When the names of those who have occupied outstanding positions in the world have been forgotten, there will be a name which will remain in our memory, that of Alberto Santos-Dumont
(The London Times, 1901).
This film tells the moving tale of one of the world’s greatest aviators and inventors whose spectacular accomplishments have been, until now, lost in the dustbin of history. We will use the genius of Santos-Dumont to bring to life the beauty and majesty of manned flight’s earliest days, from stationary balloons to powered dirigibles to airplanes.
Though his legacy has been sadly eclipsed by the Wright Brothers, ironically Alberto Santos-Dumont was their antithesis: Dumont gave his inventions and blueprints to anyone and everyone, he never patented his designs. The Wrights’ airplanes were designed to make money, secured by patents and protected by constant lawsuits.
Amongst Santos-Dumont’s notable achievements, in September 1898, he designed and flew the first motorised airship and on 19 October 1901, the largest crowd ever gathered in Paris to watch him circle the Eiffel Tower in a never before seen flying machine. He also designed and launched the world’s first aerial car and flew around Paris on a daily basis, going from his apartment to dinner at Maxim’s to nights out at the Paris Opera. On 13 September 1906, Santos-Dumont became the first man to fly an airplane in public - the Wright Brothers 1903 flight was still a secret.
The Alberto Santos-Dumont story is one of dogged determination, inventiveness, genius and tragedy. Santos-Dumont’s mind gave way to madness 30 years after his historic flight around the Eiffel Tower and he committed suicide, driven to despair by the fact that his invention, the airplane, had become not a chariot of peace but a weapon of war. He was the spiritual father of aviation and at the same time, a flying P.T. Barnum, intrepidly demonstrating his incredible flying machines in Paris, London, New York, and St. Louis.
This is an inspiring story told through a rich combination of documentary footage and historical re-enactments. Wings of Madness
will be a landmark documentary that combines captivating hands-on technology with human pathos.
NOVA from PBS designed a great website on Alberto Santos-Dumont and Wings of Madness, click here to visit