Serge de Bolotoff, "Prince" Wiazemsky

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Serge Vincent de Bolotoff

Russian: Сергей Болотов
Also Known As: "Wiasemsky descendant of princes on maternal side"
Birthplace: Bulgaria
Death: 1977 (84-93)
Immediate Family:

Son of Konstantin Nikolayevich Bolotov, nobleman and princess Marie Wiasemsky de Bolotoff
Husband of Rose de Bolotoff, "princess" Wiasemsky
Father of Tatiana Rosemary Sequenva De-Bolotoff Wiazemsky, princess Wiasemsky
Brother of "prince" George Wiasemsky de Bolotoff

Occupation: claimed to be the 5th man in the world to fly in an airplane
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Serge de Bolotoff, "Prince" Wiazemsky

On 5 October 1908, the British newspaper Daily Mail offered a reward of 1 000 pounds sterling to the first aviator to fly cross the English Channel. Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries had flown from Dover to Calais in a gas-filled balloon 1785, but no one had yet accomplished this feat in an airplane.

In November 1908, aviator Serge de Bolotoff was the first to announce his intention to earn the reward. His proposal was "to use an airplane triplane built by the Voisin brothers, equipped with an engine of Panhard et Levassor 110 HP." The whole apparatus weighed more than a ton, too much for his engine to get off the ground. He planned to cross from the French port of Saint-Lo. Then, faced with various difficulties, Serge de Bolotoff gave up the project.

Charles Lambert (1865-1944), a Russian Count of French origin, flying a Wright airplane made the first attempt. Lambert had previously been interested in hydrofoils, boats that ride above water. He took of at Cap Blanc Nez on July 19, 1909. Although he crashed in the Channel, Lambert survived the crash.

Louis Blériot (1872-1936) was the first to succeed at crossing the Channel in an airplane. Blériot was an engineer, like de Bolotoff. Blériot had made his fortune in the sale of automobile headlamps. After having flown planes designed by the Voisin brothers (whose triplane Serge de Bolotoff had intended to fly), Louis Blériot piloted his "Bleriot XI" on January 23, 1909 between Barracks, France, and the southern coast of England in 32 minutes. De Bolotov's future father-in-law, H. Gordon Selfridge, was there to greet Blériot. Selfridge then displayed Bleriot's tiny aircraft at the store for four days. This was only two months after the opening of Selfridge's new store. The exhibition drew hordes of visitors, and set a benchmark for in-store entertainment.

Read more:

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Born in Bulgaria, but often described as Russian, Serge de Bolotoff became Prince Wiasemsky some time after his marriage to Rosalie Selfridge, eldest daughter of Gordon Selfridge and Rose Selfridge (Buckingham). At the time of the wedding on August 7, 1918, Serge de Bolotoff had been "trained as an aviation engineer," and was serving as air attaché with the Russian military mission in London. They were married in the chapel at the Russian Embassy in London.

Source: Selfridge, by Reginald Pound, London: Heinemann. Page 148.

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The "De Bolotoff SDEB 14" was a British two-seat utility biplane designed by Prince Serge de Bolotoff and built at his de Bolotoff Aeroplane Works at Seveonoaks, Kent.[1] It was registered G-EAKC on 14 August 1919.[2] The SDEB 14 had a 200 hp (149 kW) Curtiss 8 cylinder piston engine.[1]


Data from [1]British Civil Aircraft since 1919 - Volume 3

General characteristics

   * Crew: 2
   * Wingspan: 36 ft 0 in (10.98 m)
   * Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss 8 cylinder piston engine, 200 hp (149 kW)



  1. ^ a b c Jackson, A.J. (1974). British Civil Aircraft since 1919 - Volume 3. Putnam & Company Ltd. ISBN 0 37010014 X, p. 299
  2. ^ "G-EAKC". Civil Aviation Authority. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 


   * Jackson, A.J. (1974). British Civil Aircraft since 1919 - Volume 3. Putnam & Company Ltd. ISBN 0 37010014 X.


