In July, at Rheims, there was to be the great flying meeting; and Farman had made up his mind to wait for this. Aided by the experience he had gained with the Voisin machine, he had designed a craft which should be generally more efficient and faster in flight, and more quickly responsive to its controls. The biplane he produced, marking as it did a step forward in construction, is a machine that needs description. The general appearance of the craft is indicated by Fig. 46, while an illustration of this type of machine in flight will be found on Plate VII. A feature of the Voisin that Farman discarded was the vertical panel fitted between the main-planes to give sideway stability. An objection to these planes was that they added to the weight of the machine and checked its speed, tending also to drive it from its course should there be a side wind. But in taking away such fixed balancing-planes, Farman had to substitute another device; and what he did was to work upon the same theory as the Wrights had done, and obtain a similar result in a different way. They, it will be remembered, had warped the rear portions of their main-planes. Farman kept his planes rigid, but fitted to their rear extremities four narrow, hinged planes, or flaps, which could be moved up and down and were called ailerons. Their effect was the same as with the Wright wing-warp. When a gust tilted the machine, the pilot drew down the ailerons upon the side that was inclined downward; whereupon the air-pressure, acting upon the drawn-down surfaces, restored the machine to an even keel.
C. Pilot’s seat;
D. Motor and propeller;
E. Petrol tank;
F.F. Hinged balancing-planes, or ailerons;
H.H. Twin vertical rudders;
I. Landing wheels and skid
showing the span of main-planes, elevator, and tail, also the positions of landing gear and pilot’s seat.
Of famous aeroplanes at Rheims, five types stood out by themselves—the Farman, the Voisin, the Wright, the Bleriot, and the Antoinette, all of which have been described. But there was one other, which few people had heard of before it appeared here. This was the Curtiss biplane, built by an American named Glenn H. Curtiss, and engined with a motor which also bore his name. Curtiss had experimented with many power-driven machines—motor-cycles, motor-cars, airships, and aeroplanes—and had won a prize in America with a small, light biplane, and it was a craft of this type—as seen in the figure —that he brought with him to Rheims, his idea being to compete for the speed prize. The machine had a front elevator and tail-planes, according to the practice in biplane construction; but an innovation was the setting of the ailerons midway between the main-planes—a position that will be noted in the sketch; another novelty was the way these ailerons operated. At the pilot’s back, as he sat in his driving seat, was an upright rod with two shoulder-pieces—by means of which, should he shift his body, he could swing the rod from side to side. Wires ran from the rod to the ailerons; and if the pilot leaned over, say, to the right, he drew down the ailerons on the left side of the machine. The merit of such a control was that it was instinctive; that is to say, should the biplane tip down on one side, it was natural for the pilot to lean away from the plane-ends that were sinking; and he operated the ailerons automatically, as he did this, and so brought the machine level again.
B. Pilot’s seat and control-wheel
E. Motor and propeller
F. Tail-plane and rudder.
The Curtiss Biplane making a turn
At the beginning of 1909 there were two types of successful aeroplane—the Wright and the Voisin. Bleriot had flown with his monoplane and flown well; but he was still in the process of evolving a practical machine, and several other inventors were in a similar stage. It was the Wright and the Voisin which had proved their worth; and the Wright, as has been said, was the better of the two. Of the Voisin, as flown in 1909, a reproduction is given in the figure. It was a heavier aeroplane than the Wrights’, owing largely to the weight of its alighting gear (250 lbs.) and of its big balancing tail (more than 100 lbs.); hence the necessity for using a 50-h.p. motor, which drove a two-bladed metal propeller at the rate of 1200 revolutions a minute. The Voisin brothers, and other French makers, did not approve of the two-propeller system of the Wrights: they preferred one screw, revolving at high speed. But there was no doubt—at any rate in this stage of aviation—that the Wright method was more efficient than that of the Frenchmen. It was calculated, indeed, that the Wright biplane, when actually in the air, could be driven at an expenditure of only 15 h.p.; whereas the Voisin, even with its 50-h.p. motor running at full speed, had only just enough power to fly.
