Henri Farman (26 May 1874– 17 July 1958 was an Anglo-French aviator and aircraft designer and manufacturer with his brother Maurice Farman.
Before dedicating himself to aviation he gained fame as a sportsman, specifically in cycling and motor racing.
Henri took French nationality in 1937.
He started practicing in 1907 with a homemade biplane glider on the sandhills of Le Touquet, after first experimenting with model aeroplanes of different sizes.
Henri then decided he wanted a machine powered plane, and ordered a Voisin 1907 biplane on 1 June 1907.
He used this aircraft to set many official records for both distance and duration.
On 26 October 1907, at Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, he made flights, among others, of 363, 403, and 771 metres in the plane. And he also started to turn the plane in the air on this date.
The distance of 771 metres was completed in 52 seconds. It was the longest flight in the world that year, and won Farman the Ernest Archdeacon Cup.
He made a complete circular flight of 1,030 metres, in 1 minute 14 seconds on 10 November 1907 at Issy. This was the first time that a European aeroplane had completed a full circle. And the first time that an aeroplane, other than a Wright brothers one, had stayed in the air for longer than a minute.
The Voisin-Farman I was also the first biplane in Europe, to fly a circular circuit of 1 kilometre, over a predetermined course, on 13 January 1908.
This again occurred at Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, and won Henri the 50,000 franc Grand Prix d’Aviation offered by Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe.
And on 21 March 1908 at the same place, he made a flight of 2.004 Kilometres.
On 30 October 1908, Farman went on to make the first cross-country flight in Europe.
Henri flew from his hangars at Camp de Châlons, Bouy, to Reims, landing at the Cavalry ground. It was a distance of 27 Kilometres.
The passenger transport Goliath
By early 1909, Farman fell out with Gabriel Voisin because Voisin had sold an aircraft that had been built to Farman’s specifications to J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon. This aircraft was named the Bird of Passage by Brabazon.
So Henri started manufacturing aircraft to his own design.
The first of these, the Farman III, first flew in April 1909. It was an immediate success and widely imitated.
In 1909, he opened a flying school at Châlons-sur-Marne at which George Bertram Cockburn was the first pupil.
In this same year he made further record breaking flights. One of 180 kilometres in just over 3 hours, at Reims on 27 August. And one of 232 kilometres in 4 hours 17 minutes and 53 seconds,at Mourmelon-le-Grand on 3 November.
In October 1909 he appeared at the Blackpool Aviation Week, Britain’s first air show, at which he won over £2000 in prizes.
In partnership with his two brothers Maurice and Richard (Dick), he built a highly successful and innovative aircraft manufacturing plant.
Their 1914 model was used extensively for artillery observation and reconnaissance during World War I.
The Farman Aircraft company’s Goliath was the first long-distance passenger airliner, beginning regular Paris-London (Croydon Airport) flights on 8 February 1919.
He was made a chevalier of the French Légion d’honneur in 1919.
Along with Maurice, he retired in 1937 when the French Popular Front government nationalised the aircraft industry; Farman’s company becoming part of the Societe Nationale de Constructions Aeronautiques du Centre.
Henry Farman took French nationality in 1937.
He died in Paris and is buried in the Cimetière de Passy in Paris.
In 1988, Farman was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum