The Mastery of the Air
William J. Claxton
Part 2 out of 3
wants to get from one place to another it walks; man can go on
wheels. None of the lower animals makes a single tool to assist
it in the various means of sustaining life; but man puts on his
"thinking-cap", and invents useful machines and tools to enable
him to assist or dispense with muscular movement.
Thus we find that in aviation man has designed the propeller,
which, by its rapid revolutions derived from the motive power of
the aerial engine, cuts a spiral pathway through the air and
drives the light craft rapidly forward. The chief use of the
planes is for support to the machine, and the chief duty of the
pilot is to balance and steer the craft by the manipulation of
the rudder, elevation and warping controls.
A Great British Inventor of Aeroplanes
Though, as we have seen, most of the early attempts at aerial
navigation were made by foreign engineers, yet we are proud to
number among the ranks of the early inventors of heavier-than-air
machines Sir Hiram Maxim, who, though an American by birth, has
spent most of his life in Britain and may therefore be called a
Perhaps to most of us this inventor's name is known more in
connection with the famous "Maxim" gun, which he designed, and
which was named after him. But as early as 1894, when the
construction of aeroplanes was in a very backward state, Sir
Hiram succeeded in making an interesting and ingenious aeroplane,
which he proposed to drive by a particularly light steam-engine.
Sir Hiram's first machine, which was made in 1890, was designed
to be guided by a double set of rails, one set arranged below and
the other above its running wheels. The intention was to make
the machine raise itself just off the ground rails, but yet be
prevented from soaring by the set of guard rails above the
wheels, which acted as a check on it. The motive force was given
by a very powerful steam-engine of over 300 horse-power, and
this drove two enormous propellers, some 17 feet in length. The
total weight of the machine was 8000 pounds, but even with this
enormous weight the engine was capable of raising the machine
from the ground.
For three or four years Sir Hiram made numerous experiments with
his aeroplane, but in 1894 it broke through the upper guard rail
and turned itself over among the surrounding trees, wrecking
But though the Maxim aeroplane did not yield very practical
results, it proved that if a lighter but more powerful engine
could be made, the chief difficulty iii the way of aerial flight
would be removed. This was soon forthcoming in the invention of
the petrol motor. In a lecture to the Scottish Aeronautical
Society, delivered in Glasgow in November, 1913, Sir Hiram
claimed to be the inventor of the first machine which actually
rose from the earth. Before the distinguished inventor spoke of
his own work in aviation he recalled experiments made by his
father in 1856-7, when Sir Hiram was sixteen years of age. The
flying machine designed by the elder Maxim consisted of a small
platform, which it was proposed to lift directly into the air by
the action of two screw-propellers revolving in reverse
directions. For a motor the inventor intended to employ some
kind of explosive material, gunpowder preferred, but the lecturer
distinctly remembered that his father said that if an apparatus
could be successfully navigated through the air it would be of
such inevitable value as a military engine that no matter how
much it might cost to run it would be used by Governments.
Of his own claim as an inventor of air-craft it would be well to
quote Sir Hiram's actual words, as given by the Glasgow Herald,
which contained a full report of the lecture.
"Some forty years ago, when I commenced to think of the subject,
my first idea was to lift my machint by vertical propellers, and
I actually commenced drawings and made calculations for a machine
on that plan, using an oil motor, or something like a Brayton
engine, for motive power. However, I was completely unable to
work out any system which would not be too heavy to lift itself
directly into the air, and it was only when I commenced to study
the aeroplane system that it became apparent to me that it would
be possible to make a machine light enough and powerful enough to
raise itself without the agency of a balloon. From the first I
was convinced that it would be quite out of the question to
employ a balloon in any form. At that time the light high-speed
petrol motor had no existence. The only power available being
steam-engines, I made all my calculations with a view of using
steam as the motive power. While I was studying the question of
the possibility of making a flying machine that would actually
fly, I became convinced that there was but one system to work on,
and that was the aeroplane system. I made many calculations, and
found that an aeroplane machine driven by a steam-engine ought to
lift itself into the air."
Sir Hiram then went on to say that it was the work of making an
automatic gun which was the direct cause of his experiments with
flying machines. To continue the report:
"One day I was approached by three gentle- men who were
interested in the gun, and they asked me if it would be possible
for me to build a flying machine, how long it would take, and how
much it would cost. My reply was that it would take five years
and would cost L50,000. The first three years would be devoted
to developing a light internal-combustion engine, and the
remaining two years to making a flying machine.
"Later on a considerable sum of money was placed at my disposal,
and the experiments commenced, but unfortunately the gun business
called for my attention abroad, and during the first two years of
the experimental work I was out of England eighteen months.
"Although I had thought much of the internal-combustion engine it
seemed to me that it would take too long to develop one and that
it would be a hopeless task in my absence from England; so I
decided that in my first experiments at least I would use a
steam-engine. I therefore designed and made a steam-engine and
boiler of which Mr. Charles Parsons has since said that, next to
the Maxim gun, it developed more energy for its weight than any
other heat engine ever made. That was true at the time, but is
very wide of the mark now."
Speaking of motors, the veteran lecturer remarked: "Perhaps
there was no problem in the world on which mathematicians had
differed so widely as on the problem of flight. Twenty years ago
experimenters said: 'Give us a motor that will develop 1
horse-power with the weight of a barnyard fowl, and we will very
soon fly.' At the present moment they had motors which would
develop over 2 horse-power and did not weigh more than a 12-pound
barnyard fowl. These engines had been developed--I might say
created--by the builders of motor cars. Extreme lightness had
been gradually obtained by those making racing cars, and that had
been intensified by aviators. In many cases a speed of 80 or 100
miles per hour had been attained, and machines had remained in
the air for hours and had flown long distances. In some cases
nearly a ton had been carried for a short distance."
Such words as these, coming from the lips of a great inventor,
give us a deep insight into the working of the inventor's mind,
and, incidentally, show us some of the difficulties which beset
all pioneers in their tasks. The science of aviation is, indeed,
greatly indebted to these early inventors, not the least of whom
is the gallant Sir Hiram Maxim.
The Wright Brothers and their Secret Experiments
In the beginning of the twentieth century many of the leading
European newspapers contained brief reports of aerial experiments
which were being carried out at Dayton, in the State of Ohio,
America. So wonderful were the results of these experiments, and
so mysterious were the movements of the two brothers--Orville and
Wilbur Wright--who conducted them, that many Europeans would not
believe the reports.
No inventors have gone about their work more carefully,
methodically, and secretly than did these two Americans, who,
hidden from prying eyes, "far from the madding crowd", obtained
results which brought them undying fame in the world of aviation.
For years they worked at their self-imposed task of constructing
a flying machine which would really soar among the clouds. They
had read brief accounts of the experiments carried out by Otto
Lilienthal, and in many ways the ground had been well paved for
them. It was their great ambition to become real "human birds";
"birds" that would not only glide along down the hillside, but
would fly free and unfettered, choosing their aerial paths of
travel and their places of destination.
Though there are few reliable accounts of their work in those
remote American haunts, during the first six years of the present
century, the main facts of their life-history are now well known,
and we are able to trace their experiments, step by step, from
the time when they constructed their first simple aeroplane down
to the appearance of the marvellous biplane which has made them
For some time the Wrights experimented with a glider, with which
they accomplished even more wonderful results than those obtained
by Lilienthal. These two young American engineers--bicyclemakers
by trade--were never in a hurry. Step by step they made
progress, first with kites, then with small gliders, and
ultimately with a large one. The latter was launched into the
air by men running forward with it until sufficient momentum had
been gained for the craft to go forward on its own account.
The first aeroplane made by the two brothers was a very simple
one, as was the method adopted to balance the craft. There were
two main planes made of long spreads of canvas arranged one above
another, and on the lower plane the pilot lay. A little plane in
front of the man was known as the ELEVATOR, and it could be moved
up and down by the pilot; when the elevator was tilted up, the
aeroplane ascended, when lowered, the machine descended.
At the back was a rudder, also under control of the pilot. The
pilot's feet, in a modern aeroplane, rest upon a bar working on a
central swivel, and this moves the rudder. To turn to the left,
the left foot is moved forward; to turn to the right the right
But it was in the balancing control of their machine that the
Wrights showed such great ingenuity. Running from the edges of
the lower plane were some wires which met at a point where the
pilot could control them. The edges of the plane were flexible;
that is, they could be bent slightly either up or down, and this
movement of the flexible plane is known as WING WARPING.
You know that when a cyclist is going round a curve his machine
leans inwards. Perhaps some of you have seen motor races, such
as those held at Brooklands; if so, you must have noticed that
the track is banked very steeply at the corners, and when the
motorist is going round these corners at, say, 80 miles an hour,
his motor makes a considerable angle with the level ground, and
looks as if it must topple over. The aeroplane acts in a similar
manner, and, unless some means are taken to prevent it, it will
Let us now see how the pilot worked the "Wright" glider. Suppose
the machine tilted down on one side, while in the air, the pilot
would pull down, or warp, the edges of the planes on that side of
the machine which was the lower. By an ingenious contrivance,
when one side was warped down, the other was warped up, with the
effect that the machine would be brought back into a horizontal
position. (As we shall return to the subject of wing warping in a
later chapter, we need not discuss it further here.)
It must not be imagined that as soon as the Wrights had
constructed a glider fitted with this clever system of
controlling mechanism they could fly when and where they liked.
They had to practise for two or three years before they were
satisfied with the results of their experiments: neglecting no
detail, profiting by their failures, and moving logically from
step to step. They never attempted an experiment rashly: there
was always a reason for what they did. In fact, their success
was due to systematic progress, achieved by wonderful
But now, for a short time, we must leave the pioneer work of the
Wright brothers, and turn to the invention of the petrol engine
as applied to the motor car, an invention which was destined to
have far-reaching results on the science of aviation.
The Internal-combustion Engine
We have several times remarked upon the great handicap placed
upon the pioneers of aviation by the absence of a light but
powerful motor engine. The invention of the internal-combustion
engine may be said to have revolutionized the science of flying;
had it appeared a century ago, there is no reason to doubt that
Sir George Cayley would have produced an aeroplane giving as good
results as the machines which have appeared during the last five
or six years.
