Wake Up Call 1
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pioneer aviation era literally flew by, lasting just a little
more than a decade from the first wavering flights at Kitty Hawk to
the beginning of World War I when the first "second generation"
aircraft began to emerge, combining both maneuverability and
stability. This rapid development is all the more remarkable when
you consider that for the first few years, the Wright brothers were
the only pioneers. A few visionaries in America and Europe made
brief hops in a handful of airplanes, but nothing approaching the
Wright Flyer in its final 1905 form. This despite the fact that
these builders had access to the Wrights' published patents. It
wasn't until the Wrights began demonstrating their airplane in 1908
that the rest of the world fully understood the necessity of
three-axis control and how to use it.
At that point, aviation accelerated at an unprecedented rate and
for good reason. Across the globe, politicians were struggling
mightily to maintain the "balance of power." Diplomacy had become a
tangled web of treaties promising mutual aid in the event of attack.
Germany was locked in an arms race with France and England. World
war was imminent and the airplane looked to be a versatile and
Landing Without Crashing, 1903 to 1905
The Wright Brothers develop their temperamental Kitty Hawk Flyer into
a practical flying machine.
- Wake Up Call, 1905 to 1909
The Wright brothers' accomplishments alert aeronautical
scientists and engineers in America and Europe to the
possibilities of fixed wing aviation.
Higher, Farther, 1909 to 1912
– Pilots and engineers
begin to explore the capabilities and push the possibilities of
- Girding for Battle, 1912 to 1914
– As the First World War
approaches, nations develop the airplane into a weapon.
Fall Gabriel Voisin and
Louis Blériot, France, decide to collaborate and form
he world's first airplane manufacturing company. They make three
unsuccessful aircraft – a float-glider, standard glider, and powered
airplane – before Voision buys out Blériot and they go their separate ways.
November 14 —
Charles M. Manly, the pilot of Langley's failed1903
Aerodrome, speaks to the Aero Club of New York,
reporting on the flights of the Wright Flyer III. It
is apparent that he has witnessed some of these flights.
November 17 — The
Wrights send letters describing their 1905 flights to
Carl Dienstbach in Germany,
Patrick Alexander, a member of the Royal Aeronautical
Society in England, and Georges Besancon, editor of
L'Aerophile in France.
November 22 — Col.
Hubert J. Foster, the British military attaché in
Washington, again requests to see the Wright Flyer in
November 30 —
The Wrights' letters to Ferber and
Besancon are published in L'Auto in France.
L'Aerophile also publishes the letter to Besancon.
Frank S. Lahm, an American businessman living in
Paris, a balloonist, and a member of the Aero-Club d'France
telegraphs his brother-in-law in Ohio and asks for
December 3 — Harry
M. Weaver, Lahm's brother-in-law, visits the Wrights in
Dayton and talks to several people who have witnessed their
flights. He cables Lahm, "Claims fully verified,
particulars by mail."
December 30 —
L'Auto publishes a sketch of the Wright
Flyer III, purloined from an edition of the
Dayton Daily News in Ohio. It is the first picture
to show details of the Flyer that is widely available in
Europe, and it has enormous impact on their early aircraft
Louis Blériot (left) and Charles Voison (right) in 1905.
The cover of the December 1905 issue of
the Wright brothers and a brief account of their powered
flights. It lit a fire under the French aviation community.
The 1905 Blériot-Voison glider was towed aloft behind a
motorboat, but was almost impossible to control.
Blériot's and Voison's last collaborative effort was this
floatplane with elliptical wings.
Frank S. Lahm would become an advocate for the Wrights in
France. Later, his son would become the first US Army pilot.
The drawing of the 1905 Wright Flyer that L'Auto published
clearly shows the forward elevator, rear rudder, even the
launching rail and truck.
Winter and Spring
— Leon Levavasseur develops lightweight 25 hp and 50
hp engines that will become the mainstay of pioneer aviation
in Europe. He calls them Antoinette engines after
Antoinette Gastambide, the daughter of his friend and chief
of the manufacturing firm.
January The Aéro-Club de France meeting
is rocked by the news of the Wrights accomplishments in September and
October 1905. Ferber accepts the Wrights claims; Archdeacon refuses to believe them. Archdeacon sends a taunting letter to the Wrights,
challenging them to come to France and claim the Grand Prix dAviation. The Wrights
do not respond.
— Alberto Santos Dumont announces his ambition to try
for the Grand Prix dAviation and turns from
building dirigibles to building airplanes.
Late January — LAerophile
publishes the details of the Wrights' French patent, including complete
information about their methods of three-axis control. Members of the Aéro-Club de France either ignore it or do
not understand its importance.
— Samuel Langley dies in South Carolina.
March 3 -- Romanian inventor
Trajan Vuia makes a brief hop (39 feet or 12 meters) in the first
tractor monoplane. The aircraft is not wildly successful, but it starts an important design trend.
— The Wright brothers are granted U.S. Patent No.
821393 for a "Flying-Machine," describing their three-axis
control system. Because this system will prove fundamental
to navigating an aircraft, the patent will come to be
considered the "grandfather" patent of the airplane.
July 23 Alberto Santos-Dumont, France,
tests the control of a powered biplane, the 14-Bis, tethered underneath a dirigible.
August 12 and 19
Trajan Vuia tries to fly twice more in his tractor monoplane. The
last flight ends with a crash.
September 13 Alberto Santos-Dumont,
France, makes several short hops in his 14-Bis.
October Octave Chanute writes the Wrights
that the Europeans are catching up to them. Wilbur writes back that he believes the
Europeans wont have a flyable airplane for 5 years.
October 23 Alberto Santos-Dumont,
France, flies 197 feet (60 meters) in his 14-Bis, landing quickly
when the aircraft goes into an uncontrolled roll. His flight wins the
Coupe Ernest Archdeacon trophy for the first flight of over 25 meters (82
November Gabriel Voisin
and his brother Charles form the Voisin
Fréres Company to manufacture airplanes.
November 12 Alberto Santos-Dumont,
France, flies 722 feet (220 meters) in his 14-Bis, winning the
Coupe Ernest Archdeacon cash award for making a flight over 100 meters
Antoinette engines were not only powerful, they were
extremely light. This 50 hp V-8 weighed just 93 lbs (42 kg).
Alberto Santos-Dumont in the cockpit of one of his airships.
Hw would also use a basket as the cockpit of his first
An account of Tajan Vuia's first flight appeared in the
New York Herald.
Alberto Santos Dumont in the basket-cockpit of his
The 14-bis takes off from a field in Bagatelle, France, just
outside of Paris.
The Voison Brothers Aeroplane Company in Billancourt,
Leon Levavasseur, designer of the Antoinette engines.
Samuel P. Langely died of a stroke in Aiken, SC. His funeral
was held in Washington DC and he was buried in Boston, MS.
US Patent No. 821393.
Santos-Dumont attached his first aircraft, the
14 bis, to a
dirigible to test its controls.
Charles (left) and Gabriel (right) Voison.