Clément Ader and his pioneering work in aviation

On April 2, 1841 was born in Muret, near Toulouse, Clément Ader, son of a carpenter. Excellent student at St Joseph’s boarding school in Toulouse, especially in mathematics and drawing, he engaged in various aerial activities as early as 1855: tests of kites, and even ladybugs hindered! Thus, during the summer, with canvases stretched between arms and legs, he was raised in the wind along the hills near Fabas. In 1856, he entered the Assiot Institution of Toulouse, where he graduated the following year with a Bachelor of Science degree. He was part of the first class of the Industrial School, graduated in 1860. At a time when a lottery was selecting for the national service, the young Clément pulled in 1861 the correct number…

The beginnings of Clément Ader

It was in March 1862 that he began, at the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer du Midi, presided over by Émile Pereire, at Orthez, on the Toulouse/Bayonne line. He thus worked on the Boubouilles bridge at Muret, and at the time knew Douarche, a potter at Castelnaudary. In 1866, Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, also known as Nadar, the first aerial photographer in 1858, created the Society of Encouragement for Air Locomotion, where we find Clément Ader, with Alexandre Dumas, Gambetta, Victor Hugo, Offenbach and Georges Sand. This year, 1866, however, saw Clément Ader leave his company.

Having won numerous local races of balance machines, he bought at the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1867 a velocipede Michaux. He also built a model of a slider boat with wings. While proposing in 1868 to Marshal Niel, born in Muret, a railway system for Algeria, he filed a patent for rubberised wheels for “Véloce” at the Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (CAM). In 1869, they won many races, with Ader himself second. English velocipedes Turner used these wheels. But the war of 1870 put an end to the industrialisation of his “Véloce”.

Having offered his services to the Ministry of War, he was authorised in September 1870 to try observing kites at the Polygon de Toulouse. He proposed to control them with a steam engine and a man on board. He found premises in Douarche, in December, to continue his activities, while probably helping him to make fixings for his new flat roof tiles. The armistice of January 28, 1871 and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine was hard for him. He then switched to aviation which, according to him, was to allow to counter Germany.

He built in 1873 a glider of twenty kilograms in hollow wood and goose feathers with the help of a cartwright, Bacquié. The wings of seven metres span could move back or forward, and a tail was operated by the legs. He used a spiral profile, called a “suspension curve”, like insects, birds and bats. Attached to the ground by four cables via dynamometers, he realised, at one and a half metre high, the first drag measurements to the world, in the wind of autan. He deduced a fineness of ten, and the need to have an engine weighing no more than eight kilograms. The glider was presented in 1874 at Nadar, rue d’Anjou, where the Parisian adviser Georges Clémenceau could admire it, then in 1883 during the exhibition of the Nadar society at the Trocadéro Palace, for the centenary of the flight of Pilâtre de Rozier.

In order to facilitate his search for financing, Ader moved to Paris. While working on a project of rectangular arched wings, he returned to his first activities, patenting in May 1875 a system of “articulated endless track” for train. In September, he rolled three crawler wagons at Passy, ​​pulled by goats. Other demonstrations followed. He married in January 1877. Probably following the arrival in France in 1877 of representatives of Bell phones, he filed in July 1878 his sixth patent, followed by many others, on the electrophone, following tests with his father. Under these circumstances, Bell joined Ader, which took his first foreign patents in England and Belgium. Concessions were granted in June 1879 by the new Ministry of Posts & Telegraphs for Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, and Bordeaux, to three companies, including that of Ader, which merged in October 1880. In parallel, he invented the same year steel arrows to launch by airplanes against troops on the ground.

Clément Ader, on August 9, 1881, deposited his fourteenth patent, for the “théâtrophone”, in fact the invention of stereophony. The following month he demonstrated it, with equipment manufactured by Breguet, linking with new patents in Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Russia and the United States of America. He then started working more seriously on airplanes.

Development of the airplane

Famous, Clément Ader was able to visit Strasbourg in July 1882 to observe the flight of storks around the cathedral and a fort. He thus understood the importance of the interaction between the wind and the ground. A few months later, he went to Constantine, with recordings using two dark rooms and stopwatch. He thus realised that the birds used the movements of the air to glide without flapping of wings.

He began to study the engine needed for the flight. In early 1883, he began the study of a machine without rudder. Made in 1884, the engine was successfully tested in 1885 at Digeon. He then made numerous tests for the fuel: charcoal, oil, methyl alcohol… before selecting the latter. It was the same for glued wooden tubes and for linen.

The eighteenth patent filed by Clément Ader on April 19, 1890 for a winged aircraft, was remarkable in every respect: not only did it describe the new solutions in relation to the glider, with warping of the wing, but also the nomenclature with “aviation”, “aviator”, and “aircraft”. The spiral profile was called “lift curve”. He also said he had tried mechanical ladybugs, as well as wings, flying or not, of birds, insects and bats.

While the Ader Éole was over, he made a magnificent gift to his wife, a castle. Clément Ader performed a number of engine and taxi tests, which led to lowering the main wheels to increase wing kink. He was able to gradually increase his speed, until brief uprisings. On October 9, 1890 was the historic flight. The take-off point was materialised by large blocks of buried coal. Some consider the Éole to have been the first true aeroplane, given that it left the ground under its own power and carried a person through the air for a short distance, and that the event of October 1890 was the first successful flight. However, the lack of directional control, and the fact that steam-powered aircraft proved to be a dead end, both weigh against these claims.