Wills’s Aviation Card #56 – “Howard-Wright” Biplane.

Card #56.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Howard-Wright” Biplane.
Card #56 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series Capstan Navy Cut black back 1911 issue

  • Howard Theophilus Wright, circa 1867 in Dudley, England, Great Britain –  died circa 1945;
  • Thomas Octave Murdoch, January 18, 1888 in Kensington, England, Great Britain – January 27, 1989 in Hampshire, England, Great Britain. Yes – 101 years old!;
  • William Oke Manning, October 20, 1879 in Staines, Middlesex, England, Great Britain – March 2, 1958 in Farnham, Surrey, England, Great Britain;
  • Joseph Warwick Wright, circa 1876 in Dudley, England, Great Britain – died circa 1945;
  • Fredrico Capone, February 16, 1849 in Altavilla Irpina, Campania, Italy – June 14, 1918 in Torre of the Greek, Naples, Italy.
  • Horatio Claude Barber, circa 1875 in London, England, Great Britain – circa 1964 in Jersey, Channel Islands.

Man…. I don’t even know where to begin.This article is a biography and a half on multiple people… and since this may be the one and only time we ever come across these people… I’m going to give it the works.

There was so much contradictory information out there on the Internet about dates and what people flew and when… I have to admit that what I am presenting here is my best guess at wading through the mess and putting together a historical synopsis that makes the most sense.

The problems begin with the Wills’s tobacco card itself… which had, until this card, been pretty good at keeping errors to a minimum for the past cards.

Card 56R.jpg

Card #56 is from the 1911 issue… and yet, rather than show a Howard Wright 1910 Biplane, it instead shows the Howard Wright 1909 Biplane.

My guess is that this artwork was scheduled to be included in the original 50-card Wills’s series of 1910, but for whatever reason, wasn’t used.

When the 1911 series was expanded for the Australian overseas market to offer a 75-card series that included the first 50 cards from Wills’s, they received THIS artwork, thinking it was the most up-to-date model for Howard Wright.

The next error… the card calls the plane the Howard-Wright Biplane. By placing a hyphen between Howard and Wright, they make it seem as though there are two designers involved… but no… there is only Howard Wright. Technically. At least for the 1909 biplane. For the 1910 biplane, Howard Wright built it, but it was designed by W.O. Manning.

So, as usual… more research is required.

Howard Wright.jpg

Howard Wright

Not much is known about Howard Wright, except that he and his younger brother Joseph Warwick Wright were the other Wright Brothers involved in aviation, and were NOT related to the more famous American brothers, Orville and Wilbur.

Seriously… I can’t even get proper birth information on these two – or even death dates!

While Howard may have been the more famous of the two as far as aviation goes, his little brother Warwick was more famous for his role in the automobile industry.

Still… for the time period we are looking at—1908-1912—these two did work together. They also had another brother, Walter, who was an engineer and I think the middle brother.

Their father, Joseph Wright, was an engineer like his father before him, and was involved in the construction of India’s first railway. Returning to England in 1856, Joseph joined Thomas Howard Head to found the Teesdale Iron Works in Stockton, which at the time was called Head and Wright.

Joseph left that partnership in 1860 and set up the Neptune Foundry with partner Thomas Tinsely. Joseph married Tinsely’s cousin, Grace Tinsley, in 1859. She was the daughter of Theophilus Tinsley, mayor of Dudley. Now you know where Howard Wright got that middle name.

At the Neptune Foundry, they manufactured cast iron chains and anchors for ships, eventually doing a side business of building pre-heaters for steam engines (this will relate to Howard Wright later). Developing cancer, Joseph sold his interest in the foundry, but kept the steam technology business, eventually constructing large feed-water heaters and water softeners.

After the business moved to London,  and dad Joseph died in 1893, all the Warwick brothers then become involved in the company.

Between 1894-1898, Howard had five patents; and Warwick two patents. Still, the company went bankrupt. Howard and Walter and mother Grace were all affected by the bankruptcy’s drain—but not Warwick for some reason.

Warwick Wright.jpg

Warwick Wright

Enter Sir Hiram Maxim. See Card #30 and Card #52, and the first article I wrote on him HERE.


Sir Hiram Maxim

Maxim, who was looking to build a steam-powered aeroplane, began to work with Howard Wright as a works manager for the Maxim Electrical Engineering and Export Company, while also using him to work on his aviation experiments.

Warrick Wright was hired by The Vickers Maxim Company. In 1901, Vickers founded the Wolseley Motors Limited automobile company (in conjunction with Herbert Austin – but not the same Austin affiliated with the Austin Mini et al). It may have been Warwick’s introduction to the business of automobiles.

In 1903, after C.S. Rolls started the first automobile dealership in London importing Belgian Minerva luxury cars, Warwick opened up a Minerva dealership and also dealt with France’s Darracq cars made by A.Darracq & Company Limited.

When the Maxim Electrical Engineering and Export Company closed in 1904, Warwick and Howard partnered up in 1905 through 1912. Though a partnership, they were also free to establish partnerships with other businesses independently.

At first, Howard worked with machines to generate electricity such as gas and hot air turbines. Then he patented a type of carburetor. But in 1907 he joined forces with Italian Federico Capone who was interested in aviation.

Frederico Capone.jpg

Federico Capone

Back in 1905 Capone had constructed a pilotless helicopter. See below.


It looks like a tea trolley with wings. Despite some websites claiming it is, I am unsure if this IS the pilotless helicopter, because I don’t see a rotor system – and I see a guy sitting in the machine.

Howard Wright and Capone decided to build on that, and construct a piloted helicopter in 1908 in England… tested it… and then shipped it to Italy later that year for further trials in Naples in 1909.

Let’s talk helicopters for a moment.

Taken from Wikipedia (actually, I can’t recall and can’t find (again) where I got this from  – sorry. If anyone else can figure it out, let me know and I’ll provide proper credit.):

In 1907, Capone moved to Arpaise in the province of Benevento and there designed a second helicopter based on his earlier experiments. Unlike the first its construction was undertaken by Howard Wright. Detailed drawings for the helicopter were completed at Howard’s office at Belgravia Chambers during the winter of 1907-08 and shortly afterwards the aircraft took shape at the Marylebone workshops of Warwick Wright Ltd and subsequently at those at Battersea. The helicopter was built of thin-walled steel tubing, supplied by Accles & Pollock Ltd of Birmingham, welded together without the aid of sockets, to form a central box-shaped structure carrying two cantilever frameworks. The upper surface of the framework was extended in area by the addition of a steel tube lattice with balloon-cord leading and trailing edges, and the whole covered with fabric to provide flight surfaces. The rotors, their axes inclined outwards from the vertical, were mounted at the cantilevers’ extremities and driven through a system of shafts and spur and bevel gears by a single 50 hp Antoinette water-cooled engine, mounted transversely within the central structure. Two paddle-shaped blades were fitted to each rotor, the pitch of which was varied by means of a cam such that the blades had incidence only when travelling rearwards. The main undercarriage comprised four rubber-tyred wheels, whilst six smaller wheels were used to prevent the helicopter toppling over on landing. The rear starboard main undercarriage wheel was driven by a chain from the rotor drive shaft to enable the helicopter to be taxied. Directional control and stability of the machine were achieved with a system of movable surfaces: a large tailplane hinged at the trailing edge of the main surface; two triangular rudders, built on wooden frames, hinged at the corners of the tailplane and two triangular surfaces beneath the rotors, which provided roll control and propped the aircraft on the ground. The control surfaces were cable-operated from three small winches placed within easy reach of the pilot who sat cradled within the central structure aft of the engine. Another somewhat curious control device was fitted: it consisted of two large rectangular surfaces, mounted adjacent to the main framework, driven by the engine through a gear train, an eccentric and a slide. The resultant flapping motion, according to Capone, created ‘billowy-like air currents beneath the body of the apparatus to increase its stability.’
The flight of the helicopter, as envisaged by Capone, would have provided an interesting, if not alarming, spectacle. The rotors were to lift the aircraft to a reasonable height at which altitude the speed of the rotors would be reduced, and, because the machine’s centre of gravity was well ahead of its centre of lift, the aircraft would glide forward. The extent of the flight surfaces was such that at 20 mph the helicopter was expected to support its own weight. After a certain interval and before the machine had reached the ground, the rotor speed would be increased to lift it once more into the air. By intermittently increasing and decreasing the speed, the aircraft would proceed in a series of curves or billows.
In March 1908, the completed helicopter was conveyed to the privacy of a large tent, erected at one corner of Norbury Golf Links, which were situated southwest of London on the road to Croydon. On Friday, 7 March, Howard Wright and his assistants wheeled the machine from its hangar and proceeded to test it in secrecy. The initial trials, which involved taxi-ing and tethered hovering manoeuvres, revealed a number of defects. Contemporary reports of these tests and the accompanying descriptions of the helicopter fail to mention two small-diameter, four-blade tractor propellers geared to the rotor drive-shaft. The propellers are clearly visible in photographs (unsuitable for publication), of the helicopter at Norbury, and were shown on the drawing accompanying British patent 7,129 granted to Capone in 1908. Possibly, propellers were added in the intervening days before the helicopter’s second series of tests in an attempt to provide forward movement. However, all of the tests proved unsuccessful, inasmuch as the machine failed to lift its pilot and only when its all-up weight of 1,250 lb had been reduced to 650 lb did it rise readily to two feet clear of the ground, a restriction imposed on the helicopter by its tethers. Clearly, the power of the engine and the size of the rotors were inadequate, although the rotors were considered to be particularly efficient, giving a lift of 33 lb/hp at the rotor axis, with the blades set at a maximum incidence of 37 degrees and rotating at approximately 100 rpm.
To achieve success, Capone was faced with several solutions by which he could improve the helicopter’s performance: the main ones of which were to reduce substantially the all-up weight; increase the motive power or to improve the efficiency of the rotors. Capone took the last course of action by designing rotors of larger diameter, but also decided to design a new machine. Again, Howard Wright was asked to undertake its construction. Meanwhile, the helicopter at Norbury was dismantled for delivery to Capone in Italy.
In the course of designing the third helicopter a considerable weight saving was achieved and the need to install a more powerful engine, if one had been available, was less acute. The redesigned helicopter, according to the short-lived magazine The Airship, was fitted with a single 30 hp REP, seven-cylinder air-cooled semi-radial engine, and the weight of the aircraft, including the pilot, was 600 lb. The magazine continued: ‘The fans are each 26 ft in diameter and run at 90 to 100 rev/min. The soaring speed is only about fifteen miles per hour, and as the old fans lifted 650 lb there should be plenty of power with the fans of the new machine, which are 6 ft larger in diameter. The motor is cooled by a large fan, which acts as a propeller. It weighs 130 lb complete in running order, with magneto, carburettor, pipes, oil and all fittings. The framework of the aeroplane is entirely of steel tubes welded together without sockets. It weighs but 120 lb, which is decidedly light in view of the fact that the main plane is 30 ft wide, 22 ft deep. The reduction gear, which transmits 30 hp and gives a reduction of 10 to 1, weighs 12 1/2 lb. The 30 hp clutch weighs but 15 lb. Perhaps, however, the fans are most remarkable in this respect. Each of them only weighing 40 lb, including the hub. The blades are 6 ft 6 in long and 3 ft wide. The main plane is mounted on three strong motor-cycle wheels, with spring forks on the two in front, which are 20 ft apart.’ In all other respects the third helicopter was similar to the second.
The fact that The Airship was able to give a detailed specification in November 1908, when the article was published, indicates that the design or construction of the third helicopter was very advanced and must have been started soon after the trials of its predecessor. On 9 January, 1909, Flight recorded: ‘Howard Wright helicopter now completed and sent to Italy, tests in England were eminently satisfactory.’ Much later, on 30 October. 1909, with Howard Wright in attendance, the helicopter was tested on the military parade ground at Naples. Of the trials La Stampa reported them successful and a French source stated: ‘The inventor not having risked sitting in the machine to pilot it, the launch was made simply on the inclined plane which had been prepared to this end.’
Nothing further was heard of the helicopters but they were not to be Capone’s last efforts in the field of moving wing aircraft, for it has been recorded that Howard Wright built for him an ornithopter and another helicopter. Details of the former remain unknown. Work on the fourth helicopter was started in June 1909 and was completed that year.

Howard Wright Fredrico Capone 1908 helicopter.jpg

Helicopter No.2

  • Span across tips of rotors 48 feet 2-inches (14.68 meters);
  • Overall length with rotors fore and aft were 27 feet (8.23 meters);
  • Rotor centers and wing span 28 feet 10 inches (8.79 meters);
  • Rotor diameter 19 feet 4 inches (5.89 meters);
  • Rotor blade length 6 ft 4 inches (1.93 meters);
  • Rotor blade maximum chord 2 feet 4 inches (0.71 meters);
  • Wing root chord 11 feet 8 inches (3.56 meters);
  • Tailplane span 13 feet 2 inches (4.01 meters);
  • Tailplane chord 8 feet 2 inches (2.51 meters);
  • Propeller diameter 4 feet 8 inches (1.42 meters);
  • Propeller centers 10 feet (3.05 meters);
  • Undercarriage wheel base 6 feet (1.83 meters);
  • Undercarriage wheel track 4 feet (1.22 meters);
  • Wing area 160 square feet (14.8645 square meters);
  • Tailplane area including rudders 81 square feet (7.52515 square meters);
  • Weight loaded 1,250 pounds (567 kilograms);
  • Gliding speed 20 miles per hour (12.5 kilometers per hour).

Helicopter No.3

  • Span across tips of rotors 56 feet (17.07 meters);
  • Rotor centers and wing span 30 feet (9.14 meters);
  • Rotor diameter 26 feet (7.93 meters);
  • Rotor blade length 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 meters);
  • Rotor blade maximum chord 3 feet (0.91 meters);
  • Undercarriage wheel track 20 feet (6.10 meters);
  • Weight 600 pounds (272.16 kilograms);
  • Gliding speed 15 miles per hour (24.14 kilometers per hour).

By 1906, Warwick Wright had surrounded himself with famous, rich people such as Ross and John Brabazon (later Lord Brabazon) who were all in the Aero Club of Britain.

The three of them ordered the construction of a balloon from the Short Brothers manufacturers, that they called “Venus” and delivered in May 1906.

Still, Warwick Wright was interested in speed… speed from automobiles, entering various car races and police courts for excessive speeding.

Still working with his brother Howard, Warwick traveled to Chalons, France (with buddy Brabazon) to learn how to fly a Voisin biplane.

Howard… he “coincidentally” began working on the construction of a Voisin-type biplane, with his own modifications, and purchased a building next to the Short Brothers. The Short brothers were building balloons, but after the American Wright Brother’s success, decided that they should get a license to construct Wright Flyers from Orville and Wilbur.

