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A History of Aeronautics by E. Charles Vivian

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constant increase of weight under the exigencies of construction
was a feature which could never be altogether eliminated. The
machine was made principally of steel, the sustaining surfaces
being composed of silk stretched from a steel tube with wooden
attachments. The first engines were the oscillating type, but
were found deficient in power. This led to the construction of
single-acting inverted oscillating engines with high and low
pressure cylinders, and with admission and exhaust ports to
avoid the complication and weight of eccentric and valves.
Boiler and furnace had to be specially designed; an analysis of
sustaining surfaces and the settlement of equilibrium while in
flight had to be overcome, and then it was possible to set about
the construction of the series of model aerodromes and make test
of their 'lift.'

By the time Langley had advanced sufficiently far to consider it
possible to conduct experiments in the open air, even with these
models, he had got to his fifth aerodrome, and to the year 1894.
Certain tests resulted in failure, which in turn resulted in
further modifications of design, mainly of the engines. By
February of 1895 Langley reported that under favourable
conditions a lift of nearly sixty per cent of the flying weight
was secured, but although this was much more than was required
for flight, it was decided to postpone trials until two machines
were ready for the test. May, 1896, came before actual trials
were made, when one machine proved successful and another, a
later design, failed. The difficulty with these models was that
of securing a correct angle for launching; Langley records how,
on launching one machine, it rose so rapidly that it attained an
angle of sixty degrees and then did a tail slide into the water
with its engines working at full speed, after advancing nearly
forty feet and remaining in the air for about three seconds.
Here, Langley found that he had to obtain greater rigidity in
his wings, owing to the distortion of the form of wing under
pressure, and how he overcame this difficulty constitutes yet
another story too long for the telling here.

Field trials were first attempted in 1893, and Langley blamed
his launching apparatus for their total failure. There was a
brief, but at the same time practical, success in model flight
in 1894, extending to between six and seven seconds, but this
only proved the need for strengthening of the wing. In 1895
there was practically no advance toward the solution of the
problem, but the flights of May 6th and November 28th, 1896,
were notably successful. A diagram given in Langley's memoir
shows the track covered by the aerodrome on these two flights;
in the first of them the machine made three complete circles,
covering a distance of 3,200 feet; in the second, that of
November 28th, the distance covered was 4,200 feet, or about
three-quarters of a mile, at a speed of about thirty miles an

These achievements meant a good deal; they proved mechanically
propelled flight possible. The difference between them and such
experiments as were conducted by Clement Ader, Maxim, and
others, lay principally in the fact that these latter either did
or did not succeed in rising into the air once, and then, either
willingly or by compulsion, gave up the quest, while Langley
repeated his experiments and thus attained to actual proof of
the possibilities of flight. Like these others, however, he
decided in 1896 that he would not undertake the construction of
a large man-carrying machine. In addition to a multitude of
actual duties, which left him practically no time available for
original research, he had as an adverse factor fully ten years
of disheartening difficulties in connection with his model
machines. It was President McKinley who, by requesting Langley
to undertake the construction and test of a machine which might
finally lead to the development of a flying machine capable of
being used in warfare, egged him on to his final experiment.
Langley's acceptance of the offer to construct such a machine is
contained in a letter addressed from the Smithsonian Institution
on December 12th, 1898, to the Board of Ordnance and
Fortification of the United States War Department; this letter
is of such interest as to render it worthy of reproduction:--

'Gentlemen,--In response to your invitation I repeat what I had
the honour to say to the Board--that I am willing, with the
consent of the Regents of this Institution, to undertake for the
Government the further investigation of the subject of the
construction of a flying machine on a scale capable of carrying
a man, the investigation to include the construction,
development and test of such a machine under conditions left as
far as practicable in my discretion, it being understood that my
services are given to the Government in such time as may not be
occupied by the business of the Institution, and without charge.

'I have reason to believe that the cost of the construction will
come within the sum of $50,000.00, and that not more than
one-half of that will be called for in the coming year.

'I entirely agree with what I understand to be the wish of the
Board that privacy be observed with regard to the work, and only
when it reaches a successful completion shall I wish to make
public the fact of its success.

'I attach to this a memorandum of my understanding of some
points of detail in order to be sure that it is also the
understanding of the Board, and I am, gentlemen, with much
respect, your obedient servant, S. P. Langley.'

One of the chief problems in connection with the construction of
a full-sized apparatus was that of the construction of an
engine, for it was realised from the first that a steam power
plant for a full-sized machine could only be constructed in such
a way as to make it a constant menace to the machine which it
was to propel. By this time (1898) the internal combustion
engine had so far advanced as to convince Langley that it formed
the best power plant available. A contract was made for the
delivery of a twelve horse-power engine to weigh not more than a
hundred pounds, but this contract was never completed, and it
fell to Charles M. Manly to design the five-cylinder radial
engine, of which a brief account is included in the section of
this work devoted to aero engines, as the power plant for the
Langley machine.

The history of the years 1899 to 1903 in the Langley series of
experiments contains a multitude of detail far beyond the scope
of this present study, and of interest mainly to the designer.
There were frames, engines, and propellers, to be considered,
worked out, and constructed. We are concerned here mainly with
the completed machine and its trials. Of these latter it must
be remarked that the only two actual field trials which took
place resulted in accidents due to the failure of the launching
apparatus, and not due to any inherent defect in the machine.
It was intended that these two trials should be the first of a
series, but the unfortunate accidents, and the fact that no
further funds were forthcoming for continuance of experiments,
prevented Langley's success, which, had he been free to go
through as he intended with his work, would have been certain.

The best brief description of the Langley aerodrome in its final
form, and of the two attempted trials, is contained in the
official report of Major M. M. Macomb of the United States
Artillery Corps, which report is here given in full:--


Experiments with working models which were concluded August 8
last having proved the principles and calculations on which the
design of the Langley aerodrome was based to be correct, the
next step was to apply these principles to the construction of a
machine of sufficient size and power to permit the carrying of a
man, who could control the motive power and guide its flight,
thus pointing the way to attaining the final goal of producing a
machine capable of such extensive and precise aerial flight,
under normal atmospheric conditions, as to prove of military or
commercial utility.

Mr C. M. Manly, working under Professor Langley, had, by the
summer of 1903, succeeded in completing an engine-driven machine
which under favourable atmospheric conditions was expected to
carry a man for any time up to half an hour, and to be capable
of having its flight directed and controlled by him.

The supporting surface of the wings was ample, and experiment
showed the engine capable of supplying more than the necessary
motive power.

Owing to the necessity of lightness, the weight of the various
elements had to be kept at a minimum, and the factor of safety
in construction was therefore exceedingly small, so that the
machine as a whole was delicate and frail and incapable of
sustaining any unusual strain. This defect was to be corrected
in later models by utilising data gathered in future experiments
under varied conditions.

One of the most remarkable results attained was the production
of a gasoline engine furnishing over fifty continuous
horse-power for a weight of 120 lbs.

The aerodrome, as completed and prepared for test, is briefly
described by Professor Langley as 'built of steel, weighing
complete about 730 lbs., supported by 1,040 feet of sustaining
surface, having two propellers driven by a gas engine developing
continuously over fifty brake horse-power.'

The appearance of the machine prepared for flight was
exceedingly light and graceful, giving an impression to all
observers of being capable of successful flight.

On October 7 last everything was in readiness, and I witnessed
the attempted trial on that day at Widewater, Va. On the
Potomac. The engine worked well and the machine was launched at
about 12.15 p.m. The trial was unsuccessful because the front
guy-post caught in its support on the launching car and was not
released in time to give free flight, as was intended, but, on
the contrary, caused the front of the machine to be dragged
downward, bending the guy-post and making the machine plunge
into the water about fifty yards in front of the house-boat.
The machine was subsequently recovered and brought back to the
house-boat. The engine was uninjured and the frame only slightly
damaged, but the four wings and rudder were practically destroyed
by the first plunge and subsequent towing back to the house-boat.

This accident necessitated the removal of the house-boat to
Washington for the more convenient repair of damages.

On December 8 last, between 4 and 5 p.m., another attempt at a
trial was made, this time at the junction of the Anacostia with
the Potomac, just below Washington Barracks.

On this occasion General Randolph and myself represented the
Board of Ordnance and Fortification. The launching car was
released at 4.45 p.m. being pointed up the Anacostia towards the
Navy Yard. My position was on the tug Bartholdi, about 150 feet
from and at right angles to the direction of proposed flight.
The car was set in motion and the propellers revolved rapidly,
the engine working perfectly, but there was something wrong with
the launching. The rear guy-post seemed to drag, bringing the
rudder down on the launching ways, and a crashing, rending
sound, followed by the collapse of the rear wings, showed that
the machine had been wrecked in the launching, just how, it was
impossible for me to see. The fact remains that the rear wings
and rudder were wrecked before the machine was free of the ways.
Their collapse deprived the machine of its support in the rear,
and it consequently reared up in front under the action of the
motor, assumed a vertical position, and then toppled over to the
rear, falling into the water a few feet in front of the boat.

Mr Manly was pulled out of the wreck uninjured and the wrecked
machine--was subsequently placed upon the house-boat, and the
whole brought back to Washington.

From what has been said it will be seen that these unfortunate
accidents have prevented any test of the apparatus in free
flight, and the claim that an engine-driven, man-carrying
aerodrome has been constructed lacks the proof which actual
flight alone can give.

Having reached the present stage of advancement in its
development, it would seem highly desirable, before laying down
the investigation, to obtain conclusive proof of the possibility
of free flight, not only because there are excellent reasons to
hope for success, but because it marks the end of a definite
step toward the attainment of the final goal.

Just what further procedure is necessary to secure successful
flight with the large aerodrome has not yet been decided upon.
Professor Langley is understood to have this subject under
advisement, and will doubtless inform the Board of his final
conclusions as soon as practicable.

In the meantime, to avoid any possible misunderstanding, it
should be stated that even after a successful test of the
present great aerodrome, designed to carry a man, we are still
far from the ultimate goal, and it would seem as if years of
constant work and study by experts, together with the
expenditure of thousands of dollars, would still be necessary
before we can hope to produce an apparatus of practical utility
on these lines.--Washington, January 6, 1904.

A subsequent report of the Board of ordnance and Fortification
to the Secretary of War embodied the principal points in Major
Macomb's report, but as early as March 3rd, 1904, the Board came
to a similar conclusion to that of the French Ministry of War in
respect of Clement Ader's work, stating that it was not
'prepared to make an additional allotment at this time for
continuing the work.' This decision was in no small measure due
to hostile newspaper criticisms. Langley, in a letter to the
press explaining his attitude, stated that he did not wish to
make public the results of his work till these were certain, in
consequence of which he refused admittance to newspaper
representatives, and this attitude produced a hostility which
had effect on the United States Congress. An offer was made to
commercialise the invention, but Langley steadfastly refused it.
Concerning this, Manly remarks that Langley had 'given his time
and his best labours to the world without hope of remuneration,
and he could not bring himself, at his stage of life, to consent
to capitalise his scientific work.'

The final trial of the Langley aerodrome was made on December
8th, 1903; nine days later, on December 17th, the Wright
Brothers made their first flight in a power-propelled machine,
and the conquest of the air was thus achieved. But for the two
accidents that spoilt his trials, the honour which fell to the
Wright Brothers would, beyond doubt, have been secured by Samuel
Pierpoint Langley.


