AVIATION FACTS: There is no consensus on who invented the first airplane!

A photo of Shikvar Talpade

Who invented the first aircraft?

For the Americans it was the Wright Brothers, for the Indians it was Shikvar Talpade, for the Brazilians it was Alberto Santos Dumont, for the New Zealanders it was Richard Pearse and for the French it was Clément Ader, among others.Let’s look at just two of these proponents, the Wright brothers and Alberto Santos Dumont.


Tens of millions of people around the world were introduced to Alberto Santos-Dumont for the first time when they attended the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and watched an elegantly dressed man with a mustache representing the pioneer aviator , soar to the skies in a vintage biplane.

The Olympic organizers’ claim that the Brazilian Santos-Dumont was the true inventor of the motorized plane may have surprised most spectators, but not those from the host country.While living in Paris in the 1890s, Santos-Dumont invested money from his family’s coffee plantation fortune in experiments with lighter-than-air craft such as hot air balloons and motor-powered airships.

According to Paul Hoffman’s “Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight,” the flying bon vivant even had a personal airship that he would fly from his apartment near the Arc de Triomphe to his favorite restaurant and keep tethered to a streetlight while dining inside.

After winning an aviation award in 1901 flying an airship around the Eiffel Tower, Santos-Dumont shifted his focus to heavier-than-air flight.

While some remained skeptical of the Wright brothers’ reported achievements, which were conducted in secret, away from the public eye, the success of the flamboyant Santos-Dumont was clear for all to see on October 23, 1906, when his 14-bis biplane flew about 200 feet at a height of about 15 feet before a large Parisian crowd on the world’s first public powered flight.

Less than three weeks later, the Brazilian set the first world record to be recognized by the International Aeronautical Federation by flying 726 feet in his winged aircraft.

Santos-Dumont’s supporters claim that the 1906 public demonstrations were the first powered flights because his wheeled craft took off unaided, unlike the Wright Flyer, which was launched from a rail and helped by strong winds at Kitty Hawk to lift it up. it off the floor.

Henrique Lins de Barros, a Brazilian physicist who has written two books on Santos-Dumont, told Reuters in 2003 that the Wright brothers’ flight did not meet all the standards of the time, which included taking off unaided, flying in public a predetermined length ahead of specialists and landing safely. “If we understand what the criteria were at the end of the 19th century, the Wright brothers just don’t fulfill any of the prerequisites,” he said.


On the morning of December 17, 1903, Orville Wright took over the controls of his heavier-than-air craft and signaled his brother Wilbur.

With Wilbur running alongside to balance the fragile machine, the Wright Flyer that Orville built with his brother slid down the guide rail and soared into the air a distance of 120 feet. The two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, followed the 12-second flight that day with three others over the dunes of North Carolina’s remote Outer Banks.

A handful of witnesses were present on the first flight, and a photograph taken by a US Rescue Service employee proved that the Wright Flyer had flown.

The Wright brothers meticulously documented their experiments, though they maintained great secrecy as they sought patents and contracts for their flying machine. Unlike Santos-Dumont, the brothers kept a low profile and didn’t make a public flight until 1908, two years after the Brazilian aviator dazzled Paris.

Most aviation historians believe that the Wright brothers fulfilled the criteria to be considered the inventors of the first successful airplane before Santos-Dumont because the Wright Flyer was heavier than air, manned and powered, capable of taking off and landing under its own power and controllable along three axes to avoid crashes.Supporters of the brothers also note that in 1905, the year before Santos-Dumont’s first powered flight in Europe, the Wright brothers were able to make flights that lasted up to 40 minutes.

Historian David McCullough, author of “The Wright Brothers,” shot down the claim that Whitehead was the first to fly in a 2015 interview with radio station WNPR. “There is no evidence for this,” he said. “Sir.It is never known that Whitehead (another American inventor acclaimed for being the inventor of the first airplane) flew nothing and when he tried to demonstrate it later, it didn’t work in front of people.

There are something like 35 notable aviation expert historians who have signed statements that say it is an interesting story, but there is nothing to back it up.” Other Whitehead skeptics add that the original Bridgeport Sunday Herald story was probably an exaggeration and that the newly discovered photograph is too blurry to offer any conclusive proof that the German immigrant was ever on the air.

While unified in their belief that the Wright brothers were the first to fly a plane, some of their thrusters have their own historic dispute going on that can be seen every day on American roads. Ohio and North Carolina claimed the brothers’ legacy. Both states featured the Wright Flyer in their commemorative neighborhoods, and while Ohio’s state plaques include the “Birthplace of Aviation” slogan, North Carolina prides itself on “First in Flight.”

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