William Oke Manning and Horatio Barber (in 1911, Barber flew the world’s first cargo flight when in Britain, he transported electric Osram light bulbs from Shoreham to Hove. He donated his L100 prize money towards a prize for his fellow pilots. He was also the first person in Great Britain to gain an aeronautical degree. He was also a pilot trainer during WWI) worked alongside Howard Wright at the new business known as the Scottish Aeroplane Syndicate. Barber designed a successful monoplane that was known as the Valkrie – and constructed by Howard Wright.

Howard Wright 1909 Biplane

The Scottish Aeroplane Syndicate received its first order for a biplane from Malcolm Seton Karr in December of 1908 at a cost of £1,200.

This was Howard Wright’s 1909 biplane, and is the aeroplane shown in the Wills’s card at the very top.


The Howard Wright 1909 Biplane. The one-and-only.

Wright’s design was of similar layout to the contemporary Voisin aircraft, being a pusher biplane with a front-mounted elevator and a rear-mounted box-like biplane tail with elongated fixed end-surfaces and a single central rudder. Wright’s aircraft differed in some details from Voisin’s designs, most obviously in having biplane front elevators and an undercarriage consisting of a single wheel carried by a pyramid of struts in front of the wings, with supplementary wheels on either wingtip and a tailwheel. This arrangement resembled that of the REP monoplane which had been displayed along with examples of Voisin aircraft at the Paris Aero Salon that December, and was intended to provide a degree of experience in lateral control of the aircraft without actually lifting off.

The fuselage was a tapered box-girder fabricated from welded steel tubes, the pilot’s seat being under the wings leading edge with the engine behind him.

From the March 27, 1909 edition of Flight magazine comes the following (w)right up on the Howard Wright Biplane of 1909.

I should note right here, that Flight magazine HYPHENATES the aircraft as Howard-Wright… which, if that was Wright’s intent, he was wrong. In this case, I am going out on a limb and suggest that Flight magazine was incorrect in adding a hyphen, and that Wills’s picked it up and used it. Wright couldn’t have hyphenated his own name when naming the aircraft – could he? Could it have been done to differentiate between himself and his aeroplane? Darn. Now I’m not sure. Flight magazine was pretty darn good at getting the facts correct.

The biplane designed by Mr. Howard T. Wright and built at his factory has several features, of which perhaps the most important is the entire use of steel tubes in the construction of the framework. These tubes are of special steel, and are specially drawn to different sections, those forming the main longitudinal members being tubular, while those which form the struts between the two decks have a pear-shaped section in accordance with the accepted theories of air-resistance. Other tubes again are oval in section, so that in the whole construction no trouble and expense has been spared to combine strength with lightness. Throughout, the joints are rigid, and in most cases have been formed by the oxy-acetylene welding process, which has even been used for securing the stapes to which the tie-wires are attached. In other places, flanged joints are used, but everywhere the work has been executed with the same care, so that the machine has a particularly neat, not to say delicate appearance, the latter effect being given to it by the small section of the steel tubing of the main framework.

In its general lines, the Howard-Wright biplane belongs to the Voisin type, inasmuch as it has a box-kite tail. This member encloses a vertical rudder, and there is also a biplane elevator in front. The mounting of the machine is unusual, for there is but one wheel for it to run on beneath the central chassis and another under the tail. On the extremeties of the lower deck there are, however, two small wheels of the bicycle type. The idea involved is that the embryo aviator will be able to learn something of the control of the machine without leaving terra firma by driving it about over the ground on two wheels only; in this way it is anticipated that he will learn to steer and balance the machine. Inset into the rear edges of the main planes at both ends and on both decks are small righting planes, which are used for restoring lateral stability.

The motive power is derived from a 50-h.p. Metallurgique aero-motor, and a special feature of the system of propulsion is the use of a pair of compensated two-bladed propellers mounted in tandem. At first sight it appears as if there is but one four-bladed propeller in position, but, as a matter of fact, each pair of blades are separate, and revolve in opposite directions. They are interconnected by means of a differential-gear—similar to that used on a motor car—one member of which is driven direct by the engine. The propeller nearest the motor has much larger blades than that behind it, and absorbs two-thirds of the power, but the speeds of the propellers are equal: each runs at one-third the engine speed. Mr. Howard Wright’s object in arranging his propellers so that they revolve in opposite directions is to neutralise their gyroscopic effect; the torque of the engine is not balanced by this system, as might at first appear, to be the case. The surfaces of the flyer are made of linen, coated with a specially smooth glossy varnish. The car or chassis of the machine is also entirely covered with fabric, and the pilot sits almost immediately over the front edge of the lower deck.

Aeroplanes built used the Metallurgique motor built by Warwick Wright, as well as the British-made ENV motor that was supplied by Warwick Wright.

The motor worked the aircraft’s most innovative design feature… two contra-rotating propellers featuring two blades per propellers, that used a patented 3:1 reduction gearbox.

The wings had ash spars and spruce ribs, with Voisin-style “side-curtains” between the ends of the wings. Lateral control was by means of four small ailerons fitted to the trailing edges of both wings, a feature not found on Voisin’s aircraft. The fabric-covered wood tail assembly was carried on steel booms. Steel tube was also used for the interplane struts, these being of a special streamlined section.

The aircraft was finished in time to be displayed at the 1909 Olympia Aero Exhibition, after which it was taken to the “flying field” established by Noel Pemberton Billing at Fambridge in Essex, England. After a journey in which the aircraft suffered damage first when the wagon carrying it was driven into a railway bridge and again when manhandling it across a ditch surrounding the airfield, further damage occurred when Wright’s shed was demolished by a storm. The aircraft had been repaired by May, and trials began supervised by William Oke Manning, who may also have contributed to the aircraft’s design. On testing the engine inexplicably over-revved, shearing the propeller shaft and causing the propeller to disintegrate spectacularly, sending fragments through the iron roof of the shed and damaging the tail booms. Repairs were complete by June, when Seaton Kerr began ground trials. Some satisfactory flights were achieved, but the ground at Fambridge was too rough, and the aircraft was taken to Camber Sands where the aircraft was flown successfully.

Howard Wright 1909 Biplane Specifications

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 43 feet (13 meters);
  • Wingspan: 40 feet (12 meters);
  • Wing area: 620 square feet (58 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 1,600 pounds (726 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Metallurgique 50 horsepower motor driving contra-rotating two-bladed propellers;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed, 8 feet (2.4 meters) diameter.

Howard Wright Avis Monoplane 1909

Howard Wright Avis Monoplane.jpg

Howard Wright Avis Monoplane

The Avis monoplane was designed by Howard Wright and Willam Manning. It was a single seat tractor (motor at front) plane with an open wire-braced wooden fuselage that utilized wing-warping to affect turns. The wings were braced by wires attached to two pairs of cabane struts coming down to form two A-frames that carried skids with wheels (two) attached via shock cords.

The Avis monoplane had a moving cruciform tail built as a single unit but moved via universal joint. There was a tailwheel at the base.

It used foot pedals for lateral control (side-to-side) which caused the wing warping. It had a stick with a steering wheel to control the rudder and elevator, respectively.

A prototype known as the Golden Plover (I believe a plover is a type of bird) used a Anzani 30 horsepower motor, but after trials in December of 1909, it was swapped out for a 35 horsepower Anzani. It powered a Howard Wright constructed wooden kauri pine propeller based on the Chauviere-style of propeller. This prototype flew successfully in March of 1901 by Alan Boyle – who was the de facto leader of the Scottish Aeroplane Syndicate. The prototype was sold to a Mr. Maconie.

Now that they knew the prototype monoplane could really fly, the Syndicate built a second monoplane – the Avis. Some called it the Avis II, because it was the second such monoplane built by the company, but really… this is the first Avis… but let’s call it Avis II for reasons below.

The Avis II had a more powerful motor than the Golden Plover prototype, using a 40 horsepower J.A.P. motor. It was exhibited by the Syndicate at Olympia in January of 1910… and it was purchased by R.F. Wickman, flying it at Brooklands until an engine failure caused the plane to come down hard, damaging it too much to be rebuilt. For the record, he was flying over a sewage farm at Brooklands when the accident occurred. Ewww.

The actual Avis I was built and used by Boyle for personal use. It used a 40 horsepower E.N.V. motor. He crashed the plane (wrecked) at the Bournemouth Air Show in July of 1910, just weeks after he became the 13th person to gain certification with the British Aero Club. The Avis I actually had a #3 placed on its tail, as Boyle considered this to be the third Syndicate-built aeroplane, including the Golden Plover – and its two incarnations based on the two engines. That’s daft.

Avis III was the same as the Avis II, and was purchased by J.H. Spottiswode, a race car driver, who later sold it to Cambell Gray, a photographer.

The Avis IV was built to replace Boyle’s destroyed Avis I monoplane, but when the Scottish Aeroplane Syndicate dissolved at the end of 1910, it was sold for £50 to Eustace Gray, the Brooklands airfield press steward.

Howard Wright Avis Monoplane 1909 specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 27 feet (8.2 meters);
  • Wingspan: 28 feet (8.5 meters)
  • Wing area: 160 square feet (15 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 430 pounds (195 kilograms);
  • Weigh without engine: 280 pounds (127 kilograms);
  • Gross weight: 630 pounds (286 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × J.A.P. 8-cylinder, 40 horsepower (30 kW);
  • Propellers: 2-bladed;
  • Price: £370-£490;
  • Cruising Speed: 35 miles per hour (56.3 kilometers per hour);
  • Maximum Speed: 40 miles per hour (64.4 kilometers per hour).

The Lascelles Ornis Monoplane – 1909

Tom Sopwith, one of the most famous men during WWI thanks to his Sopwith Camel (more on Tom Sopwith later on, as he also has a card in this Wills’s aviation card series), rode on that Venus balloon owned by Warwick Wright and friends, but also had Howard Wright build him a variation of the Howard Wright Avis monoplane in 1909 called the Lascelles Ornis.

Howard Wright Ornis.jpg

Howard Wright Lascelles Ornis monoplane.

The aircraft arrived there from Battersea, on October 21, 1909, and Sopwith spent little time taxi-ing it before attempting a straight flight. After covering some 300 yards in a more or less steady state, he stalled the monoplane on landing and in doing so broke the undercarriage and propeller.

After repairs, his next attempts, made with more caution, on Friday, November 4, 1909, were rewarded with several straight flights and circuits. Five days later, flights ended with a burst cylinder-head, but on the following Monday, although the weather was bad, Sopwith went up again.

A week later, Sopwith gained his licence at Brooklands in the Howard Wright 1909 Lascelles Ornis monoplane.

Sopwith used it on December 18, 1909 to win the £4,000 Baron de Forest Prize for the longest flight that year from England to the Continent, flying 169 miles (272 km) from Eastchurch, England to Beaumont in Belgium.

But, as mentioned, Sopwith gave up the monoplane for a Howard Wright 1910 Biplane

The Lascelles Ornis was built by the Scotish Aroplane Syndicate for the Lascelles company who built the aeroplane’s powerplant. The aeroplane was exhibited within their space at the 1910 Aero Show at Olympia in London, England, differed in having a two foot (0.6 meter) longer fuselage, a rectangular balanced rudder, and different control arrangements. It was fitted with a propeller made by José Weiss.

After the Olympia show the Lascelles Ornis was bought by A.G. Power, who flew it at Brooklands during 1910.

Howard Wright Lascelles Ornis Monoplane 1909 Specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 30 feet (9.1 meters);
  • Wingspan: 28 feet (8.5 meters);
  • Wing area: 154 square feet (14.3 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 600 pounds (272 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Lascelles 5-cylinder air-cooled semi-radial, 35 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour).

Okay… let’s get away from monoplanes for now, and see about the Howard Wright 1909 Biplane, which is pictured in the Wills’s card.

From what I can determine… only one 1909 Wright Howard biplane was ever built… with every other biplane built by him considered to be a 1910 version.

Howard Wright 1910 Biplane

Let’s now look at the Howard Wright 1910 Biplane.

Originally powered by a 50 hp Gnome air-cooled radial engine, the Howard Wright prototype was later fitted with a 60 horsepower E.N.V. water-cooled engine in order to qualify for the £4,000 Baron de Forest prize for the longest all-British flight to a destination on the Continent made before the end of 1910.

The first 1910 Biplane first flew at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain in August 1910 piloted by E.M Maitland. Following a crash and a repair, it was lent to Lieutenant L.E. Watkins who later entered it for the Baron de Forest prize.

The biplane was fitted with wireless equipment so it could be tracked as it crossed the English Channel. The aircraft crashed in Kent before it could compete for the prize and was later sold to the British War Office for £625, where it would be used by the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers at Larkhill.


Thomas Sopwith at the controls of his 1910 Howard Wright Biplane.

The third ENV-engine aircraft was bought by Thomas Sopwith, who after brief ground trials of his new machine on November 21, 1910, gained his Royal Aero Club (of Great Britain) flying certificate (Number 31) the same day.

On NOvember 26, 1910, Sopwith flew 107 miles (172 kilometers) in three hours and 12 minutes setting a new British endurance and distance record.

On December 18, 1910, Sopwith made a flight of 169 miles (272 kilometers) from the Royal Aero Club’s Eastchurch flying field to Beaumont in Belgium. This was not bettered before the end of the year, so Sopwith won the Baron de Forest prize. This feat was considered remarkable enough for Sopwith to be invited to meet Great Britain’s King George V, flying to Windsor Castle on February 1, 1911 to do so.

He then took the machine to the United States, where he made a number of exhibition flights, eventually damaging the poor plane beyond repair.


1910 Howard Wright Biplane, the Manurewa about to take-off from Glenora Park, Papakura, Auckland, New Zealand.

The fourth ENV-powered biplane was shipped to New Zealand in 1910 for use by the Walsh brothers (Leo and Vivian) who assembled the aircraft when it arrived. Vivian Walsh then taught himself to fly it. The biplane was then flown by Vivian Walsh in the first public powered flight in New Zealand on February 5, 1911 at Papakura near Auckland. See photo above.

A Gnome-powered example was used by the Graham White flying school at Hendon, used there in 1912. Another Gnome-powered example was entered by Lewis Turner in the 1912 Aerial Derby, but only took part in the speed trials.

Another aircraft powered by a 40 horsepower (30 kW) Green motor was used by the Graham White school in 1911. This was bought by W. C. England, who exported it to Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar) where he flew it in 1912.

Howard Wright 1910 Biplane Specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Capacity: 1;
  • Length: 36 feet 6 inches (11.13 meters);
  • Wingspan: 36 feet (11 meters);
  • Wing area: 415 square feet (38.6 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 1,200 pounds (544 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × E.N.V. V-8 water-cooled, 60 horsepower (45 kW);
  • Maximum speed: 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour);
  • Endurance: 5 hours.

So… Howard Wright… at this time, Howard Wright was considered to be one of the most respected aeroplane manufacturers in England… so what happened?

The main thing is that Howard and Warwick Wright – for whatever reason – decided to end their business partnership in late 1911.