Such information as is given here concerning the Wright Brothers
is derived from the two best sources available, namely, the
writings of Wilbur Wright himself, and a lecture given by Dr
Griffith Brewer to members of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
There is no doubt that so far as actual work in connection with
aviation accomplished by the two brothers is concerned, Wilbur
Wright's own statements are the clearest and best available.
Apparently Wilbur was, from the beginning, the historian of the
pair, though he himself would have been the last to attempt to
detract in any way from the fame that his brother's work also
deserves. Throughout all their experiments the two were
inseparable, and their work is one indivisible whole; in fact,
in every department of that work, it is impossible to say where
Orville leaves off and where Wilbur begins.

It is a great story, this of the Wright Brothers, and one worth
all the detail that can be spared it. It begins on the 16th
April, 1867, when Wilbur Wright was born within eight miles of
Newcastle, Indiana. Before Orville's birth on the 19th August,
1871, the Wright family had moved to Dayton, Ohio, and settled
on what is known as the 'West Side' of the town. Here the
brothers grew up, and, when Orville was still a boy in his
teens, he started a printing business, which, as Griffith
Brewer remarks, was only limited by the smallness of his machine
and small quantity of type at his disposal. This machine was in
such a state that pieces of string and wood were incorporated in
it by way of repair, but on it Orville managed to print a boys'
paper which gained considerable popularity in Dayton 'West
Side.' Later, at the age of seventeen, he obtained a more
efficient outfit, with which he launched a weekly newspaper,
four pages in size, entitled The West Side News. After three
months' running the paper was increased in size and Wilbur came
into the enterprise as editor, Orville remaining publisher. In
1894 the two brothers began the publication of a weekly
magazine, Snap-Shots, to which Wilbur contributed a series of
articles on local affairs that gave evidence of the incisive and
often sarcastic manner in which he was able to express himself
throughout his life. Dr Griffith Brewer describes him as a
fearless critic, who wrote on matters of local interest in a
kindly but vigorous manner, which did much to maintain the
healthy public municipal life of Dayton.

Editorial and publishing enterprise was succeeded by the
formation, just across the road from the printing works, of the
Wright Cycle Company, where the two brothers launched out as
cycle manufacturers with the 'Van Cleve' bicycle, a machine of
great local repute for excellence of construction, and one which
won for itself a reputation that lasted long after it had ceased
to be manufactured. The name of the machine was that of an
ancestor of the brothers, Catherine Van Cleve, who was one of
the first settlers at Dayton, landing there from the River Miami
on April 1st, 1796, when the country was virgin forest.

It was not until 1896 that the mechanical genius which
characterised the two brothers was turned to the consideration
of aeronautics. In that year they took up the problem
thoroughly, studying all the aeronautical information then in
print. Lilienthal's writings formed one basis for their
studies, and the work of Langley assisted in establishing in
them a confidence in the possibility of a solution to the
problems of mechanical flight. In 1909, at the banquet given by
the Royal Aero Club to the Wright Brothers on their return to
America, after the series of demonstration flights carried out
by Wilbur Wright on the Continent, Wilbur paid tribute to the
great pioneer work of Stringfellow, whose studies and
achievements influenced his own and Orville's early work. He
pointed out how Stringfellow devised an aeroplane having two
propellers and vertical and horizontal steering, and gave due
place to this early pioneer of mechanical flight.

Neither of the brothers was content with mere study of the work
of others. They collected all the theory available in the books
published up to that time, and then built man-carrying gliders
with which to test the data of Lilienthal and such other
authorities as they had consulted. For two years they conducted
outdoor experiments in order to test the truth or otherwise of
what were enunciated as the principles of flight; after this
they turned to laboratory experiments, constructing a wind
tunnel in which they made thousands of tests with models of
various forms of curved planes. From their experiments they
tabulated thousands of readings, which Griffith Brewer remarks
as giving results equally efficient with those of the elaborate
tables prepared by learned institutions.

Wilbur Wright has set down the beginnings of the practical
experiments made by the two brothers very clearly. 'The
difficulties,' he says, 'which obstruct the pathway to success
in flying machine construction are of three general classes:
(1) Those which relate to the construction of the sustaining
wings; (2) those which relate to the generation and application
of the power required to drive the machine through the air; (3)
those relating to the balancing and steering of the machine
after it is actually in flight. Of these difficulties two are
already to a certain extent solved. Men already know how to
construct wings, or aeroplanes, which, when driven through the
air at sufficient speed, will not only sustain the weight of the
wings themselves, but also that of the engine and the engineer
as well. Men also know how to build engines and' screws of
sufficient lightness and power to drive these planes at
sustaining speed. Inability to balance and steer still
confronts students of the flying problem, although nearly ten
years have passed (since Lilienthal's success). When this one
feature has been worked out, the age of flying machines will
have arrived, for all other difficulties are of minor

'The person who merely watches the flight of a bird gathers the
impression that the bird has nothing to think of but the
flapping of its wings. As a matter of fact, this is a very
small part of its mental labour. Even to mention all the things
the bird must constantly keep in mind in order to fly securely
through the air would take a considerable time. If I take a
piece of paper and, after placing it parallel with the ground,
quickly let it fall, it will not settle steadily down as a
staid, sensible piece of paper ought to do, but it insists on
contravening every recognised rule of decorum, turning over and
darting hither and thither in the most erratic manner, much
after the style of an untrained horse. Yet this is the style of
steed that men must learn to manage before flying can become an
everyday sport. The bird has learned this art of equilibrium,
and learned it so thoroughly that its skill is not apparent to
our sight. We only learn to appreciate it when we can imitate

'Now, there are only two ways of learning to ride a fractious
horse: one is to get on him and learn by actual practice how
each motion and trick may be best met; the other is to sit on a
fence and watch the beast awhile, and then retire to the house
and at leisure figure out the best way of overcoming his jumps
and kicks. The latter system is the safer, but the former, on
the whole, turns out the larger proportion of good riders. It
is very much the same in learning to ride a flying machine; if
you are looking for perfect safety you will do well to sit on a
fence and watch the birds, but if you really wish to learn you
must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by
actual trial. The balancing of a gliding or flying machine is
very simple in theory. It merely consists in causing the centre
of pressure to coincide with the centre of gravity.'

These comments are taken from a lecture delivered by Wilbur
Wright before the Western Society of Engineers in September of
1901, under the presidency of Octave Chanute. In that lecture
Wilbur detailed the way in which he and his brother came to
interest themselves in aeronautical problems and constructed
their first glider. He speaks of his own notice of the death of
Lilienthal in 1896, and of the way in which this fatality roused
him to an active interest in aeronautical problems, which was
stimulated by reading Professor Marey's Animal Mechanism, not
for the first time. 'From this I was led to read more modern
works, and as my brother soon became equally interested with
myself, we soon passed from the reading to the thinking, and
finally to the working stage. It seemed to us that the main
reason why the problem had remained so long unsolved was that no
one had been able to obtain any adequate practice. We figured
that Lilienthal in five years of time had spent only about five
hours in actual gliding through the air. The wonder was not
that he had done so little, but that he had accomplished so
much. It would not be considered at all safe for a bicycle
rider to attempt to ride through a crowded city street after
only five hours' practice, spread out in bits of ten seconds
each over a period of five years; yet Lilienthal with this brief
practice was remarkably successful in meeting the fluctuations
and eddies of wind-gusts. We thought that if some method could
be found by which it would be possible to practice by the hour
instead of by the second there would be hope of advancing the
solution of a very difficult problem. It seemed feasible to do
this by building a machine which would be sustained at a speed
of eighteen miles per hour, and then finding a locality where
winds of this velocity were common. With these conditions a
rope attached to the machine to keep it from floating backward
would answer very nearly the same purpose as a propeller driven
by a motor, and it would be possible to practice by the hour,
and without any serious danger, as it would not be necessary to
rise far from the ground, and the machine would not have any
forward motion at all. We found, according to the accepted
tables of air pressure on curved surfaces, that a machine
spreading 200 square feet of wing surface would be sufficient
for our purpose, and that places would easily be found along the
Atlantic coast where winds of sixteen to twenty-five miles were
not at all uncommon. When the winds were low it was our plan to
glide from the tops of sandhills, and when they were
sufficiently strong to use a rope for our motor and fly over one
spot. Our next work was to draw up the plans for a suitable
machine. After much study we finally concluded that tails were
a source of trouble rather than of assistance, and therefore we
decided to dispense with them altogether. It seemed reasonable
that if the body of the operator could be placed in a horizontal
position instead of the upright, as in the machines of
Lilienthal, Pilcher, and Chanute, the wind resistance could be
very materially reduced, since only one square foot instead of
five would be exposed. As a full half horse-power would be
saved by this change, we arranged to try at least the horizontal
position. Then the method of control used by Lilienthal, which
consisted in shifting the body, did not seem quite as quick or
effective as the case required; so, after long study, we
contrived a system consisting of two large surfaces on the
Chanute double-deck plan, and a smaller surface placed a short
distance in front of the main surfaces in such a position that
the action of the wind upon it would counterbalance the effect
of the travel of the centre of pressure on the main surfaces.
Thus changes in the direction and velocity of the wind would
have little disturbing effect, and the operator would be
required to attend only to the steering of the machine, which
was to be effected by curving the forward surface up or down.
The lateral equilibrium and the steering to right or left was to
be attained by a peculiar torsion of the main surfaces which was
equivalent to presenting one end of the wings at a greater angle
than the other. In the main frame a few changes were also made
in the details of construction and trussing employed by Mr
Chanute. The most important of these were: (1) The moving of
the forward main crosspiece of the frame to the extreme front
edge; (2) the encasing in the cloth of all crosspieces and ribs
of the surfaces; (3) a rearrangement of the wires used in
trussing the two surfaces together, which rendered it possible
to tighten all the wires by simply shortening two of them.'

The brothers intended originally to get 200 square feet of
supporting surface for their glider, but the impossibility of
obtaining suitable material compelled them to reduce the area to
165 square feet, which, by the Lilienthal tables, admitted of
support in a wind of about twenty-one miles an hour at an angle
of three degrees. With this glider they went in the summer of I
1900 to the little settlement of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina,
situated on the strip of land dividing Albemarle Sound from the
Atlantic. Here they reckoned on obtaining steady wind, and
here, on the day that they completed the machine, they took it
out for trial as a kite with the wind blowing at between
twenty-five and thirty miles an hour. They found that in order
to support a man on it the glider required an angle nearer
twenty degrees than three, and even with the wind at thirty
miles an hour they could not get down to the planned angle of
three degrees. 'Later, when the wind was too light to support
the machine with a man on it, they tested it as a kite, working
the rudders by cords. Although they obtained satisfactory
results in this way they realised fully that actual gliding
experience was necessary before the tests could be considered

A series of actual measurements of lift and drift of the machine
gave astonishing results. 'It appeared that the total
horizontal pull of the machine, while sustaining a weight of 52
lbs., was only 8.5 lbs., which was less than had been previously
estimated for head resistance of the framing alone. Making
allowance for the weight carried, it appeared that the head
resistance of the framing was but little more than fifty per
cent of the amount which Mr Chanute had estimated as the head
resistance of the framing of his machine. On the other hand, it
appeared sadly deficient in lifting power as compared with the
calculated lift of curved surfaces of its size... we decided to
arrange our machine for the following year so that the depth of
curvature of its surfaces could be varied at will, and its
covering air-proofed.'

