What I Saw, What We Will See (1918)
by Alberto Santos-Dumont, translated from Portuguese by Wikisource
What I Saw
4022016What I Saw, What We Will See — What I Saw1918Alberto Santos-Dumont
New York, May 15, 1918.

My dear Mr. Santos-Dumont

The Aero Club of America sends you a message of congratulations for the inauguration of the first Postal Air Service in this country. We trust that the Postal Air Line inaugurated between New York, Philadelphia and Washington, which brings you this message, will be the first step towards a network of overhead lines that will cover the world and will be a predominant factor in the work of reconstruction that will follow the War, when the allied armies have achieved the Glorious and final Victory in the cause of Universal Freedom.

The rapid development of air navigation on the continent will be followed soon by extensive flights over the seas, and we will have large airplanes crossing the Atlantic, which will facilitate not only the establishment of the postal line transatlantic air, as the delivery of airplanes from the United States to our Allies.

The Aero Club of America, which has advocated the development of Aeronautics since your first trials, activated and assisted by every means the creation of the air postal service since 1911, feels highly rewarded by the establishment of this new service through the air.

Alan R. Hawlei (President)

This letter came to fill with legitimate joy my heart that, for four years now, has suffered with the news of the terrible death caused in Europe by aeronautics. We, the founders of air travel at the end of the last century, had dreamed a future path of peaceful glory for this child of our care. I remember perfectly that at the end of that century and in the first years of this one, in the Aero Club of France, which was, one could say, "The nest of aeronautics" and which was the meeting place for all the inventors who were concerned with this science, little was said about war; we predicted that aeronauts could perhaps, in the future, serve as enlighteners for the major states of armies, but it never came to our minds that they could play destructive roles in combat. I knew enough of all those dreamers, hundreds of whom gave their lives for our idea, to be able to affirm now that it never crossed our minds that, in the future, our successors could be "sent" to attack defenseless cities, full of children, women and old people and, what's more, to attack Hospitals where the abnegation and humanitarianism of the rivals gathered, under the same roof and with the same affection, the wounded and the dying of both camps. Well, this has been repeated for four long years: and who "orders it to be done"? - The Kaiser!

Let us hope, then, for the victory of the allies; may the ideas of President Wilson triumph, and may Prussian militarism be extinguished on earth. Just as with present-day Poland society has suppressed the armed citizens, the desired Army of Nations will suppress the killings of war.

Confident in this future, I was comforted by the message from the President of the Aeronautical Club of America, in which I heard, again, of aeronautics for peaceful purposes, realization of my innermost ambitions, dream of those inventors who only saw in the airplane a collaborator in the happiness of men.

I believe, it should be called "Heroic epoch of aeronautics" the period that comprises the end of the last century and the first years of the current one. In it shines the most audacious boldness of inventors, who almost forgot about life, for remembering their dream.

Today, the acts of bravery of the aviators of the "front" fill us with the most just enthusiasm, as will fill us with pride the news of the crossing of the Atlantic, which I foresee will be soon.

This courage, however, which consecrates them as heroes, I believe, is not greater than that of the inventors, the first human birds, who, after heroic pertinence in laboratory studies, dared to experiment with frail, primitive, dangerous machines. There were hundreds of victims of this noble audacity, who fought with a thousand difficulties, always received as "crazy", and who could not see the triumph of their Dreams, but for the realization of which they collaborated with their sacrifice, with their lives.

Were it not for the audacity, worthy of all our homages, of Captain Ferber, Lilienthal, Pilcher, Baron Bradsky, Augusto Severo, Sachet, Charles, Morin, Delagrange, the Nieuport brothers, Chavez and so many others — true martyrs of science — and today we would not, perhaps, witness this wonderful progress of Aeronautics, achieved, all at the cost of those lives, whose sacrifice always left a lesson.

I think, most of my readers will be young people born after that time, which is already overshadowing so much in memory: I implore you, therefore, not to forget these names. To them belongs, in large part, the merit of what is done in the air today...

At first one had to fight not only against the elements, but also against prejudice: balloon steering and, later, mechanical flight were "insoluble" problems.

I, too, had the honor of working for a while alongside these brave, but the Almighty didn't want my name to appear next to theirs.

