Aeronautics History Vivian 1920 04 Evolution of the Aeroplane Pre-war,WW1, Post-war to 1920
Geschichte der Luftfahrt bis 1920. Sprache des Werks: English. Version: 1.
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- A History of Aeronautics
- by E. Charles Vivian
XVIII. A SUMMARY, TO 1914
Consideration of the events in the years immediately preceding the War must be limited to as brief a summary as possible, this not only because the full history of flying achievements is beyond the compass of any single book, but also because, viewing the matter in perspective, the years 1903-1911 show up as far more important as regards both design and performance. From 1912 to August of 1914, the development of aeronautics was hindered by the fact that it had not progressed far enough to form a real commercial asset in any country. The meetings which drew vast concourses of people to such places as Rheims and Bournemouth may have been financial successes at first, but, as flying grew more common and distances and heights extended, a great many people found it other than worth while to pay for admission to an aerodrome. The business of taking up passengers for pleasure flights was not financially successful, and, although schemes for commercial routes were talked of, the aeroplane was not sufficiently advanced to warrant the investment of hard cash in any of these projects. There was a deadlock; further development was necessary in order to secure financial aid, and at the same time financial aid was necessary in order to secure further development. Consequently, neither was forthcoming.
This is viewing the matter in a broad and general sense; there were firms, especially in France, but also in England and America, which looked confidently for the great days of flying to arrive, and regarded their sunk capital as investment which would eventually bring its due return. But when one looks back on those years, the firms in question stand out as exceptions to the general run of people, who regarded aeronautics as something extremely scientific, exceedingly dangerous, and very expensive. The very fame that was attained by such pilots as became casualties conduced to the advertisement of every death, and the dangers attendant on the use of heavier-than-air machines became greatly exaggerated; considering the matter as one of number of miles flown, even in the early days, flying exacted no more toll in human life than did railways or road motors in the early stages of their development. But to take one instance, when C. S. Rolls was killed at Bournemouth by reason of a faulty tail-plane, the fact was shouted to the whole world with almost as much vehemence as characterised the announcement of the Titanic sinking in mid-Atlantic.
Even in 1911 the deadlock was apparent; meetings were falling off in attendance, and consequently in financial benefit to the promoters; there remained, however, the knowledge--for it was proved past question--that the aeroplane in its then stage of development was a necessity to every army of the world. France had shown this by the more than interest taken by the French Government in what had developed into an Air Section of the French army; Germany, of course, was hypnotised by Count Zeppelin and his dirigibles, to say nothing of the Parsevals which had been proved useful military accessories; in spite of this, it was realised in Germany that the aeroplane also had its place in military affairs. England came into the field with the military aeroplane trials of August 1st to 15th, 1912, barely two months after the founding of the Royal Flying Corps.
When the R.F.C. was founded--and in fact up to two years after its founding--in no country were the full military potentialities of the aeroplane realised; it was regarded as an accessory to cavalry for scouting more than as an independent arm; the possibilities of bombing were very vaguely considered, and the fact that it might be possible to shoot from an aeroplane was hardly considered at all. The conditions of the British Military Trials of 1912 gave to the War office the option of purchasing for L1,000 any machine that might be awarded a prize. Machines were required, among other things, to carry a useful load of 350 lbs. in addition to equipment, with fuel and oil for 4 1/2-hours; thus loaded, they were required to fly for 3 hours, attaining an altitude of 4,500 feet, maintaining a height of 1,500 feet for 1 hour, and climbing 1,000 feet from the ground at a rate of 200 feet per minute, 'although 300 feet per minute is desirable.' They had to attain a speed of not less than 55 miles per hour in a calm, and be able to plane down to the ground in a calm from not more than 1,000 feet with engine stopped, traversing 6,000 feet horizontal distance. For those days, the landing demands were rather exacting; the machine should be able to rise without damage from long grass, clover, or harrowed land, in 100 yards in a calm, and should be able to land without damage on any cultivated ground, including rough ploughed land, and, when landing on smooth turf in a calm, be able to pull up within 75 yards of the point of first touching the ground. It was required that pilot and observer should have as open a view as possible to front and flanks, and they should be so shielded from the wind as to be able to communicate with each other. These are the main provisions out of the set of conditions laid down for competitors, but a considerable amount of leniency was shown by the authorities in the competition, who obviously wished to try out every machine entered and see what were its capabilities.
The beginning of the competition consisted in assembling the machines against time from road trim to flying trim. Cody's machine, which was the only one to be delivered by air, took 1 hour and 35 minutes to assemble; the best assembling time was that of the Avro, which was got into flying trim in 14 minutes 30 seconds. This machine came to grief with Lieut. Parke as pilot, on the 7th, through landing at very high speed on very bad ground; a securing wire of the under-carriage broke in the landing, throwing the machine forward on to its nose and then over on its back. Parke was uninjured, fortunately; the damaged machine was sent off to Manchester for repair and was back again on the 16th of August.
It is to be noted that by this time the Royal Aircraft Factory was building aeroplanes of the B.E. and F.E. types, but at the same time it is also to be noted that British military interest in engines was not sufficient to bring them up to the high level attained by the planes, and it is notorious that even the outbreak of war found England incapable of providing a really satisfactory aero engine. In the 1912 Trials, the only machines which actually completed all their tests were the Cody biplane, the French Deperdussin, the Hanriot, two Bleriots and a Maurice Farman. The first prize of L4,000, open to all the world, went to F. S. Cody's British-built biplane, which complied with all the conditions of the competition and well earned its official acknowledgment of supremacy. The machine climbed at 280 feet per minute and reached a height of 5,000 feet, while in the landing test, in spite of its great weight and bulk, it pulled up on grass in 56 yards. The total weight was 2,690 lbs. when fully loaded, and the total area of supporting surface was 500 square feet; the motive power was supplied by a six-cylinder 120 horsepower Austro-Daimler engine. The second prize was taken by A. Deperdussin for the French-built Deperdussin monoplane. Cody carried off the only prize awarded for a British-built plane, this being the sum of L1,000, and consolation prizes of L500 each were awarded to the British Deperdussin Company and The British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, this latter soon to become famous as makers of the Bristol aeroplane, of which the war honours are still fresh in men's minds.
While these trials were in progress Audemars accomplished the first flight between Paris and Berlin, setting out from Issy early in the morning of August 18th, landing at Rheims to refill his tanks within an hour and a half, and then coming into bad weather which forced him to land successively at Mezieres, Laroche, Bochum, and finally nearly Gersenkirchen, where, owing to a leaky petrol tank, the attempt to win the prize offered for the first flight between the two capitals had to be abandoned after 300 miles had been covered, as the time limit was definitely exceeded. Audemars determined to get through to Berlin, and set off at 5 in the morning of the 19th, only to be brought down by fog; starting off again at 9.15 he landed at Hanover, was off again at 1.35, and reached the Johannisthal aerodrome in the suburbs of Berlin at 6.48 that evening.
