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A History of Aeronautics by E. Charles Vivian

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On the Saturday, Glenn Curtiss came to his own, winning the
Gordon-Bennett Cup by covering 20 kilometres in 15 minutes
50.6 seconds. Bleriot made a good second with 15 minutes 56.2
seconds as his time, and Latham and Lefebvre were third and
fourth. Farman carried off the passenger prize by carrying two
passengers a distance of 6 miles in 10 minutes 39 seconds. On
the last day Delagrange narrowly escaped serious accident
through the bursting of his propeller while in the air, Curtiss
made a new speed record by travelling at the rate of over 50
miles an hour, and Latham, rising to 500 feet, won the altitude

These are the cold statistics of the meeting; at this length of
time it is difficult to convey any idea of the enthusiasm of the
crowds over the achievements of the various competitors, while
the incidents of the week, comic and otherwise, are nearly
forgotten now even by those present in this making of history.
Latham's great flight on the Thursday was rendered a breathless
episode by a downpour of rain when he had covered all but a
kilometre of the record distance previously achieved by Paulhan,
and there was wild enthusiasm when Latham flew on through the
rain until he had put up a new record and his petrol had run
out. Again, on the Friday afternoon, the Colonel Renard took
the air together with a little French dirigible, Zodiac III;
Latham was already in the air directly over Farman, who was also
flying, and three crows which turned out as rivals to the human
aviators received as much cheering for their appearance as had
been accorded to the machines, which doubtless they could not
understand. Frightened by the cheering, the crows tried to
escape from the course, but as they came near the stands, the
crowd rose to cheer again and the crows wheeled away to make a
second charge towards safety, with the same result; the crowd
rose and cheered at them a third and fourth time; between ten
and fifteen thousand people stood on chairs and tables and waved
hats and handkerchiefs at three ordinary, everyday crows. One
thoughtful spectator, having thoroughly enjoyed the funny side
of the incident, remarked that the ultimate mastery of the air
lies with the machine that comes nearest to natural flight.
This still remains for the future to settle.

Farman's world record, which won the Grand Prix de Champagne,
was done with a Gnome Rotary Motor which had only been run on
the test bench and was fitted to his machine four hours before
he started on the great flight. His propeller had never been
tested, having only been completed the night before. The
closing laps of that flight, extending as they did into the
growing of the dusk, made a breathlessly eerie experience for
such of the spectators as stayed on to watch--and these were
many. Night came on steadily and Farman covered lap after lap
just as steadily, a buzzing, circling mechanism with something
relentless in its isolated persistency.

The final day of the meeting provided a further record in the
quarter million spectators who turned up to witness the close of
the great week. Bleriot, turning out in the morning, made a
landing in some such fashion as flooded the carburettor and
caused it to catch fire. Bleriot himself was badly burned,
since the petrol tank burst and, in the end, only the metal
parts of the machine were left. Glenn Curtis tried to beat
Bleriot's time for a lap of the course, but failed. In the
evening, Farman and Latham went out and up in great circles,
Farman cleaving his way upward in what at the time counted for a
huge machine, on circles of about a mile diameter. His first
round took him level with the top of the stands, and, in his
second, he circled the captive balloon anchored in the middle of
the grounds. After another circle, he came down on a long glide,
when Latham's lean Antoinette monoplane went up in circles more
graceful than those of Farman. 'Swiftly it rose and swept round
close to the balloon, veered round to the hangars, and out over
to the Rheims road. Back it came high over the stands, the
people craning their necks as the shrill cry of the engine drew
nearer and nearer behind the stands. Then of a sudden, the
little form appeared away up in the deep twilight blue vault of
the sky, heading straight as an arrow for the anchored balloon.
Over it, and high, high above it went the Antoinette, seemingly
higher by many feet than the Farman machine. Then, wheeling in
a long sweep to the left, Latham steered his machine round past
the stands, where the people, their nerve-tension released on
seeing the machine descending from its perilous height of 500
feet, shouted their frenzied acclamations to the hero of the

'For certainly "Le Tham," as the French call him, was the
popular hero. He always flew high, he always flew well, and his
machine was a joy to the eye, either afar off or at close
quarters. The public feeling for Bleriot is different.
Bleriot, in the popular estimation, is the man who fights
against odds, who meets the adverse fates calmly and with good
courage, and to whom good luck comes once in a while as a reward
for much labour and anguish, bodily and mental. Latham is the
darling of the Gods, to whom Fate has only been unkind in the
matter of the Channel flight, and only then because the honour
belonged to Bleriot.