The first lessons I received about aeronautics were given to me by our great visionary: Jules Verne. From 1888, more or less, to 1891, when I left for Europe for the first time, I read, with great interest, all the books of this great seer of air and submarine locomotion. A few times, in the verdant years of my life, I believed in the possibility of realization of what the fertile and brilliant novelist told; moments later, however, the practical spirit awoke in me, which saw the absurd weight of the steam engine, the most powerful and lightest I had ever seen. At that time, I only knew the one existing in our farm, which was of a fantastic aspect and weight; so were the tractors my father had ordered from England; they pulled two carts of coffee, but weighed many tons... I felt a whiff of hope when my father announced me that he was going to build a railroad to connect the Farm to the Mogyana Company station; I thought that in these locomotives, which had to be small, I would find a base for my machine with which to realize Jules Verne's fictions. This did not happen; they were even heavier. I was then certain that Jules Verne was a great novelist...

I was in Paris when, on the eve of leaving for Brazil, I went with my father to visit an exhibition of machines at the now defunct "Palace of Industry". What was my surprise when I saw for the first time an oil engine, the strength of a horse, very compact and light, compared to the ones I knew, and? working! I stopped in front of it as if preached by fate. I was completely fascinated. My father, distracted, continued walking until, after a few steps, noticing my absence, came back and asked me what was wrong. I told him my admiration to see that engine working, and he answered me: "that's enough for today". Taking advantage of these words, I asked him for permission to do my studies in Paris. We continued our walk, and my father, as distracted, did not answer me. That same night, at the farewell dinner, when the family gathered, among us, two of my father's French cousins and his old schoolmates, he asked them to protect me, because he intended to make me go back to Paris to finish my studies. That same night I ran to several booksellers; I bought all the books I could find about balloons and air travel.

Facing the oil engine, I had felt the possibility of making Jules Verne's fantasies come true.

Later, all in one piece, I owe my success to the petroleum engine.

I was fortunate to be the first to use it in the air.

My predecessors never used it. Giffard adopted the steam engine; Tissandier took with him an electric motor. The experience showed, later, that they had followed the wrong path.

One morning, in São Paulo, to my great surprise, my father invited me to go to the city and, going to a notary's office, had a deed drawn up for my emancipation. I was eighteen years old. Back home, he called me to the office and told me: "I have already given you today freedom; here is more of this capital", and handed me bonds worth many hundreds of contos. "I still have a few years to live; I want to see how you conduct yourself: go to Paris, the most dangerous place for a boy. Let's see if you become a man; I prefer that you don't become a doctor: in Paris, with the help of our cousins, you will look for a specialist in Physics, Chemistry, Mechanics, Electricity, etc., study these subjects and don't forget that the future of the world is in Mechanics. You don't have to think about making a living; I'll leave you what you need to live...".

When I arrived in Paris, and with the help of my cousins, I went looking for a teacher. I couldn't have been happier; we discovered Mr. Garcia, a respectable preceptor, of Spanish origin, who knew everything. With him I studied for many years.

In the books he took with me to Brazil, I read the names of several people who went up in balloons, on the occasion of public celebrations. They were the only ones who were involved in aeronautics at the time.

Without saying anything to my teacher, nor to my cousins, I looked for the names in the Bottin Yearbook of these gentlemen, eager to make a ascent. Some no longer took up the matter, others terrified me with the dangers of going up and the exaggeration of the prices. There was one, however, who, after informing me of all the means, asked for more than a thousand francs to take me with him, and I had to pay for any damage caused by the balloon on its return to earth.

The condition was threatening, because this gentleman had once knocked down the chimney of a power plant, another time he had descended on a peasant's house and the gas from the balloon, in contact with the chimney, had set fire to the house...

I remembered my father's advice and his serious examples of sobriety and economy. In a few hours I was going to spend almost the entire month's rent and, very probably, the entire year's rent!

I was discouraged to make an ascent. It was too complicated...

For several years, I studied and traveled.

I followed with interest, in the illustrated newspapers, André's expedition to the North Pole; in 1897, I was in Rio de Janeiro when a book came into my hands describing in detail the balloon of that expedition.

I continued to work in secret, without the courage to put my ideas into practice; I had little desire to ruin myself. This book, however, by the constructor Lachambre, enlightened me better and decided my resolution unfailingly.

I left for Paris...

— I want to go up in a balloon. How much are you asking me for that?

— We have just such a small balloon in which we will take you up for 250 frs.

— Is there much danger?

— Not at all.

— How much damage will the descent cost?

— That depends on the pilot; my nephew, M. Machuron, who will accompany you, has gone up dozens of times and has never done any damage. In any case, whatever happens, you will pay nothing more than the two hundred and fifty francs and two rail tickets for the return journey.

