History Behind The Card: Paulhan’s New Aeroplane.
Card #55 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut issue
- Louis Paulhan aka Isidore Auguste Marie Louis Paulhan, July 19, 1883 in Pézenas, Hérault, France – February 10, 1963 in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France.
- William Edward Boeing – October 1, 1881 in Detroit, Michigan, United States of America – September 28, 1956 in Seattle, Washington, United States of America.
Paulhan is perhaps best known as being the pilot who won the first Daily Mail newspaper aviation prize awarding anyone who could fly from London and Manchester.
However, although he was successful in doing that in 1910, he is also known as the guy who didn’t provide an aeroplane ride to a guy named William Boeing… you know… the guy who would go on to found The Boeing Company.
Known primarily as a pilot, rather than as an aeroplane designer and manufacturer, Paulhan got his start making model aeroplanes while he was a balloon pilot.
In 1905 he actually won a design competition for aircraft (recall that though the Wright Brother’s first flew in 1903, no one else knew of it… even when Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont made a public flight in Paris with his 14-bis, also known as Oiseau de proie (French for “bird of prey”) on September 13, 1906. It was a Thursday.)
He briefly went to sea in his youth, before joining the army and serving in a balloon battalion under Ferdinand Ferber. After his military service in 1905 he worked on airships under the airship pioneer Surcouf.
He built flying model airplanes, some motorized, in his spare time and entered competitions. In June 1908 this paid off in a big way when he won a competition organized by the Aero Club of France. The top prize was a full-scale build of that aeroplane design.
However, Paulhan’s design ended up being sooooo complex to build, that the Aero Club of France instead eventually offered him a real Voisin airframe – sans (without) the engine.
With help from family and friends, Paulhan managed to purchase an engine for his Voisin plane, and taught himself to fly, achieving his pilot’s license on August 17, 1909 – the 10th ever issued by the Aero-Club de France. Maybe that’s why he’s so happy in the above photo.
After his successes on the Voisin during the 1909 meetings, he became a Farman pilot. He flew successfully in aviation meets in several countries, setting a world altitude record in Los Angeles of 1,209 meters (~3,967 feet) and winning the Daily Mail London-Manchester prize after an epic flight, beating Claude Grahame-White. He was also a seaplane pioneer, being one of the first to fly the Fabre seaplane.
Paulhan performed at various aeroplane meets:
- Douai 1909 -in a Voisin setting an altitude record of 150 meters (~492 feet), and a duration record of one hour and seven minutes flying 47 kilometers (29.2 miles) Tissandier and Paulhan raced each other in their Wright Flyer and Voisin aeroplanes, respectively.
- Vichy 1909 – in a Voisin on July 22, 19019, and unable to make a test flight on the uneven field thanks to two days of high winds, he could not properly adjust his aeroplane’s tail which had come out of trim during transport to the event. At around 7PM he took off while Tissandier was already in the air to compete for the “Grand Prix de Vichy” – a FF16,000 francs prize “Prix de la Ville de Vichy”, consisting of a 20-kilometer (12.43 mile) race over 12 laps of the 1.666 km (1.036 miles) lap course. For three minutes and nearly three laps, the two planes raced each other… and while Paulhan was ahead by about 300-400 meters at the start of the actual race, he was eventually caught by Tissandier in his faster Wright Flyer aeroplane. Paulhan was soon forced to land. Paulhan made another flight later that day, ending up with the completion of nine laps. Tissandier later had mechanical issues and sat out the rest of the air meet. The next day while vying for the “Prix de la Traversée de l’Allier”, a four-kilometer race outside the airfield crossing the river twice, Paulhan had mechanical problems and was forced to land on a small island in the river. Both pilot and the plane were rescued by boat and Paulhan was back in the air soon afterwards.On July 24, Paulhan won the event in exactly five minutes. On July 25, disaster struck the event in the form of Mother Nature. The main grandstand was blown over completely and a couple of the hangars collapsed. Tissandier’s plane was wrecked when the roof and doors of the hangar fell over it and the mechanics working on it. Paulhan’s Voisin had its left wing broken. “De Rue”‘s hangar was completely lifted from the ground and moved one and a half meter. The left wing and the tail of the plane were crushed. Those who fled the hangars ended up in even bigger danger, since corrugated roofing panels were flying everywhere. The total damages were estimated to 50,000 francs. The rest of the meeting was cancelled and the results were based on the flights that had taken place so far. This meant that Tissandier and Paulhan split the prize money, with Tissandier winning everything except the cross-country race over the Allier.
