After several successful flights of a kilometer in a closed circle, made during the last few days of 1907, in which he managed to cover this distance, though not without the wheels of his machine lightly touching the ground at one or two places. M. Henri Farman finally, on January 11, at last made two unofficial flights without coming to earth except at the end of each. Two days later (on Monday, January 13) before the officials of the Aero Club of France, he repeated this performance for a third time, and won the Deutsch-Archdeacon prize of 50,000 francs ($10,000) for the first flight by a heavier-than-air machine of one kilometer in a closed circuit. The weather was perfect, there being practically no wind and the air being clear and mild. The flight was made above the parade ground at Issy-les-Moulineaux, some five miles out from Paris, at 10:12 A. M. At this time the aeroplane was started and run along the ground for 300 or 400 feet, in traversing which distance it attained its usual speed of about 30 miles an hour, and quickly ascended into the air to a height of 12 or 15 feet. It passed between the two posts which formed the goal for the start and finish, and flew in a straight line toward the 500-meter post. When about half way to this post, M. Farman operated his horizontal rudder, and caused the machine to rise to a height of about 25 feet. The aeroplane swept around the halfway post almost on an even keel, and then took a straight course back to the goal, which it passed through at about the same height as before, descending 100 feet or so beyond in practically the same place from which it started. The time of this flight was 1 minute and 28 seconds, which corresponds with an average speed of about 25 1/2 miles an hour.
Not content with winning the $10,000 prize, Farman once more flew his machine on January 15, for the purpose of ascertaining how much it would lift. He at first loaded it with 66 pounds dead weight, but he found that only a slight lift could be obtained with this weight. With 44 pounds dead weight the machine rose and flew for a few hundred yards, but it was unable to make a sustained flight. With but 33 pounds weight added, the machine flew from one end of the field to the other, and made a sharp turn when struck by a sudden strong gust of wind, which caused it to wheel around almost at right angles, and also to incline inward very sharply. After making the turn, however, it finished its flight on an even keel and at a height of 4 or 5 feet above the ground. In a final test Farman flew from one end of the field to the other, and skirted along the fortifications at this point in a large circle, covering in all more than 2 kilometers (1 1/4 miles) in a flight which lasted for nearly three minutes. This final flight was the longest which had thus far been made. M. Farman expressed himself as quite satisfied that his machine was being pushed to the limit as far as its lifting power is concerned. In all probability his next step will be to equip it with a more powerful and lighter motor. By Farman’s recent successful flights in a circle, the record of the Wright brothers made in this country over two years ago has in this respect been duplicated; but there are many other points to be considered when one reviews the practicability of aeroplane flight. In the first place, Farman has found that his machine in its present condition is incapable of long-distance flight, because of its inability to lift any perceptible quantity of fuel; while in the second place, he has not demonstrated its capability of flying with safety against a wind having a velocity of 20 miles an hour—a feat which the Wright brothers accomplished with their first motor-driven machine in 1903. While Farman’s aeroplane has approximately the same weight as that of the Wright brother, it is fitted with a motor of three times the horse-power, and of about one-quarter the weight per horse-power developed. In spite of their handicap in the shape of less horse-power and a much weightier motor, the Wright brothers’ aeroplane made a speed of 40 miles an hour, as against 32 1/2 miles shown by Farman’s. Therefore the American inventors, by constructing a slightly larger machine and fitting it with an up-to-date, light-weight, aeronautical motor, should readily be able to carry two men and sufficient fuel for a flight of 125 miles, which are among the requirements specified by the War Department for a heavier-than-air flying machine.
In constructing his machine Farman has adopted the same double-surface type of machine as that used by the Wright brothers, to which he has added another pair of double surfaces at some distance back of the front planes (in conjunction with a horizontal rudder in front) for the purpose of steadying the latter in a fore-and-aft direction. In order to obtain the steadying effect desired, it is essential that the rear planes should remain practically horizontal, while the forward planes must be set at a considerable angle (about 15 to 20 degrees) in order that the machine shall lift at the speed at which the motor and propeller are capable of driving it. On account of the sharpness of the angle of advance presented by the forward planes it is impossible to obtain any higher speed when the machine is in the air, as the great air resistance encountered by the aeroplane when flying at so sharp an angle consumes the entire horse-power. Thus it will be seen that by the addition of the steadying pair of planes used by Farman to accomplish what the Wright brothers maintain by skill or by some secret method, viz., the longitudinal stability, he has decreased the efficiency of his machine by three at the least.
In view of the above-mentioned facts, while giving to M. Farman the credit for first publicly demonstrating that it is possible to fly in all directions, both with, against, and across a light wind, we nevertheless wish to recall to the aeronautical world the fact that to America belongs the credit of producing the first successful motor-driven aeroplane, and that to such men as the Wright brothers, A. M. Herring, and Gustave Whitehead—men who under the tutelage of Lilienthal and Chanute, have begun with gliding flight and gradually worked their way forward to the production of a self-propelled aeroplane in all its details, including the gasoline motor—belongs the real credit of having produced the first successful heavier-than-air flying machines.