— I want to fly tomorrow morning!

My turn had come...

I was amazed by the panorama of Paris seen from a great height; in the surroundings, fields covered with snow... It was winter.

During the whole trip I followed the pilot's maneuvers; I understood perfectly the reason for everything he did.

It seemed to me that I was really born for aeronautics. Everything seemed very simple and easy to me; I didn't feel vertigo, nor fear.

And I had gone up...

Back on the railroad, since we landed far, I conveyed to the pilot my desire to build myself a small balloon.

My answer was that the factory to which he belonged had just received samples of silk from Japan of great beauty and insignificant weight.

The next day I was at the builders' atelier.

They presented me with projects, showed me silks... They proposed to me to build a balloon of 250 cubic meters...

I took the floor: — Mr. told me yesterday that the weight of this silk, after varnished, is so many grams: pure hydrogen gas raises such weight: I want a tiny boat and, from what I saw yesterday, a bag of ballast will be enough to spend a few hours in the air: I weigh 50 kilos; conclusion: — I want a balloon of one hundred cubic meters.

Great surprise!

I really believe they thought I was crazy.

A few months later, "Brazil", to the great amazement of all the experts, was crossing Paris, beautiful in its transparency, like a big soap bubble.

Its dimensions were: diameter 6 meters, volume 113 cubic meters, the silk used (113 square meters) weighed 3,500, varnished and ready, 14 kilos. The surrounding net and suspension ropes weighed 1,800 grams. The little boat, 6 kilos. The guide-rope, 100 meters long, weighed 8 kilos, a small anchor, 3 kilos.

My calculations had been accurate: I left with more than a sack of ballast.

This tiny "Brazil" aroused great curiosity. It was so small that people said I traveled with it inside my suitcase!

In it and in others, I made, in several months, several trips, in which I was penetrating the intimacy of the secret of aerial maneuvers.

One day I bought an petroleum powered tricycle. I took it to the "Bois de Boulogne" and, using three ropes, hung it on a horizontal branch of a large tree, suspending it a few centimeters off the ground. It is difficult to explain my contentment when I noticed that, contrary to what happened on land, the motor of my suspended tricycle vibrated so pleasantly that it almost seemed to stop.

That day began my life as an inventor.

I ran to the house, started the calculations and drawings of my balloon no. 1.

At the Automobile Club meetings — since the Aero Club did not exist yet — I told my friends that I intended to go up in the air carrying an explosion engine under a spindle-shaped balloon. Everyone was astonished: they called my



project insanity. Hydrogen was the most explosive thing there was!

"If I intended to commit suicide, perhaps I should sit on a barrel of gunpowder in the company of a lit cigar". I couldn't find anyone to encourage me.

Nevertheless, I put into construction my No. 1, and soon after No. 2.

My experiments in the air began at the end of 1898. They were very interesting, not because of the results obtained, but because of the surprise of seeing, for the first time, an engine rumbling and roaring in the air.

I even believe that it was these experiments that led to the foundation of the Aero Club de France.

The experiments with this model did not have the desired result.

I had been too audacious, making a balloon that was too long for the means at my disposal at the time.

I abandoned that shape and built an ovoid balloon.

With the first model I had a terrible fall of several hundred meters, which very threatened me to see in that my last day. I didn't lose heart, however. With this new device, my No. 3, I crossed the city of Paris.

There was a lot of noise around this experience. I even believe that, if the first gave rise to the foundation of the Aero Club, it was this that determined the institution of the Deutsch prize.

In fact, when I crossed over from Paris, they began to discuss whether it was possible to go from one point to another and return to the starting point in a balloon.

Great controversies...

At one of the Aero Club's assemblies, a gentleman appeared, unknown to all of us, very shy, very sympathetic, who offered, he, Deutsch de la Meurthe, a prize of one hundred thousand francs to the first pilot who, within the next five years, starting from St. Cloud, which was where the Club's park was then, circumnavigated the Eiffel Tower and returned to the starting point, all in less than 30 minutes. He added that at the end of each year, if the prize was not won, the interest on the money would be distributed among the best competitors.

It was a general feeling that five years would pass without the prize being won.

The steering of the balloon, in those days, was a wish without promise.

The day after the Deutsch prize was established, I started construction of my No. 4 and a hangar in St. Cloud.