Howard Wright’s business interests were bought out by Coventry Ordnance Works as a means for their entry into the aviation business. Howard Wright and Manning both worked for the company for a while and even designed a biplane for the British War Office competition of 1912.

While the plane seemed decent enough-they used Tom Sopwith as their test pilot, Howard Wright left the company. The Coventry Ordnance Works was not a successful business, but it did become part of English Electric Aviation, which was part of The English Electric Company Limited – a manufacturer formed after the armistice of World War I at the end of 1918. It was created to make one of Britain’s three principal electrical manufacturing concerns by amalgamating five businesses which, during the war, had been making munitions, armaments and aeroplanes.

The English Electric Aviation aspect of the company in 1960 merged with Vickers and Bristol to form the British Aircraft Corporation.

After learning to fly an aeroplane with Tom Sopwith as his teacher, Howard Wright got into the seaplane design and construction business in November of 1912, with a company called J. Samuel White & Company (Wight Aircraft) on the Isle of Wight. Howard Wright became the head of the company.

The company built and exhibited hydro biplane at Olympia in London in 1913, and then built a naval seaplane later that year.

The German Navy liked the latter seaplane and ordered them, but thanks to the outbreak of WWI with Germany as the enemy, the sea planes were never delivered.

Just before WWI erupted, the French requested an example of a twin engine “land” bomber from the Samuel White company… so Howard Wright designed one… and the company manufactured it – it was called the Wight Twin (Landplane).

The Wight Twin (Landplane) was a biplane with five-bay folding wings. Its crew of three sat in a small central nacelle between the twin booms sitting atop the lower wing.

It was powered by two Salmson (Emile Salmson & Cie of France) water-cooled radial engines providing 200 horsepower each. The engines were placed at the front of the fuselage booms – one each.



The Wight Twin Landplane – land version.

Completed in July of 1915 and tested – it flew! But, in September of 1915 when it was being tested by a French pilot prior to acceptance of the plane… it crashed, and the contract was kaput.

Down, but not yet out, the British Navy came calling, asking the company if they could design and construct a long range aeroplane that could carry 18-inch torpedoes (not a typo) to sink warships.

Howard Wright designed the Wight Twin Seaplane… which was based on the Landplane… except that the central nacelle was removed with the cockpits (plural) for the two crewmen placed within the two fuselages behind the wings.

While there was a delay in completing the first aeroplane owing to a shortage of motors, it was completed in 1916… but tests proved it under-powered, unable to carry a full load of fuel and a torpedo.

Two more aeroplanes were built – modified with longer float struts and new tail surfaces… but the planes were still under-powered… but the British bought them and used them during the war.

Called the Wight Elephants by those in the aviation industry… the Wight Twin aircraft designs were not followed up with again.

By the way… I can not find any images of the Wight Twin Seaplane… anyone?

Specifications of the Wight Twin Sealplane:

  • Crew: Two;
  • Length: 43 feet 9 inches (13.33 meters);
  • Wingspan: 84 feet (25.6 meters);
  • Powerplant: 2 × Salmson water-cooled radial engine, 200 horsepower each;
  • Maximum speed: 80 miles per hour (128 kilometers per hour);
  • Endurance: 5 hours;
  • Armament: 1x .303 in Lewis gun; and one 18 inch (45.7 centimeter) torpedo or two 500 pound (227 kilogram) bombs.

The Wight Twin aeroplanes had been nicknamed the Wight Elephants for their large size and for their ability to lose money (white elephant).

Fortunately, the company was also constructing other seaplanes.

Wight Navyplane(s)

The first big success for the company was its Pusher Seaplane or Navyplane, an unequal-span pusher biplane with five-bay wings mounted on two long floats. It was powered by a single 200 horsepower Salmson Canton Unné water-cooled radial engine.

It was exhibited at the 1914 Olympia Air Show in March that year, and was first flown on April 8, 1914.

Because it could fly with good take-off, climb performance and endurance both the British Royal Naval Air Service and German Navy placed orders…  and again, with WWI happening, the Germans never got their aeroplane… but the British decided they would take their order and the Germans.

Orders for another seven aeroplane called the Improved Navyplane Type A.I followed, these having a stronger airframe, folding wings and an 8 foot (2.4 meter) greater wingspan, but retaining the Salmson engine.

Four more aeroplanes were built, called the Improved Navyplane Type A.II, and were identical to the Type A.I, except the new ones used a 225 horsepower Sunbeam engine manufactured by the Sunbeam Motor Car Company.

The initial Wight Navyplanes were used by the British Royal Naval Air Service to provide reconnaissance missions over the North Sea.

The Improved Navyplane Type A.I were sent to the Dardanelles (the waters off Turkey) to serve in the Gallipoli Campaign of WWI between April 15, 1915 and January 9, 1916.

The four Improved Navyplane Type A.II aeroplanes saw limited usage during WWI owing to the unreliability of the Sunbeam motor.


Specifications Of The Wight Navyplane

  • Crew: 2;
  • Wingspan: 63 fee (19.2 meters);
  • Wing area: 735 square feet (68.3 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 5,732 pounds (2,600 kilograms);
  • Gross weight: 3,500 pounds (1,588 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Salmson 2M7 14-cylinder, two-row, water-cooled radial piston engine, 199.9 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 72 miles per hour (116 kilometers per hour);
  • Endurance: 6 hours;
  • Service ceiling: 9,600 feet (2,926 meters);
  • Rate of climb: 400 feet/minute (2 meters per second).

Wight Seaplane (aka Admiralty Type 840)

Next, was the Wight Seaplane – building 54 of the aircraft that the British Royal Naval Air Service called the Admiralty Type 840.

The Wight Seaplane was a smaller version of the Navyplane.

It was a two-float aeroplane with tandem open cockpits, and instead of the pusher motor, used a tractor motor placed on the aircraft’s nose – a Sunbeam 225 horsepower motor.

A total of 52 Wight Seaplanes were built – with 20 more extra – constructed for Wight by both Portholme Aviation and William Beardmore & Co., Ltd.


The Wight Seaplane served with the Royal Navy Air Service at Dundee Felixstowe (seaplane Experimental Station), Scapa Flow (a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland) and Gibraltar – at the latter two sites, it was used for anti-submarine patrols between 1915 and 1917.

General characteristics of the Wight Seaplane

  • Length: 41 feet (12.50 meters);
  • Wingspan: 61 feet (18.59 meters);
  • Height: (?);
  • Wing area: 568 square feet (52.8 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 3,408 pounds (1,549 kilograms);
  • Max. takeoff weight: 4,810 pounds (2,186 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Sunbeam, 225 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 81 miles per hour (130 kilometers per hour);
  • Armament: One 810 pound (370 kilogram) 14-inch (355.6 millimeter) torpedo or equivalent weight in bombs.

Wight Quadruplane (Wight Type 4)

During WWI – 1915… when the Sopwith Airplane company began to construct successful triplanes (they did so before the Fokker triplane – like the one flown by the Red Baron), the Wight Company asked itself: WWHWD (what would Howard Wright do)?

The answer: design a quadruplane… a four-winged fighter aeroplane.

The Wight Quadruplane – known as the Wight Type 4 (I like that they didn’t use Roman numerals) was supposed a single seat aeroplane to be used by the British during WWI.

But it sucked.


Wight Quadruplane – version 1

Inspired by the Sopwith Triplane, it had an unusual arrangement in which the fuselage was placed between the middle two wings with upper and lower wings attached by struts.

As well, its wings weren’t as ong as the plane’s length, and altogether, the wings were not a good fit for this aeroplane.

The plane used a 110 horsepower Clerget9Z nine-cylinder air-cooled rotary engine, and came equipped with two 7.7mm Vickers machine guns.

The wing problem was discovered during tests in 1916 when the aeroplane had difficulty in lifting off.

In February 1917 the second version was ready for testing.


The single thick struts were replaced with more conventional parallel wire braced struts and the landing gear was lengthened.Look at the struts in the above two photos of Version 1 and 2… there’s the most obvious visual difference.

The new wings were of varying chord and the overall diameter of the fuselage was increased. Most importantly, a larger dorsal fin and rudder were installed.

But again, the plane was considered a failure, and more redesigns were in the works.

The final version had new wings of decreasing span from top to bottom and ailerons only on the upper two wings.

But again… tests in 1917 showed the Quadruplane to bea failure, with the final nail in the coffin occurring during a test in February of 1918 when it crashed into a cemetery.You can’t make this stuff up!

Final version with decreasing span wings July 1917


General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 21 ft 6 in (6.55 m)
  • Wingspan: 19 ft 0 in (5.79 m)
  • Height: 10 ft 6 in (3.20 m)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Clerget 9Z nine-cylinder rotary engine, 110 hp (82 kW)
  • Armament: 2 fixed forward-firing synchronized 0.303 in (7.70 mm) Vickers machine guns

The Wight Quadruplane was the last aircraft built by the Samuel Wight Company.

Howard Wright left the company, and when WWI concluded in 1919, the company closed up shop for good.

During WWI, we know that Howard Wright had 3 patents in this period, for the “Dual-profile aerofoil”, a “Folding Wing”, and for “Engine valves”. And his work on seaplane float design was influential. He was also on the Committee of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors.

He then became something of a Management Guru. He had begun to write before WWI had ended his “Some Thoughts on Organisation” paper with the background that “organisation is a subject in which we as a nation do not excel” – but the Germans do.

Howard Wright then devoted his energies to the ‘scientific’ study of
engineering management, writing a notable book, finally published in 1922.
He never returned to aircraft design and construction, but he remained an
influential figure through the 1920s – on committees, and in the organization of
aviation events. And he also seems to have become interested in the oil
refining industry, patents granted.
However… when he died exactly – I have no clue…
Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Air Shows, Airfields, Balloons, Failures, Heavier-Than-Air, Helicopters, Motors and Engines, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #55 – Paulhan’s New Aeroplane.

Card #55.jpgHistory 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.)


Louis Paulhan in 1909 looking pretty happy.

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.

Card #55R.jpg

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-air-meet-1909Vichy 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.
Voisin .jpg

Voisin biplane

  • 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.


William Boeing circa 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.


B&W Seaplane aka Boeing Model I

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.

Paulhan Experimental Biplane 1910.jpg

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.

Image result for Paulhan 1910 triplane


Paulhan-Tatin Aéro-Torpille No.1

Paulhan-Tatin Aéro-Torpille No.1.jpg

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.

From Wikipedia:

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.


Photo from Louis Paulhan Wikipedia entry of his grave. Photo by Emeraude.

He died on February 10th, 1963 in St-Jean-de-Luz in south-western France and is buried in Pézenas.

Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Air Shows, Heavier-Than-Air, People, Pilots, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #54 – “Piquerez” Biplane.

Card #54.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Piquerez” Biplane.

Card #54 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut black reverse

  • Paul Jules Jean-Jacques Koechlin, in Mulhouse (Haut-Rhin), France, May 7, 1881 – August 17, 1916,  Étinehem, France.
  • Alfred Ritter von Pischoff, aka  Alfred de Pischof (one F) aka Alfred de Pischoff (two F’s), in May 17, 1882 in Vienna, Austria – August 12, 1922, in Villacoublay, France.

At first glimpse, this tobacco card seems pretty straight forward… but is it?

What the heck is a Piquerez… is it a style of plane… or named after someone, and if so, why?

The reverse of the card indicates that the aeroplane was actually manufactured for a Monsieur Piquerez by the aeroplane manufacturing firm of Pischoff-Koechlin of Billancourt, France.

Card #54R.jpg

That seems pretty straightforward.

But… finding out more information on Mr. Piquerez was a non-starter, so it can be assumed that he did not design the Piquerez Biplane and have the Pischoff-Koechlin company build the plane for him. He was just a guy who wanted to impress the women as a pilot – hey… I’m sure it would have worked, so he was just a guy who bought himself an aeroplane.

I can also assume that he did not use the plane to achieve any notable aviation events… or that the plane did anything spectacular.

Why do I assume that? Well, if he had designed this successful bird, we would know more about him… and there would have been more aircraft bearing his name.

As it is… the firm of Pischoff-Koechlin came on with a flash and then petered out. Proof of that can be found in the fact that aeroplane manufacturer Pischoff seems to have his name spelled three different ways.

“What’s your name, kid?”
Maybe you have a new friend after you get out of the hospital.

To hear about the changes in spellings, a current relative of Pischoff says when a great-grandmother went to register for a birth certificate decades ago, the town hall employee filling out the paperwork added an extra “f”.

So… Pischoff… I am unable to find any birth or date data aside from the year of each (at least before I started writing this)… but that may be simply because I am sadly very limited in my knowledge of the French language. Whatever…

After starting off fiddling with the aerodynamics of gliders, Pischoff felt it was time he began designing a biplane: the de Pischoff 1907 biplane.

The biplane was built by Lucien Chauvière, who would later gain fame for his laminated wood propellers.

This tractor biplane (engine at the front to pull like a tractor) is one of the earliest examples of a tractor aircraft… people say it is the FIRST, but, since this aircraft wasn’t really successfully flown, I can’t see how it IS a first.

Wikipedia says: “(the Pischoff 1907 biplane) was an unequal-span, single bay biplane powered by a 25 hp (18 kW) Anzani engine mounted in the middle of the gap between the wings. Booms carried the aft-mounted elongated triangular fin and horizontal stabiliser, with rectangular rudder and elevator. It was mounted on a tricycle undercarriage with two front wheels below the wings’ leading edge and a third aft of the trailing edge.”

Here’s what the Pischoff 1907 Biplane looked like:


This aircraft actually looks quite legit. And the motor is at the front!

  • Crew: 1;
  • Wingspan: 10 meters (32 feet 10 inches);
  • Wing area: 25 square meters (270 square feet)
  • Powerplant: One Anzani 3-cylinder, air cooled, fan-configuration, 19 kW (25 horsepower);
  • Propellers: 2-bladed Chauvière.

The plane was first tested in November of 1907, but it wasn’t successful… however:

  • December 5-6, 1907, the biplane flew a few meters, but I would assume that was more than likely just the plane hopping;
  • December 12, 1907, the aeroplane performed with flights of 50 meters (164 feet) and 100 meters (328 feet) at Issy – which again sounds like the plane was under-powered;
  • On January 15, 1908, flights of 30 meters (98.4 feet), 40 meters (131.2 feet) and 80 meters (262.5 feet) were ‘achieved’… hops and not enough power to lift off.

The aircraft was damaged at some point in January of 1908, and work on it was abandoned.

Later in 1908, Pischoff partnered with Koechlin, and together they built a tractor monoplane with three pairs of wings in tandem, stepped up toward the front to a closed fuselage. It was powered by a Dutheil-Chalmers 20 horsepower engine.


Pischoff and Koechlin monoplane of 1908.

Interesting that they stepped down in horsepower from the 1907 biplane attempt… perhaps the Dutheil-Chalmers motor was very much lighter in weight.

