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.
There needs to be an equipment of spare machines also; and a number of travelling workshops with skilled engineers, which can be rushed from place to place for the repair of damaged craft. A sketch of one of these workshops on wheels, which are vital to the organisation, is seen in the figure
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
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.
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.
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
An aeroplane is a necessity in times of peace
Some types of American and foreign aeroplanes
Some types of American and foreign aeroplanes
Pilot and passenger
Chauffeur opening door for a lady
The 8 h.p. twin cylinder Uni, with wheel steering and free engine. The power plant slides upon rails at the rear platform by means of a cable actuated from the lever beside the driver
The 16 h.p. Uni-motorcycle, with spring suspension, magneto ignition, free engine and wheel steering.
Shop engine, 1901
First flight engine, 1903, cross section