1873 - 1932

Heavier-than-air aircraft

Born in Brazil, the aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont, who had dreamed about flying since he was a boy, did the first significant flight with a self-engine heavier-than-air aircraft.

Alberto Santos-Dumont flew his first balloon, named ‘Brasil’, in 1898. And he was awarded the Aero Club of Paris for his second balloon, ‘America’. He dedicated intense work to the steering of balloons and he won a prize for flying to the Eiffel Tower, around it, and back in a record time.

After his success with what was called lighter-than-air vehicles, he started to work on the idea of a heavier-than-air machine.

In 1906, he was awarded the ‘Archdecon Prize’ for the first heavier-than-air machine which could fly on its own. This machine, named 14-BIS, flew 220m at 6m high, at 37.3 km/h. This self-engine aircraft had a biplane frame with a design that simulated a series of boxes. It was made with aluminium, bamboo, pine, and silk.

His aircraft ‘Demoiselle’ (Grasshopper), from 1909, is considered the precursor of the modern light planes.

Written by: Enriqueta Vallejo-Yagüe.