'Next to these two, the public loved most Lefebvre, the joyous,
the gymnastic. Lefebvre was the comedian of the meeting. When
things began to flag, the gay little Lefebvre would trot out to
his starting rail, out at the back of the judge's enclosure
opposite the stands, and after a little twisting of propellers
his Wright machine would bounce off the end of its starting rail
and proceed to do the most marvellous tricks for the benefit of
the crowd, wheeling to right and left, darting up and down, now
flying over a troop of the cavalry who kept the plain clear of
people and sending their horses into hysterics, anon making
straight for an unfortunate photographer who would throw himself
and his precious camera flat on the ground to escape
annihilation as Lefebvre swept over him 6 or 7 feet off the
ground. Lefebvre was great fun, and when he had once found that
his machine was not fast enough to compete for speed with the
Bleriots, Antoinettes, and Curtiss, he kept to his metier of
amusing people. The promoters of the meeting owe Lefebvre a
debt of gratitude, for he provided just the necessary comic
relief.'--(The Aero, September 7th, 1909.)

It may be noted, in connection with the fact that Cockburn was
the only English competitor at the meeting, that the Rheims
Meeting did more than anything which had preceded it to waken
British interest in aviation. Previously, heavier-than-air
flight in England had been regarded as a freak business by the
great majority, and the very few pioneers who persevered toward
winning England a share in the conquest of the air came in for
as much derision as acclamation. Rheims altered this; it taught
the world in general, and England in particular, that a serious
rival to the dirigible balloon had come to being, and it
awakened the thinking portion of the British public to the fact
that the aeroplane had a future.

The success of this great meeting brought about a host of
imitations of which only a few deserve bare mention since,
unlike the first, they taught nothing and achieved little.
There was the meeting at Boulogne late in September of 1909, of
which the only noteworthy event was Ferber's death. There was a
meeting at Brescia where Curtiss again took first prize for
speed and Rougier put up a world's height record of 645 feet.
The Blackpool meeting followed between 18th and 23rd of
October, 1909, forming, with the exception of Doncaster, the
first British Flying Meeting. Chief among the competitors were
Henry Farman, who took the distance prize, Rougier, Paulhan, and
Latham, who, by a flight in a high wind, convinced the British
public that the theory that flying was only possible in a calm
was a fallacy. A meeting at Doncaster was practically
simultaneous with the Blackpool week; Delagrange, Le Blon,
Sommer, and Cody were the principal figures in this event. It
should be added that 130 miles was recorded as the total flown
at Doncaster, while at Blackpool only 115 miles were flown.
Then there were Juvisy, the first Parisian meeting,
Wolverhampton, and the Comte de Lambert's flight round the
Eiffel Tower at a height estimated at between 1,200 and 1,300
feet. This may be included in the record of these aerial
theatricals, since it was nothing more.

Probably wakened to realisation of the possibilities of the
aeroplane by the Rheims Meeting, Germany turned out its first
plane late in 1909. It was known as the Grade monoplane, and
was a blend of the Bleriot and Santos-Dumont machines, with a
tail suggestive of the Antoinette type. The main frame took the
form of a single steel tube, at the forward end of which was
rigged a triangular arrangement carrying the pilot's seat and
the landing wheels underneath, with the wing warping wires and
stays above. The sweep of the wings was rather similar to the
later Taube design, though the sweep back was not so pronounced,
and the machine was driven by a four-cylinder, 20 horse-power,
air-cooled engine which drove a two-bladed tractor propeller.
In spite of Lilienthal's pioneer work years before, this was the
first power-driven German plane which actually flew.

