Biography of Clément Ader (1841-1926)

French aeronautical engineer born in Muret (Department of Haute Garonne, South of France) on February 4, 1841 and died in Toulouse on March 5, 1926. He/She was the inventor of the first "plane" (a term he/she created), which jumped fifty meters in 1890.

Acquired interest in flight during their childhood; already by then designed a large kite that could elevate the floor adult men. Ader had great inventiveness, and performed in his youth a penny-farthing bicycle with wheels of rubber and a balloon which was built during the Franco-Prussian War and that gave the city of Toulouse at the end of the race. Abandoned in 1876 his work in the Administration des Ponts et chaussées (bridges and roads Ministry), moved to Paris and was devoted to communications. In 1880 he/she collaborated in the installation of the first private phones of the City line, aid of components designed by him; one of them was the Theatrophone, that opera could be heard from your home. All this brought large income, so that thereafter it could deal with entirely in his dream of flying.

Studies on the flight. The first "plane": the Eole

To get started in the art of flying is set in the flight of many species of birds and bats, which captured, and kept in facilities built in your own home. Its purpose was to get a machine with a lifting force that contrarrestase gravity and the weight of the materials used. This work was the construction of a flying machine, project that it required several years of effort (from 1886 to 1889); Ader gave it the name of the Greek God of the winds, Eole (Aeolus), and patented in 1890, first applied you the term "aircraft", an acronym for Appareil aile pour navigation aérienne dit: aircraft, or "winged device for aerial navigation, called plane". It consisted of a heavy machine of more than 200 kg (about 300 with pilot) driven by a powerful steam boiler with two cylinders spirit burner and 20 HP (at a rate of 1 Caballo-Vapor for each 14 kilos); This engine was moving a bamboo four propeller blades. It had a large bat wings (inspired by the one of the kirivula of the India); articulated, elastic and retractable, they covered a wooden frame, and its wingspan was 14 m rested on four wheels, one of them forward to prevent the unit to tip over. He/She did not have controls, except the engine and wings.

Secretly tested it on October 9, 1890, in the vicinity of Gretz Armainvilliers Castle Park; about 30 miles southeast of Paris. It was owned by the Lady Péreire (widow of a well-known Banker), who had played host to Ader and his aides since August. The day of the test were only present the inventor, his two assistants Eloi Vallier and Espinosa, and Lady Péreire with his family and a friend. The experience took place in a 200 m long and 25 wide track; around noon, a time when there was no wind, the Eole was taken to the track, and a few minutes before four o'clock in the afternoon Ader launched motor. At four and four minutes the device acquired speed, toured part of the track, raised the wheels on the ground and, for a couple of minutes, took a leap of 50 m 20 cm of soil. Ader, excited, pointed out the place where the Eole had taken off from the ground and picked up the results in a report. He/She told attendees that at the moment they keep silence, though, on 12 October, wrote to the photographer Felix Nadar, friend, to communicate the success.

New experiences: theEole IIand thePlane III.The purpose of the research

After that first experience, Ader changed part of the engine and renamed the Eole II appliance. In September 1891, he/she made a new test in a field that the own the Guerra Minister, Charles Freycinet, placed at the disposal of Ader in Satory; However, the unit stumbled across a few trucks and had to suspend tests. After damage to be arranged, the Eole II was exposed in the Pavilion of the city, where it could be examined carefully by the Minister de Guerra. Thus, while the French company for air navigation (in the letter of its President Villeneuve to engineer and American theoretician Octave Chanute) valued little experiments, the third model was sponsored by the Ministry of the French war, which signed an agreement with Ader on February 3, 1892. This promised to devise a machine that could fly, for a time and some speed, at a height of hundreds of meters, and received a grant of 200,000 francs (which was renewed on July 24, 1894, with 250,000 francs more) for this purpose. The device, called plane III, was completed in 1897: had two 24 HP engines each and with other many propellers of four blades. It was tested on 14 October of the same year, also in Satory, before a Commission appointed by the Ministry of war (General Mensier and Grillon and Lieutenant of engineers Binet). The track was this time round, with a distance of 1,500 m, and a central white line to guide the appliance.

Ader was installed in his post while his two aides argued the wings; However, bad weather conditions advised postponement of the flight, but Ader decided to do it at that time to not disappoint the present authorities, who had to watch the trial from afar, at a shelter at a distance of a hundred meters of the track. The plane III came out rolling refuge, on a tangent trajectory to about 60 m circular track; to reach it, also rolling, he/she left another 150 m, but then a gust of wind got out of control it from behind and did you continue some 200 or 300 m off the track. At some point could rise uneasily in the air, but he/she finally landed violently against the floor, time in which broke a wing and two propellers; Ader did not suffer any damage. While the inventor advocated having flown those last 300 m without interruption (as then collected in a scheme), the Commission noted, by the traces left by the wheels in the mud, that the trip had made jumps (the report of general Mensier not specified if there was flight or not). Despite this, were supporters of continuing investigations, although the Ministry of war did not consider it appropriate. In fact, broke the collaboration with Ader stating the general Jean-Baptiste Billot, who had not reached the objectives of contracts (March 31, 1898). However, it gave Ader the possibility to continue with the project on its own, this look for means of financing and tried to conduct new research, but, lacking in resources, he/she had to leave.

It burned all their plans and devices, except the plane III, which was exhibited at the Universal exhibition in Paris in 1900, where it was referred by Gabriel Voisin, student of architecture, which thereafter was devoted to the nascent aeronautical; later, and since then, remained in the National Conservatory of Arts and trades (made a copy that is on display at the air museum). Ader, who retired to his home in Ribonnet (near Toulouse), not repudiated the mechanics. In 1898 patented an automobile engine with two cylinders v nor forgot completely aviation: in October 1908 sent a letter to French President Fallières advising the creation of a military aviation school, therefore considered it essential to the mastery of the air. In 1907, he/she wrote the first stage of military aviation in France. Today they bear his name, as a tribute, streets, schools or clubs in flight.


HOOLMAN, V.: The conquest of the air. Towards the first flight, Amsterdam: Time-Life Books, 1981.

LEGRAND, j.: Chronicle of aviation, vol. I, Barcelona: Plaza & Janés, 1992.

Marquez NAVARRO, e.: History of air navigation, Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1970.

Links on the Internet ; Page of the "Liceo Clément Ader" (in French).; Page of the "Aero Club Clément Ader" (in French). ; List, description and photograph of other inventions of Ader (in French).