The motor engine and the aeroplane are inseparably connected; one
is as necessary to the other as clay is to the potter's wheel, or
coal to the blast-furnace. This being the case, it is well that
we trace briefly the development of the engine during the last
quarter of a century.
The original mechanical genius of the motoring industry was
Gottlieb Daimler, the founder of the immense Daimler Motor Works
of Coventry. Perhaps nothing in the world of industry has made
more rapid strides during the last twenty years than
automobilism. In 1900 our road traction was carried on by means
of horses; now, especially in the large cities, it is already
more than half mechanical, and at the present rate of progress it
bids fair to be soon entirely horseless.
About the year 1885 Daimler was experimenting with models of a
small motor engine, and the following year he fitted one of his
most successful models to a light wagonette. The results were so
satisfactory, that in 1888 he took out a patent for an internal-
combustion engine--as the motor engine is technically called--and
the principle on which this engine was worked aroused great
enthusiasm on the Continent.
Soon a young French engineer, named Levassor, began to experiment
with models of motor engines, and in 1889 he obtained, with
others, the Daimler rights to construct similar engines in
France. From now on, French engineers began to give serious
attention to the new engine, and soon great improvements were
made in it. All this time Britain held aloof from the motor-car;
indeed, many Britons scoffed at the idea of
mechanically-propelled vehicles, saying that the time and money
required for their development would be wasted.
During the years 1888-1900 strange reports of smooth-moving,
horseless cars, frequently appearing in public in France, began
to reach Britain, and people wondered if the French had stolen a
march on us, and if there were anything in the new invention
after all. Our engineers had just begun to grasp the immense
possibilities of Daimler's engine, but the Government gave them
At length the Hon. Evelyn Ellis, one of the first British
motorists, introduced the "horseless carriage" into this country,
and the following account of his early trips, which appeared
in the Windsor and Eton Express of 27th July, 1895, may be
"If anyone cares to run over to Datchet, they will see the Hon.
Evelyn Ellis, of Rosenau, careering round the roads, up hill and
down dale, and without danger to life or limb, in his new motor
carriage, which he brought over a short time ago from Paris.
"In appearance it is not unlike a four-wheeled dog-cart, except
that the front part has a hood for use on long "driving" tours,
in the event of wet weather; it will accommodate four persons,
one of whom, on the seat behind, would, of course, be the
'groom', a misnomer, perhaps, for carriage attendant. Under the
front seat are receptacles, one for tools with which to repair
damages, in the event of a breakdown on the road, and the other
for a store of oil, petroleum, or naphtha in cans, from which to
replenish the oil tank of the carriage on the journey, if it be a
"Can it be easily driven? We cannot say that such a vehicle
would be suitable for a lady, unless rubber-tyred wheels and
other improvements are made to the carriage, for a grim grip of
the steering handle and a keen eye are necessary for its safe
guidance, more especially if the high road be rough. It never
requires to be fed, and as it is, moreover, unsusceptible of
fatigue, it is obviously the sort of vehicle that should soon
achieve a widespread popularity in this country.
"It is a splendid hill climber, and, in fact, such a hill as that
of Priest Hill (a pretty good test of its capabilities) shows
that it climbs at a faster pace than a pedestrian can walk.
"A trip from Rosenau to Old Windsor, to the entrance of Beaumont
College, up Priest Hill, descending the steep, rough, and
treacherous hill on the opposite side by Woodside Farm, past the
workhouse, through old Windsor, and back to Rosenau within an
hour, amply demonstrated how perfectly under control this
carriage is, while the sensation of being whirled rapidly along
is decidedly pleasing."
Another pioneer of motorism was the Hon. C. S. Rolls, whose
untimely death at Bournemouth in 1910, while taking part in the
Bournemouth aviation meeting, was deeply deplored all over the
country. Mr. Rolls made a tour of the country in a motor-car in
1895, with the double object of impressing people with the
stupidity of the law with regard to locomotion, and of
illustrating the practical possibilities of the motor. You may
know that Mr. Rolls was the first man to fly across the Channel,
and back again to Dover, without once alighting.
The Internal-combustion Engine(Cont.)
I suppose many of my readers are quite familiar with the working
of a steam-engine. Probably you have owned models of
steam-engines right from your earliest youth, and there are few
boys who do not know how the railway engine works.
But though you may be quite familiar with the mechanism of this
engine, it does not follow that you know how the petrol engine
works, for the two are highly dissimilar. It is well, therefore,
that we include a short description of the internal-combustion
engine such as is applied to motor-cars, for then we shall be
able to understand the principles of the aeroplane engine.
At present petrol is the chief fuel used for the motor engine.
Numerous experiments have been tried with other fuels, such as
benzine, but petrol yields the best results.
Petrol is distilled from oil which comes from wells bored deep
down in the ground in Pennsylvania, in the south of Russia, in
Burma, and elsewhere. Also it is distilled in Scotland from
oil shale, from which paraffin oil and wax and similar substances
are produced. When the oil is brought to the surface it contains
many impurities, and in its native form is unsuitable for motor
engines. The crude oil is composed of a number of different
kinds of oil; some being light and clear, others heavy and thick.
To purify the oil it is placed in a large metal vessel or
"still". Steam is first passed over the oil in the still, and
this changes the lightest of the oils into vapours. These
vapours are sent through a series of pipes surrounded with cold
water, where they are cooled and become liquid again. Petrol is
a mixture of these lighter products of the oil.
If petrol be placed in the air it readily turns into a vapour,
and this vapour is extremely inflammable. For this reason petrol
is always kept in sealed tins, and very large quantities are not
allowed to be stored near large towns. The greatest care has to
be exercised in the use of this "unsafe" spirit. For example, it
is most dangerous to smoke when filling a tank with petrol, or to
use the spirit near a naked light. Many motor-cars have been set
on fire through the petrol leaking out of the tank in which it is
The tank which contains the petrol is placed under one of the
seats of the motor-car, or at the rear; if in use on a
motor-cycle it is arranged along the top bar of the frame, just
in front of the driver. This tank is connected to the
"carburettor", a little vessel having a small nozzle projecting
upwards in its centre. The petrol trickles from the tank into
the carburettor, and is kept at a constant level by means of a
float which acts in a very similar way to the ballcock of a water
The carburettor is connected to the cylinder of the engine by
another pipe, and there is valve which is opened by the engine
itself and is closed by a spring. By an ingenious contrivance
the valve is opened when the piston moves out of the cylinder,
and a vacuum is created behind it and in the carburettor. This
carries a fine spray of petrol to be sucked up through the
nozzle. Air is also sucked into the carburettor, and the mixture
of air and petrol spray produces an inflammable vapour which is
drawn straight into the cylinder of the engine.
As soon as the piston moves back, the inlet valve is
automatically closed and the vapour is compressed into the top of
the cylinder. This is exploded by an electric spatk, which is
passed between two points inside the cylinder, and the force of
the explosion drives the piston outwards again. On its return
the "exhaust" or burnt gases are driven out through another
valve, known as the "exhaust" valve.
Whether the engine has two, four, or six cylinders, the car is
propelled in a similar way for all the pistons assist in turning
one shaft, called the engine shaft, which runs along the centre
of the car to the back axle.
The rapid explosions in the cylinder produce great heat, and the
cylinders are kept cool by circulating water round them. When
the water has become very hot it passes through a number of
pipes, called the "radiator", placed in front of the car; the
cold air rushing between the coils cools the water, so that it
can be used over and over again.
No water is needed for the engine of a motor cycle. You will
notice that the cylinders are enclosed by wide rings of metal,
and these rings are quite sufficient to radiate the heat as
quickly as it is generated.
The Aeroplane Engine
We have seen that a very important part of the
internal-combustion engine, as used on the motor-car, is the
radiator, which prevents the engine from becoming overheated and
thus ceasing to work. The higher the speed at which the engine
runs the hotter does it become, and the greater the necessity for
an efficient cooling apparatus.
But the motor on an aeroplane has to do much harder work than the
motor used for driving the motor-car, while it maintains a much
higher speed. Thus there is an even greater tendency for it to
become overheated; and the great problem which inventors of
aeroplane engines have had to face is the construction of a light
but powerful engine equipped with some apparatus for keeping it
Many different forms of aeroplane engines have been invented
during the last few years. Some inventors preferred the radiator
system of cooling the engine, but the tank containing the water,
and the radiator itself, added considerably to the weight of the
motor, and this, of course, was a serious drawback to its
But in 1909 there appeared a most ingeniously-constructed engine
which was destined to take a very prominent part in the progress
of aviation. This was the famous "Gnome" engine, by means of
which races almost innumerable have been won, and amazing records
We have already referred to the engine shaft of the motor-car,
which is revolved by the pistons of the various fixed cylinders.
In all aeroplane engines which had appeared before the Gnome the
same principle of construction had been adopted; that is to say,
the cylinders were fixed, and the engine shaft revolved.
But in the Gnome engine the reverse order of things takes place;
the shaft is fixed, and the cylinders fly round it at a
tremendous speed. Thus the rapid whirl in the air keeps the
engine cool, and cumbersome tanks and unwieldy radiators can be
dispensed with. This arrangement enabled the engine to be made
very light and yet be of greater horse-power than that attained
by previously-existing engines.
A further very important characteristic of the rotary-cylinder
engine is that no flywheel is used; in a stationary engine it has
been found necessary to have a fly-wheel in addition to the
propeller. The rotary-cylinder engine acts as its own fly-wheel,
thus again saving considerable weight.
The new engine astonished experts when they first examined it,
and all sorts of disasters to it were predicted. It was of such
revolutionary design that wiseacres shook their heads and said
that any pilot who used it would be constantly in trouble with
it. But during the last few years it has passed from one triumph
to another, commencing with a long-distance record established by
Henri Farman at Rheims, in 1909. It has since been used with
success by aviators all the world over. That in the Aerial Derby
of 1913--which was flown over a course Of 94 miles around
London--six of the eleven machines which took part in the race
were fitted with Gnome engines, and victory was achieved by Mr.
