Wills’s Aviation Card #67 – M. Louis Bleriot.

Louis Bleriot 1911 Wills Aviation F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: M. Louis Bleriot.

Card #67 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – Black-back issue

  • Louis Charles Joseph Blériot, July 1, 1872 in Cambrai, France – August 1, 1936, Paris, France.

This aviation card deals with Louis Blériot.

Because I was originally only going to do write-ups on the first 50 cards of this series only, I previously included detailed biographies of an aeroplane’s designer and or pilot when I wrote about a specific plane.

In this case, I previously wrote about Blériot for Card No. 38, and the Bleriot XI Monoplane – see HERE (card image below)


Louis Blériot’s Bleriot XI monoplane. Wills’s Aviation Card No. 38., 1910 card series.

As such… I’m going to repeat much of what I wrote previously here. Don’t worry, there are many future subjects where I will have to do a full-scale write-up.

We are now at Card No. 67 of 75 cards, but there is also an 85-card set… an additional 10 cards… and then… ye cats, I may have to collect another set of aviation cards so as to have more to write about. I’ll get right on that. Don’t tell my wife. Or my girlfriend or mistress.

(I ain’t no Saint, so:) As the actress said to the bishop, on to Louis Blériot:

A decent, but unspectacular student, Blériot was rather more successful in the so-called real world.

In fact, he was one of the first to create his own aviation company.

But who was Blériot?

He was the guy who designed the first practical headlight for a car, utilizing a compact integral acetylene generator.

Soon after in 1897, Blériot opened a showroom in Paris and began selling his headlights to Renault and Panhard-Levassor, two of the foremost automobile manufacturers of the day, with the latter now actually a part of Renault nowadays as Renault Trucks Defense.

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Louis Blériot

That’s fine, but what was he like?

Well, he was the type of man who, when eating lunch in a restaurant saw a woman eating lunch… telling his mother that he would marry her or marry no one.

I was like that once… it didn’t work out, and I obviously lied as I married someone else later.

As for Blériot, he was more a man of his than I apparently am. He went back to the restaurant near his showroom, bribed a waiter for the woman’s name – Alice Védères, the daughter of a retired army officer – and began to woo her. Yes, I used the word ‘woo’ in 2017. On February 21, 1901, they were married. Now that’s determination.

But who was Blériot?

He was the type of man who like most people of the era, had an interest in aviation. For him, it was after seeing aviation pioneer Clément Ader and his Avion III aeroplane at the 1900 Exposition Universelle (yes, 1900!), he thought – heck, I’m doing well at the headlight business, but why don’t I also see if I can make my own aeroplane.

I do stuff like that, too – only I don’t follow through… probably because I lack the money and inclination to start my own headlight business.

God help us all, Blériot began experimenting with ornithopters… machines shaped liked birds that attempted to mimic flight by flapping wings.  Needless to say, his experiments were not successful.

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Luckily, in April of 1905, Blériot met Gabriel Voisin, the guy who would  design and build Europe’s first manned, engine-powered, heavier-than-air aeroplane capable of a sustained (1 kilometer), circular, controlled flight, including take-off and landing, made by pilot Henry Farman on January 13, 1908 near Paris, France. More on Voisin HERE. More on Farman HERE.

At that time, Voisin was working for Ernest Archdeacon on his experimental gliders.
Archdeacon has been mentioned in these pages a few times, by the way. He was a promoter and sponsor of aviation in France, offer financial prizes like the Coupe d’Aviation Ernest Archdeacon and the Deutsch de la Meurthe-Archdeacon prize), commissioning designs, and organizing tests and events.. but he was most famous for co-founding in 1898 the the oldest aero-club in the world, the Aéro-Club de France.

Oh yeah, on May 29, 1908, Archdeacon became the first aeroplane passenger in Europe when he was flown around by Henry Farman. There’s that name again.

Blériot was present when Voisin first tested a floatplane glider on June 8, 1905, and actually filmed the flight. You might find that in a Google search… I had it earlier, but it was removed from the site I found…

Along with having one of the earliest films of flight, seeing Voisin fly had him ask Voisin to build him a similar plane, the Blériot II glider. On July 18, 1905 when Blériot had Voisin try and fly it, Voisin nearly drowned.

Undaunted, Blériot thought he and Voisin should team up – and they did, cancelling Voisin’s partnership with Archdeacon and then establishing  Ateliers d’ Aviation Edouard Surcouf, Blériot et Voisin.

Over the next two years through 1906, they built two powered aircraft –  the Blériot III and the Blériot IV (a rebuild of III)  – but neither flew.


Blériot III crashed on take-off in May of 1906.


Blériot IV seen here in a postcard, never flew, despite the artist’s rendition.

The two aeroplanes used lightweight Antoinette engines developed by Leon Levavasseur, and despite the failure of the aircraft, Blériot became a shareholder in Levavasseur’s company.

The Blériot IV was wrecked while taxiing on November 12, 1906, a fact made worse when on that same day Alberto Santos Dumas flew his 14-bis aeroplane for 220 meters (720 feet), and won the Aéro Club de France prize for the first flight of over 100 meters. See HERE for more on that.

How could it be even worse?

While the Blériot IV crashed at Bagatelle, France, Alberto Santos Dumont succeeded at the very same place later that day, and was witnessed by Blériot.

Disappointed, Blériot  and Voisin parted ways, with Blériot opting to create his own aviation company, Recherches Aéronautiques Louis Blériot (Louis Blériot Aeronautical Research), where he started creating his own aircraft, experimenting with various configurations and eventually creating the world’s first successful powered monoplane – you know, what we fly nowadays.


Blériot V – still with bird-like wings.

His first monoplane was the Blériot V, flying it (after numerous ground tests) on April 5, 1907 lifting up and ‘flying’ for six meters (20-feet). On April 19, he reached a speed of 50 kph (30mph), with the nose leaving the ground… but Blériot  overcompensated when the nose rose up, causing the aircraft to flip onto its nose, somersaulting.

He was lucky to have survived, considering the motor was situated immediately behind his pilot seat.

The Blériot VI was a tandem-wing aircraft, first flying on July 11, achieving flight of about 25–30 meters (84–100 feet), soaring to a height of two meters (seven-feet).


Blériot VI

This was his first successful flight, but by July 25, 1907, Blériot  was able to fly a distance of 150 meters (490 feet). On August 6, 1907 he managed to reach an altitude of 12 meters (39 feet), but a propeller blade got loose and he crashed.

After adding a 50-horsepower V-16 motor, on September 17, 1907, the aircraft rose to 25 meters (82 feet) before the engine cut out, falling into a spiral nosedive.

Still in a nosedive, Blériot climbed out of his seat and threw himself towards the tail, and with the weight on the back, the plane sort-of pulled itself out of the nosedive… and crashed horizontally. Owtch.

Next, was the Blériot VII that looks like a modern aircraft, except he used a differential elevator control for side-to-side movement. This is the first truly successful monoplane, first flying on November 16, 1907.


Blériot VII

On December 6, 1907, he did two flights of over 500 meters and even managed a U-turn. Unfortunately, the plane was wrecked on December 18, 1907.

Oh well… up comes Blériot VIII – a failure when it first debuted in February of 1908, he made modifications, and on October 31, 1908 he flew it from (in France) Toury to Arteny and back to Toury over a distance of 28 kilometers (17 miles).


Blériot VIII

Of course, that Farman guy actually had the first cross-country flight from Bouy to Rheims, France… one day earlier. Four days later, the Blériot VIII was wrecked while taxiing.

Blériot decided to exhibit three of his aircraft at the first ever Paris Aero Salon event held at the end of December 1907 – the Blériot IX monoplane; the three-seat pusher biplane Blériot X; and his most successful aeroplane ever, the Blériot XI – which is pictured on the Wills’s tobacco card at the very top of this article.

Planes IX and X never flew. This was by choice. They each used an Antoinette engine, but because the Antoinette company had also just decided to begin constructing its own planes, Blériot noted a conflict of interest and scrubbed flights with them.


Blériot XI

Now… the Blériot XI… she’s a beauty. In the photo above, she’s using an REP (Robert Esnault-Pelterie) motor. While it flew well, the engine did overheat, so Blériot purchased a motor from motorcycle-engine developed by Alessandro Anzani, and because of him, added a laminated walnut propeller designed by Lucien Chauviere.

Still, never satisfied, Blériot  started flying the Blériot  XII, a high-wing two-seater monoplane, flying it first on May 21, 1908. He flew it with a single passenger on July 2, and then with two passengers on July 12 – the first to do so. By the way, one of those two passengers was Santos Dumont.


Blériot XII

The E.N.V. 30-horsepower engine’s crankshaft broke a few days after, so Blériot  went back to his Blériot XI.

  • June 25, 1908: flew for 15 minutes and 30 seconds;
  • June 26, 1908: flew for over 36 minutes;
  • July 3, 1908 at an aviation event in Douai, France he flew for 47 minutes;
  • July 4, 1908, he flew for 50 minutes at an aviation meet in Juvisy, France;
  • July 13, 1908, he flew for 41 kilometers (25 miles) from Etampes to Orleans, in France.

On June 16, 1909, Blériot and Voisin were both awarded the Prix Osiris by the Institut de France – awarded every three years for whomever had made the greatest contribution to science.

On July 19, 1909 he told the British newspaper the Daily Mail that he would try and win their contest to cross the English Channel in a heavier-than-air-aircraft and win the £1,000 prize.

While the Channel had first been crossed unmanned in a hydrogen balloon in 1785, and in a manned crossing by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries later that year, no one thought the flight was possible in an aeroplane…. or if they did think it, no one could successfully prove it.

Along with Blériot, other serious in blasting the myth were:

  • Hubert Latham flying an Antoinette IV monoplane;
  • Charles de Lambert, a Russian aristocrat with French ancestry, and;
  • Arthur Seymour of England, who supposedly owned a Voisin biplane.

With around 10,000 people in Calais, France and 10,000 people at Dover, England, and with the Marconi Company doing a radio broadcast… Latham tried first on July 19, 1909 but with windy winds, he made the first-ever landing of a plane on the sea about 9.7 kilometers (six miles) from the end.

On July 21, 1909 Blériot, two mechanics and friend Alfred Leblanc, arrived in Calais, France and began prepping for their attempt.

On July 22, 1909, Latham received a second aircraft for his attempt, but the winds remained too strong until July 24 (Saturday), when the winds calmed a bit…

On July 25, 1909, Leblanc woke at 2AM, thought the weather was perfect and awoke Blériot… who wasn’t all that keen on flying…

At 4:14AM, after a quick trial flight, he awaited a signal that the sun had risen… the flight, according to the rules, had to be made during daylight… and took off at 4:41—which wasn’t quite daylight yet, but would be by the time he arrived across the Channel.

He flew at an altitude of 76 meters (250-feet) at a speed of approximately 72 kph (45 mph) across the channel.


Bleriot crossing English Channel 1908.

With no compass, he followed an escort ship (carrying his wife Alice) to Dover, until his plane overtook the ship… and with poor visibility now happening (what, a fog in England?!), Blériot says: “for more than 10 minutes I was alone, isolated, lost in the midst of the immense sea, and I did not see anything on the horizon or a single ship.”

But then he spied land, noting that a wind had blown him off-course, and then followed the coastline until he saw a Le Matin (Swiss-French newspaper) newsman waving a large tricolor flag to signal him.

Cutting his engine at 20-meters (66-feet), Blériot circled twice to lose height and proceeded to head for Northfall Meadow near Dover Castle – landing with a pancake splat thanks to the wind, damaging the Blériot XI‘s undercarriage, and its propeller blade.

All told, Blériot’s flight took 36 minutes and 30 seconds. Nice. For reference, if you were to drive the Chunnel today, it would take you 35 minutes. Longer with traffic.

You can see the Blériot XI at the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris.

With the success, Blériot achieved financial success, with 100+ orders for new builds of the Blériot XI coming in by the end of the year 1909)… each selling for F10,000.

It was estimated, that before the flight Blériot had spent more than F780,000 on his experiments. Is that a lot? Well, he paid a skilled mechanic F250 a month. So yeah… a lot of money laid out for R&D.

But don’t worry for Blériot, because he wasn’t hurting for cash.

I guess there was a bright future and lots of money in car lights. Okay, he did win a few cash prizes for his aviation skill along the way, so he wasn’t hurting for cash.

You can see Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE for the results of the Grande Semaine d’Aviation held at Reims, France where he was narrowly beaten by Glenn Curtiss in the first Gordon Bennett Trophy race. Blériot did, however, win a prize for the the fastest lap of the circuit, and a new speed record for aeroplanes.

Between 1909 and WWI in 1914, Blériot built about 900 planes – mostly variations of the Blériot XI.

The French government grounded all monoplanes in February of 1912, after four such planes had accidents, but the ban was lifted after he strengthened the landing wires.

In 1913, a consortium led by Blériot bought the Société pour les Appareils Deperdussin aircraft manufacturer, with him becoming its president a year later.

He then renamed the company the Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD)– the company that would later manufacture one of the premier WWI fighter aircraft.

But, because Blériot never really improved on his Blériot XI design, his monoplanes became ‘dated’… and his company was eventually closed up in 1916.

Still, before that happened, he was already planning on opening the Blériot and SPAD Ltd. company in Great Britain… eventually forming into the Air Navigation and Engineering Company (ANEC) in May 1918, but while never a much of a success with its planes, it did also produce Blériot-Whippet cars.

Retired from flying, but still famous in his own right, Blériot was on hand at Le Bourget field in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh finished his historic transatlantic flight in his Spirit Of St. Louis.


Bleriot was also a masterful pickpocket thanks to his skills of misdirection. Kidding. Here he’s giving Lindbergh a kiss for the camera.

Blériot died on August 1, 1936, was given a funeral with full military honors and is buried in the Cimetière des Gonards in Versailles, France.


Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Air Shows, Aviation Art, Firsts, Gliders, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Pilots, Tobacco Card, WWI | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #66 – M. Louis Paulhan.

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History Behind The Card: M. Louis Paulhan.

Card #66 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – Black-back issue

  • Isidore Auguste Marie Louis Paulhan, July 19, 1883 in Pézenas, Hérault, France — February 10, 1963, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France.

Man… I get that Louis Paulhan was famous enough in 1911 to get his own card here as No. 66 – but also as card No. 55.. but come on Wills’s – you’re killing me in 2017.

Kidding, of course. Paulhan was the aviator–or at least one of the big wigs of the fledgling field–who in 1910 won the first Daily Mail newspaper aviation prize awarded to anyone who could fly from London and Manchester.

I really did cover Paulhan quite well in my blog here on card No. 55 (HERE)… there’s nothing to add on his life that I haven’t already covered.

As such, rather than re-write the story, I’m going to cherry-pick the appropriate material from my previous blog and paste it here…

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.

After his successes on the Voisin during the 1909 meetings, he became a Farman pilot. He flew successfully in aviation meets in several countries, setting a world altitude record in Los Angeles of 1,209 meters (~3,967 feet) and winning the Daily Mail London-Manchester prize after an epic flight, beating Claude Grahame-White. He was also a seaplane pioneer, being one of the first to fly the Fabre seaplane.

Paulhan performed at various aeroplane meets:

  • Douai 1909 -in a Voisin setting an altitude record of 150 meters (~492 feet), and a duration record of one hour and seven minutes flying 47 kilometers (29.2 miles) Tissandier and Paulhan raced each other in their Wright Flyer and Voisin aeroplanes, respectively.
  • Vichy 1909 – in a Voisin on July 22, 19019, and unable to make a test flight on the uneven field thanks to two days of high winds, he could not properly adjust his aeroplane’s tail which had come out of trim during transport to the event. At around 7PM he took off while Tissandier was already in the air to compete for the “Grand Prix de Vichy” –  a FF16,000 francs prize “Prix de la Ville de Vichy”, consisting of a 20-kilometer (12.43 mile) race over 12 laps of the 1.666 km (1.036 miles) lap course. For three minutes and nearly three laps, the two planes raced each other… and while Paulhan was ahead by about 300-400 meters at the start of the actual race, he was eventually caught by Tissandier in his faster Wright Flyer aeroplane. Paulhan was soon forced to land. Paulhan made another flight later that day, ending up with the completion of nine laps. Tissandier later had mechanical issues and sat out the rest of the air meet. The next day while vying for the “Prix de la Traversée de l’Allier”, a four-kilometer race outside the airfield crossing the river twice, Paulhan had mechanical problems and was forced to land on a small island in the river. Both pilot and the plane were rescued by boat and Paulhan was back in the air soon afterwards.On July 24, Paulhan won the event in exactly five minutes. On July 25, disaster struck the event in the form of Mother Nature. The main grandstand was blown over completely and a couple of the hangars collapsed. Tissandier’s plane was wrecked when the roof and doors of the hangar fell over it and the mechanics working on it. Paulhan’s Voisin had its left wing broken. “De Rue”‘s hangar was completely lifted from the ground and moved one and a half meter. The left wing and the tail of the plane were crushed. Those who fled the hangars ended up in even bigger danger, since corrugated roofing panels were flying everywhere. The total damages were estimated to 50,000 francs. The rest of the meeting was cancelled and the results were based on the flights that had taken place so far. This meant that Tissandier and Paulhan split the prize money, with Tissandier winning everything except the cross-country race over the Allier.
  • Reims 1909
  • Spa 1909
  • Port-Aviation October 1909
  • Blackpool 1909
  • Los Angeles 1910
  • Lyon 1910, flying a Farman III, Paulhan broke the speed record, traveling 20 kilometers in 19 minutes, and weight record by carrying a 73-kilogram (161 lb) passenger.
  • Budapest 1910.

After a crash flight at Reims, he was invited to perform at the 1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet, bringing with him two Bleriot Monoplanes and two Farman III biplanes to use.

At the Los Angeles Air Meet, Paulhan set a new altitude 1,269 meters (4,164 feet) and a new endurance record (1 hour 49 minutes and 40 seconds). Paulhan received $14,000 in prize money for his record setting performances at the event.

At this meet, Paulhan was responsible for taking famed American newspaper man William Randolph Hearst on his first aeroplane ride.

Paulhan also piloted U.S. Army Lt. Paul Beck, who essentially performed the first bomb tests by dropping weights at markers located on the ground during the flight.

William Boeing was in attendance at that Los Angeles Air Meet in 1910.

In 1909, while president of the Greenwood Timber Company, Boeing, who had experimented with boat design, traveled to Seattle and visited the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Seeing a manned aeroplane for the first time, he became very much intrigued by the flying machines.

Traveling to the Los Angeles Air Meet in 1910, Boeing approached several of the aviators to beg for a ride in one of their aeroplanes – everyone said no… except for Paulhan.