On October 29, 1908,  Pischoff and Koechlin began testing this new monoplane at Villacoublay, France, with the best result achieving enough lift to travel 500 meters (1,640.4 feet).

But that appears to be the height of their success.

The machine never became prominent – and if you continue reading below, you’ll see what may have been the final straw to break the camel’s back.


Alfred de Pischoff

Let’s take a closer look at Alfred de Pischoff  – two “f’s, because that’s what the French government used.

Starting at the end, we know that he died after falling out of his aeroplane after forgetting to attach himself securely to the aircraft.

As soon as you know that, you realize that nothing else good could possibly have happened before that.

So… with that 1908 flight, and Pischoff and Koechlin having flown it some 500 meters (1,640.4 feet) on a flight, the two must have hoped that with further refinements they would be able to have their tractor biplane up into the wild blue yonder.

Early in 1909  Captain Walter George Windham (see Card #40) commissioned Pischoff & Koechlin to manufacture a  biplane for him—the Pischoff Flyer. It was exhibited at the first aeroplane event at Olympia in Great Britain from March 19-27, 1909.

Pischoff Flyer

Specs of the Windham Pischoff Flyer:

  • Length: 35 feet (10.67 meters);
  • Wing Area: 495 feet (150.88 meters);
  • Weight: 390 pounds (176.9 kilograms)
  • 2 cylinder Dutheil-Chalmers motor (plans for a 4 cylinder never occurred)

There was a guarantee from the manufacturer that the plane would fly 300-400 meters (1,000 – 1,300 feet), but there are no reports it ever successfully flew. No sales.

Next, they began working on a monoplane – a tractor monoplane powered by the same Dutheil-Chalmers 20 horsepower motor, and entered themselves and their new creation in to the world’s first aviation meet/race: Prix de Lagatinerie, May 23rd, 1909 — which was meant to open the Port-Aviation airfield  at Juvisy, France.

Organized by two barons, the brothers Charles and Bernard de Lagatinerie, the main event was for FF5,000 (the Prix de Lagatinerie) given to the pilot who could fly his aeroplane around a 10-lap 1.2 kilometer (0.75 mile) course in the shortest time. The 2016 equivalent of FF5,000 of 1909  = FF12,750,017.03 of 2016… which we must then convert the obsolete French Franc to 2016 US$2,050,318.

That’s seems like an expensive prize… especially when the FF100 entrance fee works out to US$41,000.

In the event no one was able to do that, it was agreed upon beforehand that the prize would go to whomever flew the longest distance over that course.

The course was marked by two pylons, 600 meters (1,968.5 feet) apart.

Stops were allowed for refueling and fixes, but time spent on the ground would be added to the time spent in the air.

Start time was 2PM on May 23, 1909, with nine pilots having entered, with each paying a FF100 entrance fee prior to May 17.

Despite the entrance fee, only four pilots made it to the event.

  • Léon Delagrange and his Voisin Delagrange No. 3 – an older Voisin model;
  • Henri Rougier in a Voisin – a newer Vosin model;
  • F. de Rue (a pseudonym for Capitaine Ferdinand Ferber) in a Voisin – a newer Vosin model;
  • Alfred de Pischoff in a Pischoff and Koechlin monoplane.

The three Voisin aircraft were all pusher biplanes (motor at the back), and all were powered by 50 horsepower Antoinette water-cooled V8 engine. Power, baby!

The Pischoff and Koechlin aeroplane was a tractor monoplane (motor in the front), and was “powered” by that 20 horsepower horizontally opposed air-cooled, two-cylinder Dutheil and Chalmers engine. A difference of 30 horsepower. That’s huge!

At the race’s scheduled start time, there was a crosswind blowing of three to four meters/second (seven – nine miles per hour)… the runway was a freshly mowed field. Anyhow, the race was delayed until 5:45PM.

Prior to the first start time, our boy Alfred de Pischoff decided he might withdraw… but with the later start time, he figured he might be able to make the aeroplane fly like a Vosin aircraft.

After starting his engine and barreling down the grassy runway for a couple of hundred meters, de Pischoff was unable to get the monoplane into the air, and bowed out of the competition.

Undaunted, de Pischoff went back to the drawing board with Koechlin, but without him… if you know what I mean, and by himself designed the Pischof-Autoplan.

Pischoff Autoplan 1910.jpg

The Pischoff-Autoplan made its first flight in March of 1910, flying a distance of 400 meters (1,312.3 feet). It was actually the very first aeroplane to fly within the Austro-Hungarian Empire… which itself would soon see its last days.

On April 24, 1910, Pischoff earned his pilot’s certificate – I assume from the Aero Club of France. I would guess it was in the Pischoff-Autoplan.

It was actually a large plane—it looks like a car—with a large-looking motor, but probably under-powered for the weight it was carrying – hence the 400 meter flight plan that I discussed earlier.

Hmm… maybe Paul Koechlin had better luck.


Paul Koechlin, May 30, 1908. He looks like a shady limo driver.

Paul Koechlin was born in 1881 in a French industrial family.

I have no idea why Koechlin became interested in aviation suffice to say most of the world did too at that time. I have no idea what in his educational background made him think it possible, but he certainly wanted to, at the very least, design aeroplanes.

Beginning in 1908 through 1912, Koechlin gave it the old college try… whatever that means, from his company Aéroplanes P. Koechlin at 27 rue de Vanves Billancourt in France. The company not only built aeroplane parts for others, but also built components for other types of inventors… IE… he did not put all of his oeufs (eggs) in one basket.

The first aeroplane – a monoplane –  was powered by a 70 horsepower GIP engine, and had a fuselage constructed of varnished mahogany – the first of its kind.The propellers he carved himself from a walnut tree trunk.

Other aircraft built by Koechlin are:

  • 1908 – Koechlin No. 1, a biplane powered by a Dutheil & Chalmers 17 horsepower motor.

Koechlin No. 1 biplane 1908.

  • 1908 – Koechlin & Pischoff, monoplane flying over 500 meters (1,640.4 feet) on October 29, 1908 at Villacoublay, France.

Specs of the Pischoff and Koechlin monoplane of 1908

  • Wingspan: 6.3 meters (20.7 feet) and 5.3 meters (17.4 feet);
  • Wing area: 25 square meters (269 square feet);
  • Powerplant: Dutheil & Chalmers two-cylinder engine of 20 hp.

There’s an image of it much further above.

  • There’s also a 1909 biplane – or at least that’s what the data accompanying the photo suggests… which looks a heck of a lot like the Wills’s card this blog is based upon… but guesses say this airplane is from 1908… could Wills’s have created a 1911 card based on an old three-year-old design?

Translated to English, it reads: The Aeroplane Lejeune, in profile (built in the Ateliers de Pischoff and Koechlin). Wingspan 6.5 meters Length 6.25 meters Surface 25 meters, carries total weight 175 kilograms. Engine Buchet 3 cylinders 10/12 horsepower, 2 helices places in the back as in the “Wright”.

  • 1909 Koechlin Type A monoplane had a wingspan of 8.51 meters (27 feet 11 inches) (8.51 meters), and a gross weight of 258.55 kilograms (570 pounds), and capable of flying at a speed of 70.8 kilometers per hour (44 miles per hour).
Koechlin Type C monoplane.jpg

You can see that this 1909 Type A monoplane from Koechlin has ailerons.

In 1909, he opened a flying school in Port-Aviation in Viry-Châtillon in France using aeroplanes built by Pischoff-Koechlin.

In April 1910 he moved to and opened a pilot training school at Mourmelon, a suburb to the west of Paris. For FF2000 the student pilots could obtain their license but, it was well understood that breaks (of the wood of the airplane) would be at their expense.


Marthe Niel

On December 19, 1910 , Marthe Niel (1880-1928) becomes the second woman after Raymonde de Laroche (see Card #50)  to successfully earn a pilot’s license (#226) by flying in a Koechlin C monoplane. She was born Marie-Ange Denieul in Paimpon, France… and when Koechlin sold his aviation interests to Vinet in 1911, it seems as though Niel (coincidentally?) also stopped flying.

Now… despite having a flying school (with Pischof), it does not appear as though Koechlin actually flew himself.

Proof of this appears to be with the onset of WWI when he was not placed in the French Air Force, but rather served in a supply regiment on the ground.

He was gravely injured at the Battle of Somme, dying in an ambulance on August 17, 1916.

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

Wills’s Aviation Card #53 – Vedovelli Multiplane.

Wills's Aviation 1910 Series tobacco card

History Behind The Card: Vedovelli Multiplane.

Card #53 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut issue

  • Édouard Vedovelli, month-day-year in France  – month-day-year death in parts unknown. I always wanted to write that… to say it out loud actually.

But… maybe I did find something about his birth and death date. See below!

This Wills’s aviation Card #53 is yet another tough one to research… even Flight magazine’s famed archives contain zero mention of Édouard Vedovelli from 1909 through 1920… same with Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft 1913… zippo.

And a photo of  Édouard Vedovelli? I’m sure one exists – but who knows.

card-53rWhat can we take from that? Well… just look at the aircraft! How the heck was that supposed to provide sustained heavier-than-air flight?

From the Aerodrome (http://www.theaerodrome.com)- a very good resource site for any historical aviation look-see, some of the commentators have provided all of the information of the multiplane/seroplane’s designer, and the aircraft itself.

An electrical appliance manufacturer, Édouard Vedovelli is purported to have been born in France, with the assumption that the family name is of Italian origin.

According to the folks in the Aerodrome, there are two French-language patents in his name:
409.920 Machine volante – March 2, 1911 – flying machine
440.629 Hélice aérienne – July 16, 1912 – type of aviation propeller

Thing is… I found 30 patents.

  1. March 20, 1905: A system for electrically connecting the rails of the railways and trams;
  2. March 20, 1905: Color photographic process;
  3. April 18, 1905: Process and apparatus for desiccating fruits, vegetables, plants, tubers, etc.;
  4. December 18, 1909: Flying machine;
  5. May 6, 1910: Flying machine;
  6. December 7, 1910: Protector for pneumatic tires;
  7. January 27, 1911: Aeroplane;
  8. March 2, 1911: Flying machine;
  9. September 5, 1911: Flying machine;
  10. September 5, 1911: Aeroplane;
  11. September 5, 1911: Aeroplane;
  12. September 23, 1911: Aeroplane;
  13. December 1, 1911: Aircraft engine;
  14. December 18, 1911: Combustion engine;
  15. December 30, 1911: Aeroplane;
  16. December 30, 1911: Aircraft engine;
  17. December 30, 1911: Flying machine;
  18. January 1, 1912: Aeroplane;
  19. July 16, 1912: Aerial propeller;
  20. July 18, 1912: Aeroplane;
  21. July 18, 1912: Aeroplane;
  22. January 31, 1913: Aeroplane;
  23. August 22, 1913: Cement post;
  24. August 22, 1913: Cement post;
  25. August 22, 1913: Cement post;
  26. December 6, 1913: Cement post;
  27. April 26, 1915: Device for drawing, on a reduced scale, the map of the path traveled by a vehicle and giving all indications, speeds, accelerations and others relating to the movement of this vehicle;
  28. June 17, 1926: A device for obtaining decorative and scenic effects with water jets;
  29. March 11, 1927: Circuit breaker with movable array;
  30. August 27, 1927: Circuit breaker with movable array.

Well… plenty of information there… we know that since all of these patents are written in French, he must indeed have at the very least lived in France.

As well… he was alive at some point in 1927… it’s an estimation that the patent office must have examined his patent request at the very latest on August 27, 1927, assuming that they looked at Vedovelli’s submission the same year it was submitted.

Also… it appears as though after receiving the patent for an aeroplane on January 31, 1913… he gave up trying to create a heavier-than-air aircraft, and even gave up trying to further aviation technology, concentrating his energies on cement posts.

I haven’t examined those patents, but perhaps they were for means of encasing electrical wires in cement…. like the light poles we have along highways et al.

Vedovelli’s initial patent involved electric trams, and his final patents involved electrical circuit breakers.

I wonder if he tried to use electronics as a means of transmitting power along his many designs of aircraft?

Apparently his work as an electrical engineer – I assume he owned a company – allowed him a fair bit of financial riches, allowing him to partake in his love of aviation.

Well… he did own a company.

From what I have been able to glean, the Vedoveilli & Priestly electrical company provided electrical equipment and lighting of the Electricity Palace at the 1900 World Expo.

Above is a catalogue of materials produced by Vedovelli & Priestly published in 1899 for such items as electric circuits, circuit breakers, switchboards, panelboards and batteries.

Vedovelli & Priestly Co. had their electrical company at 169 rue Saint-Charles, Paris.

At around the same time, Vedovelli & Priestly built a hybrid electric car that ran on an electric battery and gasoline that was apparently capable of reaching 80 kilometers an hour.


It had a 1.75 horsepower Dion-Bouton gas engine that was coupled to a dynamo to generate an electric current of 10 Amps under 100 Volts… apparently the entire “motor” set-up weighed a mere 140 kilograms (308.65 pounds).

So… we can assume that Vedovelli was at least 20 years old in 1899 when the car was built… ergo he was born in 1879 or earlier and lived to 1927 or later according to the patent filing dates.

But… nope… I just found a French 1896 newspaper mentioning Vedovelli as an electrical engineer… again assuming a minimum age of 20, he was born in 1876 or earlier.

Hey… it’s a start. I’m going to keep digging…

Okay… I found (at http://gallica.bnf.fr) a France Ministry of Justice bulletin that (translated via Google Translate) declares the birth of :

Vedovelli (Edouard), on November 9, 1870, of Italian father, in Paris, dwelling there, 9, rue de Navarin.

So… his birth date is November 9, 1870, Paris, France!

Holy crap, that’s exciting! He also had a sister named Catherine born on November 16, 1872!

Let’s look at his patents now: What is interesting in the listing of patents issued to Vedovelli (found HERE) is that some of them are named as “Aéroplane” and “Machine volante” = Aeroplane/airplane and Flying machine.

I suppose the flying machine was Vedovelli’s way of stating that his Multiplane was a whole new animal, or perhaps the patents were for a different type of aircraft like a helicopter or glider… but that is just me guessing.

I am unable to actually get in and look at the patents (can’t figure out how, and I’m afraid I would have to pay to do so… and I’m cheap), so everything is just guess work at this time. Perhaps if one of you knows how to find out more information, you could share either “how” you got it, or just what that information entails.

Vedovelli had:

  • 9 patents for aeroplanes;
  • 5 patents for flying machines;
  • 1 patent for propellers;
  • 3 patents for engines, two definitely for aircraft.

That’s 18 (perhaps 17) patents in total for aviation.

The Wills’s card denotes Vedovelli’s Multiplane.

Not a particularly strong drawing—it doesn’t show where the propeller is located—but it does, however, offer us a comical take on an aircraft that because of a lack of data on the Internet, must have been a complete failure.