Gustav Hamel, who drove an 80-horse-power Gnome, is conclusive
evidence of the high value of this engine in aviation.
A Famous British Inventor of Aviation Engines
In the general design and beauty of workmanship involved in the
construction of aeroplanes, Britain is now quite the equal of her
foreign rivals; even in engines we are making extremely rapid
progress, and the well-known Green Engine Company, profiting by
the result of nine years' experience, are able to turn out
aeroplane engines as reliable, efficient, and as light in pounds
weight per horse-power as any aero engine in existence.
In the early days of aviation larger and better engines of
British make specially suited for aeroplanes were our most urgent
The story of the invention of the "Green" engine is a record of
triumph over great difficulties.
Early in 1909--the memorable year when M. Bleriot was firing the
enthusiasm of most engineers by his cross-Channel flight; when
records were being established at Rheims; and when M. Paulhan won
the great prize of L10,000 for the London to Manchester flight--
Mr. Green conceived a number of ingenious ideas for an aero
One of Mr. Green's requirements was that the cylinders should be
made of cast-steel, and that they should come from a British
foundry. The company that took the work in hand, the Aster
Company, had confidence in the inventor's ideas. It is said that
they had to waste 250 castings before six perfect cylinders were
produced. It is estimated that the first Green engine cost
L6000. These engines can be purchased for less than L500.
The closing months of 1909 saw the Green engine firmly
established. In October of that year Mr. Moore Brabazon won the
first all-British competition of L1000 offered by the Daily Mail
for the first machine to fly a circular mile course. His
aeroplane was fitted with a 60-horse-power Green aero engine. In
the same year M. Michelin offered L1000 for a long-distance
flight in all-British aviation; this prize was also won by Mr.
Brabazon, who made a flight of 17 miles.
Some of Colonel Cody's achievements in aviation were made with
the Green engine. In 1910 he succeeded in winning both the
duration and cross-country Michelin competitions, and in 1911 he
again accomplished similar feats. In this year he also finished
fourth in the all-round-Britain race. This was a most
meritorious performance when it is remembered that his Cathedral
weighed nearly a ton and ahalf, and that the 60-horse-power Green
was practically "untouched", to use an engineering expression,
during the whole of the 1010-mile flight.
The following year saw Cody winning another Michelin prize for a
cross-country competition. Here he made a flight of over 200
miles, and his high opinion of the engine may be best described
in the letter he wrote to the company, saying: "If you kept the
engine supplied from without with petrol and oil, what was within
would carry you through".
But the pinnacle of Mr. Green's fame as an inventor was reached
in 1913, when Mr. Harry Hawker made his memorable waterplane
flight from Cowes to Lough Shinny, an account of which appears in
a later chapter. His machine was fitted with a 100-horse-power
Green, and with it he flew 1043 miles of the 1540-miles course.
Though the complete course was not covered, neither Mr. Sopwith--
who built the machine and bore the expenses of the flight--nor
Mr. Hawker attached any blame to the engine. At a dinner of the
Aero Club, given in 1914, Mr. Sopwith was most enthusiastic in
discussing the merits of the "Green", and after Harry Hawker had
recovered from the effects of his fall in Lough Shinny he
remarked in reference to the engine: "It is the best I have ever
met. I do not know any other that would have done anything like
At the same time that this race was being held the French had a
competition from Paris to Deauville, a distance of about 160
miles. When compared with the time and distance covered by Mr.
Hawker, the results achieved by the French pilots, flying
machines fitted with French engines, were quite insignificant;
thus proving how the British industry had caught up, and even
passed, its closest rivals.
In 1913 Mr. Grahame White, with one of the 100-horse-power
"Greens" succeeded in winning the duration Michelin with a flight
of over 300 miles, carrying a mechanic and pilot, 85 gallons of
petrol, and 12 gallons of lubricating oil. Compulsory landings
were made every 63 miles, and the engine was stopped. In spite
of these trying conditions, the engine ran, from start to finish,
nearly nine hours without the slightest trouble.
Sufficient has been said to prove conclusively that the thought
and labour expended in the perfecting of the Green engine have
not been fruitless.
The Wright Biplane (Camber of Planes)
Now that the internal-combustion engine had arrived, the Wrights
at once commenced the construction of an aeroplane which could be
driven by mechanical power. Hitherto, as we have seen, they had
made numerous tests with motorless gliders; but though these
tests gave them much valuable information concerning the best
methods of keeping their craft on an even keel while in the air,
they could never hope to make much progress in practical flight
until they adopted motor power which would propel the machine
through the air.
We may assume that the two brothers had closely studied the
engines patented by Daimler and Levassor, and, being of a
mechanical turn of mind themselves, they were able to build their
own motor, with which they could make experiments in power-driven
Before we study the gradual progress of these experiments it
would be well to describe the Wright biplane. The illustration
facing p. 96 shows a typical biplane, and though there are
certain modifications in most modern machines, the principles
upon which it was built apply to all aeroplanes.
The two main supporting planes, A, B, are made of canvas
stretched tightly across a light frame, and are slightly curved,
or arched, from front to back. This curve is technically known
as the CAMBER, and upon the camber depend the strength and speed
of the machine.
If you turn back to Chapter XVII you will see that the plane is
modelled after the wing of a bird. It has been found that the
lifting power of a plane gradually dwindles from the front edge--
or ENTERING EDGE, as it is called--backwards. For this reason it
is necessary to equip a machine with a very long, narrow plane,
rather than with a comparatively broad but short plane.
Perhaps a little example will make this clear. Suppose we had
two machines, one of which was fitted with planes 144 feet long
and 1 foot wide, and the other with planes 12 feet square. In
the former the entering edge of the plane would be twelve times
as great as in the latter, and the lifting power would
necessarily be much greater. Thus, though both machines have
planes of the same area, each plane having a surface of 144
square feet, yet there is a great difference in the "lift" of the
But it is not to be concluded that the back portion of a plane is
altogether wasted. Numerous experiments have taught aeroplane
constructors that if the plane were slightly curved from front to
back the rear portion of the plane also exercised a "lift"; thus,
instead of the air being simply cut by the entering edge of the
plane, it is driven against the arched back of the plane, and
helps to lift the machine into the air, and support it when in
There is also a secondary lifting impulse derived from this
simple curve. We have seen that the air which has been cut by
the front edge of the plane pushes up from below, and is arrested
by the top of the arch, but the downward dip of the rear portion
of the plane is of service in actually DRAWING THE AIR FROM
ABOVE. The rapid air stream which has been cut by the entering
edge passes above the top of the curve, and "sucks up", as it
were, so that the whole wing is pulled upwards. Thus there are
two lifting impulses: one pushing up from below, the other
sucking up from above.
It naturally follows that when the camber is very pronounced the
machine will fly much slower, but will bear a greater weight than
a machine equipped with planes having little or no camber. On
high-speed machines, which are used chiefly for racing purposes,
the planes have very little camber. This was particularly
noticeable in the monoplane piloted by Mr. Hamel in the Aerial
Derby of 1913: the wings of this machine seemed to be quite
flat, and it was chiefly because of this that the pilot was able
to maintain such marvellous speed.
The scientific study of the wing lift of planes has proceeded so
far that the actual "lift" can now be measured, providing the
speed of the machine is known, together with the superficial area
of the planes. The designer can calculate what weight each
square foot of the planes will support in the air. Thus some
machines have a "lift" of 9 or 10 pounds to each square foot of
wing surface, while others are reduced to 3 or 4 pounds per
The Wright Biplane (Cont.)
The under part of the frame of the Wright biplane, technically
known as the CHASSIS, resembled a pair of long "runner" skates,
similar to those used in the Fens for skating races. Upon
those runners the machine moved along the ground when starting to
fly. In more modern machines the chassis is equipped with two
or more small rubber-tyred wheels on which the machine runs along
the ground before rising into the air, and on which it alights
when a descent is made.
You will notice that the pilot's seat is fixed on the lower
plane, and almost in the centre of it, while close by the engine
is mounted. Alongside the engine is a radiator which cools the
water that has passed round the cylinder of the engine in order
to prevent them from becoming overheated.
Above the lower plane is a similar plane arranged parallel to it,
and the two are connected by light upright posts of hickory wood
known as STRUTS. Such an aeroplane as this, which is equipped
with two main planes, known as a BIPLANE. Other types of
air-craft are the MONOPLANE, possessing one main plane, and the
TRIPLANE, consisting of three planes. No practical machine has
been built with more than three main planes; indeed, the triplane
is now almost obsolete.
The Wrights fitted their machine with two long-bladed wooden
screws, or propellers, which by means of chains and
sprocket-wheels, very like those of a bicycle, were driven by the
engine, whose speed was about 1200 revolutions a minute. The
first motor engine used by these clever pioneers had four
cylinders, and developed about 20 horsepower. Nowadays engines
are produced which develop more than five times that power.
In later machines one propeller is generally thought to be
sufficient; in fact many constructors believe that there is
danger in a two-propeller machine, for if one propeller got
broken, the other propeller, working at full speed, would
probably overturn the machine before the pilot could cut off his
Beyond the propellers there are two little vertical planes which
can be moved to one side or the other by a control lever in front
of the pilot's seat. These planes or rudders steer the machine
from side to side, answering the same purpose as the rudder of a
In front of the supporting planes there are two other horizontal
planes, arranged one above the other; these are much smaller than
the main planes, and are known as the ELEVATORS. Their function
is to raise or lower the machine by catching the air at different
Comparison with a modern biplane, such as may be seen at an
aerodrome on any "exhibition" day, will disclose several marked
differences in construction between the modern type and the
earlier Wright machine, though the central idea is the same.