I again decided on the fusiform balloon, as I needed to reach a speed of about 30 kilometers per hour, which would be difficult with an ovoid balloon. I bought the lightest motor I could find on the market; it had the power of 9 H.P. and weighed 100 kilos. It was the wonder of that time.

With this balloon, in the year 1900, I did very little that was successful. My only competitor for the prize was Mr. Rose, whose balloon never managed to go up; the interest on the Deutsch prize was given to me.

During the winter I put under construction my famous No. 5, which I tried out in the Aero Club Park.

On July 12, 1901, at 3 o'clock in the morning, assisted by some friends and my mechanics, I took it to the Hyppodrome of Longchamps; I began to make small circles with the airship, which was truly docile; I went to the district of Puteaux and was evolving over its innumerable plants when, suddenly, I heard a terrible noise: one by one all the plants had started to play their whistles and sirens.

I did two or three laps and arrived again at Longchamps.

I made a meeting with my friends. I intended to go around the Eiffel Tower; they wanted to dissuade me from that, because the Aero Club Committee was not present. I could not contain myself; sport attracted me; I left. Everything went well until the heights of the Trocadero, when I felt that the balloon no longer obeyed me. The cable connecting the steering wheel to the rudder of the aircraft had broken. I completely slowed down the engine and maneuvered to touch down. I was very happy, I came down right in the garden of the Trocadero, where, because it was still very early, there were very few people.

The break had occurred at a point difficult to access; a ladder was needed. Four or five people hold it upright, and with it, I was able to climb up and repair the cable.

12 July 1901

I set off again, circumnavigated the Tower and went straight back to Longchamps, where there were already a lot of people waiting for me, worried about the delay.

It was a colossal success when I arrived and stopped the engine.

That same day the press announced to the whole world that the problem of balloon dirigibility had been solved.

I take this opportunity to thank the press all over the world for the sympathy that captivated me, and especially for the "Aerial Idea". It was thanks to this that they instituted incentive prizes and the inventors' brains started working to perfect the airplane, until we could, in 1918, have airplanes and airships that seem to be the result of a thousand-year evolution.

If when the first automobile appeared in the streets of Paris and if when the Eiffel Tower was circumnavigated, the press had not encouraged these initiatives, closely following their progress, we would not have today, I am sure, the automobile and air transportation that are the pride of our time.

It was on this day that my great popularity in Paris began; therefore, I also take the occasion to pay tribute to the people of Paris.

It was thanks to the constant applause and encouragement that my colleagues and I received that we found the strength, in the face of so many failures and dangers, to continue the fight. It is therefore to the farsightedness of the people of the City of Light that the world owes air travel.

Not only the people encouraged me in my experiments, but also society, the high authorities and all the writers.

In my hangar there were people of all classes and opinions. One day they caught in a photograph the former Empress of the French next to Rochefort. They had been the greatest enemies; well, in my studio, where Rochefort was a frequent visitor, they were next to each other!

Rochefort also covered me with compliments; let's not talk about the legion of writers, experts, like François Peyrey, Besaçon and all the oth



ers, for whom until today I have a deep gratitude.

The next day, in a feature article, M. Jaurés said that "until then he had seen seeking to steer the balloons at the "shadow of men"; today he saw "a man".

I received congratulations from all over the world; among them, however, one, certainly the one that honored me the most and was most precious to me, came this way, in a photograph of the greatest inventor of modern times:

"To Santos-Dumont,
Pioneer of Aerial Navigation
Thomas Edison".

At that time, when aeronautics had just been born, it wasn't much to be considered its Pioneer; today, however, when it exists and will decide the fate of the war, this appreciation of the man for whom I have the greatest admiration is infinitely precious to me.

On July 13, 1901, at 6 hours and 41 minutes, in presence of the Scientific Commission from the Aero Club, I set off for the Eiffel Tower. In a few minutes, I was next to the Tower; I turned and followed, with no surprises, to the Bois de Boulogne. The sun is now out and a breeze is beginning to blow, a light one it is true, but enough at this time to almost stop the aircraft in motion. For many minutes, my engine struggles against the breeze, which is already turning into wind. I see that I am about to leave the Bois and perhaps fall into the city. I speed up the descent and the aircraft comes to rest on the trees of the beautiful park of the Baron of Rotschild. It was necessary to disassemble everything, with great care, so that it would not be damaged, because I intended to repair my craft to compete again for the Deutsch prize.

