In the Wings Over Miami Museum hangar, two dedicated aircraft aficionados worked tirelessly in October to reconstruct an old friend of Miami’s historic collection of vintage airplanes.
Jimmy Tirado and Alex Gonzalez, both dedicated aviators, re-constructed a true-to-life replica of a century-old Demoiselle aircraft from Brazil. Its original predecessor was the first to fly over Europe in the early 1900s.
Four years ago, a replica of the century- old Demoiselle aircraft appeared at an October “Fly-In,” delighting Wings visitors with short daytime flights. Built of lightweight materials, including aluminum to allow a pilot to be more stable, the replica then left Wings for a tour of U.S. air shows.
Now, its place has been taken by what Suzy Rice, president of Wings, calls “the real thing — a reconstructed Demoiselle as it would have looked more than 100 years ago.”
Just moving the antique aircraft from Miami International Airport involved the rental of a large box truck, four men to deconstruct the Demoiselle into large sections and packing the plane for safe transport for reassembly at Wings Museum.
“The version of the plane is true to the original design, complete with an open framed bamboo structure which is wirebraced. The pilot sits below fabric wings on a tiny woven bamboo seat,” Rice said.
The Santos-Dumont’s Demoiselle or “Firefly” was first built in France and originally flown in 1907, sometime after the first Wright Brothers flights. Some French aviators still claim Santos- Dumont was first in powered flight, not the publicized 1903 Wright Brothers’ Kittyhawk trials.
In late 2011, Brazilian industrialist Fernando de Arrula Botelho and the Botelho Institute from Santo Paulo provided Wings with the first Demoiselle replica, designed by Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont.
Now its real-to-life successor is on exhibit for the next five months, eventually be hung at one of Miami International Airport’s international concourses as an art exhibit of aviation’s pioneer days.
“The museum is pleased to house such a unique aircraft,” Rice said. “It really is amazing to think that planes such as this one are truly the heart of aviation.
“Without creative entrepreneurs and brave test pilots, we would not be zipping around the world in the technological wonders of today,” she added.
Wings Over Miami is open Wednesday- Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m. It is located off SW 137th Avenue west on SW 128th Street at Miami Executive Airport. For information, visit www.wingsovermiami.com or call 305- 233-5197.