Eleven months after the Rheims meeting came what may be reckoned
the only really notable aviation meeting on English soil, in the
form of the Bournemouth week, July 10th to 16th, 1910. This
gathering is noteworthy mainly in view of the amazing advance
which it registered on the Rheims performances. Thus, in the
matter of altitude, Morane reached 4,107 feet and Drexel came
second with 2,490 feet. Audemars on a Demoiselle monoplane made
a flight of 17 miles 1,480 yards in 27 minutes 17.2 seconds, a
great flight for the little Demoiselle. Morane achieved a speed
of 56.64 miles per hour, and Grahame White climbed to 1,000 feet
altitude in 6 minutes 36.8 seconds. Machines carrying the Gnome
engine as power unit took the great bulk of the prizes, and
British-built engines were far behind.

The Bournemouth Meeting will always be remembered with regret
for the tragedy of C. S. Rolls's death, which took place on
the Tuesday, the second day of the meeting. The first
competition of the day was that for the landing prize; Grahame
White, Audemars, and Captain Dickson had landed with varying
luck, and Rolls, following on a Wright machine with a tail-plane
which ought never to have been fitted and was not part of the
Wright design, came down wind after a left-hand turn and turned
left again over the top of the stands in order to land up wind.
He began to dive when just clear of the stands, and had dropped
to a height of 40 feet when he came over the heads of the people
against the barriers. Finding his descent too steep, he pulled
back his elevator lever to bring the nose of the machine up,
tipping down the front end of the tail to present an almost flat
surface to the wind. Had all gone well, the nose of the machine
would have been forced up, but the strain on the tail and its
four light supports was too great; the tail collapsed, the wind
pressed down the biplane elevator, and the machine dived
vertically for the remaining 20 feet of the descent, hitting the
ground vertically and crumpling up. Major Kennedy, first to
reach the debris, found Rolls lying with his head doubled under
him on the overturned upper main plane; the lower plane had been
flung some few feet away with the engine and tanks under it.
Rolls was instantaneously killed by concussion of the brain.

Antithesis to the tragedy was Audemars on his Demoiselle, which
was named 'The Infuriated Grasshopper.' Concerning this, it was
recorded at the time that 'Nothing so excruciatingly funny as
the action of this machine has ever been seen at any aviation
ground. The little two-cylinder engine pops away with a sound
like the frantic drawing of ginger beer corks; the machine
scutters along the ground with its tail well up; then down comes
the tail suddenly and seems to slap the ground while the front
jumps up, and all the spectators rock with laughter. The whole
attitude and the jerky action of the machine suggest a
grasshopper in a furious rage, and the impression is intensified
when it comes down, as it did twice on Wednesday, in long grass,
burying its head in the ground in its temper.'--(The Aero, July,

The Lanark Meeting followed in August of the same year, and with
the bare mention of this, the subject of flying meetings may he
left alone, since they became mere matters of show until there
came military competitions such as the Berlin Meeting at the end
of August, 1910, and the British War office Trials on Salisbury
Plain, when Cody won his greatest triumphs. The Berlin meeting
proved that, from the time of the construction of the first
successful German machine mentioned above, to the date of the
meeting, a good number of German aviators had qualified for
flight, but principally on Wright and Antoinette machines, though
by that time the Aviatik and Dorner German makes had taken the
air. The British War office Trials deserve separate and longer

In 1910 in spite of official discouragement, Captain Dickson
proved the value of the aeroplane for scouting purposes by
observing movements of troops during the Military Manoeuvres on
Salisbury Plain. Lieut. Lancelot Gibbs and Robert Loraine,
the actor-aviator, also made flights over the manoeuvre area,
locating troops and in a way anticipating the formation and work
of the Royal Flying Corps by a usefulness which could not be
officially recognised.


It may be said that Louis Bleriot was responsible for the second
great landmark in the history of successful flight. The day when
the brothers Wright succeeded in accomplishing power-driven
flight ranks as the first of these landmarks. Ader may or may
not have left the ground, but the wreckage of his 'Avion' at the
end of his experiment places his doubtful success in a different
category from that of the brothers Wright and leaves them the
first definite conquerors, just as Bleriot ranks as first
definite conqueror of the English Channel by air.