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Prince Serge de Bolotoff started an aircraft business in 1919 at Sevenoaks, Kent but only one plane was made. The plane was designated SDEP 14 and powered by a 200 hp Curtiss water-cooled engine.

Source: British Aircraft Manufacturers since 1908 by Gunter Endres, published 1995, ISBN 0-7110-2409-x, and cited on, which citation was downloaded April 2011.

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The above biplane is also described in British Built Aircraft: South East England by Ron Smith, published by Tempus, 2004, page 135:

"Prince Serge de Bolotoff built an attractive biplane on the grounds of Combe Bank House at Sundridge. The aircraft was illustrated in the 1919 edition of Jane's All the World's Aircraft, but little else is known of it. The machine was registered G-EAKC, although photographs show it as 'SDEB14'. De Bolotoff & Co. had a shed at Brooklands in May 1913, in which they were constructing a large tandem triplane. This was not successful. Prince de Bolotoff's address in 1913 was Reigate Priory, Reigate.

[Note: There were in 1969 and 1999 reprintings of the 1919 edition of Jane's All the World's Aircraft, by Frederick Thomas Jane, C. G. Grey - 862 pages]

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The Russian Revolution occurred in 1917, during World War I.

Since Serge de Bolotoff married Rosalie Selfridge at the Russian Embassy in London in August of 1918, he must have been in good stead with the Russian government at that time. The revolution dispossessed members of Russia's aristocracy, many of whom fled to other countries. Apparently Serge de Bolotoff was among these, since he later became known as Prince Wiasemsky. Surely there is much more to his, and his family's story concerning this period.

Additionally, this profile hints that there is more to learn regarding Serge de Bolotoff's activities in the early years of aviation.

Michael R. Delahunt (2011)

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Charles Cyril Turner wrote an account of the early days of "aeroplanes," which was published in 1927. this includes a story about a psychic, or spirit medium, named W.T. Stead:

"Naturally all sorts of people who lacked scientific or engineering knowledge were attracted to aviation, and sometimes they were betrayed into indiscretions. Thus the late W. T. Stead came on the scenes. He was a spiritualist, and he said he communicated with the spirits of the departed. he claimed he had had a conversation with Lefebvre, an aviator who had recently been killed....

Lefebvre asked Stead to warn Bolotoff, another aviator, at Chalons, that his motor would not work properly.

Mr. Stead went to Chalons on the following Monday and warned M. Bolotoff of Lefebvre's advice. The motor was treated with extreme care, and seemed in the most perfect order until M. Bolotoff took his seat in his aeroplane. Then the motor would not work, the starting handle broke, and the experiments had to be abandoned. (But such experiences with motors were common in those days, and need no spiritualistic explanation).

Although lacking knowledge of aviation and of the technique and science of flight, Stead made a great to-do about Prince Bolotoff's aeroplane and announced, 'the aeroplane is likely to make the name Bolotoff famous throughout the world. This machine, which is entered for the cross-Channel competition [1908-09], differs from all other aeroplanes in having three planes [a tri-plane] instead of two, and in that it is driven by a motor engine of 100 nominal h.p. The difficulty with most of the aeroplanes is that the light motors used can never be relied upon for a long continuous run. The engine which is mounted upon the Bolotoff aeroplane is a 100 h.p. Panhard, which, before it was dedicated to aerial service, ran without a hitch or a stoppage, other than those necessitated for taking in fresh supplies of petrol, for two 800-mile runs along the public road. It is also identical with the motor used on the boat which won all the prizes last year in Monaco.

"'One of the many disadvantages of the Wright aeroplane is that it cannot start from anywhere or descend anywhere. The Bolotoff aeroplane can start from any smooth, open space from which it can get a hundred yards run, and in the same way it can descend where it pleases.'"

"I will leave W. T. Stead to the Editor of the Automotor' journal, who wrote a letter to the press, in the course of which he said:

"'It is, we feel, only due to the future prospects of aerodynautics as a great coming industry that a strong protest should be raised against Mr. W. T. Stead's amazing — and in many respects inaccurate — article headed 'Wright Brothers' Rival.'

