The Machines

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The Machines
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[Antoinette VII] [Blériot XI] [Bristol Boxkite] [Deperdussin B] [Cody 'Cathedral'] [Farman III] [Morane-Saulnier G]
[Nieuport IVG] [Santos-Dumont 14bis] [Santos-Dumont Demoiselle] ['Standard' Voisin] [Wright Type A]

AntoinetteAntoinette VII. Designed by Léon Levavasseur, who was an artist as well as a gifted engineer, the Antoinette range possessed an almost art nouveau sense of elegance. The engine, also named 'Antoinette', came first, being designed by Levavasseur in 1903 to power motor boats. Both Santos-Dumont and the Voisins used this engine to power their early machines. The motor was of advanced design, utilising direct fuel injection and evaporative steam cooling - which took place in long tubes fixed along the sides of the fuselage. The airframe was also innovative, making use of tapered double surface wings for the first time. The pilot's controls consisted of a rudder bar, and two hand-wheels either side of the cockpit to control pitch and roll. The Antoinette IV, in which Latham first attempted to cross the English Channel, made use of large ailerons hinged from the trailing edge. But the Antoinette VII, which went into production later in 1909 used wing-warping instead. Construction was of ash and spruce, with the front of the fuselage being covered with cedar panels and the other surfaces with rubberised fabric. Specifications:- span 42 ft. 0 in. (12.8 m.) - length 37 ft. 9 in. (11.5 m.) - height 9 ft. 10 in. (3 m.) - wing area 538.2 sq.ft. (50 sq.m.) - take-off weight 1,301 lb. (590 kg) - speed 43 mph (70 kph).

Bleriot XIBlériot XI. Louis Blériot drew on the talents of Raymond Saulnier in the design of his eleventh machine, which proved to be a huge success. The prototype flew with a 30 hp R.E.P. radial engine, but this was replaced with a 25 hp Anzani for his famous Channel crossing flight. Once it became available in 1910, the Blériot was usually fitted with a 50 hp Gnôme rotary. The pilot's controls were of the type that has since become conventional although wing-warping was used in favour of Blériot's more usual ailerons in this design. Strangely, the uncovered section of the fuselage actually contributed to directional stability owing to the drag it caused. Moveable panels at the tips of the tailplanes acted as elevators. Construction was of ash, bamboo and steel tube. The surfaces were covered with rubberised fabric. The Blériot inspired a rash of similar monoplanes from other constructors such as Morane-Saulnier, Nieuport, Deperdussin, Humber, Blackburn and Fokker. Specifications:-span 25 ft.7 in. (7.8 m.) - length 26 ft. 3 in. (8 m.) - height 8 ft. 6.5 in. (2.6 m.) - wing area 150.7 sq.ft. (14 sq.m.) - take-off weight 661 lb. (300 kg) - speed approx. 47 mph (75 kph). [More...]

Bristol BoxkiteBristol Boxkite. When the British & Colonial Aeroplane Co. (later known as the Bristol Aeroplane Co.) unveiled its 'Boxkite' in the summer of 1910, it was threatened with legal action by Henry Farman, so similar was it to his own design. However, G. H. Challenger's near-copy was in many respects an improvement on the Farman III. The most visible differences being the third rudder and shorter landing skids. Power was usually provided by a 50 hp Gnôme, although the 50 hp E.N.V., 60 hp Renault and 70 hp Gnôme were also tried. Construction was from ash and spruce, with the flying surfaces covered in rubberised cotton. The propellor was mahogony. A military version was produced with a 12 ft. (4 m.) extension to the upper wing for greater load carrying capacity. The Boxkite proved highly successful and was the first British aircraft to be exported. Examples flew in India and in Australia until 1915. Specifications:-span 46 ft.6 in. (14.1 m.) - length 38 ft. 6 in. (11.7 m.) - height 11 ft. 10 in. (3.6 m.) - wing area 517 sq.ft. (48 sq.m.) - take-off weight 1,150 lb. (522 kg) - speed approx. 40 mph (64 kph). [More colour photos] [Boxkite test flight]