Paulhan told him he would give him a ride, but asked him to be patient because of his participation in the races at the event. But after four days of waiting, Paulhan left forgetting his promise to William Boeing.

Undaunted, Boeing decided to take lessons at the Glenn L. Martin Flying School in Los Angeles, purchasing one of Martin’s planes. Glenn L. Martin would form the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1912 to build aeroplanes… it eventually merging with American-Marietta Corporation in 1961, which later merged into Lockheed Martin Corporation in 1995.

So… Paulhan…. he really missed out. We could have been seeing the Lockheed Paulhan Corporation.

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.

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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.

As for the 1910 Paulhan Biplane, it was constructed of wood and covered with fabric. It used a Gnome engine, an first flew at Saint-Cyr-l’Ecole, near Paris, on November 5, 1910, piloted by Albert Caillé, and apparently flew quite well.

The British Army ordered an example and in early January of 1911, Caillé successfully put it through a series of tests at Buc, near Paris.

The British Army said that if they were to pay for it, the aeroplane needed to:

  • be able to fly for  two hours with a pilot and passenger;
  • carry 441 pounds (200 kilograms) of ballast, in a 25 miles per hour (40 kilometer per hour wind;
  • make a gliding flight with the engine stopped from a height of 626 feet (200 meters).

Holy crap – it did as it was required… and the British Army accepted it on January 11, 1911.

A similar-looking 1910 Paulhan Triplane was also built by Paulhan in 1910—a wooden frame covered in fabric.

Paulhan-Tatin Aéro-Torpille No.1

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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.

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, Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, People, Pilots, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #65 – M. Henri Farman.

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History Behind The Card: M. Henri Farman.

Card #65 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – Black-back issue

  • Henri (Henry) Farman, May 26, 1874 in Paris, France — July 17, 1958, Paris, France;
  • Maurice (Morris) Alain Farman, March 21, 1877 in Paris, France — February 25, 1964 in Paris, France;
  • Richard (Dick) Farman, XX, 1872 (Can’t confirm specific date – HELP?), in Paris, France — January 31, 1940, Paris, France.

Because Henri Farman was one of the more famous, and rightly-so, pioneers of aviation he appears multiple times in the card series, as well as referenced by myself in the whole Pioneers Of Aviation blog site.

An excellent such example is HERE Card #41 of the series.

As such, why reinvent the wheel? I’ve borrowed heavily from that blog article.

Henry Farman was born in Paris, France—but his family was British… so depending on who is doing the recollecting, Farman’s name is either Henry (British) or Henri (French).

Because his family was British and living in France, I would suspect that Henri was born as Henry… but in order to fit in with the French children, probably became Henri at some point in time.

At that point in time in history, if your British parents said you were British even if you were born in France—you were British.

Actually, Farman’s dad was British, and his mother was French… but with Europe being highly patriarchal in those days, what the father said is all that mattered.

So… no matter how French Farman may have thought he was with his cool “Henri” name, Farman’s dad said he was British.


Henry/Henri/Hank Farman.

As such, Henri/Henry Farman was actually a British citizen until he finally became an ‘onest-too-gosh Frenchman in 1937…. just in time to become German a couple of years later (if you know your European history).

Farman’s British father was a newspaper correspondent… and since he was married to a French woman, and their son was born there, we can assume that Papa Farman was a foreign correspondent in France. D’uh, eh.

I have no proof, but it seems self-evident.

Lucky British bugger that Papa Farman was, his French wife’s family came from  pretty decent money, which means that Henri/Henry Farman didn’t really have to do any real work.

He decided, when he was old enough, to become an amateur sportsman.

Even in the 1900s, professional sports were still somehow seen as corrupt and unethical. Many is the time that they were.

Farman first pedaled his way to becoming a champion bicyclist in the 1890s before moving up into motorcycle racing in the 1900s, racing for Renault in the Gordon Bennnet Cup.

In 1907, when the Société Anonyme des Aéroplanes G. Voisin (Voisin aircraft manufacturing company) began constructing aeroplanes, the thrill-seeking Farman ordered a Voisin 1907 Biplane (an exact copy of one already built for French pilot Ferdinand Léon Delagrange).


The 1907 Voisin aeroplane flown by Farman—called the Voisin-Farman I— flying in 1908.

In this 1907 Voisin, Farman would became one of the era’s most famous pilots on the planet, setting record after record for distance and duration, including:

  • first to fly a complete circuit of one kilometer on January 13, 1908, winning a 50,000 franc Grand Prix d’Aviation award;
  • First to fly two kilometers on March 21, 1908;
  • First to fly with a passenger (Leon Delagrange) on March 29, 1908. Some say Wilbur Wright achieved this first with Charles Fumas as passenger on May 14, 1908 – argue amongst yourselves and let me know why one is more correct… but Farman was two months earlier… ;
  • First cross country flight in Europe frying from Châlons to Reims, France – a 27 kilometer trip – in 20 minutes.

This was all in the 1907 Voisin Biplane that was also known as the Voisin-Farman I. The aeroplanes were known by the Voisin moniker, and then by the person’s name they were sold to, and then a number, denoting how many that pilot might have owned.

Of course, the very famous Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft calls this aeroplane the Voisin II (mostly because it was built after the Voisin I owned and flown by Delagrange. Regardless, Voisin built about 60 of these aircraft.

Farman, by the way, personally modified his aeroplane to improve performance. So impressive were his modifications, that Voisin added them to later version of his aircraft.

I should point out that when Farman first flew with a passenger on March 29, 1908, first flew two kilometers on March 21, 1908, and was the fist to fly a one kilometer circuit on January 13, 1908… no one outside of a few people had any idea that the Wright Brothers had made the first aeroplane  flight some four+ years earlier in December of 1903.

Or that Albertos Santos-Dumont flew his 14-bis aircraft some 25 meters as early as October 23, 1906.

All that secrecy Orville & Wilbur Wright… just to secure a military deal before everyone else… meanwhile… others are taking their successful designs and moving farther and farther ahead.

Come on! You boys were bicycle manufacturers and sellers… put some damn wheels on your aeroplane!

65R 001.jpgBack to Farman…

In 1909, Farman opened up a flying school at Châlons-sur-Marne, France with (George) Bertram Cockburn as his first student… a person I will do a biography on soon enough.


Henri Farman (left) and Gabriel Voisin.

Now… Farman really loved his Voisin aeroplane… but man was he pissed when Voisin founder Gabriel Voisin took an aeroplane that was supposed to be sold to Farman—that was had designed to Farman’s specifications—and instead sold the aircraft to J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon (who used the aircraft to perform the first officially-recognized aeroplane flight in England on May 2, 1909. Moore-Brabazon named his aeroplane the Bird of Passage.

Farman was rightly ticked off at Voisin, and caused him to start up his own aeroplane manufacturing business called Avions Farman (Farman Aviation Works).

The very first aeroplane designed and built there was the Farman III – a highly successful machine.


The Farman III.

Farman III Specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Capacity: 1;
  • Length: 12 meters (39 feet 4½ inches);
  • Wingspan: 10 meters (33 feet 9¾ inches);
  • Height: 3.5 meters (11 feet 6 inches);
  • Wing Area: 40 square meters (430.56 square feet);
  • Gross Weight: 550 kilograms (1213 pounds);
  • Engine: 1x Gnome Omega 7-cylinder rotary engine @ 50 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 60 kilometers per hour (37 miles per hour)

I should point out that Henry’s brother Maurice (Morris? – I assume that since he, too, was born in Paris and his dad was still British, he could have actually been British or French) had earlier constructed his own biplane in February of 1909 – and like Henri’s, was also based on the 1907 Voisin Biplane.


The Maurice Farman MF.1 biplane. Photo found at http://flyingmachines.ru/Site2/Crafts/Craft28346.htm – very, very good historical aviation website.

The Maurice Farman MF.1 biplane had a pilot’s nacelle and used a Renault inline motor. Henri’s Farman III did not have a nacelle, and used a Gnome engine built by the Société des Moteurs Gnome. Henri and Maurice only began to work together in 1912.

How good was the Farman III? Others copied his design (copied initially from Voisin), but called it the Farman type, and were soon copied in Britain for the Bristol Boxkite, Short S.27 and the Howard Wright 1910 biplane (not related to the Wright Bros… but one of these aircraft was used by Thomas Sopwith (he of the famous Sopwith Camels).

The Farman III was also built in Germany (legally) as the Albatros F-2 by Albatros FlugzeugWerke.

If you want to find out more about this plane, go to my blog on Card #41.

Later, on November 3, 1909, the Farman III flew 232 kilometers in 4 hours-17 minutes-53 seconds at Mourmelon-le-Grand.

Before the Reims meeting, the very first Farman III biplane sold was to Roger Sommer who after learning to fly, two months later set the French endurance record of one hour, 50 minutes and later two hours and 27 minutes and 15 seconds… Farman himself smashed these records at Reims. Sommer became an aircraft builder later, initially borrowing heavily from the Farman III.

The Farman III aeroplanes in all their incarnations also became know for their speed in the early days, with many pilots winning trophies, but really… this was a long-distance flyer.

As for Farman and the Farman Aviation Works family business he ran with brothers Maurice and eldest Richard (Dick), they continued to design and build aircraft from 1908 through 1936, at which time France nationalized its aeronautical industry taking the Farman business (as well as Hanriot company) and placing it within the then just formed SNAC (the Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Centre, sometimes known as Aérocentre).

Farman Brothers.jpg

The Farman Brothers (from left): Richard, Henri and Maurice Farman.

Maurice and Henri Farman retired at this time.

The SNAC was later liquidated at the conclusion of WWII, with assets distributed.

In 1941 the Farman brothers reestablished the firm as the Société Anonyme des Usines Farman (SAUF), but only three years later it was absorbed by Sud-Ouest. Maurice’s son, Marcel Farman, reestablished the SAUF in 1952, but it wasn’t successful and closed its doors in 1956.

The Farman brothers designed and built more than 200 types of aircraft between 1908 and 1941, and even built cars until 1931.

If you are wondering why I never mentioned the Farman II aircraft… well… remember the airplane designed by Farman and sold by the Voisin company to Moore-Brabazon? That was to have been the Farman II.

Farman died in 1958 and is buried in the  Cimetière de Passy in Paris.

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Wills’s Aviation Card #64 – Mr. Claude Grahame-White.

Claude Grahame-White F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: Mr. Claude Grahame-White.

Card #64 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – black back issue

  • Claude Grahame-White, August 21, 1879 in Bursledon, Hampshire, England, Great Britain – August 19, 1959 in Nice, France.

Claude Grahame-White was the type of aviator that ticked off the Wright Brothers.

With this card – No. 64, Wills’s Aviation card series of 1911 began to include biographical cards of some of the more famous aviators. Claude Grahame-White was the first.

Along with his fame as an aviator – he was the first to make a night flight – he also formed his own aviation company, and helped promote the aviation field with penned articles and books.

A handsome man, Grahame-White was not tremendously educated, but after learning how to drive a car in 1895–a big deal at the time–he apprenticed as an engineer and soon started his own motor building company.


What I love about the photo of Claude Grahame-White above, is the fact that he is wearing the same chapeau as depicted on the Wills’s card – and quite possibly the same bow tie, complete with white polka dots. The same type of collar on the shirt is also evident, but the Card depicts him wearing an aviator-style overcoat.

It was his swagger, his lifestyle and his love of self-publicity more than anything, a public darling.

Let’s face it, if no one has seen you or heard you talk, you tend to fade from public view… Grahame-White didn’t… at least until he stopped his self-promoting.

The Wright Brothers—despite being pioneers of heavier than air flight, they preferred keeping their innovation a secret for years… and when they did speak about aviation they weren’t exactly thought of as exciting.

Think about this… who invented television? Right. But we all know who shot JR, the plot of every Seinfeld episode, or just when Happy Days jumped the shark.

It was professor Farnsworth – immortalized in Futurama by name only, by the way.

While the Wright Brothers viewed Grahame-White as a huckster… a snake-oil salesman of self-promotion, he thought that while they were fantastic for being the first in the air with an aeroplane, he thought they were greedy SOBs for their penchant for suing everyone and every company that dared build their own version of an aeroplane.

I agree with Grahame-White in this case. There’s a reason why the Wright Brothers are rightly praised for being the first… but they hardly propelled aviation further as the years went on.

I mean come on! Even though these guys were bicycle builders, they never thought of putting wheels on their aeroplanes until 1910-19143 Model B, their seventh aeroplane design.

Anyhow… Grahame-White did meet Wilbur Wright when the latter visited France in 1908. He described Wilbur Wright as an “ascetic, gaunt American with watchful, hawklike eyes.”

Big whoop, except that the implication is that Wilbur was someone very careful of his invention.

Still, after seeing Wilbur Wright actually fly, he decided to focus his drive on aviation.

He had used fast cars and fast boats to capture the attention of fast women, and correctly guessed that aviation would be a great way to get into the mile-high club then known as the 500-meter club.

However, after pilot Louis Blériot first crossed the English Channel in 1909 (see my story HERE), he became intrigued by aviation – so much so that he traveled to France for an opportunity to see the 1909 Reims aviation meet (see HERE and HERE), the first aviation meet, where he met Blériot and decided to enroll in his flying school.

Or did he?

I also found a story that makes a lot of sense… that he after ordering an aeroplane from Louis Blériot’s factory in France, he taught himself to fly all by his lonesome.

Apparently Grahame-White was impressed by the power of the press who wrote about him and gave hims such much sought after fame for his solo-teaching method.

So he hired a pres agent in 1910 and told him to tell everyone in Great Britain and the foreign press every time he was to fly.

So which story is correct?

Well, the guy is a shameless self-promoter!

I would say he visited Reims, met Blériot and learned how to fly in France.

He may have said that he never took a flying lesson in England, and the press may have assumed then that he was self-taught, probably reasoning that no one would ever find out the truth, and by then – who cares?

We do know that he was awarded Royal Aero Club certificate No. 6 in April of 1910 making him the sixth qualified pilot in England.

Later in April, Grahame-White became the local celebrity in England as he and French aviator Louis Paulham challenged to be the first to pilot an aeroplane from London to Manchester, England – with a £10,000 prize offered by the British Daily Mail newspaper.

Consider that Blériot only won a £1,000 from the Daily Mail for being the first to pilot an aeroplane across the English Channel in 1909, this £10,000 prize shows just how much money the newspaper figured to make on the promotion of the new and very popular aviation industry.

The rules of that first flight between London and Manchester was simply to do so within 24 hours – allowing for fuel refills, expected aircraft break-downs and more.

While Paulham won the prize, Grahame-White’s efforts were lauded by the British press and natives who were starving for local homegrown success.

Claude Grahame-White R.jpg

A few months later on July 2, 1910, Grahame-White won £1,000 as the first prize for Aggregate Duration in Flight while at the Midlands Aviation Meeting at Wolverhampton, England.

Grahame-White flew his Farman III biplane for a total of one hour-and 23-minutes and 20-seconds.

Grahame-White’s exploits didn’t go unnoticed in the U.S.

J.V. Martin of the Harvard Aeronautical Society traveled to Europe in the summer of 1910 to entice aviators to come and fly in the Boston-Harvard Meet.

Guess who was top of his European list? To get Grahame-White, he promised him a US$50,000 retainer and all expenses paid.

Arriving in Bohstan on September 1, 1910 amidst a phallanx of reporters and fans, a female journalist wrote to Boston’s men to be careful if they took their women to the airshow: “For before you know it these hearts may be fluttering along at the tail of an airplane wherein sits a daring and spectacular young man who has won the title of the matinee idol of the aviation field–Claude Grahame-White.”

Perhaps egged on by the media report, women at the Meet were “fighting” to try and get a ride in the sky with the dashing Grahame-White.

Proving that he cared more for money than women—and that’s saying something—Grahame-White charged all comers US$500 for a flight lasting five minutes.


And I’m too sexy for my hat, what do you think about that? $500, please… now get out! Next!

But Grahame-White wasn’t in America just to pick up women and make money, he also wanted to make more money by winning events at the event – probably so he could pick up more women.

He won the so-called blue ribbon event at the Boston-Harvard Meet that involved flying 33-miles from the airfield to Boston Light (in Boston Harbor), which netted him US$10,000.

The amount of money that Grahame-White made on this Boston jaunt staggers my 2017 brain, as I struggle from paycheck to paycheck hoping the gas station won’t get out its hired goons, Leaded and Unleaded, to get their money.

U.S. president William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States of America (1909–1913), attended the event, but deigned not to put his too heavy 250lb body into the aeroplane when Grahame-White offered to take him up for free.

Another free invite was offered to Boston Mayor John Fitzgerald—he was John F. Kennedy’s grandfather (JFK wasn’t born until May 29, 1917)—who did agree to go up, and had a grand time. Days later, Fitzy (c’mon, you know he was called that) gave Grahame-White a silver trophy inscribed with: “From Boston Friends, in admiration of your skill and sportsmanship as an aviator.”

From Boston, next up, was the Gordon Bennett Aviation Cup. Beginning in 1906, the event was one just for balloonists.


By 1909, an event just for aeroplanes was started alongside the balloon event. Now Grahame-White did not enter that first aeroplane event, but he did enter the second one in 1910, held at the Belmont Park racetrack in New York.

The last event of the week-long aeroplane meet was the flying of 20 laps around a five-kilometer circuit. It wasn’t a race, per se, rather it was a time trial.

The event allowed for a pilot to take-off at any time during a seven-hour period on the day of the race.

Claude Grahame-White was first to take off at 8:42AM in his Blériot XI that used a 100 horsepower Gnome Double Omega motor made by Société des Moteurs Gnome. The standard Gnome Omega offered 50 horsepower, but this version provided double the horsepower, but did add additional weight to the flying craft.

Grahame-White completed his first lap in 3-minutes 15-seconds.

How fast was he? Well, next up in the air was Alec Ogilvie flying a Wright Model R at 9:08 and Alfred Leblanc at 9:20 for the first lap.

Leblanc, was the chief pilot for the Blériot company, and flew the same plane as Grahame-White, but slightly modified with a different propeller and a reduced wingspan.

Leblanc’s aircraft was clearly faster: after four laps his time was 1 minute 20 seconds better than Grahame-White’s and he completed his 19th lap after 52 minutes 49.6 seconds in the air.

Grahame-White, having started first, finished his 20th and final lap in a total time of 1-hour, 1-minute and 4.47-seconds.

So…to win, all Leblanc had to do was finish the last five kilometer circuit in around nine-and-a-half minutes… which aside from his opening lap was very easy to do.

