Henri Farman (26 May 1874 – 17 July 1958) was an Anglo-French aviator and aircraft designer and manufacturer with his brother Maurice Farman. His family was British and he took French nationality in 1937.
Born in Paris, France, and given the name Henry, he was the son of a well-to-do British newspaper correspondent working there and his French wife. Farman trained as a painter at the École des Beaux Arts, but quickly become obsessed with the new mechanical inventions that were rapidly appearing at the end of the 19th century. Since his family had money, he was able to pursue this interest as an amateur sportsman. In the 1890s he became a championship cyclist, and at the turn of the century he discovered motor racing, competing for Renault in the Gordon Bennett Cup.
When the Voisin brothers started their aircraft construction business in 1907 Farman was one of their first customers, ordering a copy of the aircraft that had been built for Leon Delagrange. He used this aircraft, the Voisin 1907 biplane to set numerous official records for both distance and duration. These include the first to fly a complete circuit of 1 kilometre (13 January 1908, winning the 50,000 franc Grand Prix d'Aviation offered by Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe) and 2 kilometres (21 March 1908). Some sources state that on 29 March, he became the first to take a passenger into the air, Leon Delagrange. (Others, however, believe that record belongs to Wilbur Wright and passenger Charles Furnas on 14 May of the same year.) Later in 1908, on 30 October, Farman went on to make the first cross-country flight in Europe, flying from Châlons to Reims (27 kilometres in 20 minutes).
In 1909, he opened a flying school at Châlons-sur-Marne at which George Bertram Cockburn was the first pupil. The same year he made further record breaking flights of 180 kilometres in just over 3 hours (at Reims on 27 August) and 232 kilometres in 4 hours 17 minutes and 53 seconds (at Mourmelon-le-Grand on 3 November).
At the end of 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, and started manufacturing aircraft to his own design. The first of these, the Farman III, was an immediate success and was widely imitated.
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 (French: "Legion of Honour") in 1919. He, along with Maurice, 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.
Media related to Henri Farman at Wikimedia Commons