Santos-Dumont 14-Bis

14-bis in flight
main wing of 14-Bis on Paris street

On the fall day of November 12, 1906, Parisians saw something that they had become accustomed. The Brazilian engineer, Alberto Santos-Dumont was attempting to fly again.

He continued his series of experiments with his nearly-perfected aeroplane, the 14-Bis (also known as the ‘Bird of Prey’), in the Bois de Boulogne that morning, making two flights of between five and six seconds, covering fifty and sixty meters each time.

[ad#ad-1]In the afternoon, M. Santos-Dumont met with better success, and was only prevented from making a longer flight by the immense crowds which surged onto the field. As he skimmed along at a height of fifteen feet and a speed of thirty miles per hour, for a distance of 215 meters, he feared that his whirling propellers would strike the cheering people, so he was forced to descend. The right wing of his machine was slightly damaged.

The principal change in the airplane that day was that the side-rudder reins were attached to Santos-Dumont’s shoulder, permitting him to operate them with instinctive movements of his body.

The 14-bis, also known as Oiseau de proie (French for “bird of prey”), was a pioneer-era canard biplane designed and built by Brazilian inventor Alberto Santos-Dumont.

Since the Spring 1904, Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian pilot famous for his pioneering work in dirigibles, began to experiment with gliders.

On July 23, 1906, he tested the control of his powered airplane, the 14-Bis, tethered underneath a dirigible. In September he made several short hops in the machine, and on October 23, 1906, in Bagatelle, France, it performed the first publicly witnessed European unaided take-off by a heavier-than-air aircraft. Earlier flights had required a favourable wind or a ramp, catapult or other such device to take off. His short flights that day won him the Deutsch-Archdeacon prize of 50,000 francs, for the first first heavier-than-air flight over one kilometer.

November 12 — Santos-Dumont flies 722 feet (215 meter) in his 14-Bis, as described above. This is considered the first true flight of a powered aircraft in Europe.

Then, and even now, some argue that Santos-Dumont’s achievement was more notable than the Wright Brothers, arguing that the 14-Bis, took off from its own power, being a wheeled machine, while the Wright Flyer, with its skids, needed a catapult assist. First, that’s not entirely correct. With a good headwind, and a set of tracks, the Wright could get off the ground under its own power.

And advocates of the Wright Brothers make a better case, noting that the Flyer was controllable once aloft; the 14-Bis had no real control once aloft.

But, it is regarded at the first European powered flight.