Cleaning up a magnificent 1908 Antoinette Flyer schematic

Cleaning up a magnificent 1908 Antoinette Flyer schematic

One frustrating aspect of collecting pioneer aviation material is the lack of clean schematics to use for display purposes. One of my favourite airplanes is the Antoinette Flyer, from 1908. It’s a beautiful monoplane.

Photo of the Antoinette Flyer in flight 1908

Fragile and magnificent

I’ve scoured the internet looking for something presentable and concluded last week that I’d have to do my own. When it comes to something like schematics, it’s essential the lines are crisp and easy to follow. They also need to be free of scan artifacts. The little spots of black and paper markings are distracting.

To achieve all of this, I had to get over my phobia of using the pen tool in Photoshop. It was the only way of getting sharp lines and smooth curves. But, I’ve never been successful in earlier attempts. And yes, I developed a bit of a fear about using the pen tool. After this job, the fear is gone. I’m embarrassed to admit, it’s easy to use and I’m unsure why I made such a fuss over it through the years. I have a lot of work to do before I become proficient with it, but the Antoinette Flyer schematic was a great start.

Antoinette Flyer schematic – 1908

 Antoinette Flyer schematic airplane 1908

Cleaned up and ready to display – click on the image for a larger image

I used a composite of a couple grainy and badly scanned schematics to build the above. It took hours to lay out the lines and align them correctly. I don’t have all the measurements included yet. I’m hoping to layer them in at a later point.  I also have the entire Antoinette engine somewhere on my hard drive. I might pull it out, clean it up a bit, and post it.

I played with several backgrounds to highlight the airplane as well as thicknesses for the lines. I opted for a very thin 2px white line and a black background. It displays the framework’s delicacy better. I tried traditional blueprint blue, but the airplane didn’t show well. The final schematic is 5,000 px x 3,843 px and prints to 10″ x 7.6″. It looks smashing.

Technology as art

One of my motivations, aside from the sheer joy of watching the Antoinette appear in pristine shape, was to use them over at Redbubble for a few merchandise ideas. I’ve played with a few postage stamps and early aviation photographs from my collection and have been pleased with their overall look. It takes quite a bit of time getting everything the right size and clarity. Schematics like the Antoinette adapt to Redbubble designs well.

Technology as art is an appealing genre. There’s something elegant in a simple schematic. I have a thing for industrial and mechanical style art, so I guess my passion for schematics is a natural extension.  I’ll be working up more ideas in the coming months.

I’m currently taking a stab at a schematic for an Avro CF-100 Canuck. It’s a bit uncharacteristic for me, I’m not normally a jet fan, but it’s a bit of a sentimental journey. The Canuck was the jet my father worked on when he was in the RCAF with the old 440 Nimble Bat squadron. It’s not looking good at the moment, I need a few more drawings and blueprints if I want it to look correct.

Enjoy the Antoinette Flyer in the meantime and pop over to Bittergrounds.Redbubble.com and check out how well the Antoinette Flyer looks.  Wish I had more space for pillows in my little apartment.

Pillow with Antoinette Flyer schematic as the pattern

Worked out better than I expected

If you’d like to learn more about the magnificent Antoinette read my previous article here:

Diving into pioneer aviation with the amazing Antoinette Flyer

 

Diving into pioneer aviation with the amazing Antoinette Flyer

Diving into pioneer aviation with the amazing Antoinette Flyer

Originally published Oct 4 2018. Updated Oct 1, 2020
Updates include more reference links, updated details and additional information on pioneer aviation poster stamps

Here’s a little something from my pioneer aviation collection. I was looking for … well, I can’t remember because I became sidetracked.

About 7 years ago, I spotted a set of 1910 Wills Aviation cards on eBay. It’s one of those silly items I coveted for years so I threw in a modest bid and it turned out to be one of those days aviation and tobacco card collectors were asleep and I got the full set of 50.

Scan of a Wills' pioneer aviation cigarette card showing the Antoinette Flyer

1910 Wills’ Cigarette card The Antoinette Monoplane – from author’s collection

The cards are pretty cool and considering they are over 100 years old, in very good shape. They cover flight from early balloons to the most modern (as of 1910) aeroplanes, including my favourite –  the Antoinette Flyer, designed and built by Léon Levavasseur.

The Antoinette Flyer, Levavasseur’s contribution to pioneer aviation

The Silver Dart comes close to the number 1 spot in my heart, but it’s always edged out by the Antoinette. I think primarily because the Antoinette’s design is so unusual.  It looked like a canoe with wings and a pilot precariously plopped in the middle.  I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, engineer and pioneer aviation designer, Léon Levavasseur started out designing boats and boat engines.  The Flyer may have looked fragile, but it was an outstanding aeroplane that helped Hubert (sometimes erroneously listed as Herbert) Latham set a number of height and speed records in the early days of aviation, as well as perform in most of the major aviation events of the day.

