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Almost Airships

Charles Renard and A. C. Krebs built the first successful craft that could more-or-less be considered an airship. Named the La France, it flew 5 miles, or 8 kilometers, on its voyage of August 9, 1884.

In 1898, experiments with new gasoline engines for steering balloons by the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont showed promise. Alberto Santos-Dumont equipped a cigar-shaped craft with a gasoline engine driven propeller allowing him to steer and propel his ship. On October 19, 1901, he successfully navigated a seven-mile (11km) course above Paris winning the Henri Duetsch prize of 125,000 francs for his feat.

Benbow airship at the St. Louis airship race, 1904.

Benbow Airship at the St. Louis Airship Race, 1904.
Photo: War Department. US Army Signal Corps.
Office of the Chief Signal Officer.
National Archives and Records Administration.
Still Picture Branch; College Park, Maryland.