Aviation history : Early Developments in Europe


While the Wright brothers made their successful flight in 1903 in the USA, a noticeable interest of heavier-than-air machines was taking place in Europe. It is to be noted that Octave Chanute had been an important link between the American pioneers (in particular the Wright brothers, who exchanged numerous letters with him) and the Europeans. In April 1903, he came to France to present the state of his work to the International Aeronautical Commission and the Aero-Club de France; further to that, many pioneers in Europe renewed their efforts on developing gliders and flying machines.


Wilhelm Kress.

Wilhelm Kress (1836-1913) was an aviation pioneer working in Austria. Between 1898 and 1901, he constructed a seaplane, the Drachenflieger (in English: hang glider), for the water takeoff. He couldn't find a suitable place on land for takeoff attempts and hoped that the water would limit the severity of any accidents. Kress ordered an engine from Daimler in Stuttgart; however, the engine was twice as heavy as Kress had specified in his order and developed only half of its nominal power output. On 3 October 1901, during one of the tests, a wing touched the water during a sharp turn and Kress’s plane capsized and sank. It represented nevertheless the first attempt to fly a heavier-than-air craft powered by a gasoline engine.




Belize - 100th Anniversary of Sir Rowland Hill death and 75th anniversary of the first powered flight.

Santos‑Dumont's Aeroplane No 14-bis.

At the Bagatelle, Paris, the Brazilian constructor-pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont (1873-1932) flew on 23 October 1906 his machine, the No 14-bis (translated as the “second 14, in honour of his 14th dirigible; also known as Oiseau de proie) with an Antoinette engine, for 197 feet (60 m.) in a straight line at the height of about 10 feet to win the Archdeacon prize of FF3,000 for the first flight to achieve a sustained flight of over 25 meters; the steering gear and the fuselage were located in front of the wings. It was also the first sustained flight in Europe; this flight is the first to have been certified by the Aéro Club de France (founded in 1898) and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI, founded in 1905). Prior to this first European flight, Santos-Dumont had made an early demonstration of controlled flight in his dirigible No 6, flying round the Eiffel Tower on 19 October 1901, and won the Deutsch de la Moselle prize. In 1935, at the initiative of the Touring Club of Brazil, the Semana da ASA (Week of the Wing) was created in Brazil to preserve the memory of Santos-Dumont; see more information on this by clicking on the following link: Brazil – Semana da ASA. He is considered the "Father of Aviation" in Brazil, his native country.


Carving of the aeroplane 14-bis, as seen in ICAO’s Museum at its Headquarters in Montreal.

This cedar wood carving was presented to ICAO by the Government of Brazil in 1989.


16 March 1979 – Bolivia - History of aviation: 75th Anniversary of civil aviation

Santos-Dumont’s picture with his aeroplane 14-bis.


Paraguay - History of aviation: 75th Anniversary of civil aviation and 35th Anniversary of ICAO.

Voisin-Farman 1bis biplane.

In 1905, Gabriel and Charles Voisin (1880-1973 and 1882-1912 respectively) founded the world's first commercial airplane factory. Two identical pusher biplane machines, with Antoinette engines, had been built by the Voisin brothers for two early aviation pioneers, one for Léon Delagrange in March 1907, and the second for his friend and rival the Anglo-French pioneer Henry Farman (1874-1958) in October 1907. The latter biplane became known as the Voisin-Farman I and Farman made a number of modifications of his own during the autumn of that year. Thus, the Voisin-Farman 1 became the Voisin-Farman 1bis; it was flown by Farman on 13 January 1908 to win the Archdeacon's Grand Prix d'Aviation prize for making the successful first one-kilometer closed-circuit flight. During 1908, the Voisin brothers built for Farman another aircraft, to be called the Farman II, incorporating refinements in the design based on Farman's specifications. After the break in his association with Voisin in early 1909, Henry Farman started aircraft construction for himself, in collaboration with his brother Maurice and built the Farman III or F-3, which used wheels instead of skids and was the first aeroplane in the pioneering age to have fully effective ailerons, endowing the aircraft with exceptional flight stability. It won the Grand Prix (Grand Prix de Champagne et dla Ville de Reims) in the maximum distance race without refuelling and landing (longest non-stop flight) during the Grande Semaine d'aviation de la Champagne held from 22 to 29 August 1909, with a flight of 180 km in 3 h 4 min 56 s and set a number of height records between 1909 and 1911. The success of the Model III led Farman to build further aeroplanes for sale.


