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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.

In 1906, Santos-Dumont took the nacelle of his dirigible balloon no. 14 and added to it a fuselage and biplane wings. An Antoinette V8 engine of 24 hp power was installed ahead of the wings, driving a propulsion propeller; the airplane flew rear-first and was denominated 14-bis (since it was descendent of the dirigible balloon no. 14). Santos's entry was his No. 14bis, with a 12‑m 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.
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, which he obtained through Louis Bréguet, for the original 24‑hp motor.
On September 13th, Santos Dumont made the first flight of 7 or 13 m (according to different accounts) above the ground, which ended with a violent landing, damaging the propeller and landing gear.

On October 23th, 1906 his 14Bis biplane flew a distance of about 60m (197ft) at a height of 3 to 5 m (10 to 16ft) during a seven-sec-long flight. 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. Santos Dumont won the 3,000 Francs Prize Archdeacon, instituted in July 1906 by the American Ernest Archdeacon, to honor the first flyer to achieve a level flight of at least 25 m.
Before his next flight Santos-Dumont modified the 14-bis by the addition of large hexagonal ailerons, to give some control in roll. Since he already had his hands full with the rudder and elevator controls (and could not use peddles since he was standing), he operated these via a harness attached to his chest. If he wanted to roll right he would lean to his right, and vice versa. One witness likened Santos-Dumont's contortions while flying the 14-bis to dancing the samba.
With the modified aircraft, on 12 November 1906, Santos-Dumont again had No. 14-bis at Bagatelle, Paris. This time the Brazilian made six increasingly successful flights. One of these flights was 21,4 sec long within a 220 m path at a height of 6 m. The Brazilian always used his Cartier wristwatch to check the duration of his flights. The flight experiments with the 14Bis took place at Le Bagatelle (air)field in Paris. Santos Dumont did not employ any catapult or similar device to place his craft aloft. As far as the world knew, it was the first airplane flight ever and Santos-Dumont became a hero to the world press. 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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