The Man

Alberto Santos-Dumont: (20 July, 1873 – 23 July, 1932)

  • Considered the "Father of Aviation" in his country of birth, Brazil.
  • The son of a wealthy coffee baron and gifted engineer.
  • Childhood fascination with the works of Jules Verne and flying1.
  • Moved to Paris to study Science and Technology.
  • Rose to fame in Parisian society for his aviation exploits.
  • Developed the world's first purpose built aircraft engine2..
  • Controlled flight around the Eiffel Tower in a Dirigible (Motorized balloon with directional control).
  • First public flight of a powered aircraft (14 Bis)3.
  • Designed, built and flew the Demoiselle, the worlds first "sports aircraft"4.
  • Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1928 he returned to Brazil.
  • Died in Guarujá, São Paulo on 23rd July 1932.

His Machines

Type Name Year Info
balloon ''Brésil'' 1898
airship No. 1 1898
airship No. 2 1898
airship No. 3 1899
airship No. 4 1900
airship No. 5 1901
airship No. 6 1901 Won the Deutsch prize
airship No. 7 1902 Not clear whether it was ever flown; it was destroyed at the St. Louis, Missouri exhibition
There never was a No. 8; Santos-Dumont was superstitious about the number.
airship No. 9 ''Baladeuse'' 1903
airship No. 10 1905 A 10-person omnibus; made only test flights.
monoplane No. 11 1905 Used as glider aircraft only, never had an engine.
helicopter No. 12 1906
airship No. 13 1905
airship No. 14 1905
biplane No. 14-bis 1906 Tail-forward canard design; his historical flight.
biplane No. 15 1907 Tail-rearward (tractor) design, like all others below.
airship No. 16 1907
biplane No. 17 - Design only, never built.
floatplane No 18 - Wingless; probably would have wings someday, but not followed up on.
monoplane No 19 - -
monoplane No 20 - A modification of No. 19.
monoplane No 21 ''Demoiselle'' 1909
monoplane No 22 ''Demoiselle'' - With a different engine

(Wikipedia, 2009 5).

Contributions to Aviation

During his life Santos-Dumont attained international recognition for his feats in ballooning and aeronautics; he set records and displayed an undying persistence in achieving goals for mankind in aviation. The publicity his work received and his commitment to developing aviation both as a sport and means of transport generously contributed to the growth of aviation in Brazil and the rest of the world.

Santos-Dumont's earliest contributions to aviation included development of the worlds first steerable balloons and a purpose built aero-engine, however his most public recognition came from his powered flight in the 14-Bis.
Although the 14-Bis made the statement, "man can fly", it was his Demoiselle that provided the most enduring contribution towards flying for personal transport and sport.
The Demoiselle was controlled in flight partly by a tail unit that functioned both as an elevator and rudder), and by wing warping (design precursor to ailerons) 3.


Capable of speeds upwards of 100 kmph the low cost Demoiselle gained immense popularity worldwide and unlike the Wright Brothers,
the quirky Santos-Dumont held strongly to his principles of freely sharing scientific knowledge refusing to patent any of his designs.
In 1911 the magazine Popular Mechanics published blueprints and assembly instructions for the Demoiselle in its June and July editions.

Clement-Bayard, the Paris automobile manufacturer had such confidence in the Demoiselle they produced three hundred of them. The design was so efficient that many of its atributes were retained in many of the early microlights still flying to this day.
Powered with a 30 hp engine and selling for $1250 and it wasn’t long before the craft was a common sight in the skies of Europe and the company opened a Demoiselle flight school.

The Demoiselle enjoyed similar popularity in the USA with Hamilton Aero Manufacturing and other companies offering to supply the Demoiselle, one of these aircraft was purchased by WWI fighter ace Roland Garros who reportedly flew it in New York around 19104.

Video embedded from YouTube on 10 August 2009

1. Santos-Dumont, A. (1918). O Que Eu Vi O Que Nos Veremos. Retrieved August 1, 2007 from
And translated by David Rae.
2. Lins de Barros, H (2006). Santos-Dumont and the Invention of the Airplane: Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Ministry of Science & Technology and the Brazilian Centre for Research in Physics. Retrieved August 7, 2009 from
3. WIKIPEDIA. (2009). Santos-Dumont. Retrieved from
Wikipedia on 6 August 2009.
4. Hoffman, P. (2003). Wings of Madness. Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight. New York: Hyperin Press.
5. WIKIPEDIA. (2009).** List of Santos-Dumont aircraft. Retrieved from
Wikipedia on 6 August 2009.

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Copy of the plans for Santos-Dumont's Demoiselle featured in Popular Mechanics**:

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