Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


A SHOW of hands, please, of all who have ever wanted to learn how to fly.

I thought so. And, like me, maybe, what with one thing and another, you’ve never satisfied this urge—except, again like me, with the virtual version of Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Well, it happens that I have the book we need. In fact, once we get our ticket, there’s another mini-essay to come describing how to assemble our own aeroplane.

Our text, How to Learn to Fly, is subtitled Instructions for the machines featured at the First International Air Meet—Curtiss, Wright, Anotinette [sic; it’s later corrected to Antoinette], Blériot, and Farman, 1909. This air meet, La Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne, was held near Rheims, France, the week of August 26 of that year.


How to Learn to Fly 1909, by Augustus Post, facsimile published by B.F. Goodrich Aerospace and The Glenn Curtiss Museum, 1991. Both and list it.

As author Augustus Post writes, “New machines cost from $5000 to $7500, although the Santos-Dumont Demoiselle [a 1909 ultralight] can be bought for $1200.” To put expenditures in perspective, an Inflation Calculator ( sets these prices in today’s dollars at about $116,000 to $174,000 and $28,000, respectively.

“There are, however, other expenses necessary before flight is possible. The machine must be housed in an aeroplane shed, or hangar as the French call it.”


This page is captioned “Some Details Useful in Building the Curtiss-Type Biplane.” Noted.

And, of course, we must learn to fly.

“Regular schools have been established abroad,” observes the author. However, “Most of the fliers in this country have learned in a typically American way—that is, they just got in and flew, trusting to Providence, their own quick wits, and the luck of the American eagle to keep them from breaking their necks.”

This is the kind of instruction that worked just fine on the Flight Sim.

The 12-page Learn to Fly devotes a section to each of the Antoinette, Blériot, Curtiss, Farman and Wright. There’s also a page comparing specifics of each, their dimensions, construction and power as well as “controls, starting, steering, alighting, elevating and means of obtaining stability.”


Being a monoplace, the Blériot “seems capable of greater speed.” My kind of machine.

“In flying over trees, buildings, and obstructions at a low altitude, you can feel the machine dip and pitch as it passes through these places where the air is boiling.”

I like this part about the air boiling.

“As you rise higher it becomes more even and the inequalities of the surface have less effect. Higher up, too, the aviator has room to gain speed by pitching down sharply, thereby causing the balancing-planes to act more powerfully—and this manœuvre is often of great assistance.”

Yes, I’ll have to remember that.

The author closes with a caution of buying your aeroplane from the sole U.S. sources, Curtiss or the Wrights. “Neither of these companies has devoted its attention to selling machines because the demand for exhibitions is so great and the amount of money to be made by public flights is so large that they have not desired to sell machines to other people who might enter into competition with themselves.”

Well, that seals it. I’m getting the Blériot. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

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This entry was posted on January 14, 2013 by in Vintage Aero and tagged , , , .
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