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was Herring the first to fly?

Jean-Marie Le Bris (1817 - 1872)

In 1856, two French naval officers accomplished brief though uncontrolled flight, Felix duTemple and Jean-Marie Le Bris who built a glider shaped like an albatross, a bird he had studied on his sea voyages.

Charcoal of Le Bris by H. Schneider

The Albatross

The body of the craft, which would support the pilot, was shaped like a canoe. Each narrow, arching wing was 23 feet (7 meters) long and adjustable by pulleys and cords. They provided a lifting surface of 215 square feet (20 square meters).


Le Bris : The Albatross, 1868

Le Bris tested his first aircraft in 1857 and successfully made a short glide on his first try, but a second attempt resulted in a crash and a broken leg. By 1868, Le Bris had developed a second, larger version of his glider, which made several successful manned test flights before it crashed and was destroyed.

Le Bris' Patent


"...Le Bris's first experiment was conducted on a public road at Trefeuntec, near Douarnenez. Believing, like Count D' Esterno that it was necessary that the apparatus should have an initial velocity of its own, in addition to that of the wind, he chose a Sunday morning, when there was a good 10-knot breeze from the right direction, and setting his artificial albatross horizontally on a cart, he started down the road against the brisk wind, the cart being driven by a peasant.

The bird, with extended wings, 50 ft. across, was held down by a rope passing under the rails of the cart and terminating in a slip knot fastened to Le Bris's wrist, so that with one jerk he could loosen the attachment and allow the rope to run. He stood upright in the canoe, unencumbered in his movements, his hands being on the levers and depressing the front edge of the wings, so that the wind should press upon the top only and hold them down, their position being, moreover, temporarily maintained by assistants walking along on each side."


"...Once only did he obtain something like an ascension, by starting from a light wagon, which was not in motion. He was on the levee of the port of commerce at Brest, the breeze was light, and the gathered public was impatient, through failure to realize that success depended wholly on the intensity of the wind.

Le Bris was hoping for a gust which should enable him to rise; he thought it had come, pulled on his levers, and thus threw his wings to the most favourable angle, but he only ascended a dozen yards, glided scarcely twice that distance, and after this brief demonstration came gently to the ground without any jerk."

Le Bris Replica by M. Jenö Kiss