That day I had woken up at three o'clock in the morning to personally check the state of my apparatus and accompany the hydrogen production, because from one day to another, the balloon lost about twenty cubic meters. I always followed the motto: "Those who want to, go. Those who don't want to, are in charge"... The day was ending and I wouldn't leave my balloon for a single instant, despite the terrible hunger.

Suddenly, — delicious surprise! — a servant appeared with a basket whose appearance unmistakably betrayed its contents; I thought that some friend had remembered me while I was at lunch... I opened it and inside I found a letter: it was from Princess Isabel, Baron Rotschild's neighbor, who told me she knew I was working until that hour, without any meal, and sent me a small lunch; she also thought about the anguish that my mother would suffer, who followed my peripecies from afar, and declared to have at my disposal a small medal, hoping to give confidence to my mother knowing that I would bring it with me in my dangerous ascents.

This medal never left me again.

About these experiences, "L'Illustration" published the following notes:

"The first fortnight of July 1901 was marked by two events which seem to mark two great dates in the history of humanity, and which seem in any case to promise that the twentieth century will not be inferior to the nineteenth in the matter of scientific conquests.

Ten days apart, the submarine "Gustave-Zédé" proved itself in Corsica, and the Santos-Dumont airship did the same in Paris. In two consecutive issues, l'Illustraction was able to devote the front page engraving to these two — the first — accomplished in the field of aerial navigation.

The balloon of Mr. Santos-Dumont, which has just made the round trip from St. Cloud to the Eiffel Tower two days in a row, is the fifth aerostat with which this twenty-eight year old engineer has tried to solve the problem of dirigibility.

· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

The respective positions of these various devices have been determined with great care and after much trial and error, so that once everything is in place and taking into account the weight of the aeronaut, the keel is horizontal and an equal tension of the suspension cords. This condition explains why the aeronaut's seat is far from the engine.

· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

Finally, it is by moving the rope guide, suspended under the keel and weighing 38 kilos,



that the desired inclination of the system in one direction or the other is obtained to carry out the ascending or descending movements.

· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

At 7 o'clock, the Santos-Dumont nº 5 passed the Eiffel Tower by going around it a little above the second platform. This turn is executed with remarkable precision.

· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

Let's expect to see him one of these days hovering over Paris and descending, for example, on the terrace of the Automobile Club, Place de la Concorde."

With the balloon back in working order, all its parts revised and repaired, filled up again, I conducted preliminary experiments. Once again summoned by the Aero Club Committee, I left for the Eiffel Tower, which I circumnavigated again; but, on my way back, my machine broke down at the heights of the Trocadero. I maneuvered to choose a good place to get off. I assumed I had been happy in my maneuvers and hoped It was the tip of the balloon which, during the descent, which was fast, had touched the roof of a house.

A paper bag full of air, banged against a wall, bursts, producing a big noise; well, my balloon, which was not a small one, made a noise like that, but... in a big way. It was completely destroyed.

No piece bigger than a napkin could be found!

I was saved by a real miracle, because I was hanging by some ropes, which were part of the balloon, in an uncomfortable and dangerous position, from which the firemen of Paris came to rescue me.

Friends and journalists advised me to stay in this and not continue my ascents, the last of which had saved me by a real miracle. The advice was good, but I could not resist the temptation to continue; I did not know how to counteract my sportsman-like temperament.

I summoned them for a new experiment in three weeks. I knew the elements I could count on; I already knew about twenty houses in Paris, each one specialized in a particular work, and I had already won the sympathy of the countermasters and workers from whom I could expect the greatest commitment and quickest service.

I started to build a new balloon and a new engine, this one a little stronger, that one a little bigger.

Three weeks, counted day by day, after the last disaster, my apparatus, No. 6, was ready.

The weather, however, was still bad. On October 19 (1901), in the afternoon, because the morning was rainy, I went up again, around the Tower, at a height of 250 meters, over a huge crowd that parked there waiting for me, and I passed by Autenil, over the hyppodrome of the same name, which was on my way.

There were races; my passage, both outward and return, aroused a delirium of applause; I heard the shouting and saw handkerchiefs and hats thrown in the air; I was only 50 to 100 meters from the ground...

From my departure to the moment I passed the zenith of the starting point, 29 minutes and 30 seconds elapsed.

With the speed I was traveling, I passed the finish line — as yachts, oil boats, racing horses, etc, do. — I reduced the engine power and turned aboard; then, coming back, and with less speed, I maneuvered to touch land, which I did in 31 minutes after my departure.