But that’s why they make you finish the entire race. Half-way round the last lap Leblanc’s engine stopped, either through fuel shortage or the breakage of a fuel line, and he had to make a forced landing. He actually collided with a telegraph pole some distance away, but wasn’t too badly hurt.

Ogilvie had only been able to do 13 laps before engine problems forced him to land… but it took him 54 minutes to fix the problem before he took to the air again. He eventually finished the race in a total time of 2-hours, 26-minutes and 36.6 seconds.

Proving that nice guys DO finish last, Walter Brooks in his Wright Baby Grand was about to take off in his attempt when Leblanc crashed, and decided to fly to the scene of the accident to see if he could help.

While en route, a connecting rod broke and his aircraft was wrecked in the subsequent forced landing. He was unhurt.

Hubert Latham in his Antoinette aeroplane took off at 10:59AM, but his attempt was plagued by engine failures, and he spent about four hours on the ground making repairs, eventually completing the course in 5-hours, 48-minutes and 53 seconds.

Shortly before the latest permitted takeoff time John Drexel and John Moisant, both flying Blériot IXs, started their attempts.

While Drexel only managed seven laps, Moisant did the 20-lap course but having to land a few times to correct his engine issues, he finished in a time of 1-hour, 57-minutes and 44.8-seconds – good enough for second place.

Grahame-White won. Huzzah!

Grahame-White was a real spokesman for the very young aviation industry, drumming up business with his flying stills and daredevil antics, such as on October 14, 1910 when he flew his Farman III over Washington, DC and landing on West Executive Avenue near the White House.

It’s cool – he knows the president.


Claude Grahame-White in his Farman III biplane about to land on West Executive Avenue in Washington, DC.

In November of 1910, Grahame-White was hanging out in the U.S. courting American actress Pauline Chase (Courting? That’s media political correctness. This guy didn’t have to court anyone. “I wanna woo!”).

Unfortunately, a different type of courting was in Grahame-White’s cards.

Near the end of the month, just days before his scheduled departure back to Great Britain (courting – hah!), those evil Wright Brothers filed a suit against Grahame-White claiming he had infringed on their patent—pick one—summoning him to appear before a judge.

The Wright Brothers wanted a full accounting of Grahame-White’s earnings in America—all $82,000.

Needless to say, Grahame-White thumbed his nose at America’s judicial system and the Wright Brothers, and skipped out of the country on an earlier ship.

When he arrived back in England, the brave Grahame-White laughed to reporters that “the Wrights are frightened. I’ve scared them so bloody well that they are terrified. I’m their most formidable competitor and they know it.”

On December 18, 1910, Grahame-White was hurt after crashing his aeroplane trying to win a $20,000 prize for the longest non-stop flight from England to the European mainland… and while in the hospital, he continued to hear about other pilots dying, which made him ponder his own mortality.

Not buying into that live fast-die young crap, Grahame-White quit competitive flying and put his money into his own company: the Grahame-White Aviation Company founded in 1911, as well as creating London’s first aerodrome at Hendon.

Aircraft built by the Grahame-White Aviation Company included (and taken from Wikipedia):

In 1911 he established a flying school at Hendon Aerodrome. In 1912 Grahame-White gave famed author H.G. Wells his first flight. Some of the books Wells has written that I have read include: The Time Machine; The Invisible Man; The War of the Worlds; The Island of Doctor Moreau; and The First Men in the Moon. If you haven’t read them, I recommend you do. Doctor Moreau is especially thrilling.

It was also around this time, that Grahame-White worked to promote the application of the aeroplane within the military with a campaign called “Wake Up Britain”. He was also involved with experimenting with fitting various weapons and bombs to aircraft.

During the war (then known as The Great War), he flew the first night patrol mission against an expected German raid on September 5, 1914.
The Aerodrome was lent to the British Admiralty in 1916, and eventually taken over by the British Royal Air Force in 1919.
In 1919, Grahame-White co-founded Aerofilms and Surveys Limited, which was Britain’s first commercial aerial photography company. It was founded with Francis Lewis Wills and Herbert William Matthews.
In 1925, Grahame-White sold the Hendon Aerodrome to the RAF (to the British Government, actually) for $1-million in 1925. Yes… that much money.
The truth of this sale, however is that Grahame-White had only lent the Aerodrome to the RAF, and with the war over wanted it back for himself. The RAF, however, didn’t want to give it back, and instead, after a lengthy legal battle forced him to sell it to them.
It was around the tine that he sold the Hendon Aerodrome that Grahame-White began to tire of aviation, soured on it because of how poorly he felt the RAF and the British Government had treated him by forcing the sale.
Still…. $1-million.
He moved to Nice, France but continued to be involved in property development in the U.S. and U.K., making a considerable fortune for himself.
He died in 1959 in France, but is interned at Golders Green Crematorium in the Barnet borough in London, England.


As for his former Hendon Aerodrome… well, it was renamed RAF Hendron and was used until the 1960s. After that, the land was sold and redeveloped into a housing development called Grahame Park… obviously an homage to Grahame-White.

An original World War I Grahame-White aircraft factory hangar was relocated a few years ago to the RAF Museum, where it houses the museum’s World War I collection and is named the Grahame White Factory.
While most of Grahame-White’s exploits at the beginning of the aviation age might nowadays be considered pretty minor, it is important to note that his flamboyant good looks and brashness and willingness to thumb his nose at the stodgy Wright Brothers was great news for the media.
His ability to create headlines for the aviation segment while the Wright’s preferred to keep things “dignified” worked out extremely well for Grahame-White.
Sure the Wright Brothers are better know today than Grahame-White, but I doubt they had as much fun as Grahame-White did, and would be curious to learn who actually made more money between 1910-1925.
While the Wright’s were the first to fly a heavier-than-air machine, and plenty of other pilots pushed development of the aircraft, it was Grahame-White who got the adulation from the average person.
He made it sexy and fun. Not a bad way to have lived one’s life.


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Wills’s Aviation Card #63 – The Etrich Monoplane

Etrich F 001.jpgHistory Behind The Card: The Etrich Monoplane

Card #63 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – Green back issue

  •  Igo (Ignaz) Etrich, December 25, 1879, in Trutnov, Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic)February 4, 1967, Salzburg, Austria.
  • Franz Xaver Wels, February 10, 1873 in Maribor, Slovenia – October 18, 1940, Wien, Austria.

First things first. I already did card No. 63 of the Wills’s Aviation series, but that was for the Black back cards.

The Capstan Navy Cut backs of the 75-card series came in both a Black and a Green back series… while most of the cards were identical, some like the Green series offered a completely different card featuring a completely different topic.

Card No. 63 of the Green Back series is one such example. It’s not one of my prettier cards. Finding the 75- and 85-card series is always a challenge, and finding them in good shape is even more so. Finding the green-backed cards… well… it just seems to be even more difficult.

By the way, I’m going to set up a Trade Shop soon, where aviation card collectors need not worry about paying stupidly high prices in shipping or for the card themselves… we just trade… one for one… to help each other complete our collections.

I figure I’ll post images of the cards I have for trade, you tell me what you want, I’ll tell you what I’m after, and then we trust each other to post the card safely. We pay our own shipping costs to send the card to each other. Easy-peasy. No one gets ripped off.

Back to this card:


Is it just me, but does Igo Etrich look a lot like Bud Abbott (of Abbott & Costello)?

Igo Etrich is the designer of the Etrich Monoplane… born in the Czech Republic to a textile manufacturing father (Ignaz Etrich – 1839-1927), Etrich was, in fact, an Austrian.

A pioneer in the early days of aviation (obviously, the Wills’s card is from 1911), Etrich’s monoplane (fixed wing) designs utilized wings shaped like a bird’s wings.

An unorthodox design all around as biplanes were thought to be more stable in the air than monoplanes, the Etrich wings were slightly swept back and turned upward. The tail (note that there is no vertical) was also designed to look like a bird’s tail.

The aeroplane’s model was nicknamed “Taube“, a German word for “dove”.

Along with the wings, the wheels and skid mount at the front of the aircraft were all cable-braced together to the fuselage to provide additional stability – you can see that in the image above.

Anyhow… let’s see what we can discover about Etrich himself first.

We know that his father owned a textile factory, so we can assume the family had some money, which was how he was able to attend schools in Leipzig.

It was at school that he learned of the glider work of the famed Otto Lillenthal.

The elder Etrich also became intrigued by gliders and with his son they constructed their own glider laboratory to study and experiment with flight.

Igo Etrich was also intrigued by birds and how they flew, and felt that using wings curved like a birds would create better lift for their gliders. But they didn’t build any gliders in this form at this time.

When Lillenthal died in 1896, Etrich’s father purchased two of the gliders for their studying: Sturmflügelapparat” (storm wing apparatus)  and “Flügelschlagapparat” (flapping/flying apparatus).

A year later in 1897 the Etrich’s read about a scientific paper by a Professor Ahlborn who described the see of the Zanonian macrocarpa—now known as the Alsomitra macrocarpa or Javan cucumber (see below)—that when detached from the plant would glide through the air.


Dad and son Etrich attempted to build a glider in 1900/1901, but were unsuccessful in their attempts of flight.


Franz Wels in 1908.

Igo Etrich and Franz Xaver Wels decided they would design and construct an unmanned glider based on this cucumber seed—eventually getting it to fly successfully in 1904.

Subsequent attempts to motorize it with an engine he purchased failed to get it to fly as an aeroplane, but a manned non-powered glider version did successfully fly in 1906.


Etrich-Wels “Leaf” glider in 1906. Image from Flying Wings: http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/etrich.html

In the Wiener Prater district in Vienna in 1907, Etrich set up a second experimental aviation laboratory.


1908 Etrich Nurflugel. Image from Flying Wings:  http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/etrich.html

He designed and built the Etrich “Nurflügel” (Flying Wing) tractor monoplane in 1907-8, and the Etrich Taube (Dove) tractor monoplane in 1909.

The Flying Wing had its first flight attempt on October 2, 1907, flying a distance of 225 (~738 feet) meters at a height of between 15-17 meters (~49-56 feet).

Later that year (1909), he built the Praterspatz (Prater Park Sparrow) – also known as Etrich I, an improved version of the Dove.

But because the aircraft was using an under-powered 24-horsepower motor, the aeroplane was unsuccessful.

He set up two hangars at the newly developed Wienr Neustadt airfield later in 1909, and working with partner Franz Wels they improved the Etrich I by adding a stronger engine.

It flew.

It used foot adjustable side rudders for control, and added a car’s steering wheel to act as a steering horn to provide height control.

By 1910, Etrich had designed and built the Etrich II Taube (Dove) two-seater tractor (motor in front) monoplane. Monoplanes are fixed wing aircraft just like single wing aircraft we have today.

Problem arose between Etrich and co-designer Wels after the latter had traveled to Paris to see the Wright Brothers demonstrate their Wright Flyer. Wels believed that a biplane would be a better wing configuration, leading the two to dissolve their partnership.

The Etrich II Taube made its maiden flight in early 1910… but during a later test flight the plane crashed with Etrich as pilot, nearly breaking his back.

The scare, and perhaps the physical damage to his body allowed Etrich to name Karl Illmer as his test pilot.


Igo Etruch (left) and pilot Karl Illmer – 1912.

Thanks to the successful test flights, two things happened:

  1. The Austrian government wanted him to build them aeroplanes, so further refinements were made to the Etrich II Taube. The military wanted Etrich to ensure that the Taube could land safely on a freshly plowed field.
  2. Etrich signed a contract with German Edmund Rumpler allowing Rumpler the right to build the Taube II in Germany under the name of Etrich-Rumpler-Taube.

However, because the German patent office did not give Etrich a patent, it meant t hat anyone could use his designs to build the Taube for free.

So that’s what Rumpler did, having private companies construct the Taube II under the name of Rumpler-Taube. In fact, there are known to have been some 14 companies that built the Taube with some variations to each… and not a pfennig (German penny, essentially) going back to Igo Etrich. D’oh.


Go ahead… build your own 1913 Taube.


Rumpler claimed to be the designer of the Taube… so Etrich sued him, keeping the battle ongoing until WWI broke out in 1914, when he dropped the lawsuit and patriotically made his aviation design of the Taube available to anyone.

Even while this was going on, in 1912 Etrich founded Etrich Fliegerwerke in Liebau (now part of Poland) and designed an aircraft with the first fully-enclosed cabin for the passengers, which he named Luft-Limousine (aka Air Limousine or the Etrich VIII – yeah, I’m skipping some), The Luft Limousine was a four-seater high-wing monoplane. A German named Ernst Heinkel was in charge of the design office. 


The 4-seater Etrich Luft-Limousine… what a beautiful-looking aircraft! And this is 1912?!

Heinkel was one of Germany’s top aircraft designers through WWII – you might have heard of him. Excellent planes, good Nazi.

Etrich R 001.jpg

The caption reads: The most powerful machine in the “Daily Mail” Circuit of Britain second £10,000 prize. This monoplane was driven by Lieutenant Bier, who also carried a passenger. The wording at the reverse is choppy… and as such, the reader couldn’t be sure if the aeroplane won second place, or if this was the second Daily Mail contest. By the way… you’ll notice the offer for an album to hold these and other tobacco cards – the bane of the future collector, as people would glue them in, even though that meant you couldn’t read the back of the cards!

Let’s take a look at the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain… since these are cards issued in 1911, we can assume the contest was either in 1910 or early to mid-1911.

So… looking that up, we find that the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain was a British cross-country air race which took place from 1911 until 1914, with prizes donated by the Daily Mail newspaper.

The 1911 race took place on 22 July and was a 1,010 miles (1,630 km) event with 11 compulsory stops and a circular route starting and finishing at Brooklands in Surrey.

Look at the results, I see that the Etrich Taube II monoplane flown by  Lt. H. Bier did not do very well.


From 1913 Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft pubication.

The winner was Jean Conneau in a Blériot XI who took 22 hours, 28 minutes to complete the course at an average speed of 45 mph (72 km/h) and received the first prize of £10,000. The runner up was Jules Védrines in a Morane-Borel monoplane with James Valentine, in a Deperdussin coming third.

The Taube II was damaged during a landing at Codicote near Hatfield after suffering radiator problems.

That sucked… however, the Taube II was well-respected, at least in the media, because, as the reverse of the Wills’s card states, it carried a passenger… and was the only aircraft in the competition to do so, with Lt. Bier flying fellow officer Lt. C. Banfield.

The Wills’s card is also correct in calling the aeroplane powerful. It probably should have stated why.

The motor used on the Taube II was a 120 horsepower Beardmore, manufactured by William Beardmore, who had first designed and built it for then-Austrian car manufacturer Austro-Daimler. Chief engineer there was Ferdinand Porsche (yes, later founder of the Porsche automobile company), who also had a hand in fine tuning the 120 Beardmore motor.

From what I understand, after Lt. Bier crashed his Taube II in the race, the engine was kept and re-sold to Samuel Franklin Cody, who would use the engine to help him set a speed record in 1914.


A Taube II version from 1913.

By the way, these Taube II Dove aeroplanes were used by Germany and Austro-Hungary during WWI as an observation vehicle, and for training purposes. They had been used as fighters early on,  but their lack of speed relative to the enemy’s planes caused them to be merely training aircraft, with most all German pilots during the war receiving their initial training on a Taube/Dove.

However, back in 1911, the Taube was the first aeroplane used to drop bombs, doing so over the Balkans… and was the first in WWI over Paris in 1914.

Don’t get all excited, there was no bomb release door… the pilot or passenger would physically hold a bomb in their hands, lean over the side and bomb’s away.

According to Flying Wings blog, the Taube II Specifications are:

  • Width (wings): 46 feet 8 inches;
  • Length: 32 feet 4 inches;
  • Take-off Weight: 1,759 pounds;
  • Engine: 100/120 horsepower Mercedes water-cooled six-cylinder in-line (original); later a 200 horsepower Ranger water-cooled six-cylinder upright conversion (representation);
  • Maximum speed:  60 mph.

I can neither confirm nor deny these specs. My data shows the Taube used a 120 Beardmore engine from Austro-Daimler… Daimler was involved with Mercedes, who later partnered with Benz. That company is equally as convoluted when it comes to history.


A 1914 version of the Taube II.


In 1913, Etrich moved to Germany, and founded Brandenburgische Flugzeugwerke aeroplane manufacturing. In 1914, he sold the business to fellow Austrian banker and stock-market player Camillo Castiglioni, who moved the factory from Liebau (now Poland, but prior to WWI a part of teh German Republic) to Brandenburg an der Havel (Brandenburg, Germany), and took chief designer Ernst Heinkel with him.

Known commonly as Hansa-Brandenburg, by August of 1915, the company became Germany’s largest manufacturer of military aircraft, adding two more factories and employing over 1,000 people.

I can’t figure out just what Etrich was doing during WWI… but I can confirm that after it, he was working as the owner of a textile manufacturing plant and worked on developing a flax processing machine in Trautenau (now Trutnov), then of the newly-formed Czechoslovakia.

After WWI, Germans and Austrians, in particular, were forbidden from creating aviation in any format – part of their punishment for their role in the war.

Bitten by the aviation bug once again, Etrich thought, so it is claimed, that he would try to build and sell a low-cost aeroplane that could be used for low-cost transportation purposes.


The Etrich Sport-Taube was a very small plane, as you can see.

So he built the one-seater, closed cockpit Sport-Taube aircraft inside his textile factory, flying for the first time in 1929.

It used a small 40 horsepower engine, but it seemed to be more maneuverable and faster than any other aircraft the Czechoslovakian military had at that time.


Working with the military, the authorities said that Etrich had built the Sport-Taube as a means to perform smuggling operations and took the aircraft away from him.

Utterly fed up, Etrich never again designed or built another aeroplane again, concentrating instead on his textile business.

After WWII, his textile business expropriated, he moved back to northern Bohemia in October of 1946, settling in Niederbayern.

In and around 1955 he developed a high-speed stretch for fiber tapes used in the worsted yarn industry, that made him successful again.

I’m not sure when the first marriage occurred, but in 1950 he moved with his second wife to nearby Freilassing, though the textile plant remained. He moved to Salzburg, Austria in 1961, and was named honorary president of the Salzburg Aero Club.

Other awards include the Knights Cross of the Franz Joseph Order in 1911, the Federal Cross in 1955 and the Dr. Karl Renner Prize in 1959.

He died an old man of 87-years-old in Salzburg.

The Etrich II can be seen at the Technisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. The Sport-Taube can be seen at the Technischen Museum Prague in the Czech Republic.