In fact, all of Vedovelli’s aircraft appear to have been failures.


Still… the more I look at it, the Multiplane has some good ideas… a bow at the front of the fuselage to break the wind around it. The front splitter wing at the lower level to help air get under the plane to provide lift… the enclosed cockpit… it’s too bad it was so under-powered.

Oh well. Let’s take a look at the Vedovelli Multiplane, based on writings found within Aerodrome.

I am curious to know where the information was gathered from – perhaps a book somewhere?

The Vedovelli Multiplane in January of 1911. The front of the plane is facing left, in case you were wondering.

The Vedovelli Multiplane. The front of the plane is facing left, in case you were wondering. Does anyone else like the bay windows for the pilot to see in an almost panoramic view… except directly in front of him. Hmmm, two wheels.

Short fuselage with a fully-enclosed cockpit – a rarity for the era.

Motor was a 4-cylinder water-cooled engine place directly behind the pilot.

At the side of the fuselage are large radiators to cool the engine.

In the first version of the Vedovelli Multiplane, the engine drove a single pusher propeller (it means it is placed behind the pilot). It had very high tailbooms.

Vedovelli attempted to fly the Multiplane in 1911 at the Issy les Moulineux flying field. Here was the result:


After the ill-fated attempt to fly in January of 1911. If you look closely, you can see one of the propeller blades between the two large wings – thrust out from the “safety” of the rear of the fuselage.

The reason given for the failure was that the propeller was almost entirely enclosed.

A rear view of the Vedovelli Multiplane attempting to take off. The propeller is contained within the large open rear cabin space.

A rear view of the Vedovelli Multiplane attempting to take off. The propeller is contained within the large open rear cabin space. Hmmm… three wheels. Perhaps a later model?

In the ensuing years until 1912, Vedovelli continued to tweak his design… so perhaps each tweak is represented by a new patent? Hmm… probably. In the photo directly above you can see that the Multiplane has three wheels, whereas the first black and white photo above depicts it with two wheels. Which came first?

Since the Wills’s card only depicts two wheels – and it’s a 1911 card… and data suggests that tweaks occurred through 1912, perhaps we can assume it was two wheels first, and then a third front wheel added for additional balance and distribution of weight,

Known design changes included several modifications to the wings, rudder and propeller.

Apparently one version had two propellers on additional skeletal tailbooms… but still driven by that same single 4-cylinder motor.

The Multiplane weight was estimated to be around 750 kilograms (1,653 pounds).

Lastly… I did find a death notice in a French newspaper database housing Le Petit journal dated August 14, 1926, which I have translated via Google Translate, so it may not be perfect because I didn’t type in the original accents:

We learn of the death of Mr. Edouard Vedovelli, engineer, officer of the Legion of Houneur, who is specialized in electric works. He organized the feast lighting of the Decorative Arts Exhibition. The obsequies will take place tomorrow at 10 hours. We will meet at the mortuary, 4 rue de Naples.
A member of the French Legion of Honour? Cool!

So, for the first time ever, allow me to present the birth and death details of Edouard Vedovelli :

Born: November 9, 1870, Paris, France
Died: August 13, 1926, Paris, France.

Of course… I am guessing at the actual death date… because it depends on just WHEN the newspaper picked up on that detail. But hey… 55 years-old at the time of his death.

If anyone has any further data on the life of Édouard Vedovelli,and/or detailed information on his patents and of the Multiplane – please share with me. Cheers.

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

Wills’s Aviation Card #52 – “Maxim” Biplane, 1910.

Card #52.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Maxim” Biplane, 1910.
Card #52 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills’, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut

  • Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, February 5, 1840, Sangerville, Maine, United States of America – November 24, 1916, London, Great Britain. 

First things first: I have written about Sir Hiram Maxim twice previously in this blog.

The first time was to present an 1892 Cosmopolitan magazine article (Cosmo was a different type of magazine in the 19th century) written by Maxim about the trials and tribulations about heavier-than-air flight… a problem he tackled with much zeal back in 1890. I had purchased the seven-page article via E-Bay. I think I paid $7 for it. You can read it in its entirety HERE.

Maxim’s near success at flight some 13 years before the Wright Brother’s is the stuff everyone should know about… and you can read what Wills’s Card #30 had to say about that experiment, along with my usual blurbage – read HERE.


Hiram Maxim standing in front of his 1910 Biplane. Hiram’s brother is named Hudson, as is my son. Coincidence.

As such, I am NOT going to repeat his personal history through 1894. We’ll continue from the construction of the Maxim Bi-Plane Test Rig… a testing that was never meant for an aeroplane to actually fly – just to test the aerodynamics involved.

His overall results showed that as of 1890, if a lighter and more powerful engine could be built, heavier-than-air flight could be accomplished.

Maxim knew it was possible… just that technology was limiting the event from occurring at that moment.

Now… Maxim needed to be patient and wait for technology to catch up to his aviation ideas.

To kill time and to bring in some money while furthering attention on flight, Maxim designed and built an amusement park ride at Earl’s Court Exhibition in 1904.

Earl’s Court Exhibition Center first opened in 1887, closing down in December 13, 2014. It was an exhibition, conference and events venue in London, England.

Anyhow, the amusement ride Maxim created was based on the Maxim Bi-Plane Test Rig he had built years earlier in 1890.

It had a large spinning frame holding captive cars… and as it spun, the cars were swung outward as though they were flying.

The original concept Maxim had for this was to have added a form of aileron and wings so that the rider could control their flight with a bit of up and down movement, but it was deemed unsafe.

As soon as that happened, Maxim basically excused himself from the project calling it “simply a glorified merry-go-round” – which it was.

Now Maxim wasn’t just a one-man amusement ride builder, he created a company for it… and for the life of me, I can’t determine its name… not really important as far as aviation goes, but perhaps anyone who knows something about amusement park history can lend a hand.

Also in 1904… which seems to have been when the amusement park ride fetish was tickling Maxim, he and his company created more rides of various looks at The Crystal Palace, Southport, Blackpool and New Brighton. The rides were all similar to his “glorified merry-go-round”, and helped him make a profit on the overall amusement park ride concept.

From what I understand, the Blackpool ride still operates 112 years later, and is Europe’s oldest operating amusement park ride. Known as The Flying Machines, it looks pretty much exactly like it did in 1904. It’s full name is: “Sir Hiram Maxim’s Captive Flying Machines“.

So… what else did Maxim do for fun? Well, as the inventor of the Maxim Gun, the first recoil-operated machine gun in 1883, it would appear as though he liked weapons.


So… in 1884, he started up an arms manufacturing company known as the Maxim Gun Company. … receiving financial backing from Edward Vickers to build and sell the machine gun.


The Maxim Machine Gun – drawings

That company merged later with Swedish Nordenfeldt Company in 1888, and became part of the Barrow Shipbuilding Company that was purchased by Vickers Corporation in 1897, and formed as Vickers, Son & Maxim. Maxim was a director at this company.

Regarding Vickers… in 1911, the Vickers, Son & Maxim company name was changed to Vickers Limited and expanded its operations into aircraft manufacture by the formation of Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department).

Vickers brand aircraft were produced from 1911 to until 1965, when BAC (British Aircraft Corporation) ended the name.

Back to the machine gun company… Maxim et al improved upon his original Maxim Machine Gun design, it becoming the Vickers Machine Gun… the standard British machine gun, with versions of it being used by both sides during The Great War (WWI).

Maxim retired in 1911 (hence the company name change as noted three paragraphs previous)… his last years of life affected by deafness brought on by constant exposure to the noise of his machine guns being fired.


So… let’s step back a bit… The Wills’s #52 card depicts a Maxim Biplane.

I found a two-part article on the Maxim Biplane in Flight magazine from April 30 and May 7, 1910, replete with images. Aside from the pompous introduction that bogs itself down with larger than life words, it is written in an understandable manner by Sir Hiram Maxim himself, as he describes why the plane was constructed as it was:

From Flight magazine April 30, 1910:


Front view of the Maxim biplane, showing the dihedral angle formed between the central section and -the arched outer sections.

The Maxim Biplane.
It is given to few pioneers as early in the field as Sir Hiram Maxim was with his original experiments in Baldwyns Park to have an opportunity of again devoting themselves to practical work of the same description at a time when success is already a foregone conclusion along recognized lines. Yet Sir Hiram Maxim, who built his first machine at a time when it was impossible to achieve success owing to the absence of the modern petrol engine, has lived to see the conquest of the air by others and to again take an active part in the development of flight by the construction of another large machine. An account of the leading features of this machine, written by Sir Hiram Maxim himself, has already appeared in this volume of Flight, p.136, and we are now able to supplement that description with a very complete set of photographs and sketches, which give a very clear idea of the leading features of this interesting machine.


Rear view of the Maxim biplane, showing the disposition of the three propellers. The small propeller runs in the wake of the principal masses.

Some Leading Features
The machine is a large biplane and is characterized by the unusual form of dihedral angle exhibited and in the disposition of the main planes, and also by the use of a fore and aft control, which is obtained by the interconnection of a biplane tail with a biplane elevator. The main planes are constructed in three sections. The central section has a straight edge, but the outer sections are arched and form dihedral angles with the central section. This disposition of the planes is made for the purpose of introducing a factor of natural stability. The  central section carries the engine and the  pilot’s seat, both being located on the lower deck, so that the centre of gravity is considerably below the centre of lifting effect.

Maxim 1910 J.jpg

The Maxim Biplane.—Plan and elevation to scale.

The elevator and the tail are both pivoted to the extremities of two tubular spars that  run fore and aft the whole length of the machine. These spars constitute the main members of the framework and are a very important feature of the design. They also carry the propellers and thus save the weight  of dependent brackets for this purpose.
They are built up in three lengths, the central portion being steel and the two outer members being  aluminium. The latter are stayed by diagonal struts to the lower deck of the main planes, and are not, therefore, subjected to any appreciably direct bending strain.


Detail view of the chassis suspension on the Maxim biplane.

Materials of Construction.
The greater part of the framework of the machine has been made of a fine quality American yellow pine, but there is a limited amount of tubular metal work, and a little hard wood is also used in places. A pair of tubular steel struts are situated in the centre of the main-planes on either side of the engine, and these members have been employed as water pipes to communicate with the radiator, which lies below the upper deck.


View of the chassis of the Maxim biplane, showing the landing wheels and fenders. The shock is resisted by pneumatic springs.

The machine is mounted upon a pair of pneumatic-shod wheels, which are independently attached to the frame, and together afford a very wide track. Each wheel is mounted on a short axle held by a massive wooden fork, which is hinged to the frame,  and attached to
a pneumatic spring. Jutting out from the fork is a bow-shaped member of  ash forming a fender, which is intended as a protection to the more important parts of  the machine in the event of accident.


View showing the construction of the framework of the main planes of the Maxim biplane.

The tail is supported upon a pair of light wheels mounted on castors that are interconnected with the rudder mechanism, so that the machine can be steered upon terra firma at  low speeds, when the rudder itself would have but a feeble effect. Immediately beneath the lower deck of the main-planes is an inclined board serving as the support to the petrol-tank, and a protection to the central propeller. It has been so arranged as to afford  some lifting effort.


Sketches showing details of the strut-joints, tie-strips, and wire guides on the Maxim biplane.

Strip Steel Ties.
An important and interesting feature of the  framework is the bracing of the various lattice-girder members by diagonal ties of strip steel instead of wire.


Sectional sketch of a rib in the main decks of the Maxim biplane.

These ties are set edge on to the direction of flight. The main planes have been surfaced with a rubber-proofed Japanese silk, which Sir Hiram Maxim had specially woven for the purpose.


Photograph of Sir Hiram Maxim at the wheel of his biplane, illustrating the control mechanism.

It is exceedingly light and very strong for its weight It is stretched very tightly over the framework of the main planes, and in order to maintain uniform curvature of surface under varying conditions of pressure, the lower surface of each deck is provided with a vent hole so located as to maintain equilibrium of the static pressures inside and outside the deck. The exact position of this air vent has an important bearing on its utility; for the particular camber employed on this machine the vents are situated about a quarter of the chord from the trailing edge. The vent holes are about 2 ins. in diameter, and have been covered with fine gauze in order to prevent flies being blown into the cavity.


Side view of the Maxim biplane, showing very clearly the arrangement of the two principal fore and aft spars that carry the elevator, tail and propellers.

(To be concluded)

From May 7, 1910 of Flight magazine:
Three Propellers.


View illustrating the rope drive to the propellers on the Maxim biplane.

One of the most important features of the machines is the system of using three propellers. Two if the propellers are mounted on the main spars of the frame, while the third, which is  much smaller in diameters is direct driven by the engine.


Photograph of one of the propellers for the Maxim biplane, with Sir Hiram Maxim standing alongside, which gives some idea of the size of these screws. The trussing of the very thin blades to the tubular sleeve is a special feature of the design.

The larger screw revolve in opposite directions, and are driven by ropes. The right-hand screw, viewed from behind, rotates in the same direction as the central screw; the other propeller, which has a reverse direction of rotation, has therefore, a finer pitch and a higher velocity than its mate in order to compensate for the gyroscopic effect of the central screw. The propellers are two-bladed, and exceedingly thin and light for their size; in fact, the blades are so thin that they would bend if unsupported, and they have, therefore, been trussed by strip steel ties, which anchor their extremities to a tubular extension of the body. These strips of steel are so arranged that their surfaces have approximately the same pitch as the screw itself, it being intended thereby to minimise as far as possible the loss caused by their rotation through the air. It will be observed, on reference to one of our photographs, which shows a propeller separately, that the tubular extension at the boss affords a remarkably long bearing surface for the support of the propeller upon its shaft.
The pulley for driving the propeller is fastened direct to the blades by steel brackets and also similarly to a pair of wooden stumps that project from the boss at right angles to the blades. It is thus supported at four points. The groove in which the rope runs is cogged to give an effective grip.


Sketch illustrating the arrangement of the jockey-pulleys, which are used to tighten the rope drive of the propellers on the Maxim biplane.

The Rope Drive.
The rope drive of the propellers is an interesting and original feature of the Maxim system, and much care has been taken in the construction of the ropes, which are woven on a special machine designed and erected at the Crayford works. The ropes are endless and are made of a very fine tough thread, such as is used by bootmakers for certain purposes in connection with their trade. The adjustment of the rope is effected by jockey pulleys, and the surface of the rope is prepared with the best quality beeswax.


Views (above and below) of the Maxim engine on the Maxim biplane. The cylinders are made of steel, and have detachable heads and detachable German silver water-jackets. The vertical water-pipe on the extreme left forms a main strut in the framework of the machine.

A very important consideration to be borne in mind regarding the arrangement of the three propellers on the Maxim biplane is their disposition in respect to the principal masses represented by the various members of the machine itself.


Views of the elevator and tall on the Maxim biplane. The tails, which carries the rudder, acts in unison with the elevator.

