A replica of Santos Dumont's 14-bis biplane is placed outside the Museu do Amanha
Rio de Janeiro - AFP
One of Brazil's most famous and eccentric heroes, the aviation pioneer Santos Dumont, lifts off again with an exhibition in Rio's new Museum of Tomorrow.
A full scale replica of Dumont's legendary airplane called "14 Bis" sits outside the museum, which is the centerpiece of a revamping of the Rio port area ahead of the Olympic Games starting in 100 days.
"The Flying Poet" is a big exhibit, the first of its kind dedicated to a man who while weighing a mere 110 pounds (50 kg) was a giant of aviation.
Although perhaps less well known than the Wright brothers in the United States, Dumont is celebrated in Brazil as no less than the true first pilot.
On October 23, 1906, he flew the "14 Bis" some 200 feet (61 meters) outside Paris. Shortly thereafter, he flew 722 feet (220 meters).three years after the Wright brothers' historic flight in North Carolina, his fans argue that only his exploit met the definition of a certified, independently powered flight.
It's a polemic rich with nationalism, but what's sure is that Dumont, who has Rio's domestic airport named after him, remains a fascinating figure.
"It was the stories of Jules Verne that inspired him to dream of flying. In this exhibit, 110 yeas after the flight of '14 Bis,' we want to show the young that using the imagination is a way of promoting discoveries," Gringo Caria, the curator of the exhibit, told AFP.
"There's never been a big exhibition on this inventor before and we have taken advantage of the brand new museum."
- Madcap -The Franco-Brazilian Dumont, who lived from 1873 to 1932, had a reputation for eccentricity and imagination.
Before his feat in the "14 Bis" he was already famed for flights in balloons and dirigibles, including one he used to moor outside his house in Paris and used to fly to join friends across town.
He can also claim to having been one of the first to wear a wrist watch, having asked his friend -- none other than the even more famous Louis Cartier -- to make him something more practical for telling the time in the air than the traditional pocket watch.
"That's how the first wrist watch was born and it was a real success, given how much of a dandy Dumont was," said Hugo Barreto, secretary general of the Roberto Marinho Foundation, which co-sponsored the exhibit with the mayor's office.
The often joyful story of Dumont ends sadly, however. He returned from France to Brazil in 1928 and in 1932 committed suicide.