Here’s a list of aircraft built by Igo Etrich:

  • 1909  Etrich “Nurflügel” (Only Wings) tractor monoplane;
  • 1909  Etrich Taube (Dove) tractor monoplane;
  • 1909  Etrich-Wels “Praterspatz” (Prater sparrow) tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich II “Taube” (Dove) 2-seater tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich II modified “Taube” (Dove) tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich III “Möve” (Seagull) tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich IV “Taube” (Dove) tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich V “Taube” (Dove) tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich VI “Taube” (Dove) tractor monoplane;
  • 1911  Etrich “Etrichapparat” monoplane;
  • 1911  Etrich IV “Manövertaube” (Military Dove) Type B military 2-seater monoplane;
  • 1911  Etrich VII “Renntaube” (Racing Dove) 3-seater racing monoplane;
  • 1912  Etrich VIII “Luft-Limousine” (“Air Limousine”) 4-seater high wing monoplane;
  • 1912  Etrich IX “Schwalbe” (“Swallow”) monoplane;
  • 1912  Etrich X —-no evidence it was built, but numbering begins later with XII;
  • 1912  Etrich XI —no evidence it was built, but numbering begins later with XII;
  • 1912  EFW Etrich XII “Rennapparat” (“Racing Machine”) 2-seater bomber monoplane;
  • 1912  Etrich “Manövertaube” (“Military Dove”) Fype F 2-seater military monoplane;
  • 1913  EFW Etrich Taube Type 1913 2-seater bomber monoplane;
  • 1914  Type A-1 & A-2 were military airplanes;
  • 1929 Sport-Taube monoplane.



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

Wills’s Aviation Card #63 – “Tellier” Monoplane.

63F .jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Tellier” Monoplane.

Card #63 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – black back issue

  • Alphonse Tellier, August 24, 1879 in Paris, France – February 14, 1929 in Grasse, France;
  • Émile Dubonnet, October 18, 1883 in Paris, France – October 4, 1950 in Sologne, France.

Nothing is easy, when it comes to doing these historical biographies of the aeroplanes, designers, manufacturers and pilots of the planes represented on the Wills’s Aviation cigarette cards. Nothing.

For example, the Tellier monoplane, represented by Wills’s card No. 63 states on the reverse that it was built by M.M. Tellier and Gerrard.

If I can assume the at least one of those “M’s” means “mister” or “monsieur”, then sure… we know that Tellier and Gerrard built the Tellier monoplane.

Except I can find zero evidence as to just who Mr. Gerrard is in relation to this aeroplane. Nothing.

Perhaps they meant that Tellier designed it, and Gerrard physically built the aircraft…

There is a bit of information on Alphonse Tellier, however, but not as much as one would hope.


What we do know about Tellier, however, is that he liked to build motorboats, and was one of the early pioneers of speed boat design and manufacture.

Alphonse Tellier was the son of Auguste Tellier, who in 1871 in Paris, started up a manufacturing factory for boats and canoes.

Alphonese Tellier’s introduction to aviation came about in 1905 when aeroplane manufacturer Gabriel Voisin and soon-to-be famous pilot Louis Blériot tested and flew a glider (for aviation patron Archdeacon) that was designed and built by Voisin.

After initially testing the glider by having it towed by an automobile on a road, the second test had it towed by a motorboat on the Seine river – with the glider flying some 600 meters (2,000 feet). See HERE for my write-up on Voisin, his gliders and subsequent aeroplane manufacturers.

The speedboat was powered by a 120-horsepowr Antoinette engine, later one of the most popular aeroplane engine manufacturers of the pioneer days.

Anyhow… the pilot of that motorboat called La Rapière? That was Alphonse Tellier.


Alphonse Tellier during the 2nd Great Aviation Week of Champagne in 1910. Image from July of 1910. Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France

Inspired by what he saw, Tellier opened up his first aeroplane manufacturing facility (for those who had the designs – he had the carpentry skills) in 1908 at Juvisy-sur-Orge in (what I believe) was the northern part of  the outskirts of Paris, then in the town of  Melun, before eventually setting it upon the Île de la Jatte in Neuilly-sur-Seine (offices at 340, rue de Chézy) in 1909.

Now… who designed the first Tellier aeroplane? Was it Tellier himself? Maybe. I don’t know.

We can see (below) that the aeroplane bears more than a passing resemblance the Bleriot‘s XI monoplane… but why not? The Bleriot XI was a very successful aircraft.

We do know that Robert Duhamel and a Mr. Houris (no first name found) built the Tellier monoplane, and that a pilot named Emile Dubonnet was the man who either purchased it, or was the paid test pilot on behalf of the Tellier company.

I’m working from French texts, and the information is sparse, at best.

Tellier Monoplane – 1910

Tellier Monoplane.jpg

We do know that on April 4, 1910, Dubonnet flew the Tellier monoplane from Juvisy to La Ferté-Saint-Aubin in France – traveling some 109 kilometers, and actually landed near Orléans in the midst of the flight to ask for directions! The flight was completed in one hour, 48 minutes and 54 seconds. If my math is good (yeesh), that would be 58.3 kilometers and hour, but it would be faster if we take into account the plane had to land, get directions and take-off again….

For his efforts, Dubonnet won a prize from La Nature science magazine for being the first to pilot an aeroplane a distance over 100 kilometers.

On April 24, 1910, Dubonnet once again flew from his private grounds at Draveil and landed at Bagatelle in France, performing the second flight over Paris (after Charles, Count de Lambert on October 18, 1909), flying at a fairly low altitude ranging from 30 meters to 100 meters – and it was all in the Tellier monoplane.

Why did he pilot the aeroplane at such a low height? Was it to give the people below a great view, or was it simply an under-powered motor? I’m guessing it was Dubonnet doing some showboating.

There is a report that Tellier and Dubonnet took the Tellier 1910 monoplane to the 2nd Great Aviation Week of Champagne (Reims – July 3-10, 1910 ), where one year earlier it hosted the first ever aviation meet (Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne). However… I can not find a single article on-line providing details of the event, unlike what was provided the year before in 1909.

I did find a December 3, 1910 article in Flight magazine that did offer data on the Tellier monoplane:

General Specifications:
  • Bearing surface: 24 square metres (258.334 square feet);
  • Length 11.85 meters (38.9 feet);
  • Width: 11.85 meters (38.9 feet);
  • Seating capacity: one (though there is evidence Tellier would build a two-seater if desired… more below under Options);
  • Powerplant: 35 horsepower Panhard, water-cooled, 4-cyl. vertical. Steel cylinders, copper water-jackets. Bore – 110mm ; stroke – 140 mm., weight, 100 kilograms (220.5 pounds), revolutions – 1,000, Petrol consumption at normal revolutions – 14 litres an hour. Silencer is fitted if required;
  • Propeller – Tellier, 1,000 revs.;
  • Landing chassis – two wheels, mounted with springs in front, with a small wheel placed in front of the tail. The two front wheels are so arranged that they adapt themselves to any unevenness in the ground on which the machine lands;
  • Tail – Fixed non-lifting tail-plane with fixed vertical fin over it. Elevating-plane fixed to the trailing edge of tail-plane. Single rudder fixed centrally above;
  • Lateral stability – By flexing the trailing edges of the main planes;
  • Weight – Complete with motor, 400 kilograms (881.85 pounds);
  • Speed – About 85 kilometers per hour (52.8 miles per hour);
  • System of control – By steering-wheel mounted on a column in front of the pilot. A rotary movement of the wheel controls the rudder. A sideway movement of the entire column to the right or left flexes the left or right wing. A forward movement depresses the machine, and a backward movement elevates;
  • Price – With 35-h.p. 4-cylinder Panhard engine, 25,000 francs;
  • Options: Large two-seat model, known as the “Type Militaire” is available, but uses a 50 horsepower 6-cylinder vertical Panhard engine.

That’s about all I can find about the 1910 Tellier monoplane.

In the Spring of 1911 in Saint-Omer, Tellier and Dubbonet and some other financial moneybags got together to create the Société Alphonse Tellier et Cie (Alphonse Tellier & Co.).

But they weren’t interested in that time in just building aeroplanes, rather they were attempting to build a hydro-aeroplane.

We do know that the first hydro-aeroplane competition was held in Monaco in March of 1912, and featured airplanes using floats from Fabre, Curtiss, Tellier and Farman.

The implication here, is that Tellier’s new hydro-aeroplane was more than likely a physically stronger Tellier monoplane with floats.

However, by 1913, the company had designed and built a Tellier Hydro-Hovercraft… but it doesn’t appear to be a successful endeavor, as I can’t find any record of sales or performance except the following:

Tellier built three hydroplanes (Hydro-hovercraft), essentially aeroplanes that were propelled on the water – not in the air. The aircraft used a propeller to propel it across the water.

In one of these hydroplanes, Dubonnet got it up to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) – the first time such a vehicle had achieved such speeds.

From then until the midst of the Great War (aka WWI)  in 1916, things were quiet until the company unveiled a Tellier Flying Boat featuring a Hispano-Suiza engine built by the automobile factory of the same name. The company is a Spanish company, but it did open a branch in France where I assume it built the powerplants for Tellier’s flying boat.


This appears to be a 1917 version of the Tellier Flying Boat.

An order from the French Navy kept the company afloat (ha-ha), providing it with updated versions in 1917 and again 1918, with the latter model having a 350 horsepower Sunbeam motor built by the car company of the same name.

The same 1918 model offered the alternate Panhard-Levassor powerplant providing 350 horsepower… I assume it was simply two separate shops providing very similar motors to help Tellier get the Tellier Flying Boats into the hands of the French Navy on time.

The Navy order was for 315 seaplanes, which were given in 1918, and may also have included:

  • combat Tellier seaplane 400/500 horsepower Hispano-Suiza in 1918, and;
  • the combat Tellier seaplane with a 1,100 horsepower Lorraine motor in 1919.

Since the war ended in November of 1918, I am unsure if the last aircraft were delivered, or if the contract was still honored and accepted by the French Navy.

We do know that the original order highlighted that the seaplanes needed to be able to carry a payload of 1,632 kilograms (3,598 pounds), and that a total of 35 aeroplanes were delivered before the war concluded.

While the war continued in 1918 – you have to keep trying to develop new product all the time – Tellier conceived of a transatlantic seaplane called the Vonna.

The Vonna was to be able to carry a crew of three men and a radio, weigh nine tons empty and weigh 16 tons full.

It was to be powered by four Sunbeam-Coatalen W18 450 horsepower motors.

The project was staffed with 15 Nieuport engineers, but was eventually abandoned in 1921.

It didn’t matter too much to Tellier, because he sold the Alphonse Tellier Tellier & Co to Nieuport in August of 1918 after becoming ill. The company then continued under the name of Nieuport-Astra.

He did remain with the company’s marine division as a technical director, while engineer Robert Duhamel took over the management of the Issy-les-Moulineaux engineering department and responsibility for Tellier products, which remained in the firm’s catalog until 1923.

Alphonse Tellier died on February 14, 1929 in Grasse, and was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery.

As for pilot Dubonnet?

Born to a French winemaker, one source I found describes Dubonnet as a sportsman, interesting in cycling, skating, soccer, fencing, rower, and vehicle race enthusiast… and all were done before he became interested in aviation, and when he began, it was hot-air balloons that caught his fancy.

A member of the Aero-Club of France, Dubonnet took part in the Gordon Bennett Cup for ballooning in 1908, 1909 and 1911. He won the La Grande Medialle de Aéro-Club de France in 1912.

After the 1909 event, Dubonnet started working as a test pilot for Tellier going up for the first time on April 3, 1910 in the 1910 Tellier Monoplane.

The next day, as mentioned above, he flew the Tellier monoplane from Juvisy to La Ferté-Saint-Aubin in France, flying some 109 kilometers – then a record for distance.

The April 4, 1910 flight was still only Dubonnet’s 10th actual time up in an aeroplane as a pilot.

Still working as a test pilot and pilot for Tellier, Dubonnet used the Tellier monoplane… I assume a rejigged version of the 1910 model when in January of 1912 he traveled from Paris to Russia traveling a distance of 1,954 kilometers.

I also read that Dubonnet in 1912 helped form the first professional baseball league in France, the French Baseball Union.

When WWI started, he was part of France’s balloon aviation corps, flying through the war in 1918, but still finding the time to work alongside Tellier in the construction of his seaplanes.

Dubonnet lived until October 4, 1950.


Émile Dubonnet. Image from the George Grantham Bain collection at the U.S. Library of Congress.

As for Tellier’s aircraft contributions, I found one source offering:

  • Monoplan Tellier (1909);
  • Monoplan Tellier (1910);
  • Hydro-Hovercraft Tellier (1913);
  • Flying boat Tellier 200 HP Hispano-Suiza (1916);
  • Flying boat Tellier 200 hp canon (1917);
  • Flying boat Tellier 350 hp Sunbeam (1918);
  • Tellier Combat Seaplane 400/500 ch Hispano-Suiza (1918);
  • Tellier Combat Seaplane 1100 ch Lorraine (1919).


Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Air Shows, Airfields, Aviation Art, Balloons, Concepts, Failures, Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Pilots, Seaplanes, Tobacco Card, WWI | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Historical Look At Japan’s First Dirigibles

I was finally catching up on my reading the other day, when an article from the New Zealand newspaper, Clutha Leader dated September 26, 1911 – page 2, I discovered some information on Japan’s attempt to build the world’s then-largest dirigible…

It’s 1911… and aeroplanes have been flying across Europe for a few years, with the first successful crossing of the English Channel in 1909… so, why would you want to construct a dirigible?

All one can assume, is that Japan saw more pluses from dirigibles than with the new technology of aeroplanes/airplanes.

The first airplane had been flown over Tokyo in December of 1910… so Japan certainly did know of the technology.

I’m not saying that dirigibles were already yesterday’s news in 1911… we all know that they were long in use through WWI (Okay you, me and about 47 other people on the planet), and that they were used to ferry around Indiana Jones and his father in the 1930s. In fact, dirigibles were a viable transportation option for those that had the time and enjoyed the luxury… right up until May 6, 1937.

That was the date of the Hindenburg disaster… the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg that caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock at Naval Air Station Lakehurst in Manchester Township, New Jersey, U.S.

There were 97 people on board: 36 passengers and 61 crewmen. I suppose it was lucky… the Hindenburg’s full passenger capacity was 70 people.

There were 35 fatalities: 13 passengers and 22 crewmen, and one poor unfortunate ground worker who died, for a total of 36 dead.

But we’re talking about 1911.

Here’s what that New Zealand newspaper wrote – please note that I have adjusted the formatting and added in metric conversions:

 A wonderful new dirigible airship, a record for the world, is reported to be now in course of secret construction in Japan.
Among its points are the following:
Speed—70 miles an hour (), enough to carry it through a hurricane at five miles an hour;
Staying Power—Can remain a week in the air, as 20 tons (18,143.7 kilograms) of benzine can be carried as fuel;
Lifting Power—12 tons (10,886 kilograms), double that of the British naval airship Mayfly, now in hiding at Barrow;
Driving Power—720 horsepower, divided by six motors, providing it with twice the power of the Mayfly;
Length—600 feet (182.88 meters), 90 feet (27.43 meters) longer than the Mayfly;
Diameter—50 feet (15.24 meters);
Crew—10 men;
Armament—Pneumatic cylinder bombs.

Most of the material that is being used is of Japanese manufacturer, but one English firm—a well-known sewing machine house—has received orders from the Japanese Government for a number of specially durable machines for use in sewing together the sections.

The airship is the result of sending out of a band of official experts who travelled through the great countries of the world during June, July and August of 1910 investigating the developments of aviation.

This is Japan’s second dirigible, the first, known as the Yabada Isaburo dirigible, having been finished about four months ago. That one was 400 feet (121.92 meters) long—half as long as the liner Olympic.

The new dirigible is expected to be attached to the Japanese navy at Yokosuka—the Japanese Portsmouth.  

So… this 1911 newspaper article from New Zealand mentions that the huge, secret dirigible Japan is building is actually the SECOND dirigible it built.

While the article says that the first dirigible was designed and built by Yabada Isaburo (surname first), that’s a newspaper error, as it was actually built by Yamada Isaburo (surname first).

These are the perils of trying to compile a historic database… people make mistakes.

For proper data, I found a website (http://www.j-aircraft.com/research/jas_jottings/japanese_airships.htm) that discusses Japan’s early aviation… but I’m just going to borrow from it – not relate it word-for-word…

What we know about Yamada, is that he owned a lifeboat manufacturing company, and he was the person who earned the right on behalf of the Japanese Army to fabricate the envelope (the balloon), as well as the gondola.

The first Japanese dirigible is known as the Yamada-shiki No. 1, a non-rigid type (a blimp, essentially, that lacks an internal structure – frame work).

Here’s an image of the burning wreckage of the Hindenburg, a rigid dirigible… you can see the frame work. Zeppelins are called semi-rigid airships, while blimps are pressure airships.

Yamada-shiki No. 1
Crew: 1, helm control was in the center of the gondola;
Length: 60 feet (18.3 meters);
Capacity: 56,500 cubic feet (1,600 cubic meters);
Gas type: Hydrogen;
Powerplant: 12 horsepower engine, with a pusher propeller (at rear of airship)

The gonodola was an open concept made of tubes in a triangular cross-section, and was almost as long as the balloon envelope itself. It hung below the envelope. The engine was in the middle of the gondola.

Steering was controlled by a single rudder at the rear, just behind the rear of the gondola. The flat, square of a rudder was festooned with the hinomaru (Japan’s sun flag).

Flight control—such that it was—was afforded by a small elevator between the gondola platform and the bow.

The Yamada-shiki No. 1.

On the first flight of the Yamada-shiki No. 1, it lifted off from Osaka (see image above). That’s also it in the top image depicting a Japanese postage stamp.

(By the way, you’ll notice that the style of dress invoked by the Japanese here in 1909 was the same as what any European would have worn, including straw hats.)

Soon after it lifted off, it began to lose large volumes of hydrogen gas, causing it to land, be refilled, and flown back to Osaka.

While no one seems to know what happened to the Yamada-shiki No. 1, it does not appear to have flown again.

This may be why Japan, when in the process of constructing its Yamada-shiki No. 2 dirigible as mentioned in the New Zealand newspaper article, it sought out sewing machine equipment from England to help it create a better seal when constructing the balloon envelope that would hold the gas.

Okay… so Japan got its hands on some British sewing machines.

But did it construct the Yamada-shiki No. 2 dirigible in accordance to the giant dimensions mentioned in the newspaper article?

No. Not even close.

While the Yamada-shiki No. 2 dirigible was larger than Yamada-shiki No. 1, it wasn’t close to the proposed 600 feet mentioned in the article.

