E. Charles Vivian

by E. Charles Vivian

The foregoing brief - and necessarily incomplete - survey of the early British group of fliers has taken us far beyond some of the great events of the early days of successful flight, and it is necessary to go back to certain landmarks in the history of aviation, first of which is the great meeting at Rheims in 1909. Wilbur Wright had come to Europe, and, flying at Le Mans and Pau - it was on August 8th, 1908, that Wilbur Wright made the first of his ascents in Europe - had stimulated public interest in flying in France to a very great degree.

Having got off the earth, the very early balloonists set about the task of finding a means of navigating the air but, lacking steam or other accessory power to human muscle, they failed to solve the problem. Joseph Montgolfier speedily exploded the idea of propelling a balloon either by means of oars or sails, pointing out that even in a dead calm a speed of five miles an hour would be the limit achieved.

Proclamation published by the French Government on balloon ascents, 1783.

NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC! PARIS, 27TH AUGUST, 1783.

On the Ascent of balloons or globes in the air. The one in question has been raised in Paris this day, 27th August, 1783, at 5 p.m., in the Champ de Mars.

A Discovery has been made, which the Government deems it right to make known, so that alarm be not occasioned to the people.

Although successful heavier-than-air flight is less than two decades old, and successful dirigible propulsion antedates it by a very short period, the mass of experiment and accomplishment renders any one-volume history of the subject a matter of selection. In addition to the restrictions imposed by space limits, the material for compilation is fragmentary, and, in many cases, scattered through periodical and other publications.

It may be said that Louis Bleriot was responsible for the second great landmark in the history of successful flight. The day when the brothers Wright succeeded in accomplishing power-driven flight ranks as the first of these landmarks. Ader may or may not have left the ground, but the wreckage of his 'Avion' at the end of his experiment places his doubtful success in a different category from that of the brothers Wright and leaves them the first definite conquerors, just as Bleriot ranks as first definite conqueror of the English Channel by air.

A Brazilian by birth, Santos-Dumont began in Paris in the year 1898 to make history, which he subsequently wrote.

The last of the great contests to arouse public enthusiasm was the London to Manchester Flight of 1910. As far back as 1906, the Daily Mail had offered a prize of L10,000 to the first aviator who should accomplish this journey, and, for a long time, the offer was regarded as a perfectly safe one for any person or paper to make - it brought forth far more ridicule than belief.

Although French and German experiment in connection with the production of an airship which should be suitable for military purposes proceeded side by side, it is necessary to outline the development in the two countries separately, owing to the differing character of the work carried out. So far as France is concerned, experiment began with the Lebaudy brothers, originally sugar refiners, who turned their energies to airship construction in 1899.

Syndicate content