Henri Fabre

Henri Fabre (November 29, 1882 – June 30, 1984) was a French aviator and the inventor of the first successful seaplane, the Fabre Hydravion.

Henri Fabre was born into a prominent family of shipowners in the city of Marseilles. He was educated in the Jesuit College of Marseilles where he undertook advanced studies in sciences. He then intensively studied aeroplane and propeller designs. He patented a system of flotation devices which he used when he succeeded in taking off from the surface of the Etang de Berre on March 28, 1910. On that day, he completed four consecutive flights, the longest about 600 meters. the Hydravion has survived and is displayed in the Musée de l’Air in Paris. Henri Fabre was soon contacted by Glenn Curtiss and Gabriel Voisin who used his invention to develop their own seaplanes.

As late as 1971, the aged Fabre could still be seen sailing his own boat single handedly in Marseille harbor. He died at the age of 101 as one of the last living pioneers of human flight.

po_Fabre-Henri2The Hydravion was developed over a period of four years by Fabre, assisted by a former mechanic of Captain Ferdinand Ferber, named Marius Burdin, and Léon Sebille, a naval architect from Marseilles.

The Hydravion was a canard configuration monoplane. The structure made extensive use of a beam design patented by Fabre. This was a warren truss girder with all members of a streamlined section. Two of these beams, one above the other and connected by three substantial struts, formed the fuselage of the aircraft. The wing, which had pronounced dihedral and whose leading edge was formed by an exposed Fabre beam, was mounted below the rear of the upper beam, and the Gnome Omega rotary engine driving a two-bladed pusher Chauvière propeller was mounted behind it. Additional bracing for the wings was provided by kingposts extending down from the leading edge at mid-span. There were two small foreplanes, which, like the wing, had exposed Fabre beams forming their leading edges, one mounted above the upper beam and the second on the strut connecting the two beams. A rectangular rear-mounted rudder was situated above the wing: below the wing there was a similar rectangular fixed surface extending down to the lower fuselage beam. The pilot sat astride the upper fuselage beam. It was equipped with three broad floats: one at the front of the aircraft, the other two mounted on struts extending down from the wing.