Yamada-shiki No. 2
Length: 108 feet (32.9 meters);
Capacity: 53,000 cubic feet (1,500 cubic meters);
Gas type: Hydrogen;
Powerplant: 50 horsepower, four-cylinder water-cooled engine, with a pusher propeller (at rear of airship).

The gondola was similar in design to the Yamada-shiki No. 1, with an open concept made of tubes in a triangular cross-section, but it was wider, and not as long as the previous, about half the length of No. 1. It hung below the envelope. The larger engine was again positioned in the middle of the gondola.

Steering was controlled by a single larger rudder at the rear, just behind the rear of the gondola. The flat, square of a rudder was again decorated with the hinomaru (Japan’s rising sun flag – red circle on white background).

Flight control—such that it was—was afforded by a slightly larger elevator between the gondola platform and the bow.

So… what happened to it?

It depends. There are three options:

  1. Strong winds may have blown it away and badly damaged it without recovery in early February of 1911 during mooring tests.
  2. A ground explosion may have destroyed it (gas leak and flame – ka-boom!) on March 23, 1911 – before it’s second flight… implying there was a first flight.\
  3. It made its first flight in early May 1911, but it was badly damaged during an emergency landing near Osaka due to engine failure in February of 1912.

Uh… yeah…

As stupid as it sounds, dirigibles, and aeroplanes were constantly being damaged by high winds while on the ground…

A ground explosion? This would have been big news… and we would have seen mention of it somewhere, right?

Emergency landing? Sure… motors were still the weak link in all aviation craft at that time… especially since they weren’t using the stronger V8’s other aeroplanes were already using.

So… if you think that the conflicting reports of the demise of the Yamada-shiki No. 2 are bizarre… wait’ll we briefly discuss Yamada-shiki No. 3 and Yamada-shiki No. 4.

No one is sure if Yamada-shiki No. 3 was a different dirigible from No. 2… or if it was just a rebuilt No. 2 that was renamed.

Yamada-shiki No. 3 first flew in early June of 1911… able to make a round trip in the middle of September of 1911 between Osaka and Tokyo and return.

So… if it was a success, what did Japan do with it? This is where it gets silly. Reports say that it was sold to China.

Really? China… well… I suppose it’s possible, as it was to experience its Xinhai Revolution starting in October 10 of 1911… a revolution that overthrew the imperial dynasty (Qing Dynasty), replacing it the Republic of China when it ended on February 12, 1912.

This was NOT when China became communist… this was essentially the time—from 1912 to 1949, that China was in the midst of its own civil war… taken advantage of by Japan in the 1930s, eventually leading to the victorious Communist Party that continues to rule.

So… did a Japanese dirigible play any part in the overthrow of the ruling Qing dynasty, or was it purchased by the Qing Dynasty to help it against the usurpers?

I don’t know…

And then there’s Yamada-shiki No. 4 – again not a heck of a lot of details… which I suppose is fair, because we are talking about Japanese Army military operations.

Did it exist? Maybe. If this wasn’t the Yamada-shiki No. 2 that may may or may not have been sold as Yamada-shiki No. 3 to China, and it is a completely new dirigible (or one retrofitted with a new motor), we do know that the dirigible known as Yamada-shiki No. 4 had a 75 horsepower motor.

No data is available re: speed, dimensions… gas capacity… I’m thinking that Yamada-shiki No. 2 was retrofitted to become Yamada-shiki No. 3, and again retrofitted with a different motor to become Yamada-shiki No. 4

Do I believe that the dirigibles may have been purchased by China? No. Germany had far superior dirigibles, and China could have purchased one from them rather than some experimental one built by Japan.

So what happened to the supposed Yamada-shiki No. 4?

Who knows… again there’s a rumor that it was sold to China in 1913… making it the first dirigible to fly in China in August of 1913. It was then destroyed by a windstorm (see?!) while in its hangar.

Again… China in 1913? Right after the fall of the Qing Dynasty? Is the new ruling power of the Republic of China going to want a new dirigible from Japan? I suppose it’s possible… again… Germany.

It is documented that China did purchase 12 military aeroplanes from France in March of 1913…

Posted in Concepts, Lighter-Than-Air, News, People, Zeppelins & Dirigibles | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #62 – “Goupy III.” Biplane.

44F 001.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Goupy III” Biplane.

Card #62 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – black back issue

  • Ambroise Goupy, November 5, 1885 in Paris, France – January 25, 1951, Paris, France.
  • Mario Calderara, October 10, 1879 in Verona, Italy – March 18, 1944 in XXX, Italy.

When I saw the name of the aeroplane as “Goupy III” I knew I had to find out more. I didn’t know what a Goupy was… turns out it’s a guy’s surname.

44R 001.jpg

The Wills’s card’s reverse says the Goupy II and hence III aeroplanes were built by Louis Charles Joseph Blériot ( July 1, 1872 in Cambrai, France – August 1, 1936, Paris, France)… well… yes, they were… but…

… the Goupy biplanes were only constructed at the Blériot aeroplane factory at Buc, France.

The plane(s) were designed by Ambroise Goupy and Mario Calderara… which is good, because I thought Blériot was only a manufacturer of monoplanes – and he was!

The Goupy II and Goupy III are a series of biplanes, while the Goupy I was an experimental triplane – but a successful one at that.

Ambroise Goupy card.jpg

From a series of French aviation postcard inserts (series of 25) from 1909, printed in Lille, France for the French company Chocolat Felix Potin, showing the Goupy I triplane and an image (the only one I could find!) of Ambroise Goupy himself.  

So… who was Ambroise Goupy?

I can’t find much information on him… Wikipedia says he was a  member of the Aéro – Club de France, and he was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1914, then an officer in 1937.

We do know that he offered up some prize money to the first pilot to fly his aeroplane in a straight line, six kilometer course… won by Hubert Latham on June 6, 1909. But… I am unsure if this was for an aviation meet or just a general prize.

That’s it.

And what of Mario Calderara? All I know is that he helped Goupy with a bit of aeroplane design. Sigh.

An Italian Wikipedia site, however says that Calderara was the actual designer of the Goupy aeroplanes, and that Goupy was just the financial backer!

Why should we believe that?

Well… Italy actually produced a postage stamp of Calderara with the Goupy II aeroplane in the background!

That, plus the fact that very little is known about Goupy suggests that Calderara really was the brains – IE the designer of the actual aircraft – not Goupy!


Italian stamp issued on September 12, 2003 depicting Goupy II designer Mario Calderara.

So… Mario – what was his claim to fame? Well, he was the first Italian to hold a patent for an aeroplane in 1909 with the Goupy II, he was the first member of the Aero Club of Italy, earning pilot’s License No. 1, and was the first Italian to build a seaplane in 1911 with the Goupy Hydroplane.

Building a seaplane (hydroplane) was probably something monumental for Calderara, as he had been attracted to the sea since he was a child.

The eldest son Italian General Marco Caderara and Eleanor Tantini, Calderara entered the Italian Naval Academy in Livorno in 1898, achieving a promotion to the rank of Ensign in 1901.

As most people were of the day, he heard of the exploits of glider-specialist Otto Lilienthal and the later success of the Wright Brothers aeroplane, the Wright Flyer.

After hearing of their success in 1905 (their first flight took place in secret in December of 1903), Calderara took up correspondence with the Wright Brothers to pick their collective brain on how to construct his own aeroplane.

Surprisingly, in my opinion, his technical details were answered, and he maintained a strong relationship with the Wright’s.


Mario Calderera

Calderara then received permission from the Italian Navy to perform glider experiments towed by a motorboat, beginning in 1907.

Flying a biplane glider similar in design to the Wright concept, in the Gulf of La Spezia off northwest Italy, he placed the glider on floats, and tired it with ropes to a motorboat to control lift. Successful, he decided to fly it (unmanned) off the deck of the Italian destroyer Lanciere in an effort to get more altitude and more speed.

Taking off, the glider achieved a height of 15 meters-plus, but when the destroyer made a sharp left turn, the glider plummeted quickly and dove into the water—which we’ve all had happen when flying a kite…. happy time, happy time… OMG it crashed!

Unfortunately for Calderara, as the glider dove under the waves, he was pulled off balance and was dragged underwater by the glider’s steel wires – dragged under water at a depth of about three meters.

Rescued, but half-drowned, the Italian Navy forbade him from performing anymore such experiments.

In 1908 Calderara met pilot Léon Delagrange and aeroplane manufacturer Gabriel Voisin in Rome, who were there to perform some aeroplane demonstrations. Calderara asked Voisin is he could come and work for him, and so, in July of 1908, he moved to Issy-Ies-Moulineaux in France to work for Voisin designing aircraft for about one year’s time.

Calderara had to ask for a leave of absence from the Italian Navy, and received it—without pay.

At the Voisin factory, Calderara came in contact with Ambroise Goupy… a money-man who liked what he saw in Calderara’s aircraft designs, getting the go-ahead to construct the Goupy II biplane.

Goupy had already worked with the Voisin Brothers to construct the prototype Goupy I triplane, built apparently on Goupy’s own design… but I don’t see how a money-man would have done that, as I see no evidence he had any engineering background – but I don’t know so I can’t confirm or deny Goupy’s actual design credit for the Goupy I triplane.

Now… we do know that Calderara was the designer of the Goupy II… in fact, one Italian website I saw calls the Goupy II the “Calderara Goupy” aircraft.

While in France, Calderara  met up with Wilbur Wright in France, who n demonstrations, Wilbur Wright showed his plane to be able to stay aloft for up to 60 minutes—far, far longer than anything then-achieved by planes built by Voisin, Blériot, or Henry Farman.

It was in March of 1909, by the way, that the Goupy II biplane first flew (see below for more on the aircraft particulars).

Calderara, along with the Aero Club of Italy, then invited Wilbur Wright in 1909 to bring his Flyer over to  Rome, Italy, where in April of that year, Wright gave some flying lessons to Calderara (and later to Italian Army lieutenant Umberto Savoja) at the field now known as Military Airport Francesco Baracca Centocelle, but was then known as Centocelle Airport.

When Wilbur Wright returned to the U.S, in May of 1909, he opined that Calderara could fly by himself, and even that he could provide further lessons to Lr. Savoja.

Calderara, by the way, had purchased a Wright Flyer biplane.

Calderara made plenty of flights—even many of sustained duration‚—but on May 6, 1909, he crashed the aeroplane in windy conditions. After a brief hospital stay—a reputed concussion—Calderara, assisted by Savoja, repaired the Flyer, resuming flights at Centocelle in July of 1909.

The Aero Club of Italy had arranged for an international air meet in Brescia, Italy—similar in scope to what Reims, France had held in July of 1909… and Calderara was entered.

Three weeks before the scheduled meet, a tornado blew through the area where the aeroplanes had been stored, damaging some of the aircraft, including his Wright Flyer.

Calderara and Savoja, however, did rebuild it in a mere nine days, but used sub-par wood and canvas—whatever they could find, just to have a chance in the rally.

Instead of the Wright motor, Calderara used an Italian-made Rebus motor.

Basta fazool! It must have been one heck of a repair job, because Calderara ended up winning five of the eight prizes being offered.

All the other Italian pilots could not get their aircraft off the ground—except for Alessandro Anzani (later one of the better aeroplane motor manufacturers), who was using a French-made aircraft… but he ended up crashing and destroying his aeroplane.

Other pilots at the event—the successful pilots—included American Glenn Curtiss and Frenchman Henry Rougier.

The Brescia rally was a triumph for Calderara who, thanks to being the only Italian who could fly, became a national hero. As such, he was awarded Flying License No. 1 by the Aero Club of Italy.


Mario Calderara’s actual No.1 pilot’s license from the Aero Club of Italy. Image found at www.aerostoria.blogspot.ca.

Now… as you might realize, Calderara’s popularity wasn’t always such a great thing for the Italian Navy… in fact a Major Moris had an intense dislike for Calderara who reveled in his fame by chatting with the ins and outs of aviation with the newspapers. Moris, obviously felt that such matters should not be discussed.

Moris, by the way, was Caledrara’s direct superior.

Still, Moris did use Calderara’s new Goupy II (Caldera Goupy) biplane, after purchasing a motor (he purchased his sans power), providing it as a trainer plane for new pilots. Calderara being the teacher.

For whatever reason, the aircraft was removed from its usual Centocelle hangar to a non-covered outside spot in the Fall of 1910 and was subjected to all sorts of bad weather.

The adverse weather damaged the plane so badly that it had to be put down – destroyed…

It was just after this, that Calderara was assigned to the Italian Ministry of the Navy, and it was now that he asked if he could construct a new type of aeroplane—one that could take off from and land in water.

There was one other such aircraft—the Fabre Hydravion designed by Henri Fabre—but it flew a few times before crashing and not being rebuilt.

No… Calderara wanted to take his seaplane to the next level.

Calderara designed and built his seaplane—initially called the Calderara Seaplane aka the Calderara Navy-hydro monoplane aka the Hydrovol.

—the largest flying machine in the world, in 1911, and flew it very successfully in the spring of 1912, carrying three passengers plus the pilot in flight.

Later that year, Calderara was invited to London, England, and showed the above film (less the Italian voice-over) to select people there, including the Honorable Winston Churchill, who was then the First Lord of the Admirality.

As WWI approached, and needing his help, the Italian Navy imposed on Calderara to return to his naval duties… and, during the conflict, he was placed on several warships, ultimately in charge of a torpedo ship in the Adriatic sea.

But, between 1917-19, Calderara was given command of a new school for training seaplane pilots for the US Navy, along with the rank of Corvette Captain… the U.S. thought highly of his work, and was awarded the American Navy Cross.
Calderara worked in the Italian embassy in Washington, DC, U.S. between 1923-25, eventually leaving the Italian Navy with the rank of Frigate Captain.

He moved to Paris, and began working in the French aviation sector, representing U.S. businesses manufacturing airplane components.

Sensing something was up in France, Calderara left Paris and returned to Italy in 1939, simply leaving behind all of his holdings and home… which financially distressed himself and his family.

Calderara died after a short illness on march 18, 1944. He is still considered one of Italy’s greatest aviation personalities… hence the cool postage stamp.

Let’s take a look at what Goupy paid for and Calderara designed:

Goupy I Triplane/Goupy I bis

The Goupy I triplane is also known as the Goupy I bis… with the word bis meaning “encore”… so perhaps an homage to Voisin – see just below.

It is said that the Goupy I triplane was the first such plane to fly, back in September 5, 1908—but other sources say it was the first French triplane to fly.

The Goupy I was designed by Goupy alone, and was built by Appareils d’Aviation Les Frères Voisin (Flying Machines of Voisin Brothers), owned by brothers Gabriel and Charles Voisin.

The company was the first aircraft manufacturing company, and one of the world’s first.

They designed and built Europe’s first manned, heavier-than-air powered aircraft capable of making a sustained one kilometer, circular, controlled flight, including take-off and landing—the Voisin-Farman I.

While Voisin aircraft had always been pusher (engine at back) biplanes with a front elevator, Goupy’s design showed the Goupy I as a tractor (engine in front) triplane.

The kicker, however, is that the Goupy I has the ends of the wings connected by Voisin’s characteristic “side curtains” – implying that either Goupy was inspired by Voisin, or the Voisin brothers suggested Goupy use the design feature.

The only unorthodox aspects of the design were its triplane tail unit, which was used by A. V. Roe in triplanes I, II and III in 1909 (see HERE), and the way that the interplane struts of both the wings and empennage were covered with fabric to create box kite-like cells.

The tailplane was a Hargrave cell (a box kite-like design created by Australian Lawrence Hargrave), which is what Voisin preferred. However, Goupy did add a pair of small moving elevators mounted on the leading edge of the outer surfaces and a central rudder.

As originally constructed, the middle wing was mounted in a mid-wing position on the fuselage, with the top and bottom wings clear of the fuselage, and power was provided by a 50 horsepower Antoinette engine.

There was a single central wheel in the middle of the fuselage, with a smaller one at the tail.

The Goupy I‘s design was later revised so that the bottom wing was mounted at the base of the fuselage, the middle wing to the top of the fuselage, and top wings clear of it.

At the same time, the engine was changed to a 50 horsepower Anzani of similar power and the wings extended outboard of the side curtains. I assume the Anzani was either lighter or simply performed better than the Antoinette engine.

And, the central wheel was replaced by a pair of wheels at the front of the aeroplane below the engine to provide better support, keeping the rear wheel at the back end of the fuselage.

The image above is a French postcard from the era. It’s translated (English) parts say, for the most part:

  • 3 superimposed planes of 7.5 meters of span on 1.6 meters of depth and 44 square meters of total surface;
  • Distance from shots, 0.95 meters.
  • At the rear inside a cell of 4 meters x 1.6 meters, a balancer 3 meters x 0.75 meters, then the vertical rudder 1.25 meters x 0.7 meters;
  • Fuselage: length 9.8 meters, mounted on swivel chassis not supported; two wheels in front and one wheel in the back;
  • Propeller: 2 bladed at the front. Diameter of 2.3 meters x 1.4 meters;
  • Expected speed, 54 kilometers per hour (15 meters a second);
  • Total weight 476 kilograms;
  • Engine Anzani 50 horsepower

Most of that is self-explanatory… and I freely admit that some of it isn’t – at least to me. If anyone is fluent in French and can provide a better definition – I would greatly appreciate it.

Wikipedia says, and matches the postcard data:

General characteristics

  • Crew: One pilot;
  • Length: 9.8 meters (32 feet-2 inches);
  • Wingspan: 7.5 meters (24 feet-7 inches);
  • Wing area: 44-square meters (474-square feet);
  • Gross weight: 476 kilograms (1,050 pounds);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Anzani steam-cooled, direct-injected V-8 engine providing 50 horsepower at 1,100 RPM;
  • Propeller: two-bladed, single propeller;
  • Maximum speed: 54 kilometers an hour (33 miles per hour).

Goupy II biplane

Goupy 2.jpgThe Goupy II biplane was designed by Mario Calderara, and paid for by Ambroise Goupy, and constructed at the Blériot workshop in Buc, France in 1909 (see above for why here), first achieving flight in March of 1909.

The Goupy II had two innovative features that were influential in aircraft design. It was the first tractor biplane to fly, and was also the first staggered wing biplane.

Considered unusual for the era, the tractor (engine at front) and staggered wings soon became an industry standard

The only features that would not be typical of aircraft in the years to come would be its biplane tail unit, and the whole-chord wingtip ailerons fitted to both upper and lower wings. The uncovered wood box-girder fuselage, typical of early aircraft, was later covered.

The first flight of this biplane was made in March 1909. It was taken to and shown at the Paris Air Show at the Grand Palais in October of 1909.

Goupy also took the Goupy II to Reims, France for the Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne, the first public air show in the world an aviation meet held near Reims in France in August 1909.He also took it to air meets at Burton and Doncaster, England, using pilot Emile Ladougne to fly it at the later shows.