Well, some gentlemen wanted this to be the official time!

Great controversy.

I had with me all the Press and the people of Paris and also Son Altesse Imperiale le Prince Roland Bonaparte, president of the Scientific Commission that was going to judge the matter.

The vote was favorable to me.

Not two years had passed and the 100,000 francs of the Deutsch prize had been won, which, added to the interest and other small prizes, totaled 129,000 francs, which were allocated as follows: 50,000 francs to my mechanics and the mill workers who had helped me; and the rest to more than 3,950 poor people in Paris, distributed, at my request, by Mr. Lepine, Chief of Police, in donations of less than 20 francs.

MY No. 6



On that occasion, the late Mr. Campos Salles, then President of the Republic, sent me a gold medal[1] and, soon after, I was pleasantly surprised with the receipt of a prize of 100,000$000, which was offered to me by the National Congress of Brazil; besides these, I received two other medals: one from the French Institute, and another from the French Aero Club.

After my No. 6, I built several other balloons, which did not give me the desired results. There is a saying that teaches "Genius is a great patience"; without pretending to be a genius, I insisted in being a great patient. Inventions are, above all, the result of stubborn work, in which there should be no room for complacency.

I finally managed to build my No. 9; with it I was able to achieve something; I made dozens of rides over Paris, went to the races several times, from it I stood outside my house, on the Avenue des Champs Elysees, and in it, almost every night, I raced over the Bois de Boulogne.

My presence with it at the military review at Longchamps, on July 14, 1903, caused an immense success.

It was the most popular of all my... children. Only later supplanted by the tiny "Demoiselle".

Then... I would hear these kinds of complaints: "Don't you do anything?" "You're always locked in your room, sleeping!"

In the meantime, I came to Brazil; in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Minas and the Northern States, where I passed, my countrymen welcomed me with the most captivating parties that I will never forget and that they gave me so much.

During my hours of intense joy and happy successes, only one longing made me sad: it was the absence of my Father. He who had given me such good advice and the means to realize my dream, was no longer in this world to see that I "had become a man".

It is an oriental custom to blame all the merit, all the glory that a man conquers in life, on his father. This way of seeing can be criticized or disapproved, but in my case, it would be very fair, because I owe everything to my Father: advice, examples of work, audacity, economy, sobriety and the means with which I could realize my inventions.

I owe everything to him, since the examples.

Born in the city of Diamantina, Dr. Henrique Dumont graduated in Engineering at the Central School of Paris and, after working several years in the E. F. Central (it was in a little house located in João Aires valley that I was born) he dedicated himself to farming in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Seeing that there was nothing great he could do, he left with my mother and eight children, all children at the time, to Ribeirão Preto, which was three days away by horseback from the end of the Mogiana tracks.

He had previously explored the interior of the State of São Paulo and was amazed by the Ribeirão Preto woods.

In this essentially agricultural country, he was the prototype of the audacious farmer, and, with an energy as great as his confidence in the future, he cleared the backlands and cultivated the soil; there he worked for ten years, at the end of which, because he was stricken with paralysis, he sold these "bushes", then transformed into about 5,000,000 coffee trees, served by a private railroad, built by him and connecting them to Ribeirão Preto.

Today, so that the memory of the value of this audacious man would not die in the memory of mankind, the British, in a significant tribute, have kept his name in the Company that currently owns that land.

In 1905, the Dumont Coffee Company harvested, in that coffee plantation, 498 thousand arrobas; in 1911, it obtained a gross income of 3,883 contos de réis!

One of our great statesmen, after a visit he made to my father, wrote in a travel impression, referring to that farm: "Everything is big there, everything is huge; there is only one modest thing: the house where the founder of all that lives".

I slept for three years and in July 1906 I presented myself at the Bagatelle field with my first airplane.


The reader may ask me why I didn't build it sooner, at the same time as my dirigibles. It's that the inventor, like the nature of Línneu, doesn't make leaps; he progresses slowly, evolves. I began by becoming a good free balloon pilot, and only later did I tackle the problem of its steerability. I became a good aeronaut in the management of my airships; for many years, I studied in depth the petroleum engine and only when I verified that its state of perfection was enough to make it fly, I attacked the problem of the heavier than air.

The question of the airplane had been on the agenda for some years, but I never took part in the discussions, because I always believed that the inventor should work in silence; strange opinions never produce anything good.

I abandoned my balloons and my hangar in the Aero Club park.

