916 she was renowned for her talent.

She would work at a few places in Chicago, including the White Sox Barber Shop, which  owned by the trainer of Chicago’s American League baseball club.

Reading about WWI and the pilots, Coleman became enthralled by their daring, and thought that becoming a pilot might offer her a way out of “stereotype”.

“You nigger women ain’t never goin’ to fly, Not like those women I saw in France,” brother John Coleman said.

Bessie Coleman replied: “That’s it – You just called it for me.”

That’s when she made up her mind to become a pilot.

She applied to flying school after flying school, but we are talking pretty much turn of the century America, where men didn’t think women capable of anything except birthing babies and cooking a meal – plus, she was Black… or Brown… whatever… she wasn’t White.

While no one in the United States was willing to teach her how to fly, she felt that she might have a better chance in France, considering they did previously give a woman a pilot’s license there – Elise Raymonde Deroche, aka Raymonde de Laroche,  who got her license in March of 1910 from the Aero Club of France. You can read about her HERE.

Eventually, Coleman’s efforts to become a flyer attracted the attention of Robert S. Abbott, the founder, editor and publisher of the Chicago Daily Weekly, a newspaper founded in 1905 for Black readership.

Abbott found out that the French still maintained their mania for aviation, and were less concerned about sex and race as other countries. This inspired Coleman to learn French, as the applications to the Flying schools in France, along with the teaching of it, would be in French. (This was also noted in the story on US hockey legend Hobey Baker, Hockey’s Most Famous Flyer, HERE.)

She was accepted into Ecole d’Aviation des Freres Cadron et Le Crotoy, France’s then-most famous aviation school, managed by Gaston and Rene Caudron (SEE HERE)

Thanks to savings from her manicurist job and from her recently-acquired second job at a chili parlor (such things existed??!!), Coleman traveled from New York to France aboard the SS Impersonator leaving on November 20, 1920.

I have no idea how Coleman could afford accommodations, food and other expenses while there, but she spent the next 10 months at the Ecole d’Aviation des Freres Cadron et Le Crotoy. Ten months! I believe that is about 3x more than most responsible aviation schools in the days BEFORE WWI.

As part of her enrollment, Coleman and other students were asked to sign a waiver in case of death, and it turns out that during her stay, she saw more than a few of her fellow students die in plane crashes—but she continued on unphased.

On June 15, 1921, the Ecole d’Aviation des Freres Cadron et Le Crotoy passed her as a qualified aviator—she had to demonstrate multiple skills, including shutting off the engine and landing—receiving international pilot’s license No. 18,310 from the Federation Aeronitique Internationale in France.

She was the first American of any race or gender to be directly awarded credential’s to pilot an airplane from the Federation Aeronitique Internationale.

Bessie Coleman license.jpg

She returned home without much fanfare, however, but some paid attention.

Aerial Age Weekly, October 17, 1921 writes:
“Miss Bessie Coleman, a colored girl of Chicago, twenty-four years old, who had been studying aviation in France for ten months, arrived in New York recently on the American liner Manchuria. She brought her credentials from the French certifying that she had qualified as an aviatrix.
Miss Coleman, who is having a special Nieuport scout plane built for her in France, said yesterday that she intended to make flights in this country as an inspiration for people of her race to take up aviation.”

While she awaited the construction and delivery of her Nieuport aeroplane, Coleman tried to find work within the aviation industry, but was unable to—she wanted to purchase another aircraft in the U.S. to help her pay for the one she was having made for her in France.

The Bessie Coleman official website notes that Coleman was “disheartened with America’s treatment”, but while prejudice over her sex and race may have had a hand in her inability to find work in the aviation industry, it should be noted that after WWI, the aviation industry took a big dive. Companies that were building aircraft found that their planes were no longer in demand with the war over.

As well, with the war over, returning men who had piloted during the war were considered war heroes and were probably considered for what aviation piloting jobs there were before the “upstart Coleman”.

In May of 1922, Coleman traveled back to France, German, Holland and Switzerland to learn more advanced aviation techniques.

Where did she get the money for this, and her travels through Europe? How could she afford to fly once there?

She studied with the famous WWI German ace pilot, Captain Keller and test piloted airplanes in the Netherland for Anthony Fokker, the “Flying Dutchman”. Fokker, of course, was the designer or the Fokker Tri-plane, used by such famous German fliers as the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen and Oswald Boelcke who had taught the Red Baron.

I could assume that Coleman flew Fokkers while in Germany, or perhaps she was flying the Nieuport scout she was having constructed for her previously.

Again… where the heck did the money come from?

Perhaps she earned money doing barnstorming with Fokker and Keller while in Europe, but I can not find evidence to back that up – but in all honesty, I have not delved into the newspaper archives of Germany to find out… and they’d be in German, which I can’t read. Ich bin so ein dummkopf.

As an aside, I can NOT find a Captain Keller anywhere who was considered to be an ace pilot for Germany during WWI. It would have helped if a first name was offered.

She learned how to perform and perfect: figure eights; loop the loops, trick climbs, and landing the airplane with the engine off.

Back in New York on August 14, 1922, she had credentials from the Aero Club of France, and European newspaper articles that showed foreign royalty entertaining her. She even had an article that exhibited Anthony Fokker praising her at a banquet for being the only American aviator who ever crossed the Kaiser’s palace at Potsdam.

The New York Times said Coleman was known by “leading French and Dutch aviators as one of the best flyers they had seen.”

Coleman still wanted to set up and run a Flying school for Blacks, but needed money, and began looking for flying opportunities.

Perhaps because such a mainstream media as The New York Times lauded her, on September 3, 1922 Coleman flew at an airshow at Curtiss Airfield in Garden City, Long Island, NY, for an integrated (Black and White) crowd.

Wearing a military-like uniform, she flew a Curtiss JN-4 (Jenny) biplane that was loaned to her for this event by the Glenn Curtiss Airplane Company, an event that was dedicated to the segregated 15th regiment of Infantry, the first African American regiment sent to France during WWI.

Bessie Coleman military-like uniform.jpg

Along with passenger Captain McVey, Coleman flew, performing spirals and loops.

During a later flight, Hubert Fauntleroy Julian, an officer of Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association of New York, parachuted from the wing of her plane.

Afterwards, she made plenty of money taking folk up in her plane for a ride, charging the $5 each in 1922 dollars.

Coleman flew next on October 12, 1922 at the Tri-State Fair in Memphis, Tennessee, being billed as “the principal thrill” for another integrated crowd.

With the help of the Chicago Defender calling her “The Only Race Aviatrix in the World”, some 2,000+ people came out to the Checkerboard Airdrome (now known as Midway Airport) in Chicago.

Again wearing that military-like uniform, Coleman’s program honored the 8th Regiment, another Black military unit.

During four flights of 10 minutes each, she performed loop-the-loops and a Richthofen glide (I believe it’s a spiral glide).

During one part of the show, Coleman’s sister Georgia, clad in a patriotic red, white & blue outfit, was to parachute from the plane at an altitude of 2,000 feet (609.6 meters), but she refused to perform the stunt.

I wonder just how much practice Georgia had prior to this!?!

Later while performing a figure-eight, Coleman appeared to lose control of the plane, but recovered well enough for the awestruck spectators to call her “Brave Bessie”, which only made her more in demand.

At her next event in Gary, Indiana, she met David Lewis Behncke, founder and President of the Air Line Pilots Association International who became her manager for a short time until they argued over Coleman’s desire to take her act into the South in May of 1925.

In late February of 1923, Coleman was flying and dropping advertisements for Coast Tire and Rubber Company in Los Angeles, California, earning her enough money to purchase her own Curtiss Jenny biplane – though it was an used military model from WWI.

Just after purchasing her new used aircraft, Coleman took that Jenny up at a show, and just after take-off, the engine stalled at an altitude of 300 feet (91.44 meters), causing the plane to nosedive into the ground.

Coleman survived, but she had several broken ribs, a broken leg, and multiple lacerations.

Now in Houston, Texas in May of 1925 as her base of operations, Coleman went on her Southern States tour.

It was in the spring of 1926, Coleman was asked to perform at the annual celebration of the Negro Welfare League in Jacksonville, Florida.

Edwin Beeman, a rich, young White man, the son and sole heir of Harry Beeman of the Beeman Chewing Gum Company, found Coleman and her flying skills intoxicating, and gave her enough money to complete her final airplane payment on her Jenny, and had the plane flown from Texas to Jacksonville, Florida where an exhibition was scheduled for May 1, 1926.

The plane was being flown by Curtiss Southwestern Airplane and Motor Company pilot and mechanic William D. Wills, a White man from Texas, who flew from Love Field in Texas in her Jenny powered by a 980 horsepower OX-5 engine. It took 21 hours to fly to Jacksonville.

When the plane arrived, she met her friend Robert Abbott of the Chicago Defender newspaper in a Jacksonville restaurant on April 29, 1926, where he he begged her to not continue her plans to have a test flight… but since she had promised a man named John Betsch a ride after her trial, she said she couldn’t back out.

On April 30, 1926, Betsch drove Coleman to Paxon airfield to meet William Wills who had flown the plane to her, and would co-pilot with her for the test flight.

After Wills said the plane was ready, Coleman dropped to her knees for a prayer, and when done asked Wills to take control of the plane while she studied the site from above for a good place to parachute.

With Wills at the control and 10 minutes into the flight at an altitude of 3,000 feet (914.4 meters), the plane suddenly went into a steep nosedive.

At around 2,000 feet (609.6 meters) the airplane flipped over causing Coleman—who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt for some reason—to flip out and plummet to her death.

Normally, Coleman would be wearing both a seatbelt and a parachute, but for whatever reason, on that flight she was not.