Latham attempts an English Channel crossing (1909)

Latham was the first aviator to attempt the Daily Mail’s Channel Crossing challenge. At stake was a £1000 prize for the first flight across the 38 km (21 miles) distance from Calais to Dover. His attempt, July 19, 1909, ended 13 km off the Calais coast line with Latham ditching in the water. He was uninjured, but the Antoinette was badly damaged.

Latham was seen as a good bet to win the prize. His two main rivals were Louis Blériot and his Blériot XI, who went on to win and Charles de Lambert flying a Wright Flyer. A second Antoinette was prepared by the 21st, but bad weather kept him grounded. Louis Blériot and his team arrived, after Latham’s crash, and prepared for crossing. Not far away, de Lambert setup his camp, but crashed or damaged both Flyers during practice flights. That left just Latham and Blériot.

On July 25, 1909, while Latham was still asleep, Blériot saw an opportunity. The weather turned favourable at dawn and he launched off the cliff in Calais and into history. Latham’s chance was gone.

Photo of Hubert Latham (left) and Leon Levavasseur (right) Calais 1909 for the English Channel

Hubert Latham (left) and Leon Levavasseur (right) Calais 1909 for the English Channel crossing attempt – image courtesy BNF/Gallica

 

Page from a 1909 French aeronatic magazine showing 4 airplanes ready for the English Channel crossing

3rd aeroplane – Antoinette Flyer ready to try the Channel crossing – Image courtesty BNF/Galacia – Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Philosophie, histoire, sciences de l’homme, FOL-LC6-87

 

Photo of Hubert Latham in cockpit of Antoinette Flyer 1908 just before his 1st English Channel crossing

Latham in cockpit of Antoinette ready to try Channel crossing 1909 – image courtesy BNF/Gallica

Latham and the Antoinette early aviation records

Despite the disappointing outcome of the Channel race, Latham went on to set air speed and distance records with the Antoinette flyer.

1909

  • May – European non-stop flight record, flying for 1hr 07mins) (this was set prior to the Channel crossing attempt)
  • August –  Riems Airshow (Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne) world altitude record of 155 metres (509ft)

1910

  • January 7 – Mourmelon-le-Grand, France, world altitude record of 1,100 metres  (3,600 ft)
  • April –  Nice Air show world air speed record of 48.186 miles per hour (77.548 km/h)
  • July – second Riems Airshow (Grande Semaine de l’Aviation de la Champagne),  world altitude record of 1,384 m (4,541 ft)

 

Page from 1909 La Revue aérienne newspaper with photo of Latham flying an Antoinette - pioneer aviation

Hubert Latham 1909 Airshow – La Revue aérienne / directeur Emile Mousset Author : Ligue nationale aérienne, Paris. Auteur du texte Publisher : [s.n.] (Paris) Publication date : 1909-09-10 Contributor : Mousset, Émile. Éditeur scientifique – image courtesy BNF/Galacia

I’ve looked around for postage stamps showing Latham, Levavasseur or the Antoinette and haven’t found a single one. Nor have I found Cinderellas commemorating them, although I’m pretty sure I’ll eventually stumble across at least a Cinderella. Air shows were very popular and many poster stamps were created to promote them, like I said, one is bound to pop up.

The stamp below is a a sample of one of the poster stamps produced for events like the Aug 1909 Reim’s airshow. They are works of art in themselves and hard to find around here. They aren’t expensive, as a rule, and can be a good start to a pioneer aviation collection.

A poster stamp from the Reims France air show in 1909

Reims Airshow 1909 poster stamp

In the meantime enjoy the video below. It’s film footage of Levasseur and Latham preparing for the flight across the English Channel. It starts off in Calais, where fliers gathered to prepare for their attempts. It’s rare to find footage of the Antoinette in flight, but as you watch it, you’ll understand what I mean by “canoe with wings”.

The video shows the infamous dunking Latham took into the English Channel in July 1909.  It was an improbable design, but flew fast and true. Would I fly in it? HELL YES! How about you?  Take the  poll below the video and let me know if you’d fly in an Antoinette.

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Would you take a ride in an Antoinette Flyer
Would you take a ride in an Antoinette Flyer
Would you take a ride in an Antoinette Flyer

Read more:

  1. Antoinette (Levavasseur) Aircraft Engines by By William Pearce
  2. A short bio on Latham can be found here Hubert Latham – The Aviator Who Never Made It Across The Channel | Mechtraveller
  3. This day in aviation
  4. The Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF) is a marvelous resource for early French aviation information. The archives hold many contemporary aviation magazines and newspaper articles that are impossible to find anywhere else. Search: Leon Levavasseur, Latham Hubert, Antoinette moteur and  l’aéroplane Antointette for the best results.
  5. Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace has a short page on the Antoinette. They have a reproduction of the flyer on display.