By far the smallest flying-machine of the day is the monoplane designed by Santos-Dumont. Because of its littleness it is extremely fast.
The supporting surface consists of silk stretched over bamboo ribs. This silken surface is braced by wires to a central frame of bamboo and metal tubing. The spread is 18 feet, the depth 6.56 feet, and the area 113 square feet.
The vertical rudder and the horizontal rudder, usually entirely distinct, in most biplanes and monoplanes, are here combined after the Langley principle. This combined rudder is carried on a universal joint so that it can be turned in any direction. Although they are mounted together, the horizontal and vertical members of the rudder are operated independently. The vertical surface is controlled by a hand-wheel or lever at the pilot's left hand. The horizontal rudder is operated by a lever held in the aviator's right hand.
Following the principle of Curtiss, lateral control is effected by the instinctive movements of the aviator's body; but instead of employing balancing planes or ailerons Santos-Dumont warps the plane. The wires leading from the plane are connected with a steel member sewed on the pilot's coat. Hence the pilot has only to sway his body in order to warp the wings.
The starting and alighting gear consists of two wheels at the front and a skid at the rear.
No tails or other stabilising surfaces are used, although the horizontal member of the rudder undoubtedly acts as a tail, as in the newer Wright biplane.
The motor may be of any type. Darracq, Clement-Bayard, and Panhard motors of 30 horse-power have been used. The propeller is a two-bladed Chauvière.