CathedralCody 'Cathedral'. Officially 'British Army Aeroplane No.1' Samuel Cody's 1908 design was always known as the Cathedral. (The name may have been transfered from the machine's cavernous hanger to the aeroplane, or it may have been a contraction of 'catahedral' - another term for anhedral - refering to the wing style.) The Cathedral was essentially based on the formula developed by the Wrights, but was much larger and notable for its use of ailerons fitted between the wings. It made the first sustained flight in Britain on 16 October 1908 at Farnborough powered by a 50 hp Antoinette motor. The engine was subsequently changed to a 60 hp E.N.V. and with this the Cathedral made flights of over an hour in 1909. In 1910 a second Cathedral won the British Empire Michelin Trophy, and in 1911 competed in the Circuit of Britain, flying over 1,000 miles. Later models were engined with 120 hp Austro-Daimler engines and carried up to four passengers. A seaplane version was in development in 1913 when it broke up in mid-air killing Cody and his passenger. Specifications for 1910 model:- span 46 ft. 0 in. (14 m.) - length 38 ft. 6 in. (11.7 m.) - height 13 ft. 0 in. (3.9 m.) - wing area (inc. ailerons) 640 sq.ft. (59.5 sq.m.) - take-off weight 2,950 lb. (1338 kg) - speed 65 mph (105 kph).

Deperdussin BDeperdussin B. The Deperdussin B of 1911 was the first successful product of Armand Deperdussin's Société Pour les Appareils Deperdussin (SPAD) formed the previous year. An elegant and efficient monoplane, it was inspired by the Blériot XI, and found favour with racers and military pilots alike. René Vidart came third in the Circuit of Europe flying one in June, and James Valentine took the same placing in the Circuit of Britain in July. At least fourteen were bought by the British military before the First World War. Lt. J. C. Porte, RN, became the chief pilot for the British Deperdussin Company. The 'Popular' model sold to flying schools for 460. In 1912, Jules Védrines took the world air speed record to 108 mph (173 kph) in a 'Dep' at Chicago. The single-seat version was usually powered by a 50 hp and the two-seater by a 100 hp Gnôme. The airframe was constructed from ash, spruce and plywood with an oiled cotton covering. Specifications:- span 28 ft.20 in. (8.8 m.) - length 24 ft. 11 in. (7.6 m.) - height approx. 8 ft. 2 in. (2.5 m.) - wing area 263.7 sq.ft. (24.5 sq.m.) - take-off weight 551 lb. (250 kg) - speed 65 mph (105 kph).

Farman IIIFarman III. Henry Farman's 1909 design took its inspiration from the Standard Voisin, which he had flown with such success, but was slightly lighter and more manoeuvrable. Although side panels between the wings were done away with, this type of machine was still widely (and confusingly) referred to as a boxkite. Construction was of ash and mahogony, with a mahogony propeller, and cotton flying surfaces. Lateral control was provided by four large ailerons (later reduced to two), which drooped down when the machine was stationary but streamed out to the horizontal once flying speed was gained. A front elevator was retained and a single or paired rudder was situated between the tailplanes. The top tailplane carried a secondary elevator. The usual power-plant was the 50 hp Gnôme, which was often attached behind the pusher propeller to avoid fouling with oil. Large wooden skids supplemented the wheels. The wheels were attached to the skids with rubber cord in such a way as that the wheels normally took the weight of the plane. But on a hard landing they were forced up as the cords stretched so that the shock was taken by the skids. This device made the Farman a good aircraft for cross country flying where a rough field landing might occur at any time. From 1910, a larger model was produced which could achieve 47 mph when fitted with the 60 hp E.N.V. engine. The Farman III was widely imitated, by the Bristol Boxkite, Short S.27 and Grahame-White 'Baby' among others. Specifications:-span 32 ft.10 in. (10 m.) - length 39 ft. 4.5 in. (12 m.) - height approx. 11 ft. 6 in. (3.5 m.) - wing area 430.5 sq.ft. (40 sq.m.) - take-off weight 1,213 lb. (550 kg) - speed 37 mph (60 kph).