Guinea Bissau - 40th Anniversary of ICAO

Farman III biplane (at the lower-left).


Romania has a long and rich tradition in the aviation field. At the beginning of the 20th century, flight pioneers like Traian Vuia, Aurel Vlaicu, Henri Coanda, and George Valentin Bibescu brought important contributions to early aviation history, building revolutionary aeroplanes. Bibescu was instrumental in founding the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the international regulatory body for aeronautics. 


Romania - 50th Anniversary of ICAO

Vuia Nr. 1.

Born in 1872 in Transylvania, in the then Austro-Hungarian Empire, Traian Vuia (1872-1950) developed an early interest in heavier-than-air machines. In 1902, he left for Paris, the place for all European inventors concerned about flight. On the basis of a patent obtained in 1903, he developed his winged automobile. On 18 March 1906, in Montesson, France, the Vuia Nr. 1 flew over a distance of 12 meters at the height of 0.6 meters; it was the first airplane with variable wing angle and the first to use pneumatic, rather than solid rubber, tires (the front pair being steerable) on landing gear. Romanian enthusiasts emphasize that Vuia's machine was able to take off from a flat surface on an ordinary road by on-board means without outside assistance, such as an incline, rails, or catapult. It was powered by a carbonic acid gas engine driving a single tractor propeller. Vuia's aircraft has been credited as the first man-carrying monoplane of basically modern configuration. Later, Traian Vuia improved his first aircraft and also built helicopters. The Timișoara Traian Vuia International Airport is located in the historical region of Banat and named in honour of Traian Vuia


Romania - 50th Anniversary of ICAO - Vuia Nr. 1.


Full replica of the aircraft Traia Vuia Nr. 1 offered by Romania in 1998, located in the atrium of the Conference Centre at ICAO headquarters and perched atop a section of wall near the escalators.



Romania - 65th Anniversary of ICAO and 2009 International Civil Aviation Day - Vlaicu No. I.

Aurel Vlaicu (1882-1913) was a Romanian engineer, inventor, airplane constructor and early pilot. In 1909, he designed the strange-looking Vlaicu No. I aircraft (a parasol-winged monoplane, nicknamed La Folle Mouche or The Crazy Fly), which was the first Romanian aeroplane to fly and was test flown on 17 June 1910. It had a rudder at the front, a chain-driven propeller at either end of the wing, and a triangular tail. The construction of Vlaicu Nr. II was started in December 1910 and first flew in April 1911. Vlaicu Nr. III was a two-seat monoplane and only partially finished at the time of Vlaicu's death. The National Aviation Day in Romania is celebrated on 17 June, the anniversary of Aurel Vlaicu's first flight. The Aurel Vlaicu International Airport (largely known as Băneasa Airport or Bucharest City Airport) was named after Aurel Vlaicu.


During this period, British aviation lagged far behind that of other countries.



Belize - Dunne D.5 and Safety biplanes.

Among the legendary flying machines, the Dunne D.5 was an experimental aircraft built in the United Kingdom in 1910. Designed by British John William Dunne (1875-1949) and built by Short Brothers, it was a swept wing tailless biplane. The D.5 took off under its own power on its first attempt, piloted by Dunne himself on 11 March 1910. It proved to be aerodynamically stable in flight, and was one of the first fixed-wing aircraft ever to do so; it was an airplane fare ahead of its time. On 20 December 1910, Dunne demonstrated the extraordinary stability of the D.5 to an amazed audience that included Orville Wright. He continued his design efforts for another three years.


