Streets and squares
The new streets and squares of the future neighbourhood of glattpark
Opfikon are named after aviation pioneers. They are to remind people of
men and women who, at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, with their
vision and courage have made possible the unique development of civil
This will be a further contribution to the identity of the new city neighborhood,
pointing to a period of innovation which proved to be ground-breaking
for the future of civil aviation.
Opfikon, December 2001
THE CITY COUNCIL
"Among all of mankind's leaps, from the invention of the wheel,
the letter press and the sailing ships up to the computer, hardly any
has changed the world so much as the conquest of the sky."
P. Almond, "Aviation"
"The pioneers of aviation had nothing but their common sense
and their capacity to react to land safely on the ground again. Their
craft, primitive constructions of wood, fabric and wire, were hard to
steer and so vulnerable that even a slight gust of wind resulted in a
crash. The engines, fitted up front or in the rear, weak and unreliable,
had a tendency to stall at a decisive moment. The pilots bet their fortunes,
their pride and their lives against such adversity."
C. Prendergast, "Pioneers of Aviation"
Lilienthal in 1894, before takeoff with his "Fliegeberg" (fly
mountain) in Berlin-Lichterfelde
Otto Lilienthal, 1848 - 1896. Gaining basic insights for aviation.
"Without a doubt, many men long before Lilienthal thought of conducting
experiments of this kind. Lilienthal not only thought about flying, he
proceeded to act. In so doing, he probably made a larger contribution
to the solution of the problem than any of his predecessors. He clearly
demonstrated the feasibility of practical flight attempts without which
progress in this realm is impossible
" wrote the American Orville
Wright in 1901 who, two years later, was to succeed with the first engine-propelled
flight. Following 25 years of experimental and theoretical work, Lilienthal
in 1889 published his book "Bird flight as the basis for the art
In 1891 he succeeded with history's first repeatable safe glider flights
with craft having one and two sets of wings (1895), all told a total of
2000 glider flights up to a distance of 250 meters. His method "from
jump to flight" was adapted all over the world and marks the beginning
of the period of manned flight. From 1894 onward, he used a mound named
Fliegeberg (fly mountain) in Lichterfelde near his apartment, heaped to
a height of 15 meters in accordance with his instructions. The photos
of Lilienthal in his glider are the first of a flying human.
His engineer witnessed Lilienthal's fatal crash on August 9, 1896 when
he failed to compensate for a thermal turbulence. "It was about ten
after three PM. Lilienthal only rushed a few steps against the wind before
his wings lifted him upward. Everything was normal. But suddenly it appeared
to me as if the apparatus, which was gliding downwards, stood still in
the air. He was maybe ten meters above ground. Lilienthal began to struggle
with his legs, thus trying to give his wings a more downward decline.
Inexplicably, the apparatus within seconds started to rush head on, crashing
hard. Lilienthal could no longer move. His back was broken."
Lilienthal did not yet realize the perfect flight, but with his scientifically
gained insights and practical achievements, he paved the way to showing
how flying was possible.
Lindbergh's reception in New York
Charles Lindbergh, 1902 - 1974. First to fly across the Atlantic nonstop
from New York to Paris.
In 1912, the Daily Mail opened a competition awarding 10,000 pounds to
whoever first crossed the Atlantic nonstop. On June 14, Captain Brown
and Lieutenant Alcock take off from St. John's in Newfoundland and the
following day land near Clifden in Ireland-the first nonstop crossing
of the Atlantic. They received the Daily Mail prize from the hands of
Charles Lindbergh had been a professional pilot on postal routes since
1920. In 1923, he bought his first plane from army leftover stocks even
though he had never flown alone.
In 1920, a prize of $25,000 for the first nonstop flight between Paris
and New York in any direction was offered. Owing to the support of influential
businesspeople from St. Louis, Lindbergh was able to buy an airplane especially
designed for this purpose, the Ryan Spirit of St. Louis, with a top speed
of 200 KMH a flying gas tank without direct forward sight for the pilot.
On May 20, 1927, Lindberg flew from Long Island, N.Y., via Newfoundland
across the Atlantic, and the following day, after 6000 km and a flying
time of 33½ hours, landed in Paris Le Bourget at night. He not
only met the terms of the competition but was also the first to cross
the Atlantic alone.