"'Statements such as those contained therein concerning an invention are, we contend, not only quite unjustifiable from the pen of any writer, but are liable to do an incalculable amount of harm owing to their misleading character. Considering that no scientist, however high his standing in the world, nor any living student of aeronautics could foretell today with certainty whether Serge Bolotoff's invention will prove a success or be a failure, we are amazed that Mr. Stead should speak of it in the definite terms he uses. It is clear form the article itself that the statements on which that writer commits himself are based on nothing more substantial than the claims of this twenty-one-year-old inventor, who, it is admitted, "never had any technical engineering education," and on the behaviour of a model.'"

Source: The Old Flying Days by Charles Cyril Turner, Ayer Publishing, 1927, pages 153-156. Downloaded April 2011 from

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SERGE VINCENT BOLOTOFF, an 18-year-old son of Princess Wiazemsky, of Russia, thinks he has solved the problem which has so long been agitating the minds of many prominent automobile engineers. He has designed, made and put into daily use a change-speed lever, which, he claims, does away entirely with the customary clutch pedal and eliminates from the mind of the driver all anxiety on the score of the movements of the speed change lever in conjunction with the clutch, when traffic is being negotiated or hilly country traversed.


The operation of changing gear is, as every driver will acknowledge, rather annoying. To pass, for instance, from second to third (or high) the following maneuvers are necessary:

1— Throttle down the gas.

2— Unclutch with the foot.

3— Push the speed lever from second to third (or high gear) position.

4— Let the clutch pedal spring back (movement of the foot).

5— Open the throttle.

There should be a precision in these operations which is not always easy to realize, and which, in all cases, can be acquired only by constant practice where sliding gears are used.

As will be seen from the illustration, the Bolotoff lever consists of one principal lever surmounted by a second one, the two levers forming one whole piece, so long as the inclination in either direction does not extend beyond 13 degrees. This lever is so coupled up that when a change of speed becomes necessary, a movement of the lever first of all liberates the clutch and then slides the teeth of the gears into mesh, only allowing the clutch to get home again when the teeth are fully engaged.

An ordinary speed lever A is surmounted by a handle B, fitted with a double lever, and which is, in its extension, in an average position. At the neutral-point the lever is vertical, and, for all movements of an amplitude inferior to 13 degrees from the vertical, the two levers A and B form a rigid ensemble. As soon as the ensemble has moved through 13 degrees A comes to a stop and B can then turn on pivot C to a supplementary angle of 13 degrees. It is easy to understand immediately the aim of those two movements, distinct and successive — the former acts on the sliding gear in the speed box, the latter acts on the clutch. It is interesting to see how Mr. de Bolotoff manages to obtain that very desirable result.

The handle B is rigid with two small levers b, b, and on all that ensemble can pivot a jointed shaft C, which is binding upon the main lever A ; then, in the second part of the maneuver above mentioned (when the handle turns on pivot at C) the two handles of small levers b, b, describe two arcs in opposite directions. Hence, one of the rods D comes down and the other goes up of a length equal to the chord of the above said arc. Those rods D are really two double cap links inserted in the main lever A and articulated at their lower part with a grooved scale fitted with a double fork E, sliding on a three-groove tube F and able to displace themselves longitudinally on said tube, together with the ensemble of the main lever. This main lever itself is fixed on a tube G, which slides also on the interior tube F, referred to above.

Lastly, the ensemble of the two tubes is supported by a bracket H fixed on the chassis of the car. That bracket supports a sector made of bronze E, on which are cut the notches corresponding to the different couplings of the gear box. The notches cut in the sector according to its superior generating allows a perfect guiding of the ensemble in the lateral displacement, because, in the example above described, we deal with a three-speed sliding-gear system; but it goes without saying that the realization will not be less easy in the case of any other sliding-gear. To conclude, the rotation of the three-groove shaft F causes also the rotation of the rod G, which rod, formed by another double-elbowed rod K, acts directly on the clutch.

Source: Downloaded April 2011 from The Automobile, a periodical, July 5, 1906, page 27, via

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A photograph [uploaded to Geni in 2011] captioned "Fuselage of Bolotoff Monoplane. ln the finished machine this frame is covered over with fabric while the hoarded floor comes beneath the operator's seat, motor, etc."