There is no concrete proof that the Mortimer and Vaughan "Safety" aeroplane (Great Britain), which appeared in late 1909, ever got off the ground. It crashed and burned on tests in 1910. This was the first aeroplane to combine the properties of a flying machine and the parachute and may be described as a biplane with two almost circular disks; it had a propeller in front and two in the center.




Belize - A.V. Roe I Triplane.

Botswana - Avro 504.

The first design of Alliott Verdon Roe (1877-1958) was the Roe I biplane of 1907, which lacked a powerful enough engine to take off without assistance. The Roe I Triplane (nicknamed The Blues by Roe) was the first all-British aircraft to fly (Roe's previous biplane had a French engine) and recorded the first successful flight on 8 June 1908. It featured not only a triplane wing, but a triplane tail as well; it was of extremely flimsy construction due to Roe’s financial hardship. On 13 July 1909, Roe achieved a flight of 100 ft, and ten days later, one of 900 ft. With a more powerful engine, he piloted the aircraft on several short flights at the Blackpool Meeting in October before it was damaged beyond repair in a crash at Wembley on 24 December. He founded the A.V. Roe Aircraft Co. on 1 January 1910, which was later renamed Avro Aircraft; his most popular, the Avro 504, was built in large quantities for civilian and military use.








Belize - Samuel Cody's Michelin Cup biplane.

Prominent showman and aviation pioneer, Samuel Franklin Cody (1867-1913) had worked with the British Army on experiments with man-lifting kites and, on 16 October 1908, had successfully built and flown the British Army Aeroplane No 1, making the first officially verified powered flight in the United Kingdom. In 1910 there were a number of prizes on offer, offering both prestige and in some cases large sums of money; among them was the Michelin Cup and £500 endurance prize for the longest flight observed over a closed circuit. Cody built an experimental biplane in Britain during 1910 and won on 31 December 1910 the Michelin Cup for the longest flight made in England during 1910 with a flight of 4 hours 47 minutes.


Hans Grade (1879-1946) was a German aviation pioneer. His first flights were scarcely more than hops; he successfully conducted the first motor flight over German soil in a motorized triplane aircraft of his own construction on 28 October 1908. He won the 40.000 Reichsmark "Lanz-Preis der Lufte" on 30 October 1909, as he was the first German to fly a flat "8" in a German aircraft with German engine around two pylons 1000 meters apart. In 1910, he established the first aviation school in Germany. It was also a Grade monoplane that carried Germany’s first airmail, when pilot Pentz made a flight from Bork to Bruck in February 1912 with a small sack of mail in his lap. Although successful, Grade’s monoplanes did not become as famous as many contemporary European designs.


Germany 2008 – 100th Anniversary of Hans Grade’s first successful flight.


Paraguay - Etrich A-II Taube.

After years of development, Igo Etrich (1879-1967) completed in 1909 the Etrich I. It was created by converting a hull-less glider and flew on 1 November 1909 over the entire length of the airfield in Wiener-Neustadt; Etrich was the first Austrian to fly. In the winter 1909/1910, Etrich used the gained experience to redesign his aircraft and built the Etrich A-II Taube, an airplane with a fuselage, which made its first flight on 10 April 1910. This is an aircraft with wings shaped more like a bird (taking inspiration from nature) than a conventional airplane, thus the name of Taube in German or Dove. The aircraft was built later by the Rumpler-Werke in Germany under the name Rumpler Taube. The Taube is remembered for its military accomplishments, as it was the first aircraft to drop a bomb (on Turkish soldiers) during the Italian-Turkish War on 1 November 1911.


Paraguay - History of aviation: 75th Anniversary of civil aviation and 35th Anniversary of ICAO.

Etrich A-II Taube.