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Open Source Philosophy and the Dawn of Aviation
doi: 10.5028/jatm.2012.04030812

Bento Silva de Mattos*
Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica
São José dos Campos - SP - Brazil

*author for correspondence:

In the early 20th century, Aviation pioneers in North America and Europe experienced quite different working ambiences. The Europeans, except for those living in England, embodied the spirit of the French Revolution; the Americans incorporated the ideas from the Industrial Revolution or, according to many historians, the English Revolution. Due to this fact, Aviation in Europe and in the United States evolved quite differently. In order to justify the establishment of those connections, the present work has described the way aviation pioneers designed and built their flying machines and the state of aviation in North America and in Europe in the early 20th century. A collaborative working atmosphere was present among the European pioneers thanks to the French Revolution ideas that found general acceptance in Europe. The European aviation pioneers frequently exchanged information regarding aeronautical experience or even whole designs. Contrary to this, in the United States aviation, its development suffered from lack of information from the people who were competing for the first flight. Indeed, a fierce competition among the individuals was established. The knowledge coming from Europe, noticeably from the Germans Lilienthal brothers and George Cayley, was being retransmitted by open-minded people like Octave Chanute. That is the reason why America fell behind Europe in regard to airplane technology before the broke out of World War I and a patent war started in the United States among their aviation pioneers. In France, the Aéro-Club de France was created in the last years of the 19th century. Among its objectives, one was to attest the first person to perform a flight with a heavier-than-air machine. After the brazilian Santos-Dumont's flight with his 14bis biplane in 1906, in Paris, Wilbur Wright went to Europe in 1907 and established a workshop to continue improving the Flyer concept. Wright's supporter, Octave Chanute, had warned him that the aviation world was catching up fast, especially in France. However, Wilbur was only able to get the Flyer airborne in August 1908 in France, with disappointing results. However, impressive flights took place in late 1908 and the Wright brother's European Flyer was the basic airplane they were able to sell to the US armed forces for the first time in 1909. After Santos-Dumont's success in flying his 14bis airplane in 1906, many of his comrades established airplane factories. Those Dumont's friends were eager to sell planes to the French government, and a competitive atmosphere settled down in the old continent. In addition, the collaborative ambience ceased because the World War I was only a matter of time.


Aviation, Aircraft design, Air transportation, French Revolution, Industrial Revolution, Open source.

J. Aerosp. Technol. Manag., São José dos Campos, Vol.4, No 3, pp. 355-379, Jul.-Sep., 2012
Received: 05/02/2012
Accepted: 24/05/2012

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