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    The Santos-Dumont canard was the first (and perhaps the only) aircraft in history in which the pilot manipulated the controls while standing up. A position scarcely conducive to poise or comfort. This unconventional affair, which appeared to fly backward, gave the nickname canard ("duck") to machines of similar type.

    Alberto Santos-Dumont, scion of a rich Brazilian coffee planter, was born July 20, 1873 in the district of Joao Aires, state of Minas Gerais. He came to Paris at the age of eighteen, filled with youthful enthusiasm for the twin novelties of balloons and automobiles. Santos-Dumont had dreamed of flying ever since he saw a balloon ascension at Sao Paulo, Brazil.

    With leisure and money--two powerful assets in probing the secrets of flight--Santos-Dumont could afford to indulge his fancies. His "steerable balloons," constructed early in the new century, became the toast of sophisticated Paris.

    At the Bagatelle cavalry grounds in Paris on October 23, 1906 he flew the first powered flight 197 feet (60 meters) before an excited group of formal observers from the Aero Club de France. With this accomplishment he was awarded the Archdeacon prize of 3,000 francs for the first flyer to cover 25 meters. Santos-Dumont bettered this performance twice on November 12, first with 82.6 meters in 7 1/5 seconds and then with a wavering flight of 220 meters in 21 2/5 seconds, gaining a further reward from the Aero Club of 1,500 francs. The instability of the plane's design, however, led to its abandonment the following year.

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November 19, 2009.