"Sometimes, I flew ten feet above the sea, sometimes I was at an
altitude of 10,000 feet... I flew for long hours without seeing any waves.
Frankly speaking, I was very much bored... I never took a nap... I only
drank water, but I admit to you: upon arrival, I was thirsty as hell.
... I only had my passport. Unfortunately, I forgot to obtain the necessary
visa. Fortunately, no one was too fussy about it after my arrival."
"Incidentally I could have kept on flying for a long time... If
I succeeded, I owed it to the design engineer of my aircraft and to all
those who had helped me. It is a pity I didn't go on flying. Really, I
can assure you I still had enough fuel to keep on flying for another thousand
(from interviews with Lindbergh following his arrival)
Lindbergh's takeoff on May 20, 1927 from Roosevelt Field in New York
Farman winning the Archdeacon Cup for Europe's first one-kilometer roundtrip
Henry Farman, 1874-1958. Engine pilot and design engineer. Distance
and altitude records, decisive improvements in aircraft design.
Farman was of British origin and lived in Paris.
"The personified experimentation talent." (Gabriel Voisin)
In 1908, Farman was the first to fly a closed one-kilometer loop in Europe
with a Voisin airplane which he had decisively improved. "This day
will go into history as the day on which, in the presence of official
witnesses, human intelligence overcame the problem which had been Icarus's
demise and over which Leonardo da Vinci had racked his brain. Never before
has such a feat been achieved." (London Times)
The "Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne", the aviation
meeting week in Reims of August 22 through 28, 1909 was no longer be matched
by any other similar event. After Blériot's successful flight across
the Channel, Europe's entire high society gathered at Bétheny near
Reims to attend the meeting of what were then aviation's greatest flying
cracks. On the fifth day, Latham with a 150-km flight took the pole position
in long-distance flying. The grand prize amounting to 50,000 francs appeared
to go to him for sure.
On the last day, Farman pulled his biplane from the hangar. The fabric-covered
tail unit looked more like "laundry strung on a line for drying in
the backyard of a laundress." Farman took off, flying one loop around
the square after the next, and after two hours he had equaled Wilbur Wright's
record. He landed in the evening by floodlight. He had flown 180 km in
3 hours, 4 minutes and 56 seconds.
Henry, who in 1909 with his brother Maurice founded an aircraft engineering
plant at Billancourt near Paris, achieved further altitude and speed records.
In 1919, the world's first international passenger route was inaugurated
with the dual-engine "Goliath", a reengineered bomber. In the
following years, the Goliath was used by numerous airlines as it was considered
one of the most reliable and comfortable passenger planes.
Chavez before taking off for his flight over the Simplon pass on September
Geo Chavez, 1887-1910. Parisian-born Peruvian. The first to cross the
"A handsome man of Herculean build, great athlete, international
soccer player and motor vehicle driver."
In 1910 Chavez attended Farman's flight school in France. Obtained French
flying license no. 23 on February 15, 1910. Subsequently numerous pioneering
flights, records and prizes.
On July 19, 1910, the committee of the Milan flight meeting offered a
prize of 70,000 lire for a "competitive flight by aircraft over the
Alps to Milan." The Simplon pass was selected as the best route with
Brig being the starting point of the contest. The town prepared a landing
strip on the Brigerberg mountain some 200 m above the bottom of the valley.
On August 23, 1910, Chavez arrived in Brig to explore the mountain world
he intended to conquer by foot and by automobile. His competitor Weymann,
too, made exploratory flights on his Farman biplane: "It is a terrific
venture, and only a human who does not value life can meet death as the
Following many takeoff postponements on account of a holiday and inclement
weather, Chavez took off at noon of on September 23, 1910 on his 50-HP
On the Simplon pass, folks were on the streets, and bells announced the
flight. The entire Domodossola valley gathered for the reception. «Short
cries were bursting! Does Chavez intend to show off for the last time?
This no longer is a gliding flight. He is falling! To steep! The hands
are vehemently tugging at the steering. The craft moves upward. The earth
is falling behind. The horizon is turning like a disc. The plane, too
heavily torn, makes a loop. There, the wings collapse over his head. A
horrific crash interrupts the blowing of the wind. Then everything turns
black..." (NZZ of 9/24/1910)
Chavez died on September 28, 1910. "Probably, he would have died
even without the crash and the resultant injuries as his entire organism
had been spent by the titanic struggle."