The Goupy II also flew in the Paris-Madrid race in May of 1911, but used Pierre Divétain as pilot.


The remains of Louis Emile Train’s monoplane after his crash into spectators at the Paris-Madrid air-race of 1911.

The race began with auspicious start on May 21, 19911… pilot Louis Emile Train crashed his aeroplane into a stand of officials killing France minister of war Maurice Berteaux, seriously injuring council president Ernest Monis, and hurting Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe (a French petroleum magnate and aviation supporter).

The race was restarted two days later, but only one aircraft managed to finish the race – pilot Jules Védrines flying a Morane-Borel monoplane, winning the race in 14 hours and 55 minutes after a trouble-free flight.

Anyhow… the Goupy II did not fare well in the race, failing to perform well enough to even complete the first stage of the race.

General characteristics

  • Crew: One pilot;
  • Length: 7 meters (23 feet);
  • Wingspan: 6 meters (19 feet 8 inches);
  • Wing area: 26-square-meters (280-square-feet);
  • Empty weight: 209 kilograms (460 pounds);
  • Gross weight: 290 kilograms (640 pouns);
  • Powerplant: 1 × R.E.P., seven-cylinder, semi-radial air-cooled engine providing 29 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 97 kilometers per hour (61 miles per hour) – hmm, I doubt that the 29-horsepower motor could have given the aeroplane THESE speeds.

This plane was offered up for sale to the general public.

As you can see from the image below, the Goupy aircraft is offered with a different engine – a Gnome 50-horsepower engine – which seems like it would be far better than the 29 horsepower offered up earlier.

It also states that the maximum speed to be from 70-85 kilometers an hour (43.5-52.8 miles per hour).

The price for a Goupy II aeroplane was FF12,000 without the motor or propeller; and FF25,000 with a Gnome motor and any type of propeller of the customer’s choice.

Goupy III biplane

Goupy III postcard.jpg

Man… there’s not a lot of information on the Goupy III… which is too bad, because that was the subject chosen for this Wills’s card.

Translated from the French on the postcard directly above, we have a few of the specifics:

General Specifications

  • Crew: 1;
  • Wingspan: 6 meters (19.69 feet) wide x 1.6 meters (5.25 feet) deep;
  • Fuselage length: 7 meters (22.97 feet);
  • Propeller: 1, with four blades at the nose;
  • Powerplant: 1 x reciprocating REP motor capable of putting out 25 horsepower;
  • Weight: 290 kilograms (639.34 pounds).

Goupy Hydroaeroplane

The Goupy 3-place biplane on the fifth (1913) Paris aviation exhibition [Paris, 1913]

No matter what you may see elsewhere, make no mistake about it, the Goupy Hydroaeroplane was essentially a Goupy III biplane with pontoon floats added and the wheels removed.

While the Goupy III was the brainchild of Mario Calderara paid for by Ambroise Goupy, the Goupy Hydroaeroplane was also from the mind of Calderara.

The two pontoon floats, however, were designed by Alphonse Tellier. Tellier eventually designed seaplanes himself, but his first successful flight was not until June of 1916 in his Tellier T.2 biplane.

The Goupy Hydroaeroplane was displayed–as seen in the postcard directly above–at the 1912 Paris Aero Salon.

Other than this demo model, there is no evidence of any others being built nor of it ever having taken flight from the water.

Goupy Hydroaeroplane.jpgIn fact, a newspaper reviewing next year’s December 5-25, 1913 Paris Aero Salon commented negatively on any further advancements of Goupy aeroplane designs, noting also that there was no seaplane on display.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 pilot;
  • Capacity: 2 passengers;
  • Length: 10 meters (32.8 feet);
  • Wingspan: 12.70 m ( 41.67 feet);
  • Empty weight: 450 kilograms (992.1 pounds);
  • Powerplant: 1 x 9-cylinder 100 horsepower Gnome rotary engine or a Gnome 80 HP motor per 1913 Jane’s;
  • Maximum speed: 120 km/h (74.6 miles per hour).
  • Number built: 1

Of course, speed and capacity were optimistic guesses… and the motor… it never flew. My guess is that Mario Calderara left the firm, so the Goupy seaplane concept died with this prototype.

But now we have the seaplane that Calderara designed and built…

Calderara Navy-hydro monoplane/Hydrovol

Calderara Hydrovol 2.jpgBuilt in 1911 and flown in 1912, the Hydrovol (according to JANE’S ALL THE WORLD’S AIRCRAFT 1913) was the first successful seaplane flown, but it was also one of the largest monoplanes (period) ever built and flown, with a wing surface of 770 square feet.

The frame of the aeroplane is formed of three skins of wood, with sail-cloth between each.

The fuselage sits only 4’6” (1.34 meters) above the water line, with three pontoons – the outer two of which were separated by 21 feet (6.4 meters).

In the case of an emergency, the Hydrovol was designed by Calderara so that the occupants could leave the aeroplane’s fuselage and take refuge on the under structure which serves as a raft, with even the possibility of a sail being rigged.

Calderara even made it possible for the wings to be cut loose.

Calderara Hydrovol.jpg

The Calderara Hydrovol was the first true seaplane to actually fly. Hopefully you all saw the video above.

Okay – that’s it for now.


Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Air Shows, Airfields, Firsts, Gliders, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Seaplanes, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #61 – “Roe II.” Triplane.

61F 001.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Roe II” Triplane.

Card #61 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – black back issue

  • Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe, April 26, 1877 in Patricroft, Eccles, England, Great Britain – January 4, 1958, Portsmouth, England, Great Britain.

To be honest, the image in the card above looks like Roe I Triplane, owing to its rear wings, and the fact that they are completely open. The Roe II has closed vertical stabilizers holding the rear wings erect on the outer edge.

If you’ll examine further below, you can see what is purported to be the Roe II – but three versions of it.

If you aren’t sure you recognize the name of the man at the top… Mr. Roe, perhaps you might better recognize his aviation company A.V.Roe Aircraft Company… also known as Avro… one of the top designers and manufacturers of aircraft during WWI (The Great War), through WWII, and into the Cold War era.

Believe it or not, even though I had not yet been born by the time the company went out of business, I have six degrees of separation connection with Sir Roe… sort of… which, I’ll reveal later on in this article.

What do we know about A.V. Roe the man? Well, he was the first Englishman to make a powered flight in 1908, and he was the first Englishman to fly an all-British manufactured aircraft in 1909. He was also one of the more famous aeroplane designers and manufacturers during WWI…

Despite the great success and history of Avro and A.V. Roe, there’s not much good to say about the success of the Roe II Triplane that this card is all about.

Oh well… let’s start with a history of Sir Roe and work our way up to through his childhood, aviation successes, a country’s shame, his death and my sorta link. Yes… a country’s shame… something I feel deeply about – my home of Canada.

The tricky part of this whole story, is that AV Roe the person is only involved in Avro until sometime in 1928. While the company lived on, he went and formed the Saunders-Roe aircraft company.

So… to give a full story, I’m going to mention planes built with Roe as pat of Avro… what the Avro company built after he left, what another company did using the Avro Canada namesake, and what the Saunders-Roe company did.

Man… it’s never easy giving a historically accurate background!

AV Roe.jpg

A.V. Roe

Roe was born in Lancashire, England in 1877, leaving home when he was 14 to go to British Columbia, Canada to work as a surveyor… except the silver market had played out, so he had to do odd jobs… including working as an assistant working on drawings for a flying machine… keeping in mind that this would be around 1891…

He returned to England and apprenticed for the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway before leaving to try and study marine engineering at King’s College London. He did not get in because, although he passed the technical and math portions, he failed the general subjects.

He ended up as 5th engineer of the SS Jebba ship of the British & South African Royal Mail Company, as well as serving on other ships, eventually ending up as a 3rd engineer.

While at sea, Roe looked at the soaring flight of some albatross birds and turned his thoughts to possibly building his own aircraft.

In 1906, without any experience, he applied for the job of Secretary of the Royal Aero Club (founded in 1901 as the Aero Club of Great Britain, changing its name in 1910 to Royal Aero Club in 1910).

His enthusiasm for aviation caught the eye of one Charles Rolls (one half with Henry Royce, he co-founded the Rolls-Royce car manufacturing firm. He was the first Briton to be killed in an aeronautical accident with a powered aircraft, when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off during a flying display on July 12, 1910)… getting the job.

He quit to work as a draftsman for G.L.O. Davidson, who had devised a twin-rotored aircraft that was being built in Denver, Colorado, U.S. But, there were disagreements about the design of the machine and problems with his salary, so Roe went back to England to get a design patent, decided to resign instead.

Let’s take a look at the aeroplanes Roe supposedly designed and built.

Please keep in mind that I am taking the next two images from Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft of 1913… from the British section of HISTORICAL AIRCRAFT.

Bored… and now having some skill in the design of aeroplanes, Row tried his hand at building models, winning a Daily Mail newspaper competition of £75 for a design in 1907.

With the prize money and the loan of stables at his brother’s house in Putney, he built a full-sized aeroplane based on his design… what would be known as the Roe I Biplane (aka Avroplane).

Roe I Biplane 1908

Avro biplane.jpg

I can only assume that this plane made hops, per the cutline on the Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft 1913 book.

Roe flew the Roe I biplane at Brooklands in 1907-1908, achieving flight on June 8, 1908, flying 100-feet distance… but it wasn’t flight so much as hopping. Is this a legitimate claim of flight then? By the way, some sources claim the flight was achieved in 1907… but I suspect the plane was only built in that year.

So… a legitimate flight?

I would say no… but people seemed to really have this awe and respect for A.V. Roe that the minor achievement is recognized as a success to heaped upon him.

Although Roe wanted to use a 24 horsepower Antoinette motor, he couldn’t afford it and instead utilized a nine horsepower JAP (JA Prestwich Industries) built V-twin motor.

Knowing that the plane was now lacking in strength, to compensate Roe lightweighted it by using brown paper to cover the wings.

Again, the Roe I Biplane was the first British-designed aeroplane – but it only hopped, and did not achieve actual flight.

Roe I Triplane 1907

Avro Roe I Triplane 1907.jpg

Roe I Triplane/Avroplane/Bullseye 1907, continued

AV Roe I Triplane.jpg

This Roe I Triplane differs from the one above in that it has a skin covering the fuselage, and no longer has a rear wheel. The propellers look similar, but can not be confirmed.

The Avroplane/Roe I Triplane is still around for those of you who are interested, over at the London Science Museum.

For a nickname, the Avroplane was known as the Bullseye by Roe, after a brand of braces manufactured by his brother Humphrey.


To confirm that this is the Roe I aeroplane, you can see this 1952 replica aircraft sitting in the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England – complete with “Bullseye” annotation on the fuselage… and you can see the open concept of the vertical stabilizers on the rear triplane wings. Image is from the German Wikipedia site, with annotation for the photo belonging to Paul Hermans. Of importance, however, is that the replica above shows a different set of propeller shape from the image at the top of this section. One would assume a museum would get things correct, right?


Roe I Triplane.jpg

You can clearly see the “Bullseye” on the fuselage here… and the covered vertical stabilizers on the rear triplane wings…. so WTF?! Also… these two images showing Bullseye have a rear wheel, but not on the image at the top. Merely variations of a theme.

Should you not be interested in reading the photo cutlines of the three images above, let me point out that it appears as though the images show three different versions of the Roe I Triplane!

The topmost image in this section looks just like the middle image… in that the rear triplane wings match, with an open concept vertical stabilizer separating the wings.

The middle image of a museum replica of the Roe I, shows the aircraft’s name as “Bullseye“.

The third image (at the bottom), shows what purports to be the Roe I Triplane from the era, and also shows the appropriate name of “Bullseye“.

However, The bottom image shows a different design on the rear triplane wings, showing a covered vertical stabilizer between the wings.

Images 2 and 3 show the aircraft with a single rear wheel.

Image 1 shows it without a wheel, perhaps with a single ski providing support.

Also, Take a look at Images 1 and 2… with the identical rear wings, but different rear wheel/ski… the propellers are of a different shape.

Image 2 – the replica also has a #14 on the rear, which I assume was because it was based on a version in an air meet…

But are all of these different versions of the same plane? Is one of these the Roe II? The Roe II that was nicknamed Mercury? No… these are, I believe, just variations of the same Roe I Triplane.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 23 feet (7 meters);
  • Wingspan: 20 feet (6.1 meters);
  • Height: 9 feet (2.7 meters);
  • Wing area: 320 square feet (30 square meters);
  • Wing area – I spotted other data suggesting: 217.5 square feet (20.2 square meters) – I am unsure which is correct;
  • Empty weight: 300-pounds (136-kilograms);
  • Gross weight: 450-pounds (204-kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × JAP V-twin configuration air-cooled proving 9 horsepower;
  • Propellers: 4-bladed;
  • Maximum speed: 25 miles per hour (40 kilometers per hour);
  • Range: 0.3 miles (0.48 kilometers).

Feeling as though he was on the right path, Roe and his brother Humphrey Verdon Roe founded the A.V. Roe Aircraft Co. on January 1, 1910, at Brownsfield Mill, Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, England.

Humphrey was the money man, acting as the firm’s managing director until he joined the RFC in 1917.

61R 001.jpg

Roe II/Mercury Triplane

Roe II Triplane Mercury

Roe II Triplane at the 1909 Olympia Aero Show in London, England. Cost to purchase was £550, a nominal fee that also included tuition on how to fly it. You can see the aircraft’s “Mercury” imprinted on the fuselage. Hmm… no wheels… just skids. The image on the Wills’s card shows wheels. Image from www.verdon-roe.co.uk/pictures-videos-of-avro-aircraft1909-1914.

The Wills’s card in question, No. 61, describes the Roe II Triplane, sometimes known as the Mercury – though I wonder if that was a name given to the plane by its only purchaser.

As the first aeroplane of the A.V. Roe and Company, the Roe II Triplane was designed by  Roe – except that this time, he decided he didn’t need to lightweight it with paper all over the wings, seeing as how this time Roe had the money to get a stronger engine placed on board.

The 35 horsepower Green powerplant was designed by Gustavus Green and built by the Green Engine Company and Aster Engineering Company.

Only two examples of this type were built – one for display  – a visual aid, if you will for the company, and the other sold to a Captain W. G. Windham – and admittedly, I can’t find any information on him, except that along with Henri Pequet, the two began an airmail service between Allahabad and Naini Junction in India, to coincide with the Universal Postal Exhibition in Allahabad. This airmail service occurred between December of 1910 and into January of 1911.

I am sure, however, that the aircraft used in India by Windham was NOT the Roe II Triplane, but rather a Farman biplane.

The initial test flight of the Roe II took place sometime in April of 1910 in Brooklands. The plane rolled on take-off.

On a second attempt, it rolled again.

Sensing there was a design flaw (d’uh), Roe changed the planes design to avoid wing warping and instead use a control column that improved the plane’s overall performance.

Its longest flight being a mere 600 feet (180 meters). It is also why I doubt it was improved upon enough in eight months to have become the airmail aircraft of choice in India, as mentioned above.

Still, it was enough of a flight that Roe felt it should be sent along with the Roe III Triplane (see below) to the Blackpool Flying Meeting, October 18 – 23, 1909 in Blackpool, England. See below to find out what happened en route to the event.


The Green C-4 aircraft engine at the Royal Air Force Museum in London, England.

General characteristics

  • Crew: one;
  • Length: 23 feet (7 meters);
  • Wingspan: 26 feet (7.9 meters);
  • Height: 9 feet (2.7 meters);
  • Wing area: 280 square feet (26 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 550-pounds (249-kilograms);
  • Powerplant: × Green C.4 four-cylinder inline water-cooled piston engine providing 35 horsepower;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed;
  • Maximum speed: 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).

With its longest flight achieved being a mere 600 meters, it makes one wonder WHY the Roe II Triplane was deemed worthy enough to get its own tobacco card. I suppose there was initially some hope when an artist was asked to create the image, and then it was too late to change to the Roe III and Roe IV mentioned on the card’s reverse.

Roe III Triplane

Roe_III_Triplane.jpgThe Roe III Triplane was similar in looks to the Roe II Triplane, except it was supposed to be a two-seater – room for a passenger.

A prototype of the Roe III Triplane used a JAP motor, but the other three (but it could be as much as four) machines built utilized a Green C.4 four-cylinder inline water-cooled piston engine providing 35 horsepower, as was used on the Roe II.

Although the prototype had ailerons fitted to the upper wing, the other three Roe III Triplanes had the ailerons fitted to the middle wing.

The aircraft first achieved flight on June 24, 1910.

Roe seldom exceeded 20 minutes in the air in the prototype Roe III because the JAP engine easily overheated… then spraying the pilot and passenger with oil. Carburetor fires also happened often enough.

By July 9, 1910, with Roe piloting the prototype, it stayed aloft for 25 minutes and was able to maneuver well enough in steep turns.

Roe practiced figure-eight turns, achieving Aviator’s Certificate No. 18 from the Royal Aero Club on July 20, 1910.

Soon after, however, Roe appears to have given up flying and instead concentrated on designing aircraft for his company.

We do know that the prototype Roe III Triplane with the JAP motor was put up for sale in May of 1911 as a second-hand aircraft for £250, but I can’t find anything else about what happened to it.

We do know that aside from the prototype, a Roe III Triplane was sold to:

  • the Harvard Aeronautical Society in Massachusetts, U.S.;
  • one was exported to the U.S.;
  • one (along with the Roe II Mercury Triplane) caught fire from sparks from a train that was transporting them to the 1910 Blackpool Aviation Meet. Roe was able to quickly replace them with new aircraft built from spare parts.

General characteristics

  • Crew: one;
  • Passenger: one;
  • Length: 23 feet (7 meters);
  • Wingspan: 31 feet (9 meters);
  • Wing area: 287 square feet (26.7 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 750-pounds (340-kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Green C.4 four-cylinder inline water-cooled piston engine providing 35 horsepower.

Roe IV Triplane

Roe only manufactured one such Roe IV Triplane, fist achieving flight in September of 1910 and retired 12 months later in August of 1911.

Despite its relatively short shelf life, the Roe IV was flown often by a lot of people.