Pilot Wills had his seatbelt on, and as the plane smashed into the ground, he died instantly.

Chicago Defender Bessie Coleman.jpg

And it gets worse, if you can believe it.

Just minutes later as the police were trying to remove Wills body from the wreckage, the would-be passenger Betsch lit a cigarette and tossed it on the ground, where it ignited gasoline spilled from the wrecked plane.


Both the airplane and the body of Wills exploded in flames.

It was discovered that a loose wrench had slipped from Wills tool bag and had jammed the plane’s controls.

Altough Coleman never did start that Flying School for Black would-be pilots, in 1929 Lieutenant William J. Powell established the Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles.


Lieutenant William J. Powell.

Powell was born in Henderson, Kentucky and moved with his family to Chicago, where he was accepted to the University of Illinois electrical engineering program. He dropped out to volunteer for WWI, for the 370th Illinois Infantry Regiment.

After being wounded in a gas attack, he returned and finished his degree. Like Coleman, he loved aviation, finally getting into a Flying School in 1928 at the Los Angeles School of Flight.

As of 1932, Powell was one of 14 Black aviators in the U.S., and was also a licensed navigator and aeronautical engineer.

On Labor Day, September 7, 1931, the Bessie Coleman Aero Club helped sponsor the first all-Black air show in America, attracting some 15,000 spectators.

Since 1931, each year, on the anniversary of her death, Black pilots fly over her grave at Lincoln Cemetery in Chicago and drop flowers in her honor.

Her gravestone contains a tinted photograph of Coleman in her military-style flying uniform.

Bessie Coleman grave.jpg


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

Weather A Strong Factor Behind Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

1200px-Space_Shuttle_Challenger_(04-04-1983).JPEGLike most kids of my generation, I loved watching rocket ships blast off into space.

As a young kid, I sat in mute rapture watching on July 20, 1969 when Apollo 11’s Eagle landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong boldly went where no man had gone before and took that one step for man and a giant leap for mankind.

I believed it then, and I believe it now. In 66 short years, we, as human beings had gone from the secretive flights of the Wright Brothers about their Wright Flyer as the first heavier-than-air aircraft to fly to propelling and aiming and actually landing on another planetary body.

How cool are humans?

Of course there were all those wars in between and improper treatment of race, sex and religion, but scientifically speaking, that leap in technology was immense.

I really thought that by the time I was in my 30s we would actually each and every one of us have our own jet-packs or flying cars.

Still… at least with those multiple trips to the Moon by Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17, I figured it was only a matter of time before we colonized Mars, traveled to the rings of Saturn and exited beyond the confines of our solar system en route to visit the Andromeda galaxy and meet up with our space cousins who could help take humanity to another level of science and wonderment.

That’s what space flight meant to me. That’s what I saw when arch enemies USSR and the USA said screw politics and lets meet up in a joint Apollo-Soyuz mission. I watched it happen live in 1975 down in the basement of the house I am in right now.


The Apollo-Soyuz spacecrafts joined together in the US National Air And Space Museum. Until this moment, because I watched on a black and white TV, I had no idea the Soyuz craft was green. For the model kit I built in ’75, I painted it a ruby red… probably because that was what it was in my head.

And then when the missions to the Moon were halted, and there was naught else going on for about five years until the space shuttle—Columbia—was launched on April 12, 1981… my dream for that human utopia was kindled once again.

I was in university studying for that useless political science degree I have (the journalism has served me better), visiting a friend’s dorm when I realized that the space shuttle Challenger was about to launch that morning of January 28, 1986… and went to the common room and convinced the guys actually living at the dorm to switch to the TV station showing the launch.

And like when Buddy Holly died in a plane crash, when the Challenger exploded 73 seconds into its flight, my dreams of mankind achieving that space utopia within my lifetime died.

I swear that after it happened, I turned to my friend Patrick and said I would still go up on the space shuttle today if they would let me.

I wasn’t afraid of the technology. Those astronauts – every one of them, even the ones who never made it to space – my heroes.

I then went to my car and cried, wondering if I could ever be as brave as those astronauts.

challenger.gifAnyhow… I recently came across an article written by a meteorologist who wrote that the cause of Challenger shuttle disaster back in 1986, while found to have occurred because of faulty O-Ring, less publicized was that the faulty O-Ring was only faulty because of the weather.

You could have knocked me down with a feather.

So… on January 28, 1986 when seven astronauts:

  • Francis R. Scobee, Commander;
  • Michael J. Smith, Pilot;
  • Ronald McNair, Mission Specialist;
  • Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist;
  • Judith Resnik, Mission Specialist;
  • Gregory Jarvis, Payload Specialist;
  • Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist, Teacher.

… were aboard Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-99) for orbiter mission STS-51-L , it turns that the O-Ring near the base of the solid rocket boosters that seals the gap between two sections of the booster to stop exhaust gases from being emitted.

The problem is that those O-Rings were not rated for safe operation below 4C (39.2F).

But weren’t the space shuttles being launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida?

Yup… on January 12, 1986 – two weeks before the launch, it was a balmy 13C – but on January 28, it was well below freezing. Nearby Atlanta, GA had dropped to an overnight low -14C, while Montgomery, AL hit -9C.

Challenger Temperature map of Florida.jpg

Cape Canaveral is on the islands to the right. Image by NOAA NCDC.

Melbourne, Fla, located about 35 miles away from the launch site experienced hit -3C (26F ).

No biggie for Canada or those in the northern climes of the U.S., but those lows in the are remain records to this day.

And, even for the launch at Cape Canaveral, it was no biggie, as by the 11:37AM—launch time—it was no longer below freezing, getting up to about 2C… and if there was ice anywhere the ground crew addressed any ice build-up.

Now… because you realize that when the sun shines down from one direction onto (say) a building warming up that side quicker, the opposite side side of said building has not yet received the benefits of the sun’s heat.


This is a photograph taken of a frozen-over component on the launch tower of the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. Photo: NASA.

The same thing happened to the Challenger.

The solid rocket booster where that O-Ring failed… it was still in the shadow as the sun rose. While it did gain some warmth from the sun’s heat, it did not get as much as was required.

I know… holy crap, right?

The investigation into the disaster wrote that: “[a] warm O-ring that has been compressed will return to its original shape much quicker than will a cold O-ring when compression is relieved,” and “[a] compressed O-ring at 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.9C) is five times more responsive in returning to its uncompressed shape than a cold O-ring at 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1.1C).”

I added in the metric measurements. You know that only the superpowers of the United States, Liberia and Myanmar (Burma) continue to avoid the Metric system. Epic. Come on… though admittedly I understand Imperial far better than I do Metric.

Anyhow.. so despite the temperatures moving above freezing, part of the booster rocket containing the so-called faulty O-Ring was still within the cooler embrace of the shadows.
Because the O-Ring still hasn’t warmed up, it is stiffer and thus less capable of providing its sealing duties.

Challenger Ice on launch tower

Cold in Florida? Yup … here you can see icicles on the Challenger’s launch tower. Photo: NASA.

And, when Challenger lifted off the launch pad, that cold and stiffer O-Ring could not respond quickly to the stresses being exerted on the right solid rocket booster.

With the O-Ring unable to provide the perfect seal, gaps opened up between the two parts on the rocket booster allowing hot exhaust gases to vent.

Now you might wonder why the hot gases being vented did not warm up the O-Ring and force a seal after some of it was vented… and it’s true… it could have, and could have prevented the space shuttle from exploding… but again the cold weather caused that O-Ring to be unable to warm up quickly enough, meaning too much of the exhaust gases to be released… and in this instance the heat caused the O-Ring to have parts of it become vaporized.

NASA says that even still, with the booster rocket having had one of its O-Rings become partially vaporized and had some of the exhaust gases leaking out, Challenger should still have been able to reach space safely, more than likely have performed its mission without a problem, and thus returned safely at the scheduled time.

Really, couldn’t those venting gases have caused an explosion anyway?

Well, the rocket fuel when burned during flight creates aluminum-oxide by-products which would actually have re-created a seal between the two parts of the booster rocket ensuring an adequate seal was maintained long enough for the booster rocket to have expelled its fuel and been jettisoned… so what the heck happened?

Like most disasters, it takes more than one confluence of events to happen.

The next contributing factor to the demise of the seven astronauts aboard Challenger was the wind.

I don’t know if it’s weird or not, but the Challenger’s flight ended at the 73-mark, but at the numerically transposed mark of 37 seconds from lift-off, the spacecraft passed through a few wind shear events for 27 seconds (until 64 seconds into the flight) .

Wind shear is always a scary event for airplane pilots whereby the wind’s speed and direction can shift suddenly and dramatically… but surely the space shuttle aboard a firing bunch of rockets would easily overcome any sort of wind shear affect?

Mother Nature, unfortunately, doesn’t kid around. Watch the video below and see why all pilots should wear brown pants.

As the spacecraft thrust upwards through the near half-minute of wind shear, its on-board flight computers continued to adjust to the situation.

NASA, in a report on the disaster says: “[t]he wind shear caused the steering system to be more active than on any previous flight.”

The American Meteorological Society noted in its dispatch after the disaster that the there was some indication that there could be wind shear and clear air turbulence over north-central Florida that morning, there were no direct measurements of it, and therefore they could not have determined beforehand how strong the wind shear would be without prior knowledge of the conditions.

Truth of the matter, determining weather is based on pre-measured facts that change at the drop of a hat, which is why weather reports say it’s going to be sunny, while overhead your hair is being soaked by a sudden rain storm.

At least being a meteorologist is better than being a baseball hitter. In determining weather, you are only wrong 50% of the time, whereas you are a great simply for successfully hitting a ball 30% of the time.