How the Wrights launched their Biplane
Those of us who have seen an aeroplane rise from the ground know
that it runs quickly along for 50 or 60 yards, until sufficient
momentum has been gained for the craft to lift itself into the
air. The Wrights, as stated, fitted their machine with a pair of
launching runners which projected from the under side of the
lower plane like two very long skates, and the method of
launching their craft was quite different from that followed
The launching apparatus consisted of a wooden tower at the
starting end of the launching ways--a wooden rail about 60 or 70
feet in length. To the top of the tower a weight of about 1/2
ton was suspended. The suspension rope was led downwards over
pulleys, thence horizontally to the front end and back to the
inner end of the railway, where it was attached to the aeroplane.
A small trolley was fitted to the chassis of the machine and this
ran along the railway.
To launch the machine, which, of course, stood on the rail, the
propellers were set in motion, and the 1/2-ton weight at the top
of the tower was released. The falling weight towed the
aeroplane rapidly forward along the rail, with a velocity
sufficient to cause it to glide smoothly into the air at the
other end of the launching ways. By an ingenious arrangement the
trolley was left behind on the railway.
It will at once occur to you that there were disadvantages in
this system of commencing a flight. One was that the launching
apparatus was more or less a fixture. At any rate it could not
be carried about from place to place very readily: Supposing the
biplane could not return to its starting-point, and the pilot was
forced to descend, say, 10 or 12 miles away: in such a case it
would be neces- sary to tow the machine back to the launching
ways, an obviously inconvenient arrangement, especially in
For some time the "wheeled" chassis has been in universal use,
but in a few cases it has been thought desirable to adopt a
combination of runners and wheels. A moderately firm surface is
necessary for the machine to run along the ground; if the ground
be soft or marly the wheels would sink in the soil, and serious
accidents have resulted from the sudden stoppage of the forward
motion due to this cause.
With their first power-driven machine the Wrights made a series
of very fine flights, at first in a straight line. In 1904 they
effected their first turn. By the following year they had made
such rapid progress that they were able to exceed a distance of
20 miles in one flight, and keep up in the air for over half an
hour at a time. Their manager now gave their experiments great
publicity, both in the American and European Press, and in 1908
the brothers, feeling quite sure of their success, emerged from a
self-imposed obscurity, and astonished the world with some
wonderful flights, both in America and on the French flying
ground at Issy.
A great loss to aviation occurred on 30th May, 1912, when Wilbur
Wright died from an attack of typhoid fever. His work is
officially commemorated in Britain by an annual Premium Lecture,
given under the auspices of the Aeronautical Society.
The First Man to Fly in Europe
In November, 1906, nearly the whole civilized world was
astonished to read that a rich young Brazilian aeronaut, residing
in France, had actually succeeded in making a short flight, or,
shall we say, an enormous "hop", in a heavier-than-air machine.
This pioneer of aviation was M. Santos Dumont. For five or six
years before his experiments with the aeroplane he had made a
great many flights in balloons, and also in dirigible balloons.
He was the son of well-to-do parents--his father was a successful
coffee planter--and he had ample means to carry on his costly
Flying was Santos Dumont's great hobby. Even in boyhood, when
far away in Brazil, he had been keenly interested in the work of
Spencer, Green, and other famous aeronauts, and aeronautics
became almost a passion with him.
Towards the end of the year 1898 he designed a rather novel form
of air-ship. The balloon was shaped like an enormous cigar, some
80 feet long, and it was inflated with about 6000 cubic feet of
hydrogen. The most curious contrivance, however, was the motor.
This was suspended from the balloon, and was somewhat similar to
the small motor used on a motor-cycle. Santos Dumont sat beside
this motor, which worked a propeller, and this curious craft was
guided several times by the inventor round the Botanical Gardens
About two years after these experiments the science of
aeronautics received very valuable aid from M. Deutsch, a member
of the French Aero Club. A prize of about L4000 was offered by
this gentleman to the man who should first fly from the Aero Club
grounds at Longchamps, double round the Eiffel Tower, and then
sail back to the starting-place. The total distance to be flown
was rather more than 3 miles, and it was stipulated that the
journey--which could be made either in a dirigible air-ship or a
flying machine--should be completed within half an hour.
This munificent offer at once aroused great enthusiasm among
aeronauts and engineers throughout the whole of France, and, to a
lesser degree, in Britain. Santos Dumont at once set to work on
another air-ship, which was equipped with a much more powerful
motor than he had previously used. In July, 1901, his
arrangements were completed, and he made his first attempt to win
The voyage from Longchamps to the Eiffel Tower was made in very
quick time, for a favourable wind speeded the huge balloon on its
way. The pilot was also able to steer a course round the tower,
but his troubles then commenced. The wind was now in his face,
and his engine-a small motor engine of about 15 horse-power-was
unable to produce sufficient power to move the craft quickly
against the wind. The plucky inventor kept fighting against
the-breeze, and at length succeeded in returning to his
starting-point; but he had exceeded the time limit by several
minutes and thus, was disqualified for the prize.
Another attempt was made by Santos Dumont about a month later.
This time, however, he was more unfortunate, and he had a
marvellous escape from death. As on the previous occasion he got
into great difficulties when sailing against the wind on the
return journey, and his balloon became torn, so that the gas
escaped and the whole craft crashed down on the house-tops.
Eyewitnesses of the accident expected to find the gallant young
Brazilian crushed to death; but to their great relief he was seen
to be hanging to the car, which had been caught upon the buttress
of a house. Even now he was in grave peril, but after a long
delay he was rescued by means of a rope.
It might be thought that such an accident would have deterred the
inventor from making further attempts on the prize; but the
aeronaut seemed to be well endowed with the qualities of patience
and perseverance and continued to try again. Trial after trial
was made, and numerous accidents took place. On nearly every
occasion it was comparatively easy to sail round the Tower, but
it was a much harder task to sail back again.
At length in October, 1901, he was thought to have completed the
course in the allotted time; but the Aero Club held that he had
exceeded the time limit by forty seconds. This decision aroused
great indignation among Parisians--especially among those who had
watched the flight--many of whom were convinced that the journey
had been accomplished in the half-hour. After much argument the
committee which had charge of the race, acting on the advice of
M. Deutsch, who was very anxious that the prize should be awarded
to Santos Dumont, decided that the conditions of the flight had
been complied with, and that the prize had been legitimately won.
It is interesting to read that the famous aeronaut divided the
money among the poor.
But important though Santos Dumont's experiments were with the
air-ship, they were of even greater value when he turned his
attention to the aeroplane.
One of his first trials with a heavier-than-air machine was made
with a huge glider, which was fitted with floats. The curious
craft was towed along the River Seine by a fast motor boat named
the Rapiere, and it actually succeeded in rising into the air and
flying behind the boat like a gigantic kite.
12th November, 1906, is a red-letter day in the history of
aviation, for it was then that Santos Dumont made his first
little flight in an aeroplane. This took place at Bagatelle, not
far from Paris.
Two months before this the airman had succeeded in driving his
little machine, called the Bird of Prey, many yards into the air,
and "11 yards through the air", as the newspapers reported; but
the craft was badly smashed. It was not until November that
the first really satisfactory flight took place.
A description of this flight appeared in most of the European
newspapers, and I give a quotation from one of them: "The
aeroplane rose gracefully and gently to a height of about 15 feet
above the earth, covering in this most remarkable dash through
the air a distance of about 700 feet in twenty-one seconds.
"It thus progressed through the atmosphere at the rate of nearly
30 miles an hour. Nothing like this has ever been accomplished
before. . . . The aeroplane has now reached the practical stage."
The dimensions of this aeroplane were:
Length 32 feet
Greatest width 39 feet
Weight with one passenger 465 pounds.
Speed 30 miles an hour
A modern aeroplane with airman and passenger frequently weighs
over 1 ton, and reaches a speed of over 60 miles an hour.
It is interesting to note that Santos Dumont, in 1913--that is,
only seven years after his flight in an aeroplane at Bagatelle
made him world-famous--announced his intention of again taking an
active part in aviation. His purpose was to make use of
aeroplanes merely for pleasure, much as one might purchase a
motor-car for the same object.
Could the intrepid Brazilian in his wildest dreams have foreseen
the rapid advance of the last eight years? In 1906 no one had
flown in Europe; by 1914 hundreds of machines were in being, in
which the pilots were no longer subject to the wind's caprices,
but could fly almost where and when they would.
Frenchmen have honoured, and rightly honoured, this gallant and
picturesque figure in the annals of aviation, for in 1913 a
magnificent monument was unveiled in France to commemorate his
M. Bleriot and the Monoplane
If the Wright brothers can lay claim to the title of "Fathers of
the Biplane", then it is certain that M. Bleriot, the gallant
French airman, can be styled the "Father of the Monoplane."
For five years--1906 to 1910--Louis Bleriot's name was on
everybody's lips in connection with his wonderful records in
flying and skilful feats of airmanship. Perhaps the flight which
brought him greatest renown was that accomplished in July, 1909,
when he was the first man to cross the English Channel by
aeroplane. This attempt had been forestalled, although
unsuccessfully, by Hubert Latham, a daring aviator who is best
known in Lancashire by his flight in 1909 at Blackpool in a
wind which blew at the rate of nearly 40 miles an hour--a
performance which struck everyone with wonder in these early days
Latham attempted, on an Antoinette monoplane, to carry off the
prize of L1000 offered by the proprietors of the Daily Mail. On
the first occasion he fell in mid-Channel, owing to the failure
of his motor, and was rescued by a torpedo-boat. His machine was
so badly damaged during the salving operations that another had
to be sent from Paris, and with this he made a second attempt,
which was also unsuccessful. Meanwhile M. Bleriot had arrived
on the scene; and on 25th July he crossed the Channel from Calais
to Dover in thirty-seven minutes and was awarded the L1000
Bleriot's fame was now firmly established, and on his return to
France he received a magnificent welcome. The monoplane at once
leaped into favour, and the famous "bird man" had henceforth to
confine his efforts to the building of machines and the
organization of flying events. He has since established a large
factory in France and inaugurated a flying school at Pau.