Type G Morane-Saulnier Type G/H. The brothers Léon and Robert Morane had begun designing monoplanes with Raymond Saulnier in 1911. In 1912, they unveiled their highly capable Types G (two-seater) and H (single-seater). The tractor monoplane layout was inspired by the success of the Blériot XI but the design was cleaner and more sophisticated. Construction was of spruce and flattened steel tube, with a plywood and doped cotton covering. A 80 hp Gnôme was normally fitted beneath the close-fitting cowl, though 60 hp versions also flew. The propellor was mahogony. The type was one of the finest monoplanes produced before the First World War, excelling in climb, endurance, speed and reliability. In 1912 Roland Garros reached 18,405 ft. (5610 m.) over Tunis; the following year he flew 460 miles (740 km) non-stop across the Mediterranean; Gustav Hamel won the 1913 UK Aerial Derby with an average speed of 76 mph (122 kph) in a version with wings cropped to 20 ft. (6 m.); and in 1914, Marc Pourpe flew 3,100 miles (5000 km) from Cairo to Khatoum and back in under three weeks. Specifications (for Type G):-span 30 ft. 6 in. (9.3 m.) - length 21 ft. 6 in. (6.6 m.) - height approx. 9 ft. 0 in. (2.8 m.) - wing area 160 sq.ft. (14.9 sq.m.) - take-off weight 816 lb. (370 kg) - speed approx. 80 mph (129 kph).

Click for full size image Nieuport IVG. Edouard de Niéport (1875-1911) first achieved success with his Mark II monoplane of 1910 which acquitted itself well at the Rheims Meet of that year. In 1911 he developed the design into a neat two-seater, known as the IVG. The airframe was constructed from spruce, ash and steel tube. An aluminium engine cowl and proofed linen surfaces provided good streamlining from nose to tail. Roll control was effected by wing-warping, with the bracing wires gathered to a sturdy X shaped cabane. Underneath, a single skid protected the propellor from hard landings. Power was provided by Gnôme engines of 50-100 hp rating. The two seats were placed in a common cockpit, so communication was possible in the air. The type was used for one of the first military aerial reconnaisances (by the Italians in Libya in October 1911), and examples were also bought by the British and French armies. The IVG possessed impressive performance for 1911. Edouard de Niéport himself set a new world speed record with 82.7 mph (133.1 kph), and American C. T. Weymann won the Gordon Bennett Trophy at Eastchurch on a 100 hp version in July. In 1913, Marc Bonnier and his mechanic made an epic journey in a Nieuport IVG from France to Cairo, a distance of some 3,500 miles (5600 km). Specifications:- span 36 ft. 1 in. (11 m.) - length 27 ft. 7 in. (8.4 m.) - height 8 ft. 6 in. (2.6 m.) - wing area 226 sq.ft. (21 sq.m.) - take-off weight 717 lb. (325 kg) - speed 55 mph (88 kph).

14 bisSantos-Dumont 14bis. The 14bis made the first powered flights in Europe during the Autumn of 1906. It flew tail-first and influenced Blériot's first monoplane, the Canard, which lent its name to all other such aircraft. The 14bis was constructed from pine and bamboo poles covered with Japanese silk. Its propeller was made from steel shafts with aluminium blades. The boxkite cell in the nose pivoted up and down to act as an elevator and from side to side in the role of a rudder. The wings were rigged with 10 degrees of dihedral and the first flights were made without ailerons. Octagonal ailerons were fitted between the wings from November 1906, these being controlled through a body harness worn by the pilot, who flew standing up. The original power-plant was a 24 hp Antoinette engine, but this was upgraded to the 50 hp version from October. The 14bis made its last flight on 14 April 1907. Specifications:- span 36 ft. 9 in. (11.2 m.) - length 31 ft. 10 in. (9.7 m.) - height approx. 11 ft. 2 in. (3.4 m.) - wing area 560 sq.ft. (52 sq.m.) - take-off weight 661 lb. (300 kg) - speed approx. 25 mph (30 kph).

