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Jean-Marie Le Bris
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Lawrence Hargrave
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Thomas William Moy
Alexandr Mozhaisky
Charles Renard
Victor Tatin
Nikolaj Teleshov
Thomas Walker
John Wise
Richard Pearse
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Alphonse Penaud
Francis Wenham
Otto Lilienthal
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Samuel Langley
Horatio Phillips
was Herring the first to fly?

Charles Renard (1847 - 1905)

At the Paris Exposition of 1889, Commandant Renard, of the French Aeronautical Department, exhibited, in connection with the dirigible war balloon "La France," an apparatus which he had designed some years before (1873) as embodying his conception of a flying machine, and which he termed a "dirigible parachute."

This is shown in fig. 64, and consists in an oviform body, to which is pivoted a couple of standards carrying a series of narrow and long superposed flat blades, intended to sustain the machine when gliding downward through the air.

Renard's "Dirigible Parachute", 1889

The dotted lines in the side view indicate the maximum angle of inclination which it was proposed to give to this similitude of a Venetian blind, and it is evident that by setting it at the proper angle, and dropping the apparatus from a balloon, it can be made to travel back against the wind a considerable distance, and also that it ma' be steered laterally by the addition of a rudder. Beneath the body a sort of skate will be noticed, probably intended to glide over the ground in alighting, or in obtaining initial velocity to rise should a motor be applied; but the French War Department is reticent concerning its experiments in aerial navigation, and the writer has been unable to gather any information concerning the working of this apparatus.

Renard's "Dirigible Parachute", 1889

It will be noted that Commandant Renard proposed to equip this machine with flat blades, thus conforming to the predilection in favour of plane surfaces exhibited by most of the experimenters with aeroplanes already noticed except Captain Le Bris and M. Goupil who took a different view as to the best shapes to employ. In point of fact, as already intimated, those who have succeeded in the air, the true experts in gliding, the soaring birds, do not perform their evolutions with plane surfaces. Their wings are more or less convex on top and concave beneath, and are warped surfaces of complicated outlines. It is true that in many cases they do not differ greatly from planes, and the mind of man so strongly tends to the simplification of complicated shapes, that most inventors have assumed that the effect on the air will be practically the same.

Flight is possible with flat planes, as witness the butterfly, the dragon fly, and insects generally, but such creatures are endowed with greater relative power, as already explained; and, moreover, the elasticity of their wings produces change of shape under action. In the case of the birds, although the outer ends of the feathers are elastic, yet the wing is stiffer as a whole, and the curved surfaces may prove more efficient than planes in obtaining support from the air.