A brief history of the Du Temple Steam Monoplane

The du Temple Monoplane was a large aeroplane made of aluminium and was built in Brest, France, by naval officer Félix du Temple in 1874. It had a wingspan of 13 m (43 ft) and weighed only 80 kg (180 lb) without the pilot.

They first tried steam at very high pressures, then a hot-air engine and finally built and patented, in 1876, a very light steam boiler weighing between 39 to 44 lb. This appears to have been the prototype of some of the light boilers which have since been constructed. It consisted of a series of very thin tubes less than 1/8 in. in internal diameter, through which water was circulated very rapidly and was flashed into steam by the surrounding flame."

Image © commons.wikimedia.org

This type of boiler, which boils the water instantly, has come to be known as a flash boiler. The engine design was later adopted by the French Navy for the propulsion of the first French torpedo boats.

Several trials were made with the aircraft and it is generally recognized that it achieved lift-off - described by Dollfus as "short hop or leap" and in Flight International as "staggered briefly into the air" - (from a combination of its own power and running down an inclined ramp) glided for a short time and returned safely to the ground. This made it the first successful powered flight in history though not the first self-powered one.


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