The Right Flyer


  • Cover: Hardback
  • Published: 2017
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 9780956981103
  • Number of pages: 360
  • Photographs and illustrations: 310
  • Dimensions: 226mm x 226mm x 36mm

A deep history of Europe’s most significant pioneer aeroplane and the men who built and flew it.


The cellular biplane that Gabriel Voisin built for Henry Farman is by any standards a major landmark in the history of powered flight. As the first full account of its genesis and two-year evolution, this is the story of its true role in the final lap of the race to fly, particularly in the context of the Wright brothers’ contemporary feats on both sides of the Atlantic.

As well as exploring its impact of society, culture and politics in France, the story reveals how the zigzag of technological progress was driven by the personality of strong characters involved and unpicks the longstanding controversy between the very different approaches adopted by the Old World and the New.

Drawing on contemporary sources wherever possible, it separates the facts from the fiction in a way that invests these extraordinary events with some of the gripping immediacy they must have had at the time.

The result is a compelling portrait of aeronautics in France from 1904 to 1908, complete with an analysis of the technologies concerned, lively accounts of the machine’s epoch-defining flights in France, Belgium and New York, and biographies of all the main protagonists.

Farman's Voisin at Issy-les-Moulineaux


  • A well-designed and handsomely produced volume, illustrated throughout by numerous photographs and other colour reproductions, a detailed history of the formative years of the development of powered flight in Europe and the major contributions made by Voisin and Farman, concluding with biographical summaries of their contemporary pioneering aviators.

    Brian Riddle, Chief Librarian National Aerospace Library


Main text

  • Wrights and kites
  • Archdeacon gliders
  • Blériot-Voisin
  • Les Frères Voisin
  • Construction
  • The motor
  • First flights
  • The Kilometre
  • The refit
  • Ghent
  • New York
  • Wrightmania
  • Châlons and the first journey
  • Visions of the future
  • Biplane to triplane
  • Retirement: Vienna
  • Repercussions
  • Appendices

  • The makers: Gabriel & Charles Voisin
  • The flyer: Henry Farman
  • The assistant: Maurice Herbster
  • The loyal lieutenant: Maurice Colliex
  • The catalyst: Ernest Archdeacon
  • The proselytiser: Ferdinand Ferber
  • The friend: Henry Kapférer
  • The opposition: Orville & Wilbur Wright
  • The conduit: Octave Chanute
  • The dilettante: Alberto Santos-Dumont
  • The brains: Robert Esnault-Pelterie
  • The rival: Louis Blériot
  • The motorist: Léon Levavasseur
  • The precursor: Lawrence Hargrave
  • The engineer: Frederick Lanchester
  • The scientist: Paul Painlevé
  • The pilot: John Moore-Brabazon