As early as 1910 the British Government possessed some ten aeroplanes, and in 1911 the force developed into the Army Air Battalion, with the aeroplanes under the control of Major J. H. Fulton, R.F.A. Toward the end of 1911 the Air Battalion was handed over to (then) Brig.-Gen. D. Henderson, Director of Military Training. On June 6th, 1912, the Royal Flying Corps was established with a military wing under Major F. H. Sykes and a naval wing under Commander C. R. Samson. A joint Naval and Military Flying School was established at Upavon with Captain Godfrey M. Paine, R.N., as Commandant and Major Hugh Trenchard as Assistant Commandant. The Royal Aircraft Factory brought out the B.E. and F.E. types of biplane, admittedly superior to any other British design of the period, and an Aircraft Inspection Department was formed under Major J. H. Fulton. The military wing of the R.F.C. was equipped almost entirely with machines of Royal Aircraft Factory design, but the Navy preferred to develop British private enterprise by buying machines from private firms. On July 1st, 1914 the establishment of the Royal Naval Air Service marked the definite separation of the military and naval sides of British aviation, but the Central Flying School at Upavon continued to train pilots for both services.
It is difficult at this length of time, so far as the military wing was concerned, to do full justice to the spade work done by Major-General Sir David Henderson in the early days. Just before war broke out, British military air strength consisted officially of eight squadrons, each of 12 machines and 13 in reserve, with the necessary complement of road transport. As a matter of fact, there were three complete squadrons and a part of a fourth which constituted the force sent to France at the outbreak of war. The value of General Henderson's work lies in the fact that, in spite of official stinginess and meagre supplies of every kind, he built up a skeleton organisation so elastic and so well thought out that it conformed to war requirements as well as even the German plans fitted in with their aerial needs. On the 4th of August, 1914, the nominal British air strength of the military wing was 179 machines. Of these, 82 machines proceeded to France, landing at Amiens and flying to Maubeuge to play their part in the great retreat with the British Expeditionary Force, in which they suffered heavy casualties both in personnel and machines. The history of their exploits, however, belongs to the War period.
The development of the aeroplane between 1912 and 1914 can be judged by comparison of the requirements of the British War Office in 1912 with those laid down in an official memorandum issued by the War Office in February, 1914. This latter called for a light scout aeroplane, a single-seater, with fuel capacity to admit of 300 miles range and a speed range of from 50 to 85 miles per hour. It had to be able to climb 3,500 feet in five minutes, and the engine had to be so constructed that the pilot could start it without assistance. At the same time, a heavier type of machine for reconnaissance work was called for, carrying fuel for a 200 mile flight with a speed range of between 35 and 60 miles per hour, carrying both pilot and observer. It was to be equipped with a wireless telegraphy set, and be capable of landing over a 30 foot vertical obstacle and coming to rest within a hundred yards' distance from the obstacle in a wind of not more than 15 miles per hour. A third requirement was a heavy type of fighting aeroplane accommodating pilot and gunner with machine gun and ammunition, having a speed range of between 45 and 75 miles per hour and capable of climbing 3,500 feet in 8 minutes. It was required to carry fuel for a 300 mile flight and to give the gunner a clear field of fire in every direction up to 30 degrees on each side of the line of flight. Comparison of these specifications with those of the 1912 trials will show that although fighting, scouting, and reconnaissance types had been defined, the development of performance compared with the marvellous development of the earlier years of achieved flight was small.
Yet the records of those years show that here and there an outstanding design was capable of great things. On the 9th September, 1912, Vedrines, flying a Deperdussin monoplane at Chicago, attained a speed of 105 miles an hour. On August 12th, G. de Havilland took a passenger to a height of 10,560 feet over Salisbury Plain, flying a B.E. biplane with a 70 horse-power Renault engine. The work of de Havilland may be said to have been the principal influence in British military aeroplane design, and there is no doubt that his genius was in great measure responsible for the excellence of the early B.E. and F.E. types.
on the 31st May, 1913, H. G. Hawker, flying at Brooklands, reached a height of 11,450 feet on a Sopwith biplane engined with an 80 horse-power Gnome engine. On June 16th, with the same type of machine and engine, he achieved 12,900 feet. On the 2nd October, in the same year, a Grahame White biplane with 120 horse-power Austro-Daimler engine, piloted by Louis Noel, made a flight of just under 20 minutes carrying 9 passengers. In France a Nieuport monoplane piloted by G. Legagneaux attained a height of 6,120 metres, or just over 20,070 feet, this being the world's height record. It is worthy of note that of the world's aviation records as passed by the International Aeronautical Federation up to June 30th, 1914, only one, that of Noel, is credited to Great Britain.
Just as records were made abroad, with one exception, so were the really efficient engines. In England there was the Green engine, but the outbreak of war found the Royal Flying Corps with 80 horse-power Gnomes, 70 horse-power Renaults, and one or two Antoinette motors, but not one British, while the Royal Naval Air Service had got 20 machines with engines of similar origin, mainly land planes in which the wheeled undercarriages had been replaced by floats. France led in development, and there is no doubt that at the outbreak of war, the French military aeroplane service was the best in the world. It was mainly composed of Maurice Farman two-seater biplanes and Bleriot monoplanes-- the latter type banned for a period on account of a number of serious accidents that took place in 1912
America had its Army Aviation School, and employed Burgess-Wright and Curtiss machines for the most part. In the pre-war years, once the Wright Brothers had accomplished their task, America's chief accomplishment consisted in the development of the 'Flying
Boat,' alternatively named with characteristic American clumsiness, 'The Hydro-Aeroplane.' In February of 1911, Glenn Curtiss attached a float to a machine similar to that with which he won the first Gordon-Bennett Air Contest and made his first flying boat experiment. From this beginning he developed the boat form of body which obviated the use and troubles of floats--his hydroplane became its own float.
Mainly owing to greater engine reliability the duration records steadily increased. By September of 1912 Fourny, on a Maurice Farman biplane, was able to accomplish a distance of 628 miles without a landing, remaining in the air for 13 hours 17 minutes and just over 57 seconds. By 1914 this was raised by the German aviator, Landemann, to 21 hours 48 3/4 seconds. The nature of this last record shows that the factors in such a record had become mere engine endurance, fuel capacity, and capacity of the pilot to withstand air conditions for a prolonged period, rather than any exceptional flying skill.
Let these years be judged by the records they produced, and even then they are rather dull. The glory of achievement such as characterised the work of the Wright Brothers, of Bleriot, and of the giants of the early days, had passed; the splendid courage, the patriotism and devotion of the pilots of the War period had not yet come to being. There was progress, past question, but it was mechanical, hardly ever inspired. The study of climatic conditions was definitely begun and aeronautical meteorology came to being, while another development already noted was the fitting of wireless telegraphy to heavier-than-air machines, as instanced in the British War office specification of February, 1914. These, however, were inevitable; it remained for the War to force development beyond the inevitable, producing in five years that which under normal circumstances might easily have occupied fifty --the aeroplane of to-day; for, as already remarked, there was a deadlock, and any survey that may be made of the years 1912-1914, no matter how superficial, must take it into account with a view to retaining correct perspective in regard to the development of the aeroplane.