Now all space shuttles are capable of handling wind shear up to a certain level—but how the hell do you determine if you are at that level when you can’t pre-determine how strong it is? You can’t.

With the wind shear and the spacecraft’s flight controls compensating for the wind shear, in combination with the weakened O-Ring seal around a booster rocket, the constant flight alterations by the flight control jostled the newly-formed aluminum-oxide stop-gap seal enough to break it allowing the heated exhaust gas to once again to be vented through the opening.

The exhaust gases ignited from the rocket’s booster.

When the spacecraft was past the wind shear at the 64-second mark, the fiery plume was larger—it’s theorized that at this time the flame had begun to burn a whole in the exterior fuel tank now… causing it to leak the hydrogen rocket fuel, which caused more smoke to appear to come from the craft.

Challenger 2.jpg

That glowing circle on the booster rocket… you can see it venting gaseous exhaust.

The sad part is that no one noticed… not the shuttle crew or the flight controllers down at Cape Canaveral… especially after the shaking and quaking undergone by the crew as the spacecraft maneuvered through the wind shear.

As such, within those next nine seconds, the order was given to throttle up for the rest of the journey into orbit, no one realized the the damaged O-Ring was no longer able to maintain its seal, as the extra throttle thrust caused the solid rocket booster and that fuel tank to fail, igniting the remaining fuel inside the breached fuel tank.

Now… people seem to think that that is what caused the space shuttle et al to explode… but it wasn’t.

That sudden loss of thrust because of the now-burnt rocket fuel threw the spacecraft off kilter… veering away from its safe trajectory into an angle that caused greater amounts of violent air to smash into the craft causing wind stress that was about 4x what the whole space craft was designed to handle.

The space shuttle Challenger essentially tore itself apart into thousands of pieces causing it arc and spiral back down to Earth.

Challenger 3.jpg

So… yes, one of the O-Rings failed on one of the shuttle’s rocket booster engines thanks to it being unable to function optimally at a colder temperature.

Did the manufacturer of the O-Ring know that it would not work optimally at temperatures below 4C (39F)?

Did NASA know pre-installation that the O-Ring works optimally at 4C (39F), but perhaps a higher fail-safe temperature minimum could have and should have been initiated?

We could blame NASA for not being quick enough on the uptick to perhaps measure temperatures where it could be both at its peak and lowest.

As far as weather goes, no one is able to predict it with any certainty, so it’s impossible to blame the weather.

Could anyone have known that the amount of wind shear was going to play so much havoc with the flight controls so as to to put undue stress on the already-compromised rocket to break apart the makeshift aluminum-oxide seal that formed after the O-Ring seal was partially vaporized?

Sadly, despite the cold weather causing the I-Ring to not work optimally, if there was less wind shear, that damaged rocket booster engine wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference to the mission.

Yup… blame the wind shear, because that’s what was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Now… as luck would have it, after I began writing this, I received a press release indicating that “Lockheed Martin begins construction on first Orion spaceship that will take astronauts into deep space”.

The release says that with the construction of the spacecraft, it will “achieve America’s goal of returning astronauts to the Moon.”

That’s the goal? Well, it does continue by saying that this will lay the groundwork for NASA’s lunar Deep Space Gateway, and ultimately for human missions to Mars.

About ‘effing time. But it still won’t be enough. I don’t think we’ll be leaving this solar system anytime soon within my compromised lifetime… and besides… where’s that personalized jet-pack we were all promised?


Oh… there it is. Where can I buy one?

Posted in Commentary, Failures, Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, News, Rockets | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Wills’s Aviation Card #79–”Ponche & Primard” Monoplane.

Vice Regal 79.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Ponche & Primard” Monoplane.

Card #79 of 85, W.D.& H.O WillsAviation series 1911, Vice Regal – Black-back issue

  • Marie Joseph Louis Charles Ponche, born in Amiens, France, May 23, in 1884 – February 10, 1916, Dugny, France;
  • Maurice Emile Primard, born in XXX, France – XXXX XX, 19XX in XXXX, France.

The Ponche & Primard Monoplane is best known by its French moniker of Tubevion, the first all-metal aircraft ever made, and that actually flew. Tube avion translates to tube airplane – which is, stylistically, what modern passenger jets look like.

That’s not to say that the Tubavion resembles are modern commercial passenger planes – no… it’s just that they look like tubes.

While highly regarded in its era – enough to get its own trading card in the Wills‘s 85-card overseas series of late 1911, the Tubavion is virtually a ghost on the Internet, likewise its two creators, Charles Ponche and Maurice Primard.

It’s on the Internet… but only in French, and I have taken virtually all the information contained here, translated it and re-written it in English, from the website: http://www.long80.com/letubavion.html

I didn’t take everything from this particular site dedicated to the Tubavion, but I took a fair bit. So let’s give credit where credit is due. Cheers to http://www.long80.com/letubavion.html

First off… our two co-creators: Charles Ponche and Maurice Primard… we know a fair bit about Ponche, but next to nothing about the more private Primard. I could not even find a solo photo of him… and can only confirm his presence in a photo below.


An advanced version of the Tubavion monoplane with (from left) the mechanic Mr. Maire, Maurice Primard and Charles Ponche. I think.

Ponche was born to Jean Marie Joseph Emile Ponche and his wife Adèle Augustine Marie Charlotte Denise Leroy who operated Long’s, an iron wire factory.

While he studied at Providence in Amiens, France Ponche remained passionate about aviation. When he came home from school, workers at the factory were amused to see him sometimes climb into a “strange craft” that was pulled by horses… as he was forever trying to construct his own aircraft, even as a kid.

Charles Ponche.jpg

Charles Ponche

It was in 1909, that Ponche came up with his Tubavion design, and built this strange craft from steel at the Long plant.

During the Heliopolis-Cairo aviation meet (the very first such meet in Africa. Heliopolis is a suburb of Cairo, Egypt about 10 kilometers away), held August 6-13, 1910, Ponche met Maurice Primard, who was even then a renowned mechanic who was already considered a specialist in aeroplane engines.

Ponche was just visiting, and if Primard was working for a pilot at the event, I can’t find evidence to confirm that. As such, I have to assume both were there to see the event.

He had joined a Louis Levavasseur company in 1904 that was associated with Gastamibide that founded the firm Antoinette. In fact… Antoinette would later manufacture the Tubavion aeroplane later on.

Primard saw some of the aviation sketches of Ponche at the show, and the two of them hit it off, deciding to work together to improve Ponche’s initial Tubeavion design.

By 1911, working with pilot and engineers Mr. (unidentified first name) Maire, the Tubeavion became more… reliable.


During the summer of 1911, Maire piloted the Tubavion through many test at Paris-Plage, and participated in the air show at the Grand Palais in Paris and was a great success.


In 1912, he made a sensation at the various meetings in which he participates with his new pilot Mr. (who the hell knows his first name) Goffin  – in particular at Issy-les-Moulineaux, Reims.

The Tubavion aeroplane is constructed of steel tubes joined without soldering or welding, assembled by special cast aluminum forged sleeves that are pinned together making any changes to the aircraft a quick and easy process.

The wing consists of two steel tubes (or spars) covered with aluminum sheet. A single steel lever controls the device of the warping of the wings and the rudder.

While steering is performed via old school wing warping, the wing is considered to be innovative for its time, as the canvas usually used as a skin is actually replaced by aluminum sheets.

The team of Ponche and Primard believed that the aluminum sheeting would avoid pockets and would allow the air to better slide on the wings.

The pilot is installed below the front edge of the wings with the passenger next to him just in front of the engine. The aeroplane is a two-seater, with the passenger sitting in tandem (one behind the other), replacing the usual manner (of the day) of sitting beside each other.

The pusher monoplane has, as the name suggests, its Chauviere brand propeller at the rear of the aircraft, along with the Labor engine, which some pilots believed would provide the aviator with a much better eyeline – sight. As well, there’s less disturbing airflow being blown back into the face of the pilot.

But, even by 1912, people who saw the Tubavion were not yet convinced of it being able to achieve a proper stable flight.

Tubeavion 3.jpg
Here’s a write-up from the January 13, 1912 issue of Flight Magazine, from a description at the Paris Aero Show.

Ponche and Primard.
ALL-METAL construction is the chief feature of the interesting monoplane exhibited on Stand No. 10. A single steel tube, about 3 ins. in diameter, extends from the nose to the tail, and forms the backbone of the machine. Coupled to this tube, to form a structure of triangular section by means of shorter steel tubes, are long ash skids, which run from end to end.
These skids as can be seen from the accompanying sketch, extend for a considerable distance in front, thus eliminating any possibility of turning over on landing.
Both pilot and engine are located beneath the wings in a little body, which has all the appearance of a small runabout without wheels.
The wings are essentially novel, being constructed throughout of metal. Both front and rear booms are of steel tubing and on these are struDg formers of 1 mm. steel  aluminium. These are surfaced on the underneath wkh aluminium sheet J-inch thick.
No surfacing has as yet been applied to the top surface for the reason that it is thought that the gain in the efficiency of the wings would not be sufficient to compensate for the extra weight involved. The rear wing booms are assembled in an aluminium casting which pivots about the main longitudinal tube of the fuselage. The propeller, too, revolves about this tube, being driven from the engine at reduced speed by means of chain transmission.
The tail comprises a rectangular lifting plane with two semi-circular elevators hinged to its back edge and a semi-circular unbalanced directional rudder, the whole unit being constructed from aluminium sheeting.


