He Didn’t Know How to Fly, But That Didn’t Stop Him

November 29, 1882

Aviation pioneer Henri Fabre was born in the French city of Marseille. Fabre’s advanced knowledge of science early on in life helped foster his powerful interest in human flight. With unmatched intensity, he studied and developed designs for planes and propellers.

The result of Fabre’s efforts was his creation of the first operational seaplane. Fabre first flew this seaplane, which became known as the Hydravion, in 1910 near the commune Martigues, France. At the time, Fabre did not have previous experience actually flying any sort of aircraft. Nonetheless, he succeeded in piloting the Hydravion for a distance of about 1,500 feet (457.2 meters) during its first takeoff from the surface of the Étang de Berre (a lagoon along France’s Mediterranean coast and adjacent to Martigues). 

Hydravion, c. 1911.

Fabre flew the Hydravion three more times that day, with the longest of those additional excursions covering nearly 1,969 feet (600.2 meters). Within a week, Fabre logged a total distance of 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) operating the Hydravion. Fabre’s aircraft, which he designed and built over the course of four years, was used as a model by such aviation pioneers as Glenn Curtiss and Gabriel Voisin in developing their own seaplanes. 

Fabre had been born into a family of prominent shipowners, so understandably his enthusiasm for water-based transportation went well beyond just seaplanes. When he was nearly 90, as a matter of fact, he could still be seen sailing a boat single-handedly in the main harbor of Marseille. Fabre died in 1984 at the age of 101. He was one of the early 20th century’s last living trailblazers of human flight.

For more information on Henri Fabre, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Fabre.

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