- Gabriel Voisin
Gabriel Voisin (
February 5, 1880– December 25, 1973) was a French aviation pioneer.
He was born at
Belleville-sur-Saône, France, and his brother Charles, two years younger than he, was his best friend. When his father abandoned the family, his mother, Amélie, took her sons home to Neuville-sur-Saône, where they settled near her father's factory.
Their grandfather, Charles Forestier, took charge of the boys' education with military rigor. The boys also went for expeditions along the river, went fishing, and built numerous contraptions. When his grandfather died, Gabriel was sent to school in
Lyonand Paris where he learned industrial design, a field in which he was exceptionally gifted. However, he often returned home, and by the end of the century, the brothers had built, among other things, a rifle, a steam boat, a glider, and an automobile.
In 1900, Gabriel was hired as a designer for the Universal Exposition in
Paris. There, he met Clément Ader, who fueled his interest in aeronautics.
In June 1905, Gabriel Voisin tested a glider he had equipped with floats by having it towed by a fast boat on the
Seineriver . The glider's wing configuration was made up of Hargrave cells, a box-kite-like structure that allowed for great lift and structural strength with minimal weight. Financing of this early glider had been provided in large part by a wealthy Parisian enthusiast: Ernest Archdeacon. Gabriel Voisin was towed into the air by the motor boat "La Rapiere" and flew for a distance of 600 meters (1800 ft) and at a height of about 20 metres (60 ft) above the river. When the glider went down, Voisin became entangled in the plane's wiring and nearly drowned. [Gabriel Voisin -
Gabriel Voisin and his brother
Charles Voisincreated Europe's first successful heavier-than-air flying machines. Before the Voisin brothers, Alberto Santos-Dumontmade Europe's first widely hailed airplane flight in 1906 at Neuilly-Bagatelle. Voisin supporters argue that the Santos-Dumont 14-biswas only marginally controllable and could not fly out of ground effect, disqualifying it as an airplane.
More significantly, the Voisin brothers designed and built a pusher biplane, powered by an "
Antoinette" V-8 engine, that took off on wheels and flew reasonably well. Purchased and modified by Anglo-French aviation pioneer Henri Farman, a Voisin biplane on January 13, 1908at Issy-les-Moulineauxbecame the first airplane on the European continent to succeed in landing back where it had taken off after flying a pre-assigned 1 kilometer long closed circuit. Farman, a fine pilot, accomplished this by skidding around in a wide uncoordinated yaw keeping the machine as level as possible. He had to turn that way because no airplane in Europe yet had three-axis control. Wilbur Wrightwould show the importance of lateral control (heretofore missing in European designs) and coordinated use of elevator, rudder and wing warping for turning during his flight demonstrations in France beginning in August 1908.
Unlike the Wright brother's early airplanes, the Voisin biplane flown by Farman on January 1908 had wheels instead of skids. With more power than the early Wright Flyers, it also did not need a catapult to help it launch when the wind was low. It should be noted that history's first airplane flight, performed by Orville Wright on December 17, 1903, began with a slightly uphill takeoff made entirely under the
Wright 1903 Flyer's own power. It must also be observed that full control around all three axes (pitch, yaw, and roll) is part of the definition of an airplane. Thus, prior to Wilbur Wright's demonstrations, the Voisins and other types then flying in Europe were technically incomplete airplanes since they had two-axis control (elevator and rudder only). Lacking ailerons or wing warping, they had no mechanism for roll control.
If the Wrights lagged by not moving sooner from skids to wheels, Voisin lagged by resisting change. Whereas Antoinette, Blériot, Farman (who with his brother went on to manufacture airplanes of their own), and other European manufacturers quickly emulated the Wrights, Voisin refused to add roll control. In the United States, Glenn Curtiss also availed himself of the Wright invention of three-axis control. Consequently, when the world's first air meet was held at Reims, France, in August 1909, Voisin biplanes were the only participating aircraft that lacked any provision for roll control.
