- Alberto Santos Dumont, July 20, 1873 in Palmira, (a town now named Santos Dumont), Minas Gerais, Brazil – July 23, 1932 in Guarujá, São Paulo, Brazil.
For more information on the early life of Santos Dumont (balloon and dirigible achievements) see Wills’s Card #8 – a rare event with one pilot getting two cards for his aviation exploits.
Along with his pioneering achievements, he was also the first person to publicly fly an aeroplane in Europe, doing so on October 23, 1906.
Highly reminiscent of a box-kite, Santos Dumont designed and piloted the fixed wing ‘14-bis’ aka ‘Oiseau de proie’ (French for Bird of Prey) flying in front of a large crowd a distance of 60-meters (196.85-feet) at a height of 3-meters (~10-feet).
Dumont had a Hargrave-cell bi-plane with wings at the rear in a dihedral, with each wing having three cells.
Its Antoinette engine (see Wills’s card #34 – not yet created at the time of this writing – but eventually it will be and I’ll create links to the cards) offering 24-horsepower, was positioned between the wings with the pilot’s standing area located just in front. The pusher-propeller was positioned behind the motor. An adjustable cell at the nose (a precursor to the canard) was moved via cables allowing steering altitude adjustments.
In the Wills’s card #33, the aeroplane is indeed moving from right to left of the card.
The plane was constructed of light but strong bamboo, covered by Japanese silk and utilized aluminum joints.
Built in Neuilly, France, it was moved to Bagatelle for testing. To get a feel of how it might perform in the air, Dumont attached the craft to one of his new dirigible’s, the Number 14, but tests showed the plane to be too difficult to control as a hybrid, but he did learn more about its center of gravity.
Shipping the plane back to Neuilly, Dumont connecting a steel cable to two poles of different height, and hung the aeroplane by rope before attaching a pulley system to the cable which was pulled by a donkey (yes, the critter), until it sat atop the higher pole. The plane was released and slid down the lower pole enabling Dumont to determine the craft’s true center of gravity, and thus to learn more about its stability.
In August of 1906, the tried fast-taxi tests at Bagatelle, and discovered that the motor was not strong enough for the plane to achieve proper flight speed. Replacing the engine with a more powerful 50-horsepower V-8 Antoinette motor, it was able to reach 1,500 revolutions per minute.
On September 7, 1906, the plane hopped off the ground during tests, but still no sustained flight. On September 13, and with crowds anxious to see if Dumont could become the first European flier, a first attempt was halted due to misfiring cylinders.
A second attempt had the plane make a ~13-meter (~42.65-feet) hop, with an altitude of perhaps 1-meter (3.28-feet)—not enough to be considered a flight, but it was encouraging. The hop damaged the propeller resulting in a month long delay to repair.
On October 23, after more tests, Dumont finally took the ‘14-bis’ up into the air, flying over 61-meters (~200-feet) an altitude of approximately 3-meters (10-feet) before a landing it, though the plane did become damaged.
The flight earned Dumont the Archdeacon aviation prize of 3,000 French Francs from Frenchman Ernest Archdeacon for being the first to achieve a flight of 25-meters (82-feet) or greater.
On November 12, 1906, Dumont tried for the 100-meter (328.08-feet) prize. He added movable surfaces to the outer portion of wing cell that enabled the pilot to control roll (lateral stability) with the shrug of his shoulders—though there is some dispute if this actually constituted the first ever ailerons or not (see Wills’s card #43 – the Silver Dart, for their argument – blog not yet created).
As the crowd gathered, Gabriel Voisin (see Wills’s card #37 – damn I have some work to do – not yet created) brought out a bi-plane with an Antoinette motor that he and Louis Blériot had constructed and attempted to take-off, but after repeated attempts and damaging the plane, they called it off.
As Dumont brought the ‘14-bis’ down the runway (aka a farmer’s field), Henry Farman (see Wills’s card #41 – another one to do? Well, I did say I was doing all 50… and then the 75 and maybe 85 card Wills’s sets) drove a car alongside dropping plates whenever he saw the plane lift and land.
The first attempt was only 40-meters (131.23-feet), with a second matching the first and the third run only slightly better at 50-meters (164.04-feet).
A fourth flight matched the 50-meters, while a fifth offered 82-meters (269.03-feet).
As the day was drawing to a close, Dumont attempted one last flight, managing to rise up to 4-meters (13.12-feet) in altitude covering a distance of 220-meters (721.78-feet), winning him a 1,000 French Francs prize.
The 14-bis was: 9.7-meters (31.82-feet) long; 3.4-meters (11.15-feet) tall; had a wingspan of 11.2-meters (36.75-feet) with a wing area of 52-cubic meters (559.72-square feet); empty weight of ~155-kilograms (340-pounds) and loaded at 210-kilograms (462.97-pounds). Powered by a 50-horsepower V-8 Antoinette motor, it was calculated to have a top speed of 32-kilometers per hour.
Dumont’s final aeroplane design was in 1908 with the Demoiselle monoplane – all four of them: ‘No. 19’, ‘No. 20’, ‘No. 21’ and ‘No. 22’.
The Demoiselle planes were lightweight with a wire-braced wing on top of an open-frame fuselage made of reinforced bamboo. The pilot sat with a steering wheel below the wing and between the tricycle wheels of the undercarriage on a tension-held seat.
The rear of the fuselage held a tail-wheel that acted as elevator and rudder.
The ‘No. 19’ was powered by a Dutheil & Chalmers liquid-cooled motor mounted on the front edge of the wing and could generate 20-horsepower.
The ‘No. 20’ used a 24-horsepower Antoinette motor which was now placed lower, in front of the pilot, and was able to utilize wing warping for lateral control after some wing reinforcements.
‘No. 21’ featured a more triangular but shorter fuselage made of bamboo with the engine moved back to its position at the front edge of the wing and had an increased wingspan.
‘No. 22’ was similar to the ‘No.21’ but Dumont did experiment with two types of engines. I could not find an image of this plane.
According to the June 1910 edition Popular Mechanics magazine who published drawings of the Demoiselle monoplane, it could be built in only 15 days offering the aviator good results for less expense and a modicum of experimenting.