Brazil celebrates the "real" inventor of the airplane

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Forget Orville Wright and his brother Wilbur. Start thinking instead of Alberto Santos Dumont, the Brazilian pioneer aviator and the man who really invented the aeroplane

That is the attitude here in Brazil, as the country prepares to celebrate the centenary tomorrow of the world's first powered flight. On the afternoon of 23 October 1906 in Paris, in front of an expert panel from the Aéroclub de France, the son of a coffee magnate from Sao Paulo took to the air in the 14bis, or 14 Mark II, a marvel of bamboo and piano wire.

Leaving the ground under its own power, the contraption wobbled for 60 metres at a height of 3 metres before landing on its undercarriage and coming to a rather graceless halt. It was to modern eyes an ungainly machine whose 24 horsepower motor was at the rear and whose guiding surfaces stuck out in front. Santos Dumont himself stood upright in a basket sited in front of the wings.

The flight was recorded on a film - which still exists - and it was officially certified by the International Aeronautics Federation. It won Santos Dumont the Archdeacon Cup from such rivals, friends and colleagues as Louis Blériot, who three years later was to be the first man to fly the Channel. On 12 November 1906 the Brazilian made a flight that lasted 21.2 seconds and covered 220 metres.

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DM Jordan - 11/1/2006

What about December 1903, three years before Dumont? Their were rivalries at the time, and legal challenges over the rights to the patents (especially for "lateral motion control"), but all but only the bitterest revisionists, apologists, and skeptics have accepted the Wrights accomplishment. Not bad for bicycle mechanics.

Vernon Clayson - 10/25/2006

Neil, Brazil being in South America, he was an American. I know you were being facetious.

Neil H Parsons - 10/25/2006

but he wasn't an American....!