Because only one was made, however, allow me to force-feed you another Wikipedia entry:

The Roe IV Triplane resembled Roe’s Type III, being a tractor configuration triplane with the lower wing of smaller span than the upper two and a triangular section wire-braced fuselage, which was uncovered behind the pilot’s seat. The middle wing was mounted directly above the upper longerons, and there was a gap between the single lower longeron and the lower wing. The wings were connected by four unequally-spaced pairs of interplane struts on either side, the innermost pair on each side being just outboard of the upper longerons and the outer pair connecting only the upper pair of wings due to the shorter span of the lower wing. Although the ailerons fitted to the previous design had been satisfactory, Roe returned to wing warping for lateral control. The lifting triplane tailplanes of the earlier design were replaced by a non-lifting single triangular tailplane with a divided elevator and a small unbalanced rudder. The undercarriage consisted of a pair of skids extending forward of the propeller, with a pair of wheels mounted on each skid, and a sprung tailskid. It was powered by a 35 horsepower Green water-cooled four-cylinder inline engine, with the radiator mounted above the fuselage between the front inner interplane struts.

As mentioned, the Roe IV got a lot of use. It was used as a training aeroplane for the Avro Flying School at Brooklands.

However, along with the many pilots who learned to fly in it, many also failed, crashing it many times—including twice, that we know of, into the nearby sewage farm.

Suspecting that the length of the craft might have something to do with the numerous crashes, the Roe IV was rebuilt in February of 1911 with an extended fuselage, lengthened by 1.2 meters (4-feet).

Did it work? Maybe. Would-be pilots still manage to fly safely or crash (no known fatalities, by the way).

Why this aeroplane, and not something better – well… a full-scale flying replica was built for the excellent 1965 film Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and was afterwards donated to the Shuttleworth Collection.

General characteristics

  • Crew: one
  • Length: 30 feet (9 meters)
  • Wingspan: 32 feet (10 meters)
  • Height: 9 feet (3 meters)
  • Wing area: 294 square feet (27.3 square meters)
  • Loaded weight: 650-pounds (295-kilograms);
  • Maximum speed: 25 miles per hour (40.2 kilometers per hour);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Green C.4 four-cylinder inline water-cooled piston engine providing 35 horsepower.

After a few more aircraft designs: Roe Type D (only seven manufactured), Avro Curtiss type (also known as the Lakes Water Bird – only 1 manufactured), and the Avro Duigan (only one manufactured), things began to pick up for the A.V. Roe Aircraft Company with the manufacture of the Avro 500 also known as the Avro E.

Avro 500/Avro E


First flown in March 1912, a total of 19 Avro 500/Avro E aircraft were built by the A.V. Roe Aircraft Company, of which 18 were built for the newly-formed RFC (Royal Flying Corp., the air arm of the British Army before and during WWI until merging with the Royal Naval Air Service on April 1, 1918, when it formed the new Great Britain Royal Air Force).

First flying on March 3, 1912, the two-seat Avro 500 (along with the later Avro 502 – a single-seat version of the Avro 500), was considered to be the fledgling company’s most successful bird.

Because nothing is easy, the two-seater Avro Duigan biplane was manufactured first for Australian aviation John Robertson Duigan in 1911. It used a 40 horsepower two-cylinder horizontally opposed Alvaston engine, but was soon replaced with a 35 horsepower E.N.V. V-8 motor. Both were water-cooled engines, with pairs of large coiled tube radiators positioned parallel to the fuselage on either side of the front cockpit.

Once that order was completed, Roe built another two-seater known as the Avro Type E biplane. It was bigger than the Duigan model and had a 60 horsepower motor, water-cooled E.N.V. engine.

From Wikipedia: Both were two-bay tractor biplanes with unstaggered parallel-chord wings with rounded tips, a deep rectangular section fuselage bearing rectangular steel-framed stabilisers, elevators and rudder with no fixed fin, and an undercarriage with a pair of wheels on a transverse leaf-spring and a long central skid projecting forward of the propeller. This aircraft layout dominated aircraft design for twenty years: the Avro 500 and the contemporary B.E.1 are among the first truly practical examples built.

The Avro 500 was built after manufacture of the Avro Type E.

The Avro 500, as initially built, was a success in the air, but Row was not happy with its top speed and rate of climb when tested on March 3, 1912.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2;
  • Wingspan: 34 feet (10.36 meters);
  • Motor: 1 × E.N.V. type D, 35 horsepower.

So, when he built a second model, he used a 50 horsepower Gnome air-cooled rotary motor, that was not only more powerful than the E.N.V. powerplant, but was lighter!

Using the new motor, the Avro 500 took off on May 8, 1912 reaching an altitude of 2000-feet (610 meters) in just five minutes.

On May 9, 1912, it flew 17 miles (28 kilometers) in 20 minutes. It also impressed the British military, ordering two examples for the aircraft now officially named the Avro 500.

Other intriguing developments by the company include building the world’s first aircraft with enclosed crew accommodation in 1912 with the monoplane Type F and biplane Avro Type G  – but despite that advance, neither plane advanced beyond the prototype stage.

As for the Avro 500… Roe further developed it into the Avro 504.

Avro 504

Avro 504K.jpg

The Avro 504K variant… notice the classic 504 skid just under the lower propeller blade.

What’s so special about the Avro 504? Well… during WWI, the A.V. Roe Aircraft Company built a total of 8,970 of the aeroplanes – the largest number of war craft produced.

Also, production of the Avro 504 continued on until 1932 building well over 10,000 of the aircraft.

First flown on September 18, 1913, the Avro 504 used an 80 horsepower Gnome Lambda seven-cylinder rotary engine. It was a two-bay, all-wood biplane with a square-ish fuselage.

What else is so special? Well, during WWI, it was the first ever British aeroplane to be shot down by the Germans. Okay… not so special. The incident occurred on August 22, 1914, with RFC pilot 2nd Lt. Vincent Waterfall and navigator Lt. Charles George Gordon Bayly – both of the 5th RFC squadron.

It was also the first British aeroplane to strafe troops on the ground; the first British aircraft to make a bombing raid over Germany; and the first Allied aeroplane to be downed by enemy anti-aircraft fire.

The Avro 504 was nicknamed the “Tooth pick” by the pilots because of the single skid between the wheels.

Considering the plane was being manufactured from 1913 – 1932, it should be expected that variations existed – and they do – too many to list, suffice to say the included engine variants, seat variants, differences in fuselage, and more.

One would think that if the fuselage was altered and a new engine used, it would no longer be the same aircraft, but I think the company believed the Avro 504 designation was kept because it was a such a good plane originally – why confuse the buying public?

Initially used as a fighter, scout and bomber during the early phase of WWI, as more agile and faster craft came into being, the Avro 504 was used more and more to train the would be war pilots, in fact becoming better know for its teaching capabilities.


Drawing here is likely mentioning the engines used in the 504E, 504F and 504G versions.

Variations of the 504 are:

  • 504original model;
  • 504A modified with smaller ailerons and broader struts. Use an 80 horsepower Gnome engine.
  • 504Bfor the RNAS with larger fin. With an 80 horsepower Gnome or Le Rhône engine.
  • 504C – single-seat anti-zeppelin aircraft for the RNAS. The 504C was fitted with an extra fuel tank, in place of the observer.
  • 504D – single-seat anti-zeppelin aircraft for the Royal Flying Corps. Six built.
  • 504E100 horsepower Gnome Monosoupape engine – 10 built.
  • 504F75 horsepower Rolls-Royce Hawk engine. One built
  • 504G80 horsepower Gnome engine.
  • 504Hused for catapult trials. Used an 80 horsepower Gnome engine.
  • 504JUsed as a trainer. 100 horsepower Gnome or 80 horsepower Le Rhône engine.
  • 504K – Two-seat training aircraft. The 504K had a universal mount to take different engines. Single-seat fighter conversion used for anti-zeppelin work. Several were assembled in Australia by Australian Aircraft & Engineering. It used a: 130 horsepower Clerget 9, or a 100 horsepower Gnome Monosoupape or a 110 horsepower Le Rhône 9J engines.
  • 504K Mk.II – Hybrid trainer based on 504K fuselage with 504N undercarriage and wings and powered by rotary engine. Built under license in Mexico as Avro Anahuac.
  • 504L– Floatplane version with engine variants of a 150 horsepower Bentley BR1, a 130 horsepower Clerget or a 110 horsepower Le Rhône engine.
  • 504M – Three-seat cabin biplane. Only one was ever built, using a 100 horsepower Gnome engine.
  • 504N – Two-seat training aircraft, redesigned postwar trainer for RAF with 160 horsepower Armstrong Siddeley Lynx engine. A total of 598 built.
  • 504OFloatplane version of 504N. First aircraft to fly above the Arctic Circle in 1923 Oxford Expedition.
  • 504PUnbuilt version of the 504N with side-by-side seating.
  • 504QThree-seat cabin biplane. The 504Q was built for the Oxford University Arctic Expedition. Only one was ever built, powered by an Armstrong Siddeley Lynx engine.
  • 504R GosportReworked trainer with revised, lightweight structure. Five prototypes flown 1926 to 1927 with various engines: the 100 horsepower Gnome Monosoupape; 100 horsepower Avro Alpha; 140 horsepower Armstrong Siddeley Genet Major; and the 150 horsepower Armstrong Siddeley Mongoose. The Mongoose version was chosen as the production type, with 10 sold to Argentina, with 100 more built by FMA (Fábrica Militar de Aviones) under license in Argentina. At least six were exported to Estonia, remaining in service until 1940, and an unknown number to Peru.
  • 504STwo-seat training aircraft. Built under license in Japan by Nakajima Aircraft Company.
  • Yokosuka K2Y1Japanese version of the Avro 504N, given the long designation Yokosuka Navy Type 3 Primary Trainer, it used a 130 horsepower Mitsubishi-built Armstrong Siddeley Mongoose radial piston engine. A total of 104 built.
  • Yokosuka K2Y2Improved version of the K2Y1, powered by a 160 horsepower Gasuden Jimpu 2 radial piston engine. A total of 360 built of both the K2Y1 and K2Y2. The Watanabe-built aircraft were given the long designation Watanabe Navy Type 3-2 Land-based Primary Trainer.
  • U-1 (Uchebnyi – 1) Avrushka was a Russian copy of the 504K, with over 700 built.
  • MU-1 (Morskoy Uchebnyi – 1) – a Russian seaplane version.

Generally speaking (because there were so many variations of the Avro 504), here are the:

General characteristics of the Avro 504K

  • Crew: two;
  • Length: 29 feet 5 inches (8.97 meters);
  • Wingspan: 36 feet (10.97 meters);
  • Height: 10 feet 5 in (3.18 meters);
  • Wing area: 330 square feet (30.7 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 1,231 pounds (558 kilograms);
  • Useful load: 180 lb (82 kg);
  • Max. takeoff weight: 1,829 lb (830 kg);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Le Rhône 9J Rotary, 110 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 90 miles per hour (145 kilometers per hour);
  • Cruise speed: 75 miles per hour (121 kilometers an hour);
  • Range: 250 miles (402 kilometers);
  • Service ceiling: 16,000 feet (4,876 meters);
  • Rate of climb: 700 feet/minute (3.6 meters/second);
  • Climb rate:  to 3,500 ft (1,065 m) in five min;
  • Armament: One (1) fixed .303 Lewis atop upper wing (single-seat night fighter variants)


Other aircraft designed and manufactured by the A.V. Roe Aircraft Company are the:

When WWI concluded, the lack of demand for aircraft hit all aeroplane manufacturers, causing Roe to sell 68.5% of his company to high-quality automobile manufacturer Crossley Motors in August of 1920.

In 1928, Crossley Motors sold the A.V. Roe Aircraft Company to Armstrong Siddeley Holdings Ltd.

At this time, Roe sold his shares and resigned from the company he had founded and bought S. E. Saunders Co., to form the new Saunders-Roe Limited.

Before I get to Saunders-Roe Limited, the following are aircraft built using the Avro name under A.V. Roe Aircraft Company  but not with A.V. Roe involved (all are live linked):

The Avro Lancaster

Maintaining their skills in designing trainer aircraft, the company built a more robust biplane called the Avro Tutor in the 1930s which the Royal Air Force (RAF) also bought in quantity. A twin piston-engined airliner called the Anson followed but as tensions rose again in Europe the firm’s emphasis returned to combat aircraft. The Avro Manchester, Lancaster and Lincoln were particularly famous Avro designs. More than 7,000 Lancasters were built and their bombing capabilities led to their use in the famous Dam Busters raid. The Avro Lancaster carried the heaviest bomb loads of the war, including the Grand Slam, a 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) earthquake bomb. I know… you HAVE to look it up now don’t you? 

Saunders-Roe Limited aka Roe, Roe, Roe Your Flying Boat

Okay – so now let’s get back to the real A.V. Roe and what he did next after he left the company he founded, A.V. Roe Aircraft Company… well, like the sub-head says, he formed the Saunders-Roe Limited company in 1929.

Roe and partner John Lord bought a majority share of boat-building firm S.E. Saunders, and decided to produce flying boats under the new company name of Saunders-Roe Limited.

In typical Roe fashion, few of the craft were manufactured in volume, with the largest fleet belonging to its Saunders Roe A.27 London, of which 31 were made, beginning in 1936, flying until 1941, flying primarily for the Royal Air Force (Great Britain) and the Royal Canadian Air Force.


Saunders-Roe A.27 London flying boat

Everybody Wants A Piece
In late 1930, Whitehall Securities Corporation Limited purchased a large share of Saunders-Roe.

Since Whitehall Securities already owned a large share of the Southampton, England airplane manufacturer Spartan Aircraft Ltd., they merged Spartan into Saunders-Roe Limited.

In 1938 Saunders-Roe Limited transferred its marine section—the shipyard and boat building business—to a newly formed company it owned called Saunders Shipyard Ltd. with all of its shares owned by Saunders-Roe Limited.

In 1947, Saunders-Roe tested its SR.A/1 fighter prototype, one of the world’s first jet-powered flying boats.

In 1952, they first flew their prototype Princess airliner, but the age of the flying-boat was over and the two further Princess examples to be completed were never flown. No further new seaplanes were produced here.

In 1951 Saunders-Roe took over the interests of the Cierva Autogiro Company at Eastleigh, England including the Skeeter helicopter project.

I’m just going to copy from Wikipedia here because the convoluted history doesn’t need me convoluting it any farther.

In September 1952 the company was comprised of:

  • Saunders-Roe Ltd. with a Head Office in Osborne, East Cowes, Isle of Wight (I.O.W.) with works at Columbine I.O.W. and Southampton Airport;
  • Saunders-Roe (Anglesey) Ltd, Friars Works, Beaumaris, North Wales;
  • Saro Laminated Wood Products Ltd., Folly Works, Whippingham, I.O.W.;
  • Princess Air Transport Co. Ltd of Osborne I.O.W. with an office in London at 45 Parliament St. SW1.

In 1959 it demonstrated the first practical hovercraft —the SR.N1.

In the same year Saro’s (Saunders-Roe) helicopter and hovercraft interests were taken over by Westland Aircraft which continued the Skeeter family with the Scout and Wasp. In 1964 all the hovercraft businesses under Westland were merged with Vickers-Armstrongs to form the British Hovercraft Corporation. This, in turn, was taken over by Westland and was renamed Westland Aerospace in 1985, and hovercraft production was reduced to nearly nothing until the advent of the AP1-88. The company produced sub-contract work for Britten-Norman, produced composites and component parts for the aircraft industry, especially engine nacelles for many aircraft including the De Havilland Canada Dash 8, the Lockheed Hercules, the British Aerospace Jetstream and parts for the McDonnell-Douglas MD-11. By the mid-1990s, over 60% of the world’s production of turboprop nacelles took place in the East Cowes works.

Wait… it’s gets more confusing…

In the late 1960s/early 1970s the Saunders-Roe Folly Works, by then owned by Hawker Siddeley was merged with the Gloster Aorcraft Company to form Gloster-Saro utilizing both companies’ expertise in aluminum forming to produce fire fighting appliances and tankers. In 1984, Gloster-Saro acquired the fire engine business of the Chubb group with the company merging in 1987 with Simon Engineering to form Simon Gloster Saro.

In 1994 Westland was taken over by GKN, later selling the Westland shares to form the helicopter-design business Agusta-Westland S.p.A, it retained the East Cowes works, where it continues aircraft component design and production.

There’s other stuff, but it doesn’t relate to aviation.

Roe  – Aeroplane Designer, Facist?!
So… what of A.V. Roe himself?

We know that he was knighted in 1929, changed his surname to Verdon-Roe in 1933 to honor his mother. Awww.

He was a fascist.


Yup… Roe was a member if the British Union of Fascists. The group changed its name in 1936 to the “British Union of Fascists and National Socialists”  – National Socialists?! Nazi’s?! The group even adopted the anti-semitism of the German Nazi party in the later years.

He joined the group because he liked their ticket on monetary reform, as he believed it wrong that banks should be able to create money by “book entry” and charge interest on it when they lent it out. The concept of fake money…

During WWII, two of his sons were killed while serving with the Royal Air Force: Squadron Leader Eric Alliott Verdon-Roe (26) in 1941; and Squadron Leader Lighton Verdon-Roe (DFC – Distinguished Flying Cross), aged 22 in 1943.

Roe died on January 4, 1958 in Portsmouth, and is buried at St. Andrew’s church in Hamble.

Stuff completely unrelated to A.V. Roe:

1) Avro regional jets

The Avro name would subsequently be resurrected by British Aerospace when this aircraft manufacturer renamed its BAe 146 family of regional jetliners as Avro regional jets (Avro RJ). Three differently sized versions of the four engine jetliner were produced: the Avro RJ70, the Avro RJ85 the Avro RJ100. The largest example of the family being the Avro RJ 115.

2) Avro Canada

In 1945, Hawker Siddeley Group purchased the former Victory Aircraft firm in Malton, Ontario, and renamed the operation A.V. Roe Canada Limited. Commonly known as Avro Canada, it was actually a subsidiary of the Hawker Siddeley Group and used the Avro name for trading purposes.

Okay… here’s that Six-degrees of Kevin Bacon stuff…  – whom, by the way, I can connect to within three degrees… four if you are supposed to count yourself.

During the early 1970s, my family loved in Malton, Ontario… a small town that later became absorbed as part of Mississauga, Ont. where the Toronto airport–Pearson International Airport–resides.

Okay… not only did I go to a Catholic school called Our Lady Of The Airways because of its proximity to the Avro Canada base, but I lived on Victory Crescent named, obviously after the former Victory Aircraft…. my house was part of a new subdivision in Malton built, I believe in 1970… and I can recall visiting the site BEFORE our semi-detached house was built.

Our Lady Of The Airways 1978.jpg

Our Lady Of The Airways elementary Catholic School in Malton (now part of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada) circa 1978, now closed. Too bad, there was a lot of green field behind it for the kids to play on, and lots of fair-sized classrooms. I have good memories of the place.