All the time that the Wrights were experimenting with their
glider and biplane in America, and the Voisin brothers were
constructing biplanes in France, Bleriot had been giving earnest
attention to the production of a real "bird" machine, provided
with one pair of FLAPPING wings. We know now that such an
aeroplane is not likely to be of practical use, but with quiet
persistence Bleriot kept to his task, and succeeded in evolving
the famous Antoinette monoplane, which more closely resembles a
bird than does any other form of air-craft.
In the illustration of the Bleriot monoplane here given you will
notice that there is one main plane, consisting of a pair of
highly-cambered wings; hence the name "MONOplane". At the rear
of the machine there is a much smaller plane, which is slightly
cambered; this is the elevating plane, and it can be tilted up
or down in order to raise or lower the machine. Remember that
the elevating plane of a biplane is to the front of the machine
and in the monoplane at the rear. The small, upright plane G is
the rudder, and is used for steering the machine to the right or
left. The long narrow body or framework of the monoplaneis known
as the FUSELAGE.
By a close study of the illustration, and the description which
accompanies it, you will understand how the machine is driven.
The main plane is twisted, or warped, when banking, much in the
same way that the Wright biplane is warped.
Far greater speed can be obtained from the monoplane than from
the biplane, chiefly because in the former machine there is much
less resistance to the air. Both height and speed records stand
to the credit of the monoplane.
The enormous difference in the speeds of monoplanes and biplanes
can be best seen at a race meeting at some aerodrome. Thus at
Hendon, when a speed handicap is in progress, the slow biplanes
have a start of one or two laps over the rapid little monoplanes
in a six-lap contest, and it is most amusing to see the latter
dart under, or over, the more cumbersome biplane. Recently
however, much faster biplanes have been built, and they bid fair
to rival the swiftest monoplanes in speed.
There is, however, one serious drawback to the use of the
monoplane: it is far more dangerous to the pilot than is the
biplane. Most of the fatal accidents in aviation have been
caused through mishaps to monoplanes or their engines, and
chiefly for this reason the biplane has to a large extent
supplanted the monoplane in warfare. The biplane, too, is better
adapted for observation work, which is, after all, the chief use
In a later chapter some account will be givcn of the three types
of aeroplane which the war has evolved--the general-purposes
machine, the single-seater "fighter", and those big
bomb-droppers, the British Handley Page and the German Gotha.
Henri Farman and the Voisin Biplane
The coming of the motor engine made events move rapidly in the
world of aviation. About the year 1906 people's attention was
drawn to France, where Santos Dumont was carrying out the
wonderful experiments which we have already described. Then came
Henri Farman, who piloted the famous biplane built by the Voisin
brothers in 1907; an aeroplane destined to bring world-wide
renown to its clever constructors and its equally clever and
There were notable points of distinction between the Voisin
biplane and that built by the Wrights. The latter, as we have
seen, had two propellers; the former only one. The launching
skids of the Wright biplane gave place to wheels on Farman's
machine. One great advantage, however, possessed by the early
Wright biplane over its French rivals, was in its greater general
efficiency. The power of the engine was only about one-half
of the power required in certain of the French designs. This was
chiefly due to the use of the launching rail, for it needed much
greater motor power to make a machine rise from the ground by its
own motor engine than when it received a starting lift from a
falling weight. Even in our modern aeroplanes less engine power
is required to drive the craft through the air than to start from
Farman achieved great fame through his early flights, and, on
13th January, 1908, at the flying ground at Issy, in France, he
won the prize of L2000, offered by MM. Deutsch and Archdeacon to
the first aviator who flew a circular kilometre. In July of the
same year he won another substantial prize given by a French
engineer, M. Armengaud, to the first pilot who remained aloft for
a quarter of an hour.
Probably an even greater performance was the cross-country flight
made by Farman about three months later. In the flight he passed
over hills, valleys, rivers, villages, and woods on his journey
from Chalons to Rheims, which he accomplished in twenty minutes.
In the early models of the Voisin machine there were fitted
between the two main planes a number of vertical planes, as shown
clearly in the illustration facing p. 160. It was thought that
these planes would increase the stability of the machine,
independent of the skill of the operator, and in calm weather
they were highly effective. Their great drawback, however, was
that when a strong side wind caught them the machine was blown
out of its course.
Subsequently Farman considerably modified the early-type Voisin
biplane, as shown by the illustration facing p. 160. The
vertical planes were dispensed with, and thus the idea of
automatic stability was abandoned.
But an even greater distinction between the Farman biplane and
that designed by the Wrights was in the adoption of a system
of small movable planes, called AILERONS, fixed at extremities of
the main planes, instead of the warping controls which we have
already described. The ailerons, which are adapted to many of
our modern aeroplanes, are really balancing flaps, actuated by a
control lever at the right side of the pilot's seat, and the
principle on which they are worked is very similar to that
employed in the warp system of lateral stability.
A Famous British Inventor
About the time that M. Bleriot was developing his monoplane, and
Santos Dumont was astonishing the world with his flying feats at
Bagatelle, a young army officer was at work far away in a
secluded part of the Scottish Highlands on the model of an
aeroplane. This young man was Lieutenant J. W. Dunne, and his
name has since been on everyone's lips wherever aviation is
discussed. Much of Lieutenant Dunne's early experimental work
was done on the Duke of Atholl's estate, and the story goes that
such great secrecy was observed that "the tenants were enrolled
as a sort of bodyguard to prevent unauthorized persons from
entering". For some time the War Office helped the inventor
with money, for the numerous tests and trials necessary in almost
every invention before satisfactory results are achieved are very
Probably the inventor did not make sufficiently rapid progress
with his novel craft, for he lost the financial help and goodwill
of the Government for a time; but he plodded on, and at length
his plans were sufficiently advanced for him to carry on his work
openly. It must be borne in mind that at the time Dunne first
took up the study of aviation no one had flown in Europe, and he
could therefore receive but little help from the results achieved
by other pilots and constructors.
But in the autumn of 1913 Lieutenant Dunne's novel aeroplane was
the talk of both Europe and America. Innumerable trials had been
made in the remote flying ground at Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey,
and the machine became so far advanced that it made a
cross-Channel flight from Eastchurch to Paris. It remained in
France for some time, and Commander Felix, of the French Army,
made many excellent flights in it. Unfortunately, however, when
flying near Deauville, engine trouble compelled the officer to
descend; but in making a landing in a very small field, not much
larger than a tennis-court, several struts of the machine were
damaged. It was at once seen that the aeroplane could not
possibly be flown until it had been repaired and thoroughly
overhauled. To do this would take several days, especially as
there were no facilities for repairing the craft near by, and to
prevent anyone from making a careful examination of the
aeroplane, and so discovering the secret features which had been
so jealously guarded, the machine was smashed up after the engine
had been removed.
At that time this was the only Dunne aeroplane in existence, but
of course the plans were in the possession of the inventor, and
it was an easy task to make a second machine from the same model.
Two more machines were put in hand at Hendon, and a third at
On 18th October, 1913, the Dunne aeroplane made its first public
appearance at Hendon, in the London aerodrome, piloted by
Commander Felix. The most striking distinction between this and
other biplanes is that its wings or planes, instead of reaching
from side to side of the engine, stretch back in the form of the
letter V, with the point of the V to the front. These wings
extend so far to the rear that there is no need of a tail to the
machine, and the elevating plane in front can also be dispensed
This curious and unique design in aeroplane construction was
decided upon by Lieutenant Dunne after a prolonged observation at
close quarters of different birds in flight, and the inventor
claims for his aeroplane that it is practically uncapsizable.
Perhaps, however, this is too much to claim for any
heavier-than-air machine; but at all events the new design
certainly appears to give greater stability, and it is to be
hoped that by this and other devices the progress of aviation
will not in the future be so deeply tinged with tragedy.
The Romance of a Cowboy Aeronaut
In the brief but glorious history of pioneer work in aviation,
so far as it applies to this country, there is scarcely a more
romantic figure to be found than Colonel Cody. It was the
writer's pleasure to come into close contact with Cody during the
early years of his experimental work with man-lifting box-kites
at the Alexandra Park, London, and never will his genial smile
and twinkling eye be forgotten.
Cody always seemed ready to crack a joke with anyone, and
possibly there was no more optimistic man in the whole of
Britain. To the boys and girls of Wood Green he was a popular
hero. He was usually clad in a "cowboy" hat, red flannel shirt,
and buckskin breeches, and his hair hung down to his shoulders.
On certain occasions he would give a "Wild West" exhibition at
the Alexandra Palace, and one of his most daring tricks with the
gun was to shoot a cigarette from a lady's lips. One could see
that he was entire master of the rifle, and a trick which always
brought rounds of applause was the hitting of a target while
standing with his back to it, simply by the aid of a mirror held
at the butt of his rifle.
But it is of Cody as an aviator and aeroplane constructor that we
wish to speak. For some reason or other he was generally the
object of ridicule, both in the Press and among the public. Why
this should have been so is not quite clear; possibly his quaint
attire had something to do with it, and unfriendly critics
frequently raised a laugh at his expense over the enormous size
of his machines. So large were they that the Cody biplane was
laughingly called the "Cody bus" or the "Cody Cathedral."
But in the end Cody fought down ridicule and won fame, for in
competition with some of the finest machines of the day, piloted
by some of our most expert airmen, he won the prize of L5000
offered by the Government in 1912 in connection with the Army
trials for aeroplanes. In these trials he astonished everyone by
obtaining a speed of over 70 miles an hour in his biplane, which
weighed 2600 pounds.
In the opening years of the present century Cody spent much time
in demonstrations with huge box-kites, and for a time this form
of kite was highly popular with boys of North London. In these
kites he made over two hundred flights, reaching, on some
occasions, an altitude of over 2000 feet. At all times of the
day he could have been seen on the slopes of the Palace Hill,
hauling these strange-looking, bat-like objects backward and
forward in the wind. Reports of his experiments appeared in the
Press, but Cody was generally looked upon as a "crank". The War
Office, however, saw great possibilities in the kites for
scouting purposes in time of war, and they paid Cody L5000 for
It is a rather romantic story of how Cody came to take up
experimental work with kites, and it is repeated as it was given
by a Mohawk chief to a newspaper representative.