Helicopter of the Dufaux brothers, 1904
Armand Dufaux, 1882-1941, and Henri Dufaux, 1879-1980. Pioneers of engine-propelled
flight in Switzerland.
The Dufaux brothers had been aware of the studies by Otto Lilienthal
and had scrupulously followed the exploits of the Wright brothers. Instrumental
in the success of their aircraft was their know-how in engineering and
designing light engines which they used for their motorcycles Motosacoche
they manufactured. They built a helicopter model weighing 17,5 kg with
two counter-rotating rotors which in Paris in 1905 performed the world's
first helicopter flights with pay load. Many important aviation people
attended the demonstration, among them Louis Blériot who wanted
to buy an engine from Dufaux, and Alberto Santos-Dumont who, on the basis
of these tests, was to focus on the heavier-than-air flying principle.
In 1909, the Dufaux brothers in their shop in Geneva built apparatus
no. 3, the world's first functional torso of a biplane. The following
year, apparatus no. 4 was ready which Armand Dufaux would use to cross
Lake Geneva on August 27, 1910. The flight of 66 km from Villeneuve to
Geneva took 56 minutes and was then the longest flight over water, twice
as long as Blériot's Channel crossing flight.
"A cannon shot was fired at 6.41 am to announce that the target
line had been crossed and the first Lake Geneva crossing become reality.
The landing site near Corsier still had to be reached, which meant a turn
of 240 degrees. The pilot had to manage it in an unfamiliar way, to the
left against the engine's rotating movement. In so doing, another two
meters of altitude were lost. Dear engine, just another few minutes!"
A Dufaux double seater participates in maneuvers in 1911 with pilot and
observer, the first aircraft used in the service of the Swiss army. In
1911, the Dufaux brothers stopped engineering aircraft. Armand was to
open a shop for aircraft spare parts and started engineering hunter planes.
Henri turned to painting and extensive traveling on a worldwide scale.
The Dufaux brothers succeeded in taking engine-propelled flight in Switzerland
from the experimental and theoretical stages to practical use, thus giving
aviation invaluable impulses.
Blériot on July 25, 1909 taking off for his flight across the Channel
Louis Blériot, 1872-1936. First to fly across the Channel.
Louis Blériot was an impulsive, sturdy man, an unmistakable figure
with big nose and enormous mustache and, in his capacity as design engineer,
a well-to-do manufacturer of motor vehicle accessories. Shortly after
the turn of the century, he began to experiment on flying. Before his
Channel crossing flight, he had invested his entire fortune as well as
the dowry of his wife, all told 780,000 francs, and was facing bankruptcy.
Blériot engineered numerous aircraft types most of which were
a failure. Tiny Blériot XI however became legendary: she had a
wing span of only 7,8 m, an air-cooled 25 HP engine, a total weight of
300 kg and a maximum speed of 75 KMH. With this monoplane, he was the
first to fly across the Channel on July 25, 1909, winning the prize of
1000 pounds offered by the London Daily Mail.
"... I am alone. For ten minutes, I lost all sense of direction.
It is an odd situation to be alone, without guidance, without compass,
up in the air right above the Channel."
On July 19, his competitor Hubert Latham had landed on the sea attempting
the same feat on his Antoinette IV, which had a wing area four times as
Blériot's Channel crossing flight changed the national consciousness
"... our fleet to the contrary, England is no longer an impregnable
"... there is reasonable concern that an invasion of Great Britain
is possible from the air
Crossing the Channel made Blériot one of the best-known pioneers
in the infancy of engine-propelled flight.
Glider 3 by the Wright brothers in 1903
Wilbur Wright, 1867-1912, and Orville Wright, 1871-1948.
World's first dirigible engine-propelled flight in 1903.
In 1900, the Wright brothers engineered their first glider on which they
ventured manned and unmanned flights, to be followed by glider 2 and,
in particular, glider 3, which formed the basis for the world's first
engine-propelled aircraft, built in 1903.
December 17, 1903 probably is the most famous date in the history of
aviation: first dirigible flight with an aircraft, Flyer I, 12 seconds,
36 meters. Takeoff was from a catapult, Orville was at the helm after
the brothers had flipped a coin and Wilbur had won. However, on his first
flight, he got stuck in the sand.
