Santos-Dumont Demoiselle
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Santos-Dumont Demoiselle

Alberto Santos-Dumont was a Brazilian expatriate who settled in Paris and who played such an important part in making Europe air-minded through his little airship designs at the beginning of the twentieth century. He went on to produce a series of heavier-than-air craft which may be justifiably described as the world's first true light aircraft. The first of them was the 14bis, which was tested in 1906 suspended under Santos-Dumont's Airship No 14 and which later made a series of short powered 'hops'. Further designs led to a series of little single-seat aircraft known collectively by the name Demoiselle (Dragonfly), the first of which (Demoiselle No 19) flew in 1907. In September 1909, Demoiselle No 20, a much modified version with a more powerful engine, flew for 16 minutes and covered about 18km. The Demoiselle was the first aircraft to be produced for sporting purposes, between 10 and 15 being built for sale to aspiring aviators. Unfortunately, it was also Santos-Dumont's first and last really successful design, as the onset of multiple sclerosis in 1910 compelled him to retire from an active life. He committed suicide in 1932.

 MODELDemoiselle No 20
 ENGINE1 x 35hp Dutheil-Chalmers 2-cylinder horizontally opposed piston engine
    Take-off weight143 kg315 lb
    Wingspan5.10 m17 ft 9 in
    Length8.00 m26 ft 3 in
    Height2.40 m8 ft 10 in
    Max. speed90 km/h56 mph

CHOPPERGIRL, 23.12.2015

I'm American, and I recognize the Demoiselle as the first aircraft. The Wright flier was a death trap with its cannard design, and had no wheels, was underpowered, and had to be catapult launched on rails. The Wrights did do pioneering work with wind tunnels and propellor shaping, but the way they got thier aircraft into the Smithsonian is questionable at best... they would only donate it *if* the Smithsonian boldly asserted they were the first fliers.

Dumont not only designed the first workable airplane, and pioneered the modern ultralight... but you could argue, he was one of the many fathers of the idea of "open source" idea, donating his plans and design to humanity without patent so that everyone could enjoy and build upon.

Looking at my antique 1980 Volmer VJ-24W, I see the Demoiselle's heavy influence.... indeed, its a Demoiselle layout built with modern materials of alluminum and dacron instead, and with a better understanding we now have about airfoils and ailerons.

Its sad that Dumont killed himself, when he saw first hand airplanes turned into death machines and killing people in World War 1. If only he knew how much my airplane made me happy :-) Every gas station I pulled into with it, there is always someone who walks up and starts a conversation about it. There is something about wanting to fly... that just lives in all men.

BHH, 30.01.2013

The greatest achievements by Santos-Dumont were his airships.

Sven, 13.10.2012

The aircraft was a marginal flyer, Santos flew it with the stick pulled back hard to maintain level flight.also noteworthy is the diminutive size and weight of Santos himself. Nonetheless the aircraft did fly and very well by the standards of the day. How many pioneers of the time age flew such diverse designs and lived to tell the tale?
So who was first? Wrights or Dumont. Does it realy matter ?
All great men all pioneers all my heroes.
Still got a soft spot for the little guy though.

ayodele fagunwa, 12.10.2012

Did not take into acct of the gap between 03 and 09 as thier achievement cross in the same time line but the over all question still relevant thanks

ayodele fagunwa, 12.10.2012

I wish to ask a question.Could anyone tell me if the dragonfly was more effective than the flyer.I am researching an article and the dragonfly it seems was able to fly at speed of up to 90kph, the flyer 8mph. 2 when reading of Albert santos Dumont he if I am right was adamant that the best way to fly was with a single wing aircraft rather than a biplane the wrights thought and designed a biplane . The biplane was eventually phased out and aviation history says the rest. Could it then be said that the Wrights were the first to design bi winged aircraft and Albert Santos Dumont the original monoplane that evolved into todays planes. 3. Could someone also tell me what they think motivations were when the Wrights took out every patent they could think of and Dumont would freely give his knowledge to create competition to advance technology and when he won 100,000 francs for flying in his powered balloon around the Eiffel tower he distributed the prize money between his assistants and the poor of Paris.

barroso, 19.08.2012

Santos-Dumont was the real father of aviation. This great Brazilian made the history. Sorry EUA.