"On one occasion when Cody was in a Lancashire town with his Wild
West show, his son Leon went into the street with a parrot-shaped
kite. Leon was attired in a red shirt, cowboy trousers, and
sombrero, and soon a crowd of youngsters in clogs was clattering
"'If a boy can interest a crowd with a little kite, why can't a
man interest a whole nation?' thought Cody--and so the idea of
man-lifting kites developed."
In 1903 Cody made a daring but unsuccessful attempt to cross the
Channel in a boat drawn by two kites. Had he succeeded he
intended to cross the Atlantic by similar means.
Later on, Cody turned his attention to the construction of
aeroplanes, but he was seriously handicapped by lack of funds.
His machines were built with the most primitive tools, and
some of our modern constructors, working in well-equipped
"shops", where the machinery is run by electric plant, would
marvel at the work accomplished with such tools as those used by
Most of Cody's flights were made on Laffan's Plain, and he took
part in the great "Round Britain" race in 1911. It was
characteristic of the man that in this race he kept on far in
the wake of MM. Beaumont and Vedrines, though he knew that he had
not the slightest chance of winning the prize; and, days after
the successful pilot had arrived back at Brooklands, Cody's "bus"
came to earth in the aerodrome. "It's dogged as does it," he
remarked, "and I meant to do the course, even if I took a year
Of Cody's sad death at Farnborough, when practising in the
ill-fated water-plane which he intended to pilot in the sea
flight round Great Britain in 1913, we speak in a later chapter.
Three Historic Flights
When the complete history of aviation comes to be written, there
will be three epoch-making events which will doubtless be duly
appreciated by the historian, and which may well be described as
landmarks in the history of flight. These are the three great
contests organized by the proprietors of the Daily Mail,
respectively known as the "London to Manchester" flight, the
"Round Britain flight in an aeroplane", and the "Water-plane
flight round Great Britain."
In any account of aviation which deals with the real achievements
of pioneers who have helped to make the science of flight what it
is to-day, it would be unfair not to mention the generosity of
Lord Northcliffe and his co-directors of the Daily Mail towards
the development of aviation in this country. Up to the time of
writing, the sum of L24,750 has been paid by the Daily Mail in
the encouragement of flying, and prizes to the amount of L15,000
are still on offer. In addition to these prizes this journal
has maintained pilots who may be described as "Missionaries of
Aviation". Perhaps the foremost of them is M. Salmet, who has
made hundreds of flights in various parts of the country, and has
aroused the greatest enthusiasm wherever he has flown.
The progress of aviation undoubtedly owes a great deal to the
Press, for the newspaper has succeeded in bringing home to most
people the fact that the possession of air-craft is a matter of
national importance. It was of little use for airmen to make
thrilling flights up and down an aerodrome, with the object of
interesting the general public, if the newspapers did not record
such flights, and though in the very early days of aviation some
newspapers adopted an unfriendly attitude towards the
possibilities of practical aviation, nearly all the Press has
since come to recognize the aeroplane as a valuable means of
national defence. Right from the start the Daily Mail foresaw
the importance of promoting the new science of flight by the
award of prizes, and its public-spirited enterprise has done much
to break up the prevailing apathy towards aviation among the
If these three great events had been mere spectacles and nothing
else--such as, for instance, that great horse-race known as "The
Derby"--this chapter would never have been written. But they
are most worthy of record because all three have marked
clearly-defined stepping-stones in the progress of flight; they
have proved conclusively that aviation is practicable, and that
its ultimate entry into the busy life of the world is no more
than a matter of perfecting details.
The first L10,000 prize was offered in November, 1906, for a
flight by aeroplane from London to Manchester in twenty-four
hours, with not more than two stoppages en route. In 1910 two
competitors entered the lists for the flight; one, an Englishman,
Mr. Claude Grahame-White; the other, a Frenchman, M. Paulhan.
Mr. Grahame-White made the first attempt, and he flew remarkably
well too, but he was forced to descend at Lichfield--about 113
miles on the journey--owing to the high and gusty winds which
prevailed in the Trent valley. The plucky pilot intended to
continue the flight early the next morning, but during the night
his biplane was blown over in a gale while it stood in a field,
and it was so badly damaged that the machine had to be sent back
to London to be repaired.
This took so long that his French rival, M. Paulhan, was able to
complete his plans and start from Hendon, on 27th April. So
rapidly had Paulhan's machine been transported from Dover, and
"assembled" at Hendon, that Mr. White, whose biplane was standing
ready at Wormwood Scrubbs, was taken by surprise when he heard
that his rival had started on the journey and "stolen a march on
him", so to speak. Nothing daunted, however, the plucky British
aviator had his machine brought out, and he went in pursuit of
Paulhan late in the afternoon. When darkness set in Mr. White
had reached Roade, but the French pilot was several miles ahead.
Now came one of the most thrilling feats in the history of
aviation. Mr. White knew that his only chance of catching
Paulhan was to make a flight in the darkness, and though this was
extremely hazardous he arose from a small field in the early
morning, some hours before daybreak arrived, and flew to the
north. His friends had planned ingenious devices to guide him on
his way: thus it was proposed to send fast motor-cars, bearing
very powerful lights, along the route, and huge flares were
lighted on the railway; but the airman kept to his course chiefly
by the help of the lights from the railway stations.
Over hill and valley, forest and meadow, sleeping town and
slumbering village, the airman flew, and when dawn arrived he had
nearly overhauled his rival, who, in complete ignorance of Mr.
White's daring pursuit, had not yet started.
But now came another piece of very bad luck for the British
aviator. At daybreak a strong wind arose, and Mr. White's
machine was tossed about like a mere play-ball, so that he was
compelled to land. Paulhan, however, who was a pilot with far
more experience, was able to overcome the treacherous air gusts,
and he flew on to Manchester, arriving there in the early
Undoubtedly the better pilot won, and he had a truly magnificent
reception in Manchester and London, and on his return to France.
But this historic contest laid the foundation of Mr.
Grahame-White's great reputation as an aviator, and, as we all
know, his fame has since become world-wide.
Three Historic Flights (Cont.)
About a month after Paulhan had won the "London to Manchester"
race, the world of aviation, and most of the general public too,
were astonished to read the announcement of another enormous
prize. This time a much harder task was set, for the conditions
of the contest stated that a circuit of Britain had to be made,
covering a distance of about 1000 miles in one week, with eleven
compulsory stops at fixed controls.
This prize was offered on 22nd May, 1910, and in the following
year seventeen competitors entered the lists. It says much for
the progress of aviation at this time, when we read that, only
a year before, it was difficult to find but two pilots to compete
in the much easier race described in the last chapter. Much of
this progress was undoubtedly due to the immense enthusiasm
aroused by the success of Paulhan in the "London to Manchester"
We will not describe fully the second race, because, though it
was of immense importance at the time, it has long since become a
mere episode. Rarely has Britain been in such great excitement
as during that week in July, 1911.
Engine troubles, breakdowns, and other causes soon reduced the
seventeen competitors to two only: Lieutenant Conneau, of the
French Navy-who flew under the name of M. Beaumont--and M.
Vedrines. Neck to neck they flew--if we may be allowed this
horse-racing expression--over all sorts of country, which was
quite unknown to them.
Victory ultimately rested with Lieutenant Conneau, who, on 26th
July, 1911, passed the winning-post at Brooklands after having
completed the course in the magnificent time of twenty-two hours,
twenty-eight minutes, averaging about 45 miles an hour for the
whole journey. M. Vedrines, though defeated, made a most plucky
fight. Conneau's success was due largely to his ability to keep
to the course--on two or three occasions Vedrines lost his way--
and doubtless his naval training in map-reading and observation
gave him the advantage over his rival.
The third historic flight was made by Mr. Harry Hawker, in
August, 1913. This was an attempt to win a prize of L5000
offered by the proprietors of the Daily Mail for a flight
round the British coasts. The route was from Cowes, in the Isle
of Wight, along the southern and eastern coasts to Aberdeen and
Cromarty, thence through the Caledonian Canal to Oban, then on to
Dublin, thence to Falmouth, and along the south coast to
Two important conditions of the contest were that the flight was
to be made in an all-British aeroplane, fitted with a British
engine. Hitherto our aeroplane constructors and engine companies
were behind their rivals across the Channel in the building of
air-craft and aerial engines, and this country freely
acknowledged the merits and enterprise of French aviators.
Though in the European War it was afterwards proved that the
British airman and constructor were the equals if not the
superiors of any in the world, at the date of this contest they
were behind in many respects.
As these conditions precluded the use of the famous Gnome engine,
which had won so many contests, and indeed the employment of any
engine made abroad, the competitors were reduced to two aviation
firms; and as one or these ultimately withdrew from the contest
the Sopwith Aviation Company of Kingston-on-Thames and Brooklands
entered a machine.
Mr. T. Sopwith chose for his pilot a young Australian airman, Mr.
Harry Hawker. This skilful airman came with three other
Australians to this country to seek his fortune about three years
before. He was passionately devoted to mechanics, and, though he
had had no opportunity of flying in his native country, he had
been intensely interested in the progress of aviation in France
and Britain, and the four friends set out on their long journey
to seek work in aeroplane factories.
All four succeeded, but by far the most successful was Harry
Hawker. Early in 1913 Mr. Sopwith was looking out for a pilot,
and he engaged Hawker, whom he had seen during some good flying
In a month or two he was engaged in record breaking, and in June,
1913, he tried to set up a new British height record. In his
first attempt he rose to 11,300 feet; but as the carburettor of
the engine froze, and as the pilot himself was in grave danger of
frost-bite, he descended. About a fortnight later he rose 12,300
feet above sea-level, and shortly afterwards he performed an even
more difficult test, by climbing with three passengers to an
altitude of 8500 feet.