There is one story of 1914 that must be included, however briefly, in any record of aeronautical achievement, since it demonstrates past question that to Professor Langley really belongs the honour of having achieved a design which would ensure actual flight, although the series of accidents which attended his experiments gave to the Wright Brothers the honour of first leaving the earth and descending without accident in a power-driven heavier-than-air machine. In March, 1914, Glenn Curtiss was invited to send a flying boat to Washington for the celebration of 'Langley Day,' when he remarked, 'I would like to put the Langley aeroplane itself in the air.' In consequence of this remark, Secretary Walcot of the Smithsonian Institution authorised Curtiss to re-canvas the original Langley aeroplane and launch it either under its own power or with a more recent engine and propeller. Curtiss completed this, and had the machine ready on the shores of Lake Keuka, Hammondsport, N.Y., by May. The main object of these renewed trials was to show whether the original Langley machine was capable of sustained free flight with a pilot, and a secondary object was to determine more fully the advantages of the tandem monoplane type; thus the aeroplane was first flown as nearly as possible in its original condition, and then with such modifications as seemed desirable. The only difference made for the first trials consisted in fitting floats with connecting trusses; the steel main frame, wings, rudders, engine, and propellers were substantially as they had been in 1903. The pilot had the same seat under the main frame and the same general system of control. He could raise or lower the craft by moving the rear rudder up and down; he could steer right or left by moving the vertical rudder. He had no ailerons nor wing-warping mechanism, but for lateral balance depended on the dihedral angle of the wings and upon suitable movements of his weight or of the vertical rudder.
After the adjustments for actual flight had been made in the Curtiss factory, according to the minute descriptions contained in the Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, the aeroplane was taken to the shore of Lake Keuka, beside the Curtiss hangars, and assembled for launching. On a clear morning (May 28th) and in a mild breeze, the craft was lifted on to the water by a dozen men and set going, with Mr Curtiss at the steering wheel, esconced in the little boat-shaped car under the forward part of the frame. The four-winged craft, pointed somewhat across the wind, went skimming over the waveless, then automatically headed into the wind, rose in level poise, soared gracefully for 150 feet, and landed softly on the water near the shore. Mr Curtiss asserted that he could have flown farther, but, being unused to the machine, imagined that the left wings had more resistance than the right. The truth is that the aeroplane was perfectly balanced in wing resistance, but turned on the water like a weather vane, owing to the lateral pressure on its big rear rudder. Hence in future experiments this rudder was made turnable about a vertical axis, as well as about the horizontal axis used by Langley. Henceforth the little vertical rudder under the frame was kept fixed and inactive.[*]
That the Langley aeroplane was subsequently fitted with an 80 horse-power Curtiss engine and successfully flown is of little interest in such a record as this, except for the fact that with the weight nearly doubled by the new engine and accessories the machine flew successfully, and demonstrated the perfection of Langley's design by standing the strain. The point that is of most importance is that the design itself proved a success and fully vindicated Langley's work. At the same time, it would be unjust to pass by the fact of the flight without according to Curtiss due recognition of the way in which he paid tribute to the genius of the pioneer by these experiments.
[*] Smithsonian Publications No. 2329.
XIX. THE WAR PERIOD--I
Full record of aeronautical progress and of the accomplishments of pilots in the years of the War would demand not merely a volume, but a complete library, and even then it would be barely possible to pay full tribute to the heroism of pilots of the war period. There are names connected with that period of which the glory will not fade, names such as Bishop, Guynemer, Boelcke, Ball, Fonck, Immelmann, and many others that spring to mind as one recalls the 'Aces' of the period. In addition to the pilots, there is the stupendous development of the machines--stupendous when the length of the period in which it was achieved is considered.
The fact that Germany was best prepared in the matter of heavier-than-air service machines in spite of the German faith in the dirigible is one more item of evidence as to who forced hostilities. The Germans came into the field with well over 600 aeroplanes, mainly two-seaters of standardised design, and with factories back in the Fatherland turning out sufficient new machines to make good the losses. There were a few single-seater scouts built for speed, and the two-seater machines were all fitted with cameras and bomb-dropping gear. Manoeuvres had determined in the German mind what should be the uses of the air fleet; there was photography of fortifications and field works; signalling by Very lights; spotting for the guns, and scouting for news of enemy movements. The methodical German mind had arranged all this beforehand, but had not allowed for the fact that opponents might take counter-measures which would upset the over-perfect mechanism of the air service just as effectually as the great march on Paris was countered by the genius of Joffre.
The French Air Force at the beginning of the War consisted of upwards of 600 machines. These, unlike the Germans, were not standardised, but were of many and diverse types. In order to get replacements quickly enough, the factories had to work on the designs they had, and thus for a long time after the outbreak of hostilities standardisation was an impossibility. The versatility of a Latin race in a measure compensated for this; from the outset, the Germans tried to overwhelm the French Air Force, but failed, since they had not the numerical superiority, nor--this equally a determining factor--the versatility and resource of the French pilots. They calculated on a 50 per cent superiority to ensure success; they needed more nearly 400 per cent, for the German fought to rule, avoiding risks whenever possible, and definitely instructed to save both machines and pilots wherever possible. French pilots, on the other hand, ran all the risks there were, got news of German movements, bombed the enemy, and rapidly worked up a very respectable antiaircraft force which, whatever it may have accomplished in the way of hitting German planes, got on the German pilots' nerves.
It has already been detailed how Britain sent over 82 planes as its contribution to the military aerial force of 1914. These consisted of Farman, Caudron, and Short biplanes, together with Bleriot, Deperdussin and Nieuport monoplanes, certain R.A.F. types, and other machines of which even the name barely survives --the resourceful Yankee entitles them 'orphans.' It is on record that the work of providing spares might have been rather complicated but for the fact that there were none.
There is no doubt that the Germans had made study of aerial military needs just as thoroughly as they had perfected their ground organisation. Thus there were 21 illuminated aircraft stations in Germany before the War, the most powerful being at Weimar, where a revolving electric flash of over 27 million candle-power was located. Practically all German aeroplane tests in the period immediately preceding the War were of a military nature, and quite a number of reliability tests were carried out just on the other side of the French frontier. Night flying and landing were standardised items in the German pilot's course of instruction while they were still experimental in other countries, and a system of signals was arranged which rendered the instructional course as perfect as might be.
The Belgian contribution consisted of about twenty machines fit for active service and another twenty which were more or less useful as training machines. The material was mainly French, and the Belgian pilots used it to good account until German numbers swamped them. France, and to a small extent England, kept Belgian aviators supplied with machines throughout the War.
The Italian Air Fleet was small, and consisted of French machines together with a percentage of planes of Italian origin, of which the design was very much a copy of French types. It was not until the War was nearing its end that the military and naval services relied more on the home product than on imports. This does not apply to engines, however, for the F.I.A.T. and S.C.A.T.
were equal to practically any engine of Allied make, both in design and construction.