Afonso César Belfort Greenhalg, 12.07.2011

It is useless to argue, folks. Americans are always right. The American media will never recognize that Santos-Dumont was the real father of aviation. But this great Brazilian will have a prominent place in history forever. So much for their flights in dirigibles, as for his pioneering flights on aircraft heavier than air. The great 14-bis to the wonderful Demoiselle, Santos-Dumont was a true pioneer, aircraft designer and engineer. Not to speak of his inventions, such as the wristwatch. But no matter, Europe saw with his own eyes the flights of Alberto Santos-Dumont, and knows who the real father of aviation.

Jim Lloyd, 04.06.2009

Dear Mr. Bogossian and other revisionist historians. The original Wrights did NOT need catapults to get off the ground and in fact none of them did. the original Wright 1903 flights did not have a catapult and the catapult was only instituted later. What you will claim is a catapult is a launching rail because if you noticed the Wright Flyer had no wheels. All of the Wright planes could eschew the catapult, but they would have had to make longer rails to get into the air. The existant movies of the original Santos Dumobnt 1906 machine (which was made by Santos-Dumont based on imperfect descriptions of the Wright machine by the way) show it "flew" but only barely and he had no control whatsoever. The demoiselle was his first really successful plane. In addition the idea that the Wrights flew "downhill" is absolutely false. In fact, before Dec 17th ( on the 14th) they did make a flight that landed at a lower altitude than they started at and they, very properly and ethically, did not claim this as a flight. They would only claim it a flight if they took off and landed at at least the same height.

Santos Dumont was a brilliant designer (Demoiselle case in point) and deserves all the recognition he deserves and those who denigrate the Wrights to further the great Brazilian's cause end up diminishing Santos Dumont because their claims are baseless

Leo Rudnicki, 30.05.2009

History has recorded numerous first flights pre-dating both the Wrights and Santos-Dumont. The first Wright machine had an engine built by their company. It wasn't very light or very powerful, and the machine needed help off the ground. Santos- Dumont bought an engine with three times the power and lighter weight. He was also lighter than the Wrights. He gave away plans of the Demoiselle for free and many found they weighed too much and the aircraft wasn't adaptable for a bigger engine to carry a heavier pilot. History, not the media, has decided long ago, who was the first a controllable ( not just stable ) Heavier-than-air machine. Chacun a son gout.

.Jorge A. Bogossian, 29.05.2009

This article unfairly doesnt mention that Santos Dumont was the first man , from the grond to take-off, flew and landed with his plane without impulse of any kind only the engine of his plane, so he should be considered the father of aviation, the Wright Brothers used a catapult in a down hill to impulse their flight wich was shorter in time and distance and the midia supported him as the father of modern aviation .

leo rudnicki, 29.04.2009

Demoiselle and Antoinette were feature in the film, amazing Men in their flying machines. Wonder who got to keep the planes. The Demoiselle was quite restrictive regards both pilot weight and size, so if you're not a jockey, look elsewhere.

jan van bogaert, 06.03.2009

There is a patent for a modern version of it: US2007272793

guilherme, 12.04.2008

It might seem odd, and it is indeed, but the most viewed Brazilian TV news show is presenting a story of a Demoiselle replica being flown in the capital Brasília as I type this. It was built by two mechanics from São Paulo, but no names were giving.

guilherme, 10.04.2008

I remember seeing something about working replicas being built here in Brazil to celebrate the centennial of the plane. The original design was kept to detail, using only slightly different materials -- such as fiberglass rods on the wings instead of the original bamboo.

scott calhoun, 04.03.2008

are there any modern flyable versions of the demoiselle?

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