Thursday, March 17, 2016

First Wheeled Monoplane

Traian Vuia or Trajan Vuia ( August 17, 1872 – September 3, 1950) was a Romanian inventor and aviation pioneer who designed, built and tested a tractor configuration monoplane. He was the first to demonstrate that a flying apparatus could rise into the air by running upon wheels upon an ordinary road. He is credited with a powered hop of 11 metres (36 feet) made on March 18, 1906 and he later claimed a powered hop of 24 metres (79 feet). Though unsuccessful in sustained flight, Vuia's invention influenced Louis Blériot in designing monoplanes. Later, Vuia also designed helicopters.

A French citizen since 1918, Vuia was also a great patriot, leading the Romanians (especially Transylvanians) of France in the resistance during World War II. He returned to Romania in 1950.

Traian Vuia
Education and Early Career

Vuia was born to Romanian parents Simion Popescu and Ana Vuia living in Surducul-Mic, a village in the Banat region, Austro-Hungarian Empire, today in Romania; the place is now called Traian Vuia. After graduating from high school in Lugoj, in 1892, he enrolled in the School of Mechanics at the Polytechnic University of Budapest where he received his engineering diploma. He then joined the Faculty of Law in Budapest, Hungary, where he earned a Ph.D. in law in May 1901 with the thesis "Military and Industry, State and Contract regime".

He returned to Lugoj, where he studied the problem of human flight and designed his first flying machine, which he called the "airplane-car". He attempted to build the machine, but due to financial constraints decided to go to Paris in July 1902, hoping to find someone interested in financing his project, possibly balloon enthusiasts. He met with considerable skepticism from people who believed that a heavier-than-air machine could not fly. He then visited Victor Tatin, the well-known theoretician and experimenter who had built an aircraft model which flew in 1879. Tatin was interested in the project, but doubted that Vuia had a suitable engine or that his aircraft would be stable. Vuia then presented his plan to the Académie des Sciences in Paris on February 16, 1903, but was rejected with the comment: "The problem of flight with a machine which weighs more than air can not be solved and it is only a dream."

Flying Experiments

By December 1905 Vuia had finished construction of his first airplane, the "Vuia I". This was a high-wing monoplane constructed entirely of steel tubing. The basic framework consisted of a pair of triangular frames, the lower members forming the sides of the rectangular chassis which bore four pneumatic-tyred wheels, the front pair steerable.

Vuia chose a site in Montesson, near Paris, for testing. At first he used the machine without the wings mounted so he could gather experience controlling it on the ground. The wings were put on in March and on March 18, 1906, it lifted off briefly. After accelerating for about 50 m (160 ft), the aircraft left the ground and travelled through the air at a height of about 1 m (3 ft 3 in) for a distance of about 12 m (39 ft), but then the engine cut out and it came down.

The French journal L'Aérophile emphasized that Vuia's machine had the capability to take off from a flat surface, without assistance such as an incline, rails, or catapult. At the time Europe was aware of the efforts of the Wright brothers who on December 17, 1903, had flown their Wright Flyer from level ground using a dolly undercarriage running on a guide rail, though few yet recognised the achievement. The Wrights had made sustained and controlled flights in a complete circuit by September 1904.

Charles Dollfus, former curator of the Air Museum in Paris, wrote that aviation pioneer Alberto Santos Dumont's use of wheels on his aircraft was influenced by Dumont's having seen Vuia's flight attempts.

Vuia in his 1906 aircraft
Other Accomplishments

Between 1918 and 1921 Vuia built two experimental helicopters on the Juvisy and Issy-les-Moulineaux aerodromes.

Another invention by Vuia was a steam generator with internal combustion that generates very high pressure – more than 100 atm (10 MPa) – that is still used today in thermal power stations. Traian Vuia and one of his partners, Emmanuel Yvonneau, patented several types of gas generators.

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