In a way, Louis Bleriot ranks before Farman in point of time;
his first flapping-wing model was built as early as 1900, and
Voisin flew a biplane glider of his on the Seine in the very
early experimental days. Bleriot's first four machines were
biplanes, and his fifth, a monoplane, was wrecked almost
immediately after its construction. Bleriot had studied
Langley's work to a certain extent, and his sixth construction
was a double monoplane based on the Langley principle. A month
after he had wrecked this without damaging himself-- for Bleriot
had as many miraculous escapes as any of the other fliers-he
brought out number seven, a fairly average monoplane. It was in
December of 1907 after a series of flights that he wrecked this
machine, and on its successor, in July of 1908, he made a
flight of over 8 minutes. Sundry flights, more or less
successful, including the first cross-country flight from Toury
to Artenay, kept him busy up to the beginning of November, 1908,
when the wreckage in a fog of the machine he was flying sent him
to the building of 'number eleven,' the famous cross-channel

Number eleven was shown at the French Aero Show in the Grand
Palais and was given its first trials on the 18th January, 1909.
It was first fitted with a R.E.P. motor and had a lifting area
of 120 square feet, which was later increased to 150 square
feet. The framework was of oak and poplar spliced and
reinforced with piano wire; the weight of the machine was 47
lbs. and the undercarriage weight a further 60 lbs., this
consisting of rubber cord shock absorbers mounted on two wheels.
The R.E.P. motor was found unsatisfactory, and a three-cylinder
Anzani of 105 mm. bore and 120 mm. stroke replaced it. An
accident seriously damaged the machine on June 2nd, but Bleriot
repaired it and tested it at Issy, where between June 19th and
June 23rd he accomplished flights of 8, 12, 15, 16, and 36
minutes. On July 4th he made a 50-minute flight and on the 13th
flew from Etampes to Chevilly.

A few further details of construction may be given: the wings
themselves and an elevator at the tail controlled the rate of
ascent and descent, while a rudder was also fitted at the tail.
The steering lever, working on a universally jointed
shaft--forerunner of the modern joystick--controlled both the
rudder and the wings, while a pedal actuated the elevator. The
engine drove a two-bladed tractor screw of 6 feet 7 inches
diameter, and the angle of incidence of the wings was 20
degrees. Timed at Issy, the speed of the machine was given as 36
miles an hour, and as Bleriot accomplished the Channel flight of
20 miles in 37 minutes, he probably had a slight following wind.

The Daily Mail had offered a prize of L1,000 for the first
Cross-Channel flight, and Hubert Latham set his mind on winning
it. He put up a shelter on the French coast at Sangatte,
half-way between Calais and Cape Blanc Nez. From here he made
his first attempt to fly to England on Monday the 19th of July.
He soared to a fair height, circling, and reached an estimated
height of about 900 feet as he came over the water with every
appearance of capturing the Cross-Channel prize. The luck which
dogged his career throughout was against him, for, after he had
covered some 8 miles, his engine stopped and he came down to the
water in a series of long glides. It was discovered afterward
that a small piece of wire had worked its way into a vital part
of the engine to rob Latham of the honour he coveted. The tug
that came to his rescue found him seated on the fuselage of his
Antoinette, smoking a cigarette and waiting for a boat to take
him to the tug. It may be remarked that Latham merely assumed
his Antoinette would float in case he failed to make the English
coast; he had no actual proof.

Bleriot immediately entered his machine for the prize and took
up his quarters at Barraques. On Sunday, July 25th, 1909,
shortly after 4 a.m., Bleriot had his machine taken out from its
shelter and prepared for flight. He had been recently injured
in a petrol explosion and hobbled out on crutches to make his
cross-Channel attempt; he made two great circles in the air to
try the machine, and then alighted. 'In ten minutes I start
for England,' he declared, and at 4.35 the motor was started up.
After a run of 100 yards, the machine rose in the air and got a
height of about 100 feet over the land, then wheeling sharply
seaward and heading for Dover.

