Monday, February 17, 2014

Pioneers contd.......Voisin Brothers

Gabriel and Charles Voisin

Gabriel and Charles Voisin were among Europe's leading pioneer aviators. Gabriel began his formal aviation career in 1903 when he was engaged by a prominent French aeronautical promoter, Ernest Archdeacon, to build gliders for him.  

In 1905 Gabriel formed the first commercial aircraft manufacturing company in Europe with the soon-to-be famous Louis Blériot. Numerous disputes arose between the two quickly, resulting in Voisin buying out Blériot's interest in 1906.

Gabriel immediately reformed the company with his brother Charles,  establishing the highly successful Appareils d'Aviation Les Frères Voisin. The firm's first truly successful airplane appeared in 1907. The classic Voisin pusher biplane design of 1907 was one of the most significant aircraft of the pre-World War I era. Many of Europe's leading aviators flew the Voisin. 

Stamp issued by Comoro Islands showing portrait of the brothers Voisin and the Voisin biplane.

Voisin biplane won accolades when Henri Farman made the first one-kilometer circuit in Europe in it, winning a 50,000-franc prize.  By 1912, the Voisin brothers had produced more than 75 airplanes that were based on the simple and sturdy 1907 design.

In 1912, the Voisin brothers developed a version of their successful design for the military. Thereafter Compagnie Gabriel Voisin built aircraft almost exclusively for military contracts.

During the war, the Voisin pusher series performed a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, artillery spotting, training, day and night bombing, and ground attack. The Voisin Type 3 is also notable in having equipped the first dedicated bomber units.  But by 1916 the Voisin Type 3 and its immediate successors became vulnerable to new, better performing, German fighters.  

The Voisins were slow and with their pusher configuration they were defenseless from the rear. Despite these limitations, these rugged and reliable aircraft still had a role to play. Voisins were used as trainers and for night missions for the remainder of the war. Voisin pusher aircraft were supplied to, or built under license by, twelve countries, including Britain, Russia, Italy, and the United States.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Henri Farman

Another well known pioneer of aviation was Henri Farman.  He learnt to fly in 1907 and was one of the first customers of the Voisin Brothers who had just started their aircraft construction buiness at that time.  He ordered a copy of the plane they had built for Leon Delgrange.  Farman used this Voisin 1907 biplane to set numerous records for both distance and duration.   In 1908 he established two important records in France.  At Issy he won the Deutsche-Archdeacon prize of 50,000 francs by making a circular flight of  a mile at a height of 25 feet.  Later that year he flew 17 miles across the country from Bouy to Rheims in 20 minutes, at a record average speed of 47 mph.  These flights were made in a modified Voisin biplane.  In 1909, he opened a flying school in Chalons-sur-Marne.  Later that year he made another record breaking flight of 180 kilometers at Rheims in just over 3 hours.  And, in November a 232 kilometer flight in 4 four hours 17 minutes.

By the end of 1909 he had a fallout with Voisin and he founded a successful and innovative aircraft factory with his brothers Maurice & Richard.  Their airplane Farman III became an instant success. 

The Farman biplane can be seen on this stamp issued by Japan in 1960 to commemorate 50th anniversary of Aviation in Japan.  A Farman biplane was flown in Tokyo in 1910 by Capt. Yoshitoki Tokugawa.  In the forground is the silhoutte of a Douglas DC-8.

Their 1914 model was used extensively for artillery observation and reconnaissance during World War I. The Farman Aircraft  company's  Goliath  was the first long-distance passenger airliner, beginning regular Paris-London flights on 8 February 1919.

The Farman F.60 Goliath and Farman H.F.III can be seen on this stamp issued by Monaco to mark the birth centenary of Henri Farman.  The maximum card  shows the Farman Goliath along with a picture of Farman.

A stamp issued by Comoro Islands showing the Farman biplane and picture of Farman

Farman F.60 Goliath at the top with a Bleriot XI.

A Farman H.F.16 can been seen with a Boeing 737 on this French stamp issued in 1992 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of First Mail Flight from Nancy to Luneville.

The Farman 60 Goliath can be seen on this stamp issued by Cuba in 2010.

Stamp issued by Afars & Issas showing portrait of Farman and the Farman bis 1.  Issued in 1974 to mark his birth centenary.

Stamp issued by Rwanda showing Farman and his Voisin No.1 bis.

Souvenir Sheet issued by France in 2010 with stamp of Farman and drawings of the Voisin biplane flown by him

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pioneers ....contd

Experiments in powered flight were continuing in Europe.  In 1906 Traian Vuia, a Romanian inventor and aviation pioneer designed, built and tested a tractor configuration monoplane .  Vuia's high-wing monoplane was powered by a carbonic acid gas engine. The 25 hp engine was adapted by Vuia as the engine he wanted was not available.    His first airborne test was at Issy-les-Moilineaux, a Paris suburb.  After accelerating about 50m his tiny monoplane left the ground and flew about 12 metres  on  18th March, 1906, then the engine cut off and it came down.  It was caught by the wind and damaged hitting a tree.  Vuia made several short flights later in 1906 and 1907  but was unsuccessful in sustained flight. However, Vuia's invention influenced Louis Bleriot in designing monoplanes.   The airfield at Issy later became the headquarters of the Bleriot Aviation School.

Another Romanian who became famous as an aviation pioner was Aurel Vlaicu. He built a glider in 1909 in which he carried out  several flights.  This success encouraged him to attempt building a plane in 1910. He named his craft A. Vlaicu Nr. I which flew for the first time on June 17, 1910 on Cotroceni field near Bucharest.  He flew for apporximately 40 meters at a height of 3-4 meters .  During the summer of 1910, Vlaicu flew several times at heights exceeding hundreds of meters and lengths of several kilometres.    Construction of A. Vlaicu Nr. II was begun in December 1910 and completed in April 1911.  He entered the A. Vlaicu Nr. II in the June 1912 international flight competition held in Aspern - Vienna. He was awarded the first prize for target launching, and four second prizes, one of which was for steady point landing.  His achievements during the competition were so impressive that the press considered Aurel Vlaicu the second pilot of the contest after the famous French aviator Roland Gaross.   Aurel Vlaicu died on September 13, 1913 while attempting to be the first to fly the Carpathian Mountains.