Eugene F. Falconnet

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Eugene Frederic Falconnet was an aero inventor in West Tennessee and Des Moines, Iowa.

Falconnet was born Eugene Louis Frederic de Freudenreich Falconnet in Switzerland. He emigrated to Mexico, where he and an uncle were involved in railroad construction. He moved to the United States in 1850 and by 1852 he moved to West Tennessee, also for railroad-related reasons. In 1861 he lived in Nashville and was chief engineer of the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad. Soon thereafter he served in the Confederate cavalary. After the war he continued working on railroads in Tennessee.[1]

Falconnet was in touch with two other prominent aero inventors in Tennessee, James J. Pennington (related to other aero Penningtons?) and Albert L. Blackman.[1] It is not clear why but all three of these Tennessee inventors chose to file patents with the Canadian office.

In the case of Falconnet and Blackman the correlation might be explained by their common connection with the patent lawyer D. W. Glassie in New York. (Such a connection might also explain why Blackman's location on his Canadian patent is given as New York.) In 1885 Blackman accused Glassie of aiding Falconnet in infringing on his patents.[1]

Regarding Falconnet's invention:

Falconnet's proposed ship would be have been somewhat like a Zeppelin in appearance and construction. It was to be shaped like a hexagonal cigar, with a center section and cones at each end. It was to have a keel or backbone to which were to be fitted bulkheads of aluminum or thin steel, held together by longitudinal chords, thus forming the central cylinder. To this cylinder, hexagonal cones or pyramids were to be attached. Within each compartment of Falconnet's ship there were to be gas-bags and air-sacks, reinforced by a net of aluminum or steel which was to be attached to the keel.

In a typical Falconnet ship, such as the 760-by-160-foot "Condor," there were to be three decks. The middle, or passenger deck, was to contain staterooms and other luxurious accommodations, including rather preposterous outside galleries or promenades. The lower, or pilot deck, was to house the crew and a retractable horizontal propeller, which would generate a strong blast of air to assist in raising the ship.
Falconnet's chief concern was propulsion. After having made elaborate calculations, both on wind resistance and the power of propellers, he proposed to drive his ship by using propellers at the nose and in pairs along the sides of the hull. These propellers, or air-screws, were to be reversible, thus making the ship more responsive to the helm.<br. Falconnet's steering apparatus was intricate and cumbersome. Lateral motion was to be effected by the use of rudders or blades suspended from each cone truss, but the ship also was to be equipped with side-fins, somewhat like ailerons, in pairs along the sides of the hull, so that the ship might easily be steered up or down. These rudders and fins were in accord with the aeronautical science of the time, but he also planned to place on the sides of his ship pairs of fans of canvas or silk which would "open and close like an ordinary ladies [sic] fan."

As early as November, 1884, Falconnet was considering the use of aluminum and petroleum in his ship. His enthusiasm for the light metal is remarkable, for it was not being made in the United States in 1884; the electrolytic process of smelting aluminum was developed by Charles Hall in 1886. Falconnet was even correct in his belief that aluminum must be used in an alloy with copper and zinc. The Russians were using petroleum in steamers and railroad locomotives, he said; "to consider any other fuel in Aerial Navigation would be madness." He proposed to increase the efficiency of his boilers by spraying a jet of petroleum into the firebox.[1]

Regarding Falconnet's relations with the aero-geist:

In his letters to Glassie and to William H. Weightman, a New York engineer who was advising him on problems of propulsion, Falconnet frequently referred to articles which he had read, often in the Scientific American. He knew of Henri Giffard's flight in 1852 in a ship powered by a three-horsepower steam engine; he also knew of the success of Paul Haenlein, who first used the internal combustion engine in an aircraft. He knew that a London firm had constructed for the Russian Navy a steam engine weighing only sixty-three pounds and yielding ten horsepower, using petroleum as fuel.[1]

Falconnet's papers are held on Microfilm at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. There seems to be voluminous correspondence with Glassie.[2]

Patents whose inventor or applicant is Eugene F. Falconnet

Letters received by Eugene F. Falconnet


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 H. L. Swint and D. E. Mohler, "Eugene F. Falconnet, Soldier, Engineer, Inventor", Tennessee Historical Quarterly, September 1962, pp 219-234. Online at jstor

Names Eugene F. Falconnet
Birth date 1832
Death date 1887-10-14
Countries CH, MX, US
Locations Bern, Switzerland; Nashville, Tennessee; Des Moines, Iowa
Occupations engineer, military officer
Tech areas LTA, Frame, Propulsion, Petroleum, Aluminum, Frame
Wikidata id