With such achievements to his name it was not in the least
surprising that Mr. Sopwith's choice of a pilot for the
water-plane race rested on Hawker. His first attempt was made on
16th August, when he flew from Southampton Water to Yarmouth--a
distance of about 240 miles--in 240 minutes. The writer, who was
spending a holiday at Lowestoft, watched Mr. Hawker go by, and
his machine was plainly visible to an enormous crowd which had
lined the beach.
To everyone's regret the pilot was affected with a slight
sunstroke when he reached Yarmouth, and another Australian
airman, Mr. Sidney Pickles, was summoned to take his place. This
was quite within the rules of the contest, the object of which
was to test the merits of a British machine and engine rather
than the endurance and skill of a particular pilot. During the
night a strong wind arose, and next morning, when Mr. Pickles
attempted to resume the flight, the sea was too rough for
a start to be made, and the water-plane was beached at Gorleston.
Mr. Hawker quickly recovered from his indisposition, and on
Monday, 25th August, he, with a mechanic as passenger, left Cowes
about five o'clock in the morning in his second attempt to make a
circuit of Britain. The first control was at Ramsgate, and here
he had to descend in order to fulfil the conditions of the
Ramsgate was left at 9.8, and Yarmouth, the next control, was
reached at 10.38. So far the engine, built by Mr. Green, had
worked perfectly. About an hour was spent at Yarmouth, and then
the machine was en route to Scarborough. Haze compelled the
pilot to keep close in to the coast, so that he should not miss
the way, and a choppy breeze some what retarded the progress of
the machine along the east coast. About 2.40 the pilot brought
his machine to earth, or rather to water, at Scarborough, where
he stayed for nearly two hours.
Mr. Hawker's intention was to reach Aberdeen, if possible, before
nightfall, but at Seaham he had to descend for water, as the
engine was becoming uncomfortably hot, and the radiator supply of
water was rapidly diminishing. This lost much valuable time, as
over an hour was spent here, and it had begun to grow dark before
the journey was recommenced. About an hour after resuming his
journey he decided to plane down at the fishing village of
Beadwell, some 20 miles south of Berwick.
At 8.5 on Tuesday morning the pilot was on his way to Aberdeen,
but he had to descend and stay at Montrose for about half an
hour, and Aberdeen was reached about 11 a.m. His Scottish
admirers, consisting of quite 40,000 people at Aberdeen alone,
gave him a most hearty welcome, and sped him on his way about
noon. Some two hours later Cromarty was reached.
Now commenced the most difficult part of the course. The
Caledonian Canal runs among lofty mountains, and the numerous
air-eddies and swift air-streams rushing through the mountain
passes tossed the frail craft to and fro, and at times threatened
to wreck it altogether. On some occasions the aeroplane was
tossed up over 1000 feet at one blow; at other times it was
driven sideways almost on to the hills. From Cromarty to Oban
the journey was only about 96 miles, but it took nearly three
hours to fly between these places. This slow progress seriously
jeopardized the pilot's chances of completing the course in the
allotted time, for it was his intention to make the coast of
Ireland by nightfall. But as it was late when Oban was reached
he decided to spend the night there.
Early the following morning he left for Dublin, 222 miles away.
Soon a float was found to be waterlogged and much valuable time
was, spent in bailing it dry. Then a descent had to be made at
Kiells, in Argyllshire, because a valve had gone wrong. Another
landing was made at Larne, to take aboard petrol. As soon as the
petrol tanks were filled and the machine had been overhauled the
pilot got on his way for Dublin.
For over two hours he flew steadily down the Irish coast, and
then occurred one of those slight accidents, quite insignificant
in themselves, but terribly disastrous in their results. Mr.
Hawker's boots were rubber soled and his foot slipped off the
rudder bar, so that the machine got out of control and fell into
the sea at Lough Shinny, about 15 miles north of Dublin. At the
time of the accident the pilot was about 50 feet above the water,
which in this part of the Lough is very shallow. The machine was
completely wrecked, and Mr. Hawker's mechanic was badly cut about
the head and neck, besides having his arm broken. Mr. Hawker
himself escaped injury.
All Britons deeply sympathized with his misfortune, and much
enthusiasm, was aroused when the proprietors of the Daily Mail
presented the skilful and courageous pilot with a cheque for
L1000 as a consolation gift.
In a later chapter some account will be given of the tremendous
development of the aeroplane during four years of war. But it is
fitting that to the three historic flights detailed above there
should be added the sensational exploits of the Marchese Giulio
Laureati in 1917. This intrepid Italian airman made a non-stop
journey from Turin to Naples and back, a distance of 920 miles.
A month later he flew from Turin to Hounslow, a distance of 656
miles, in 7 hours 22 minutes. His machine was presented to the
British Air Board by the Italian Government.
The Hydroplane and Air-boat
One of the most recent developments in aviation is the
hydroplane, or water-plane as it is most commonly called. A
hydroplane is an aeroplane fitted with floats instead of wheels,
so that it will rise from, or alight upon, the surface of the
water. Often water-planes have their floats removed and wheels
affixed to the chassis, so that they may be used over land.
From this you may think that the construction of a water-plane is
quite a simple task; but such is not the case. The fitting of
floats to an aeroplane has called for great skill on the part of
the constructor, and many difficulties have had to be overcome.
Those of you who have seen an acroplane rise from the ground know
that the machine runs very quickly over the earth at a rapidly-
increasing speed, until sufficient momentum is obtained for the
machine to lift itself into the air. In the case of the
water-plane the pilot has to glide or "taxi" by means of a float
or floats over the waves until the machine acquires flying speed.
Now the land resistance to the rubber-tired wheels is very small
when compared with the water resistance to the floats, and the
faster the craft goes the greater is the resistance. The great
problem which the constructor has had to solve is to build a
machine fitted with floats which will leave the water easily,
which will preserve the lateral balance of the machine, and which
will offer the minimum resistance in the air.
A short flat-bottomed float, such as that known as the Fabre, is
good at getting off from smooth water, but is frequently damaged
when the sea is rough. A long and narrow float is preferable for
rough water, as it is able to cut through the waves; but
comparatively little "lift" is obtained from it.
Some designers have provided their water-planes with two floats;
others advocate a single loat. The former makes the machine more
stable when at rest on the water, but a great rawback is that the
two-float machine is affected by waves more than a machine
fitted with a single float; for one float may be on the crest of
a wave and the other in the dip. This is not the case with the
single-float water-plane, but on the other hand this type is less
stable than the other when at rest.
Sometimes the floats become waterlogged, and so add considerably
to the weight of the machine. Thus in Mr. Hawker's flight round
Britain, the pilot and his passenger had to pump about ten
gallons of water out of one of the floats before the machine
could rise properly. Floats are usually made with watertight
compartments, and are composed of several thin layers of wood,
riveted to a wooden framework.
There is another technical question to be considered in the
fixing of the floats, namely, the fore-and-aft balance of the
machine in the air. The propeller of a water-plane has to be
set higher than that of a land aeroplane, so that it may not come
into contact with the waves. This tends to tip the craft
forwards, and thus make the nose of the float dig in the
water. To overcome this the float is set well forward of the
centre of gravity, and though this counteracts the thrust when
the craft "taxies" along the waves, it endangers its fore-and-aft
stability when aloft.
A Famous British Inventor of the Water-plane
Though Harry Hawker made such a brilliant and gallant attempt to
win the L5000 prize, we must not forget that great credit is due
to Mr. Sopwith, who designed the water-plane, and to Mr. Green,
the inventor of the engine which made such a flight possible, and
enabled the pilot to achieve a feat never before approached in
any part of the world.
The life-story of Mr. "Tommy" Sopwith is almost a romance. As a
lad he was intensely interested in mechanics, and we can imagine
him constructing all manner of models, and enquiring the why and
the wherefore of every mechanical toy with which he came into
At the early age of twenty-one he commenced a motor business, but
about this time engineers and mechanics all over the country were
becoming greatly interested in the practical possibilities of
aviation. Mr. Sopwith decided to learn to fly, and in 1910,
after continued practice in a Howard Wright biplane, he had
become a proficient pilot. So rapid was his progress that by the
end of the year he had won the magnificent prize of L4000
generously offered by Baron de Forest for the longest flight made
by an all-British machine from England to the Continent. In this
flight he covered 177 miles, from Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey, to
the Belgian frontier, in three and a half hours.
If Mr. Sopwith had been in any doubt as to the wisdom of changing
his business this remarkable achievement alone must have assured
him that his future career lay in aviation. In 1911 he was
graciously received by King George V at Windsor Castle, after
having flown from Brooklands and alighted on the East Terrace of
the famous castle.
In the same year he visited America, and astonished even that
go-ahead country with some skilful flying feats. To show the
practical possibilities of the aeroplane he overtook the liner
Olympic, after she had left New York harbour on her homeward
voyage, and dropped aboard a parcel addressed to a passenger. On
his return to England he competed in the first Aerial Derby, the
course being a circuit of London, representing a distance of 81
miles. In this race he made a magnificent flight in a
70-horse-power Bleriot monoplane, and came in some fifteen
minutes before Mr. Hamel, the second pilot home. So popular was
his victory that Mr. Grahame-White and several other officials of
the London Aerodrome carried him shoulder high from his machine.
From this time we hear little of Mr. Sopwith as a pilot, for,
like other famous airmen, such as Louis Bleriot, Henri Farman,
and Claude Grahame-White, who jumped into fame by success in
competition flying, he has retired with his laurels, and now
devotes his efforts to the construction of machines. He bids
fair to be equally successful as a constructor of air-craft as he
formerly was as a pilot of flying machines. The Sopwith machines
are noted for their careful design and excellent workmanship.
They are made by the Sopwith Aviation Company, Ltd., whose works
are at Kingston-on-Thames. Several water-planes have been built
there for the Admiralty, and land machines for the War Office.
Late in 1913 Mr. Hawker left Britain for Australia to give
demonstrations in the Sopwith machine to the Government of his
A fine list of records has for long stood to the credit of the
Sopwith biplane. Among these are:
British Height Record (Pilot only) ... ... 11,450 feet
" " " (Pilot and 1 Passenger) 12,900 "
" " " (Pilot and 2 Passengers) 10,600 "
World's " " (Pilot and 3 Passengers) 8,400 "
Many of the Sopwith machines used in the European War were built
specially to withstand rough climate and heavy winds, and thus
they were able to work in almost every kind of weather. It was
this fact, coupled with the indomitable spirit of adventure
inherent in men of British race, that made British airmen more
than hold their own with both friend and foe in the war.
