1860-1869 Master Index 1880-1889

1870-1879 Chronology of Aviation History
Major Aviation Events from


  • 23 September 1870 (Paris, France) — Parisian aeronaut Jules Durouf, pilots the balloon Le Neptune from Paris, which was besieged by German forces. The flight carried 200-lbs of mail and government papers to friendly territory. [1]

  • September 1870/January 1871 (Paris, France) — Balloons are used by the French to transport letters and passengers out of besieged Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. Between September and the following January, 66 flights carried 110 passengers and up to three million letters out of Paris. [3]

  • 7 October 1870 (Clermont, France) — French politician is flown out to safety — France's Interior Ministry Léon Gambetta arrived unexpectedly today in this town northeast of Paris after escaping from the Prussian siege of the capital in a balloon, the Armand-Barb himès. He had meant to fly to Tours, about 120 miles southwest of Paris, to organize an army and bolster the government. However, a change in wind direction forced the change the plan. He will now have to reach Tours by road. Gambetta was cheered by thousands of Parisians as his balloon took off from the Palace of Saint-Pierre. The flight almost ended in disaster when the balloon lost height when over a Prussian stronghold and troops opened fire. The balloon jettisoned enough ballast to gain height, although Gambetta was lightly wounded when a bullet grazed his hand. Another disaster was averted when the pilot landed near here and the basket hit a large tree. Balloons are also being used by the Paris authorities to send dispatches around the country. [1]


  • 1871 (England) — The Englishmen Wenham and Browning do air flow experiments in a wind tunnel. [3]

  • 18 August 1871 (Paris, France) — French pioneer Alphonse Penaud achieves a 13-second glide with his model glider; the horizontal stabilizer on his machine is copied from Sir George Cayley's designs. [1]


  • 2 February 1872 — French navy-engineer Dupuy de Lome achieves 9 to 11 km/h with his muscle powered airship. [3]

  • 13 December 1872 (Brünn, Czech Republic) — Paul Haenlein (1835-1905) was a German engineer and flight pioneer. He flew in a semi-rigid-frame dirigible. He was the first to create a dirigible airship which was powered by an internal combustion engine. This Lenoir-type motor obtained its fuel from the gas in the balloon. It had four horizontal cylinders, which delivered about 6-hp with a consumption of approximately 250 ft³ of gas per hour. With a mass of 233 kg and an engine displacement of 19.2 liters, it delivered a continuous power of 2.7 kW. The gas was sucked from the envelope of the balloon, which was kept fully inflated by pumping in compensating air to the air bags inside the main envelope. Due to the consumption of gas, the lifting force decreased, so the range of the airship had been limited. In 1872 Haenlein obtained a U.S. patent (No. 130 915) to use the otherwise wasted gas in the dirigible's engines. On 13 December, Paul Haenlein tested the first airship with a gas engine in Brünn, achieving 19 km/h. This airship was a direct forerunner of the Lebaudy type, 164-feet in length, 30-feet greatest diameter, and with a cubic capacity of 85,000 ft³. The airship achieved 19 km/h. The tests were stopped later, because of a shortage of money. A propeller of 15-feet in diameter was driven by the Lenoir engine with 40 revolutions per minute. This was the first instance of the use of an internal combustion engine in connection with aeronautical experiments. The envelope of the dirigible was rendered airtight by means of an internal rubber coating, with a thinner film on the outside. Syngas, used for inflation, formed a suitable fuel for the engine, but limited the height to which the dirigible could ascend. Such trials as were made were carried out with the dirigible held captive. A full experiment was prevented because funds ran low, but Haenlein's work constituted a distinct advance on all that had been done previously. This engine type had the disadvantage of requiring either a gas-producer or a large storage capacity for the gas, either of which makes the total weight of the power plant much greater than that of a petrol engine. [3,4]


  • 6 October 1873 (USA) — Unsuccessful trans-Atlantic flight by W.H. Donaldson, Alfred Ford and George A. Lunt in balloon, Graphic, from Brooklyn, New York, to New Canaan, Connecticut.[2]

  • 1873 (France) — French engineer Clément Ader begins tests of a tethered glider covered in goose feathers. [1]


  • 1874 (France) — The French air pioneer Bénaud designs the first aircraft intended to take off from and land on water-aa two, a two-seat monoplane with retractable amphibious landing gear, counter-rotating propellers, a vertical fixed fin to which the rudder was hinged, dihedral angle on the wings, and an enclosed cockpit equipped with a single control column to control the elevators and rudder, a compass, and a barometer to be used as an altimeter. [3]

  • 5 July 1874 (London, England) — Belgian aeronaut Vincent D. Groof, known in England as “The Flying Man”, is killed when his ornithopter is released from a balloon at low altitude and crashes into Chelsea. [1,3]

  • 20 September 1874 (Brest, France) — French pioneer's steam-powered aircraft makes a short hop French naval officer Félix de la Croix, 52, has built the first man-caring powered air-craft to leave the ground. It was piloted by a young sailor whose name is not known. Du Temple has studied wing flight for 25 years and patented his first monoplane in 1857. He spent the next two years building a succession of bird-like models, many with multi-bladed tractor (pulling) propellers powered by clockwork. After a gap of sixteen years he has now built today's machine, with a wingspan of nearly 56 feet. The propeller, with a diameter of just over 13 feet, is driven by a hot-air piston engine. Du Temple put the machine on the top of a steep ramp and told the sailor how to work the rudder and hinged elevator. At the foot of the ramp the machine was airborne for a short “hop” and did not fly. Now du Temple intends to make a larger machine. [1,3]