Henri Farman did much to popularize the Voisin biplane, which was a sturdy and dependable machine despite its limited and generally difficult controllability. It should be noted that Farman made many improvements to Voisin's basic design, and that much of this airplane's success and acclaim is due to Farman. Flying in the same Voisin biplane in which he had performed Europe's first 1 kilometer circle in January 1908, Farman expanded his records with much longer cross-country flights outside of Paris . An important factor that helped these new performances was that Farman had improved his Voisin biplane with a set of movable wing ailerons that he could control from the pilot's position. For instance, on October 30,1908, Henri Farman flew non stop his modified Voisin-Farman biplane over 27 kilometers (16 miles) in 20 minutes, between the towns of Bouy and Reims in eastern France. For the record, the locations associated with earlier and much shorter flights, Neuilly-Bagatelle, Issy-les-Moulineaux and Billancourt (where the Voisin brothers had their first factory), are all suburbs on the west side of Paris.
Gabriel and Charles Voisin created in 1905 and then operated for many years the world's first commercial airplane factory, "Appareils d'Aviation. Les Freres Voisin". Later, after its major expansion into military airplanes , notably the
Voisin III, which was widely used for spotting and bombing during World War I, the firm's name was changed to "Avions Voisin". Gabriel Voisin turned to luxury automobile manufacturing after World War I and continued in that endeavor until 1938. Whereas historians universally credit the Wright brothers with inventing the airplane, Voisin -- who outlived most other "early birds" -- remained their detractor. That personal bias unfortunately clouds due recognition of this pioneer's very real accomplishments. [cite web
title=National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution
In 1909, Gabriel became the youngest Knight of the
French Legion of Honorat 29. By that time, he was considered a true industrialist.
In 1910, Gabriel and Charles Voisin developed the "
Canard Voisin". Original in design, with its main wings positioned at the back, the "Canard Voisin" was a very popular aircraft during the first decades of the 20th century. With the addition of floats, it also became the first seaplaneof the French Navy. The "Canard Voisin" expanded on a Voisin design previously built in 1904 for Alberto Santos-Dumontwith his 14-bis airplane, in which the main wings were placed at the aft of the aircraft in order to facilitate horizontal control and stability at landing. At the front, a small horizontal stabilizer was installed. The plane, named "Canard" because of its aft-heavy shape, was successfully tested by Maurice Colliexat Issy-les-Moulineaux between March and May 1910. The "Canard" was equipped with a 60HP Anzaniradial engine (among others).The first military seaplanes were developed by Voisin in 1910, by attaching floats to the wheels of their "Canard Voisin".
He married Adrienne Lola in 1909, and they had one daughter, Janine, who was the joy of his life. He was greatly affected by the death of his brother Charles in 1912 in an automobile accident.
After World War I
Gabriel Voisin abandoned aviation, citing the trauma of the military use of his more advanced airplanes (the
Voisin III) during the war in addition to the then embryonic demand for civilian aircraft. From then until 1958, he concentrated his efforts on making automobiles under the marque of " Avions Voisin". His early cars were some of the finest luxury vehicles in the world, with unique technical details. Many of them won in competition. However, the luxury car market shrank in the late 1930s because of depressed economic conditions and he closed down his factory. After 1945, he turned his attention to designing a minimalist car for the masses, the Biscooter, thousands of which were produced under licence in Spain during the 1950s as the Biscúter. Today, his pre-war luxury automobiles have become highly prized by collectors, both in Europe and in the USA.
In 1960, he retired in his country house near Tournus on the banks of the Saone river, where he wrote his memoires. In 1965, he was made a Commander of the Legion of Honor. He died in 1973 in Ozenay,
Saône-et-Loire. Gabriel Voisin is now increasingly recognized as one of the great innovative geniuses of the 20th century.Fact|date=September 2008
*Gabriel Voisin,1960,"Mes 10.000 cerfs-volants"( My 10,000 kites)and Gabriel Voisin,1962,"Mes milles et une Voitures"( My 1001 Automobiles ) , both volumes published by Editions de la Table Ronde,Paris.
*Pascal Courtault,1991,"Automobiles Voisin,1919-1950",White Mouse Editions,London, ISBN 0 904568 72 5 (UK)
* [http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/voisin.html The Pioneers - the Voisin brothers]
*Charles Dollfus,1966,"Monsieur Henry",in:"Pionniers.Revue Aeronautique Trimestrielle des Vieilles Tiges. No7".Special issue dedicated to Henri Farman .
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