A. Elevating plane
B. Pilot’s seat
D. Engine and propeller
E. Landing chassis
F. Balancing tail
The Voisin Biplane - top view
A fighting aeroplane
A. Machine-gun projecting from opening in bow
B. Gunner’s position
C. Pilot’s seat
D.D. Side windows for observation
E. Engine and propeller.
The difficulty with air-cooling—although it had obvious advantages over water-cooling—was to bring enough air to play upon the surfaces of the cylinders; and it was here that the Gnome won so complete a success. In other engines the cylinders were stationary, and their pistons, moving up and down in the cylinders, turned a crank-shaft to the end of which the propeller was fixed. Therefore the only air the cylinders obtained was what rushed upon them through the speed of the machine in flight. But in the Gnome, instead of the cylinders remaining stationary and the crank-shaft revolving, the cylinders themselves spun round, and the crank-shaft did not move. An illustration of this motor with one end of the crank-chamber removed, so that the piston-rods can be seen, is given in the figure. It will be noted that there are seven cylinders, set in the form of a star, and that the seven piston-rods projecting from them come together upon a single crank-pin, which is attached to the stationary crank-shaft and turns round it. The propeller, instead of being fitted to the crank-shaft, as was the case with other motors, was bolted to a plate upon the engine itself, so that when this turned around its crank-shaft, it carried the propeller with it.
An experimenter who braved this apathy and won his way until he became a constructor of aircraft, was Mr. A. V. Roe. For some time he was an advocate of the triplane form of machine—a craft, that is to say, with three main-planes fitted one above another. The machine with which he obtained flights, although they were very brief, is seen in the figure. Subsequently, however, Mr. Roe adopted the biplane form. His distinction in the pioneer days was that he managed to make his triplane lift into the air and fly a short distance, with the aid of a motor-cycle engine developing no more than 9 h.p.
A.A.A. Three main-planes
C. Four-bladed propeller
D.D.D. Triplane tail
F. Landing gear.
D. Pilot’s seat
E. Landing chassis
F. Combined tail and elevating-planes
The Bleriot Monoplane - top view showing its bird-like shape and the position of the pilot.
At the beginning of 1909 a new monoplane made its appearance in France—a powerful, finely constructed, and very stable machine. It was the Antoinette, designed by a famous engineer, and it was this craft which interested Latham. M. Levavasseur was the designer of it and of a specially lightened motor, first applied to motor-boats, and afterwards to the experimental biplane of M. Santos-Dumont and also to the aeroplane with which Farman first flew. The Antoinette, which M. Levavasseur also fitted with one of his motors, was a large monoplane—far larger than the Bleriot; and built not with the idea of being a fair-weather machine, but to fly in winds. The span of its wings was 46 feet, and they contained 365 square feet of sustaining surface, while the total weight was 1040 lbs.
D. Pilot’s seat and controlling wheel
E.E. Vertical rudders
G. Landing gear.
showing the spread of the planes and tail, and the delicate taper of the long, canoe-shaped body.
The Curtiss Biplane in flight
showing the chassis and the position between the planes of the two ailerons (A.A.).
Another ardent worker in England, and one destined to become famous, was Mr. S. F. Cody. After developing a system of man-lifting kites which the British War Office acquired, he joined the military aircraft factory that had been established at Farnborough. Here, after tests with dirigible balloons, he began the construction of experimental biplanes—all machines of large size. Early in 1909 he made brief flights—the longest being one of about 250 yards. Then, after alterations to his machine, he managed in July to fly a distance of 4 miles. This he increased afterwards to 8 miles; and then on 1st September flew for 1 hour 3 minutes, rising to a height of 300 feet. Cody’s biplane was a very large machine, having 1000 square feet of lifting surface—twice that of the Farman or Voisin. Driving it was an 80-h.p. engine, which operated two propellers on the system used by the Wrights. With its pilot on board the machine weighed 2170 lbs.
A. Elevating-planes and vertical-plane
B. Pilot’s control lever
G. Landing gear
H. Rear skid.
showing the large size of the elevators, the position of the pilot, and the placing of the propellers.
But as airships were built larger, and greater speeds were obtained, it became necessary to strengthen the envelopes with some form of keel; and this led to a type which is known as the semi-rigid, and is developed successfully in France. The figure illustrates an airship of this build. Along the lower side of its envelope is placed a light, rigid framework or keel, and from this is suspended the car which contains engines and crew.