After these experiments the brothers decided to turn to
practical gliding, for which they moved four miles to the south,
to the Kill Devil sandhills, the principal of which is slightly
over a hundred feet in height, with an inclination of nearly ten
degrees on its main north-western slope. On the day after their
arrival they made about a dozen glides, in which, although the
landings were made at a speed of more than twenty miles an hour,
no injury was sustained either by the machine or by the

'The slope of the hill was 9.5 degrees, or a drop of one foot in
six. We found that after attaining a speed of about twenty-five
to thirty miles with reference to the wind, or ten to fifteen
miles over the ground, the machine not only glided parallel to
the slope of the hill, but greatly increased its speed, thus
indicating its ability to glide on a somewhat less angle than
9.5 degrees, when we should feel it safe to rise higher from the
surface. The control of the machine proved even better than we
had dared to expect, responding quickly to the slightest motion
of the rudder. With these glides our experiments for the year
1900 closed. Although the hours and hours of practice we had
hoped to obtain finally dwindled down to about two minutes, we
were very much pleased with the general results of the trip,
for, setting out as we did with almost revolutionary theories on
many points and an entirely untried form of machine, we
considered it quite a point to be able to return without having
our pet theories completely knocked on the head by the hard
logic of experience, and our own brains dashed out in the
bargain. Everything seemed to us to confirm the correctness of
our original opinions: (1) That practice is the key to the
secret of flying; (2) that it is practicable to assume the
horizontal position; (3) that a smaller surface set at a
negative angle in front of the main bearing surfaces, or wings,
will largely counteract the effect of the fore and aft travel of
the centre of pressure; (4) that steering up and down can be
attained with a rudder without moving the position of the
operator's body; (5) that twisting the wings so as to present
their ends to the wind at different angles is a more prompt and
efficient way of maintaining lateral equilibrium than shifting
the body of the operator.'

For the gliding experiments of 1901 it was decided to retain the
form of the 1900 glider, but to increase the area to 308 square
feet, which, the brothers calculated, would support itself and
its operator in a wind of seventeen miles an hour with an angle
of incidence of three degrees. Camp was formed at Kitty Hawk in
the middle of July, and on July 27th the machine was completed
and tried for the first time in a wind of about fourteen miles
an hour. The first attempt resulted in landing after a glide of
only a few yards, indicating that the centre of gravity was too
far in front of the centre of pressure. By shifting his
position farther and farther back the operator finally achieved
an undulating flight of a little over 300 feet, but to obtain
this success he had to use full power of the rudder to prevent
both stalling and nose-diving. With the 1900 machine one-fourth
of the rudder action had been necessary for far better control.

Practically all glides gave the same result, and in one the
machine rose higher and higher until it lost all headway. 'This
was the position from which Lilienthal had always found
difficulty in extricating himself, as his machine then, in spite
of his greatest exertions, manifested a tendency to dive
downward almost vertically and strike the ground head on with
frightful velocity. In this case a warning cry from the ground
caused the operator to turn the rudder to its full extent and
also to move his body slightly forward. The machine then
settled slowly to the ground, maintaining its horizontal
position almost perfectly, and landed without any injury at all.
This was very encouraging, as it showed that one of the very
greatest dangers in machines with horizontal tails had been
overcome by the use of the front rudder. Several glides later
the same experience was repeated with the same result. In the
latter case the machine had even commenced to move backward, but
was nevertheless brought safely to the ground in a horizontal
position. On the whole this day's experiments were encouraging,
for while the action of the rudder did not seem at all like that
of our 1900 machine, yet we had escaped without difficulty from
positions which had proved very dangerous to preceding
experimenters, and after less than one minute's actual practice
had made a glide of more than 300 feet, at an angle of descent
of ten degrees, and with a machine nearly twice as large as had
previously been considered safe. The trouble with its control,
which has been mentioned, we believed could be corrected when we
should have located its cause.'

It was finally ascertained that the defect could be remedied by
trussing down the ribs of the whole machine so as to reduce the
depth of curvature. When this had been done gliding was
resumed, and after a few trials glides of 366 and 389 feet were
made with prompt response on the part of the machine, even to
small movements of the rudder. The rest of the story of the
gliding experiments of 1901 cannot be better told than in Wilbur
Wright's own words, as uttered by him in the lecture from which
the foregoing excerpts have been made.

'The machine, with its new curvature, never failed to respond
promptly to even small movements of the rudder. The operator
could cause it to almost skim the ground, following the
undulations of its surface, or he could cause it to sail out
almost on a level with the starting point, and, passing high
above the foot of the hill, gradually settle down to the ground.
The wind on this day was blowing eleven to fourteen miles per
hour. The next day, the conditions being favourable, the
machine was again taken out for trial. This time the velocity
of the wind was eighteen to twenty-two miles per hour. At first
we felt some doubt as to the safety of attempting free flight in
so strong a wind, with a machine of over 300 square feet and a
practice of less than five minutes spent in actual flight. But
after several preliminary experiments we decided to try a glide.
The control of the machine seemed so good that we then felt no
apprehension in sailing boldly forth. And thereafter we made
glide after glide, sometimes following the ground closely and
sometimes sailing high in the air. Mr Chanute had his camera
with him and took pictures of some of these glides, several of
which are among those shown.

'We made glides on subsequent days, whenever the conditions were
favourable. The highest wind thus experimented in was a little
over twelve metres per second--nearly twenty-seven miles per

It had been our intention when building the machine to do the
larger part of the experimenting in the following manner:--When
the wind blew seventeen miles an hour, or more, we would attach
a rope to the machine and let it rise as a kite with the
operator upon it. When it should reach a proper height the
operator would cast off the rope and glide down to the ground
just as from the top of a hill. In this way we would be saved
the trouble of carrying the machine uphill after each glide, and
could make at least ten glides in the time required for one in
the other way. But when we came to try it, we found that a wind
of seventeen miles, as measured by Richards' anemometer, instead
of sustaining the machine with its operator, a total weight of
240 lbs., at an angle of incidence of three degrees, in reality
would not sustain the machine alone--100 lbs.--at this angle.
Its lifting capacity seemed scarcely one third of the calculated
amount. In order to make sure that this was not due to the
porosity of the cloth, we constructed two small experimental
surfaces of equal size, one of which was air-proofed and the
other left in its natural state; but we could detect no
difference in their lifting powers. For a time we were led to
suspect that the lift of curved surfaces very little exceeded
that of planes of the same size, but further investigation and
experiment led to the opinion that (1) the anemometer used by us
over-recorded the true velocity of the wind by nearly 15 per
cent; (2) that the well-known Smeaton co-efficient of .005 V
squared for the wind pressure at 90 degrees is probably too
great by at least 20 per cent; (3) that Lilienthal's estimate
that the pressure on a curved surface having an angle of
incidence of 3 degrees equals .545 of the pressure at go degrees
is too large, being nearly 50 per cent greater than very recent
experiments of our own with a pressure testing-machine indicate;
(4) that the superposition of the surfaces somewhat reduced the
lift per square foot, as compared with a single surface of equal

'In gliding experiments, however, the amount of lift is of less
relative importance than the ratio of lift to drift, as this
alone decides the angle of gliding descent. In a plane the
pressure is always perpendicular to the surface, and the ratio
of lift to drift is therefore the same as that of the cosine to
the sine of the angle of incidence. But in curved surfaces a
very remarkable situation is found. The pressure, instead of
being uniformly normal to the chord of the arc, is usually
inclined considerably in front of the perpendicular. The result
is that the lift is greater and the drift less than if the
pressure were normal. Lilienthal was the first to discover this
exceedingly important fact, which is fully set forth in his
book, Bird Flight the Basis of the Flying Art, but owing to some
errors in the methods he used in making measurements, question
was raised by other investigators not only as to the accuracy of
his figures, but even as to the existence of any tangential
force at all. Our experiments confirm the existence of this
force, though our measurements differ considerably from those of
Lilienthal. While at Kitty Hawk we spent much time in measuring
the horizontal pressure on our unloaded machine at various
angles of incidence. We found that at 13 degrees the horizontal
pressure was about 23 lbs. This included not only the drift
proper, or horizontal component of the pressure on the side of
the surface, but also the head resistance of the framing as
well. The weight of the machine at the time of this test was
about 108 lbs. Now, if the pressure had been normal to the
chord of the surface, the drift proper would have been to the
lift (108 lbs.) as the sine of 13 degrees is to the cosine of 13
degrees, or .22 X 108/.97 = 24+ lbs.; but this slightly exceeds
the total pull of 23 pounds on our scales. Therefore it is
evident that the average pressure on the surface, instead of
being normal to the chord, was so far inclined toward the front
that all the head resistance of framing and wires used in the
construction was more than overcome. In a wind of fourteen
miles per hour resistance is by no means a negligible factor, so
that tangential is evidently a force of considerable value. In
a higher wind, which sustained the machine at an angle of 10
degrees the pull on the scales was 18 lbs. With the pressure
normal to the chord the drift proper would have been 17 X 98/.98.
The travel of the centre of pressure made it necessary to put
sand on the front rudder to bring the centres of gravity and
pressure into coincidence, consequently the weight of the
machine varied from 98 lbs. to 108 lbs. in the different tests)=
17 lbs., so that, although the higher wind velocity must have
caused an increase in the head resistance, the tangential force
still came within 1 lb. of overcoming it. After our return
from Kitty Hawk we began a series of experiments to accurately
determine the amount and direction of the pressure produced on
curved surfaces when acted upon by winds at the various angles
from zero to 90 degrees. These experiments are not yet
concluded, but in general they support Lilienthal in the claim
that the curves give pressures more favourable in amount and
direction than planes; but we find marked differences in the
exact values, especially at angles below 10 degrees. We were
unable to obtain direct measurements of the horizontal pressures
of the machine with the operator on board, but by comparing the
distance travelled with the vertical fall, it was easily
calculated that at a speed of 24 miles per hour the total
horizontal resistances of our machine, when bearing the
operator, amounted to 40 lbs., which is equivalent to about
2 1/3 horse-power. It must not be supposed, however, that a
motor developing this power would be sufficient to drive a
man-bearing machine. The extra weight of the motor would
require either a larger machine, higher speed, or a greater
angle of incidence in order to support it, and therefore more
power. It is probable, however, that an engine of 6
horse-power, weighing 100 lbs. would answer the purpose. Such
an engine is entirely practicable. Indeed, working motors of
one-half this weight per horse-power (9 lbs. per horse-power)
have been constructed by several different builders. Increasing
the speed of our machine from 24 to 33 miles per hour reduced
the total horizontal pressure from 40 to about 35 lbs. This was
quite an advantage in gliding, as it made it possible to sail
about 15 per cent farther with a given drop. However, it would
be of little or no advantage in reducing the size of the motor
in a power-driven machine, because the lessened thrust would be
counterbalanced by the increased speed per minute. Some years
ago Professor Langley called attention to the great economy of
thrust which might be obtained by using very high speeds, and
from this many were led to suppose that high speed was essential
to success in a motor-driven machine. But the economy to which
Professor Langley called attention was in foot pounds per mile
of travel, not in foot pounds per minute. It is the foot pounds
per minute that fixes the size of the motor. The probability is
that the first flying machines will have a relatively low speed,
perhaps not much exceeding 20 miles per hour, but the problem of
increasing the speed will be much simpler in some respects than
that of increasing the speed of a steamboat; for, whereas in the
latter case the size of the engine must increase as the cube of
the speed, in the flying machine, until extremely high speeds
are reached, the capacity of the motor increases in less than
simple ratio; and there is even a decrease in the fuel per mile
of travel. In other words, to double the speed of a steamship
(and the same is true of the balloon type of airship) eight
times the engine and boiler capacity would be required, and four
times the fuel consumption per mile of travel: while a flying
machine would require engines of less than double the size, and
there would be an actual decrease in the fuel consumption per
mile of travel. But looking at the matter conversely, the great
disadvantage of the flying machine is apparent; for in the
latter no flight at all is possible unless the proportion of
horse-power to flying capacity is very high; but on the other
hand a steamship is a mechanical success if its ratio of
horse-power to tonnage is insignificant. A flying machine that
would fly at a speed of 50 miles per hour with engines of 1,000
horse-power would not be upheld by its wings at all at a speed
of less than 25 miles an hour, and nothing less than 500
horse-power could drive it at this speed. But a boat which
could make 40 miles an hour with engines of 1,000 horse-power
would still move 4 miles an hour even if the engines were
reduced to 1 horse-power. The problems of land and water travel
were solved in the nineteenth century, because it was possible
to begin with small achievements, and gradually work up to our
present success. The flying problem was left over to the
twentieth century, because in this case the art must be highly
developed before any flight of any considerable duration at all
can be obtained.