"This flight only took 12 seconds, however, it was the first in
the history of mankind whereby an engine by its own force took a human
into the air in free flight and, without slowing down, moved above the
ground to finally land at a point of the same altitude as the takeoff
In 1904, the Flyer II was completed, carrying out 105 flights, the longest
of which was 4.4 km. It was followed by famous Flyer II. It could be steered
completely, could take curves and turn around, but had no sufficient inherent
stability and had to be controlled all the time to guard against breaking
out. Its longest flight was 39 km and took 38 minutes.
In 1970, the Flyer was brought to Europe where at first it was hardly
noticed to become world-famous following many successful flights in the
proximity of Le Mans. The Flyer was breaking all records and proved that
it could rise, take curves and turn around as well as manage circles and
"eight" figures. The aircraft is far ahead of Europe's entire
The 20th century's first decade undeniably was the decade of the Wright
brothers. More than in the U.S., Europe followed the advances with great
Hamilton in his naval emergency gear with the unavoidable cigarette
in the corner of his mouth
Charles Keeny Hamilton, 1885-1914. Legendary show and stunt pilot,
surviving 63 crashes.
Hamilton stood for bold men and women who as pilots in aviation's
pioneering age risked their necks, thus not only fascinating masses
of spectators at flight meetings, but also giving design engineers
and inventors invaluable hints as to the development of aircraft.
He lived to be 28 years old-older than many other pilots who in
this period suffered fatal accidents. "They died away on us
so rapidly that I began to take over the missions of all the others,"
a young pilot remembered who had joined the Curtiss team in 1910.
Hamilton's career started with a jump from a window, using an umbrella
instead of a parachute.
He performed as a balloon pilot at folk festivals, later steered
airships until he became so fascinated by Blériot's feats
that he decided to learn to fly with Glenn Curtiss. Curtiss put
him on the list of his stunt flight team after only a month.
Hamilton flew any aircraft in any situation, had extremely strong
nerves and had an unfailing sense for the spectacular. He was denied
one such spectacular feat at the last moment: for 10,000 dollars,
he was ready to fly along New York's Broadway.
Hamilton often flew in his naval emergency gear to soften the blows
of his crashes. He survived 63 crashes. Reportedly, his body contained
many spare parts like two silver ribs and metallic plates in the
scull and on the shin.
"Of the original Hamilton, there was little left."
Hamilton died in his bed in 1914, as predicted by him.
Voisin airplane engineering plant in Paris-Billancourt. Painting of 1908
Gabriel Voisin, 1880-1973, and Charles Voisin, 1882-1912. France's first
successful airplane design engineers.
Quite little is known of the first aircraft designed by the Voisin brothers.
With 25 HP insufficiently powered and hard to maneuver, the best craft
was the Voisin-Delagange, a hopper of 60 meters. The more powerful Antoinette
engine managed 500 m followed by a crash landing.
"She could be steered through the air only by force, and when she
tilted to one side, the rudder had to be reversed to force her into a
normal position. It was quite a risky maneuver."
"The Voisin aircraft were more popular than the Wright Flyers, but
there was no possibility to offset rolling motions, and they could only
be flown when there was no wind."
The biplane Zugvogel (bird of passage) of 1909 with a 60-HP engine and
a speed of 55 KMH unintentionally made a huge contribution to the development
of airplanes. It was ordered by Henry Farman, but was sold to England
by the Voisin brothers.
Farman proceeded to found his own aircraft engineering plant, further
developing the Zugvogel and turning it into the first dirigible airplane.
In 1907, the Voisin brothers opened one of the world's first commercial
aircraft engineering plants in Paris-Billancourt. From 1911, they started
engineering seaplanes. Gabriel Voisin managed a first seaplane flight
on the Seine in 1911.
Charles Voisin died in 1912 in a car accident.
During World War I, first reconnaissance planes and bombers were built.
Under the management of Gabriel Voisin, the plant after the war started
manufacturing a number of legendary automobiles whose esthetics and functionality
fascinated architect Le Corbusier, among others.