DemoiselleSantos-Dumont Demoiselle. The name Demoiselle ('damsel-fly') attached to a series of light-weight monoplane designs by Alberto Santos-Dumont, constructed between 1907 and 1909. The first was Santos-Dumont's No.19, which was a high wing monoplane with a 20 hp horizontally opposed Dutheil-Chalmers engine mounted above the wing. A single bamboo pole supported tail surfaces, which pivoted on a universal joint to act as both elevator and rudder. There was an auxilary rudder either side of the pilot and an auxillary elevator between the front wheels. There appears to have been no control in roll. In the 19bis a 24 hp Antoinette engine was mounted between the wheels and linked to the propeller by a drive chain. The front rudders and elevator were deleted. There is no record that it ever flew. The 'definitive' version of the Demoiselle was the No.20, which reverted to a wing-mounted 2 cylinder Dutheil-Chalmers engine of 35 hp, and introduced a more substantial fuselage of three bamboo poles arranged in a triangular section and braced with steel tube. Wing-warping was also provided and was controlled by a body harness. Another interesting feature was the radiator tubes which followed the underside of the wings to improve streamlining. Several of these mature Demoiselles were sold to enthusiasts who wanted an affordable way into aviation. The controls were extremely sensitive, though, and the Demoiselle was only easy to fly in a dead calm. (Compare the weight of the Demoiselle to the other aircraft on this page.) Specifications:-span 16 ft.9 in. (5.1 m.) - length 26 ft. 3 in. (8 m.) - height 7 ft. 10.5 in. (2.4 m.) - wing area 110 sq.ft. (10.2 sq.m.) - take-off weight 315 lb. (143 kg) - speed 56 mph (90 kph). [More...]

Voisin'Standard' Voisin. The Voisin brothers, had the distinction of being the first commercial aeroplane manufacturers in Europe when they began selling their popular biplanes in 1907. Henry Farman was an early customer and several flew at Rheims in 1909. Voisin machines were characterised by being safe and stable rather than spectacular in terms of performance, and showed little development over the years. The wings were of boxkite construction with a varying number of cells being formed by vertical 'side-curtains' fitted between the upper and lower wings. The tail unit was another large boxkite cell. A monoplane forward elevator was mounted on the front of the fuselage. There was no control in roll at all on most Voisins, and it was hoped by the designers that the wing cells would supply the necessary lateral stability. Construction was from ash and steel tube, with a plain or rubberized cotton covering. The propeller was made from steel shafts, with aluminium blades. The engine was mounted behind the pilot between the tail booms in a pusher layout. Various power-plants were fitted, including 50 hp versions of the Antoinette, E.N.V, Renault, Vivinus and Gnôme, and 60 hp versions of the E.N.V., Gobron and Wolsey. The last standard Voisin left the brothers' factory at Billancourt in 1911, by which time the design was obsolete. Specifications:-span 32 ft.10 in. (10 m.) - length 39 ft. 4.5 in. (12 m.) - height approx. 11 ft. (3.35 m.) - wing area 430.5 sq.ft. (40 sq.m.) - take-off weight 1,323 lb. (600 kg) - speed approx. 34 mph (55 kph).

Wright Type AWright Type A. When Wilbur (1867-1912) and Orville Wright (1871-1948) visited Europe in 1908-09 one of their prime goals was to enter into licence agreements with local manufacturers to produce and market their designs. In France an agreement was signed with the Société Ariel and in Britain with Short Brothers of Eastchurch. Both companies produced the passenger carrying machine Wilbur had demonstrated at Le Mans known as the Type A. The design was a biplane in every sense for it had double elevators, main plains and rudders. The rudders were placed further aft than in the brothers' 1905 design for greater controlability. The pilot sat on the wing edge with the elevator control on his left. On his right was another stick which controlled both the rudders and wing-warping (independently). As with previous Wright designs, there were no wheels, and so take offs continued to be from a wooden rail, assisted by a weight and derrick mechanism. After landing, the machine had to be carried back to the rail on a wheeled trolley. Wright motors of 24-30 hp were either built under licence or French Bariquand or Marre engines fitted. The airframe was constructed from spruce and ash, with unbleached cotton surfaces. The Type A proved popular among European aviators in 1909-10 but by 1911 it was outmoded. Specifications:- span 36 ft. 6 in. (11 m.) - length 28 ft. 11 in. (8.8 m.) - height 8 ft. 1 in. (2.5 m.) - wing area 415 sq.ft. (38.5 sq.m.) - take-off weight 1,200 lb. (544 kg) - speed approx. 45 mph (70 kph).
  Performance data on this page from Pioneer Aircraft 1903-14 by Kenneth Munson (Blandford Press, 1969)


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