In complete silence I worked for three years, until, at the end of July, after an Aero Club assembly, I invited my friends to watch my experiments the next day.

It was a general astonishment. Everyone wanted to know how the aircraft looked like.

Its dimensions were: length, 10 meters; wingspan, 12 meters; total surface, 80 square meters; weight, 160 kilos; engine, 24 HP.

It was a big and biplane aircraft and I did it this way, just in order to gather more easiness to fly, because I always preferred the small aircrafts, so much that I made an effort to invent them, what I got with my minuscule "Demoiselle", the ideal airplane for an amateur.

Continuing in my idea of evolution, I attached my airplane to my last balloon, the no. 14; for this reason, I baptized it with the name of 14-bis. With this hybrid set, I made several experiments in Bagatelle, getting used, day by day, to the control of the airplane, and only when I felt master of the maneuvers, I got rid of the balloon.

It's true that I have always been fortunate, of an unprecedented luck in all my aerial ventures; I had a good luck star.

I also attribute this luck to my prudence.


In this line of thought; the first problem I had to solve was the possibility of carrying an explosion engine next to a balloon full of hydrogen. One night, having suspended the engine in my No. 1 a few meters high, I started it; — it was with its muffler — I noticed that the sparks that went out with the burning gas went in all directions and could reach the balloon.

The idea came to me to suppress the muffler and bend the exhaust pipes to the ground. I went from the greatest sadness to the greatest joy, for the greater the sparks, the harder they were thrown to earth and therefore away from the balloon. So this problem was solved: the engine would not set the balloon on fire.

The only thing I needed to prevent was that if the gases escaped from the balloon through the valves, they would not reach the engine. To prevent this, I always placed the valves well behind, aft of the balloon, therefore away from the engine.[2]

The weak point in airplanes was the rudder; therefore, I always paid the greatest attention to this unit and its commands, for which I always used the first quality steel cables used by clockmakers in church clocks.

I fought, at first, with the greatest difficulties to obtain the complete obedience of the airplane; in my first airplane I put the rudder in front, because it was a general belief, at that time, that it was necessary to do so. The reason given was that, placing it behind, it would be necessary to force down the stern of the aircraft, so that it could rise; there was some truth in this, but the steering difficulties were so great that we had to abandon this arrangement of the rudder. It was like trying to shoot an arrow with its tail forward.

In my first flight, after 60 meters, I lost direction and fell.

This first flight, of 60 meters, was doubted by some, who wanted to consider it just a jump. But I, at heart, was convinced that I had flown and, if I didn't stay longer in the air, it wasn't my machine's fault, but mine alone, that I had lost direction.

With great anxiety, I quickly repaired the aircraft, made some small modifications and, for a few weeks, "rode" in Bagatelle in order to perfect myself in its difficult control.

Soon after, on October 23, before the Aero Club's Scientific Committee and a large crowd, I made the famous 250 meter flight, which fully confirmed the possibility of a man being able to fly.

This last experience and that of July 12, 1901, provided me with the two happiest moments of my entire life.

I think it is interesting to quote the opinion of some magazines about my flights, which are widely appreciated by them. I don't do it because I don't have them at hand, because I never worried in collecting articles that referred to me. Among all of them, however, I remember that "L'Aerophile", the most important and oldest of the Aeronautics magazines, considered them a historical event.

"L'Illustration" and "La Nature", whose issues I found here, consigned them this way:



Mr. Santos-Dumont, already winner of the Deutsch prize, of 100.000 fcs. thanks to his airship, has just won also, last Tuesday, the Archdeacon Cup, reserved for the aviation devices. Mounted on this original device, Mr. Santos-Dumont, has covered, the other morning, a short flight, a distance of 60 meters. The photograph that we give here is, we believe, the only one that was authentically taken during this exciting experience; it shows that the aeroplane did not rise to a great height above the ground: about 2 meters. But this was not the question, and the great interest of the experiment was to demonstrate that it is possible, without the help of a support lighter than the air, to realize the plane flight. This demonstration is today made.

Here is part of the article that "L'Illustration" published and, on the opposite page, the accompanying photograph.



"La Nature" said:

"The day of September 13, 1906 will be historic, because, for the first time, a man rose in the air by his own means. Santos-Dumont, without ceasing his work on the "lighter than air" also makes very important studies on the "heavier than air", and it is him who managed to "fly" in this memorable day, in front of a numerous public.

· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

... it remains a fact that it has risen in space, without balloon, and it is an "important" victory for the supporters of the "heavier than air".

· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

It is now (October 23) the complete victory of the "heavier than air: Santos-Dumont has demonstrated in an indisputable way that it is possible to rise from the ground by its own means and to maintain itself in the air."

· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

A large audience witnessed the first flights made by a man, such as these, recognized by all the newspapers around the world. You only have to open them, even those in the United States, to see this general opinion.

I could quote all the newspapers and magazines in the world, all were unanimous in glorifying "this memorable minute in the history of air navigation".

The following year the Farman airplane made flights that became famous: it was this inventor-aviator who first achieved a round-trip flight. After him came Bleriot, and only two years later the Wright brothers made their flights. It's true that they say they made others, but secretly.

I don't want to take anything away from the merit of the Wright brothers, for whom I have the greatest admiration; but it is undeniable that, only after us, they presented themselves with an aircraft superior to ours, saying that it was a copy of one they had built before ours.

Soon after the Wright Brothers, Levavassor appeared with the "Antoinette" airplane, superior to anything that existed at the time; Levavassor had been working for 20 years to solve the problem of flight! You could therefore say that his aircraft was a copy of another one built many years before. But he didn't.

What would Edison, Graham Bell or Marconi say if, after they had presented in public the electric light bulb, the telephone and the wireless telegraph, another inventor presented himself with a better electric light bulb, telephone or wireless telegraph apparatus saying that he had built it before them?!

To whom does humankind owe air navigation through heavier-than-air? To the Wright Brothers' experiments, done in secret (they themselves say that they did everything possible so that nothing transpired from the results of their experiments) and which were so ignored in the world that we see everyone calling my 250 meters "a memorable minute in the history of aviation," or is it to Farman, Bleriot and me who did all our demonstrations in front of scientific commissions and in full sunlight?

At that time, the aircraft were big, huge, with small engines, flying slowly, about 60 kilometers an hour or a little more. So I had a special engine built from my invention, designed especially for a tiny airplane.

This engine had two opposed cylinders, which brings the inconvenience of the lubrication difficulty, but, also, the considerable advantages of a small weight and a perfect balance, not surpassed by any other engine.

It weighed 40 kilos and developed 35 HP.

It was never achieved a fixed, water-cooled engine, and of such insignificant weight, only equaled, later, by the rotary engines, to which, however, I was always opposed, since its appearance. Today, 10 years later, it seems to me, this assessment is confirmed, because the fixed engine has had a general acceptance.

The "Demoiselle" measured 10 square meters of wing area; it was 8 times smaller than the 14-bis! With her, during one year, I flew every afternoon and even went, in a certain occasion, to visit a friend in his Castle. As it was a small and transparent airplane, they named it "Libelule" or "Demoiselle".

This was, of all my devices, the easiest to fly, and the one that got more popularity.


A maneuver at 100 meters high



With him I obtained the monoplane "Pilot license". So I became the holder of all the licenses of the International Aeronautical Federation: — Free balloon pilot, airship pilot, biplane pilot and monoplane pilot.

For many years, only I possessed all these licenses, and I don't even know if there is anyone else who does.

I was therefore the only man to be truly entitled to the title of Aeronaut, because I flew all the flying machines.

To achieve this result it was necessary not only to invent, but also to experiment, and in these experiments I had, for ten years, received the most terrible shocks; my nerves felt tired.

I announced to my friends my intention to put an end to my career as an aeronaut, — I had the approval of all.

I have followed, with the most lively interest and admiration, the phantastic progress of Aeronautics. Bleriot crosses the Channel and obtains a success worthy of his audacity. The European circuits multiply; first, from city to city; later, routes that cover several provinces; then, the "raid" from France to England; later, the "tour" of Europe.

I must also mention the first "meeting" in Reims that marked, one could say, the entrance of the airplane in the commercial domain.

We have entered the era of the vulgarization of aviation and, in this enterprise, the name of Garros shines above all. This young man personified audacity; until then, people only flew on calm, windless days. Garros was the first to fly in the middle of a storm. Soon after, he crossed the Mediterranean.

We all know the current state of aeronautics, just open your eyes and read what it does in Europe; and it is with a deep feeling of contentment that I follow the domination of the air by humankind:

It's my dream coming true.


  1. At the end of the book, you will find the picture, life-size.
  2. It was because they did not take these precautions that those who before me had wanted to use the explosion engine had paid with their lives