A. Gas-containing envelope
B. Strengthening keel
E. Car carrying engines, propeller, and crew.
A coastal sea-plane, as now planned, is a craft having, say, two engines, each devolving 120 h.p., with a wing span of some 80 feet, and an accommodation in its hull for three men—the pilot, a combatant with a machine-gun, and an observer with an installation of wireless. But types are changing constantly, and the tendency is to build larger craft. A machine weighing a couple of tons is shown, and a novelty in regard to it is that it has wheels upon either side of its boat-shaped car, upon which it can move on land, and which fold upward when it rests upon the water.
A. Hull upon which the machine floats when in the sea
B.B.B. Wheels upon which it may move when on land, and which fold upward when it is on the water
C. Pilot’s controlling wheel
D.D. Main sustaining planes
E. Four-bladed propeller driven by chain-gearing from engine within the hull.
To meet the demand for a purely scouting machine, in which pilot and passenger shall have a clear field for observation, both above and below, a monoplane has been designed which is called the “parasol.” This machine, a Morane-Saulnier, is shown. The two sustaining wings, forming a single surface, are raised above the body so that its occupants have nothing to impede their view earthward; and they can also see above them—an advantage of course in time of war, seeing that an enemy might be hovering overhead
A. Engine and propeller
B. Plane raised above hull
C. Seats for pilot and passenger
When petrol engines became available, they gave an impetus to the building of airships; for, like the aeroplane, the airship needed a motive agent which gives a high power for a low weight. One of the first to use a petrol motor in an airship with success was M. Santos-Dumont, whose name has been mentioned in connection with aeroplanes. He tested small, light airships, driven by petrol engines and two-bladed propellers—as illustrated in figure; and with one of these, on a calm, still day, he flew over Paris and round the Eiffel Tower.
A. Gas envelope
B. Wheeled framework which carried motor, propeller, and pilot’s seat
D. Horizontal rear-plane
A. Lower part of aeroplane’s hull
B. Revolving barrel to which bombs are clipped
D. Releasing mechanism operated by marksman in machine.
Coal-gas superseded hot air in the filling of balloons, the latter being unsatisfactory, seeing that it cooled rapidly and allowed the balloon to descend; the only alternative being to do what some of the first aeronauts did, and burn a fire below the neck of their balloon even when in the air. But the dangers of this were great, seeing that the whole envelope might easily become ignited. With balloons filled with coal-gas long flights were possible, but they had always this disadvantage—the voyagers were at the mercy of the wind, and could not fly in any direction they might choose. If the wind blew from the north then they were driven south, the balloon being a bubble in the air, wafted by every gust. Aeronauts became disgusted with this inability to guide the flight of a balloon, and many quaint controls were tested; such, for example, as the use of a large pair of oars with which the balloonist, sitting in the car of his craft, rowed vigorously in the air.
...it was followed in due course by the use of small steam engines and electric motors, which were made to turn propellers such as are used in aeroplanes. For such experimental craft, the rounded form of gas-container was abandoned and a cigar-shaped envelope adopted, pointed at both ends, which could be more easily driven through the air. An airship of a crude and early type is seen here. It was built by an experimenter named Gifford, and in 1852 it flew at the rate of seven miles an hour.
A. Gas-containing envelope; B. Car suspended below envelope, which carried the aeronaut and a 3-horse-power steam engine; C. Two-bladed propeller driven by the engine; D. Rudder (in the form of a sail) by which the machine could be steered from side to side.
Airships, like aeroplanes, are being armed with guns and bombs; and their power of raising weights enables them to carry heavy weapons. Large and highly destructive bombs have been tested in the German airships, being released over the sea and aimed at targets in the form of rafts. Latest-type airships also carry guns in their cars; and the Zeppelins have a platform upon the tops of their hulls, reached by a ladder through the middle of the ship, from which a machine-gun can be fired upward. This is a very necessary precaution, and is intended to frustrate the attack of an aeroplane. It would be the aim of the latter, whenever possible, to manœuvre above its big enemy—as suggested in figure —and drop a bomb upon its hull. Hence the construction of the top platform of the airship, from which her gunners can direct a vigorous fire aloft.
Certainly Lana's project is impracticable: the learned Jesuit did not foresee that his empty copper balloons would be crushed by the external atmospheric pressure; but he nevertheless had a very clear idea and very remarkable for his time of the principle of aerial navigation by balloons lighter than the volume of air which they move. He ends his long chapter with some very curious considerations:
I do not see any other difficulties that can be opposed to this idea, except one which seems to me more important than all the others, and that God will not allow this invention to be ever successfully applied in practice, in order to prevent the consequences which would result from it for the civil and political government of men. Indeed, who does not see that there is no State which would be insured against a stroke of surprise, because this ship would be heading in a straight line on one of its strongholds, and, landing there, could descend there soldiers.