It will be observed, for instance, that the pilot, the engine, and the central screw are arranged in tandem; in fact, the central screw has been provided solely in order to recover some of the energy from the wake of this mass. This is a particularly interesting point, because the value of the wake is by no means accepted as an appreciable quantity by the majority of flight engineers, and this very definite verdict on the part of Sir Hiram Maxim should at least bring the matter into prominence.


Photograph illustrating the arrangement of seats on the Maxim biplane. On the left is T. Jackson, who assisted Sir Hiram Maxim in the construction of his original machine, and was a passenger thereon during its accidental free flight on Baldwyn’s park.

No marine engineer would ever think of putting a screw in front of a ship; indeed it can be theoretically proved that with any wake whatsoever a boat can be propelled for less power than it can be towed. Deductions from water experiments do not apply to air in the same degree, but they undoubtedly afford useful information that should not be neglected. At the present time constructional considerations have more to do with locating the position of a propeller on a flying machine than anything else, but engineering fails to accomplish its purpose if constructional difficulties are allowed to limit design in  such matters of fundamental importance.


Diagrammatic sketch illustrating the connections in the control of the Maxim biplane. The elevator and tail work in unison, being interconnected by cross wires. The chassis wheels and the rudder also work in unison. The main planes are warped by a pedal.

Whether others will think it worth while to follow Sir Hiram Maxim’s example of providing an additional propeller to work in the wake of the principal mass, naturally very much depends on the success of this particular machine.


Sketch illustrating the steering wheel and elevator-lever on the Maxim biplane.

The Engine.
The engine on the Maxim biplane, like the machine itself, has been designed by Sir Hiram Maxim. It has four separate steel cylinders with detachable heads and water-jackets; the former being made of steel, and the latter of German silver. Long steel bolts passing into the crank-chamber hold the cylinder-heads in place. The valves are all overhead, and are operated by an overhead cam-shaft, which is skew-gear driven from the crank-shaft. A belt from the rear end of the cam-shaft drives a clockwork mechanism employed for operating the lubricating system. The oil reservoir contains a spring-loaded plunger-pump, which is raised and liberated four times a minute. The force of the pump exerts a pressure of about 120 lbs. per sq. in. on the oil, and all the principal bearings.


View of the gyroscopic control mechanism constructed for attachment to the Maxim biplane after the preliminary tests.

A transverse skew-gear driven shaft in front of the engine drives the magneto and the water-pump. The cylinder-heads are water cooled as well as the walls, and the cooling water passes through a radiator mounted on the upper deck of the main-planes. One of the hollow steel struts that support the upper deck is employed to convey the water to the radiator.
The carburetor on the Maxim engine is very noticeable on account of its large size, and it is also of somewhat peculiar construction, being mainly remarkable for the very large capacity of the mixing-chamber that contains the throttle-valve. The object of this chamber is to thoroughly mix the gas in large quantities before it is admitted to the cylinders. Part of the mixing-chamber is warmed by an arrangement of water pipes.

The Control.
The control of the Maxim biplane involves the manipulation of the elevator, tail, and rudder, and also the warping of the wings. These operations are effected by a steering wheel riding upon a pivoted lever, and by a pivoted cross-bar under foot control. The interconnections are shown diagrammatically in an accompanying sketch. The elevator and the tail are interconnected by cross wires so that they work in unison, and the elevator is directly connected to the pivoted lever by a system of links, so as to be operated by a to-and-fro movement of the lever. The rudder, which is carried by the tail, is operated by a rotary motion of the steering wheel upon the pivoted lever as an axis.


General view of the aerodrome at Crayford where the Maxim biplane is to be tested on a circular track by running it on a lead attached to the wind tower in the centre.

The warping of the planes is accomplished by means of the pedal. A feature of the warping system is that the planes are warped in one direction by the wires, and in the other direction by springs.
A minor detail in the control mechanism to which it is necessary to draw attention is the method of mounting the steering wheel upon the pivoted lever. The steering wheel is mounted on a sleeve fitted with a jaw-clutch that engages with a corresponding member on the rod. The rudder is thus locked in any desired position by this device, and it is necessary to force the steering wheel downwards against the action of a spring in order to rotate it. There is also a split collar on the steering wheel sleeve into which a handle bar can be screwed if the pilot prefers such a device to a steering wheel. Some of our photographs show the machine with the handle bar in place. It is made in halves and the split collar is automatically clipped in place by screwing the halves of the handle bar together.


Mr. James Radley flying at Brooklands Aviation Grounds at dusk on Wednesday of last week over one of the London and South-Western trains.

It is Sir Hiram Maxim’s intention, when the preliminary experiments have been brought to a satisfactory conclusion, to fit gyroscopic control. The gyroscopic mechanism has already been  constructed for this purpose. The gyroscope, which consists of a spinning fly-wheel, is contained in a cylindrical casing, and it is designed to operate, through a relay mechanism, a cylinder containing a piston to which an operating rod is attached. Some very ingenious mechanical details have been introduced in the construction of this piece of apparatus.


Okay – that’s pretty cool… so… what happened to the plane? Why is it just a mere footnote in the annals of history?

Here’s what The Advertiser (of Adelaide, South Australia) has to say about the Maxim Biplane in its March 30, 1910 newspaper edition – page 6 (http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/5250218). I have added the metric conversions in brackets.

This is one month earlier than what Flight had published…

The first details of the aeroplane invented and made by Sir Hiram Maxim, have been communicated by him to the “Evening Standard,” London. , The machine, which is a biplane, 44 ft. (13.41 meters) between the extreme points of the planes, is at present at the Vickers-Maxim works at Crayford, near Dartford, England. The 4-cylinder, 80-h.p. engine, which is Sir Hiram’s, own design, weighs 220 lb (99.9 kilograms), and its carburetor furnishes a supply of gas correct and uniform density. The engine petrol tank and driver are grouped at an unusually low point in the machine, on the inventors theory, is that the centre of gravity should be much below the lifting part. Two passengers, as well as the driver, can be carried. There are three screws and three rudders. There are horizontal rudders fore and aft and vertical rudder, all of the balance type. The framework of the plane is of American wood covered by a specially treated silk, of which 250 square yards (209 square meters) have beep used. The struts or braces in the machine are partly of light steel oval tubing and partly American pine, also oval in shape. An interesting feature of the preliminary trials is the fact that wires, running from a steel mast 139 feet (42.37 meters) high, will be attached to the aeroplane so that the flights will be captive ones.

Again with the captive flights?

Maybe it just couldn’t do what they wanted it to do… and maybe they couldn’t interest a buyer…

What’s interesting, is the amount of ink and paper Flight magazine provided to Sir Hiram Maxim.

It’s all well and good to do so when the project is a success, but when it’s not…

Hiram Maxim Biplane 1909.jpg

Hiram Maxim at the controls of his Maxim Biplane in 1909. He designed it in 1908, built it in 1909, and continued to work on it in 1910… but it was a failure.

So… since Maxim was 71-years-old when he “retired” from Vickers, Son & Maxim, you might wonder why he quickly decided to become part of the 1911 company: Grahame-White, Blériot, and Maxim Company.

Maxim was the head of the company: Grahame-White and Blériot were two well-known pioneers of aviation, and all three put in a total of £200,000 of capital.

What they wanted to create, was a military plane that could scout and/or drop a single 230 kilogram (500-pound) bomb.

Unfortunately, Maxim’s health began to deteriorate… and he had financial problems with other business ventures… and so failed to put as much time into this aeroplane endeavor as he might have liked.

hiram-maxim-graveMaxim died in London on November 24, 1916, and is buried in West Norwood Cemetery. His grave is among his wife and grandson.


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A “Look” Inside A 1909 Aeroplane Factory

The Voisin Aeroplane Factory in Paris from. L'ILLUSTRAZIONE ITALIANA (THE ITALIAN ILLUSTRATION) an Italian weekly magazine of June 27 1909.

The Voisin Aeroplane Factory in Paris from. L’ILLUSTRAZIONE ITALIANA (THE ITALIAN ILLUSTRATION) an Italian weekly magazine of June 27 1909.

The headline describes the journey…

Published in the April 25, 1909 edition of The Daily Picayune of New Orleans, Louisiana – page 43 – found via READEX, a Division of Newsbank… my source for early American newspaper resources. www.iw.newsbank.com.

I have kept the spelling and punctuation as presented by the newspaper.

Visit to an Aeroplane Factory.
(Paris Edition, London Mail)

The builders of aeroplanes in Paris and its neighbourhood could be counted on the fingers of one hand six months ago. To-day, there are fifteen “factories” in full operation. Scores of inventors are constructing their own machines. There is an aerodrome where pupils are taught to fly. Three new papers devoted to aviation have been founded win the past six months. There are three societies in France for the encouragement of aviation, and over £80,000 in prizes will be open to competition in the course of the year. These few facts show very clearly the extraordinary rate at which the new industry is growing in France.
There are two reasons for this rapid development. One is the novelty of aeroplaning, and the second is the ease with which a flying machine can be built. Compared with an automobile, it requires very little in the way of capital and plant. There is perhaps no industry in which the idea counts for so much and the execution for so little. With good plans and plenty of room, and good carpenter could turn out an aeroplane.
This simplicity is very evident to any one who pays a visit to the works managed by the Brothers Voisin, who were among the first to perceive the commercial possibilities of the aeroplane. Their establishment, which may be taken as a typical one, is situated on the right bank of the Seine at Villancourt, about a mile outside the boundary of Paris. On the left of the entrance are the offices and a large room for draughtmen. Further on, at the extremity of a large enclosure, are the workshops, which, with a wide gallery running around the inside, suggest a concert hall in the rough. Nearly all the floor space is occupied by aeroplanes complete or in parts. Here is the machine Mr. Henry Farman used for his earlier flights. Close at hand is an incomplete tail piece, looking rather like the skeleton of some immense prehistoric animal. Near the door is the triplane with which Prince Volotoff hopes to win the Daily Mail prize for the first cross-Channel flight. It is an assemblage of uprights, cross-pieces and struts which in its present state might be mistaken for the framework of a cottage, but for the steel shell in the center destined to hold the 100-horsepower motor.
At the further end of the workshop is a table about 70 feet long, on which workmen are cutting out the wooden ribs of machine and fitting them together. The shape of every piece is drawn to its exact size on a great sheet of brown paper, so that the workman has merely to trim the wood to fit the pencil marks. The bars forming the front and rear edges of each plane are always in one piece, of course varying with the design of the machine, and being seldom less than thirty feet in length and about two and a half inches thick. Well-seasoned ash and poplar are the most suitable woods. Galvanized iron sockets, with eyelets for the diagonal wore stays are screwed on to the bars, the uprights connecting, the upper and lower planes are fitted into them, and when the stays are tautened the canvas forming the sides of the cells is added and the framework is complete. A light steel shell to hold the motor is fitted in the center, the tail piece and rudder are connected with the main planes, the motor, propeller and levers are placed in position, and the aeroplane is ready. Given a full supply of labor and materials and a motor in good working order, it ought to be quite possible for any well-equipped establishment to turn out an aeroplane in a week.
Almost any disused factory or other large building can be utilized as an aviation factory, so long as there is enough room and a good light from the top. The only real obstacle lies in the design; but here the customer usually saves the builder most of the mental strain by putting his own ideas on paper, and if the client does not happen to be an inventor there are plenty of types to copy and calculations, by Captain Ferber and other disinterested searchers, to utilize.
The great difficulty lies in the calculations as to weight, supporting surface and engine power. Everyone knows that the ordinary type of flying machine consists of parallel horizontal surfaces or planes, which, by means of pressure they exercise on the air immediately below them, support the whole structure while the propulsive power is in operation and act as parachutes to check the fall when the propeller ceases to revolve. Much depends on the size of these planes. According to Sir Hiram Maxim, their length, or entering edge, should measure one foot for every four pounds in weight to be lifted, but in our present state of knowledge, this can hardly, in the opinion of French makers, be considered as a final and definite formula. The power and weight of the engine, the position and dimensions of the propeller and a dozen other factors all have their influence on the problem. Then there are what may be called subsidiary contrivances, such as the vanes recently patented by the Wright Brothers—small upright surfaces, moving on pivots, placed near the extremities of the planes and brought into play when the machine is steered to the right or left, to prevent too rapid movement on the inside of the curve and consequent tendency to capsize.
In reality the aeroplane that flies is the result of an even balance of varying forces. Theoretically, the machine having three planes and consequently more supporting surface ought, with a proportionate increase in engine power, to give better results; but here the elements of sped and stability counteract each other and provide a new problem, and the monoplane, though fast, has too much tendency to overturn. At present the majority of French experimenters prefer the biplane, but there is always the possibility of some discovery which will turn the balance in favor of another type, and the complexity of the problem with its infinite possibilities no doubt accounts for the charm it exercise on so many minds.
At present the price of a biplane delivered in Paris may be taken as about £800. A triplane would cost considerably more on account of the increased power of the engine as well as the extra materials and labor for the aeroplane itself. Even allowing for the profit of the engineer who supplies the motor, there ought to be a considerable margin left for the builder of aeroplanes so long as prices remain at their present level. The tendency seems to be towards large establishments, in which not only are the wings and planes put together, but the motors are also manufactured. In this respect the way has been led by the Antoinette firm, which began by making specially light motors for aviation purposes, and has since added an aeroplane department.
The industry has not yet reached the stage in which the finished article is exposed for sale, but this will not be long in coming. The Company headed by Captain Andrew Fletcher, of Saltoun, which has contracted for the Voisin output, has secured premises in the Champs-Elysees, and will commence business in about a month. It will then be possible for an intending purchaser to inspect a flying machine in all its bearings and give him order, just as in the case of a motor car.


The Voisin Aeroplane factory circa 1908.

The Voisin Aeroplane factory circa 1908.

Interesting use of spelling. I noted that “Center” was used, while “Neighbourhood” was preferred.

The former is currently recognized as an American spelling. Canadians and Europeans would use “centre”.

The use of “u” in neighbourhood is Canadian and European, as Americans would omit it and spell the word as “neighborhood”… like they would with color, humor, etc. And yet… labor was spelled without the “u”.

To me, this implies that the English language was in a key transitional stage in 1909. Or it was directly copied from a European newspaper for publication in the U.S. Whatever… the story is great, isn’t it… a look inside a real aeroplane factory/workshop in the earliest days of heavier-than-air aviation!

I love the assumption as fact that it is easier to build an airplane than a car! Sure… but an airplane that can actually fly? Difficult. One that can actually fly and return you safely to the ground? Extremely difficult in 1909!

While an excellent visual walk-through a large aeroplane factory of 1909, I think the reporter may have received an overly optimistic view of the pioneer aviation industry from the Voisin Brothers.

I do like the cavalier notion that one can simply use the designs of anyone out there, regardless of copyright or patents.

I have no idea to whom the author is referring to re: Captain Andrew Fletcher and his un-named “Company”… a name that appears to have fallen through the cracks of the Internet. There is a mention of him in Flight magazine, but only as Andrew Fletcher.

