Trimaran Airplane

Lawrence did design a Trimaran airplane when he returned to Australia, in 1901, a multi-winged plane designed for manned flight. Without a powerful enough engine of the right weight, and with his inefficient propellers, he would not achieve flight with this machine. But in 1991 a Sydney University team developed his 1901 airplane design into a model which became airborne in a Canadian contest involving pre-Wright brothers designed aircraft. During the period when Hargrave was stricken down and debilitated by typhoid fever, the Wright brothers made their historic 1903 flight. Hargrave’s own work tapered off but his cellular kites carried the first European aeroplanes into the air a short time later.

Trimaran aircraft designed by Hargrave, and built by the Faculty of Engineering, University of Sydney in 1991. It was successfully flown in Canada. Dimensions: 1.9m long, 1.6m wide, 0.7m high; Weight, approx. 14kg

Hargrave wrote congratulations to the Wright Brothers on their 1903 successful manned, powered flight, the first in world history. Their success was the culmination of their own ingenuity, the wonderful engine built by Charles Taylor, the right weather conditions, Wilbur Wright’s gymnastic ability, and glider/wing designs filtered down from Lawrence Hargrave. Since then their flight has not been able to be replicated. Hudson Shaw, the chief biographer of Hargrave, traced the curved wing designs of Hargrave to the Wright Brothers.

Right: Wing profiles by W. Hudson Shaw, showing the influence of Lawrence Hargrave on the Wright Brothers 1899 -1902.

Ian Debenham of the Powerhouse Museum Sydney sees a clear connection between the work of Hargrave and the glider adopted by the Wright Brothers. They selected the Chanute bi-plane glider as the model for their own, and Chanute had adapted his from Hargrave’s cellular (box) kite designs:
It seems clear that Hargrave should be given credit for providing the major breakthrough that allowed the progress by Chanute that led to the Wright’s success.’(2009)

The Wright Brothers guarded their achievements in legal secrecy, stalling the American momentum somewhat for a time. Octave Chanute exhorted the French to develop their own aircraft, as they had highly developed motor engine technology which could be attached to the right aircraft body design. This turned out to be simple configurations of Hargrave cellular kites.
In October 1906 Santos Dumont in a box-kite aeroplane made the first officially recorded flight in France. As late as 1909 the box-kite aeroplane was the usual type in Europe.

 In 1906 Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont made the first officially recorded flights of a powered airplane, in France with his No. 14-bis, again heavily influenced by Hargrave design and stability.

There followed a whole generation of stable pioneer aeroplanes depending on derivatives of those original Hargrave surfaces. The first professionally manufactured aircraft, made in France by the Voisin brothers was named ‘The Hargrave’.

Hargrave could feel personally somewhat disappointed that he was not at the controls of these Hargrave derivative airplanes, but in reality he regarded himself as someone pioneering new aeronautical territory, providing thoroughly researched information and experiments ‘at the service of any experimenter who wishes to use it’.

Our aim is to draw attention to the pioneering contribution that
Lawrence Hargrave made to the development of human flight,
as well as championing his interest in the natural heritage
and cultural development of Stanwell Park.

We are available for exhibitions, displays of Lawrence Hargrave models and educational activities.
Contact the Secretary, Michael Adams
info [at] lawrencehargravecentre [dot] com for details.