Bleriot had no means of telling direction, and any change of
wind might have driven him out over the North Sea, to be lost,
as were Cecil Grace and Hamel later on. Luck was with him,
however, and at 5.12 a.m. of that July Sunday, he made his
landing in the North Fall meadow, just behind Dover Castle.
Twenty minutes out from the French coast, he lost sight of the
destroyer which was patrolling the Channel, and at the same time
he was out of sight of land without compass or any other means
of ascertaining his direction. Sighting the English coast, he
found that he had gone too far to the east, for the wind
increased in strength throughout the flight, this to such an
extent as almost to turn the machine round when he came over
English soil. Profiting by Latham's experience, Bleriot had
fitted an inflated rubber cylinder a foot in diameter by 5 feet
in length along the middle of his fuselage, to render floating a
certainty in case he had to alight on the water.

Latham in his camp at Sangatte had been allowed to sleep through
the calm of the early morning through a mistake on the part of a
friend, and when his machine was turned out--in order that he
might emulate Bleriot, although he no longer hoped to make the
first flight, it took so long to get the machine ready and
dragged up to its starting-point that there was a 25 mile an
hour wind by the time everything was in readiness. Latham was
anxious to make the start in spite of the wind, but the
Directors of the Antoinette Company refused permission. It was
not until two days later that the weather again became
favourable, and then with a fresh machine, since the one on
which he made his first attempt had been very badly damaged in
being towed ashore, he made a circular trial flight of about 5
miles. In landing from this, a side gust of wind drove the nose
of the machine against a small hillock, damaging both propeller
blades and chassis, and it was not until evening that the damage
was repaired.

French torpedo boats were set to mark the route, and Latham set
out on his second attempt at six o'clock. Flying at a height of
200 feet, he headed over the torpedo boats for Dover and seemed
certain of making the English coast, but a mile and a half out
from Dover his engine failed him again, and he dropped to the
water to be picked up by the steam pinnace of an English warship
and put aboard the French destroyer Escopette.

There is little to choose between the two aviators for courage
in attempting what would have been considered a foolhardy feat a
year or two before. Bleriot's state, with an abscess in the
burnt foot which had to control the elevator of his machine,
renders his success all the more remarkable. His machine was
exhibited in London for a time, and was afterwards placed in the
Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, while a memorial in stone,
copying his monoplane in form, was let into the turf at the
point where he landed.

The second Channel crossing was not made until 1910, a year of
new records. The altitude record had been lifted to over 10,000
feet, the duration record to 8 hours 12 minutes, and the
distance for a single flight to 365 miles, while a speed of over
65 miles an hour had been achieved, when Jacques de Lesseps, son
of the famous engineer of Suez Canal and Panama fame, crossed
from France to England on a Bleriot monoplane. By this time
flying had dropped so far from the marvellous that this second
conquest of the Channel aroused but slight public interest in
comparison with Bleriot's feat.

The total weight of Bleriot's machine in Cross Channel trim was
660 lbs., including the pilot and sufficient petrol for a three
hours' run; at a speed of 37 miles an hour, it was capable of
carrying about 5 lbs. per square foot of lifting surface. It
was the three-cylinder 25 horse-power Anzani motor which drove
the machine for the flight. Shortly after the flight had been
accomplished, it was announced that the Bleriot firm would
construct similar machines for sale at L400 apiece--a good
commentary on the prices of those days.

On June the 2nd, 1910, the third Channel crossing was made by C.
S. Rolls, who flew from Dover, got himself officially observed
over French soil at Barraques, and then flew back without
landing. He was the first to cross from the British side of the
Channel and also was the first aviator who made the double
journey. By that time, however, distance flights had so far
increased as to reduce the value of the feat, and thenceforth
the Channel crossing was no exceptional matter. The honour,
second only to that of the Wright Brothers, remains with Bleriot.


