Tag Archives: Alberto Santos-Dumont

Issy-Les-Moulineaux: cradle of European aviation

The city of Paris, among other things, can pride itself for the role it played in the early development of aerospace and aviation. In my opinion and to my knowledge there 3 or 4 quite important places in Paris where one can breath the history of those times, one of them is Issy-Les-Moulineaux. In a previous post I mentioned the space dedicated to the aviation history in the gallery of the village placed at the Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer.

Issy is a suburb just at the southwest of Paris, where the Périphérique crosses the river, south of the XV arrondisement.

At the turn of the XX century there was in Issy a military field dedicated to training. With the advent of aviation, that field started to be dedicated to aviation by the several pioneers who decided to relocate their activity there.

One of the images that symbolizes the French nascent aviation industry at the time is the one shown in the picture below. In it we can see Henri Farman (car racing pilot and aviator) flying the 1907 Voisin biplane winning the Archdeacon Prize for the first closed-circuit kilometer flight in Europe. That flight took place in the military field at Issy-Les-Moulineaux.

Henri Farman winning the Archdeacon Prize for the first closed-circuit kilometer flight in Europe (file from Wikimedia Commons, unrestricted picture belonging to the Library of the Congress).

Circuit of the first 1km closed circuit flight at Issy.

Circuit of the first 1km closed circuit flight at Issy.

The circuit can be seen in the following graphic at the gallery of the village of Issy. The circuit was marked by 3 poles planted on the ground. Two poles marked the depart and arrival. One pole located at 500m marked the turning point.

The morning of of the 13th of January 1908, Farman took off with the Voisin biplane equipped with an Antoinette engine for a flight that lasted 1 minute and 28 seconds (thus at an average speed of 41 km/h). With this flight, Farman, won the Archdeacon Prize, which had been set back in 1904 by  Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe and Ernest Archdeacon, with an allocated sum of 50,000F.

In fact, apparently, Farman had achieved the feat already 2 days earlier, but it was only on the 13th of January that the flight was officially controlled by a commission from the Aero-Club de France (an institution created in 1898 to encourage the development of flight by individuals like Ernest Archdeacon, Jules Verne, André Michelin, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe among others).

In the picture with the circuit you may locate the aviation field by seeing the wind rose and the river Seine on the top of the image. Today, that field is the Heliport of Paris, the street surrounding it being called Rue Henri Farman.

That first closed circuit in Europe may be the most iconic image of Issy, but it was not the first happening nor the last aviation achievement that took place there, see some others below:

  • 1905 (March, 26): at the initiative of Ernest Archdeacon a glider type Wright, towed by a car, rose to about 10m.
  • 1906 (August, 18): the Romanian Traian Vuia flies for about 11-24m rising just 2.5m above the ground.
  • 1907 (July, 11): Louis Bleriot makes his first flight aboard his monoplan VI Libellule.
  • 1907 (November, 5): Léon Delagrange flies aboard a Voisin-Delagrange over 300m in a semicircle.
  • 1907 (November, 17): Alberto Santos-Dumont makes his first flight on the XIX Demoiselle.
  • 1910 (March, 9): Elise Raymonde de Laroche obtains her pilot licence, being the first woman in the world to receive one.
  • 1910 (June): the first metallic plane ever is tested in Issy.
  • 1911 (May): the raid Paris-Madrid was organized, with departure from Issy. Among the 8 pilots taking part in the race was Roland Garros. That day one of the airplanes suffered an accident when taking off, crashing against the authorities and killing the then French war minister, Maurice Berteaux.

It goes without saying, that this shall be a mandatory stop for any aviation enthusiast passing by Paris.

Aviation room at the Gallery of Issy (Musse de las Cartes a Jouer).

Aviation room at the Gallery of Issy (Musse de las Cartes a Jouer).


Filed under Aerospace & Defence, France

Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace (Le Bourget)

The Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, in Le Bourget (north of Paris), is yet another great aerospace museum. It reminded me very much to the Aviodrome (The Netherlands) in the chronological point of view of the visit and the local aspect to it (1), paying special attention to French aviation pioneers, flying aces, French fighter aircraft, etc. This is possible, as the role France has played in the development of aviation is, no doubt, crucial.

You may see the distribution of the museum and its galleries in the plan below:

Plan of the museum.

