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Santos Dumont, Pioneer Aviator

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Alberto Santos Dumont, Pioneer Aviator


Santos Dumont, born in 1873, grew up in a coffee plantation owned by his family but spent most of his adult life in Paris. He was so fascinated by machinery that even as a child he learned to drive steam tractors and the steam locomotive of the plantation train too.

A great fan of Jules Verne, the father of science fiction, Santos Dumont had read all his books by the time he was ten. As a child he would reflect deeply while gazing at the magnificent skies of Brazil in the long sunny afternoons in his vast plantation and dream of flying airships and flying machines.

The first thing he did on arrival in France at the age of 17 was to buy an automobile and hire a private tutor for studying physics, chemistry, mechanics and electricity. His passion for flying eventually made him one of the most famous people in the aviation industry during the early 20th century.

It was not long before he designed his own balloons and flew his first balloon design, the Brésil in 1898. Later he took to designing balloons that could be steered (dirigibles) and did not have to drift along with the breeze. He designed and flew 11 dirigibles and would often glide along Paris boulevards at rooftop levels. Later he turned to designing heavier-than-air machines.

He became internationally famous as the first man to fly an airplane when he flew 715 feet in 1906. His claim was however denied when it came to light that the Wright Brothers had secretly flown their airplane in 1903. In 1909 he built a light monoplane, Demoiselle, which became popular in England and France. The movable surfaces he designed are precursors of modern ailerons between wings for better stability.


1) Santos Dumont was a fan of which famous author?

a) H. G. Wells

b) Mark Twain

c) Charles Dickens

d) Jules Verne

2) What did Santos Dumont dream of as a child?

a) Driving locomotives

b) Flying airships

c) Writing science fiction

d) Invent plantation machinery

3) What was the name of the first balloon designed by Santos Dumont?

a) Demoiselle

b) The Brésil

c) Pride of Brazil

d) Santos

4) For how many feet did Santos Dumont fly his first airplane?

a) 825

b) 915

c) 715

d) 1,000

5) Which feature of his monoplane has been modified and is still used in modern aircraft?

a) Landing gear

b) Fixed Wings

c) Tail unit

d) Movable surfaces on wings












1) d

2) b

3) b

4) c




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