Source: Vehicles of the air: a popular exposition of modern aeronautics with working drawings, Víctor Lougheed - 1910 - Page 228. Downloaded 2011 from

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Prior to the First World War, Robert Mond sponsored the building of aeroplanes under the direction of Prince Serge de Bolotoff. Three connected, timber framed hangars were built for this purpose and surprisingly, they exist today and....

Air Pictorial: Journal of the Air League: Volume 56, by the Air League of the British Empire - 1994 - page 112 - Downloaded via Google Books

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The Russian Prince Serge de Bolotoff constructed a huge Goupy-type triplane at Brooklands in 1913. While taxi-ing in November a gust of wind blew it over and damaged it.

Source: Downloaded from The Fighting Triplanes by Evan Hadingham, 1969, page 22, via

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Perhaps the Boltoff noted below is related to Serge de Bolotoff:

"A gauche, Stépanida Serguéievna BOLOTOFF, née Tolstoï (1865-1922 / épouse d'Alexandre Wladimirovitch Bolotoff, conseillor d'Etat actuel, gentilhomme a la Cour Imperiale, gouverneur de Perm, titeur honourai..."

Noblesse russe: portraits: Volume 5, by Jacques Ferrand - 1985, page 64, via

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There is reference to Serge de Bolotoff in

Emil J. Dillon Papers, ca. 1873-1933 Stanford University. Libraries, Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.

Source: Downloaded April 2011 from

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5 октября,1905. Из Москвы (ПО ТЕЛЕФОНУ)

Братья Вуазен, построившие уже множество аэропланов по чужим заказам и по собственным планам, с убежденностью заявили Вильяму Стэду, что аэроплан кн. Болотова – это последнее и решающее слово в аэропланной технике. Все, кто видел эту машину, восхищаются удивительной предусмотрительностью и простотой с которой решаются в аппарате Болотова все основные задачи воздухоплавания. Уже три года как изобретение это сделано кн. Болотовым, и все это время ушло на кропотливый труд последовательных усовершенствований и упрощений. На основании контракта бр. Вуазен должен сдать готовую к полетам машину к 10 октября. Как и большинство выдающихся русских изобретателей, кн. Сергей Болотов (старший сын княгини Вяземской) не имеет диплома специального технического образования. Тем замечательнее многосторонность его изобретательного ума. Ему лишь едва минуло 21 год. Им изобретены, между прочим, механический гидроплан, подводная лодка, инструмент для регистрации давления ветра, сложный телеграфный механизм, применяемый почти повсеместно в телеграфных бюро Франции, беспроволочный телефон, рычаг для регулирования быстроты хода мотора и много др. Аэроплан Болотова не биплан, а триплан, т.е. состоит из трех динамических плоскостей; другое отличие от большинства аэропланов - он снабжен могучей машиной в 100 лошадиных сил.

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С.В(?).БОЛОТОВ. Русский офицер флота, князь. Под влиянием успехов авиации в начале 20-го века заинтересовался самолетостроением. Находясь во Франции, в 1908 г. заказал фирме Вуазен построить самолет по его проекту, на котором он намеревался перелететь Ла Манш. Аппарат представлял собой необычно большой для того времени триплан со взлетным весом 1300 кг и двигателем мощностью 120 л.с. Фюзеляж самолета имел металлическую конструкцию. Внутри были предусмотрены надувные резиновые мешки для непотопляемости машины. Самолет был построен в 1909 г., при испытаниях он не смог подняться в воздух. Позднее Болотов продолжил авиаконструкторскую деятельность в Англии, где основал самолетостроительную фирму. Фирма выпустила два самолета — триплан с двигателем мощностью 120 л.с. (1913 г.), аналогичный самолету 1909 г., и биплан с двигателем мощностью 200 л.с, напоминавший по схеме немецкий «Альбатрос» (1919 г.). Являлся также изобретателем нового типа поплавкового шасси с амортизацией для гидросамолетов (1919 г.).

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