Did you know that…the first airplane to fly in Europe’s skies was designed and piloted by a Brazilian?

Aviation pioneer Alberto Santos Dumont was born in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais in 1873 and from an early age had shown a penchant for mechanic inventions at his father’s coffee farm in Brazil. He spent many years developing balloons and dirigibles (lighter-than-air aircrafts) and became an international celebrity in 1901 after winning the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize for flying his dirigible, in Paris, from the Parc Saint Cloud to the Eiffel Tower and back in less than 30 minutes. But he wanted higher challenges and started to work on a “powered heavier-than-air machine”, like the modern airplanes. His vision came true in 23 October 1906, when he piloted his “14-bis” in Paris for a distance of 60 meters, with a large crowd witnessing his deed. Santos Dumont is considered one of the most important inventors in the history of aviation. The first airport built in Brazil, serving Rio de Janeiro, is named after him.

Santos Dumont had the conviction that aviation would promote prosperity and peace in the world and therefore he made his designs public and relinquished patenting various of his inventions. Another curious fact about him is that the first wristwatch in the world was developed by Louis Cartier upon request by Santos Dumont, his friend, who complained about the difficulty of checking his pocket watch during flight.  

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