Russia spent vast sums in the provision of machines: the giant Sikorsky biplane, carrying four 100 horsepower Argus motors, was designed by a young Russian engineer in the latter part of 1913, and in its early trials it created a world's record by carrying seven passengers for 1 hour 54 minutes. Sikorsky also designed several smaller machines, tractor biplanes on the lines of the British B.E. type, which were very successful. These were the only home productions, and the imports consisted mainly of French aeroplanes by the hundred, which got as far as the docks and railway sidings and stayed there, while German influence and the corruption that ruined the Russian Army helped to lose the War. A few Russian aircraft factories were got into operation as hostilities proceeded, but their products were negligible, and it is not on record that Russia ever learned to manufacture a magneto.
The United States paid tribute to British efficiency by adopting the British system of training for its pilots; 500 American cadets were trained at the School of Military Aeronautics at oxford, in order to form a nucleus for the American aviation schools which were subsequently set up in the United States and in France. As regards production of craft, the designing of the Liberty engine and building of over 20,000 aeroplanes within a year proves that America is a manufacturing country, even under the strain of war.
There were three years of struggle for aerial supremacy, the combatants being England and France against Germany, and the contest was neck and neck all the way. Germany led at the outset with the standardised two-seater biplanes manned by pilots and observers, whose training was superior to that afforded by any other nation, while the machines themselves were better equipped and fitted with accessories. All the early German aeroplanes were designated Taube by the uninitiated, and were formed with swept-back, curved wings very much resembling the wings of a bird. These had obvious disadvantages, but the standardisation of design and mass production of the German factories kept them in the field for a considerable period, and they flew side by side with tractor biplanes of improved design. For a little time, the Fokker monoplane became a definite threat both to French and British machines. It was an improvement on the Morane French monoplane, and with a high-powered engine it climbed quickly and flew fast, doing a good deal of damage for a brief period of 1915. Allied design got ahead of it and finally drove it out of the air.
German equipment at the outset, which put the Allies at a disadvantage, included a hand-operated magneto engine-starter and a small independent screw which, mounted on one of the main planes, drove the dynamo used for the wireless set. Cameras were fitted on practically every machine; equipment included accurate compasses and pressure petrol gauges, speed and height recording instruments, bomb-dropping fittings and sectional radiators which facilitated repairs and gave maximum engine efficiency in spite of variations of temperature. As counter to these, the Allied pilots had resource amounting to impudence. In the early days they carried rifles and hand grenades and automatic pistols. They loaded their machines down, often at their own expense, with accessories and fittings until their aeroplanes earned their title of Christmas trees. They played with death in a way that shocked the average German pilot of the War's early stages, declining to fight according to rule and indulging in the individual duels of the air which the German hated. As Sir John French put it in one of his reports, they established a personal ascendancy over the enemy, and in this way compensated for their inferior material.
French diversity of design fitted in well with the initiative and resource displayed by the French pilots. The big Caudron type was the ideal bomber of the early days; Farman machines were excellent for reconnaissance and artillery spotting; the Bleriots proved excellent as fighting scouts and for aerial photography; the Nieuports made good fighters, as did the Spads, both being very fast craft, as were the Morane-Saulnier monoplanes, while the big Voisin biplanes rivalled the Caudron machines as bombers.
The day of the Fokker ended when the British B.E.2.C. aeroplane came to France in good quantities, and the F.E. type, together with the De Havilland machines, rendered British aerial superiority a certainty. Germany's best reply--this was about 1916--was the Albatross biplane, which was used by Captain Baron von Richthofen for his famous travelling circus, manned by German star pilots and sent to various parts of the line to hearten up German troops and aviators after any specially bad strafe. Then there were the Aviatik biplane and the Halberstadt fighting scout, a cleanly built and very fast machine with a powerful engine with which Germany tried to win back superiority in the third year of the War, but Allied design kept about three months ahead of that of the enemy, once the Fokker had been mastered, and the race went on. Spads and Bristol fighters, Sopwith scouts and F.E.'s played their part in the race, and design was still advancing when peace came.
The giant twin-engined Handley-Page bomber was tried out, proved efficient, and justly considered better than anything of its kind that had previously taken the field. Immediately after the conclusion of its trials, a specimen of the type was delivered intact at Lille for the Germans to copy, the innocent pilot responsible for the delivery doing some great disservice to his own cause. The Gotha Wagon-Fabrik Firm immediately set to work and copied the Handley-Page design, producing the great Gotha bombing machine which was used in all the later raids on England as well as for night work over the Allied lines.
How the War advanced design may be judged by comparison of the military requirements given for the British Military Trials of 1912, with performances of 1916 and 1917, when the speed of the faster machines had increased to over 150 miles an hour and Allied machines engaged enemy aircraft at heights ranging up to 22,000 feet. All pre-war records of endurance, speed, and climb went by the board, as the race for aerial superiority went on.
Bombing brought to being a number of crude devices in the first year of the War. Allied pilots of the very early days carried up bombs packed in a small box and threw them over by hand, while, a little later, the bombs were strung like apples on wings and undercarriage, so that the pilot who did not get rid of his load before landing risked an explosion. Then came a properly designed carrying apparatus, crude but fairly efficient, and with 1916 development had proceeded as far as the proper bomb-racks with releasing gear.
Reconnaissance work developed, so that fighting machines went as escort to observing squadrons and scouting operations were undertaken up to 100 miles behind the enemy lines; out of this grew the art of camouflage, when ammunition dumps were painted to resemble herds of cows, guns were screened by foliage or painted to merge into a ground scheme, and many other schemes were devised to prevent aerial observation. Troops were moved by night for the most part, owing to the keen eyes of the air pilots and the danger of bombs, though occasionally the aviator had his chance. There is one story concerning a British pilot who, on returning from a reconnaissance flight, observed a German Staff car on the road under him; he descended and bombed and machine--gunned the car until the German General and his chauffeur abandoned it, took to their heels, and ran like rabbits. Later still, when Allied air superiority was assured, there came the phase of machine-gunning bodies of enemy troops from the air. Disregarding all antiaircraft measures, machines would sweep down and throw battalions into panic or upset the military traffic along a road, demoralising a battery or a transport train and causing as much damage through congestion of traffic as with their actual machine-gun fire. Aerial photography, too, became a fine art; the ordinary long focus cameras were used at the outset with automatic plate changers, but later on photographing aeroplanes had cameras of wide angle lens type built into the fuselage. These were very simply operated, one lever registering the exposure and changing the plate. In many cases, aerial photographs gave information which the human eye had missed, and it is noteworthy that photographs of ground showed when troops had marched over it, while the aerial observer was quite unable to detect the marks left by their passing.