- Reims 1909
- Spa 1909
- Port-Aviation October 1909
- Blackpool 1909
- Los Angeles 1910
- Lyon 1910, flying a Farman III, Paulhan broke the speed record, traveling 20 kilometers in 19 minutes, and weight record by carrying a 73-kilogram (161 lb) passenger.
- Budapest 1910.
After a crash flight at Reims, he was invited to perform at the 1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet, bringing with him two Bleriot Monoplanes and two Farman III biplanes to use.
At the Los Angeles Air Meet, Paulhan set a new altitude 1,269 meters (4,164 feet) and a new endurance record (1 hour 49 minutes and 40 seconds). Paulhan received $14,000 in prize money for his record setting performances at the event.
At this meet, Paulhan was responsible for taking famed American newspaper man William Randolph Hearst on his first aeroplane ride.
Paulhan also piloted U.S. Army Lt. Paul Beck, who essentially performed the first bomb tests by dropping weights at markers located on the ground during the flight.
William Boeing was in attendance at that Los Angeles Air Meet in 1910.
In 1909, while president of the Greenwood Timber Company, Boeing, who had experimented with boat design, traveled to Seattle and visited the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Seeing a manned aeroplane for the first time, he became very much intrigued by the flying machines.
Traveling to the Los Angeles Air Meet in 1910, Boeing approached several of the aviators to beg for a ride in one of their aeroplanes – everyone said no… except for Paulhan.
Paulhan told him he would give him a ride, but asked him to be patient because of his participation in the races at the event. But after four days of waiting, Paulhan left forgetting his promise to William Boeing.
Undaunted, Boeing decided to take lessons at the Glenn L. Martin Flying School in Los Angeles, purchasing one of Martin’s planes. Glenn L. Martin would form the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1912 to build aeroplanes… it eventually merging with American-Marietta Corporation in 1961, which later merged into Lockheed Martin Corporation in 1995.
So… Paulhan…. he really missed out. We could have been seeing the Lockheed Paulhan Corporation.
Afterwards, Martin Flying School pilot James Floyd Smith traveled to Seattle to assemble Boeing’s new Martin TA hydroaeroplane and continue to teach its owner to fly. When Boeing’s test pilot Herb Munter damaged the plane and was told by Martin that it would be months before replacement parts could be sent, Boeing told his friend United States Navy Commander George Conrad Westervelt: “We could build a better plane ourselves and build it faster.”
When Westervelt agreed, together they built and flew the B & W Seaplane, an amphibian biplane that had outstanding performance.
Westervelt and Boeing started up the Pacific Aero Products Co. in 1912 in an old boat works factory on the Duwamish River near Seattle. When Westervelt left the company in 1916, Boeing changed the company name to the Boeing Airplane Company in 1917.
Back to Paulhan.
In February of 1910, the lawsuit that the Wright Brothers had against Paulhan for patent infringement re: aeilerons, came due, with Paulhan being told he had to pay US$25,000 for every paid display of his Farman aeroplanes… which naturally ticked Paulhan off causing him to cancel his own tour of the U.S. and to fly to New York to challenge the Wright Brothers by offering flights for free.
During the Los Angeles Air Meet of 1910 between January 10-20, Paulhan had heard rumblings of the Wright Brothers and their lawsuit… which is thought to be the main reason why Paulhan left the meet so quickly at its closure… which why he stiffed Mr. Boeing and his offer of an aeroplane ride.
In March of 1910, another agreement was reached allowing Paulhan to fly exhibitions in his Farman III biplane if he paid a then $6,000 a week bond, pending the outcome of the case.
Paulhan eventually had enough of the U.S. and left for France.
In April of 1910, Paulhan won the £10,000 prize offered for flying from London to Manchester, England, in less than 24 hours.
He also received £5,000 for the greatest number of flights taken in 1910.
Paulhan continued to perform in air meets throughout Europe, started a flight school in France, was involved in designing triplanes for the French military.
Still in 1910, Paul flew the seaplane Hydravion designed by Henri Fabre.
It was at this time, that he also began to design his own aircraft, creating the Paulhan Biplane in association with Fabre, and a triplane that was flown at the 1911 French military aircraft trials competition, and the Aéro-Torpille in association with Victor Tatin.
In February 1912, he opened a seaplane flying school in Villefranche-sur-Mer before moving to Arcachon, France.
