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Henri Farman

Henri Farman won the Deutsch-Archdeacon Prize for the first flight of more than a kilometer on January 13, 1908. He was flying a Voisin biplane.

Henri Farman

Henri Farman was a key figure in the early days of European aviation and established several aviation "firsts." Born of English parents in Paris in 1874, he first raced bicycles and automobiles. He was involved in a serious auto accident and turned to aviation instead. In 1907, he ordered his first biplane from Gabriel Voisin, a French planebuilder.

Farman tested the plane, called the Voison-Farman I, and made several improvements. He replaced the biplane elevator with a single elevator, gave the wings a small dihedral, and decreased the span of the tail assembly by more than half. With these improvements, the plane made more than 20 flights--its longest was 2,530 feet (771 meters) in 52.6 seconds. On November 8, 1907, Farman flew his first turn. On November 9, Farman won the Archdeacon Cup for the first official flight of more than 150 meters (492 feet), flying 3,379 feet (1,030 meters in 1 minute and 14 seconds. This was the first flight of more than one minute made in a non-Wright aircraft.

Farman continued improving his plane. On January 13, 1908, he flew the first officially observed closed circle of one kilometer in one minute, winning the 50,000-franc Deutsch-Archdeacon prize. On May 28, he carried aviation supporter Ernest Archdeacon aloft for more than one kilometer in the first airplane passenger flight in Europe. In October, he installed ailerons on all four wings. This plane made the first cross-country flight in Europe, flying 17 miles (27 kilometers) from Bouy to Reims, on October 30, 1908, in 20 minutes.

Farman's greatest achievements came at the Reims International Air Meet in August 1909, with his Henri Farman III, the first aircraft produced by Farman's factory. Powered by a 50-horsepower (37-kilowatt) Gnôme engine, it had full ailerons and twin rudders for control as well as sprung wheels on the skids to soften the landing. At the meet, Farman won the distance competition by flying 111.8 miles (180 kilometers) in 3 hours, 4 minutes, and 56 seconds. He won the Prix des Passengers carrying two passengers, and second place in the Prix de l'Altitude by reaching an altitude of 361 feet (110 meters).

This aircraft became one of the most famous and widely used European biplanes before World War I. It was so widely used that, in the April 1910 London-Manchester race, both Louis Paulhan and Claude Grahame-White flew Farman planes.