'However, there is another way of flying which requires no
artificial motor, and many workers believe that success will
come first by this road. I refer to the soaring flight, by
which the machine is permanently sustained in the air by the
same means that are employed by soaring birds. They spread
their wings to the wind, and sail by the hour, with no
perceptible exertion beyond that required to balance and steer
themselves. What sustains them is not definitely known, though
it is almost certain that it is a rising current of air. But
whether it be a rising current or something else, it is as well
able to support a flying machine as a bird, if man once learns
the art of utilising it. In gliding experiments it has long been
known that the rate of vertical descent is very much retarded,
and the duration of the flight greatly prolonged, if a strong
wind blows UP the face of the hill parallel to its surface. Our
machine, when gliding in still air, has a rate of vertical
descent of nearly 6 feet per second, while in a wind blowing 26
miles per hour up a steep hill we made glides in which the rate
of descent was less than 2 feet per second. And during the larger
part of this time, while the machine remained exactly in the
RISE. If the operator had had sufficient skill to keep himself
from passing beyond the rising current he would have been
sustained indefinitely at a higher point than that from which he
started. The illustration shows one of these very slow glides at
a time when the machine was practically at a standstill. The
failure to advance more rapidly caused the photographer some
trouble in aiming, as you will perceive. In looking at this
picture you will readily understand that the excitement of
gliding experiments does not entirely cease with the breaking up
of camp. In the photographic dark-room at home we pass moments
of as thrilling interest as any in the field, when the image
begins to appear on the plate and it is yet an open question
whether we have a picture of a flying machine or merely a patch
of open sky. These slow glides in rising current probably hold
out greater hope of extensive practice than any other method
within man's reach, but they have the disadvantage of requiring
rather strong winds or very large supporting surfaces. However,
when gliding operators have attained greater skill, they can with
comparative safety maintain themselves in the air for hours at a
time in this way, and thus by constant practice so increase
their knowledge and skill that they can rise into the higher air
and search out the currents which enable the soaring birds to
transport themselves to any desired point by first rising in a
circle and then sailing off at a descending angle. This
illustration shows the machine, alone, flying in a wind of 35
miles per hour on the face of a steep hill, 100 feet high. It
will be seen that the machine not only pulls upward, but also
pulls forward in the direction from which the wind blows, thus
overcoming both gravity and the speed of the wind. We tried the
same experiment with a man on it, but found danger that the
forward pull would become so strong, that the men holding the
ropes would be dragged from their insecure foothold on the slope
of the hill. So this form of experimenting was discontinued
after four or five minutes' trial.

'In looking over our experiments of the past two years, with
models and full-size machines, the following points stand out
with clearness:--

'1. That the lifting power of a large machine, held stationary
in a wind at a small distance from the earth, is much less than
the Lilienthal table and our own laboratory experiments would
lead us to expect. When the machine is moved through the air,
as in gliding, the discrepancy seems much less marked.

'2. That the ratio of drift to lift in well-shaped surfaces is
less at angles of incidence of 5 degrees to 12 degrees than at
an angle of 3 degrees.

'3. That in arched surfaces the centre of pressure at 90
degrees is near the centre of the surface, but moves slowly
forward as the angle becomes less, till a critical angle varying
with the shape and depth of the curve is reached, after which it
moves rapidly toward the rear till the angle of no lift is

'4. That with similar conditions large surfaces may be
controlled with not much greater difficulty than small ones, if
the control is effected by manipulation of the surfaces
themselves, rather than by a movement of the body of the

'5. That the head resistances of the framing can be brought to
a point much below that usually estimated as necessary.

'6. That tails, both vertical and horizontal, may with safety
be eliminated in gliding and other flying experiments.

'7. That a horizontal position of the operator's body may be
assumed without excessive danger, and thus the head resistance
reduced to about one-fifth that of the upright position.

'8. That a pair of superposed, or tandem surfaces, has less
lift in proportion to drift than either surface separately, even
after making allowance for weight and head resistance of the

Thus, to the end of the 1901 experiments, Wilbur Wright provided
a fairly full account of what was accomplished; the record shows
an amount of patient and painstaking work almost beyond
belief--it was no question of making a plane and launching it,
but a business of trial and error, investigation and tabulation
of detail, and the rejection time after time of previously
accepted theories, till the brothers must have felt the the
solid earth was no longer secure, at times. Though it was
Wilbur who set down this and other records of the work done,
yet the actual work was so much Orville's as his brother's that
no analysis could separate any set of experiments and say that
Orville did this and Wilbur that--the two were inseparable. On
this point Griffith Brewer remarked that 'in the arguments, if
one brother took one view, the other brother took the opposite
view as a matter of course, and the subject was thrashed to
pieces until a mutually acceptable result remained. I have
often been asked since these pioneer days, "Tell me, Brewer, who
was really the originator of those two?" In reply, I used
first to say, "I think it was mostly Wilbur," and later,
when I came to know Orville better, I said, "The thing could not
have been without Orville." Now, when asked, I have to say, " I
don't know," and I feel the more I think of it that it was only
the wonderful combination of these two brothers, who devoted
their lives together or this common object, that made the
discovery of the art of flying possible.'

Beyond the 1901 experiments in gliding, the record grows more
scrappy, less detailed. It appears that once power-driven
flight had been achieved, the brothers were not so willing to
talk as before; considering the amount of work that they put in,
there could have been little time for verbal description
of that work--as already remarked, their tables still stand for
the designer and experimenter. The end of the 1901 experiments
left both brothers somewhat discouraged, though they had
accomplished more than any others. 'Having set out with
absolute faith in the existing scientific data, we ere driven to
doubt one thing after another, finally, after two years of
experiment, we cast it all aside, and decided to rely entirely
on our own investigations. Truth and error were everywhere so
in,timately mixed as to be indistinguishable.... We had taken up
aeronautics as a sport. We reluctantly entered upon the
scientific side of it.'

Yet, driven thus to the more serious aspect of the work, they
found in the step its own reward, for the work of itself drew
them on and on, to the construction of measuring machines for
the avoidance of error, and to the making of series after series
of measurements, concerning which Wilbur wrote in 1908 (in the
Century Magazine) that 'after making preliminary measurements on
a great number of different shaped surfaces, to secure a general
understanding of the subject, we began systematic measurements
of standard surfaces, so varied in design as to bring out the
underlying causes of differences noted in their pressures.
Measurements were tabulated on nearly fifty of these at all
angles from zero to 45 degrees, at intervals of 2 1/2 degrees.
Measurements were also secured showing the effects on each other
when surfaces are superposed, or when they follow one another.

'Some strange results were obtained. One surface, with a heavy
roll at the front edge, showed the same lift for all angles from
7 1/2 to 45 degrees. This seemed so anomalous that we were
almost ready to doubt our own measurements, when a simple test
was suggested. A weather vane, with two planes attached to the
pointer at an angle of 80 degrees with each other, was made.
According to our table, such a vane would be in unstable
equilibrium when pointing directly into the wind, for if by
chance the wind should happen to strike one plane at 39 degrees
and the other at 41 degrees, the plane with the smaller angle
would have the greater pressure and the pointer would be turned
still farther out of the course of the wind until the two vanes
again secured equal pressures, which would be at approximately
30 and 50 degrees. But the vane performed in this very manner.
Further corroboration of the tables was obtained in experiments
with the new glider at Kill Devil Hill the next season.

'In September and October, 1902 nearly 1,000 gliding flights
were made, several of which covered distances of over 600 feet.
Some, made against a wind of 36 miles an hour, gave proof of the
effectiveness of the devices for control. With this machine, in
the autumn of 1903, we made a number of flights in which we
remained in the air for over a minute, often soaring for a
considerable time in one spot, without any descent at all.
Little wonder that our unscientific assistant should think the
only thing needed to keep it indefinitely in the air would be a
coat of feathers to make it light! '

It was at the conclusion of these experiments of 1903 that the
brothers concluded they had obtained sufficient data from their
thousands of glides and multitude of calculations to permit of
their constructing and making trial of a power-driven machine.
The first designs got out provided for a total weight of 600
lbs., which was to include the weight of the motor and the
pilot; but on completion it was found that there was a surplus
of power from the motor, and thus they had 150 lbs. weight to
allow for strengthening wings and other parts.

They came up against the problem to which Riach has since
devoted so much attention, that of propeller design. 'We had
thought of getting the theory of the screw-propeller from the
marine engineers, and then, by applying our table of
air-pressures to their formulae, of designing air-propellers
suitable for our uses. But, so far as we could learn, the
marine engineers possessed only empirical formulae, and the
exact action of the screw propeller, after a century of use, was
still very obscure. As we were not in a position to undertake a
long series of practical experiments to discover a propeller
suitable for our machine, it seemed necessary to obtain such a
thorough understanding of the theory of its reactions as would
enable us to design them from calculation alone. What at first
seemed a simple problem became more complex the longer we
studied it. With the machine moving forward, the air flying
backward, the propellers turning sidewise, and nothing standing
still, it seemed impossible to find a starting point from which
to trace the various simultaneous reactions. Contemplation of
it was confusing. After long arguments we often found ourselves
in the ludicrous position of each having been converted to the
other's side, with no more agreement than when the discussion

'It was not till several months had passed, and every phase of
the problem had been thrashed over and over, that the various
reactions began to untangle themselves. When once a clear
understanding had been obtained there was no difficulty in
designing a suitable propeller, with proper diameter, pitch, and
area of blade, to meet the requirements of the flier. High
efficiency in a screw-propeller is not dependent upon any
particular or peculiar shape, and there is no such thing as a
"best" screw. A propeller giving a high dynamic efficiency when
used upon one machine may be almost worthless when used upon
another. The propeller should in every case be designed to meet
the particular conditions of the machine to which it is to be
applied. Our first propellers, built entirely from calculation,
gave in useful work 66 per cent of the power expended. This was
about one-third more than had been secured by Maxim or Langley.'