But what of the Wills’s card showing the weird biplane? This was the Paulhan Biplane mentioned two paragraphs earlier.
This 1910 Paulhan Biplane was constructed of wood and covered with fabric. It used a Gnome engine, an first flew at Saint-Cyr-l’Ecole, near Paris, on November 5, 1910, piloted by Albert Caillé, and apparently flew quite well.
The British Army ordered an example and in early January of 1911, Caillé successfully put it through a series of tests at Buc, near Paris.
The British Army said that if they were to pay for it, the aeroplane needed to:
- be able to fly for two hours with a pilot and passenger;
- carry 441 pounds (200 kilograms) of ballast, in a 25 miles per hour (40 kilometer per hour wind;
- make a gliding flight with the engine stopped from a height of 626 feet (200 meters).
Holy crap – it did as it was required… and the British Army accepted it on January 11, 1911.
A similar-looking 1910 Paulhan Triplane was also built by Paulhan in 1910—a wooden frame covered in fabric.
Paulhan-Tatin Aéro-Torpille No.1
The Aero-Torpille No. 1 (above) was designed and built by Paulhan and Victor Tatin, a scientist who had experimented with various types of flying models and in 1879 had made the first model aircraft to take off under its own power.
The aircraft had a streamlined circular section fuselage which entirely enclosed the 50 hp (37 kW) Gnome rotary engine, which drove a pusher configuration propeller mounted at the back of the fuselage, connected to the engine by a long driveshaft. The structure of the fuselage was a conventional square-section wire-braced wood structure, outside which were circular formers bearing a series of stringers to support the fabric covering. Initially a universal joint was fitted at the engine end of the driveshaft, but in tests the girder construction of the fuselage proved rigid enough for this not to be necessary, and the long tube forming the driveshaft was simply held by six ballraces attached to the structure by wires, to eliminate whip. The section of the fuselage containing the engine was covered by louvred aluminium panels, removable for maintenance of the engine. The wings had curved leading and trailing edges, were tapered in planform and were curved upwards at the wing tips. Flight loads were transmitted to the bottom of the fuselage by a pair of steel ribbons on either side. The rearmost of these also operated the wing warping for lateral control. The pilot sat immediately in front of the leading edge of the wing. Even the undercarriage was of novel design, consisting of a pair of semi-circular lengths of hickory, hinged at the front and attached to the fuselage by bungee cords and bearing a pair of wheels whose spokes were covered. Tail surfaces consisted of a fixed tailplane with trailing-edge elevators and a small rectangular balanced rudder.
Specifications of the Aero-Torpille No. 1:
- Crew: 1;
- Length: 9 meter (28 feet);
- Wingspan: 9 meter (28 feet);
- Wing area: 13 meters2 (140 square feet);
- Empty weight: 363 kilograms (800 pounds);
- Powerplant: 1 × Gnome 7 Omega 7-cylinder air-cooled rotary piston engine, 37 kW (50 horsepower);
- Propellers: Two-bladed Régy Frères, 2.4 meter (8 foot) diameter.
The aircraft was flown during October 1911 and in February achieved a measured speed of 150 km/h (93 mph). In March it was sold to the Italian aviator Signor Bosse.
In the autumn of 1910 Paulhan became a builder and designer before building Curtiss seaplanes under license. When his businesses failed in 1913 he was employed by the Serbian government to develop aviation in that country.
During WWI, he was drafted as a lieutenant and flew combat missions in Serbia and worked as a test pilot. After the war he continued designing seaplanes. He also worked in the surface-treatment industry and with the Dewoitine company.
In 1927, Paulhan was a co-founder of the company Société Continentale Parker in France together with Robert Deté, Enea Bossi and Pierre Prier. The purpose was to transfer surface treatment technologies for the growing aerospace industry to Europe. They started with a license from Parker Rust-Proof of Detroit (Parkerizing or phosphating) and in a later step with the distribution rights of Udylite Corp. for specialty chemicals in electroplating. The company’s successor organizations, Chemetall GmbH and Coventya GmbH, later became the European market leaders in surface treatment.
He retired from aviation in 1937, when his son, a test pilot, was killed in an accident.
In 1960, at the age of 77, Paulhan was invited by Air France to be one of the passengers on its inaugural nonstop flight from Paris to Los Angeles.
He died on February 10th, 1963 in St-Jean-de-Luz in south-western France and is buried in Pézenas.