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AWE Research: Other European Firsts
Posted Jun 14, 2006 - 11:15 AM

AWE Celebrates European Aviation

Please help us give public recognition to the European Men and Women in Aviation who have paved the way for us. Research your country's aviation accomplishments and send to mash@centropilota.it.

After verifying accuracy and given permission your research will be published o­n
www.aweu.org. (photos and articles must be labeled)

In 1877 a model helicopter, built by Enrico Forlanini, made a short flight: 20 seconds. Its endurance was so short because it was powered by a two-piston steam engine moving the rotor, and the “boiler”, a little sphere 2/3 full of water heated to build up a pressure of 8 atmosphere before take-off, lost rapidly its pressure. A second and larger rotor, fixed to the helicopter, partially balanced the reaction torque. Anyhow the experiment was a great success.

500 years ago Leonardo Da Vinci designed the first helicopter and the first hang-glider “La piuma”

The German engineer Otto Lilienthal built and flew gliders; he was o­ne of the first, with Octave Chanute, to study and solve important problems: aerofoils stability and maneuverability, structures, gliding techniques.

For sustained level flight the main problem was propulsion. The idea of a propeller, in conformity with naval engineering, appeared suitable; but the weight/power ratio of the steam engine (th o­nly o­ne available at the time) was by far too high for a flying machine. This obstacle was removed o­n 1885, when Benz built a vehicle powered by a petrol engine; a light propulsion system, the propeller driven by an internal-combustion engine, was finally at hand!

In Italy leading flight pioneers were Aldo Corazza and Mario Caldarera; both experimented gliders of their design. Corazza flew a biplane glider of 20,80 square meters wing area and 15kg weight, controllable by wing twisting and elevator. o­n the “Corriere della Sera”(December 1904) he described his landing technique, amazingly similar to the o­ne of today's hang-glider pilots.

Caldarera, a naval officer, made several flights in 1905 with his sea-glider towed by the destroyer “Lanciere”.

The Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont was the first to fly in Europe (France) in September 1906.

Giovanni Agusta built a canard biplane glider, and flew at Capua (towed by an automobile) in October 1908.

The first powered flight in Italy was made by Léon Delagrange “Piazza d'Armi” in Rome o­n May 24th 1908: the aircraft barely left the ground. Four days later Delagrange reached an altitude of 3m and o­n May 30th won the European distance and endurance record: 12,50 km in 15 minutes ad 25 seconds.

The first engine-powered aircraft built in Italy was the triplane of Aristide Faccioli, flown by his son Mario in 1909. In the first landing the aircraft was badly damaged; it was rebuilt as a biplane and flew successfully, but another crash landing practically destroyed the aeroplane.

Marquis Francisco Filiasi flew in 1910 with his biplane powered by an Ansani 35 HP engine. Anzani, mechanic and pilot, became famous for his radial engines; o­ne of his 25 HP engines powered the aircraft of Louis Blériot (crossing of the English Channel, July 25th 1909).

Wilbur Wright came to Europe in 1908 and made about 100 flights in France with his biplane, exciting admiration. o­n April 15th 1909 Wilbur flew at Centocelle, Rome; 10 minutes at 30m altitude. Next day he started to train his first two student pilots: Caldarera and Umberto Savoia, a Lieutenant of the Engineer Corps.

Caldarera was the first Italian to fly in Italy (April 30th 1909) and the first Italian licensed pilot (September 12th 1909); his pilot license was certified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internazionale in May 1910. Caldarera built also the first Italian seaplane and flew it at La Spezia in 1911.

75 years since Man First ascended into Stratosphere: On 27 May 1931, Professor Auguste Piccard of Switzerland became the first person ever to reach the stratosphere, and witness with his own eyes the curvature of the Earth.

His objective was to study cosmic rays at an altitude where they are not absorbed by the atmosphere, as happens at lower levels. He also wanted to prove that aircraft could fly well above the layers affected by bad weather, in which they had been so far obliged to operate, and thus improve reliability of service and fuel economy. In order to survive in an environment of extremely low pressure and temperature, Professor Piccard had to invent and to build the world's first pressurised capsule, which he suspended beneath a giant balloon filled with 14,500 cubic metres of hydrogen.

Auguste Piccard and his assistant Paul Kipfer took off from Ausburg (Germany) and reached a record altitude of 15,781 metres (51,774 feet) before landing 17 hours later o­n the Obergurgl glacier in Austria. This ascension created a public sensation at the time, and was considered by some as the first space flight.

Madeleine Sophie Blanchard, French, first woman to die in an aerial accident. Her hydrogen balloon was ignited when she was giving a firework display over the Tivoli Gardens in Paris in 1819. Napoleon had made her Official Aeronaut of the Empire during her lifetime. She was not o­nly the first woman to die in the air, but the first to ascend in a balloon in her own right (which she did in 1805) rather than as a passenger.

Eliza Garnerin, French, gave many parachuting demonstrations between 1816 and 1836. She became the first professional woman parachutist, whose jumping seems to have drawn large and popular crowds.

Dolly Shepherd, British, known as the “Parachute Queen”, in 1904 attempted and achieved the first mid-air rescue to be recorded. “When the 'Chute Went Up” autobiography published in 1984.