Langley had made his last attempt with the 'aerodrome,' and his
splendid failure but a few days before the brothers made their
first attempt at power-driven aeroplane flight. On December
17th, 1903, the machine was taken out; in addition to Wilbur and
Orville Wright, there were present five spectators: Mr A. D.
Etheridge, of the Kil1 Devil life-saving station; Mr W. S.Dough,
Mr W. C. Brinkley, of Manteo; Mr John Ward, of Naghead, and Mr
John T. Daniels.[*] A general invitation had been given to
practically all the residents in the vicinity, but the Kill
Devil district is a cold area in December, and history had
recorded so many experiments in which machines had failed to
leave the ground that between temperature and scepticism only
these five risked a waste of their time.

[*] This list is as given by Wilbur Wright himself.

And these five were in at the greatest conquest man had made
since James Watt evolved the steam engine --perhaps even a
greater conquest than that of Watt. Four flights in all were
made; the first lasted only twelve seconds, 'the first in the
history of the world in which a machine carrying a man had
raised itself into the air by its own power in free flight, had
sailed forward on a level course without reduction of speed, and
had finally landed without being wrecked,' said Wilbur
Wright concerning the achievement.[*] The next two flights were
slightly longer, and the fourth and last of the day was one
second short of the complete minute; it was made into the teeth
of a 20 mile an hour wind, and the distance travelled was 852

[*] Century Magazine, September, 1908.

This bald statement of the day's doings is as Wilbur Wright
himself has given it, and there is in truth nothing more to say;
no amount of statement could add to the importance of the
achievement, and no more than the bare record is necessary. The
faith that had inspired the long roll of pioneers, from da Vinci
onward, was justified at last.

Having made their conquest, the brothers took the machine back
to camp, and, as they thought, placed it in safety. Talking
with the little group of spectators about the flights, they
forgot about the machine, and then a sudden gust of wind struck
it. Seeing that it was being overturned, all made a rush toward
it to save it, and Mr Daniels, a man of large proportions, was
in some way lifted off his feet, falling between the planes.
The machine overturned fully, and Daniels was shaken like a die
in a cup as the wind rolled the machine over and over--he came
out at the end of his experience with a series of bad bruises,
and no more, but the damage done to the machine by the accident
was sufficient to render it useless for further experiment that

A new machine, stronger and heavier, was constructed by the
brothers, and in the spring of 1904 they began experiments again
at Sims Station, eight miles to the east of Dayton, their home
town. Press representatives were invited for the first trial,
and about a dozen came--the whole gathering did not number more
than fifty people. 'When preparations had been concluded,'
Wilbur Wright wrote of this trial, 'a wind of only three or four
miles an hour was blowing--insufficient for starting on so short
a track --but since many had come a long way to see the machine
in action, an attempt was made. To add to the other difficulty,
the engine refused to work properly. The machine, after running
the length of the track, slid off the end without rising into
the air at all. Several of the newspaper men returned next day
but were again disappointed. The engine performed badly, and
after a glide of only sixty feet the machine again came to the
ground. Further trial was postponed till the motor could be put
in better running condition. The reporters had now, no doubt,
lost confidence in the machine, though their reports, in
kindness, concealed it. Later, when they heard that we were
making flights of several minutes' duration, knowing that longer
flights had been made with airships, and not knowing any
essential difference between airships and flying machines, they
were but little interested.

'We had not been flying long in 1904 before we found that the
problem of equilibrium had not as yet been entirely solved.
Sometimes, in making a circle, the machine would turn over
sidewise despite anything the operator could do, although, under
the same conditions in ordinary straight flight it could have
been righted in an instant. In one flight, in 1905, while
circling round a honey locust-tree at a height of about 50 feet,
the machine suddenly began to turn up on one wing, and took a
course toward the tree. The operator, not relishing the idea of
landing in a thorn tree, attempted to reach the ground. The
left wing, however, struck the tree at a height of 10 or 12 feet
from the ground and carried away several branches; but the
flight, which had already covered a distance of six miles, was
continued to the starting point.

'The causes of these troubles--too technical for explanation
here--were not entirely overcome till the end of September,
1905. The flights then rapidly increased in length, till
experiments were discontinued after October 5 on account of the
number of people attracted to the field. Although made on a
ground open on every side, and bordered on two sides by
much-travelled thoroughfares, with electric cars passing every
hour, and seen by all the people living in the neighbourhood for
miles around, and by several hundred others, yet these flights
have been made by some newspapers the subject of a great
"mystery." '

Viewing their work from the financial side, the two brothers
incurred but little expense in the earlier gliding experiments,
and, indeed, viewed these only as recreation, limiting their
expenditure to that which two men might spend on any hobby.
When they had once achieved successful power-driven flight, they
saw the possibilities of their work, and abandoned such other
business as had engaged their energies, sinking all their
capital in the development of a practical flying machine.
Having, in 1905, improved their designs to such an extent that
they could consider their machine a practical aeroplane, they
devoted the years 1906 and 1907 to business negotiations and to
the construction of new machines, resuming flying experiments in
May of 1908 in order to test the ability of their machine to
meet the requirements of a contract they had made with the
United States Government, which required an aeroplane capable of
carrying two men, together with sufficient fuel supplies for a
flight of 125 miles at 40 miles per hour. Practically similar
to the machine used in the experiments of 1905, the contract
aeroplane was fitted with a larger motor, and provision was made
for seating a passenger and also for allowing of the operator
assuming a sitting position, instead of lying prone.

Before leaving the work of the brothers to consider contemporary
events, it may be noted that they claimed--with justice--that
they were first to construct wings adjustable to different
angles of incidence on the right and left side in order to
control the balance of an aeroplane; the first to attain lateral
balance by adjusting wing-tips to respectively different angles
of incidence on the right and left sides, and the first to use a
vertical vane in combination with wing-tips, adjustable to
respectively different angles of incidence, in balancing and
steering an aeroplane. They were first, too, to use a movable
vertical tail, in combination with wings adjustable to different
angles of incidence, in controlling the balance and direction of
an aeroplane.[*]

[*]Aeronautical Journal, No. 79.

A certain Henry M. Weaver, who went to see the work of the
brothers, writing in a letter which was subsequently read before
the Aero Club de France records that he had a talk in 1905 with
the farmer who rented the field in which the Wrights made their
flights.' On October 5th (1905) he was cutting corn in the next
field east, which is higher ground. When he noticed the
aeroplane had started on its flight he remarked to his helper:
"Well, the boys are at it again," and kept on cutting corn, at
the same time keeping an eye on the great white form rushing
about its course. "I just kept on shocking corn," he continued,
"until I got down to the fence, and the durned thing was still
going round. I thought it would never stop." '

He was right. The brothers started it, and it will never stop.

Mr Weaver also notes briefly the construction of the 1905 Wright
flier. 'The frame was made of larch wood-from tip to tip of the
wings the dimension was 40 feet. The gasoline motor--a special
construction made by them--much the same, though, as the motor
on the Pope-Toledo automobile--was of from 12 to 15 horse-power.
The motor weighed 240 lbs. The frame was covered with ordinary
muslin of good quality. No attempt was made to lighten the
machine; they simply built it strong enough to stand the shocks.
The structure stood on skids or runners, like a sleigh. These
held the frame high enough from the ground in alighting to
protect the blades of the propeller. Complete with motor, the
machine weighed 925 lbs.


It is no derogation of the work accomplished by the Wright
Brothers to say that they won the honour of the first
power-propelled flights in a heavier-than-air machine only by a
short period. In Europe, and especially in France, independent
experiment was being conducted by Ferber, by Santos-Dumont, and
others, while in England Cody was not far behind the other
giants of those days. The history of the early years of
controlled power flights is a tangle of half-records; there were
no chroniclers, only workers, and much of what was done goes
unrecorded perforce, since it was not set down at the time.

Before passing to survey of those early years, let it be set
down that in 1907, when the Wright Brothers had proved the
practicability of their machines, negotiations were entered into
between the brothers and the British War office. On April 12th
1907, the apostle of military stagnation, Haldane, then War
Minister, put an end to the negotiations by declaring that 'the
War office is not disposed to enter into relations at present
with any manufacturer of aeroplanes' The state of the British
air service in 1914 at the outbreak of hostilities, is eloquent
regarding the pursuance of the policy which Haldane initiated.

'If I talked a lot,' said Wilbur Wright once, 'I should be like
the parrot, which is the bird that speaks most and flies least.'
That attitude is emblematic of the majority of the early fliers,
and because of it the record of their achievements is incomplete
to-day. Ferber, for instance, has left little from which to
state what he did, and that little is scattered through various
periodicals, scrappily enough. A French army officer, Captain
Ferber was experimenting with monoplane and biplane gliders at
the beginning of the century-his work was contemporary with that
of the Wrights. He corresponded both with Chanute and with the
Wrights, and in the end he was commissioned by the French
Ministry of War to undertake the journey to America in order to
negotiate with the Wright Brothers concerning French rights in
the patents they had acquired, and to study their work at first

Ferber's experiments in gliding began in 1899 at the Military
School at Fountainebleau, with a canvas glider of some 80 square
feet supporting surface, and weighing 65 lbs. Two years later
he constructed a larger and more satisfactory machine, with
which he made numerous excellent glides. Later, he constructed
an apparatus which suspended a plane from a long arm which swung
on a tower, in order that experiments might be carried out
without risk to the experimenter, and it was not until 1905 that
he attempted power-driven free flight. He took up the Voisin
design of biplane for his power-driven flights, and virtually
devoted all his energies to the study of aeronautics. His book,
Aviation, its Dawn and Development, is a work of scientific
value--unlike many of his contemporaries, Ferber brought to the
study of the problems of flight a trained mind, and he was
concerned equally with the theoretical problems of aeronautics
and the practical aspects of the subject.

After Bleriot's successful cross-Channel flight, it was proposed
to offer a prize of L1,000 for the feat which C. S. Rolls
subsequently accomplished (starting from the English side of the
Channel), a flight from Boulogne to Dover and back; in place of
this, however, an aviation week at Boulogne was organised, but,
although numerous aviators were invited to compete, the
condition of the flying grounds was such that no competitions
took place. Ferber was virtually the only one to do any flying
at Boulogne, and at the outset he had his first accident; after
what was for those days a good flight, he made a series of
circles with his machine, when it suddenly struck the ground,
being partially wrecked. Repairs were carried out, and Ferber
resumed his exhibition flights, carrying on up to Wednesday,
September 22nd, 1909. On that day he remained in the air for
half an hour, and, as he was about to land, the machine struck a
mound of earth and overturned, pinning Ferber under the weight
of the motor. After being extricated, Ferber seemed to show
little concern at the accident, but in a few minutes he
complained of great pain, when he was conveyed to the ambulance
shed on the ground.