Tubavion Specs

  • Crew: 2;
  • Wingspan:  8.5 meters (27.89 feet);
  • Length: 8.4 meters (27.5 feet);
  • Empty weight: 420 kilograms (926 pounds);
  • Powerplant: a Labour engine with 35 horsepower. There was also a 70 horsepower  version;
  • Propeller: Chauviere capable of 800 rpm (revolutions per minute);
  • Speed: 48 miles per hour (77.25 kilometers per hour);
  • Price: £640.

Tubeavion 6.jpg

The aeroplane looks like it would have suffered from being under-powered, and I believe there is evidence that suggest the engine was replaced by a 70 horsepower version after further trials.

On July 15, 1912 at the rally organized by the city of Amiens, France, despite a strong wind, the pilot Goffin made a series of figure-eights in the Tubavion that left the admirers on the ground amazed.


While development of the Tubavion continued, it never really took off as far as success goes.

Ponche and Primard continued to work on their aeroplane, tweaking things here and there, but the aircraft never really achieved much success… and by that I mean in any attempts to win major money and thus fame at the various aviation meets springing up all over Europe at that time.

Also springing up at that time – 1914 – was The Great War, aka WWI.

The boys tried to get the French military interested in it, but despite the plane having a somewhat favorable review (see immediately below), it failed to catch on. I’ve tidied up the translations a bit.

From the meeting of the Examination Committee
The year 1915, Dec. 23 at 14 h 30 (2:30PM), the Commission of Review of Planes and Engines, composed of MM.:

  • Commander Dorand of the Technical Section of Aero.
  • Squadron Leader Marie, from the School Inspectorate
  • Captain Etévé of the SFA
  • GHQ Shepherd
  • Cottret of the RGA
  • Lieutenant Toussaint of the SFA

Plane Ponche motor The Rhone 110 HP
Reading is given by Lt Toussaint of his report on the tests of the Ponche plane.
The Commission adopts the general content of this report which is attached to this PV
The Commander Dorand draws the attention of the Commission on the big differences of the results obtained with the Plane PONCHE and with the plane NIEUPORT with engines Rhone 110.
With the same load of 300 kgs, The Nieuport Plane rises to 2000 m. in 19’20”, and its speed at 2000 m is 153 km.hr
The Ponche Plane rises to 2000 m in 19’20” and its speed to 2000 m is 113 km.hr
It can be said that the Ponche aircraft has a lower power utilization than the Nieuport aircraft.
This defect is due in part to the provision of the nacelle, but this provision gives however advantages in terms of armament, visibility and landing.
For these reasons it can be proposed that the aircraft is experienced on the front.
After discussion the Commission expresses the following wish:
“Because of the efforts made by Sergeant Ponche and his collaborators over the past several years to develop his aircraft, and quite exceptionally, the Commission believes that it would be appropriate to ask the GHQ for permission to experiment on the front in a squadron of CA Sergeant Ponche’s plane.


As can be seen in these reports, the performance of this airplane now weighing 300 kilograms (661.34 pounds) allowing it to climb to 2,000 meters (6,561.7 feet) altitude in 19 minutes and 20 seconds with a speed of 113 kilometers per hour (70.2 miles per hour) was of interest to the French state.

And a few months later, indeed, the headquarters gave permission to conduct tests on the front in a squadron.

Unfortunately, on February 10, 1916, at 11AM, Sergeant Charles Ponche, 2nd aviation group of the DUGNY general aviation reserve (Seine) and his pilot Sergeant Coffin, while they were carrying out tests on the Dugny field, near Le Bourget, experienced during a flight the failure of the engine and the aircraft crashed that resulted in the death of both men instantly.

They were buried in the Military Square 12 of Pantin (93), and awarded posthumously the Knight of the Legion of Honor – Croix de Guerre.

Below is their patent application for the Tubavion aeroplane, complete with drawings:

Date of application (patent), January 29, 1912

Complete patent description filed July 5, 1912, accepted December 5, 1912


Aircraft and Aircraft Improvements

We, Charles PONCHE and Maurice Emile PRIMARD, builders in Long, (Somme), France, hereby declare that the nature of this invention is as follows:

The invention relates to monoplane type aircraft, its object being to provide an apparatus of this type improved in which the construction of the support structure and the relative facilities of the various elements are simplified and improved; the other features of the invention include improvements to the arrangements of the steering controls and depth of the aircraft during the flight and also measures to prevent damage to the machine at the time of contact with the ground after the descent.

According to this invention, the fuselage which extends normally over the entire length of the aircraft, and on which the wings and the horizontal and vertical rudders are mounted, is removed and replaced by a hollow metal rod which constitutes the main longitudinal element of the frame of the apparatus. The anterior part of the rod is connected to a light metal chassis that supports the engine and its accessories, the pilot’s seat and the control levers for engine operation and flight direction; the so-called rod also serves as support for the wings of the aircraft and its propeller, which is mounted behind the wings; the end of the stem supports the tail and the rudders horizontal and vertical.

To understand the nature of the invention, particularly with regard to its auxiliary features, a model of construction will be illustrated as an example: it comprises a main structure composed of two or more triangular reinforcements made of steel tubes, joined to their bases by a tubular steel frame which forms the aforesaid frame. The different vertices of the triangular reinforcements are fixedly connected to a tubular steel rod whose end extends beyond the front frame and is connected to the frame by wooden pads. The above-mentioned steel rod, which constitutes the main element of the support structure, is fixed to the triangular shoes and frames by an ordinary sleeve (rings, sleeves, sleeves), the aforementioned pads forming a cradle which serves to ensure a landing. secured. The longitudinal section of the main stem has a conical surface which is wider in the anterior part of the structure. The rod may be constituted by a continuous steel tube or manufactured by sections of graduated diameter. The triangular frames, placed a short distance above their bases, serve as a support for a horizontal platform, formed of steel pipes, on which are installed the engine, the pilot’s seat, the levers and other control organs. The wings of the aircraft are rectangular and have rounded or suitably curved outer ends, both wings forming a continuation of the same curved surface of proper arch.

Instead of making the wings with a frame covered with canvas, as we usually do, we prefer to build entirely metal, for example with thin aluminum foil, the wings being provided with transverse ribs also aluminum and suitable cross section. Two parallel support spars are mounted on each wing; they consist of steel tubes which pass through holes in the ribs so that they can rotate, this assembly allowing the quick and easy arrow wing edges. The front longitudinal members of each wing are rigidly connected to the rod by a common base, which carries above and below a vertical mast; the ends of these masts are attached by steel stays, or other suitable material, at several intermediate points or ribs placed along the longitudinal members. The front longitudinal members are then rigidly secured to the main stem of the structure and are supported by the aforementioned stays. The rear spar of each wing is likewise connected to a pivotable common base which is mounted on the main frame rod and supports an identical vertical mast above and below, these spars being connected to the mast at intervals at the same time. using stay cables by the same system pre-illustrated for the front rails. It should be noted that, since the base mounted on the main stem of the aircraft, and to which the rear longitudinal members are connected, is movable, the rear edges of the wings may be warped by its rotation on the main rod to which the rear longitudinal members are related. Only a slight rotation of the base is necessary to achieve the desired control of the aircraft during the flight; this is achieved by means of a pinion mounted on a horizontal shaft, which is installed on the aforesaid platform of the engine, parallel to the main rod, this pinion being adapted to engage in a rack placed at the end of the lower mast which is attached to the base of the rear rails.

To warp the rear longitudinal members, the pinion is rotated by means of a control lever, which is mounted on the same shaft as the pinion; the lever pivots on the shaft and is attached to the operating rudders of the rudder; it is formed by two almost semi-circular aluminum plates that pivot on a horizontal shaft that passes through them and is connected to the main stem of the aircraft. The plates operate using cranks, which are attached to the stays of the control lever in the usual way. A rudder is mounted on a vertical mast which passes through; it is formed of a single plate of the same shape as those of the rudder. It is operated using cranks and stays installed on the chassis of the aircraft in a suitable manner. The tail of the apparatus consists of a rectangle of aluminum foil with ribs or suitable reinforcing elements, and is carried by suitable type of rails which are rigidly attached to the main stem of the frame in a manner similar to the one already illustrated for the wings. The propeller is mounted on a bearing on the main stem and is preferably constructed to be driven by a roller-mounted pinion which is connected by a chain to a pinion of the same type mounted on a horizontal shaft, which extends the shaft. motor shaft fixed to the chassis.

The engine and pilot seat are installed along the center line of the frame and the tank is preferably mounted on the frame rod above the wings and between the upper poles of the wing spars.

The action of the pads, which serve to ensure the safe landing of the aircraft, is assisted by four wheels mounted in pairs on a common transverse axis below the engine; the axis is connected to the frame by solid elastic bands which allow the wheels to give an elastic support to the frame; the wheels may be equipped with standard tires or made of other resilient material.

As the previous illustration shows, the frame of the aircraft is extremely rigid and simple, all elements being supported by the main stem. Note that the depth and the wings of the wings during the flight are controlled by a single control lever, which is mounted on the shaft of the aforementioned pinion, since by operating the lever to the left or right, which will produce the rotation corresponding to the pinion shaft, the rear edges of the wings are warped in one or the other direction, while the movement of the lever forwards or backwards will produce, with the aid of the above-mentioned stays and cranks, a arrow up or down the plates of the rudders of depth (and direction?). The guys used for this purpose will spend a certain length inside the main rod to avoid blocking the propeller.

The pre-illustrated manufacturing features may of course be modified within certain limits but without exceeding the scope of the invention, which should not be limited thereto except with respect to the essential features.

Dated the 29th day of January, 1912


Chartered Patent Agent,

3, London Wall Buildings, London Wall, EC

This invention relates to a mounting system of a rotary engine on an airplane. This rotary engine which bears on its housing the propeller propeller being disposed between the wings of the airplane and the tail. This mounting system that can be adapted to all airplanes with a central rod supporting the wings, tail and rudders is particularly applicable to the aircraft of Mr. PRIMARD, patent of October 6, 1910, issued under the number 421.136.