Amelia Earhart in 1932 flew across the Atlantic alone as the first woman
Amelia Earhart, 1897-1937. First world-famous woman pilot. First flights
«Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace with
Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897; her father was an alcoholic
and often jobless, her family often had no permanent residence. She became
a nurse. When she was able to afford to book a short flight for only one
dollar, aviation was never to let go of her. After ten flying lessons
and several crashes, she made her first solo flight in 1921. The following
year, she could buy her first aircraft.
On July 17/18, she became the first woman passenger flying across the
North Atlantic, giving her plenty of publicity.
On May 20 - 23, 1932, Amelia flew across the North Atlantic on her own
at a new record time of 13½ hours. She was to become world-famous,
receiving the Harmon trophy, the highest distinction for women pilots,
from the hands of President Hoover.
In January 1935, she made the first solo flight across the Pacific from
Honolulu to California. In 1936 she received 50,000 dollars to buy a dual-engine
Lockheed Electra. She planned to fly around the earth. It was not the
first try, but the longest.
On June 1, 1937, she took off from Miami and, after an intermediary landing,
reached Lae on New Guinea on June 29. Ahead of her were still 7000 miles
across the Pacific. On July 2, 1937, she took off from Lae for destination
Howland Island, a tiny island 2556 miles away, to refuel. En route, the
navigation equipment failed. Rather than turning around, Amelia Earhart
continued with her flight, and radio contact was lost. Many ships and
airplanes participated in the search, but Amelia and her navigator remained
for ever lost. Amelia was presumed to erroneously have flown a course
100 miles north-west of Howland and that her airplane crashed into the
sea for lack of fuel.
The demise of Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan remains one of
aviation's great mysteries.
"Aviation lets her rewrite the history of woman and to gain access
to areas that had been the prerogative of men. Earhart is a symbol for
social and technological progress in a time when progress was the only
hope America could offer a population disillusioned by the depression.
Earhart had demonstrated to Americans that they, too, could overcome seemingly
Santos Dumont on his airship no. 6
Alberto Santos-Dumont, 1873-1932. Brazilian in Paris, airship and engine-propelled
Santos-Dumont, a rich partner of a coffee plantation, in 1891 came to
Paris at the age of 18, a short, slender figure, 1,5 m tall and weighing
In 1898, he engineered the first fuel-powered airship, on October 19,
1901 flying on it as a passenger from St-Cloud to Paris, around the Eiffel
tower and back. In so doing, he won the prize of 100,000 francs donated
by Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe. This dirigible flight of an aircraft was
met with overwhelming spectator interest and big publicity in the press.
He described a crash landing with a balloon near Nizza as follows: "I
was drawn amid small trees and retreating shrub, my face all cut and bruised,
my clothes torn from my back, in pain and worried, fearing the worst,
and yet there was nothing I could do to save myself. Just as I gave myself
up, the tow rope was tangled around a tree, holding firm. I was hurled
out of the basket, fell down and lost consciousness. When I came to, I
had to walk quite a stretch until a met a few farmers. They helped me
get back to Nice where I went to bed and had physicians sow me together."
Santos-Dumont was just as important as an engine pilot: on October 23,
1906, he managed Europe's first acknowledged engine-propelled flight on
his 14bis, a monstrous contraption with box-like wings and a basket for
the pilot, standing erect, with a duration of seven seconds and a distance
of 60 meters. On November 12, he managed a flight of 220 meters in 22
seconds. At last, a European succeeded in taking off and being really
airborne. In London, Lord Northcliffe shouted into the telephone: "Let
me tell you that there can no longer be any talk of quiet sleep behind
old England's wooden walls with the Channel as our bulwark. If war should
break out, the enemy's flying chariots will land on British soil."
In 1909, Santos-Dumont built his famous light craft "Demoiselle".
Prof. A. Piccard and engineer P. Kipfer, photographed through the manhole
of the balloon capsule
Auguste Piccard, 1884-1962. Swiss scientific and balloon pioneer.
To discover the stratosphere and to measure cosmic rays, Piccard with
engineer Paul Kipfer on May 27, 1931 made the first balloon journey into
the stratosphere, reaching an altitude of 15,781 m.
"5.00 am: everything ideally beautiful, very little drift, region
of Lech. Strong air loss... we successfully spilled liquid O2 to improve
cabin pressure. Within 25 minutes, we reached an altitude of 15 km.
It is snowing inside the cabin!