Some small mention must be made of seaplane activities, which, round the European coasts involved in the War, never ceased. The submarine campaign found in the spotting seaplane its greatest deterrent, and it is old news now how even the deeply submerged submarines were easily picked out for destruction from a height and the news wirelessed from seaplane to destroyer, while in more than one place the seaplane itself finished the task by bomb dropping. It was a seaplane that gave Admiral Beatty the news that the whole German Fleet was out before the Jutland Battle, news which led to a change of plans that very nearly brought about the destruction of Germany's naval power. For the most part, the seaplanes of the War period were heavier than the land machines and, in the opinion of the land pilots, were slow and clumsy things to fly. This was inevitable, for their work demanded more solid building and greater reliability. To put the matter into Hibernian phrase, a forced landing at sea is a much more serious matter than on the ground. Thus there was need for greater engine power, bigger wingspread to support the floats, and fuel tanks of greater capacity. The flying boats of the later War period carried considerable crews, were heavily armed, capable of withstanding very heavy weather, and carried good loads of bombs on long cruises. Their work was not all essentially seaplane work, for the R.N.A.S. was as well known as hated over the German airship sheds in Belgium and along the Flanders coast. As regards other theatres of War, they rendered valuable service from the Dardanelles to the Rufiji River, at this latter place forming a principal factor in the destruction of the cruiser Konigsberg. Their spotting work at the Dardanelles for the battleships was responsible for direct hits from 15 in. guns on invisible targets at ranges of over 12,000 yards. Seaplane pilots were bombing specialists, including among their targets army headquarters, ammunition dumps, railway stations, submarines and their bases, docks, shipping in German harbours, and the German Fleet at Wilhelmshaven. Dunkirk, a British seaplane base, was a sharp thorn in the German side.
Turning from consideration of the various services to the exploits of the men composing them, it is difficult to particularise. A certain inevitable prejudice even at this length of time leads one to discount the valour of pilots in the German Air Service, but the names of Boelcke, von Richthofen, and Immelmann recur as proof of the courage that was not wanting in the enemy ranks, while, however much we may decry the Gotha raids over the English coast and on London, there is no doubt that the men who undertook these raids were not deficient in the form of bravery that is of more value than the unthinking valour of a minute which, observed from the right quarter, wins a military decoration.
Yet the fact that the Allied airmen kept the air at all in the early days proved on which side personal superiority lay, for they were outnumbered, out-manoeuvred, and faced by better material than any that they themselves possessed; yet they won their fights or died. The stories of their deeds are endless; Bishop, flying alone and meeting seven German machines and crashing four; the battle of May 5th, 1915, when five heroes fought and conquered twenty-seven German machines, ranging in altitude between 12,000 and 3,000 feet, and continuing the extraordinary struggle from five until six in the evening. Captain Aizlewood, attacking five enemy machines with such reckless speed that he rammed one and still reached his aerodrome safely--these are items in a long list of feats of which the character can only be realised when it is fully comprehended that the British Air Service accounted for some 8,ooo enemy machines in the course of the War. Among the French there was Captain Guynemer, who at the time of his death had brought down fifty-four enemy machines, in addition to many others of which the destruction could not be officially confirmed. There was Fonck, who brought down six machines in one day, four of them within two minutes.
There are incredible stories, true as incredible, of shattered men carrying on with their work in absolute disregard of physical injury. Major Brabazon Rees, V.C., engaged a big German battle-plane in September of 1915 and, single-handed, forced his enemy out of action. Later in his career, with a serious wound in the thigh from which blood was pouring, he kept up a fight with an enemy formation until he had not a round of ammunition left, and then returned to his aerodrome to get his wound dressed. Lieutenants Otley and Dunning, flying in the Balkans, engaged a couple of enemy machines and drove them off, but not until their petrol tank had got a hole in it and Dunning was dangerously wounded in the leg. Otley improvised a tourniquet, passed it to Dunning, and, when the latter had bandaged himself, changed from the observer's to the pilot's seat, plugged the bullet hole in the tank with his thumb and steered the machine home.
These are incidents; the full list has not been, and can never be recorded, but it goes to show that in the pilot of the War period there came to being a new type of humanity, a product of evolution which fitted a certain need. Of such was Captain West, who, engaging hostile troops, was attacked by seven machines. Early in the engagement, one of his legs was partially severed by an explosive bullet and fell powerless into the controls, rendering the machine for the time unmanageable. Lifting his disabled leg, he regained control of the machine, and although wounded in the other leg, he manoeuvred his machine so skilfully that his observer was able to get several good bursts into the enemy machines, driving them away. Then, desperately wounded as he was, Captain West brought the machine over to his own lines and landed safely. He fainted from loss of blood and exhaustion, but on regaining consciousness, insisted on writing his report. Equal to this was the exploit of Captain Barker, who, in aerial combat, was wounded in the right and left thigh and had his left arm shattered, subsequently bringing down an enemy machine in flames, and then breaking through another hostile formation and reaching the British lines.
In recalling such exploits as these, one is tempted on and on, for it seems that the pilots rivalled each other in their devotion to duty, this not confined to British aviators, but common practically to all services. Sufficient instances have been given to show the nature of the work and the character of the men who did it.
The rapid growth of aerial effort rendered it necessary in January of 1915 to organise the Royal Flying Corps into separate wings, and in October of the same year it was constituted in Brigades. In 1916 the Air Board was formed, mainly with the object of co-ordinating effort and ensuring both to the R.N.A.S. and to the R.F.C. adequate supplies of material as far as construction admitted. Under the presidency of Lord Cowdray, the Air Board brought about certain reforms early in 1917, and in November of that year a separate Air Ministry was constituted, separating the Air Force from both Navy and Army, and rendering it an independent force. On April 1st, 1918, the Royal Air Force came into existence, and unkind critics in the Royal Flying Corps remarked on the appropriateness of the date. At the end of the War, the personnel of the Royal Air Force amounted to 27,906 officers, and 263,842 other ranks. Contrast of these figures with the number of officers and men who took the field in 1914 is indicative of the magnitude of British aerial effort in the War period.
XX. THE WAR PERIOD--II
There was when War broke out no realisation on the part of the British Government of the need for encouraging the enterprise of private builders, who carried out their work entirely at their-own cost. The importance of a supply of British-built engines was realised before the War, it is true, and a competition was held in which a prize of L5,000 was offered for the best British engine, but this awakening was so late that the R.F.C. took the field without a single British power plant. Although Germany woke up equally late to the need for home produced aeroplane engines, the experience gained in building engines for dirigibles sufficed for the production of aeroplane power plants. The Mercedes filled all requirements together with the Benz and the Maybach. There was a 225 horsepower Benz which was very popular, as were the 100 horse-power and 170 horse-power Mercedes, the last mentioned fitted to the Aviatik biplane of 1917. The Uberursel was a copy of the Gnome and supplied the need for rotary engines.
In Great Britain there were a number of aeroplane constructing firms that had managed to emerge from the lean years 1912-1913 with sufficient manufacturing plant to give a hand in making up the leeway of construction when War broke out. Gradually the motor-car firms came in, turning their body-building departments to plane and fuselage construction, which enabled them to turn out the complete planes engined and ready for the field. The coach-building trade soon joined in and came in handy as propeller makers; big upholstering and furniture firms and scores of concerns that had never dreamed of engaging in aeroplane construction were busy on supplying the R.F.C. By 1915 hundreds of different firms were building aeroplanes and parts; by 1917 the number had increased to over 1,000, and a capital of over a million pounds for a firm that at the outbreak of War had employed a score or so of hands was by no means uncommon. Women and girls came into the work, more especially in plane construction and covering and doping, though they took their place in the engine shops and proved successful at acetylene welding and work at the lathes. It was some time before Britain was able to provide its own magnetos, for this key industry had been left in the hands of the Germans up to the outbreak of War, and the 'Bosch' was admittedly supreme--even now it has never been beaten, and can only be equalled, being as near perfection as is possible for a magneto.