  • June 1875 (London, England) — English engineer Thomas Moy's steam-powered flying machine, the Aerial Steamer, makes a short hop. [1]

  • 15 April 1875 (Paris, France) — Two die on record flight — Eminent French scientist Joseph Crocé-Spinelli and Théodore Sivel died tragically today after ascending to 28,000 feet and a hydrogen-filled balloon. The only survivor was the pilot Albert Tissandier. Tissandier, a veteran flyer of the siege of Paris, had taken off with his two passengers in warm spring sunshine and under cloudless skies. At 14,000 feet, the oxygen equipment was working perfectly, but as the craft passed 23,000 feet, Tissandier noticed that both scientists were closing their eyes and panting. At 25,000 feet the pilot tried to gulp more oxygen, but passed out. He recovered to find of the balloon descending rapidly. He fainted again, but was revived by Crocé-Spinelli who made the fatal error of jettisoning more ballast. The balloon shot up to 28,000 feet and the pilot and scientist blacked out once more. Tissandier came to an hour later to discover both his companions dead. The balloon was now falling swiftly, but he managed to touch down safely. [1]


  • 1876 (France) — Frenchmen Pénaud and Gauchot apply for a patent for a power-driven aeroplane with a device for drawing in the undercarriage, and wings with upward dihedral and a stick control. [3]


  • 1877 (Japan) — Imperial Japanese Army flying experience begins with the use of balloons. [3]

  • 18 June 1877 (Nashville/Gallatin, Tennessee) — Samuel Archer King makes a two-hour airmail flight of 26 miles between Nashville and Gallatin in the balloon Buffalo. [1]

  • 29 June 1877 (Alexandria, Egypt) — Italian Professor Enrico Forlanini's steam-powered helicopter is tested at Alexandria. [1]

  • 1877 (Milan, Italy) — First flight of a steam-driven model helicopter (Enrico Forlanini). [3]

  • 1877 (Cambridge, Massachusetts) — Prof. William H. Pickering, Harvard University, begins experiments with model helicopters. In 1903 a rabbit is sent aloft. [2]


  • 12 June 1878 (Hartford, Connecticut) — Charles F. Ritchel publicly demonstrates his hand-powered, one-man rigid airship. Ritchel designed and built a small, one-man dirigible powered by a hand crank. The aircraft consisted of a brass frame put together at Folansbee Machine Shop in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The frame was hung beneath a cylindrical, rubber gas bag manufactured by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Naugatuck. A small propeller drove the craft and could be moved left and right for turning. The craft could reach a height of 200 feet. At the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Ritchel flew the craft within one of the large exhibition halls. Two years later, on June 12, 1878, the craft set off from a baseball field behind the Colt Armory in Hartford, Connecticut. Before a large group of spectators, Mark Quinlan flew the machine over the armory building and the Connecticut River before returning to the starting point and landing. “This was the first flight of a man-carrying dirigible in America,” according to Harvey Lippincott, founder of the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association. On the following day, Quinlan again ascended, but the wind proved to be too strong and he was blown off course, landing in nearby Newington, Connecticut. More flights took place in Boston and elsewhere, and eventually five of the aircraft were constructed and sold. Ritchel imagined a transcontinental airline with larger dirigibles cranked by 11 men. [3,5]

  • 23 August 1878 (London, England) — British Army discovers balloon power — The British Army has its own balloon, which flew for the first time today at Woolwich, south-east London. It costs £71 to build, out of £150 allocated by the War Office - the first British government military aviation budget. Aptly named Pioneer, the balloon consists of a cambric envelope coated with varnish, of 10,000 ft³ gas capacity. In charge of the balloon development, and the first British air commander, is Capt. James Lethbridge Brooke Templer of the 2nd Middlesex Militia, and experience aeronaut. He owns the balloon Crusader, which he will lend to the War Office to begin the training program. He is paid 10 shillings a day when employed on balloon work. [1]


  • 1879 (England) — The British Army games his first balloon, the Pioneer. [3]

  • 31 July 1879 (Montréal, Canada) — Richard Cowen and Charles Page fly the Canadian, first balloon to be built in Canada. [1]

  • 1879 (Paris, France) — Frenchman Victor Tatin builds a power-driven model aeroplane with airscrews and a compressed air motor, successfully flying off the ground. [3]

Works Cited

  1. Gunston, Bill, et al. Chronicle of Aviation. Liberty, Missouri: JL Publishing Inc., 1992. 14-17
  2. Parrish, Wayne W. (Publisher). "United States Chronology". 1962 Aerospace Yearbook, Forty-Third Annual Edition. Washington, DC: American Aviation Publications, Inc., 1962, 446-469.
  3. Wikipedia, Timeline of Aviation — 19th Century
  4. Wikipedia, Paul Haenlein
  5. Wikipedia, Charles F. Ritchel

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