This mounting system will be understood from the following description with reference to the accompanying drawing in which it is shown in longitudinal section.

The central rod which constitutes the frame of the airplane is in two parts, one anterior A is intended to support the wings and the other posterior B supports the tail and the rudders of direction and depth. These two sections A and B are connected by means of several pairs of tie rods to the frame supporting the control members and seats for the pilot and the passengers.

In the accompanying drawings, two of these tie rods are shown, one “a” integral with a long-reach ring C in which the front section A of the central rod is force-fitted, the other “b” secured to another ring D also force-fitted at the end of the rear section B of this central rod. It is between these two long-range rings C and D that is arranged the rotary motor M carrying the propulsion propeller.

This rotary engine M which is keyed on its housing in “c” the propeller, which is not shown in the drawing, has its crankshaft E which is fixed. The crankshaft E is forced into the hub “d” of a plate “e” screwed into the long-range ring C; a nut “f” ensures its fixation. It is also secured at its front end of a bearing “g” with clamping nut “h”; this range mounted to friction in the front tube A ensures the perfect centering of the crankshaft, extends its fulcrum inside A, and at the same time prevents fatigue.

The fuel supply to the engine M is through the tube “i” attached to a jacket “j” mounted on the tube A and the crankshaft E which is hollow; holes “k” drilled in the tube A and in the liner “j” pass through the air intended to mix with the fuel gas called by the suction.

On a bearing “m” integral with the rotating housing of the motor M is mounted the inner path “n” of a bearing with two rings of balls “o”; the outer path “p” of the bearing is spherical and is forced into the long-range ring D with the interposition of a nut “q”. The rear tube B supporting the tail and the rudders is force-fitted inside the sleeve D; this tube B can thus during work or even at rest take the appropriate arrow without the balls of the bearing are stuck in their outer path because of the spherical conformation of the outer path “p”.

The force fitting, firstly of the fixed crankshaft E of the engine at the end of the front section A of the hollow central rod, and secondly of the rotating end “m” of the housing on the fixed ball bearing in the rear section B of the central rod ensures between the two sections a perfect connection in combination with the tie rods connecting these two sections to the frame supporting the control members and the seats of the pilot and passengers.

Summary :

This invention comprises a system for mounting a rotary engine on a central rod airplane supporting the wings, the tail and the rudders, which has as essential features:

1 The constitution of the hollow central rod in two parts, the one supporting the wings and in which is forced by force the fixed crankshaft of the engine, the other rear supporting the tail and the rudders in which is mounted the end rear of the rotating casing of the engine by means of a ball bearing, this assembly providing a perfect connection between the two sections of the central rod in combination with the tie rods integral with these rods and which are connected to the chassis carrying the organs of control and the seats of the pilot and passengers.

2nd The formation of the ball bearing mounted on the rear end of the housing by two rings of balls rolling on a spherical outer path to allow the rear section of the central rod supporting the tail to undergo the displacements caused by bending, both at rest that during the work, without fearing the jamming of the balls in their said raceway.

3rd The assembly on the outer end of the crankshaft of a bearing engaged with a soft friction inside the anterior section supporting the wings, which ensures a perfect centering of the crankshaft, increases its reach in the front rod and reduces its fatigue .


By proxy Ch.MARDELET.


With the death of Ponche, further development on the Tubavion was halted. As well, prejudice towards monoplanes was further increased during WWI, with countries seemingly finding greater success with the biplane and tri-plane types of aircraft.

As for the Tubavion, I can only find one example ever being built – but assume that the same body was constantly being retrofitted to make it a better plane.

It obviously flew, but the advances performed by it were, relative to other aircraft from other designers and manufacturers simply not enough to keep it in the forefront of aviation.

As such, despite the promise it showed in 1911 when Wills’s thought it had enough potential to warrant its own trading card in the 85-card set, the Tubavion failed to live up to the hype.

As usual, if anyone has more information on this or other aircraft I have written about, please share.

Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Air Shows, Failures, Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, People, Pilots, Races, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Zealand Is In The Space Race


That’s one effin’ big disco ball, mate.

Or, for you nerds, and I suppose I was/am one… it’s the world’s coolest looking 65-sided D&D die.

Back on January 21, 2018, New Zealand officially joined the space race (which isn’t as crowded as you might suspect – and I’ll prove that below) when Rocket Lab launched its  Electron rocket from a launch pad at its launch complex… and it turns out it was carrying a special secret payload.

At 1:43 GMT on January 21, the composite-bodied, two-stage rocket powered by its nine Rutherford engines that provided 34,500 lb of thrust.

It blasted off from the  Launch Complex 1 located on the Māhia Peninsula on the north island of New Zealand.

Rocket Lab was being paid to launch three commercial satellites, but hiding behind its Dungeon Master’s screen, the company also launched its own… heck, it’s a giant disco mirror ball… it calls the Humanity Star.

The Humanity Star serves no purpose, save that its 65 mirrored surfaces will reflect the sun’s rays and be visible to everyone on Earth as a means to providing the peoples of Earth a “shared experience.”

At first I was concerned that this shared experience for humanity would simply be a permanent distraction that could affect generations of future spaceflight, but d’uh, I should have realized that Rocket Lab is smarter than me. I hate admitting it, but (melancholy sigh) it’s true. It all further shows how I’m not even close to being as smart as a rocket scientist.

The Humanity Star orbits Earth every 90 minutes, and is visible everywhere around the planet.

According to Rocket Lab founder and chief executive officer Peter Beck, the Humanity Star is meant to be a symbol of inspiration to the people of the world.

While the space flight is indeed New Zealand’s welcome, it was also the very first time a commercial space mission had blasted off from the Southern Hemisphere.

Riding up in the second stage of the Electron rocket, the Humanity Star was all folded up, but unravels and forms a carbon-fiber geodesic sphere  upon deployment.

And, because I was worried about the Humanity Star being akin to space junk for future space flight, Rocket Lab assures all us worrywarts that the Humanity Star will only stay in space for approximately nine months before its orbit decays and it burns up in the atmosphere.


Despite the success of the spaceflight, Rocket Lab is still calling the launch “It’s Still a Test” —perhaps because there were a few aborted launches over the past month… with the last occurring on January 19, 2018 when two sea vessels entered the launch exclusion area off the coast.

Obviously when random craft weren’t entering the “danger zone” around the rocket, the Electron had a perfect flight:

  • 1st stage shutdown at two minutes and 30 seconds;
  • 2nd stage separation at two minutes 36 seconds;
  • Second stage reaches a 300 x 500 km (186 x 310 mi), 83º injection orbit in eight minutes.

The Electron then delivered its payload of: an Earth-imaging Dove satellite for Planet; and two Lemur-2 satellites from Spire for weather and ship tracking…

… and the its secret Humanity Star. The little rocket company that could had not broadcast its intent to deliver the Humanity Star to… er, humanity… so it was a bit of a shock when the news was revealed, with glass half fullers applauding the effort, with glass half emptyers calling the whole exercise stupid.

Stupid? We’re talking about the Kiwis in space, aren’t we? A flightless bird no more!

Electron lift off.jpg

Below is the “live feed” from the launch… be warned that it has not been translated from Kiwi into English.

Kidding. I love the Kiwis and Aussies – made many good friends from those two countries when I lived in Japan… and to be fair, the New Zealanders were much easier to understand than the Aussies, but both seemed to become less understandable with each successive alcoholic drink. Be-ah. Beer.

And, just to show you how impressive the Rocket Lab flight was, here’s a list of all the countries that have put a satellite into space… keeping in mind that Ukraine was part of the Russia space program, and Russia was the main force behind the Soviet Union’s efforts.

 Country  Satellite  Rocket  Date
 Soviet Union  Sputnik 1  Sputnik-PS  October 4, 1957
 United States of America  Explorer 1  Juno I  February 1, 1958
 France  Astérix  Diamant A  November 26, 1965
 Japan  Ōsumi  Lamda-4S  February 11, 1970
 China  Dong Fang Hong I  Long March 1  April 24, 1970
 United Kingdom  Prospero  Black Arrow  October 28, 1971
 European Space Agency  CAT-1  Ariane 1 December 24, 1979
 India  Rohini D1  SLV  July 18, 1980
 Israel  Ofeq 1  Shavit September 19, 1988
 Ukraine  Strela-3 Tsyklon-3  September 28, 1991
 Russia  Kosmos 2175  Soyuz-U  January 21, 1992
 Iran  Omid  Safir-1A  February 2, 2009
 North Korea  Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2  Unha-3  December 12 2012
 New Zealand  Dove Pioneer, Lemur-2 Electron  January 21, 2018

In a related subject, on January 24, 2018, Elon Musk’s SpaceX fired up their Falcon Heavy rocket ahead of maiden launch hopefully in early February of this year.

The static firing of the Falcon Heavy rocket is just one step closer to it becoming the most powerful rocket to take flight since the Saturn V rocket lifted off as part of the Apollo missions to the Moon in the 60s and 70s.

Yup… it’s been about 40 years since the last Saturn V flew…

The Falcon Heavy consists of three cores from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket strapped together to give it 9 x 3 = 27 engines which when fired will provide a maximum thrust of 5.1 million pounds, which is the same as what 18 of those Boeing 747 jumbo jets can push.

The static fire test involves the firing of the engine while the rocket is tethered to the launch pad. SpaceX had lost a rocket and multi-million dollar satellite after a launchpad explosion during a static fire test of a Falcon 9 rocket back in September of 2016.