One of the great inventions of the War was the synchronisation of engine-timing and machine gun, which rendered it possible to fire through the blades of a propeller without damaging them, though the growing efficiency of the aeroplane as a whole and of its armament is a thing to marvel at on looking back and considering what was actually accomplished. As the efficiency of the aeroplane increased, so anti-aircraft guns and range-finding were improved. Before the War an aeroplane travelling at full speed was reckoned perfectly safe at 4,000 feet, but, by the first month of 1915, the safe height had gone up to 9,000 feet, 7,000 feet being the limit of rifle and machine gun bullet trajectory; the heavier guns were not sufficiently mobile to tackle aircraft. At that time, it was reckoned that effective aerial photography ceased at 6,000 feet, while bomb-dropping from 7,000-8,000 feet was reckoned uncertain except in the case of a very large target. The improvement in anti-aircraft devices went on, and by May of 1916, an aeroplane was not safe under 15,000 feet, while anti-aircraft shells had fuses capable of being set to over 20,000 feet, and bombing from 15,000 and 16,000 feet was common. It was not till later that Allied pilots demonstrated the safety that lies in flying very near the ground, this owing to the fact that, when flying swiftly at a very low altitude, the machine is out of sight almost before it can be aimed at.
The Battle of the Somme and the clearing of the air preliminary to that operation brought the fighting aeroplane pure and simple with them. Formations of fighting planes preceded reconnaissance craft in order to clear German machines and observation balloons out of the sky and to watch and keep down any further enemy formations that might attempt to interfere with Allied observation work. The German reply to this consisted in the formation of the Flying Circus, of which Captain Baron von Richthofen's was a good example. Each circus consisted of a large formation of speedy machines, built specially for fighting and manned by the best of the German pilots. These were sent to attack at any point along the line where the Allies had got a decided superiority.
The trick flying of pre-war days soon became an everyday matter; Pegoud astonished the aviation world before the War by first looping the loop, but, before three years of hostilities had elapsed, looping was part of the training of practically every pilot, while the spinning nose dive, originally considered fatal, was mastered, and the tail slide, which consisted of a machine rising nose upward in the air and falling back on its tail, became one of the easiest 'stunts' in the pilot's repertoire. Inherent stability was gradually improved, and, from 1916 onward, practically every pilot could carry on with his machine-gun or camera and trust to his machine to fly itself until he was free to attend to it. There was more than one story of a machine coming safely to earth and making good landing on its own account with the pilot dead in his cock-pit.
Toward the end of the War, the Independent Air Force was formed as a branch of the R.A.F. with a view to bombing German bases and devoting its attention exclusively to work behind the enemy lines. Bombing operations were undertaken by the R.N.A.S. as early as 1914-1915 against Cuxhaven, Dusseldorf, and Friedrichshavn, but the supply of material was not sufficient to render these raids continuous. A separate Brigade, the 8th, was formed in 1917 to harass the German chemical and iron industries, the base being in the Nancy area, and this policy was found so fruitful that the Independent Force was constituted on the 8th June, 1918. The value of the work accomplished by this force is demonstrated by the fact that the German High Command recalled twenty fighting squadrons from the Western front to counter its activities, and, in addition, took troops away from the fighting line in large numbers for manning anti-aircraft batteries and searchlights. The German press of the last year of the War is eloquent of the damage done in manufacturing areas by the Independent Force, which, had hostilities continued a little longer, would have included Berlin in its activities.
Formation flying was first developed by the Germans, who made use of it in the daylight raids against England in 1917. Its value was very soon realised, and the V formation of wild geese was adopted, the leader taking the point of the V and his squadron following on either side at different heights. The air currents set up by the leading machines were thus avoided by those in the rear, while each pilot had a good view of the leader's bombs, and were able to correct their own aim by the bursts, while the different heights at which they flew rendered anti-aircraft gun practice less effective. Further, machines were able to afford mutual protection to each other and any attacker would be met by machine-gun fire from three or four machines firing on him from different angles and heights. In the later formations single-seater fighters flew above the bombers for the purpose of driving off hostile craft. Formation flying was not fully developed when the end of the War brought stagnation in place of the rapid advance in the strategy and tactics of military air work.
The end of the War brought a pause in which the multitude of aircraft constructors found themselves faced with the possible complete stagnation of the industry, since military activities no longer demanded their services and the prospects of commercial flying were virtually nil. That great factor in commercial success, cost of plant and upkeep, had received no consideration whatever in the War period, for armies do not count cost. The types of machines that had evolved from the War were very fast, very efficient, and very expensive, although the bombers showed promise of adaptation to commercial needs, and, so far as other machines were concerned, America had already proved the possibilities of mail-carrying by maintaining a mail service even during the War period.
A civil aviation department of the Air Ministry was formed in February of 1919 with a Controller General of Civil Aviation at the head. This was organised into four branches, one dealing with the survey and preparation of air routes for the British Empire, one organising meteorological and wireless telegraphy services, one dealing with the licensing of aerodromes, machines for passenger or goods carrying and civilian pilots, and one dealing with publicity and transmission of information generally. A special Act of Parliament 264 entitled 'The Air Navigation Acts, 1911-1919,' was passed on February 27th, and commercial flying was officially permitted from May 1st, 1919.
Meanwhile the great event of 1919, the crossing of the Atlantic by air, was gradually ripening to performance. In addition to the rigid airship, R.34, eight machines entered for this flight, these being a Short seaplane, Handley-Page, Martinsyde, Vickers-Vimy, and Sopwith aeroplanes, and three American flying boats, N.C.1, N.C.3, and N.C.4. The Short seaplane was the only one of the eight which proposed to make the journey westward; in flying from England to Ireland, before starting on the long trip to Newfoundland, it fell into the sea off the coast of Anglesey, and so far as it was concerned the attempt was abandoned.
The first machines to start from the Western end were the three American seaplanes, which on the morning of May 6th left Trepassy, Newfoundland, on the 1,380 mile stage to Horta in the Azores. N.C.1 and N.C.3 gave up the attempt very early, but N.C.4, piloted by Lieut.-Commander Read, U.S.N., made Horta on May 17th and made a three days' halt. On the 20th the second stage of the journey to Ponta Delgada, a further 190 miles, was completed and a second halt of a week was made. On the 27th, the machine left for Lisbon, 900 miles distant, and completed the journey in a day. On the 30th a further stage of 340 miles took N.C.4 on to Ferrol, and the next day the last stage of 420 miles to Plymouth was accomplished.