10.10 am: valve rope cannot be pulled, wheel is turning without effect...
we are prisoners of the air. Doomed to wait until 2.00 or 3.00 or 4.00
PM. 10.25 AM: +39° C. Top of bodies fully disrobed, heat bearable
this way. Hope we will sink soon.
10.40 am: we lost pressure. Ear! Above in the cabin, awfully hot.
2.09 pm: as we still have a fresh cartridge of potash, we will not
suffocate before sundown.
2.50 pm: we try to keep as still as possible to save O2.
4.30 pm: we have been in the stratosphere for 12 hours and cannot sink!
6.08 pm: unbelievable that the balloon will not sink. We can do nothing
6.35 pm: if only we do not get to the sea.
7.13 pm: balloon has visible pleats.
7.34 pm: I am reducing oxygen consumption to 1.4 liters/minute. Thirst.
We are drinking condensation water of the cabin wall.
8.48 pm: saved from suffocation.
8.52 pm: manhole open. After manholes were opened, balloon started
sinking rapidly towards high mountains. Disposed of two or three sand
bags, landed gently without wind. I preferred not to pull. Then it rose
again to land harshly. I let Kipfer pull, several jumps and lucky landing.
Around 9.00 pm, i.e. after 17-hour journey."
(Auguste Piccard, "At an atlitude of 15,000 meter", Zurich
1933, excerpts from log-book of "F.N.R.S"'s first flight into
the stratosphere from Augsburg to the Gurgl glacier.)
On August 18, 1932, Piccard with Belgian physicist Max Cosyns rose a
second time, this time from Dubendorf. With an altitude of 16,940 meters,
he achieved a new world record, officially recognized by the Fédération
Aéronautique in Paris. In the '40s, Auguste Piccard started engineering
diving equipment. His son Jacques on January 23, 1960 on bathyscaph Trieste
reached the greatest sea depth with 10,916 meters. His son Bertrand and
grand-son of Auguste kept up the balloon tradition and in 1999 was the
first to encircle the earth in a balloon, accompanied by Brian Jones.
Maiden flight of the LZ 3 on Lake Constance, 1906
Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, 1838-1917. Airship pioneer and founder
of commercial civil aviation.
In 1895, Zeppelin obtained his first patent for "a dirigible aircraft
with several supporting bodies arranged one behind the other." His
first rigid aircraft LZ made her maiden voyage from Manzell on Lake Constance
on July 2, 1900.
In 1905, the airship LZ 2 cruised with two engines of 85 HP each. In
1905, it attained an altitude of 457 meters and a speed of 53 KMH. One
engine failed, the craft was destroyed upon landing.
Graf Zeppelin did not give up: the maiden voyage of the LZ 3 was a great
success, the airship traveled 97 km in two hours, returning safely to
its starting point.
On August 5, 1908, the LZ 4 was caught by a gust near Echterdingen and
destroyed. The Count had now lost everything. A large public was sympathetic
to the catastrophe and collected 6.1 million golden mark. The Luftschiffbau
Zeppelin GmbH (Airship Manufacturing Limited Liability company) was founded
in Friedrichshafen, in 1909 the Deutsche Lufschifffahrt-Aktiengesellschaft
(German Airship Transportation stock corporation).
Major German cities began to apply to be part of the Zeppelin transportation
network. In June 1910, the LZ 7 made six scheduled journeys with paying
passengers, however, on its seventh journey, it was destroyed upon ground
contact due to bad weather. The LZ 8 was hit by lightning as it was taken
from the hangar, burning out. This accident resulted in establishing a
first weather forecast service.
The LZ 10 "Schwaben" reached a speed of 75 KMH and could accommodate
24 passengers. One year after its first journey, the LZ 10 managed to
escape a severe storm. It was possible to have the passengers go from
board before the airship was hurled against a hanger, burning out
LZ 13 "Hansa" and LZ 17 "Sachsen" (Saxony) complemented
the fleet. In 1784 voyages, 27,773 passengers were being transported by
1913, covering 273,600 km without any harm to the passengers.
The most famous of all airships, the LZ 127 "Graf Zeppelin"
between 1928 and 194 carried out 570 voyages, crossing the Atlantic 114
Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin was the founder of commercial aviation. His
airships paved the way for global airline systems.