But this time, everything went perfectly.

It’s been a great month for two privately-owned rocket companies!



Posted in Firsts, Motors and Engines, News, Rockets | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Quite The First Black Woman On ISS

Astronaut Jeanette Epps.jpgWhile writing a couple of posts for February’s upcoming Black History Month, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) announced it was making a crew switch of astronauts slated to stay aboard the International Space Station.

Astronaut Jeanette Epps was slated to become the first African American crew member to live on the ISS, but was suddenly replaced on her upcoming June 20187 flight—Expedition 56/57—by Serena Auñón-Chancellor.

Auñón-Chancellor had trained with Epp in astronaut school.

Epps has returned to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, United States of America. What sucks for her, is that she had already begun specific training for that mission.

While NASA did not cite a reason, Henry Epps, Jeanette’s brother has accused the space agency of out-right racism.

“My sister Dr. Jeannette Epps has been fighting against oppressive racism and misogynist in NASA and now they are holding her back and allowing a Caucasian Astronaut to take her place!” Henry Epps wrote in a Facebook post Saturday (the post has since been removed). He linked to a MoveOn.org petition asking NASA to reinstate Epps.

I don’t know why NASA removed Epps from active duty—perhaps it’s a private medical issue—whatever, but I’m giving NASA the benefit of the doubt here. There’s no racism involved.

Now Henry Epps alleges that his sister has been fighting “oppressive racism and misogynist” in NASA… well, if he can back that up, we’ll have a story… if not, let’s get the full story.

Maybe someone should just ask astronaut Epps… and if she refuses to answer with “why”, then drop it. It’s between her and NASA.

Now, as to Henry Epps claims of NASA-based racism, astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor will actually be the first Hispanic woman in space. Racism? It all depends on perspective.





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Tobacco Card Artist: Albert Operti

Hassan Andrees BalloonF

This story has virtually nothing to do with a pioneer of aviation than a pioneer of art.

I recently completed and posted a feature article on Salomon August Andrée and his two attempts to reach the North Pole by balloon. You can read that article HERE.

It is a fascinating but horrible look at man’s folly at underestimating good ol’ Mother Nature.

But, what drew me to this story, was the art on the card… simply beautiful.

It was the first tobacco card I had seen with the artist’s name on it, implying that he or she must have been an artist of some renown… and that maybe, just maybe, this artwork was commissioned by the tobacco company for this card.

In my searches for tobacco cards, I have also searched for the original artwork… I figure it’s out there somewhere. But I’ve never seen any.

I’ve often wondered who did the art for these wonderful tobacco cards and baseball cards et al from the past 100+ years… perhaps names lost in the mists of time.

But then I realized that the card above for Andrée’s balloon was signed… signed by the artist, Albert Operti.

There’s not a whole lot of information on Operti, save that he was born in 1852, dying in 1927.

He was born in Italy, schooled in Great Britain… and developed his skills doing theatrical background painting usually for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. I’ve heard of it, and know it’s still around today… though I admit that I have never seen an opera save whatever Bugs Bunny was running around with alongside Elmer Fudd. What a barber shop.

Operti’s painting are very difficult to find, as most seem to have been commissioned by the Explorer’s Club in New York, and are still in their possession nowadays. Operti even spent the last few years of his life living at the Club headquarters – on their dime – eventually dying there.

A lot of Operti’s work dealt with the natural beauty of the Arctic, ships and plain old exploration scenes… and no wonder, he was with Robert Peary in 1896, when he explored Greenland.

Of course, many of his paintings are just pure imagination, but based on his knowledge of the natural environment. For example, he painted of the search for the Franklin expedition, showed the ships Erebus and Terror sailing – events that happened around 1845, seven years before Operti was born.

The Museum of Natural History in New York also asked him to create plaster casts of natives from Greenland, and he also painted many of the diorama backdrops and other arts for them.

I have not seen any other work of Operti’s aside from that done and printed on various tobacco cards, but all of those are of a high quality like the card example above.

Operti is still the first and only artist I have found to have done work to appear on a tobacco card. If you know of any other artists who have done such work, I would appreciate it if you could let me know who they are and what they have done.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to see if I can find some real artwork for sale out on the auction sites. And then scream as I realize I can’t afford them.


Posted in Aviation Art, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #78–”Short” Hydro-Aeroplane.

Vice Regal 78.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Short” Hydro-Aeroplane.

Card #78 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Vice Regal Mixture – Black-back issue

  • Horace Leonard Short on July 2, 1872 in Chilton Colliery, Durham, England, Great Britain – April 6, 1917 at Parsonage Farm, Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey, Great Britain;
  • Air Commodore Charles Rumney Samson, July 8, 1883 in Crumpsall, Manchester, England, Great Britain – February 5, 1931 in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, Great Britain.
  • Albert Eustace Short on June XX, 1875 in Chilton Colliery, Durham, England, Great Britain – April 8, in 1932 at Medway, Rochester, Kent, England, Great Britain.
  • Hugh Oswald Short in January 16, 1883  in Stanton by Dale, England, Great Britain – in December 4, 1969 at Gillham’s Farm, Lynchmere, West Sussex, England, Great Britain.

We are at the point where I do not own the cards pretty much from this point on through #85… as such, there won’t be a reverse image of the cards forthcoming.

First off, let me just say that information on the internet on the Short Brothers is crap, filled with half information and half misinformation. It’s so frustrating, that it makes me not want to do this.

So much information from different sources, and little of it fills in enough blanks to get a complete story… the first time I have come across this in 78 Wills’s cards. Bah.

For example, sites talk about the Short Brothers becoming the first airplane production company because of an order for six aircraft they were building based on a legal license from the Wright Brothers. Great. Were they built? Did they fly? What the heck was their designation?

I’ve looked and looked… and it’s all crap. It’s very frustrating. People who do have the information on the family simply aren’t very good in telling the whole story. Which makes my non-paying job here… what’s the word… nigh-on impossible.

Hells… even trying to determine the aircraft on the front of this card… heck… it’s a determination/guess.

This card depicts the Short Hydro-Aeroplane, designed and built by the Short Brothers… and while Wills’s card calls the aeroplane by a generic name, I believe it actually depicts the Short S.27 or the Short Improved S.27, which sometimes goes by the name of the Short-Sommer biplane.

The aircraft were used by the Admiralty and Naval Wing of the British Royal Flying Corps for training the Royal Navy’s first pilots, as well as for early naval aviation experiments.

An improved S.27 was used by Charles Rumney Samson to make the first successful take-off from a moving ship on May 9, 1912… which is why he gets a mention at the top of this blog.

The Short Brothers were a threesome featuring Horace, Eustace and Oswald – who were Britain’s first aircraft manufacturers, designing and building the first British-powered aircraft to complete a circular flight of one mile.

They also created Britain’s first-ever purpose-built aircraft factory on an aerodrome on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England.

While not on everyone’s lips when it comes to aviation pioneers, the company Short Brothers plc, (aka Shorts or Short) was founded in London in 1908 and is considered to be the first company in the world to manufacture production aircraft.

The company still exists, but as part of other aviation companies, purchased in 1989 by Bombardier in Belfast, Norther Ireland, producing aircraft components, engine nacelles and aircraft flight control systems for Bombardier Aerospace, as well as for Boeing, Rolls-Royce Deutschland, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.


From left: Oswald, Horace and Eustace Short

Let’s take a look at just who the Short Brothers were.

Of the three, Horace was the eldest. When he was an infant, he suffered a head injury, with it leading to a bacterial infection and then full on meningitis.

This in turn led to an abnormal brain development that gave him an differently-shaped head, and for whatever reason, he also seemed to have a genius intellect. The oddly shaped head made him look ferocious according to some media. But that’s all conjecture. He looked like he looked, as far as I am concerned.

On leaving school at the age of 16, Horace was employed at the Stanton Ironworks, but in 1890 after two years there, he set off to see the world and visit his uncle William, who had moved to Australia and was responsible for sinking the first of two shafts at Newcastle, New South Wales.

Arriving in Australia, Horace wrote home and told the family of his global adventures, but was unaware that his father had died in 1891 leaving the family broke.

A local Chesterfield newspaper published the letter from Horace in 1893 to establish a fund to allow brother Eustace the opportunity to find Horace.

They finally managed to meet in Mexico in 1894 where Horace was now managing a silver mine.

In 1895, Eustace returned to England with £500 and a promise from Horace that he would follow as soon as he could wind up his affairs.

With that money given to him by Horace, brothers Eustace and Oswald, along with their mother moved to London and bought a coal merchant business.

In 1896 Horace traveled back to England bringing with him a sound-amplifying device that he had invented and wished to patent.

Brothers Oswald and Eustace  started up the Short Brothers company in 1897 when they purchased a used coal gas-filled balloon, with the intention to develop and construct other such balloons.

But, in 1900 after they visited the 1900 Paris Exposition World’s Fair, they saw the balloons of Édouard Surcouf who was working with Société Astra, taking note of his truly spherical balloons, a method that had been, up until then, a pipe dream.

The Short Brothers then began to determine how to manufacture spherical hot air balloons themselves, offering up their version in 1902.

These balloons were manufactured in a building where brother Horace was working in Sussex. On the main floor, Horace worked in an acoustic lab and was trying to perfect his acoustic amplifier with a European agent of Thomas Edison, while Oswald and Eustace built balloons on the second floor.

By 1903, Horace was onto a new project involving the development of a steam turbine, and left the building, which caused Eustace and Oswald to move the Short Brothers company first to a rented place in London and then to the railway arches in Battersea, which was situated next to the Battersea gas-works…. making it easier to get gas for their balloons.

