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The Octave Chanute Pages

Reprinted from
The Westchester Tribune, Chesterton, Indiana,
Saturday, October 3, 1896
This newspaper article is interesting in that it differs from Chanute's account of the attempted flight of the "Albatross" in his Gliding Experiments published in The Journal of the Society of Western Engineers, or in the Aeronautical Annuals of 1897. In both those publications Chanute stated that there was no pilot in the final attempt, but this article reports that not only did Butusov man the craft, but suffered minor injuries. Also of note is the flight of the Chanute 'double-decker' on Sunday the 27th with a flight of 489 feet that is never mentioned by Chanute.

SHIP FAILS TO FLY

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"Albatross" and Inventor Drop Sixty-Five Feet
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END IS MADE OF TESTS
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Experimenters Prepare to Abandon
Dune Park Camp
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MAY RETURN NEXT SUMMER
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Octave Chanute Has Future Improvements
in View, Records of Aeronautical Devices
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After waiting for almost one month for a favorable wind to test his "Albatross" flying machine, William Paul 1, the inventor, Saturday afternoon risked his life, his air ship, and his dream of fame and fortune in an effort to sail among the clouds. It was the old story of Darius Green, and that he escaped without serious, if not fatal injury, is a miracle. The machine fell sixty-five feet and was badly wrecked, and that night fame, fortune and success seemed more elusive than ever. Thus ended the season's experiments at Dune Park, and Sunday Octave Chanute and his party broke camp, the "Albatross" and the aeroplane flying machines were packed into boxes for the winter and the camp outfit brought back to Chicago by boat. Until Saturday morning no wind has blown from the north for two weeks. As the frame chute at the hilltop from which the "Albatross" was launched faced due north, nothing but a straight north wind, and that blowing at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour, met the demands of the inventor for his experimenters concluded their long wait was to be rewarded. Before the big aircraft was carried to the top of the hill and put upon the ways, however, a quarter wind had set in, but it was decided to let the "Albatross" make a trip anyhow.

LIFTED ON THE WAYS



It required eight men to put the machine upon the ways. As the wind was increasing momentarily, it was found necessary to hold the craft down with ropes. Mr. Paul climbed into the frame hull, adjusted a rubber lifeboy around his neck, as if expecting to encounter water. A lifeboat on the beach was manned by Will Avery and a fishing smack sailed around near shore to give help if the machine fell into the water. At 3 o'clock the man in the airship shouted "All off". The ropes were cut and the "bird" slid down to the end of the chute and surprised the spectators by stopping, as if counting the cost of a swoop. The quartering wind had proved sufficient to arrest descent by friction of the runners against the off side. Again the craft was placed at the top of the ways. Ropes were fastened to the bottom and four men took positions to accelerate the start with a hearty pull. The wind for a moment seemed not to come from the east and all felt sure that the moment big with consequences for Inventor William Paul was near at hand. "Once again - let her go!" sang out the inventor.

ALBATROSS IS OFF

A chop at the anchor rope, a swift scoot down the ways, and the Albatross was off. It was a plunge into empty space with sixty-nine feet between Mr. Paul and the level of the sandy beach ahead of him. For an instant it seemed that his craft was making for the beach. The next instant a gust straight from the east his the Albatross and its mind seemed quickly altered. The bulk of wood and canvass lifted perceptibly as the starboard wing caught the wind. The head turned to the west. Mr. Paul shifted his weight to hold the craft for the water. He was not quick enough. Already the machine was out of its course and a plaything for the adverse current. The momentum acquired was increased by the wind striking the craft now squarely aft. It darted like a hawk after quarry, wheeling still more upon its course until it ran almost for the hill again. Not more than a hundred feet had been traversed to the west until the Albatross dropped rapidly, beat into a clump of trees, and fell. The craft rested on its left side with the left wing shattered, and a number of ribs smashed, and other damages.

PAUL SAVES HIS NECK



Paul was not thrown to his feet, owing to the side rails, which he clutched with desperate energy, but he sustained a bad cut over his left eye and several bruises. As there was no time left to put the machine in shape it was then dismantled and packed for shipping. In the morning all previous records for coasting were broken by Mr. Avery upon the Chanute double-decked aeroplane. With the aid of a new device for steering he made a flight of 489 feet, landing him in the lake, where the water took him up to his waist. This was the only flight made where the operator reached the lake. It is said to be more than twice the greatest length scored by Lilienthal, and is claimed to be 100 feet ahead of the world's record for aeroplane coasting. Mr. Paul and Dr. H.T. Ricketts also scored some pretty flights with the same machine. It is the purpose of Mr. Chanute to fit up a flatboat with a chute next summer from which experiments may be carried on in the lake with the wind from any quarter and with a less danger to the operator.

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NOTES:
(Click Footnote number to return to the text)
1 Throughout many of the newspaper accounts of the Chanute party's experiments William Paul Butusov is referred to as "William Paul" only. No explanation is known, but one might surmise that he was tired of spelling his name for reporters.

Newspaper and Eyewitness Accounts

1896 1897 1898
June 24 - Chicago Tribune
August 2 - Chicago Tribune September 5 - Times-Herald November 11 - Elmira, NY 
Daily Advertiser
September 8 - Chicago Tribune September 8 - Times-Herald
September 11 - Chicago Chronicle September 12 - Times-Herald
September 12 - Chicago Tribune
September 28 - Chicago Record
October 3 - Westchester Tribune