The last of the great contests to arouse public enthusiasm was
the London to Manchester Flight of 1910. As far back as 1906,
the Daily Mail had offered a prize of L10,000 to the first
aviator who should accomplish this journey, and, for a long time,
the offer was regarded as a perfectly safe one for any person or
paper to make--it brought forth far more ridicule than belief.
Punch offered a similar sum to the first man who should swim the
Atlantic and also for the first flight to Mars and back within a
week, but in the spring of 1910 Claude Grahame White and Paulhan,
the famous French pilot, entered for the 183 mile run on which
the prize depended. Both these competitors flew the Farman
biplane with the 50 horse-power Gnome motor as propulsive power.
Grahame White surveyed the ground along the route, and the L. &
N. W. Railway Company, at his request, whitewashed the sleepers
for 100 yards on the north side of all junctions to give him his
direction on the course. The machine was run out on to the
starting ground at Park Royal and set going at 5.19 a.m. on April
23rd. After a run of 100 yards, the machine went up over
Wormwood Scrubs on its journey to Normandy, near Hillmorten,
which was the first arranged stopping place en route; Grahame
White landed here in good trim at 7.20 a.m., having covered 75
miles and made a world's record cross country flight. At 8.15 he
set off again to come down at Whittington, four miles short of
Lichfield, at about 9.20, with his machine in good order except
for a cracked landing skid. Twice, on this second stage of the
journey, he had been caught by gusts of wind which turned the
machine fully round toward London, and, when over a wood near
Tamworth, the engine stopped through a defect in the balance
springs of two exhaust valves; although it started up again
after a 100 foot glide, it did not give enough power to give him
safety in the gale he was facing. The rising wind kept him on
the ground throughout the day, and, though he hoped for better
weather, the gale kept up until the Sunday evening. The men in
charge of the machine during its halt had attempted to hold the
machine down instead of anchoring it with stakes and ropes, and,
in consequence of this, the wind blew the machine over on its
back, breaking the upper planes and the tail. Grahame White had
to return to London, while the damaged machine was prepared for
a second flight. The conditions of the competition enacted that
the full journey should be completed within 24 hours, which made
return to the starting ground inevitable.

Louis Paulhan, who had just arrived with his Farman machine,
immediately got it unpacked and put together in order to be
ready to make his attempt for the prize as soon as the weather
conditions should admit. At 5.31 p.m., on April 27th, he went
up from Hendon and had travelled 50 miles when Grahame White,
informed of his rival's start, set out to overtake him. Before
nightfall Paulhan landed at Lichfield, 117 miles from London,
while Grahame White had to come down at Roden, only 60 miles out.
The English aviator's chance was not so small as it seemed, for,
as Latham had found in his cross-Channel attempts, engine failure
was more the rule than the exception, and a very little thing
might reverse the relative positions.

A special train accompanied Paulhan along the North-Western
route, conveying Madame Paulhan, Henry Farman, and the mechanics
who fitted the Farman biplane together. Paulhan himself, who
had flown at a height of 1,000 feet, spent the night at
Lichfield, starting again at 4.9 a.m. On the 28th, passing
Stafford at 4.45, Crewe at 5.20, and landing at Burnage, near
Didsbury, at 5.32, having had a clean run.

Meanwhile, Grahame White had made a most heroic attempt to beat
his rival. An hour before dawn on the 28th, he went to the
small field in which his machine had landed, and in the darkness
managed to make an ascent from ground which made starting
difficult even in daylight. Purely by instinct and his
recollection of the aspect of things the night before, he had to
clear telegraph wires and a railway bridge, neither of which he
could possibly see at that hour. His engine, too, was
faltering, and it was obvious to those who witnessed his start
that its note was far from perfect.

At 3.50 he was over Nuneaton and making good progress; between
Atherstone and Lichfield the wind caught him and the engine
failed more and more, until at 4.13 in the morning he was forced
to come to earth, having covered 6 miles less distance than in
his first attempt. It was purely a case of engine failure, for,
with full power, he would have passed over Paulhan just as the
latter was preparing for the restart. Taking into consideration
the two machines, there is little doubt that Grahame White
showed the greater flying skill, although he lost the prize.
After landing and hearing of Paulhan's victory, on which he
wired congratulations, he made up his mind to fly to Manchester
within the 24 hours. He started at 5 o'clock in the afternoon
from Polesworth, his landing place, but was forced to land at
5.30 at Whittington, where he had landed on the previous
Saturday. The wind, which had forced his descent, fell again
and permitted of starting once more; on this third stage he
reached Lichfield, only to make his final landing at 7.15 p.m.,
near the Trent Valley station. The defective running of the
Gnome engine prevented his completing the course, and his Farman
machine had to be brought back to London by rail.

