wings of madness

programme information


1 x 60'

Production Company

Docere Palace Studios





Episode Information

In the early 1900s, the most acclaimed celebrity in Europe was a fashionable, frail, Brazilian-born aviator named Alberto Santos-Dumont. He was the first to fly an airplane in Europe, the spiritual father of aviation. But Santos' burst of glory was short-lived. When the secretive Wright brothers finally unveiled their flying machine in France in 1908, their piloting skills dazzled the public and instantly eclipsed Santos' fame. Over the next three decades, Santos slipped gradually into illness and despair until he finally committed suicide, tormented by knowing that the airplane, which he believed to be his invention, had become a lethal weapon of war. Based on the acclaimed biography by Paul Hoffman, "Wings of Madness" tells the colourful and tragic life of this neglected pioneer, a brilliant technical improviser who cut an unforgettable figure of high fashion in turn-of-the-century Paris. Wings of Madness combines captivating hands-on technology with a human story of triumph and tragedy. The program includes rare movie archive footage of Santos's original flights as well as new footage of the recent building of a replica of his earliest plane, in Brazil.

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