The Short Brothers made a few balloons here and there, but got their big break i n1905 when they were awarded a contract from the British Indian Army who wanted three balloons.

The balloons impressed Royal Balloon Factory superintendent Colonel James Templer, who introduced the Short Brothers (sans Horace) to Charles Rolls.

Yup… the guy who later co-founded the Rolls-Royce automobile company.

Rolls asked the Short Brothers to build a large balloon so he could take part in the 1906 Gordon Bennett balloon race. The race (aka Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett), was  started from Paris, France, on September 30, 1906, and is still run today. It is considered to be the oldest and most prestigious balloon race.

The race was sponsored by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., the millionaire sportsman and owner of the New York Herald newspaper. The contest rules to fly the furthest distance from the launch site without landing.

The contest ran from 1906 to 1938, interrupted by World War I and in 1931, but was suspended in 1939 when the hosts, Poland, were invaded at the start of World War II.

The event was only started up again in 1979 American Tom Heinsheimer, an atmospheric physicist, gained permission from the holders to host the trophy. The competition was not officially reinstated by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) until 1983.

Rolls, along with wine merchant Frank Hedges Buttler, were the founding fathers of the Aero Club of Great Britain (now the Royal Aero Club).

Thanks to Rolls, other members of the Aero Club of Great Britain soon placed orders with the Short Brothers.

Rolls, by the way, was the first Briton to be killed in an aeronautical accident with a powered aircraft, when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off during a flying display on July 12, 1910.

But what of super genius Horace?

Horace felt that ballooning was dangerous because one couldn’t steer it properly, so he continued to work with the Hon. Charles Pearson on steam turbine development.

By 1907, and with evidence that aeroplanes were now the new girl on the block, the Short Brothers tried their hand at building them for the Aero Club of Great Britain members, but always without success.

Background: While the Wright Brothers (and witnesses) say they first flew in December of 1903, they kept their success a secret. But when Alberto Santos-Dumont flew his independently built aeroplane on October 23, 1906, the cat was out of the Wright Brothers’ bag.

Everyone wanted an aeroplane.

While the Wright Brothers had tried to sell their invention the the U.S. military, rather than the general public, until Santos-Dunont’s flight the Wright Brothers had been fairly secretive. They had a contract for the sale of airplanes to a French syndicate as well as to the U.S. Army.

Wilbur Wright took their revised Wright Flyer which now had a second seat for a passenger, to Europe to try and garner interest and sales.

Still, aviation was not being shared, so the technology had to independently gleaned by designers.

On January 13, 1908, Henry Farman flew his Voisin Farman I in a one-kilometer circle to win the 50,000-franc Deutsche-Archdeacon prize.

The Canadian company the Aerial Experiment Association–founded by Canadians Alexander Graham Bell (yes, the telephone inventor), Casey Baldwin and J.A.D. McCurdy, along with two Americans, Lt. Thomas Selfridge of the U.S. Army and Glenn Curtiss–flew three different aeroplanes during the summer of 1908: You should read my article on that HERE. Suffice to say, their June Bug flew one mile in one minute and 42.5 seconds on July 4, 1908, giving the AEA the Scientific American Trophy.

The Wright Brothers, I can tell you, were jealous.

So… when Wilbur Wright arrived in France in 1908 with his aircraft and gave demonstration and passenger flights from a site near Le Mans.

Upon hearing about these successful flights, Eustace and Oswald Short decided to give up ballooning and to start building aircraft, but they realized that they would need Horace in the new venture.

When Horace was released from his contract Pearson, the Short Brothers in December of 1908 became a true Short Brothers aviation company with each investing 200 pounds Sterling to get the new aeroplane company off the ground.

Horace, perhaps because of his brains, was immediately becoming the chief aeroplane designer for the company, and with that, the Short Brothers became the world’s first commercial aviation company to design and manufacture aeroplanes.

Their first aeroplane was to be the Short No. 1


The Short No. 1

As mentioned… everyone wanted an aeroplane. After seeing the Wright Brother’s demonstration at Le Mans, France, Brit Francis McClean asked Horace Short to build him a plane.

So, in November of 1908, Horace began to design his Short No. 1, a three-bay biplane with a biplane elevator and central fin mounted on two pairs of converging booms in front.

The undercarriage used skids, rather than wheels, made from ash, that extended forward almost as far as the elevators. Since no wheels were included – just the skids – the aircraft was expected to launch using a launching rail the same way the Wright Brothers did with their first flying machine.

Excluding the skids, everything else was made of spruce and covered with a rubberized fabric made by German company Continental AG.

The engine was to be a version of the Wright Bros.’s engine made by Bariquand et Marre, that drove a pair of pusher propellers, mounted slightly above mid-gap using a chain drive. This was arranged so that both propellers revolved in the same direction, since crossing them to make them revolve in opposite directions might have infringed patents held by the Wright brothers.

But, while the plane was ready at the Short Brothers’ factory on the Isle of Sheppey, when McClean arrived back in town after visiting China, the engine they wanted from Bariquand et Marre was not yet built.


Francis McClean in a caricature done by Flight Magazine December 1909.

Not wanting to delay the aircraft for McClean, the Short Brothers took a 30 horsepower engine from a Nordenfelt car, and installed it in their aeroplane.

Nordenfelt  1907.jpg

This is a 1907 Nordenfelt auto – the only one left in the world.

But, being a car engine, it was a heavy engine at 270 kilograms (600 pounds), and led to the aircraft failing its initial test flight in September of 1909. It was so heavy, that it couldn’t even move the aircraft to the end of the launching rail.

Nordenfelt, was a British auto manufacturer from 1906-1909… and while physical evidence still exists of a 1907 model, I can’t find an image of one from 1908 (but data shows it was built) or a 1909. By this time, it is possible they were no longer building cars – just motors.

Soon enough, the proper Bariquand et Marre engine arrived in October of 1909.

With McClean as the pilot, three test flights were made on November 2, 3, and 6 of 1909.

The last attempt almost had the aircraft become airborne, but as McClean applied the full up-elevator, the bird stalled and fell back onto the launching rail and broke its undercarriage and propellers.

Although McClean was not hurt, all involved agreed to not continue with the development of the Short No. 1.

Specifications of Short No. 1

  • Crew: one;
  • Length: 24 feet 7 inches (7.49 meters);
  • Wingspan: 40 feet (12 meters);
  • Wing area: 576 square feet (53.5 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 1,200 pounds (544 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Bariquand et Marre 4-cylinder inline water-cooled, 30 horsepower
  • Propellers: 2-bladed laminated spruce made by Short Brothers at 10 feet (3.0 meters) diameter

When You’re Right, You’re Wright
As for the Wright Brothers… after they met Charles Rolls who had traveled to the U.S. to sell his automobiles, the Wright’s were also looking for someone to build their Wright Model A for them in the Great Britain.

Rolls knew the Short Brothers, and so… the Short Brothers, because of the nice balloon work they had done for Rolls, were recommended (and accepted) to build the Wright aeroplanes in Great Britain.

Now… while Wilbur Wright had no drawings of his aircraft to supply to the Short Brothers, Eustace Short had a look at the Wright Model A, and created his own drawings.

Horace Short drawing of the Wright Brothers Wright Flyer.png

A drawing by Eustace Short of the Wright Brother’s Wright Model A aeroplane from which the licensed Wright aeroplanes were built. http://shortbrothersaviationpioneers.co.uk/1898-1917/4592622025

Great… so was there any special designation given to the aircraft? How come the Wright Brothers couldn’t be bothered to provide drawings of their own aircraft to the Short Brothers?

Who at the Aero Club bought the aircraft? Did they fly well? If so, these would have been the first successful aeroplanes built by the Short Brothers – something of great import… but no… there’s nothing celebrating this achievement… this factory order that put the company in the history books…

Short No. 2

Moore-Brabazon Short No. 2.jpg

So… with the failure of the Short No. 1, and having the order to build the Wright Model A licensed aircraft for six members of the Aero Club, we know that the Short Brothers have an order for another airplane of its own design… the Short No. 2, requested in April of 1909 before they realized that Short No. 1 was a failure.

The Short No. 2 aircraft was requested by J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon, who wanted to use this unproven flying machine to win a £1,000 prize offered by the British Daily Mail newspaper for the first closed-circuit flight of over a mile (1.6 kilometers) to be made in a British aircraft.

Moore-Brabazon had previously learned to fly in 1908 in France in a Voisin biplane.

He became the first resident Englishman to make an officially recognized aeroplane flight in England on May 2, 1909, at Shellbeach on the Isle of Sheppey with flights of 450 feet (137.2 meters), 600 feet (182.9 meters), and 1,500 feet (457.2 meters) using the Voisin biplane named the Bird of Passage.

Below, there’s a very cool photograph taken on May 4, 1909 outside the Aero Club clubhouse known as Muswell Manor – take a look and see some of the early greats of aviation…


May 4, 1909 at Muswell Manor is a veritable who’s who of aviation pioneer greatness! Back Row (L-R): JDF Andrews owner of Muswell Manor, Oswald Short, Horace Short, Eustace Short, Francis McClean, Griffith Brewer, Frank Butler, WJS Lockyer, Warwick Wright. Front Row (L-R): JTC Moore-Brabazon, Wilbur Wright, Orville Wright, Charles Rolls.

After taking delivery of one of the Short Brother’s built Wright Model A aircraft, Moore-Brabazon sold his famous Bird of Passage aircraft to Arthur Edward George in 1909.

He waited a while longer before the Short Brothers completed their Short No. 2, but on October 30, 1909, he flew that aeroplane in a circular mile to win the Daily Mail prize of £1,000.

Despite the high pedigree of Moore-Brabazon, he was a man with a sense of humor.

To prove once and for all that a pig could fly, he placed a piglet in a waster-paper basket and tied it to a wing-strut on the Short No. 2, and flew it up into the air on November 4, 1909… which, quite possibly, was the first-ever live cargo air flight.

On January 7, 1910, Short No. 2 was flown by Moore-Brabazon a distance of 4.5 miles from Shellbeach to the Royal Aero Club’s new flying field at Eastchurch, by which time a revised tail consisting of elongated fixed horizontal and vertical surfaces carried on four booms had been fitted to improve stability.

It was now Moore-Brabazon’s intention to make an attempt to win the British Empire Michelin Cup, and on March 1, 1910 he made a flight covering 19 miles (31 kilometers) in 31 minutes – but he was forced to land after the crankshaft broke.

A new engine was fitted, but he did not fly the plane for a while, as the Short No. 2 was to be exhibited at the Aero Exhibition at Olympia…

He didn’t fly it again until March 25, 1910… even so, no one else came close to besting his flight’s distance and so was awarded the Michelin Cup.

On March 8, 1910, Moore-Brabazon became the first person to qualify as a pilot in Great Britain, earning the Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate No. 1.

aeroclublicence No 1 Moore-Brabazor.jpg

The very first Aero Club license awarded to J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon on March 8, 1910.

So why… why was there never a singular Wills’s aviation tobacco card devoted to the accomplishments of Moore-Brabazon – a Brit, after all?

By the time the Aero Exhibition was taking place in March of 1910, Moore-Brabazon had ordered another aircraft from the Short Brothers – the Short S.27.

As for our man Charles Rolls… we know he purchased one of the six Wright Brothers’ Model A’s built by the Short Brothers, liking it enough to have used it in over 200 flights.

On June 2, 1910, Rolls became the first person to fly a non-stop double crossing of the English Channel, doing so in 95 minutes. It was also the first East-bound crossing of the Channel – but big whoop.

While the Rolls name lives on famously in automobile history, it lives on in rather dubious fashion in aviation.

Flying his Wright Model A, on July 12, 1910, Charles Rolls became the first British person to be killed in aeroplane – 11th in the world, if you are keeping track. Lt. Thomas Selfridge (an American) had died while a passenger aboard a Wright Flyer piloted by Orville Wright on September 17, 1908 to become the first aeroplane casualty.


Charles Rolls

For Rolls, while flying, the tail of the aeroplane broke off in the Southbourne district of Bournemouth at Hengistbury Airfield. He was 32.

With the death of Rolls, the wife of his friend Moore-Brabazon convinced her husband to stop flying – and so he did.

I have searched and searched, but ca not find a photo of the Short No. 2 aeroplane.

Specifications of Short No. 2

  • Crew: one;
  • Length: 32 feet (9.75 meters);
  • Wingspan: 48 feet 8 inches (14.83 meters);
  • Wing area: 450 square feet (42 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 1,485 pounds (674 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Green D.4 in-line 4-cylinder water-cooled, 60 horsepower;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed;
  • Maximum speed: 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).

Short S.27

In May of 1910, the Short Brothers began to build four aircraft known as S.26, S.27, S.28 and S.29.

These four aircraft were designed by Eustace Short and were based on the Farman III, a pusher biplane.

Short S.26 was built for Francis McClean and utilized a Green engine capable of 40 horsepower.

The very same engine type was also in S.28, an aeroplane built for JTC Moore-Brabazon.

Short S.27 used an ENV type F engine with 60 horsepower for Cecil Grace.

The Short S.29 was built by the company as a reserve.

All four of these aircraft became known as the S.27 design because owner Cecil Grace flew it at many aviation events.

The main difference between the aircraft beside the motor, involve the Green engines having a single rudder under the tailplane, while the ENV engine on the S.27 (proper) had an additional rudder mounted above it.

The standard undercarriage of this design had two wheels attached to an axle that was attached to the skids.

How good were the aircraft – which is what I believe is the basis for the Wills’s card at the very top?

Well, on June 20, 1910, Cecil Grace flew his S.27 (proper) to a height of 1,180 feet (360 meters) which was a new British altitude record.

At the Midland Aero Club meeting at Wolverhampton – June 27 – July 2, 1910 – Grace stayed in the air for close to 30 minutes reaching a height of 500 feet (150 meters) – both respectable times and altitudes for the era.

So successful was this S.27 design, that the Short Brothers improved on the basic design almost immediately, creating the S.27 Improved version, which had strut-braced extensions on the top wings which made for a greater wingspan (now 12 feet 3 inches (3.73 meters), as well as a stronger wing structure, and a reduced span front elevator without the sections outboard of the booms.

These improved aircraft used a Gnome rotary engine at either 50 or 70 horsepower, and were numbered all the way up to S.44.

Short S.27 Improved Specifications

  • Crew: two;
  • Length: 42 feet 1 inches (12.83 meters);
  • Wingspan: 46 feet 5 inches (14.15 meters);
  • Wing area: 517 square feet (48.0 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 1,100 pounds (499 kilograms);
  • Gross weight: 1,540 pounds (699 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Gnome Omega 7-cylinder air-cooled rotary engine, 50 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 48 miles per hour (77 kilometers per hour).

I’m going to shorten up the history lesson here. In 1919, the Short partnership was incorporated as Short Brothers (Rochester and Bedford) Limited  – coach builders – with Eustace Short as joint managing director until his death in 1932, and Oswald Short its chairman and joint managing director.

In 1919, nationalization ended the Short Brothers’ involvement with the airship company, which became the Royal Airship Works.

In 1933, the company once again became involved in aviation with construction of aeroplanes, seaplanes and flying boats for civil and military purposes.

In 1936 Short Brothers (Rochester and Bedford) and Harland and Wolff agreed to form a new company to build aircraft in Belfast, Ireland, with the Short Brothers being the majority stakeholder. The company was called Short and Harland.

In 1938 they built their Short-Mayo composite aircraft, which took part on July 20 as the first heavier-than-air commercial crossing of the North Atlantic as Imperial AirwaysShort S20 floatplane G-ADHJ. It covered 2,930 miles in 20 hours and 20 minutes.

1947 Decided to concentrate its activities at Belfast. Short and Harland Ltd changed their name to Short Brothers and Harland and decide to acquire parts of Short Brothers (Rochester and Bedford) which was then liquidated. Oswald Short became President fro life of the new company.

Its construction of aircraft continued.

In the 1960s, the company produced turboprop airlines and components for aerospace primary manufacturers, and missiles for the British Armed Forces.

In 1989, the company was purchased by Bombardier. The owner was: HM Government, 69.5% (majority share); Rolls-Royce Ltd, 15.25%; Harland & Wolff Ltd, 15.25%.

Rolls-Royce? It goes around.

Nowadays, as a subsidiary of Bombardier Aerospace, what was once the Short Brothers continues to construct aircraft components, engine nacelles and aircraft flight control systems for Bombardier, as well as Boeing, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, and… yes, Rolls-Royce Deutshland.

Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Air Shows, Balloons, Failures, Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, Jets, Motors and Engines, People, Pilots, Seaplanes, Weapons, WWI | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1930s French Trading Cards

Chocolat Pupier Jolies.jpgWhat we have here are aviation cards offered by Chocolat Pupier Jolies in 1930 and 1937.

The plain cards denoting: Avion (flying), Un Monoplane (A monoplane), and Un Hydravion (a sea plane) are from 1930, and are part of a larger set of 40 cards that are about modern wonders. I believe.

The other cards are from 1937, I think, are part of Series 19, and show off some of the earlier versions of flight, with specific myths, legends and real accomplishments. I don’t know how many cars there are in this series, but considering it offers specifics, I would suspect there are at least 40, probably 50 cards within the series.

Certainly the 1937 cards have a reverse with a brief account of the card’s aviation moment:

Chocolat Pupier Jolies Reverse.jpg

All of these are punched cards (left of card’s image), sized 5.2 cm x 6.87 cm each, and were giveaways with a French chocolate manufacturer’s chocolate product.

I am unable to find out any information on the company as my French language abilities are slim and void.

If anyone can provide some background on the manufacturer Chocolat Pupier Jolies, and just what type of chocolate they produced and how these cards were presented (inside, outside, stapled, I assume?) it would be greatly appreciated.

In the meantime, enjoy a look at these cards.

Chromo-CHOCOLAT 1.jpg

I have a nice biography of Benier in this blog, HERE. This card is from the 1937 series (19).

Chromo-CHOCOLAT 2.jpg

Flying in 1930 was a huge deal as far as transporting passengers was concerned. While mono-winged aircraft were only just beginning to make a comeback in the field of aviation, earliest passenger planes were still considered safer as a biplane wing configuration.


A card representing a modern 1930 transport airplane… a monoplane… at a time when most manufacturers still believed the biplane was the best wing configuration for an airplane.

Chromo-CHOCOLAT 4.jpg

Along with the American Wright Brothers, Bleriot’s aviation success signaled air dominance for France for the next 15 years. A rarity, Bleriot pioneered the use of monoplanes… which were, for some reason, decided to be inferior to the biplane.

Chromo-CHOCOLAT 5.jpg

While this looks like a horrible aviation accident, it is in fact a representation of Langley’s aircraft that was supposed to slingshot off a boat in 1896.

Chromo-CHOCOLAT 6.jpg

A card commemorating the Wright Brothers coming out of the proverbial scientific closet in 1905 with news that their Wright Flyer had flown first in 1903.

Chocolat Pupier Jolies 7.jpg

A Hydro-aeroplane example – a flying boat/seaplane. From the 1930 series.










Posted in Concepts, Failures, Gliders, Heavier-Than-Air, Miscellaneous Food, Seaplanes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment