Alexandre Goupil

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Alexandre Goupil was a French engineer of note who designed a bird-like flying machine in 1883. The sesquiplane (a monoplane with additional "half-wings") was to be powered by a steam engine (mounted within the deep rounded body of the machine) driving a single tractor propeller and was to have wheeled landing gear. A rudder was to be mounted below the horizontal tail surface.

Goupil built and tested an unpowered version of his design, with a wing span of just over 19 feet 8 inches, in December of that same year. The test machine exhibited considerable lift, hoisting itself and two men into the air while under test in a wind of about 14 m.p.h.

The Goupil Flying Machine (initial test version) - 1883

The Goupil design has often been referred to as the "Goupil Duck" but it appears that this name was applied later by others.

The Goupil Flying Machine (initial design) - 1883

In 1884 Goupil published "La Locomotion Aerienne" which summarized his aeronautical work and presented his theories and observations. The book was very well received. Of particular interest was Goupil's use of a complex lifting surface which was a close approximation of a bird wing rather than a simple curved lifting wing. Goupil's design foreshadowed modern "blended lifting body" configurations. He planned to continue his research and experimentation with steam engine powered flying machines having large bird-like wings, but it is unclear if he did so.

The Goupil Flying Machine (final version) - ca. 1884

In 1916 Glenn Curtiss built a Curtiss OXX-powered version of Goupil's design (see below) as part of the ongoing patent suit between the Wright Company and himself, but that aspect of Goupil's story is beyond the scope of this web site.

The Curtiss-built Goupil Flying Machine - 1917 (general design dates to 1883 - 1884)