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Father Bartholomeu de Gusmao’s flying gondola

Posted in Aviation, Historical articles, Inventions on Friday, 10 August 2012

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This edited article about Gusmao’s pioneering flight originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 761 published on 14th August 1976.

Freedom of the Skies, picture, image, illustration

Gusmao’s flying machine (frame no 12)

An historic moment occurred on 8th August, 1709 when Father Bartholomeu de Gusmao made his first, and only, flight in the airship he had invented.

The twenty-four-year-old monk had obtained backing from the King of Portugal to finance the building of the apparatus, which consisted of a basket-work gondola suspended from fourteen small balloons. There were small furnaces in the gondola producing hot air which was conducted to the balloons by tubes.

On the 8th August, before a huge crowd, the airship rose from the grounds of the royal castle in Lisbon and sailed out of sight.

Unfortunately, the ship was blown against a roof by a sudden gust of wind, two of the balloons were torn off and the ship sank to earth and was wrecked – and so were Gusmao’s hopes of royal preferment! Nevertheless, man had flown through the air for the first time.

It was not until seventy-four years later that the Montgolfier brothers made their successful ascent in a hot-air balloon.

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