Meanwhile, H. G. Hawker, pilot of the Sopwith biplane, together with Commander Mackenzie Grieve, R.N., his navigator, found the weather sufficiently auspicious to set out at 6.48 p.m. On Sunday, May 18th, in the hope of completing the trip by the direct route before N.C.4 could reach Plymouth. They set out from Mount Pearl aerodrome, St John's, Newfoundland, and vanished into space, being given up as lost, as Hamel was lost immediately before the War in attempting to fly the North Sea. There was a week of dead silence regarding their fate, but on the following Sunday morning there was world-wide relief at the news that the plucky attempt had not ended in disaster, but both aviators had been picked up by the steamer Mary at 9.30 a.m. on the morning of the 19th, while still about 750 miles short of the conclusion of their journey. Engine failure brought them down, and they planed down to the sea close to the Mary to be picked up; as the vessel was not fitted with wireless, the news of their rescue could not be communicated until land was reached. An equivalent of half the L10,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail for the non-stop flight was presented by the paper in recognition of the very gallant attempt, and the King conferred the Air Force Cross on both pilot and navigator.
Raynham, pilot of the Martinsyde competing machine, had the bad luck to crash his craft twice in attempting to start before he got outside the boundary of the aerodrome. The Handley-Page machine was withdrawn from the competition, and, attempting to fly to America, was crashed on the way.
The first non-stop crossing was made on June 14th-15th in 16 hours 27 minutes, the speed being just over 117 miles per hour. The machine was a Vickers-Vimy bomber, engined with two Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII's, piloted by Captain John Alcock, D.S.C., with Lieut. Arthur Whitten-Brown as navigator. The journey was reported to be very rough, so much so at times that Captain Alcock stated that they were flying upside down, and for the greater part of the time they were out of sight of the sea. Both pilot and navigator had the honour of knighthood conferred on them at the conclusion of the journey.
Meanwhile, commercial flying opened on May 8th (the official date was May 1st) with a joy-ride service from Hounslow of Avro training machines. The enterprise caught on remarkably, and the company extended their activities to coastal resorts for the holiday season--at Blackpool alone they took up 10,000 passengers before the service was two months old. Hendon, beginning passenger flights on the same date, went in for exhibition and passenger flying, and on June 21st the aerial Derby was won by Captain Gathergood on an Airco 4R machine with a Napier 450 horse-power 'Lion' engine; incidentally the speed of 129.3 miles per hour was officially recognised as constituting the world's record for speed within a closed circuit. On July 17th a Fiat B.R. biplane with a 700 horse-power engine landed at Kenley aerodrome after having made a non-stop flight of 1,100 miles. The maximum speed of this machine was 160 miles per hour, and it was claimed to be the fastest machine in existence. On August 25th a daily service between London and Paris was inaugurated by the Aircraft Manufacturing Company, Limited, who ran a machine each way each day, starting at 12.30 and due to arrive at 2.45 p.m. The Handley-Page Company began a similar service in September of 1919, but ran it on alternate days with machines capable of accommodating ten passengers. The single fare in each case was fixed at 15 guineas and the parcel rate at 7s. 6d. per pound.
Meanwhile, in Germany, a number of passenger services had been in operation from the early part of the year; the Berlin-Weimar service was established on February 5th and Berlin-Hamburg on March 1st, both for mail and passenger carrying. Berlin-Breslau was soon added, but the first route opened remained most popular, 538 flights being made between its opening and the end of April, while for March and April combined, the Hamburg-Berlin route recorded only 262 flights. All three routes were operated by a combine of German aeronautical firms entitled the Deutsch Luft Rederie. The single fare between Hamburg and Berlin was 450 marks, between Berlin and Breslau 500 marks, and between Berlin and Weimar 450 marks. Luggage was carried free of charge, but varied according to the weight of the passenger, since the combined weight of both passenger and luggage was not allowed to exceed a certain limit.
In America commercial flying had begun in May of 1918 with the mail service between Washington, Philadelphia, and New York, which proved that mail carrying is a commercial possibility, and also demonstrated the remarkable reliability of the modern aeroplane by making 102 complete flights out of a possible total of 104 in November, 1918, at a cost of 0.777 of a dollar per mile. By March of 1919 the cost per mile had gone up to 1.28 dollars; the first annual report issued at the end of May showed an efficiency of 95.6 per cent and the original six aeroplanes and engines with which the service began were still in regular use.
In June of 1919 an American commercial firm chartered an aeroplane for emergency service owing to a New York harbour strike and found it so useful that they made it a regular service. The Travellers Company inaugurated a passenger flying boat service between New York and Atlantic City on July 25th, the fare, inclusive of 35 lbs. of luggage, being fixed at L25 each way.
Five flights on the American continent up to the end of 1919 are worthy of note. On December 13th, 1918, Lieut. D. Godoy of the Chilian army left Santiago, Chili, crossed the Andes at a height of 19,700 feet and landed at Mendoza, the capital of the wine-growing province of Argentina. On April 19th, 1919, Captain E. F. White made the first non-stop flight between New York and Chicago in 6 hours 50 minutes on a D.H.4 machine driven by a twelve-cylinder Liberty engine. Early in August Major Schroeder, piloting a French Lepere machine flying at a height of 18,400 feet, reached a speed of 137 miles per hour with a Liberty motor fitted with a super-charger. Toward the end of August, Rex Marshall, on a Thomas-Morse biplane, starting from a height of 17,000 feet, made a glide of 35 miles with his engine cut off, restarting it when at a height of 600 feet above the ground. About a month later R. Rohlfe, piloting a Curtiss triplane, broke the height record by reaching 34,610 feet.
Into the later months of 1919 comes the flight by Captain Ross-Smith from England to Australia and the attempt to make the Cape to Cairo voyage by air. The Australian Government had offered a prize of L10,000 for the first flight from England to Australia in a British machine, the flight to be accomplished in 720 consecutive hours. Ross-Smith, with his brother, Lieut. Keith Macpherson Smith, and two mechanics, left Hounslow in a Vickers-Vimy bomber with Rolls-Royce engine on November 12th and arrived at Port Darwin, North Australia, on the 10th December, having completed the flight in 27 days 20 hours 20 minutes, thus having 51 hours 40 minutes to spare out of the 720 allotted hours.
Early in 1920 came a series of attempts at completing the journey by air between Cairo and the Cape. Out of four competitors Colonel Van Ryneveld came nearest to making the journey successfully, leaving England on a standard Vickers-Vimy bomber with Rolls-Royce engines, identical in design with the machine used by Captain Ross-Smith on the England to Australia flight. A second Vickers-Vimy was financed by the Times newspaper and a third flight was undertaken with a Handley-Page machine under the auspices of the Daily Telegraph. The Air Ministry had already prepared the route by means of three survey parties which cleared the aerodromes and landing grounds, dividing their journey into stages of 200 miles or less. Not one of the competitors completed the course, but in both this and Ross-Smith's flight valuable data was gained in respect of reliability of machines and engines, together with a mass of meteorological information.
The Handley-Page Company announced in the early months of 1920 that they had perfected a new design of wing which brought about a twenty to forty per cent improvement in lift rate in the year. When the nature of the design was made public, it was seen to consist of a division of the wing into small sections, each with its separate lift. A few days later, Fokker, the Dutch inventor, announced the construction of a machine in which all external bracing wires are obviated, the wings being of a very deep section and self-supporting. The value of these two inventions remains to be seen so far as commercial flying is concerned.