Gertrude Bacon, early British balloonist, the first woman in the world to make a right-away voyage in an airship. During the First International aviation gathering at Reims in August 1919 Gertrude became the first English woman to fly in an airplane when Roger Sommer took her up in a Farman biplane. The first British woman to travel o­n a seaplane and o­n a commercial flight from London to Paris.

In 1908 Madame Thérèse Peltier became the world's first female aeroplane passenger. She travelled with Leòn Delagrange in his Voisin o­n a 150-metre flight over Turin. She also achieved the distinction of becoming the first woman ever to make a solo flight, although she was never a qualified pilot.

In England the first woman passenger was an American, Isabel Cody, wife of the Wild West showman and aeronautical pioneer, who was taken aloft by her husband in 1909 over Laffan's Plain, Hampshire, in the British Army Aeroplane No. 1.

Miss Edith Maud Cook, the first British woman to make a solo plane flight. An experienced professional parachutist jumping under the name of 'Viola Spencer.' Although unlicensed in 1910 she began to pilot Blériot monoplanes with the Graham White Flying school in the Pyrenees, using the name 'Miss Spencer Kavanagh' for these aerial acts. Later that year she lost her life after a jump from a balloon over Coventry.

Lady Heath, as Sophie Mary Pierce Evans, was born in County Limerick in 1896. Aviation and campaigning for women's rights were to absorb her adult life. She had attained a Dublin science degree before starting to fly at the age of 22, but as a young girl work and study had taken second place to 'lots of scrapes and escapades.' She married an older man, fairly soon became a widow, and, as Mrs Elliott-Lynn, became a well-known pilot and campaigner. Her second marriage was later to give her a title and the financial means to widen the scope of her aeronautical career. At first she had to earn her living, and to do this as a pilot a commercial license was necessary. Her first major struggle was with the International Commission for Air Navigation, who had decreed in 1924 that would-be commercial pilots must be of the male sex. She challenged the Commission o­n the grounds that she knew more about women and their capabilities than the doctors (all male) who had imposed the ban. Her qualifications to make such a claim were impressive; as well as being an experienced pilot, she had a degree physiology, was a champion high-jumper, and the founder of the Women's Amateur Athletic Association of Great Britain. Nevertheless she had to suffer the indignity of proving to the Commission that she could function efficiently as a pilot at all times of the month! Nothing daunted, she did so. By May 1926 the ban o­n female pilots carrying passengers was rescinded.

Sophie – then still Mrs Elliott-Lynn – decided to demonstrate that women could fly as well as o even better than men. In 1927 she set an altitude record of 16,000 feet, entered and won several air races, and gave lectures o­n aviation in various parts of the country. Flight Magazine recorded 'Mrs Elliott-Lynn has perhaps done more for her sex [in aviation] than any other woman.' As Lady Heath she made the first solo flight by a woman from South Africa to England. It took three months, from 12<SUP>th</SUP> February to 17<SUP>th</SUP> May 1928. Lady Heath was the o­nly British woman to have formally qualified as a ground engineer, but she had done so in the USA. Lady Heath continued to campaign for opportunities for women in aviation and to provide inspiration for many aspiring flyers. Lady Heath's courage and determination caused her to be elected in the USA Lady Champion Aviator of the World.

Lady Bailey was the first woman to fly across the Irish Sea. In Early March 1928 she took off in a de Havilland Moth from London and arrived in Cape Town o­n April 30<SUP>th</SUP> 1928. After pending a few months in South Africa she attempted the return trip to London. The flight occurred from 21<SUP>st</SUP> September 1928 to 16<SUP>th</SUP> January 1929. She was the first woman to make this solo return trip.

Mary Petre, Hon. Mrs Victor Bruce after marrying a racing car driver, was o­ne of the few British women of her day who managed to pursue a serious career in aviation. After a spell in the British Hospital's Air Pageant Flying Circus she operated a company called Air Dispatch. This carried not o­nly freight but passengers, and it included an air ambulance service. Air Dispatch went from strength to strength, becoming the fastest air service between London and Paris.

Amy Johnson achieved the first solo flight by a woman from England to Australia. With surprisingly few flying hours behind her, she left Croydon Aerodrome o­n the 5th May 1930 and arrived at Darwin o­n the 24th. She flew in a DH60G Amy's father and Lord Wakefield sponsored the trip. Amy also achieved the distinction of becoming the first female ground engineer to qualify in Britain. In 1931 she flew from England to Japan in a DH80A Puss Moth in a total flying time of 79 hours. Books and articles about her sprang like mushrooms, and so did popular songs: 'Amy, Wonderful, Amy'; 'Queen of the Air'; 'Aeroplane Girl'; 'Johnnie, Heroine of the Air' and 'The Lone Dove.' At th outbreak of WWII she joined the women's branch of the ATA. Amy died in an air accident in the waters of the Thames Estuary, apparently off-course in bad visibility in an Airspeed Oxford, o­n a ferrying mission. It was an irony that Amy, the extremely expienced and adept flyer who had caught the imagination of the whole world, should be the first member of the ATA to be killed – but, as a woman who pushed out the boundaries of aviation, who trained herself to attempt and achieve great things, she has secured her niche in history.

Pauline Gower head of the women's section of the Air Transport Auxiliary.

John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown of Britain achieved the transatlantic flight in 1919, but their route was shorter than the American Charles Lindbergh's Long Island to Paris May 1927 crossing, and Charles was the first to make it solo. Lindbergh was twenty-five at the time of the epic flight.

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