Le Bris J.-M. Albatross
L.Opdyke French Aeroplanes Before the Great War (Schiffer)
1856 Le Bris
In his book Progress in Flying Machines, Octave Chanute wrote about Captain Joseph Marie Le Bris, taking his material from a brief historical account written in 1884 by de la Landelle, and a semi-historical novel by the same man.
Le Bris was a ship captain who had become interested in flight through observing albatrosses in action; he killed one, and felt he had discovered the secret. In 1857 he designed and built the first of his 2 albatross-like gliders; each had a boat-shaped hull, swallow tail, and bird-shaped wings. 2 levers controlled the leading edges, which rotated and allowed a variable angle of attack. The pilot stood upright and worked the rudder with foot-pedals. He tested his bird on a road near Trefeuntec, near Duarnenez, placing it on a moving cart. Le Bris tried to release the tow-rope as the glider began to lift from the vehicle, but the rope caught on a nail, ripping loose part of the cart. The glider then rose in the air; but since the rope had also wound around the driver, he was lifted up as well. His weight acted like the tail of a kite, stabilizing the glider, and all together they rose some 300 m into the air under perfect control. Seeing the driver hanging below him, Le Bris brought his glider down so the man could get off. But now, unbalanced, it would not fly again. His second try was from a tower built over a quarry, but this time the glider, adjusted for weight, sailed out, hit a gust of wind, crashed, and was destroyed. The pilot was only slightly injured.
(Span: 15.2 m; length of hull: 4.1 m; wing area: 20 sqm; empty weight: 202 kg)
Now nearly penniless, Le Bris waited 13 years until a public subscription brought him enough money to build a second albatross, similar to the first, but lighter. It featured a movable counter-weight for automatically maintaining longitudinal balance. On the urging of his friends he tried the glider with ballast only; sometimes it rose, but not far, and was frequently damaged. On one occasion, flown as a kite, it lifted and then advanced against the wind; the rope slackened, and the bird glided on its own some 200 m. A final attempt ended in wreckage: Le Bris had never piloted his last machine.
He seems not to have planned any kind of power for his projects, though he had wanted to tow his glider behind a ship, since the hull itself was waterproof. Le Bris served in the war in 1870, and was murdered 2 years later while serving as a policeman.