'I was foolish,' he told those who were with him there. 'I was
flying too low. It was my own fault and it will be a severe
lesson to me. I wanted to turn round, and was only five metres
from the ground.' A little after this, he got up from the couch
on which he had been placed, and almost immediately collapsed,
dying five minutes later.

Ferber's chief contemporaries in France were Santos-Dumont, of
airship fame, Henri and Maurice Farman, Hubert Latham, Ernest
Archdeacon, and Delagrange. These are names that come at once to
mind, as does that of Bleriot, who accomplished the second great
feat of power-driven flight, but as a matter of fact the years
1903-10 are filled with a little host of investigators and
experimenters, many of whom, although their names do not survive
to any extent, are but a very little way behind those mentioned
here in enthusiasm and devotion. Archdeacon and Gabriel Voisin,
the former of whom took to heart the success achieved by the
Wright Brothers, co-operated in experiments in gliding.
Archdeacon constructed a glider in box-kite fashion, and Voisin
experimented with it on the Seine, the glider being towed by a
motorboat to attain the necessary speed. It was Archdeacon who
offered a cup for the first straight flight of 200 metres, which
was won by Santos-Dumont, and he also combined with Henri Deutsch
de la Meurthe in giving the prize for the first circular flight
of a mile, which was won by Henry Farman on January 13th, 1908.

A history of the development of aviation in France in these, the
strenuous years, would fill volumes in itself. Bleriot was
carrying out experiments with a biplane glider on the Seine, and
Robert Esnault-Pelterie was working on the lines of the Wright
Brothers, bringing American practice to France. In America
others besides the Wrights had wakened to the possibilities of
heavier-than-air flight; Glenn Curtiss, in company with Dr
Alexander Graham Bell, with J. A. D. McCurdy, and with F. W.
Baldwin, a Canadian engineer, formed the Aerial Experiment
Company, which built a number of aeroplanes, most famous of
which were the 'June Bug,' the 'Red Wing,' and the 'White Wing.'
In 1908 the 'June Bug 'won a cup presented by the Scientific
American--it was the first prize offered in America in
connection with aeroplane flight.

Among the little group of French experimenters in these first
years of practical flight, Santos-Dumont takes high rank. He
built his 'No. 14 bis' aeroplane in biplane form, with two
superposed main plane surfaces, and fitted it with an
eight-cylinder Antoinette motor driving a two-bladed aluminium
propeller, of which the blades were 6 feet only from tip to tip.
The total lift surface of 860 square feet was given with a
wing-span of a little under 40 feet, and the weight of the
complete machine was 353 lbs., of which the engine weighed 158
lbs. In July of 1906 Santos-Dumont flew a distance of a few
yards in this machine, but damaged it in striking the ground; on
October 23rd of the same year he made a flight of nearly 200
feet--which might have been longer, but that he feared a crowd
in front of the aeroplane and cut off his ignition. This may be
regarded as the first effective flight in Europe, and by it
Santos-Dumont takes his place as one of the chief--if not the
chief--of the pioneers of the first years of practical flight,
so far as Europe is concerned.

Meanwhile, the Voisin Brothers, who in 1904 made cellular kites
for Archdeacon to test by towing on the Seine from a motor
launch, obtained data for the construction of the aeroplane
which Delagrange and Henry Farman were to use later. The Voisin
was a biplane, constructed with due regard to the designs of
Langley, Lilienthal, and other earlier experimenters--both the
Voisins and M. Colliex, their engineer, studied Lilienthal
pretty exhaustively in getting out their design, though their
own researches were very thorough as well. The weight of this
Voisin biplane was about 1,450 lbs., and its maximum speed was
some 38 to 40 miles per hour, the total supporting surface being
about 535 square feet. It differed from the Wright design in
the possession of a tail-piece, a characteristic which marked
all the French school of early design as in opposition to the
American. The Wright machine got its longitudinal stability by
means of the main planes and the elevating planes, while the
Voisin type added a third factor of stability in its sailplanes.
Further, the Voisins fitted their biplane with a wheeled
undercarriage, while the Wright machine, being fitted only with
runners, demanded a launching rail for starting. Whether a
machine should be tailless or tailed was for some long time
matter for acute controversy, which in the end was settled by
the fitting of a tail to the Wright machines-France won the
dispute by the concession.

Henry Farman, who began his flying career with a Voisin machine,
evolved from it the aeroplane which bore his name, following the
main lines of the Voisin type fairly closely, but making
alterations in the controls, and in the design of the
undercarriage, which was somewhat elaborated, even to the
inclusion of shock absorbers. The seven-cylinder 50 horse-power
Gnome rotary engine was fitted to the Farman machine--the
Voisins had fitted an eight-cylinder Antoinette, giving 50
horse-power at 1,100 revolutions per minute, with direct drive
to the propeller. Farman reduced the weight of the machine from
the 1,450 lbs. of the Voisins to some 1,010 lbs. or
thereabouts, and the supporting area to 450 square feet. This
machine won its chief fame with Paulhan as pilot in the famous
London to Manchester flight--it is to be remarked, too, that
Farman himself was the first man in Europe to accomplish a
flight of a mile.

Other notable designs of these early days were the 'R.E.P.',
Esnault Pelterie's machine, and the Curtiss-Herring biplane. Of
these Esnault Pelterie's was a monoplane, designed in that form
since Esnault Pelterie had found by experiment that the wire
used in bracing offers far more resistance to the air than its
dimensions would seem to warrant. He built the wings of
sufficient strength to stand the strain of flight without
bracing wires, and dependent only for their support on the
points of attachment to the body of the machine; for the rest,
it carried its propeller in front of the planes, and both
horizontal and vertical rudders at the stern--a distinct
departure from the Wright and similar types. One wheel only was
fixed under the body where the undercarriage exists on a normal
design, but light wheels were fixed, one at the extremity of
each wing, and there was also a wheel under the tail portion of
the machine. A single lever actuated all the controls for
steering. With a supporting surface of 150 square feet the
machine weighed 946 lbs., about 6.4 lbs. per square foot of
lifting surface.

The Curtiss biplane, as flown by Glenn Curtiss at the Rheims
meeting, was built with a bamboo framework, stayed by means of
very fine steel-stranded cables. A--then--novel feature of the
machine was the moving of the ailerons by the pilot leaning to
one side or the other in his seat, a light, tubular arm-rest
being pressed by his body when he leaned to one side or the
other, and thus operating the movement of the ailerons employed
for tilting the plane when turning. A steering-wheel fitted
immediately in front of the pilot's seat served to operate a
rear steering-rudder when the wheel was turned in either
direction, while pulling back the wheel altered the inclination
of the front elevating planes, and so gave lifting or depressing
control of the plane.

This machine ran on three wheels before leaving the ground, a
central undercarriage wheel being fitted in front, with two more
in line with a right angle line drawn through the centre of the
engine crank at the rear end of the crank-case. The engine was
a 35 horsepower Vee design, water cooled, with overhead inlet
and exhaust valves, and Bosch high-tension magneto ignition.
The total weight of the plane in flying order was about 700 lbs.

As great a figure in the early days as either Ferber or
Santos-Dumont was Louis Bleriot, who, as early as 1900 built a
flapping-wing model, this before ever he came to experimenting
with the Voisin biplane type of glider on the Seine. Up to 1906
he had built four biplanes of his own design, and in March of
1907 he built his first monoplane, to wreck it only a few days
after completion in an accident from which he had a fortunate
escape. His next machine was a double monoplane, designed after
Langley's precept, to a certain extent, and this was totally
wrecked in September of 1907. His seventh machine, a
monoplane, was built within a month of this accident, and with
this he had a number of mishaps, also achieving some good
flights, including one in which he made a turn. It was wrecked
in December of 1907, whereupon he built another monoplane on
which, on July 6th, 1908, Bleriot made a flight lasting eight
and a half minutes. In October of that year he flew the machine
from Toury to Artenay and returned on it--this was just a day
after Farman's first cross-country flight--but, trying to repeat
the success five days later, Bleriot collided with a tree in a
fog and wrecked the machine past repair. Thereupon he set about
building his eleventh machine, with which he was to achieve the
first flight across the English channel.

Henry Farman, to whom reference has already been made, was
engaged with his two brothers, Maurice and Richard, in the
motor-car business, and turned to active interest in flying in
1907, when the Voisin firm built his first biplane on the
box-kite principle. In July of 1908 he won a prize of L400 for
a flight of thirteen miles, previously having completed the
first kilometre flown in Europe with a passenger, the said
passenger being Ernest Archdeaon. In September of 1908 Farman
put up a speed record of forty miles an hour in a flight lasting
forty minutes.

Santos-Dumont produced the famous 'Demoiselle' monoplane early
in 1909, a tiny machine in which the pilot had his seat in a
sort of miniature cage under the main plane. It was a very
fast, light little machine but was difficult to fly, and owing
to its small wingspread was unable to glide at a reasonably safe
angle. There has probably never been a cheaper flying machine
to build than the 'Demoiselle,' which could be so upset as to
seem completely wrecked, and then repaired ready for further
flight by a couple of hours' work. Santos-Dumont retained no
patent in the design, but gave it out freely to any one who
chose to build 'Demoiselles'; the vogue of the pattern was
brief, owing to the difficulty of piloting the machine.

These were the years of records, broken almost as soon as made.
There was Farman's mile, there was the flight of the Comte de
Lambert over the Eiffel Tower, Latham's flight at Blackpool in a
high wind, the Rheims records, and then Henry Farman's flight of
four hours later in 1909, Orville Wright's height record of
1,640 feet, and Delagrange's speed record of 49.9 miles per
hour. The coming to fame of the Gnome rotary engine helped in
the making of these records to a very great extent, for in this
engine was a prime mover which gave the reliability that
aeroplane builders and pilots had been searching for, but
vainly. The Wrights and Glenn Curtiss, of course, had their own
designs of engine, but the Gnome, in spite of its lack of
economy in fuel and oil, and its high cost, soon came to be
regarded as the best power plant for flight.

Delagrange, one of the very good pilots of the early days,
provided a curious insight to the way in which flying was
regarded, at the opening of the Juvisy aero aerodrome in May of
1909. A huge crowd had gathered for the first day's flying, and
nine machines were announced to appear, but only three were
brought out. Delagrange made what was considered an indifferent
little flight, and another pilot, one De Bischoff, attempted to
rise, but could not get his machine off the ground. Thereupon
the crowd of 30,000 people lost their tempers, broke down the
barriers surrounding the flying course, and hissed the
officials, who were quite unable to maintain order. Delagrange,
however, saved the situation by making a circuit of the course
at a height of thirty feet from the ground, which won him rounds
of cheering and restored the crowd to good humour. Possibly the
smash achieved by Rougier, the famous racing motorist, who
crashed his Voisin biplane after Delagrange had made his
circuit, completed the enjoyment of the spectators. Delagrange,
flying at Argentan in June of 1909, made a flight of four
kilometres at a height of sixty feet; for those days this was a
noteworthy performance. Contemporary with this was Hubert
Latham's flight of an hour and seven minutes on an Antoinette
monoplane; this won the adjective 'magnificent' from
contemporary recorders of aviation.

