Classic History Books

William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

serious accidents have resulted from the sudden stoppage of the forward motion due to this cause.

With their first power-driven machine the Wrights made a series of very fine flights, at first in a straight
line. In 1904 they effected their first turn. By the following year they had made such rapid progress that

they were able to exceed a distance of 20 miles in one flight, and keep up in the air for over half an hour

at a time. Their manager now gave their experiments great publicity, both in the American and European

Press, and in 1908 the brothers, feeling quite sure of their success, emerged from a self-imposed

obscurity, and astonished the world with some wonderful flights, both in America and on the French

flying ground at Issy.

A great loss to aviation occurred on 30th May, 1912, when Wilbur Wright died from an attack of typhoid
fever. His work is officially commemorated in Britain by an annual Premium Lecture, given under the

auspices of the Aeronautical Society.


CHAPTER XXVII. The First Man to Fly in Europe

In November, 1906, nearly the whole civilized world was astonished to read that a rich young Brazilian
aeronaut, residing in France, had actually succeeded in making a short flight, or, shall we say, an

enormous "hop", in a heavier-than-air machine.

This pioneer of aviation was M. Santos Dumont. For five or six years before his experiments with the
aeroplane he had made a great many flights in balloons, and also in dirigible balloons. He was the son of

well-to-do parents - his father was a successful coffee planter - and he had ample means to carry on his

costly experiments.

Flying was Santos Dumont's great hobby. Even in boyhood, when far away in Brazil, he had been keenly
interested in the work of Spencer, Green, and other famous aeronauts, and aeronautics became almost a

passion with him.

Towards the end of the year 1898 he designed a rather novel form of air-ship. The balloon was shaped
like an enormous cigar, some 80 feet long, and it was inflated with about 6000 cubic feet of hydrogen.

The most curious contrivance, however, was the motor. This was suspended from the balloon, and was

somewhat similar to the small motor used on a motor-cycle. Santos Dumont sat beside this motor, which

worked a propeller, and this curious craft was guided several times by the inventor round the Botanical

Gardens in Paris.

About two years after these experiments the science of aeronautics received very valuable aid from M.
Deutsch, a member of the French Aero Club. A prize of about L4000 was offered by this gentleman to

the man who should first fly from the Aero Club grounds at Longchamps, double round the Eiffel Tower,

and then sail back to the starting-place. The total distance to be flown was rather more than 3 miles, and

it was stipulated that the journey - which could be made either in a dirigible air-ship or a flying machine -

should be completed within half an hour.

This munificent offer at once aroused great enthusiasm among aeronauts and engineers throughout the
whole of France, and, to a lesser degree, in Britain. Santos Dumont at once set to work on another

air-ship, which was equipped with a much more powerful motor than he had previously used. In July,

1901, his arrangements were completed, and he made his first attempt to win the prize.

The voyage from Longchamps to the Eiffel Tower was made in very quick time, for a favourable wind
speeded the huge balloon on its way. The pilot was also able to steer a course round the tower, but his


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