The attached engraving is the exact reproduction of the parachute that the author also defines in the following terms, certainly inspired by those of Leonardo da Vinci:
With a square veil stretched out with four equal poles and having tied four ropes to the four quinces, a man without danger will be able to throw himself from the top of a tower or some other prominent place; because although, at the hour, there is no wind, the effort of he who falls will bring wind which will hold back the sail, lest it fall violently, but gradually descend. The man therefore must measure himself with the size of the sail.
If Leonardo da Vinci's aerial flight experiments do not seem to have been carried out on a large scale, it is perhaps not the same with the parachute, the use of which is much safer. The description of Leonardo da Vinci was reproduced later, not without a notable improvement in the mode of representation of the apparatus, in a collection of machines, due to Fauste Veranzio and published in Venice in 1617.
Principle of the helicopter, drawing by Leonardo da Vinci
The examination of the original drawings of the great Italian artist is intersting. We reproduce by heliogravure a complete plate; it makes it possible to follow the thought which presided over its execution. We let Dr. Hureau de Villeneuve interpret it.
We see in the second row on the right a small character quite similar to a demon or a genie, for he wears a flame on his head and, next to this flame, a Latin cross. His arms end with the fingers of a bat. The figure is not yet finished when Leonardo already recognizes its insufficiency and, guessing the little muscular action of the arms, thinks of using the force of the legs. So we see a little higher, in the same plank, a vigorous man placed on his stomach, his legs bent and about to launch a violent kick. The protruding muscles, traced by an anatomist's pencil, reveal the great painter in an unassuming drawing.
We reproduce as a curiosity this charming vignette, where we see the inventor Scintilla driving his machine.
Reproduction by heliogravure of the figure from the Journal des sçavans (1678).
Extract from a letter written to Mr. Toynard on a Machine of a new invention to fly in the air.
A, right front aisle. — B, left rear aisle. — C, left front aisle. — D, right rear aisle. — E, fissure of the left foot which lowers the D aisle, when the left hand lowers the Aisle C. — F, fissure of the right foot which lowers the D-pin when the left hand lowers the C-pin.
In the Hall of the Gods, in the Egyptian Museum, there is a small bronze plaque of great antiquity, where we see in relief a man flying the two extended wings. It is true that we agree to consider this piece as a symbolic composition rather than as the representation of an aircraft.
It was not until 1906, at a time when the Wright aeroplane was capable of long flights, that a real French success was obtained; and then the flights made were brief, and carried out with a craft that was admittedly crude. It was a biplane of curious construction, built by the Voisin brothers for M. Santos-Dumont—a rich Brazilian who had spent money freely upon airships, and had been occupied, for some time before the Voisins made him this machine, with a craft having propellers to lift it vertically from the ground. Abandoning this idea, he devoted himself to the machine the Voisins built, which is seen in the picture.
Ader next turned to steam-driven craft, and built a series of queer, bat-like machines, which he called “Avions,” one of which is illustrated in Fig. 16. Its wings were built up lightly and with great strength by means of hollow wooden spars, and had a span of 54 feet, being deeply arched. The whole machine weighed 1100 lbs., and was thus far smaller and lighter than Maxim’s mighty craft. To propel it, Ader used a couple of horizontal, compound steam engines, which gave 20 h.p. each and drew the machine through the air by means of two 4-bladed screws. The craft was controlled by altering the inclination of its wings, and also by a rudder, the pilot sitting in a carriage below the planes. In 1890, after its inventor had spent a large sum of money, the machine—which, unlike those of Phillips and Maxim, ran upon wheels and was free to rise—did actually make a flight, or rather a leap into the air, covering a distance of about fifty yards. But then, on coming into contact with the ground again, it was wrecked. Ader’s experiments were regarded by the French Government as being so important that he received a grant equalling £20,000 to assist him in continuing his tests; and this goes to show how, even from the first, the French nation was—by reason of its enthusiasm and imagination—able to appreciate what its inventors were striving to attain, and eager to encourage them in their quest.