Viewing the work of the little group of French experimenters, it
is, at this length of time from their exploits, difficult to see
why they carried the art as far as they did. There was in it
little of satisfaction, a certain measure of fame, and
practically no profit--the giants of those days got very little
for their pains. Delagrange's experience at the opening of the
Juvisy ground was symptomatic of the way in which flight was
regarded by the great mass of people--it was a sport, and
nothing more, but a sport without the dividends attaching to
professional football or horse-racing. For a brief period,
after the Rheims meeting, there was a golden harvest to be
reaped by the best of the pilots. Henry Farman asked L2,000 for
a week's exhibition flying in England, and Paulhan asked half
that sum, but a rapid increase in the number of capable pilots,
together with the fact that most flying meetings were financial
failures, owing to great expense in organisation and the
doubtful factor of the weather, killed this goose before many
golden eggs had been gathered in by the star aviators. Besides,
as height and distance records were broken one after another, it
became less and less necessary to pay for entrance to an
aerodrome in order to see a flight--the thing grew too big for a
mere sports ground.

Long before Rheims and the meeting there, aviation had grown too
big for the chronicling of every individual effort. In that
period of the first days of conquest of the air, so much was
done by so many whose names are now half-forgotten that it is
possible only to pick out the great figures and make brief
reference to their achievements and the machines with which they
accomplished so much, pausing to note such epoch-making events
as the London-Manchester flight, Bleriot's Channel crossing, and
the Rheims meeting itself, and then passing on beyond the days
of individual records to the time when the machine began to
dominate the man. This latter because, in the early days, it
was heroism to trust life to the planes that were turned out
--the 'Demoiselle' and the Antoinette machine that Latham used
in his attempt to fly the Channel are good examples of the
flimsiness of early types--while in the later period, that of
the war and subsequently, the heroism turned itself in a
different--and nobler-direction. Design became standardised,
though not perfected. The domination of the machine may best be
expressed by contrasting the way in which machines came to be
regarded as compared with the men who flew them: up to 1909,
flying enthusiasts talked of Farman, of Bleriot, of Paulhan,
Curtiss, and of other men; later, they began to talk of the
Voisin, the Deperdussin, and even to the Fokker, the Avro, and
the Bristol type. With the standardising of the machine, the
days of the giants came to an end.


Certain experiments made in England by Mr Phillips seem to have
come near robbing the Wright Brothers of the honour of the first
flight; notes made by Colonel J. D. Fullerton on the Phillips
flying machine show that in 1893 the first machine was built
with a length of 25 feet, breadth of 22 feet, and height of 11
feet, the total weight, including a 72 lb. load, being 420 lbs.
The machine was fitted with some fifty wood slats, in place of
the single supporting surface of the monoplane or two superposed
surfaces of the biplane, these slats being fixed in a steel
frame so that the whole machine rather resembled a Venetian
blind. A steam engine giving about 9 horse-power provided the
motive power for the six-foot diameter propeller which drove the
machine. As it was not possible to put a passenger in control
as pilot, the machine was attached to a central post by wire
guys and run round a circle 100 feet in diameter, the track
consisting of wooden planking 4 feet wide. Pressure of air
under the slats caused the machine to rise some two or three
feet above the track when sufficient velocity had been attained,
and the best trials were made on June 19th 1893, when at a speed
of 40 miles an hour, with a total load of 385 lbs., all the
wheels were off the ground for a distance of 2,000 feet.

In 1904 a full-sized machine was constructed by Mr Phillips,
with a total weight, including that of the pilot, of 600 lbs.
The machine was designed to lift when it had attained a velocity
of 50 feet per second, the motor fitted giving 22 horse-power.
On trial, however, the longitudinal equilibrium was found to be
defective, and a further design was got out, the third machine
being completed in 1907. In this the wood slats were held in
four parallel container frames, the weight of the machine,
excluding the pilot, being 500 lbs. A motor similar to that
used in the 1904 machine was fitted, and the machine was
designed to lift at a velocity of about 30 miles an hour, a
seven-foot propeller doing the driving. Mr Phillips tried out
this machine in a field about 400 yards across. 'The machine
was started close to the hedge, and rose from the ground when
about 200 yards had been covered. When the machine touched the
ground again, about which there could be no doubt, owing to the
terrific jolting, it did not run many yards. When it came to
rest I was about ten yards from the boundary. Of course, I
stopped the engine before I commenced to descend.'[*]

[*] Aeronautical Journal, July, 1908.

S. F. Cody, an American by birth, aroused the attention not only
of the British public, but of the War office and Admiralty as
well, as early as 1905 with his man-lifting kites. In that year
a height of 1,600 feet was reached by one of these box-kites,
carrying a man, and later in the same year one Sapper Moreton,
of the Balloon Section of the Royal Engineers (the parent of the
Royal Flying Corps) remained for an hour at an altitude of 2,600
feet. Following on the success of these kites, Cody constructed
an aeroplane which he designated a 'power kite,' which was in
reality a biplane that made the first flight in Great Britain.
Speaking before the Aeronautical Society in 1908, Cody said that
'I have accomplished one thing that I hoped for very much, that
is, to be the first man to fly in Great Britain.... I made a
machine that left the ground the first time out; not high,
possibly five or six inches only. I might have gone higher if I
wished. I made some five flights in all, and the last flight
came to grief.... On the morning of the accident I went out
after adjusting my propellers at 8 feet pitch running at 600
(revolutions per minute). I think that I flew at about
twenty-eight miles per hour. I had 50 horsepower motor power in
the engine. A bunch of trees, a flat common above these trees,
and from this flat there is a slope goes down... to another clump
of trees. Now, these clumps of trees are a quarter of a mile
apart or thereabouts.... I was accused of doing nothing but
jumping with my machine, so I got a bit agitated and went to fly.

I went out this morning with an easterly wind, and left the
ground at the bottom of the hill and struck the ground at the
top, a distance of 74 yards. That proved beyond a doubt that the
machine would fly--it flew uphill. That was the most talented
flight the machine did, in my opinion. Now, I turned round at
the top and started the machine and left the ground--remember, a
ten mile wind was blowing at the time. Then, 60 yards from where
the men let go, the machine went off in this direction
(demonstrating)--I make a line now where I hoped to land--to cut
these trees off at that side and land right off in here. I got
here somewhat excited, and started down and saw these trees right
in front of me. I did not want to smash my head rudder to
pieces, so I raised it again and went up. I got one wing direct
over that clump of trees, the right wing over the trees, the left
wing free; the wind, blowing with me, had to lift over these
trees. So I consequently got a false lift on the right side and
no lift on the left side. Being only about 8 feet from the tree
tops, that turned my machine up like that (demonstrating). This
end struck the ground shortly after I had passed the trees. I
pulled the steering handle over as far as I could. Then I faced
another bunch of trees right in front of me. Trying to avoid
this second bunch of trees I turned the rudder, and turned it
rather sharp. That side of the machine struck, and it crumpled
up like so much tissue paper, and the machine spun round and
struck the ground that way on, and the framework was considerably
wrecked. Now, I want to advise all aviators not to try to fly
with the wind and to cross over any big clump of earth or any
obstacle of any description unless they go square over the top of
it, because the lift is enormous crossing over anything like
that, and in coming the other way against the wind it would be
the same thing when you arrive at the windward side of the
obstacle. That is a point I did not think of, and had I thought
of it I would have been more cautious.'

This Cody machine was a biplane with about 40 foot span, the
wings being about 7 feet in depth with about 8 feet between
upper and lower wing surfaces. 'Attached to the extremities of
the lower planes are two small horizontal planes or rudders,
while a third small vertical plane is fixed over the centre of
the upper plane.' The tail-piece and principal rudder were
fitted behind the main body of the machine, and a horizontal
rudder plane was rigged out in front, on two supporting arms
extending from the centre of the machine. The small end-planes
and the vertical plane were used in conjunction with the main
rudder when turning to right or left, the inner plane being
depressed on the turn, and the outer one correspondingly raised,
while the vertical plane, working in conjunction, assisted in
preserving stability. Two two-bladed propellers were driven by
an eight-cylinder 50 horse-power Antoinette motor. With this
machine Cody made his first flights over Laffan's plain, being
then definitely attached to the Balloon Section of the Royal
Engineers as military aviation specialist.

There were many months of experiment and trial, after the
accident which Cody detailed in the statement given above, and
then, on May 14th, 1909, Cody took the air and made a flight of
1,200 yards with entire success. Meanwhile A. V. Roe was
experimenting at Lea Marshes with a triplane of rather curious
design the pilot having his seat between two sets of three
superposed planes, of which the front planes could be tilted and
twisted while the machine was in motion. He comes but a little
way after Cody in the chronology of early British experimenters,
but Cody, a born inventor, must be regarded as the pioneer of
the present century so far as Britain is concerned. He was
neither engineer nor trained mathematician, but he was a good
rule-of-thumb mechanic and a man of pluck and perseverance; he
never strove to fly on an imperfect machine, but made alteration
after alteration in order to find out what was improvement and
what was not, in consequence of which it was said of him that he
was 'always satisfied with his alterations.'

By July of 1909 he had fitted an 80 horse-power motor to his
biplane, and with this he made a flight of over four miles over
Laffan's Plain on July 21st. By August he was carrying
passengers, the first being Colonel Capper of the R.E. Balloon
Section, who flew with Cody for over two miles, and on September
8th, 1909, he made a world's record cross-country flight of
over forty miles in sixty-six minutes, taking a course from
Laffan's Plain over Farnborough, Rushmoor, and Fleet, and back
to Laffan's Plain. He was one of the competitors in the 1909
Doncaster Aviation Meeting, and in 1910 he competed at
Wolverhampton, Bournemouth, and Lanark. It was on June 7th,
1910, that he qualified for his brevet, No. 9, on the Cody

He built a machine which embodied all the improvements for which
he had gained experience, in 1911, a biplane with a length of
35 feet and span of 43 feet, known as the 'Cody cathedral' on
account of its rather cumbrous appearance. With this, in 1911,
he won the two Michelin trophies presented in England, completed
the Daily Mail circuit of Britain, won the Michelin
cross-country prize in 1912 and altogether, by the end of 1912,
had covered more than 7,000 miles with the machine. It was
fitted with a 120 horse-power Austro-Daimler engine, and was
characterised by an exceptionally wide range of speed--the great
wingspread gave a slow landing speed.

A few of his records may be given: in 1910, flying at Laffan's
Plain in his biplane, fitted with a 50-60 horsepower Green
engine, on December 31st, he broke the records for distance and
time by flying 185 miles, 787 yards, in 4 hours 37 minutes. On
October 31st, 1911, he beat this record by flying for 5 hours 15
minutes, in which period he covered 261 miles 810 yards with a 60
horse-power Green engine fitted to his biplane. In 1912,
competing in the British War office tests of military
aeroplanes, he won the L5,000 offered by the War Office. This
was in competition with no less than twenty-five other machines,
among which were the since-famous Deperdussin, Bristol,
Flanders, and Avro types, as well as the Maurice Farman and
Bleriot makes of machine. Cody's remarkable speed range was
demonstrated in these trials, the speeds of his machine varying
between 72.4 and 48.5 miles per hour. The machine was the only
one delivered for the trials by air, and during the three hours'
test imposed on all competitors a maximum height of 5,000 feet
was reached, the first thousand feet being achieved in three and
a half minutes.

