The opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics was held on Friday, and it was a great success. Rio de Janeiro successfully held a massive party, whilst successfully guilt tripping the rest of the world about global warming.
American television broadcaster NBC, meanwhile, successfully ignored the rest of the world in favour of breathless hype of American athletes, whilst successfully inserting commercial breaks every ten minutes.
For its part, Brazil successfully prompted the rest of the world to ask their Internet machines about Alberto Santos-Dumont. A delightful video during the ceremony showed Santos-Dumont’s 14-bis soaring over present day Rio de Janeiro. This segment, though, was not without controversy, as it highlighted Brazilian claims that Santos-Dumont made the world’s first powered flight and not the Wright brothers.
So who is right? Do the flights of the Flyer on THU 17 DEC 1903 count? Or was the flight of the 14-bis on TUE 23 OCT 1906 the true dawn of the aviation age? It seems that a great many of you were eager to know the answer. So eager, in fact, that you swamped our very own “Dynamite Eating” Edvard van de Kamp with questions about early aviation.
Dear Edvard: Who is this Santos-Dumont guy? His plane looks awesome, but the TV announcers didn’t really tell me much of anything about him.
– Ludmilla Caiper
White Plains, NY, USA
Dear Ludmilla: Alberto Santos-Dumont was the son of engineer and coffee grower Henrique Dumont. The family moved from their coffee plantation in the state of São Paulo to Paris when Alberto was eighteen. There, he turned a lifelong interest in engineering into a series of balloon and dirigible flights. On TUE 23 OCT 1906, he flew his aircraft, 14-bis, about 60 m at Bagatelle.
Dear Edvard: What about the Wright brothers? Didn’t they fly their plane before that?
– Gene Montana
Monterey, CA, USA
Dear Gene: Yes, if you count the Flyer.
Dear Edvard: Why wouldn’t you? It flew, didn’t it? It’s right there in the name.
– Luisa Valdez
Monterrey, NL, Mexico
Dear Luisa: The Flyer took off from a rail, and later models used catapults. The Wright brothers never built an aircraft that was capable of an unaided takeoff.
Dear Edvard: So the 14-bis was the first powered flight! I knew it! Suck it, Dayton!
– Adriana Monteiro
Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
Dear Adriana: The 14-bis doesn’t count either. It used a skid as front landing gear, and is therefore not a true aircraft.
Dear Edvard: Okay, then what is the first true aircraft?
– Mallory C Cleppert
Dear Mallory: We don’t know yet.
Dear Edvard: Wait. What about all those airplanes that fly over my house? You’re saying that they don’t count?
– Tom Pallantonio
Normal, IL, USA
Dear Tom: No, I’m saying that they don’t exist.
Dear Edvard: Wait, what?
– Claudius de la Petrova
Laredo, TX, USA
Dear Claudius: There is no such thing as an aircraft. Powered flight is nothing more than the fevered dream of a madman. All of those commercial airlines are a scam; their supposed “aircraft” merely travel through tunnels illuminated in blue and filled with clouds generated by dry ice. Ever notice how tiny everything looks from an aircraft? That’s because everything below it is tiny.
Dear Edvard: Then why do so many people spend all that money on airplane tickets?
– Wendy Blespertini
Dear Wendy: Because they’re dumb.
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