Clement Ader’s ‘Avion’ pioneer flying machine

Posted by jerry on February 7th, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, Steam, Technology, Travel

Another exhibit in the Musee des Artes et Metiers is that of a long forgotten French Aviation pioneer, Clement Ader (click on ‘NoFlashMuseum’ then Transports’ then ‘1850-1950’ and finally the last small image on the right.

Again, I had no idea before going there that this pioneer aircraft had been preserved for posterity – one of the great ‘almost made it’s among the early aviators. Like the Wright brothers, he was a bicycle designer.

Ader was born in 1841 at Muret in Haute-Garonne. He was multi-talented and was awarded numerous patents during his lifetime, including a ralway system and telephone. But he had a lifelong fascination with flying – inspired by birds and bats, using the latter as a model for his aircraft design. Ader built kites and small-scale gliders and measured the forces needed to keep them flying, using dynamometers. He was the first engineer to know the value of lift and thrust needed for flying.

Clement Ader - Avion3
Clement Ader’s Avion III
He built his first machine between 1882 and 1889, known as the Eole I which reportedly made a low-level hop on 9 October 1890 at an altitude of about 30cm for about 50 metres. Ader was credited with introducing the French word for aircraft – avion – into the French language.

His second machine, Eole II was damaged during trials in 1891. Avion III was built with the help of the Defence Ministry and was completed in 1897. It had a wingspan of 16 metres and had a tricycle undercarriage. It weighed a mere 258kg unladen, and less than 400kg with pilot. It was powered by two lightweight 20hp steam engines designed by Ader, which independently drove two contra-rotating four-bladed propellers. The two motors shared a single flash steam boiler and condenser. The wings were made from bamboo covered with lightweight fabric.

Clement Ader - Avion3
Ader’s steam engine for Avion III

Clement Ader - Avion3
Flash Steam Boiler for Avion III
This plane made one flight attempt at the French Army’s Satory proving ground on 14 October 1897 – without success.

Clement Ader - Avion3

But later in life Ader claimed success for both the Eole and the Avion III. Irrespective of his success or failure – he was far-thinking in terms of his innovative design – the enclosed body, the tricycle undercarriage and the power-to-weight ratio commensurate with the scale of the wings.

His big failure was in not making any provision for control once airborne. But his was a big step on the way towards successful heavier than air flight.

Clement Ader - Avion3
Avion III

This plane was certainly the inspiration for a number of steampunk fanciful depictions of the future of flight – including this automaton 🙂

Clement Ader - Avion3
Avion III
There is a good summary of his achievement at this US Air Force site.

Close, as they say, but no cigar. An elegant design though 🙂

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.