During the summer of 1913 Cody put his energies into the
production of a large hydro-biplane, with which he intended to
win the L5,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail to the first
aviator to fly round Britain on a waterplane. This machine was
fitted with landing gear for its tests, and, while flying it
over Laffan's Plain on August 7th, 1913, with Mr W. H. B. Evans
as passenger, Cody met with the accident that cost both
him and his passenger their lives. Aviation lost a great figure
by his death, for his plodding, experimenting, and dogged
courage not only won him the fame that came to a few of the
pilots of those days, but also advanced the cause of flying very
considerably and contributed not a little to the sum of
knowledge in regard to design and construction.

Another figure of the early days was A. V. Roe, who came from
marine engineering to the motor industry and aviation in 1905.
In 1906 he went out to Colorado, getting out drawings for the
Davidson helicopter, and in 1907 having returned to England, he
obtained highest award out of 200 entries in a model aeroplane
flying competition. From the design of this model he built a
full-sized machine, and made a first flight on it, fitted with a
24 horse-power Antoinette engine, in June of 1908 Later, he
fitted a 9 horsepower motor-cycle engine to a triplane of his
own design, and with this made a number of short flights; he got
his flying brevet on a triplane with a motor of 35 horse-power,
which, together with a second triplane, was entered for the
Blackpool aviation meeting of 1910 but was burnt in transport to
the meeting. He was responsible for the building of the first
seaplane to rise from English waters, and may be counted the
pioneer of the tractor type of biplane. In 1913 he built a
two-seater tractor biplane with 80 horse-power engine, a machine
which for some considerable time ranked as a leader of design.
Together with E. V. Roe and H. V. Roe, 'A. V.' controlled the
Avro works, which produced some of the most famous training
machines of the war period in a modification of the original 80
horse-power tractor. The first of the series of Avro tractors
to be adopted by the military authorities was the 1912 biplane, a
two-seater fitted with 50 horsepower engine. It was the first
tractor biplane with a closed fuselage to be used for military
work, and became standard for the type. The Avro seaplane, of I
100 horse-power (a fourteen-cylinder Gnome engine was used) was
taken up by the British Admiralty in 1913. It had a length of 34
feet and a wing-span of 50 feet, and was of the twin-float type.

Geoffrey de Havilland, though of later rank, counts high among
designers of British machines. He qualified for his brevet as
late as February, 1911, on a biplane of his own construction, and
became responsible for the design of the BE2, the first
successful British Government biplane. On this he made a British
height record of 10,500 feet over Salisbury Plain, in August of
1912, when he took up Major Sykes as passenger. In the war
period he was one of the principal designers of fighting and
reconnaissance machines.

F. Handley Page, who started in business as an aeroplane
builder in 1908, having works at Barking, was one of the
principal exponents of the inherently stable machine, to which
he devoted practically all his experimental work up to the
outbreak of war. The experiments were made with various
machines, both of monoplane and biplane type, and of these one
of the best was a two-seater monoplane built in 1911, while a
second was a larger machine, a biplane, built in 1913 and fitted
with a 110 horse-power Anzani engine. The war period brought out
the giant biplane with which the name of Handley Page is most
associated, the twin-engined night-bomber being a familiar
feature of the later days of the war; the four-engined bomber had
hardly had a chance of proving itself under service conditions
when the war came to an end.

Another notable figure of the early period was 'Tommy' Sopwith,
who took his flying brevet at Brooklands in November of 1910,
and within four days made the British duration record of 108
miles in 3 hours 12 minutes. On December 18th, 1910, he won the
Baron de Forrest prize of L4,000 for the longest flight from
England to the Continent, flying from Eastchurch to Tirlemont,
Belgium, in three hours, a distance of 161 miles. After two
years of touring in America, he returned to England and
established a flying school. In 1912 he won the first aerial
Derby, and in 1913 a machine of his design, a tractor biplane,
raised the British height record to 13,000 feet (June 16th, at
Brooklands). First as aviator, and then as designer, Sopwith has
done much useful work in aviation.

These are but a few, out of a host who contributed to the
development of flying in this country, for, although France may
be said to have set the pace as regards development, Britain was
not far behind. French experimenters received far more
Government aid than did the early British aviators and
designers--in the early days the two were practically
synonymous, and there are many stories of the very early days at
Brooklands, where, when funds ran low, the ardent spirits
patched their trousers with aeroplane fabric and went on with
their work with Bohemian cheeriness. Cody, altering and
experimenting on Laffan's Plain, is the greatest figure of them
all, but others rank, too, as giants of the early days, before
the war brought full recognition of the aeroplane's

one of the first men actually to fly in England, Mr J. C. T.
Moore-Brabazon, was a famous figure in the days of exhibition
flying, and won his reputation mainly through being first to fly
a circular mile on a machine designed and built in Great Britain
and piloted by a British subject. Moore-Brabazon's earliest
flights were made in France on a Voisin biplane in 1908, and he
brought this machine over to England, to the Aero Club grounds
at Shellness, but soon decided that he would pilot a British
machine instead. An order was placed for a Short machine, and
this, fitted with a 50-60 horse-power Green engine, was used for
the circular mile, which won a prize of L1,000 offered by the
Daily Mail, the feat being accomplished on October 30th, 1909.
Five days later, Moore-Brabazon achieved the longest flight up
to that time accomplished on a British-built machine, covering
three and a half miles. In connection with early flying in
England, it is claimed that A. V. Roe, flying 'Avro B,',' on
June 8th, 1908, was actually the first man to leave the ground,
this being at Brooklands, but in point of fact Cody antedated

No record of early British fliers could be made without the name
of C. S. Rolls, a son of Lord Llangattock, on June 2nd, 1910,
he flew across the English Channel to France, until he was duly
observed over French territory, when he returned to England
without alighting. The trip was made on a Wright biplane, and
was the third Channel crossing by air, Bleriot having made the
first, and Jacques de Lesseps the second. Rolls was first to
make the return journey in one trip. He was eventually killed
through the breaking of the tail-plane of his machine in
descending at a flying meeting at Bournemouth. The machine was
a Wright biplane, but the design of the tail-plane--which, by
the way, was an addition to the machine, and was not even
sanctioned by the Wrights--appears to have been carelessly
executed, and the plane itself was faulty in construction. The
breakage caused the machine to overturn, killing Rolls, who was
piloting it.


The foregoing brief--and necessarily incomplete--survey of the
early British group of fliers has taken us far beyond some of
the great events of the early days of successful flight, and it
is necessary to go back to certain landmarks in the history of
aviation, first of which is the great meeting at Rheims in 1909.
Wilbur Wright had come to Europe, and, flying at Le Mans and
Pau--it was on August 8th, 1908, that Wilbur Wright made the
first of his ascents in Europe--had stimulated public interest
in flying in France to a very great degree. Meanwhile, Orville
Wright, flying at Fort Meyer, U.S.A., with Lieutenant Selfridge
as a passenger, sustained an accident which very nearly cost him
his life through the transmission gear of the motor breaking.
Selfridge was killed and Orville Wright was severely injured--it
was the first fatal accident with a Wright machine.

Orville Wright made a flight of over an hour on September 9th,
1908, and on December 31st of that year Wilbur flew for 2 hours
19 minutes. Thus, when the Rheims meeting was organised--more
notable because it was the first of its kind, there were already
records waiting to be broken. The great week opened on August
22nd, there being thirty entrants, including all the most famous
men among the early fliers in France. Bleriot, fresh from his
Channel conquest, was there, together with Henry Farman,
Paulhan, Curtiss, Latham, and the Comte de Lambert, first pupil
of the Wright machine in Europe to achieve a reputation as an

'To say that this week marks an epoch in the history of the
world is to state a platitude. Nevertheless, it is worth
stating, and for us who are lucky enough to be at Rheims during
this week there is a solid satisfaction in the idea that we are
present at the making of history. In perhaps only a few years
to come the competitions of this week may look pathetically
small and the distances and speeds may appear paltry.
Nevertheless, they are the first of their kind, and that is

So wrote a newspaper correspondent who was present at the famous
meeting, and his words may stand, being more than mere
journalism; for the great flying week which opened on August
22nd, 1909, ranks as one of the great landmarks in the history
of heavier-than-air flight. The day before the opening of the
meeting a downpour of rain spoilt the flying ground; Sunday
opened with a fairly high wind, and in a lull M. Guffroy turned
out on a crimson R.E.P. monoplane, but the wheels of his
undercarriage stuck in the mud and prevented him from rising in
the quarter of an hour allowed to competitors to get off the
ground. Bleriot, following, succeeded in covering one side of
the triangular course, but then came down through grit in the
carburettor. Latham, following him with thirteen as the number
of his machine, experienced his usual bad luck and came to earth
through engine trouble after a very short flight. Captain
Ferber, who, owing to military regulations, always flew under
the name of De Rue, came out next with his Voisin biplane, but
failed to get off the ground; he was followed by Lefebvre on a
Wright biplane, who achieved the success of the morning by
rounding the course--a distance of six and a quarter miles--in
nine minutes with a twenty mile an hour wind blowing. His
flight finished the morning.

Wind and rain kept competitors out of the air until the evening,
when Latham went up, to be followed almost immediately by the
Comte de Lambert. Sommer, Cockburn (the only English
competitor), Delagrange, Fournier, Lefebvre, Bleriot,
Bunau-Varilla, Tissandier, Paulhan, and Ferber turned out after
the first two, and the excitement of the spectators at seeing so
many machines in the air at one time provoked wild cheering.
The only accident of the day came when Bleriot damaged his
propeller in colliding with a haycock.

The main results of the day were that the Comte de Lambert flew
30 kilometres in 29 minutes 2 seconds; Lefebvre made the
ten-kilometre circle of the track in just a second under 9
minutes, while Tissandier did it in 9 1/4 minutes, and Paulhan
reached a height of 230 feet. Small as these results seem to us
now, and ridiculous as may seem enthusiasm at the sight of a few
machines in the air at the same time, the Rheims Meeting remains
a great event, since it proved definitely to the whole world
that the conquest of the air had been achieved.

Throughout the week record after record was made and broken.
Thus on the Monday, Lefebvre put up a record for rounding the
course and Bleriot beat it, to be beaten in turn by Glenn
Curtiss on his Curtiss-Herring biplane. On that day, too,
Paulhan covered 34 3/4 miles in 1 hour 6 minutes. On the next
day, Paulhan on his Voisin biplane took the air with Latham, and
Fournier followed, only to smash up his machine by striking an
eddy of wind which turned him over several times. On the
Thursday, one of the chief events was Latham's 43 miles
accomplished in 1 hour 2 minutes in the morning and his 96.5
miles in 2 hours 13 minutes in the afternoon, the latter flight
only terminated by running out of petrol. On the Friday, the
Colonel Renard French airship, which had flown over the ground
under the pilotage of M. Kapfarer, paid Rheims a second visit;
Latham manoeuvred round the airship on his Antoinette and finally
left it far behind. Henry Farman won the Grand Prix de Champagne
on this day, covering 112 miles in 3 hours, 4 minutes, 56
seconds, Latham being second with his 96.5 miles flight, and
Paulhan third.

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