Spelterini's takeoff outside of Switzerland. Spelterini stands at the
edge of the basket, saluting
Eduard Spelterini, 1852-1931. Important Swiss balloon pioneer.
Spelterini was born as Eduard Schweizer in Bazenheid SG on June 2, 1852.
Following completion of his schooling, he planned to be a professional
singer. In Paris, he stumbled upon a balloon venture where one of the
co-passengers had bowed out on account of bad weather. The singer quickly
decided to go along, thus starting his career as a balloon pilot.
"... everywhere, the squat, strong stranger with his proud, dreamy
eyes and strong facial features won friends and supportive sponsors. He
could rely on two reliable helpers: his unwavering self-assurance and
his extraordinary skills."
Spelterini started his Swiss balloon journeys in 1891. On July 15, the
Urania for the first time took off from Zurich near the Pfauen square.
"The airship voyage of captain Spelterini yesterday attracted enormous
crowds. Not only the urban population was there in large numbers, showing
a keen interest in the rare spectacle, also from the surrounding area
there were crowds of spectators.". Numerous additional journeys,
also with celebrity passengers like Prof. A. Heim and Graf Zeppelin, made
Spelterini one of the most popular figures of his time, particularly with
In late 1893, Spelterini left Switzerland. His traces led to Russia and
Belgium. He began to take photographs from the balloon basket, thus also
becoming a pioneer of aerial photography.
On October 1, 1898, Spelterini took off from Sitten for his journey into
the Alps in specially-designed balloon Wega, carrying Professor Arnold
Heim as one of the passengers. "The passengers board. The silence
descending upon the square thronged by massive crowds, turned into anguish.
The spectators were touched, many cried. The last ropes were untied and
the men positioned in front of the gondola. 'Is there nothing missing,
do you have everything?' 'Watch out, let go!' The huge golden-brown ball
was floating upward quietly."
Over the Diablerets peaks, the trail-blazing journey led to the French
Jura mountains where they land near Rivière at 4.30 pm. There were
another six major Alpine journeys on the balloons Sirius, Stella and Jupiter.
Spelterini, who after 1904 made journeys in many countries, in his 43-year
career as a pilot took off 570 times carrying a total of 1237 passengers.
He is considered one of the great pioneers in ballooning and aerial photography
Dirigible airship Pauli according to a historic edging
Samuel Johannes Pauli, 1766-1806. Swiss inventor and airship builder.
"Born in Berne, Pauli is a well-documented, but legendary person,
mentally far ahead of his time. He wrote down the basic principles of
airship engineering. He may be called Switzerland's first airship expert.
He recognized that round bodies are ill-suited for moving in any liquid
Only the shape of a fish or body of a bird would do, he reportedly said.
Pauli also recognized the necessity of having the envelope stiffened.
Forward movement was to be achieved by beating wings. A tail fin served
to control sideway movement and to stabilize the horizontal position.
For vertical steering, a barrel that could be moved in the longitudinal
axis was planned; this barrel could also be used to hold ballast. Compare
this with the LZ 1 of Graf Zeppelin!
When the French attacked Berne on May 5, 1798, Pauli was in charge of
the battery above the Schänzli redoubt. The draft of a contract Pauli
concluded with three prominent citizens of Berne dated back to this turbulent
time. In it, he pledged "... to build a machine which, by means of
mechanical devices and inflammable air, will fly in any direction and
altitude (excepting stormy weather)." "Messrs. Pauli and Steinauer
promised to journey from Berne to London in said machine (following previous
tests)." The contract was never performed.
Pauli went to Paris to come across a collaborator and financier as well
as the protection of Marshall Ney. He engineered an airship which on its
test journey on September 22, 1804 proved to have a "certain maneuverability"."Mr.
Pauli, a born Swiss and skilled mechanic, built an air balloon which he
directs as he pleases by means of a simple mechanical device. With it
he can rise and sink, lets it move in a diagonal line, turns it as he
pleases, passing several miles in one hour without the slightest wind."
Pauli went to England and on April 25, 1814 obtained a royal patent for
an airship and the sole right for a planned transportation service.
Pauli spent two years building his new airship Dolphin which was almost
completed when he died in 1806. There was never to be a test voyage; as
a result, he was perhaps spared bitter disappointment.