The presentation of the prize to Paulhan was made the occasion
for the announcement of a further competition, consisting of a
1,000 mile flight round a part of Great Britain. In this,
nineteen competitors started, and only four finished; the end of
the race was a great fight between Beaumont and Vedrines, both
of whom scorned weather conditions in their determination to
win. Beaumont made the distance in a flying time of 22 hours 28
minutes 19 seconds, and Vedrines covered the journey in a little
over 23 1/2 hours. Valentine came third on a Deperdussin
monoplane and S. F. Cody on his Cathedral biplane was fourth.
This was in 1911, and by that time heavier-than-air flight had
so far advanced that some pilots had had war experience in the
Italian campaign in Tripoli, while long cross-country flights
were an everyday event, and bad weather no longer counted.


There is so much overlapping in the crowded story of the first
years of successful power-driven flight that at this point it is
advisable to make a concise chronological survey of the chief
events of the period of early development, although much of this
is of necessity recapitulation. The story begins, of course,
with Orville Wright's first flight of 852 feet at Kitty Hawk on
December 19th, 1903. The next event of note was Wright's flight
of 11.12 miles in 18 minutes 9 seconds at Dayton, Ohio, on
September 26th, 1905, this being the first officially recorded
flight. On October 4th of the same year, Wright flew 20.75 miles
in 33 minutes 17 seconds, this being the first flight of over 20
miles ever made. Then on September 14th 1906, Alberto
Santos-Dumont made a flight of eight seconds on the second
heavier-than-air machine he had constructed. It was a big
box-kite-like machine; this was the second power-driven aeroplane
in Europe to fly, for although Santos-Dumont's first machine
produced in 1905 was reckoned an unsuccessful design, it had
actually got off the ground for brief periods. Louis Bleriot
came into the ring on April 5th, 1907, with a first flight of 6
seconds on a Bleriot monoplane, his eighth but first successful

Henry Farman made his first appearance in the history of aviation
with a flight of 935 feet on a Voisin biplane on October 15th
1907. On October 25th, in a flight of 2,530 feet, he made the
first recorded turn in the air, and on March 29th, 1908, carrying
Leon Delagrange on a Voisin biplane, he made the first passenger
flight. On April 10th of this year, Delagrange, in flying 1 1/2
miles, made the first flight in Europe exceeding a mile in
distance. He improved on this by flying 10 1/2 miles at Milan on
June 22nd, while on July 8th, at Turin, he took up Madame
Peltier, the first woman to make an aeroplane flight.

Wilbur Wright, coming over to Europe, made his first appearance
on the Continent with a flight of 1 3/4 minutes at Hunaudieres,
France, on August 8th, 1908. On September 6th, at Chalons, he
flew for 1 hour 4 minutes 26 seconds with a passenger, this
being the first flight in which an hour in the air was exceeded
with a passenger on board.

on September 12th 1908, Orville Wright, flying at Fort Meyer,
U.S.A., with Lieut. Selfridge as passenger, crashed his
machine, suffering severe injuries, while Selfridge was killed.
This was the first aeroplane fatality. On October 30th, 1908,
Farman made the first cross-country flight, covering the
distance of 17 miles between Bouy and Rheims. The next day,
Louis Bleriot, in flying from Toury to Artenay, made two
landings en route, this being the first cross-country flight
with landings. On the last day of the year, Wilbur Wright won
the Michelin Cup at Auvours with a flight of 90 miles, which,
lasting 2 hours 20 minutes 23 seconds, exceeded 2 hours in the
air for the first time.

