Archdeacon prize

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The Archdeacon prize was a 3000-franc reward offered by Ernest Archdeacon for the first pilot to fly 25 meters or further.

Santos-Dumont piloting the 14-bis, with which he won the Archdeacon prize, in November 1906.

Archdeacon conceived the prize in 1903 after a conversation with Octave Chanute at a meeting of the Aéro-Club de France.[1]

Alberto Santos-Dumont won this prize with a flight of 50 meters on 23 October 1906, observed by members the Aéro-Club de France.[2] Santos Dumont was by virtue of this feat credited with making the first airplane flight until the Wright Brothers' story achieved popular awareness and acceptance.

Santos-Dumont flew again, with Aéro-Club witnesses, on 12 November. He made four flights; one covered 100 meters in 21 seconds, winning him the Aéro-Club's 100-meter prize also.[1]

Albert Francis Zahm, commenting in 1911, emphasized the importance of Santos-Dumont's modern petroleum-based propulsion system, and the importance of his public display (contra the unnamed Wright Brothers then waging a worldwide patent war):[1]

Aërodynamically this was not a great improvement on the aëroplane of Sir George Cayley constructed 98 years earlier; but it had a petrol motor whose power and lightness would have astonished that talented pioneer in aviation. The motor was an eight-cylinder Antoinette, weighting 170 pounds and developing 50 horsepower. [etc. ...]
Intrinsically the achievements of November 12th were crude and primitive; but in moral effect they were very important. They marked the inception of public aëroplaning before the professional and lay world alike. There was no patent mechanism to conceal, no secret to withhold from rivals, such as had shrouded the work of more circumspect aviators in Europe and America. If Santos-Dumont was not the first to fly, he was the first aëroplane inventor to give his art to the world, and to inaugurate true public flying in presence of technical men, as he had initiated modern motor ballooning. His liberal enthusiasm and that of his colleagues, both aëroplanists and patrons, quickly made France the world's foremost theater of aviation, at least for the moment. The contagion would of course spread swiftly, and involve the entire civilized world.
Santos-Dumont's unconventional dash into the air sounded the knell of Lilienthalism. This slow method served to pass time profitably in the nineties, while the gasoline motor was still developing. But with an Antoinette in hand, what live man, particularly what live Frenchman, could tinker long years on the sand hills? [etc.]

See also the Deutsch-Archdeacon Prize, a larger prize offered jointly with Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe, for longer airplane flights.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Zahm, 1911, Aerial Navigation, pp. 256–258.
  2. Berriman, 1913, Aviation.
Event names Archdeacon prize
Event type competition
Country FR
Start date 1903
Number of days
Tech focus airplane