We do know that Fletcher was going to act as a salesperson for the Voisin aircraft in Great Britain… selling the Zodiac and/or future Voisin aircraft.

And yet… check out the previous article about the perils of the Zodiac and the development of the Bristol Boxkite.



Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Commentary, Heavier-Than-Air, News | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #51 – “Bristol” Military Biplane.

card-51History Behind The Card: “Bristol” Military Biplane.
Card #51 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Vice Regal Mixture issue

  • Sir George White, 1st Baronet, March 28, 1854 in Kingsdown, Bristol, Great Britain – November 22, 1916 in Stoke Bishop, England, Great Britain.
  • George Henry Challenger, June 3, 1881 in Neath, Wales, Great Britain – December 22(?), 1947 in Taunton, England, Great Britain.

This card shows the Bristol Biplane (official name), though the Wills’s card calls it the Bristol Military Biplane, and the world seems to refer to it as the Bristol Boxkite.

It was designed and manufactured by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, which was known much later as the Bristol Aeroplane Company.

This pusher aeroplane (the motor and propeller are located behind the pilot) certainly looks like a boxkite, owing its good looks to the company copying the Farman III biplane, but then adjusting it enough to avoid copyright theft, much to the chagrin of Henri Farman.

However, even that in itself is an interesting story.

First, the particulars of the two main individuals I have listed above:

  • Sir George White, 1st Baronet was an English businessman and stockbroker based in Bristol. He, along with his brother Samuel, were the key individuals involved in the formation of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. He was also a pioneer in the construction of electric tramways in England.

    Sir George White

    Bristol tramways were operated from 1875, when the Bristol Tramways Company was formed by Sir George White, until 1941 when a Luftwaffe bomb destroyed the main power supply cables. Those early trams were horse-drawn, but White helped introduce electric trams in 1895, with Bristol becoming the first city to do so in Great Britain. At its peak there were 17 routes and 237 tramcars in use.

    In 1887 the Bristol Tramways Company merged with the Bristol Cab Company to form the Bristol Tramways and Carriage Company. The new company developed a fleet of omnibuses to serve the rest of the city and country areas. In 1912 it bought the Clifton Rocks Railway. In 1929 the White family sold its controlling interest in the company to the Great Western Railway, but by 1932 control had passed to the Thomas Tilling Group. William Verdon Smith (nephew of Sir George White) remained as chairman but was replaced in 1935 by J.F. Heaton of Thomas Tilling, so he could concentrate on the Bristol Aeroplane Company.

    In 1937 control of Bristol’s tramways passed to a joint committee of the Bristol Tramways company and Bristol Corporation, though it began to abandon the tramways in 1938 even before the German airforce took out the city of Bristol during WWII.

    The Bristol Tramways company continued as a bus operator, but the name was not changed to Bristol Omnibus Company until 1957. It was one of the oldest bus companies in the U.K., and the dominant bus operator in Bristol, but it ceased operation in 1987.

  • George Henry Challenger (no photo found!) was a British aviator and aero-engineer, originally with the Bristol Aeroplane Company and later with Vickers. He designed a number of aircraft and held a number of aviation-related patents.

I do know that on February 14, 1911, George Henry Challenger received Royal Aero Club of United Kingdom certificate #58.

He was:

  1. elected an “Associate Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society” in 1913;
  2. chief designer and engineer in the aviation department of Vickers;
  3. formerly chief engineer at the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company;
  4. and previously employed as an engineer by the Bristol Tramways and Carriage Co.;
  5. Challenger was the author and co-author of numerous patents, including those for a ring mounting and the Vickers-Challenger interrupter gear, both for machine-guns.

I could not find an exact date of death for Challenger… even the reliable Flight magazine wasn’t reliable enough – published January 15, 1948 :


At least we know he was a religious person…

I did find a December 23, 1947 notice in the Western Daily Press of Bristol, England noting a funeral for Challenger… but since it cost money to do the research – IE actually go in and get a close look at the article, I couldn’t find the exact date of death. I’m not rich. I couldn’t find a “Free” newspaper database for British newspapers… understandable, but ultimately quite sad.

Back to the card.


The Bristol Boxkite was the first plane to be built in mass quantity, with four purchased by the British War Office in 1911, and others sold to Russia and Australia.

Originally, White wanted to build licensed copies of the Zodiac biplane designed by Gabriel Voisin, after one was bought by White to show at the 1910 London Aero Meet. The idea was to garner interest…

The thing is… White, nor any of his pilots, had actually flown the machine to see how well it handled.

They should have.

Voisin flying his Zodiac.jpg

Voisin flying his Zodiac aeroplane – he could make it fly!

After taking the Zodiac to Brooklands airfield for tests, no one could get the plane of the ground—perhaps due to an under-powered engine to plane weight ratio, and the shallow camber of the wing section—a fact  commented on by the pioneering aviation magazine, Flight.

Flight, by the way, has its inventory available as a PDF to download, which is brilliant – so you can see original copies of 1909 write-ups of aeroplane, companies – whatever…

To compensate for the wing problem, White and company added a different set… but still… a weak motor is a weak motor.

On May 28, 1910, pilot Maurice Edmond was able to achieve a short flight, but on June 10, 1910, an accident that damaged its undercarriage had the frustrated crew give up on the Zodiac… even with five other such copies being built by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company at its headquarters at Filton.

Plane-less, which is a bad thing for an aeroplane manufacturing company, White was advised to take a look at the Farman III plane, designed by Henri Farman.


An example of the Farman III aeroplane

You could hardly go wrong with anything Farman created… but White was unable to grab the rights to build the Farman III biplane because George Holt Thomas—founder of the Aircraft Manufacturing Company Limited (Airco) had a head start in doing the same thing with Farman.

Holt Thomas had gone through the Farman brothers to use French pilot Louis Paulhan to vie for a £10,000 prize offered by family friend Lord Northcliffe of the Daily Mail… a prize first offered in 1906 for a successful flight from London to Manchester… a prize that was not claimed until Paulhan did so in April of 1910.

So… able to use a crappy Voisin Zodiac, and unable to grab the rights to the Farman Brother’s Farman III, White and the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company were up the proverbial creek.


Drawings of the Bristol Boxkite – not the ones in Flight magazine.

Enter George Challenger, the company’s chief engineer at Filton.

After seeing detailed drawings of the Farman III in Flight magazine, Challenger was pretty sure he could build a copy of the plane.

White told Challenger to go ahead.

A few weeks later, the first copy was constructed, using materials from the partially built Zodiac aeroplanes.

The Bristol Boxkite was first flown on July 30, 1910 by Maurice Edmond at the company’s flying school on Salisbury Plain.

Farman, not surprisingly, sued the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company for patent infringement.

However, White was able to show Farman that they had made significant alterations to Farman’s design to improve it… so Farman dropped the suit.

So yes… the Bristol Boxkite was certainly based on the Farman III biplane, but Challenger and his staff made significant achievements to have their plane be its own design.

This plane was simply called the No. 7. Best guess is that the initial Zodiac was No. 1, with the five partially-constructed Zodiac‘s taking the numbering up to No. 6.

The Boxkite was considered to be a two-bay pusher biplane (the span of a wing between two sets of interplane or cabane struts is called a bay).

Bristol Boxkite.jpg

Bristol Boxkite

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

“… biplane with an elevator carried on booms in front of the wings and an empennage consisting of a pair of fixed horizontal stabilisers, the upper bearing an elevator, and a pair of rudders carried on booms behind the wing. There were no fixed vertical surfaces. Lateral control was effected by ailerons on both upper and lower wings. These were single-acting, the control cables arranged to pull them down only, relying on the airflow to return them to the neutral position. The wings and fixed rear horizontal surfaces were covered by a single layer of fabric: the other surfaces were covered on both sides.”

The first Boxkite, No. 7, used fitted with a Grégoire 50 horsepower motor, but even before its first test flight, they swapped it out for a same output Gnome motor. Maybe it was lighter?

For later trials, they put the Grégoire back in.

Boxkite No. 8 used an E.N.V. 50 horsepower motor.

Still, for almost all other aeroplanes, the company supplied the aeroplanes with the 50 horsepower Gnome rotary engine.

Each motor was was set just above the lower wing upon sturdy wooden beams, which, also held up the pilot and passenger seats up front.

Under the plane, as you can see from the images above, a pair of long skids—each holding a pair of wheels to provide balance to the plane upon the ground.

Although early Boxkite examples built had equal upper and lower wingspans, later ones had a longer upper wing.

Boxkite aircraft with the longer upper wing are known as the Military version, which is what the Wills’s card depicts.

Bristol Boxkite Military version specifications:

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2;
  • Length: 11.73 meters (38 feet 6 inches);
  • Wingspan: 14.17 meters (46 feet 6 inches);
  • Height: 3.61 meters (11 feet 0 inches);
  • Wing area: 48.03 square meters (517.0 square feet);
  • Empty weight: 408 kilograms (900 pounds);
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 522 kilograms (1150 pounds);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Gnome Omega rotary piston engine, 50 horsepower (37 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 64 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour);
  • Wing loading: 10.9 kilograms per square meters (2.22 pounds per square foot);
  • Power/mass: 70.9 watts per kilogram (0.043 horsepower per pound).

By the time production of the Boxkite ceased in 1914, the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company had constructed 78 Bristol Boxkite aeroplanes in total, of which 60 were the so-called Military version, one (no. 44) was a Racer version, and one, No. 69, was a an unsuccessful Voisin variant.

Bristol Boxkite‘s No. 73-78 were built at Brislington by the Tramway Company, with all those before it manufactured at the Filton facility.

The No. 9, flown by pilot Robert Loraine in late September of 1910, was the first aeroplane to send a radio signal down to the ground, in Great Britain.

Loraine, by the way, has his diary noted by the Oxford English Dictionary, as the first written example of the word “joystick” to describe aircraft stick controls.

On March 14, 1911, the British War Office ordered four Bristol Boxkites for its planned Air Battalion Royal Engineers—becoming the first production contract for military aircraft for Britain’s armed forces.

A second order of four was made later that year, with them all pretty much being used as trainers for would-be pilots.

When WWI broke out, four more were ordered by the British War Office, the last of which was written off in February of 1915, as obsolete.

These aeroplanes were used as trainers at the Bristol flying schools at Brooklands and Larkhill, both of which were responsible for giving nearly 50 percent of British pilots their license before WWI.

Sadly, no original Bristol Boxkite aircraft are around today, but you could use those Flight magazine drawings to recreate a Farman III. Or maybe you could check out the three replica aircraft built for the movie Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines

One is at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, another at the Shuttleworth Collection at Bedfordshire, and the third is at the Museum of Australian Army Flying in Australia.

I’m sure other replicas exist.

Anyhow, the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company did continue to produce other aircraft through 1959, as well as helicopters, cars and had an aerospace division between 1957-1966).

In 1956 its major operations were split into Bristol Aircraft and Bristol Aero Engines. In 1959, Bristol Aircraft merged with several major British aircraft companies to form the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) and Bristol Aero Engines merged with Armstrong Siddeley to form Bristol Siddeley.

BAC went on to become a founding component of the nationalized British Aerospace, now BAE Systems. Bristol Siddeley was purchased by Rolls-Royce in 1966, who continued to develop and market Bristol-designed engines.

And it all began because they decided to copy aeroplane drawings found in a magazine.

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

Checklist For Wills’s Cigarettes Aviation 1910 – 50 Cards

checklistChecklist For Wills’s Cigarettes Aviation 1910  – 50 Cards

  1. “Flying Ship” of Francesco de Lana.
  2. Montgolfier, 1783.
  3. First Balloon Flight in England, 1784.
  4. First Successful Crossing the Channel, 1785.
  5. First Parachute Display, 1837.
  6. First “dirigible,” 1852.
  7. First Successful Dirigible, 1883.
  8. Rounding the Eiffel Tower, Santos Dumont.
  9. First British War Balloon, “Nulli Secondus,” 1905.
  10. United States Military Dirigible No. 1.
  11. The Wellman Airship “America,” 1907.
  12. French Dirigibles Lebaudy Type.
  13. Modern British Army Dirigible “Baby.”
  14. “Ville de Paris” (French.)
  15. German Parseval Type.
  16. Italian Dirigible “Italia.”
  17. Spanish “Torres Quevedo.”
  18. German Military Dirigibles Gross Type.
  19. French Zodiac type.
  20. Italian Military Dirigible No. 1.
  21. German Dirigible “Clouth.”
  22. French Military Dirigible “Colonel Renard.”
  23. German Zeppelin Type.
  24. French Dirigible “Capazza.”
  25. British Dirigible “Clement Bayard.”
  26. An Early Idea of Aviation.
  27. Besnier.
  28. Henson’s Idea.
  29. Lilenthal Gliding Machine.
  30. Maxim, 1890.
  31. The “Ader” Flying Machine.
  32. Chanute, 1895.
  33. Santos Dumont’s First Monoplane.
  34. “Gastamabide & Mengin” Monoplane, 1908.
  35. Wright Bros.’ Biplane.
  36. Professor Langley’s Aerodrome.
  37. “Voisin” Type Biplane.
  38. “Bleriot XI.”
  39. The “Antoniette” Monoplane, 1909.
  40. The “Windham” Monoplane.
  41. “Farman” Biplane.
  42. The R.E.P. Monoplane.
  43. “Silver Dart.”
  44. “Cody” Biplane.
  45. Santos Dumont’s Monoplane, No. XIX.
  46. “Herring-Curtiss.”
  47. “Jerme” Biplane.
  48. “Kimball.”
  49. “Rickman” Helicopter.
  50. The First Lady Aviator.
Posted in Aviation Art, Balloons, Concepts, Failures, Firsts, Gliders, Heavier-Than-Air, Helicopters, Lighter-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Parachute, People, Pilots, Tobacco Card, Zeppelins & Dirigibles | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #50 – The First Lady Aviator.

card-50History Behind The Card: The First Lady Aviator.

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

  • Elise Raymonde Deroche, aka Raymonde de Laroche,  August 22, 1882, in Paris, France – July 18, 1919 in Le Crotoy, France.

What can we say about the short life of Elise Deroche who used her stage name when flying as Raymonde de Laroche?


de Laroche is the first woman (in the world) to earn and receive an airplane (aeroplane) pilot’s license.


The official Pilot’s license No. 36 of the Aero Club of France issued to Raymonde de Laroche – the first accredited female pilot – on March 8, 1910. Since the name on the license is actually her stage name, I wonder if it was legally changed, or if not, if the license is ‘valid’. LOL.

Although the Wills’s card #50 indicates that she is a “Baroness”, it is actually a nickname… and one pronounced upon her by the very early aviation periodical “Flight” magazine.

The daughter of a plumber, she had a bit of a wild tomboy side, or… maybe that’s not fair. Like most people of that era, she was fascinated with the new inventions: motorcycles, automobiles and eventually aviation.

