Biography My Airships

My Airships

My Airships
Catalog # SKU3885
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Alberto Santos-Dumont
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


My Airships
The Story of My Life

Alberto Santos-Dumont

From the way in which the partisans of Nature have fallen on me I might well be the uninformed and visionary Luis of the fable, for has it not been taken for granted that I began my experiments ignorant alike of mechanics and ballooning? And before my experiments succeeded, were they not all called impossible?



"Come, boys!" he said, "and I will show you round this steam-boat."

After a long inspection of the machinery the two boys sat with their old friend on the foredeck in the shade of an awning.

"Pedro," said Luis, "will not men some day invent a ship to sail in the sky?"

The common-sense old planter glanced with apprehension at the youth's face, flushed with ardour. "Have you been much in the sun, Luis?" he asked.

"Oh, he is always talking in that flighty way," Pedro reassured him. "He takes pleasure in it." "No, my boy," said the planter; "man will never navigate a ship in the sky."

"But on St John's Eve, when we all make bonfires, we also send up little tissue-paper spheres with hot air in them," insisted Luis. "If we could construct a very great one, big enough to lift a man, a light car, and a motor, might not the whole system be propelled through the air, as a steam-boat is propelled through the water?"

"Boys, never talk foolishness!" exclaimed the old friend of the family hurriedly as the captain of the boat approached. It was too late. The captain had heard the boy's observation; instead of calling it folly he excused him.

"The great balloon which you imagine has existed since 1783," he said; "but, though capable of carrying a man or several men, it cannot be controlled-it is at the mercy of the slightest breeze. As long ago as 1852 a French engineer named Giffard made a brilliant failure with what he called a 'dirigible balloon,' furnished with the motor and propeller Luis has dreamed of. All he did was to demonstrate the impossibility of directing a balloon through the air."

"The only way would be to build a flying machine on the model of the bird," spoke up Pedro with authority.

"Pedro is a very sensible boy," observed the old planter. "It is a pity Luis is not more like him and less visionary. Tell me, Pedro, how did you come to decide in favour of the bird as against the balloon?"

"Easily," replied Pedro glibly. "It is the most ordinary-common sense. Does man fly? No. Does the bird fly? Yes. Then if man would fly let him imitate the bird. Nature has made the bird, and Nature never goes wrong. Had the bird been furnished with a great air bag I might have suggested a balloon." "Exactly!" exclaimed both captain and planter.

But Luis, sitting in his corner, muttered, unconvinced as Galileo: "It will move!"


I had thought that my air-ship would be able to go against the wind that was then blowing, therefore I had intended to place it for the start at precisely the other end of the open space from that which I have described-that is, down stream, and not up stream in the air current with relation to the open space surrounded by trees. I would thus move out of the open space without difficulty, having the wind against me-for under such conditions the relative speed of the air-ship ought to be the difference between its absolute speed and the velocity of the wind-and so by going against the air current I should have plenty of time to rise and pass over the trees. Evidently it would be a mistake to place the air-ship at a point suitable for an ordinary balloon without motor and propeller.

And yet it was there that I did place it, not by my own will, but by the will of the professional aeronauts who came in the crowd to be present at my experiment. In vain I explained that by placing myself "up stream" in the wind with relation to the centre of the open space I should inevitably risk precipitating the air-ship against the trees before I would have time to rise above them, the speed of my propeller being superior to that of the wind then blowing.

All was useless. The aeronauts had never seen a dirigible balloon start off. They could not admit of its starting under other conditions than those of a spherical balloon, in spite of the essential difference between the two. As I was alone against them all I had the weakness to yield.

I started off from the spot they indicated, and within a second's time I tore my air-ship against the trees, as I had feared I should do. After this deny if you can the existence of a fulcrum in the air. This accident at least served to show the effectiveness of my motor and propeller in the air to those who doubted it before.

192 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover - Print size, 12 point font

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