The value of air work in war, especially so far as the Colonial campaigns in which British troops are constantly being engaged is in question, was very thoroughly demonstrated in a report issued early in 1920 with reference to the successful termination of the Somaliland campaign through the intervention of the Royal Air Force, which between January 21st and the 31st practically destroyed the Dervish force under the Mullah, which had been a thorn in the side of Britain since 1907. Bombs and machine-guns did the work, destroying fortifications and bringing about the surrender of all the Mullah's following, with the exception of about seventy who made their escape.
Certain records both in construction and performance had characterised the post-war years, though as design advances and comes nearer to perfection, it is obvious that records must get fewer and farther between. The record aeroplane as regards size at the time of its construction was the Tarrant triplane, which made its first--and last--flight on May 28th, 1919. The total loaded weight was 30 tons, and the machine was fitted with six 400 horse-power engines; almost immediately after the trial flight began, the machine pitched forward on its nose and was wrecked, causing fatal injuries to Captains Dunn and Rawlings, who were aboard the machine. A second accident of similar character was that which befell the giant seaplane known as the Felixstowe Fury, in a trial flight. This latter machine was intended to be flown to Australia, but was crashed over the water.
On May 4th, 1920, a British record for flight duration and useful load was established by a commercial type Handley-Page biplane, which, carrying a load of 3,690 lbs., rose to a height of 13,999 feet and remained in the air for 1 hour 20 minutes. On May 27th the French pilot, Fronval, flying at Villacoublay in a Morane-Saulnier type of biplane with Le Rhone motor, put up an extraordinary type of record by looping the loop 962 times in 3 hours 52 minutes 10 seconds. Another record of the year of similar nature was that of two French fliers, Boussotrot and Bernard, who achieved a continuous flight of 24 hours 19 minutes 7 seconds, beating the pre-war record of 21 hours 48 3/4 seconds set up by the German pilot, Landemann. Both these records are likely to stand, being in the nature of freaks, which demonstrate little beyond the reliability of the machine and the capacity for endurance on the part of its pilots.
Meanwhile, on February 14th, Lieuts. Masiero and Ferrarin left Rome on S.V.A. Ansaldo V. machines fitted with 220 horse-power S.V.A. motors. On May 30th they arrived at Tokio, having flown by way of Bagdad, Karachi, Canton, Pekin, and Osaka. Several other competitors started, two of whom were shot down by Arabs in Mesopotamia.
Considered in a general way, the first two years after the termination of the Great European War form a period of transition in which the commercial type of aeroplane was gradually evolved from the fighting machine which was perfected in the four preceding years. There was about this period no sense of finality, but it was as experimental, in its own way, as were the years of progressing design which preceded the war period. Such commercial schemes as were inaugurated call for no more note than has been given here; they have been experimental, and, with the possible exception of the United States Government mail service, have not been planned and executed on a sufficiently large scale to furnish reliable data on which to forecast the prospects of commercial aviation. And there is a school rapidly growing up which asserts that the day of aeroplanes is nearly over. The construction of the giant airships of to-day and the successful return flight of R34 across the Atlantic seem to point to the eventual triumph, in spite of its disadvantages, of the dirigible airship.
This is a hard saying for such of the aeroplane industry as survived the War period and consolidated itself, and it is but the saying of a section which bases its belief on the fact that, as was noted in the very early years of the century, the aeroplane is primarily a war machine. Moreover, the experience of the War period tended to discredit the dirigible, since, before the introduction of helium gas, the inflammability of its buoyant factor placed it at an immense disadvantage beside the machine dependent on the atmosphere itself for its lift.
As life runs to-day, it is a long time since Kipling wrote his story of the airways of a future world and thrust out a prophecy that the bulk of the world's air traffic would be carried by gas-bag vessels. If the school which inclines to belief in the dirigible is right in its belief, as it well may be, then the foresight was uncannily correct, not only in the matter of the main assumption, but in the detail with which the writer embroidered it.
On the constructional side, the history of the aeroplane is still so much in the making that any attempt at a critical history would be unwise, and it is possible only to record fact, leaving it to the future for judgment to be passed. But, in a general way, criticism may be advanced with regard to the place that aeronautics takes in civilisation. In the past hundred years, the world has made miraculously rapid strides materially, but moral development has not kept abreast. Conception of the responsibilities of humanity remains virtually in a position of a hundred years ago; given a higher conception of life and its responsibilities, the aeroplane becomes the crowning achievement of that long series which James Watt inaugurated, the last step in intercommunication, the chain with which all nations are bound in a growing prosperity, surely based on moral wellbeing. Without such conception of the duties as well as the rights of life, this last achievement of science may yet prove the weapon that shall end civilisation as men know it to-day, and bring this ultra-material age to a phase of ruin on which saner people can build a world more reasonable and less given to groping after purely material advancement.
- Fortsetzung: I. THE BEGINNINGS
- Part I--THE EVOLUTION OF THE AEROPLANE
- I. THE PERIOD OF LEGEND
- II. EARLY EXPERIMENTS
- III. SIR GEORGE CAYLEY--THOMAS WALKER
- IV. THE MIDDLE NINETEENTH CENTURY
- V. WENHAM, LE BRIS, AND SOME OTHERS
- VI. THE AGE OF THE GIANTS
- VII. LILIENTHAL AND PILCHER
- VIII. AMERICAN GLIDING EXPERIMENTS
- IX. NOT PROVEN
- X. SAMUEL PIERPOINT LANGLEY
- XI. THE WRIGHT BROTHERS
- XII. THE FIRST YEARS OF CONQUEST
- XIII. FIRST FLIERS IN ENGLAND
- XIV. RHEIMS, AND AFTER
- XV. THE CHANNEL CROSSING
- XVI. LONDON TO MANCHESTER
- XVII. A SUMMARY--TO 1911
- XVIII. A SUMMARY--TO 1914
- XIX. THE WAR PERIOD--I
- XX. THE WAR PERIOD--II
- XXI. RECONSTRUCTION
- XXII. 1919-1920
- Part II--1903-1920: PROGRESS IN DESIGN
- I. THE BEGINNINGS
- II. MULTIPLICITY OF IDEAS
- III. PROGRESS ON STANDARDISED LINES
- IV. THE WAR PERIOD
- Part III--AEROSTATICS
- I. BEGINNINGS
- II. THE FIRST DIRIGIBLES
- III. SANTOS-DUMONT
- IV. THE MILITARY DIRIGIBLE
- V. BRITISH AIRSHIP DESIGN
- VI. THE AIRSHIP COMMERCIALLY
- VII. KITE BALLOONS
- PART IV--ENGINE DEVELOPMENT
- I. THE VERTICAL TYPE
- II. THE VEE TYPE
- III. THE RADIAL TYPE
- IV. THE ROTARY TYPE
- V. THE HORIZONTALLY-OPPOSED ENGINE
- VI. THE TWO-STROKE CYCLE ENGINE
- VII. ENGINES OF THE WAR PERIOD