Sea-planes for Warfare
"Even in the region of the air, into which with characteristic
British prudence we have moved with some tardiness, the Navy need
not fear comparison with the Navy of any other country. The
British sea-plane, although still in an empirical stage, like
everything else in this sphere of warlike operations, has reached
a point of progress in advance of anything attained elsewhere.
"Our hearts should go out to-night to those brilliant officers,
Commander Samson and his band of brilliant pioneers, to whose
endeavours, to whose enterprise, to whose devotion it is due that
in an incredibly short space of time our naval aeroplane service
has been raised to that primacy from which it must never be cast
"It is not only in naval hydroplanes that we must have
superiority. The enduring safety of this country will not be
maintained by force of arms unless over the whole sphere of
aerial development we are able to make ourselves the first
nation. That will be a task of long duration. Many difficulties
have to be overcome. Other countries have started sooner. The
native genius of France, the indomitable perseverance of Germany,
have produced results which we at the present time cannot equal."
So said Mr. Winston Churchill at the Lord Mayor's Banquet held in
London in 1913, and I have quoted his speech because such a
statement, made at such a time, clearly shows the attitude of the
British Government toward this new arm of Imperial Defence.
In bygone days the ocean was the great highway which united the
various quarters of the Empire, and, what was even more important
from the standpoint of our country's defence, it was a formidable
barrier between Britain and her Continental neighbours,
"Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house."
But the ocean is no longer the only highway, for the age of
aerial navigation has arrived, and, as one writer says: "Every
argument which impelled us of old to fight for the dominion of
the sea has apparently been found valid in relation to the
supremacy of the air."
From some points of view this race between nations for naval and
aerial supremacy may be unfortunate, but so long as the fighting
instinct of man continues in the human race, so long as rivalry
exists between nations, so long must we continue to strengthen
our aerial position.
Britain is slow to start on any great venture where great change
is effected. Our practice is rather to wait and see what other
nations are doing; and there is something to be said for this
method of procedure.
In the art of aviation, and in the construction of air-craft, our
French, German, and American rivals were very efficient
pacemakers in the aerial race for supremacy, and during the years
1909-12 we were in grave peril of being left hopelessly behind.
But in 1913 we realized the vital importance to the State of
capturing the first place in aviation, particularly that of
aerial supremacy at sea, for the Navy is our first line of
defence. So rapid has been our progress that we are quite the
equal of our French and German rivals in the production of
aeroplanes, and in sea-planes we are far ahead of them, both in
design and construction, and the war has proved that we are ahead
in the art of flight.
The Naval Air Service before the war had been establishing a
chain of air stations round the coast. These stations are at
Calshot, on Southampton Water, the Isle of Grain, off Sheerness,
Leven, on the Firth of Forth, Cromarty, Yarmouth, Blythe, and
But what is even more important is the fact that the Government
is encouraging sea-plane constructors to go ahead as fast as they
can in the production of efficient machines. Messrs. Short
Brothers, the Sopwith Aviation Company, and Messrs. Roe are
building high-class machines for sea work which can beat anything
turned out abroad. Our newest naval water-planes are fitted with
British-built wireless apparatus of great range of action, and
Messrs. Short Brothers are at the present time constructing for
the Admiralty, at their works in the Isle of Sheppey, a fleet of
fighting water-planes capable of engaging and destroying the
biggest dirigible air-ships.
In 1913 aeroplanes took a very prominent part in our naval
manoeuvres, and the cry of the battleship captains was: "Give us
water-planes. Give us them of great size and power, large enough
to carry a gun and gun crew, and capable of taking twelve-hour
cruises at a speed much greater than that of the fastest
dirigible air-ship, and we shall be on the highroad to aerial
supremacy at sea."
The Admiralty, acting on this advice, at once began to co-operate
with the leading firms of aeroplane constructors, and at a great
rate machines of all sizes and designs have been turned out.
There were light single-seater water-planes able to maintain a
speed of over a mile a minute; there were also larger machines
for long-distance flying which could carry two passengers. The
machines were so designed that their wings could be folded back
along their bodies, and their wires, struts, and so on packed
into the main parts of the craft, so that they were almost as
compact as the body of a bird at rest on its perch, and they
took up comparatively little space on board ship.
A brilliantly executed raid was carried out on Cuxhaven, an
important German naval base, by seven British water-planes, on
Christmas Day, 1914. The water-planes were escorted across the
North Sea by a light cruiser and destroyer force, together with
submarines. They left the war-ships in the vicinity of
Heligoland and flew over Cuxhaven, discharging bombs on points of
military significance, and apparently doing considerable damage
to the docks and shipping. The British ships remained off the
coast for three hours in order to pick up the returning airmen,
and during this time they were attacked by dirigibles and
submarines, without, however, suffering damage. Six of the
sea-planes returned safely to the ships, but one was wrecked in
But the present efficient sea-plane is a development of the war.
In the early days many of the raids of the "naval wing" were
carried out in land-going aeroplanes. Now the R.N.A.S., which
came into being as a separate service in July, 1914, possess two
main types of flying machine, the flying boat and the twin float,
both types being able to rise from and alight upon the sea, just
as an aeroplane can leave and return to the land. Many brilliant
raids stand to the credit of the R.N.A.S. The docks at Antwerp,
submarine bases at Ostend, and all Germany's fortified posts on
the Belgian coast, have seldom been free from their attentions.
And when, under the stress of public outcry, the Government at
last gave its consent to a measure of "reprisals" it was the
R.N.A.S. which opened the campaign with a raid upon the German
town of Mannheim.
As the war continued the duties of the naval pilot increased. He
played a great part in the ceaseless hunt for submarines. You
must often have noticed how easily fish can be seen from a bridge
which are quite invisible from the banks of the river. On this
principle the submarine can be "spotted" by air-craft, and not
until the long silence upon naval affairs is broken, at the end
of the war, shall we know to what extent we are indebted to naval
airmen for that long list of submarines which, in the words of
the German reports, "failed to return" to their bases.
In addition to the "Blimps" of which mention has been made, the
Royal Naval Air Service are in charge of air-ships known as the
Coast Patrol type, which work farther out to sea, locating
minefields and acting as scouts for the great fleet of patrol
vessels. The Service has gathered laurels in all parts of the
globe, its achievements ranging from an aerial food service into
beleaguered Kut to the discovery of the German cruiser
Konigsberg, cunningly camouflaged up an African creek.
The First Man to Fly in Britain
The honour of being the first man to fly in this country is
claimed by Mr. A. V. Roe, head of the well-known firm A. V. Roe &
Co., of Manchester, and constructor of the highly-efficient Avro
As a youth Roe's great hobby was the construction of toy models
of various forms of machinery, and later on he achieved
considerable success in the production of aeroplane models. All
manner of novelties were the outcome of his fertile brain, and as
it has been truly remarked, "his novelties have the peculiarity,
not granted to most pioneers, of being in one respect or another
ahead of his contemporaries." In addition, he studied the
flight of birds.
In the early days of aviation Mr. Roe was a firm believer in the
triplane form of machine, and his first experiments in flight
were made with a triplane equipped with an engine which developed
only 9 horse-power.
Later on, he turned his attention to the biplane, and with this
craft he has been highly successful. The Avro biplane, produced
in 1913, was one of the very best machines which appeared in that
eventful year. The Daily Telegraph, when relating its
performances, said: "The spectators at Hendon were given a
remarkable demonstration of the wonderful qualities of this fine
Avro biplane, whose splendid performances stamped it as one of
the finest aeroplanes ever designed, if not indeed the finest of
This craft is fitted with an 80-horse-power Gnome engine, and is
probably the fastest passenger-carrying biplane of its type in
the world. Its total weight, with engine, fuel for three
hours, and a passenger, is 1550 pounds, and it has a main-plane
surface of 342 square feet.
Not only can the biplane maintain such great speed, but, what is
of great importance for observation purposes, it can fly at the
slow rate of 30 miles per hour. We have previously remarked that
a machine is kept up in the air by the speed it attains; if its
normal flying speed be much reduced the machine drops to earth
unless the rate of flying is accelerated by diving, or other
What Harry Hawker is to Mr. Sopwith so is F. P. Raynham to Mr.
Roe. This skilful pilot learned to fly at Brooklands, and during
the last year or two he has been continuously engaged in testing
Avro machines, and passing them through the Army reception
trials. In the "Aerial Derby" of 1913 Mr. Raynham piloted an
80-horse-power Avro biplane, and came in fourth.
The Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service
The year 1912 was marked by the institution of the Royal Flying
Corps. The new corps, which was so soon to make its mark in
the greatest of all wars, consisted of naval and military
"wings". In those early days the head-quarters of the corps were
at Eastchurch, and there both naval and military officers were
trained in aviation. In an arm of such rapid--almost
miraculous--development as Service flying to go back a period of
six years is almost to take a plunge into ancient history.
Designs, engines, guns, fittings, signals of those days are now
almost archaic. The British engine of reliable make had not yet
been evolved, and the aeroplane generally was a conglomerate
affair made up of parts assembled from various parts of the
Continent. The present-day sea-plane was yet to come, and naval
pilots shared the land-going aeroplanes of their military
brethren. In the days when Bleriot provided a world sensation by
flying across the Channel the new science was kept alive mainly
by the private enterprise of newspapers and aeroplane
manufacturers. The official attitude, as is so often the case in
the history of inventions, was as frigid as could be. The
Government looked on with a cold and critical eye, and could not
be touched either in heart or in pocket.
But with the institution of the Royal Flying Corps the official
heart began to warm slightly, and certain tests were laid down
for those manufacturers who aspired to sell their machines to the
new arm of the Service. These tests, providing for fuel
Back to Full Books