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Interesting, but a misunderstanding. The Farman type aircraft could not fly backwards under any sort of control or with lift; the balancers (ailerons) rudder/s and elevator/s would be forced to the stops and it would also stall. (The engine would probably stop, too.) The author of the Popular Mechanics article has most likely misunderstood the 'falling leaf' manoeuvre, which uses alternating sideslips to lose height. (Not using the correct terms, thing of the diagram at the top but with the aircraft pointing towards the reader, and with one wing lowered, slipping sideways downwards (but critically, also forward to maintain lift). It's a bit more complex than that, using crossed-controls, but that's the essence. The falling leaf is now a rarely used manoeuvre, but I've seen it done in New Zealand in a Tiger Moth.

It is also possible that it is a exaggerated representation of a series of stalls on an approach. That's easily illustrated by the flight path of the typical paper aeroplane which swoops up, slows, stalls, the nose dips, it swoops again, etc. It it starts to go backwards it would 'depart from controlled flight' as it is now termed.

Note that an aviation 'stall' is related to aerodynamics, not an engine stopping as on cars.

Fascinating item!

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