Plan of the museum.

I will now list some of the things that in my opinion make this museum unique (I will leave some anecdotes or details to future blog posts), accompanied by the respective pictures.

Model of Alberto Santos Dumont's Demoiselle (1908).

Model of Alberto Santos Dumont’s Demoiselle (1908).

Alberto Santos-Dumont was a Franco-Brazilian aviation pioneer (2) who with his 14-bis, “Oiseau de proie“, on the 23rd of October 1906, in Paris, performed the first officially witnessed unaided takeoff and flight by a heavier-than-air aircraft. In the picture above you can see him aboard another of his early models, a Demoiselle from 1908.

Workshop of the brothers Voisin (L’Atelier des Freres Voisin),

Workshop of the brothers Voisin (L’Atelier des Freres Voisin).

Some of the construction pioneers at the time were the Voisin brothers. The museum has model of how an aircraft construction workshop could look like at the time, “L’Atelier des FrèresVoisin” (this reminded me of the William E. Boeing Red Barn at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, see a post about it here).


Nacelle of a dirigible  Zeppelin LZ 113.

Nacelle of a dirigible Zeppelin LZ 113.

Not everything in aviation are heavier-than-air machines, above you can see the inside of a nacelle of a Zeppelin LZ 113 used in war operations.

Old Le Bourget airport hall ("8 columns hall").

Old Le Bourget airport hall (“8 columns hall”).

Le Bourget was the first civil airport in Paris, opened in 1919. It was in Le Bourget where Charles Lindbergh landed his Spirit of Saint Louis in on the 27th May 1927 when he first crossed the Atlantic Ocean. The museum today occupies part of the old airport. In the picture above you may see the main hall, designed by the architect Georges Labro in a tender made in 1935 the ministry of aviation. The building was inaugurated in 1937 (this hall reminded me of Berlin Tempelhof, you may see a post I wrote about it here).

Models gallery.

Models gallery.

The museum includes an aircraft models gallery. As a collector of models, I liked to spend some time wandering through these models. It also helps to test your own capabilities as a spotter without having to walk or wait a lot.

Inside a C-47 Skytrain Dakota

Inside a C-47 Skytrain Dakota.

In this museum you can get on board a C-47 Skytrain (Dakota being the British designation for the airplane). I believe this was the first time I was inside a DC-3 (an aircraft of which importance to aviation cannot be overstated (3)), as if I remember well, in the Aviodrome you could get inside a DC-2 not -3.

Cut out of a Dassault Mirage F1.

Cut out of a Dassault Mirage F1.

In other museums I had seen cut outs of engines, here in Le Bourget you may see a full size cut out of a Dassault Mirage F1, a wonderful entertainment for engineers and aviation enthusiasts.

747 and Ariane 5

747 and Ariane 5.

In Le Bourget you can see replicas of the Ariane 4 and Ariane 5 (4). That allows you to get a picture of both in the same frame or to get them with a Boeing 747, as pictured above.

Inside of a Boeing 747 cut out.

Inside of a Boeing 747 cut out.

The Boeing 747 is legendary aircraft in itself (5) and the chances of flying in it are decreasing by the year as more airplanes are being retired from service. In Le Bourget, you get the chance to see it really from the inside, as parts of it are really cut out so you can admire its structure, systems, etc.

Concorde: prototype 001 and series airliner.

Concorde: prototype 001 and series airliner.

Some museums around the world have the Concorde as a highlight. In some of them you may get into it. Here in Le Bourget you may get into 2, one of them being the prototype 001, where you can see some flight test installations used for different experiments made with it.

I definitely recommend to visit this museum if you happen to be in Paris. It is located at Le Bourget airport and the entrance is free of charge. A ticket to get into some of the aircraft (747, Concorde, C-47) is sold for 8 euros. I would suggest to take no less than 4 hours to visit the museum.

(1) In the Aviodrome the local focus is put into the figure of Anthony Fokker.

(2) See in this post a review of French aviation pioneers.

(3) See more of the DC-3 in this post that a wrote as a tribute to Douglas Aircraft Company.

(4) So far, I had only seen a replica of the Ariane 5 at the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse, see here a post I wrote about it.

(5) See here a book review I wrote about “747” by Joe Sutter, the programme chief engineer.


Filed under Aerospace & Defence, France