Of late years the efforts of experimentalists in the field of aeronautics have been directed rather to the airship than to the aeroplane. Indeed, the whole history of this fascinating science has been marked by a pendulum-like swing between the aeroplane and the navigable balloon. Maxim, Lillienthal and Langley are not heard from so much as De la Vaulx and Santos-Dumont. De la Vaulx has been working for a number of years on the problem of steering balloons upon the sea and during the past year he made an ambitious attempt to cross the Mediterranean in a balloon escorted by the cruiser "Du Challia." Owing to boisterous weather, the attempt was a failure. Santos-Dumont's experiments, which have attracted world-wide attention, had for their objective point the winning of the Deutsch prize of $20,000, offered to the first aeronaut who should successfully make the trip from the Aero Park in the suburbs of Paris around the Eiffel Tower and back again in 30 minutes' time. This indefatigable young Brazilian, after several attempts, in one of which his balloon was completed wrecked, succeeded in winning the prize, with only a fraction of a minute to spare. The airship in which he made the trip is 98 feet in length, 15 feet in diameter and is driven by a gasoline engine of 20 horse power. The motor and propellers are carried on a trussed frame which is suspended below the balloon by means of steel wires. Although the most notable experiments are those that have been made by gas-supported airships a large number of less widely advertised attempts have been made with machines of the aeroplane type. Among these may be mentioned Nemethy's flying machine, driven by a 2 1/2 horse-power gasoline motor; the Hoffman flying machine, driven by a steam motor; and the Whitehead flying machine, which is built after the model of the bat. Contemporaneously with Santos-Dumont's experiments, there have been three other attempts which are worthy of mention; one a machine built by Henri Deutsch, modeled somewhat on the lines of the Dumont machine, and the others two English machines, one built by Mr. Buchanan and the other by Mr. Bastin. Both of these are of the aeroplane type. Although the successes of the year are of scientific interest, they have not yet brought us within sight of a commercially useful airship.
Originally appeared in Scientific American, 86, January 4, 1902, pp. 2-3, as a part of an editorial entitled "Retrospect of the Year 1901"