She was also an actress, which is where the name Raymonde de Laroche came from.

When she saw Wilbur Wright demonstrate his Wright Flyer in 1908 Paris, de Laroche, who was also friends with aviator Léon Delagrange (supposedly the father of her child, André), got the urge to want to fly, too.

So, in October of 1909, she asked famed aviator Charles Voisin to teach her how to fly. On October 22, she traveled to Chalons, about 140 kilometers (90 miles) east of Paris where the brothers Voisin had their base of operations.

The main problem with learning how to fly with a Voisin biplane, is that it is a single-seat aircraft. As such, Voisin stayed on the ground to instruct, while de Laroche operated the controls herself.


That same day, de Laroche learned how to taxi the biplane across the airfield, and then lifted the plane off the ground and flew a distance of 270 meters (900 feet), becoming the first woman to ever fly a heavier-than-air vehicle.

She certainly wasn’t the first woman in the air, as there were numerous who had been in hot-air balloons, and dirigibles – even piloting such craft.

As for aeroplanes, two other women had beaten her to the aeroplane by being passengers:  P. Van Pottelsberghe and Thérèse Peltier, flying in 1908 with Henri Farman and Delagrange, respectively.


Raymonde de Laroche in her Voisin biplane, 1909. She seems to like turtleneck sweaters – but who could blame her… it’s cold in the air up there.

As for  de Laroche, she had also been aboard an aeroplane just once before her celebrated piloting accomplishment.

The thing is… Voisin had told her NOT to do anything but taxi… to just get the hang of the controls. Naughty, naughty.

Brother Gabriel Voisin wrote later that Charles: “my brother [was] entirely under her thumb”.

One week after the successful flight, Flight magazine wrote: “For some time the Baroness has been taking lessons from M. Chateau, the Voisin instructor, at Chalons, and on Friday of last week she was able to take the wheel for the first time. This initial voyage into the air was only a very short one, and terra firma was regained after 300 yards (270 m).”

The magazine also notes that on the following day of October 23, 1909, she was up in the air again and circled the airfield twice: “the turnings being made with consummate ease. During this flight of about four miles (6 km) there was a strong gusty wind blowing, but after the first two turnings the Baroness said that it did not bother her, as she had the machine completely under control.”

Again.. it was Flight magazine who like to call her the “Baroness”. Having a cool nickname light certainly added even more flair to de Laroche’s accomplishments.

As the first woman to receive her pilot’s license on March 8, 1910 (see photo of it above), de Laroche was a keen attraction at various aviation meets across Europe: at Heliopolis, Egypt; St. Petersburg, Russia; Budapest, Hungary; and Rouen, France.

At the Russian air meet, she had an audience with Tsar Nicholas II, and was introduced to him as the “Baroness.”

Preparing for the second Reims air meet in France (July 3-10, 1910), de Laroche crashed her plane on July 8, 1910 causing injuries severe enough that she did not fly again for two more years.



A cool photograph of de Laroche with a wrecked 1910 aircraft – not sure if it’s the same as the one in the above photo – but this one has a personally signed message and autograph!

Again on September 26, 1912, she crashed again… this time it was an automobile accident where she was severely injured but with aviator Charles Voisin dying.

On November 25, 1913, de Laroche won the Femina Cup with a non-stop distance flight of over four hours.

The Coupe Femina (en Francais), as a trophy and FF2,000 award established first in 1910 by France’s Femina women’s magazine publisher Pierre Lafitte – an award meant to promote and honor women pilots.

It was a French-only challenge open to female pilots. The idea behind it was to award the trophy and money to the one woman who, by sunset of December 31 of the year had flown the longest flight in time and distance, without landing.

Thanks to the onset of WWI (aka The Great War) in 1914, de Laroche was the last person to win the award in 1913.

Despite her achievements, women were not allowed to be pilots during WWI… too dangerous, apparently. Instead, she was a military driver, driving officer from the front lines to the safer rear zones.

With the war ending in 1918, de Laroche was back up in the air in 1919  setting flying records for women: 4,800 meters (15,700 feet) and a distance record of 323 kilometers (201 miles).

But it all came to a crashing halt. On July 18, 1919, de Laroche went to Le Crotoy as part of her plan to become an aeroplane test pilot.

According to one source, she co-piloted an experimental aircraft (no one is sure of she was the pilot or passenger), and when it was coming in for a landing, the aeroplane went into a dive and crashed into the ground, killing de Laroche and the other flier.

Except… Flight magazine has the real scoop:

From the July 24, 1919 edition of Flight magazine:

Baroness de la Roche Killed

It appears almost ironical that the Baroness de la Roche who was the first woman pilot should have been killed while flying as a passenger. What happened is not very clear, but it would seem that the machine in which she was flying overturned during a trial flight. Baroness de la Roche was killed instantly and the pilot, Barrault, died very shortly afterwards. Baroness de la Roche, secured her pilot’s certificate in France on March 8, 1910, having qualified on a Voisin biplane, and in the following November she won a Femina Cup with a flight of 200 miles. During the War, she tried without success to join the French Air Service, A few weeks ago she took a machine up to a height of 4,900 meters (16,170 ft,) but the French Club refused to recognize “women’s records”, a decision which has caused some discussion across the Channel.

So… she was the passenger (they spelled her name as de la Roche, however, rather than de Laroche). Barrault (couldn’t find a first name) was the pilot.

A French newspaper source of the day found HERE  (and poorly translated to English by Google) says:

The tragedy occurred while the two airmen were aboard an experimental apparatus of the firm Caudron, Barrault having taken the controls to realize a flight that will turn badly: indeed, while he makes a descent in spin , Barrault failed to straighten out the airplane in time to avoid the crash.

So… the second source also says she was the passenger, and provides more detail on the actual crash.

This, folks, is why you have to find multiple sources to arrive at the truth when it comes to providing a true history.

Gone, but not forgotten completely, the week that includes March 8  – when de Laroche received her pilot’s license – a Women of Aviation week is held globally. The week also includes International Women’s Day… and is is meant to bring attention to the world of aviation as an inspiration for women.

This concludes the W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1910 of 50 cards.

I will continue by examining the next 25 to 35 cards that appeared in the 75 and 85-card series issued in Australia and New Zealand in 1911, continuing the series.

Some of the cards in the multiple 75 card issues (depending on the various tobacco brands), were not the same: for example, card #74 might have had two different aircraft issued with different tobacco backs.

I’ll be back writing more in January. Until then: Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Seasons Greetings, Happy Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate – and happy Festivus for the rest of us. Happy new year, too. Stay safe and healthy.

Posted in Aviation Art, Heavier-Than-Air, Pilots, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wills’s Aviation Card #49 – “Rickman” Helicopter.

card-49History Behind The Card: “Rickman” Helicopter.
Card #49 of 50, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1910

  • Rickman, – called Mr. Rickman… no data re: first name, date of birth or date of death. BUT… wait till you get to the bottom of this blog… we have a breakthrough!

The reverse of this Card #49, says that as of the time of this card – December 1909 – well… at least we have a proper date for the Rickman helicopter – no great results have occurred.

The card’s descriptive is quite exaggerated, calling the Rickman Helicopter one of the strangest flying machines ever built in America, which is saying a lot. Yet they still believed it to have promise.


What we can determine, is that Wills’s believed there might actually be some hope for success for this flying machine… or they thought it sucked and were running out of time and needed to fill the space for Card #49 in the aviation series.

It’s quite obvious that the last few cards in this series have been lacking in true success stories, but are at least for the 1910 smoker/aviation card collector, a look at fairly recently-designed aviation machines.

It was 1910… who the heck knew in advance what could fly? Bleriot, Farman, Curtiss and the Wright Brothers… so five men on the planet knew how to properly design airplanes that could fly. I know that’s not a true number, but the point is few people really had a proper idea of what it took aerodynamically to sustain a heavier-than-air craft.

Since we don’t know who Rickman is… and we don’t have a photograph of him… except there’s this:

According to those in the know, the above is a real photograph of the Rickman Helicopter.

So… if that’s true, we could assume that one of the three dapper men behind the tandem bicycle is “Rickman”… but which man? Considering that the tandem bicycle requires two pedal pushers… and the two men in center and left are wearing matching bowties… we could assume they are the power, while the man on the right in the necktie is the designer and manufacturer… Mr. Rickman.

You’ll note that the man on the right does not have a matching hat either, and has his shirt sleeves down – where the other two have them rolled and clipped at the elbow.

I’m extrapolating… and might be full of hot air, but it’s a possibility.

So… with very little information on just who Rickman is, I turned to the library… or in my case, a librarian, who directed me to: my new friends over at the American Helicopter Society (AHS) International Helicopter History Facebook site: @HeloHistory, who have come through in a huge way. See their website at www.vtol.org.

They contacted the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum via the AHS History Committee, who dug up a newspaper article from the Saturday, October 4, 1930 newspaper The Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Brooklyn, New York.


Rickman Newspaper artticle.jpg

Newspaper article found at www.newspapers.com.

We have the only known on-line description of Franklin E. Rickman!

We now also know that as of 1930 – 22 years after the original Rickman Helicopter concept – that he hadn’t given up on a pedal-powered helicopter. Thing is… as of 2016, we know that conceptually it works. See below…

Feeling happy and armed with a full name, I probed deeper via on-line entries… and found a U.S. patent filed by Franklin E. Rickman in 1898. How many Franklin E. Rickman’s could there be from New York? A few, to be sure… so I present the following with the caveat that the patent might not be related to our Franklin E. Rickman, but considering that our Franklin E. Rickman did build a helicopter out of a tandem bicycle… I’m thinking it’s more than a mere coincidence!

So… my librarian buddy—used www.Ancestry.com to find out more information based on the newspaper article above.

Franklin E. Rickman was born in Tennessee on March 22, 1867. He married Anna Elise Braun on March 14, 1909 in Hoboken, New Jersey  – though another record gives February 14, 1909 as the date.

My librarian says that the latest record he could find of Franklin E. Rickman alive was via the 1940 U.S. Census… alive and well and living in Queens, NY.

He says that the 1950 U.S. Census records are still sealed until 2022, as individual records are sealed for 72 years. The United States does a full census every 10 years.

We could not find a death date in the records.

  • Franklin E. Rickman, March 22, 1867, XXX, Tennessee – date of death: sometime after 1940…

Franklin E. Rickman… I just like typing out his name now… Franklin E. Rickman.

Do you have any idea how incredible ‘discovery’ makes one feel… knowing that you, dear reader are now amongst a handful of people who know a bit of history that was ‘misplaced’?

Wow.  Thanks, Smithsonian! Thanks, http://www.newspapers.com! Thanks,  AHS Helicopter History Facebook site: @HeloHistory !!! And… thanks Vinnie for being the best librarian I’ve ever known!

There are two dates of origin for the Rickman Helicopter – 1908 and 1909.

We could assume that Rickman designed the helicopter in 1908 and getting funds to build his creation then, but didn’t complete it until 1909.

The Rickman Helicopter was essentially a tandem tricycle (two wheels on the rear perhaps to lend the machine more balance), that when pedaled by two riders, the pedal power was transmitted via bevel gear and shaft to an overhead multi-bladed rotor.

The umbrella-like covering measured approximately 4.5 meters (14.76 feet) in diameter, and actually revolved—as opposed to being pushed up and down like an umbrella opening and closing.

Rickman and his two cyclists with big thighs and calves, we hope, demonstrated the machine over at the Belmont Park racetrack in Long Island… or was it the old Morris Park race course in New York… I would say the latter, thanks to newspaper evidence.

Since there a dearth of information on Rickman, we can correctly assume that the “helicopter” never left the ground.

So… what happened next? Well… according to a newspaper article from the December 5, 1909 issue, page 29 of the The Sunday News from Charleston, South Carolina:

“… at the old Morris Park race course, New York… A Mr. Rickman built a helicopter with thirty-two propellers, forming a sunflower shaped parachute. It’s skeleton hangs in the loft of the workshop.”

As for the Wills’s card’s hope that the Rickman Helicopter might be the shape of things to come in the future… probably not.

However, back in 2012, Formula 1 engineer David Barford, 42 at the time, built a pedal-powered airplane in his garage for £8,000 (US $10,000).

With a 20 meter (65.62 feet) wingspan, the “Betterfly” human-powered aircraft flew for 18 seconds at an altitude of two meters (6.56 feet) at a speed of 27.36 kilometers per hour (17 miles per hour)…

It’s a plane, not a helicopter… but if we want an example of a human powered helicopter like the Rickman Helicopter, we could look at the Barney-copter:

Or, you could see the real live version when you read my article HERE.

Also (thanks to Mike Hirschberg at www.vtol.org) there was AeroVelo, Inc. who won  its Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition (HPH) for the first time since the Society established it 33 years ago. See HERE.

My version is right HERE, too.

And… since I am trying to present as much information as possible on Franklin E. Rickman… I found a U.S. patent dated March 28, 1899 (No.621,849) for pneumatic tires.

You can even see an autograph (signature) of Franklin E. Rickman in the drawing accompanying the patent below!

See the patent below:

Franklin E. Rickman Patent #1.jpg

Franklin E. Rickman Patent #1 Page 2.jpg

Franklin E. Rickman Patent #1 Page 3.jpg

Franklin E. Rickman Patent #1 page 4.jpgBecause we now know that as of 1930 he was an employee of the New York City Water Department, I figured what the heck… I contacted the New York Government offices seeking a death date for Franklin E. Rickman… if they choose to help, they might have a record as to WHEN they stopped his pension payments owing to his passing.

I do have a ‘confirmation’ of request number from them… but, as of December 8, 2016, I have not yet heard back from the New York Government.

Worth a shot, right?  We already know more about Rickman than at anytime since he was alive… or at least 1930. 

New York Tribune .jpg

And then… there’s the June 14, 1909 newspaper clipping from the New York Tribune newspaper – above. I found this a few days after I discovered all the other data.

If you give it a read, you’ll notice that the Rickman helicopter is mentioned…. they even offer his first name… Charles Rickman.

WTF? Charles?!

Considering that the 1930 newspaper article that mentioned his name was Franklin E. Rickman, provided his place of business and home address, and mentioned his current helicopter was a continuation of work he did previously in 1908/09… I’m going assume that the other article I just found has incorrect data.

Of course… if one newspaper article could get something as simple as a first name incorrect, whose to say that another such article couldn’t have incorrect data, too?

Being an ex-newspaper guy myself, I want to believe that journalist mistakes are far and few between.

We can agree that the New York Tribune was correct in Rickman having a helicopter at an event in 1909, but that the reporter may not have received the correct information because they didn’t talk to the direct source.   

If anyone has more information to share on the life and times of Franklin E. Rickman, please contact me at mreman@rogers.com. Cheers.


Posted in Aviation Art, Concepts, Failures, Heavier-Than-Air, Helicopters, People, Research, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment