The early years to first success

Langley, Bleriot, Astra, Peyret, Maneyrol


I got a mail from Kenneth Ketner:
"In your site, you mentioned the Langley tandem didn't fly. That isn't
correct. His smaller models flew well, and their success caused an
international excitement because many famous scientists had stated
bluntly that heavier-than-air powered machines were impossible.

Even Langley's man-carrying tandem was later rebuilt by Alexander Graham
Bell and Glenn Curtiss and successfully flown by Curtiss and others in
1910. In 1907, Louis Bleriot had flown a Langley configuration successfully."

Later I will try to get approval to use some drawings or photos. Or I will make some drawings myself.

John J. Montgomery

Also go see for some other early year tandem:

Peyret - Maneyrol, a first succes

In 1907 Louis Peyret, a French engineer, made a model with nearly identical wings.

August 1922, a glider competition in France at Combegrasse (close to Clermont-Ferrand):
The French pilot Alexis Maneyrol was also in the competition, but he made no chance because of his bad glider. Peyret came in too late with his tandemwing to be a part of the competition. It was the only tandemwing in the competition. Maneyrol and Peyret met. At the end of the month Maneyrol made several flights in the glider. He thought it was a stable airplane. Together with Peyret and his assistants they made a glider especially for a international glider competition, organized by the Daily Mail. It got the name Alerion Peyret. Alerion was a common name for any airplane at that time in France. They always placed the name of the designer after the word "Alerion".

You can find the patent with its patent number 1,492,262 .

Drawing of the glider, which was especially designed for the Daily Mail competition.

Click picture to get the larger 3view drawing.


Some old pictures of the work of Peyret.

One thing is remarkable about this gliders construction. It had on each wing full span control surfaces. You can see it better on the pictures of the "small" model lower on the page. If you pulled the steering stick, the front wing surfaces went down and the rear wing surfaces went up. If you pushed the stick, the opposite happened. If you pushed the stick to the right, the surfaces of the right wing went up, the ones on the left wing went down.
The advantage of this system is that you don't need trim.

Surprise. Surprise. It won the competition. It even broke the record of longest glide. It became now 3 hours and 22 minutes. Peyret and Maneyrol became immediately French heroes. And they received the price money of 1000 Livres Sterling. Maneyrol was warmly congratulated in London by Monsieur Laurent-Eynac, a French important person (sorry, I don't know the English correct name). At arrival back to Paris, they were greeted by a mass of enthusiasts. Maneyrol was carried about like a big winner. Both got medals by the Federation. A story about victory.

Not so long later, Maneyrol broke the record again in the same Alérion Peyret. This time is became 8h 4' 50'' 2/5. Victory again. Not much later Maneyrol broke the distance record. Victory again.

But tragedy stuck and stuck hard. It was during a attempt to break the record of height that Maneyrol got killed. It was not in the Alérion Peyret. The wings broke in mid air after having reached to a incredible height. But the barograph got damaged in the accident and the record never got official.

It is a pity that the aviationindustry didn't follow the tandemdesign. Their reasons were:

  • No laws concerning this type of airplane
  • Questions about aerodynamics between both wings
  • The fact that a second large wing had to be made, which would increase the cost and which ... didn't look good.

Euh... the French have a saying: "Les gouts et les couleurs on ne discutte pas" (translation: one does not discuss taste and colors).

About 80 years after the record, a group of modelbuilders honour Peyret and Maneyrol by making a large, flyable model of the glider. The "small" model has a span of 3,30 m (10 ft 9 in).

The finished model of the Peyret-Maneyrol glider, made by "groupe du model air club de Cherbourg Hague" (my contactperson is Eric Cousin (France))

Flight behavior

In a article I found there was written that the first generation of tandemwings all had the same problem: interference between the two wings when changing the angle of attack. It was mentioned that the flight-behavior got from good to VERY bad. The prototypes would have been very dangerous to fly. It got me thinking: "if this is true, than Eric Cousin would have had the same problems with his large model". So, I asked Eric. I got a reply from Eric Cousin with the results of the first flights of the model. He writes:

"We don't have a problem with the pitch control. Not on the prototype, not on the large model. The only trouble we had was the placing of the CG (center of gravity). The prototype was having the will to dive or was tail-heavy. If the Cg was was too backwards, it got a very fast nose-up effect. Now I come to think about it, I recall a flight with a not-CG-adjusted prototype where the model nosed-up rapidly and made a funny but not-promising movement. It flew at the opposite of its flight and the rear became the front! The model got adjusted and we tried several settings of the wings in relation to the fuselage. It ended with 2° for the front wing and 0° for the rear wing. The right CG was only found after a lot of testing. Too much forward, the model dove slightly. Too much backwards the model made a nose-up or a parachutal desent (see Henri Mignet). Once the CG was correct, the glider had a good glide-ratio and we were looking forward for the first ridge-glides.

After a week to wait for ideal wind and some needed repairs we made it have its first true ridge-glide. I was piloting. The first flight were done with only the controls of the rear wing (mix of ailerons and elevators + rudder). Later flights had also front wings controls.

The large model flew like the smaller prototype. Only difference was that the large model was more wingloaded and reacted faster in pitch (up-down). The CG was a bit more backwards. Weird thing happened. The prototype was flown and I thought that a part of the CG-centering weights got loose because the flight-behavior got less ideal. But, that day, all the conventional models flying stayed down the ridge and had a bad day flying while we stayed up. We were the best! All were surprised that day."