Okay… it’s not really me touching Kevin Bacon, but the connection is there… even though it was only an Avro facility in name only, it was named in homage to A.V. Roe probably because it was still a famous enough name to make money off of.

So… what did Avro Canada build?

I urge you check out the link to the very brief outline on the Arrow by reading the Arrow blueprints’ story  HERE. It really is a touchy subject among Canada’s aviation community. We know what it could have meant for Canada – should have meant for Canada… and it hurts.

And… for kicks, I also urge you to check out the Avrocar story… I’m sure you’ve seen video of it and wondered what the hell it was.

Okay… that’s enough of Roe…

Despite a lot of great planes designed and built under the AVRO nameplate, most had nothing to do with the man himself. I didn’t know that until I did this blog… actually beleiving that my school had something to do with the great aviation pioneer… and now am bitterly disappointed to find out I’m not separated by six degrees of Kevin Bacon to A.V. Roe.


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Wills’s Aviation Card #60 – “Dunne V.” Biplane.

60F 001.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Dunne V.” Biplane.

Card #60 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Vice Regal Mixture – black back issue

  • Captain John William Dunne, XXXX, XX, 1875 in Curragh Camp, County Kildare, Leinster, Republic of Ireland – August 24, 1949, Banbury, England, Great Britain.

I have a number of versions of this card, opting  – merely for optics – to show off a green back card, from the Vice Regal Mixture 75-card series… with the primary difference in the cards being the use of green ink on the back, rather than black. Oh… and maybe a different and smaller font for the card’s reverse description.

Never heard of Captain John William Dunne? We all should have… he’s the guy who created the first successful flying wing aeroplane – as you can see from the card graphic above.

First things first… the Wills’s card shows a Dunne V biplane… did they mean V as in vee-shaped wings… or V, as in the Roman numeral V = 5… as the Dunne D.5 was the fifth in a series of aircraft designs that achieved its historic success on March 11, 1910… the right date for our aviation card series. And… as you will see below, I think I’m correct.

Born in Ireland in 1875 (I hate it when I can’t find a birth date for a guy who lived until 1949… someone knows! Just not the Internet!), as the oldest son of British General John Hart Dunne and Julia Elizabeth Dunne – rich an considered to be aristocrats.

General daddy Dunne was famous enough for a long obit column to appear in The Times newspaper on April 21, 1924. We also know that the General (and father) of John William Dunne was born on December 11, 1835.

So… we know the birthdate of the father… but not the son. Obviously a British General trumps an aviation pioneer… at least according to this historical examination.

If anyone can pass along the birthdate of John William Dunne, I would greatly appreciate it. Not knowing stuff like this is my OCD. I searched for hours and hours…


General John Hart Dunne, Knight Commander of the Order of Bath… oh yeah… and father of some aviator guy.

The obituary had this to say:

At a lecture in 1913, a son of Sir John was spoken of as one of the most distinguished aeroplane designers of the day. He was at that time designing an aeroplane for the War Office authorities.

That’s where the obituary ends… “a son”  – see… I’m trying to find a proper birth date for that “son of a gun-toting general.”

“A son”…

As part of an aristocratic family, we can be quite sure that Dunne’s birth date would be well-documented… to be fair, I just don’t wish to spend €10 for a one-day pass to look up the records in an Irish database.

Dunne was an aviation pioneer, a guy interested in fly fishing and apparently philosophy – all three of which he achieved a measure of great global success in. It’s why I will explore all three aspects  – the latter of which I find fascinating, because he writes books about something I actually understand… and wondered about… sort of how personal dreams can be about the future…

So… Dunne… as a young boy, he read Jules Verne books, one of which caused him to have a dream about flying machine that did not need to be steered.

When you have a father who’s a British lifer in the military… and was a General… you, as a son, pretty much had to follow in dad’s military footsteps.



John William Dunne – a true pioneer of aviation.


He joined the military and fought in the second Boer War in South Africa as a trooper… but contracted typhoid in 1900 and was sent home.

60R 001.jpg

While off… he examined aeronautics… studying bird flight… but thought that the best way to achieve longer flight was to have aerodynamic stability.

So… thanks to encouragement from H.G. Wells – the famed science-fiction author he had befriended – Dunne tried to build several small aircraft models, eventually settling on a tailless swept-wing design.

Feeling better, on August 28, 1901, he was made a 2nd Lieutenant, and was sent back to South Africa in March of 1902… was diagnosed with “heart disease” and returned home in 1903. I placed quote marks around heart disease, because I don’t know what type of heart disease he had.

While on sick leave, he again spent his time on aeronautical engineering… now ready to construct gliders to perfect that aerodynamic stability for a full-fledged aeroplane.

Still sick, and still in the army, Dunne was transferred to the British Army Balloon Factory at South Farnborough in June 1906 and would remain there until 1909.



Dunne D.1 Glider

It was here that he began to construct and test aircraft, all of which had a vee-shape, constructing his glider the D.1. If successful, Dunne planned on adding engines and propellers to it.

While the glider did gain a short hop in July of 1907 lasting all of eight (8) seconds when flown by Balloon Factory commander Colonel J.E. Capper, and it did crash leaving Capper slightly injured, Dunne did discover that the design of the craft was essentially stable.

So Dunne and company fixed the D.1 again… added a motor… and tested it in October of 1907… bu it slipped sideways off the launching ramp and was severely damaged.

(This craft was later rebuilt as the D.4. – more below.)

So… with that failure, the D.2 glider was designed during the winter of 1907-1908, but it wasn’t actually built. So let’s move on.

Dunne-Huntington Triplane
Why wasn’t the D.2 glider built? Because Dunne and S.K. Huntington were also in the midst of constructing the full-scale Dunne-Huntington Triplane, which would eventually achieve successful flight in 1910 (yup, two years later!).

Actually, the plane was built by renowned aircraft builders the Short Brothers, delivering the finished aircraft on December 23, 1909.

Look at the photo immediately below… this was the first plane by Dunne that did not have his Vee designed wings. I would assume that Dunne acquiesced to Huntington during the design stage.

Dunne-Huntington Triplane.jpg

The Dunne-Huntington Triplane had three levels of wings, but not atop each other like a standard triplane.

The main feature of the design was a set of three wings, each of 10 feet (3 meters) wide, placed at the front, middle and rear of the craft. The front wing was not as long in span as the others.

The middle wing was raised above the other two… and each wing was placed at a different angle to give longitudinal stability – or so it was hoped.

Wikipedia states:

The outer sections of the rear wing were given a sharp downward angle. Triangular outboard control surfaces were hinged on the diagonal to these sections and provided all the functions normally produced by separate elevator, aileron and rudder controls. When operated together they acted as elevators, while when operating differentially they acted as combined ailerons and rudders to bank the aircraft into a controlled turn.

The front and rear wings were fixed to a long, uncovered fuselage frame, with the front wing gently tapered. The top wing was strut-braced to the structure below. Side curtains between the two full-span wings were initially fitted.

The pilot was seated above the front wing, with the engine immediately behind. Power was initially provided by a single Wolesley water-cooled engine chain-driving twin propellers. These were mounted in the space beneath the upper wing and their axles doubled as twin cylindrical booms connecting the fore and aft structures.

The Dunne-Huntington Triplane was first flown during the early part of 1910, with its body mounted on an undercarriage with two large wheels, a large tail wheel and twi skids under the nose. The photo gives a good representation of that. 

General characteristics

  • Crew: One;
  • Length: 50 feet (15 meters);
  • Wingspan: 59 feet (18 meters);
  • Engine: 1  Gnome Rotary, 70 horsepower;
  • Propellers: Two-bladed;
  • Maximum speed: 43 miles per hour (69 kilometers per hour) .

D.3 and D.4
In 1908, Dunne built the D.3 glider capable of carrying a pilot, and the powered D.4, previously mentioned as the reincarnated former D.1 aeroplane (it used the D.1‘s wings).

While the D.3 flew well when piloted by Lieutenant Launcelot Gibbs, the D.4‘s tests suffered, as it was under-powered causing it to hop more than fly.

Dunne D4.jpg

Dunne D.4

After a British inquiry into the validity of military aeronatutics showed it to not be a currently viable venture, the British War Office decided to stop funding for powered flight during the spring of 1909… which had Dunne leaving the Factory… even though the War Office decision also meant it still found positives for dirigibles and balloons.

Dunne, with the help of a few friends providing financial backing, formed the Blair Atholl Aeroplane Syndicate, a small company that allowed further refinement of the flying vee aeroplanes.

Soon enough, the tailless and vee-winged D.5 was designed and constructed in 1910, featuring sharply swept back wings and a rear mounted engine (pusher-type) to power twin propellers. Again, the Short Brothers were hired to build the plane… and this time, it was successful… it was the first Dunne tailless Vee-wing to fly, in fact.

After a crash, it was later modified into the first Dunne D.8 – see below for more.

I should point out that originally Dunne wanted to build a monoplane, but Clapper convinced him to go with the biplane design, because that was what the Army thought might be a successful aeroplane.

Dunne D.5 biplane.jpg

The Dunne D.5 biplane

D.5 Specifications
  • Crew: One pilot;
  • Length: 20 feet 5 inches (6.21 meters);
  • Wingspan: 46 feet (14.02 meters);
  • Height: 11 feet 6 inches (3.51 meters);
  • Wing area: 527 square feet  (49 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 1,550 pounds (703 kilograms);
  • Engine: 1 Green Engine Company motor capable of 60 horsepower. The engines were actually manufactured by Aster Engineering Company based on the Green design;
  • Maximum speed: 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).

Dunne D.5 schematic

The D.5 was quite the success, and on December 20, 1910 at the British Aero Club‘s grounds, Dunne showed off the aeroplane’s flying abilities to an audience that included Orville Wright and Griffith Brewer.

From Wikipedia: Griffith Brewer (1867–1948) was a pioneer English balloonist and aviator, who made his first balloon flight in 1891. Brewer met Wilbur Wright in Pau, France in 1908 and was the first Englishman to fly as a passenger with Wright. He got his pilot’s license in 1914.

Brewer arranged that the British government should get use of the Wright’s patents for £15,000 in 1914 which meant that British aircraft manufacturers were free of the threat of litigation.

What was so cool about the controls of the D.5? Well, Dunne could fly it by using the throttle to climb or dive, and could even fly hands-free so as to make notes on paper.

I mention this only because a few days after the demonstration, the D.5 crashed and was badly damaged. I’m unsure why the plane crashed, but let’s hope flying without using one’s hands wasn’t the cause.

Again, Dunne had wanted to construct a monoplane, but again the British Army expected biplanes, so Colonel Capper had Dunne build accordingly.

Despite what the Army wanted, Dunne’s next plane was the D.6 Monoplane.

D.6, D.7 and D.7bis


Dunne D.6

Dunne’s next design, free of British Army influence, was a monoplane, the D.6 monoplane. This and its derivatives, the D.7 and D.7 bis (a two-seater version), flew throughout 1911-1913.


Dunne D.7

It was a successful aeroplane(s). The D.6 was a single-seat pusher type. Only one was built, however.

From Wikipedia: … major parts of which were built by Short Brothers, used a similar wing with a very different structure supporting it, the engine, pilot and undercarriage. The wing was straight edged, tapering from a central chord of 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) to 5 ft 0 in (1.52 m) at the tips. The leading edge was swept at 35°. The A-frames with kingposts on the centreline were replaced with a pair of rectangular frames which extended above and below the wings, linked at the bottom by two transverse members. These frames served as double kingposts from which each wing was wire braced above and below. A substantial undercarriage structure was mounted at the bottom of the frames, comprising a long pair of skids which extended from the pusher propeller line well forward beyond the nacelle and curving strongly upwards. Each skid was multiply braced to its frame and inwards to the nacelle; the pair were joined by a cross strut near the forward tip. Both carried a pair of wheels and, at the rear, an articulated and sprung extension to absorb landing shocks.

The nacelle that carried the pilot’s seat and the engine behind him was no more than an open wooden framework. The same Green engine was used as before, driving a two bladed, 7 ft 3 in (2.21 m) diameter propeller. A tall, rectangular radiator was placed longitudinally above the wing, positioned to raise the centre of gravity as high as possible. A pair of levers, one for each hand, controlled the craft.

D.6 Specifications

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 21 feet (6.40 meters);
  • Wingspan: 36 feet (10.97 meters);
  • Height: 11 feet (3.35 meters);
  • Wing area: 248 square feet (23 square meters) including elevons;
  • Engine: 1 × Green water cooled inline with 60 horsepower;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed, 7 feet 3 inches (2.21 meters) diameter.

During 1912, the D.6 was modified into a two-seater, the Dunne D.7 bis, with a 70 horsepower Gnome engine.

The Dunne D.7 or D.7 Auto Safety, was similar to the D.6, but with a shorter wingspan (less 1-foot (305 mm), and used a 7-cylinder Gnome rotary engine capable of 50 horsepower.

The D.7 made an appearance at the Olympia Aero Show of March 1911, but did not have its first test flights until June of that year – and was a success. In January 1912 Dunne demonstrated the D.7 to members of the Royal Aeronautical Society, writing a note whilst flying hands off at 60 miles per hour (100 kilometers and hour).



Dunne D.8

By now the Dunne D.8 had been developed from the D.5, one of which was flown across the English Channel to France. A total of five were built.

The D.8 had a single-pusher propeller engine, differing from the D.5‘s double, chain-driven propellers. Fuselage and undercarriage were also different.

dunne_8_2vc_350.jpgProduction was licensed to both Nieuport in France and Burgess in America.

From Wikipedia: The D.8 was a tailless four bay unstaggered biplane with its wings swept at 32°. Its constant chord wings were built up around two spruce spars, the forward one forming the leading edge. To help achieve stability the incidence and interplane gap decreased outboard, the former becoming negative. This washout on tips well behind the centre of gravity provided longitudinal stability in the same way as a conventional tailplane, set at lower incidence than the wings. Camber increased outwards. Simple, near parallel, pairs of interplane struts joined the spars. The outer interplane struts were enclosed with fabric, forming fixed side curtains that provided directional (yaw) stability. Wing tip elevons were used for control, operated by a pair of levers, one either side of the pilot. The D.8 initially used just a pair of these, mounted on the upper wing, a rectangular cutout in the side curtains allowing for their movement as on the D.5. Large parts of the aircraft were built by the Short Brothers.

The D.8’s water-cooled 4-cylinder, 60 hp Green engine directly drove a four-bladed pusher propeller, saving weight compared with the D.5’s chain drive. Though it is not certain when the propeller was changed, most photographs show the Green engine driving a two-bladed airscrew. As a consequence of the propeller position the fuselage was shortened at the rear; it was also extended in the nose. This first D.8 seems to have been a single-seater like its D.5 predecessor, the pilot sitting at mid chord.

After tests, the first D.8 had its motor replaced with an 80 horsepower Gnome engine… with the second plane receiving the same… though this one was a two-seater.

Several pilots did indeed receive their pilot’s license flying one of these craft.

D.8 Specifications

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 25 feet 9 inches (7.85 meters);
  • Wingspan: 46 (14.02 meters);
  • Wing area: 545 square feet (50.6 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 1,400 pounds (635 kilograms;
  • Gross weight: 1,900 pounds (862 kilograms);
  • Engine: 1 × Gnome 7-cylinder rotary with 80 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 56 miles per hour (90 kilometers per hour);
  • Rate of climb: 500 feet/minute (2.5 meters/second).


Burgess D.9.jpg

Dunne D.9 biplane

Dunne D.9 was an odd-looking biplane, with a suspected five examples thought to be under construction through 1912–1913. If the photo is to believed, at least one flew.

I can’t find any other information on it, which is why I am also dubious about just what version of plane is being shown in the image above.


The two-seater Dunne D.10 was shorter wing span version of his D.8 (45 feet; 14 meters).  It used a Gnome motor… but since it had orders for multiple D.8‘s, this one D.10 was converted back into a D.8.

Through 1913 and 1914 Dunne’s continuing ill health was making it difficult for him to remain active in aeronautics. Production of the War Office machines for Farnborough ran into difficulties and only one was ever delivered. The Blair Atholl Syndicate was eventually liquidated and Dunne moved on to other areas.

Throughout World War I, mainstream aircraft design proceeded along an entirely different path. Although the principle of inherent stability was proven and slowly gaining acceptance, Dunne’s designs were now obsolete. But still he tried…



Burgess-Dunne tailless Vee

Still, he tried once more with the Burgess-Dunne between 1913-1916, with many variants of his D.8 aircraft, including land and sea versions.

Burgess-Dunne Hydroplane.jpg

Burgess-Dunne Hydroplane version.

Since we just saw a Burgess-Dunne Hydroplane, let’s leave aviation for a moment and check out Dunne and his fishing book.

Great Highs With Fly-Fishing

Later years

Dunne published his first book, on dry-fly fishing: Sunshine and the Dry Fly in 1924, discussing a new method of making realistic artificial flies. I’m not much of a fisherman, so let’s just leave this part of his life alone.

Dare To Dream
Meanwhile, he was studying precognitive dreams which he believed he and others had experienced.

Way back in 1898, he dreamed about the time on his watch… then he woke up and found that the current time matched his “dream” time.

He went on to postulate that the human mind does NOT need to stay in the present, and via dreams and hypnagogic state (where one is in the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep), one could catch glimpses of the past and the future.

By 1927 he had evolved the theory of serial time for which he would become famous and published an account of it: An Experiment with Time. Pretty trippy… but as weird as it sounds, I’ve had multiple dreams as a kid about the near future, and things came to pass… such as seeing a weird copper penny on the asphalt in front of my high school… and two weeks later – there it was… a thing and weak-struck penny.

I’ve also had reoccurring dreams since I was three, of my death at 87… which is a decent enough age to not worry about… except in my dreams, I am warning some kids to get off the ice because it’s too thin, and while doing so, I fall through… see the shadows atop, as I beat on the underside with my fists-once… twice… and then I wake up gasping.

It’s cool because I’m trying to save some kids… but sucks because you’d think that when I was 86 I would have moved somewhere where the only ice around is in my Coke.

I state all of this with some fear of ridicule. But… all I can say is that I had a dream. I still have the penny, though.

I’m unsure about Dunne’s theories… my stuff was all independent of what I learned while researching this particular article. But who the heck knows anything about anything.

He continued his theory in: The Serial Universe (1934), The New Immortality (1938), Nothing Dies (1940) and Intrusions? (published posthumously in 1955).

In 1928 he married Cicely, daughter of Geoffrey Cecil Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 18th Baron Saye and Sele and they lived for a good deal of time after that at the family seat of Broughton Castle.


Dunne died in Banbury, England on August 24, 1949, at age 74. I’m guessing Dunne didn’t see that coming or he would have finished his last book earlier.



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