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Santos-Dumont 14 bis


The Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos Dumont, in January 1906 announced that he would compete for the prize offered by industrialist Henri Deutsche de la Meurthe for the first 1-km (0.6-mile) circle flown in an aircraft.

Santos's entry was his No. 14bis, with a 10 m (32.8 ft) span wing consisting of six box-kite cells joined in sharp dihedral. Another cell, which could be tilted up, down, or sideways for steering was mounted at the very front of the fuselage in canard configuration. Santos planned to fly the machine from a standing position just in front of the wing. His first tests were conducted in typically bizarre fashion. Santos rigged up a tightrope and pulley contraption from which he suspended the machine, then hired a donkey to tow it back and forth while he tested the controls. Alas, one donkey power proved inadequate for simulated flight, so he slung the aircraft beneath his No.14 airship and tried it that way, hence the aircraft's designation.

On 21 August 1906 No.14bis showed no inclination to leave the ground and succeeded only in shattering its pusher propeller. On the next day the undercarriage collapsed during another abortive take-off run. Santos decided that lack of power was the problem, and so substituted a new eight-cylinder 50-hp Antoinette engine for the original 24-hp motor.

At 8 a.m. on 23 October 1906 Santos, at 4.45 p.m. No.14bis left the ground and flew for about 60m (197ft) at a height of 3 to 5 m (10 to 16ft). The first officially recognised flight in Europe.  The precise distance flown was never measured. In their excitement, official observers from the Aero Club quite forgot their primary task.

On 12 November 1906, Santos-Dumont again had No. 14-bis at Bagatelle, Paris. On that day he was to make an attempt to win a prize of 1,500 francs, offered by the Aero Club de France, for the first aeroplane able to exceed a distance of 100m (305 ft). Santos-Dumont and his aircraft rose to the occasion, cheered by an enormous crowd that had flocked to the large open space at Bagatelle, in the Bols de Boulogne. They had come in anticipation of seeing an aeroplane in flight for the first time. No.14-bis excelled itself to record a flight of just over 21 seconds, covering a distance of 220 m (722 ft) and set up the first official air speed record of 25.65 mph.


On April 4, 1907, at Saint-Cyr, the 14-bis flew about 50 m (164 ft) and crashed. Santos-Dumont did not attempt to repair it. For this flight, square ailerons were positioned mid-height in the outer cells of the wings, as opposed to the earlier octagonal type.
April 4, 1907, at Saint-Cyr


Though it had undoubtedly flown, it was unstable in pitch and was incapable of further useful development.

Engine One 50 hp Antoinette
Wing span 38 ft 9 in / 11.5m
Length: 31'10"
Weight empty: 660 lb / 300 kg
Seats: 1
Speed 25 mph (40 kph)



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