September 24, 1852, The first airship powered by an engine, in this case steam, created by Henri Giffard, travels 17 miles from Paris to Trappes.
The illustrious Henri Giffard was perhaps the first aeronautical engineer adequately endowed and circumstanced to realize, on a practical scale, General Meusnier's well pondered and truly scientific plans for a motor balloon. He had studied in the college of Bourbon, and had worked in the railroad shops of the Paris and St. Germain railway. He had further equipped himself by making free balloon ascensions, under the auspices of Eugene Godard, for the purpose of studying the atmosphere; and by building light engines, one of which weighed 100 pounds, and developed three horse power.
Finally in 1851 he patented an air ship, consisting of an elongated bag and car, propelled by a screw driven by a steam engine. lie had not the means to build such a vessel, but he had the genius and training necessary to construct it, and at the same time enough enthusiasm and persuasive power to induce his friends, David and Sciama, to loan him the requisite funds.
Giffard's first dirigible was successful in both design and operation. It consisted of a spindleshaped bag covered with a net whose cords were drawn down and attached to a horizontal pole, from which the car and motor were suspended, and at the end of which was a triangular sail serving as a rudder. To guard against fire, the furnace of the vertical coke-burning boiler was shielded by wire gauze, like a miner's lamp, and the draft, taken from its top through a downward pointing smoke pipe, was ejected below the car by force of exhaust steam, from the engine, thus obviating, as Giffard asserted, all danger from the use of fire near an inflammable gas.
The car hung twenty feet below the suspension pole, and carried a three horse-power engine driving a three-blade propeller 11 feet in diameter, making 110 turns a minute. The motor complete, including the engine and boiler without supplies, weighed 110 pounds per horse power. The bag measured 143 feet long, 39 feet in diameter, and 75,000 cubic feet in volume. Giffard reports of his first voyage, made from the Hippodrome in Paris at five fifteen o'clock, September 23, 1852, that although he could not sail directly against the strong wind then blowing, he could attain a speed of six to ten feet per second relatively to the air, and he could easily guide the vessel by turning her rudder. He continued his journey till nightfall, then made a good landing, near Trappes, and by ten o'clock was back in Paris.
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TEXT and IMAGE CREDIT: Title: Aërial navigation: a popular treatise on the growth of air craft and on aëronautical meteorology. Author: Albert Francis Zahm Publisher: D. Appleton and company, 1911. Original: from the University of California. Digitized: Oct 23, 2007. Length: 494 pages Subjects: Aeronautics, Meteorology.