On January 2nd, 1909, S. F. Cody opened the New Year by making
the first observed flight at Farnborough on a British Army
aeroplane. It was not until July 18th of 1909 that the first
European height record deserving of mention was put up by
Paulhan, who achieved a height of 450 feet on a Voisin
biplane. This preceded Latham's first attempt to fly the
Channel by two days, and five days later, on the 25th of the
month, Bleriot made the first Channel crossing. The Rheims
Meeting followed on August 22nd, and it was a great day for
aviation when nine machines were seen in the air at once. It
was here that Farman, with a 118 mile flight, first exceeded
the hundred miles, and Latham raised the height record
officially to 500 feet, though actually he claimed to have
reached 1,200 feet. On September 8th, Cody, flying from
Aldershot, made a 40 mile journey, setting up a new
cross-country record. On October 19th the Comte de Lambert
flew from Juvisy to Paris, rounded the Eiffel Tower and flew
back. J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon made the first circular mile
flight by a British aviator on an all-British machine in Great
Britain, on October 30th, flying a Short biplane with a Green
engine. Paulhan, flying at Brooklands on November 2nd,
accomplished 96 miles in 2 hours 48 minutes, creating a British
distance record; on the following day, Henry Farman made a
flight of 150 miles in 4 hours 22 minutes at Mourmelon, and on
the 5th of the month, Paulhan, flying a Farman biplane, made a
world's height record of 977 feet. This, however, was not to
stand long, for Latham got up to 1,560 feet on an Antoinette at
Mourmelon on December 1st. December 31st witnessed the first
flight in Ireland, made by H. Ferguson on a monoplane which he
himself had constructed at Downshire Park, Lisburn.

These, thus briefly summarised, are the principal events up to
the end of 1909. 1910 opened with tragedy, for on January 4th
Leon Delagrange, one of the greatest pilots of his time, was
killed while flying at Pau. The machine was the Bleriot XI which
Delagrange had used at the Doncaster meeting, and to which
Delagrange had fitted a 50 horse-power Gnome engine, increasing
the speed of the machine from its original 30 to 45 miles per
hour. With the Rotary Gnome engine there was of necessity a
certain gyroscopic effect, the strain of which proved too much
for the machine. Delagrange had come to assist in the
inauguration of the Croix d'Hins aerodrome, and had twice lapped
the course at a height of about 60 feet. At the beginning of
the third lap, the strain of the Gnome engine became too great
for the machine; one wing collapsed as if the stay wires had
broken, and the whole machine turned over and fell, killing

On January 7th Latham, flying at Mourmelon, first made the
vertical kilometre and dedicated the record to Delagrange, this
being the day of his friend's funeral. The record was
thoroughly authenticated by a large registering barometer which
Latham carried, certified by the officials of the French Aero
Club. Three days later Paulhan, who was at Los Angeles,
California, raised the height record to 4,146 feet.

On January 25th the Brussels Exhibition opened, when the
Antoinette monoplane, the Gaffaux and Hanriot monoplanes,
together with the d'Hespel aeroplane, were shown; there were
also the dirigible Belgica and a number of interesting aero
engines, including a German airship engine and a four-cylinder
50 horse-power Miesse, this last air-cooled by means of 22
fans driving a current of air through air jackets surrounding
fluted cylinders.

On April 2nd Hubert Le Blon, flying a Bleriot with an Anzani
engine, was killed while flying over the water. His machine was
flying quite steadily, when it suddenly heeled over and came
down sideways into the sea; the motor continued running for some
seconds and the whole machine was drawn under water. When boats
reached the spot, Le Blon was found lying back in the driving
seat floating just below the surface. He had done good flying
at Doncaster, and at Heliopolis had broken the world's speed
records for 5 and 10 kilometres. The accident was attributed
to fracture of one of the wing stay wires when running into a
gust of wind.

The next notable event was Paulhan's London-Manchester flight,
of which full details have already been given. In May Captain
Bertram Dickson, flying at the Tours meeting, beat all the
Continental fliers whom he encountered, including Chavez, the
Peruvian, who later made the first crossing of the Alps.
Dickson was the first British winner of international aviation

C. S. Rolls, of whom full details have already been given, was
killed at Bournemouth on July 12th, being the first British
aviator of note to be killed in an aeroplane accident. His
return trip across the Channel had taken place on June 2nd.
Chavez, who was rapidly leaping into fame, as a pilot, raised
the British height record to 5,750 feet while flying at
Blackpool on August 3rd. On the 11th of that month, Armstrong
Drexel, flying a Bleriot, made a world's height record of 6,745

It was in 1910 that the British War office first began fully to
realise that there might be military possibilities in
heavier-than-air flying. C. S. Rolls had placed a Wright
biplane at the disposal of the military authorities, and Cody,
as already recorded, had been experimenting with a biplane type
of his own for some long period. Such development as was
achieved was mainly due to the enterprise and energy of Colonel
J. E. Capper, C.B., appointed to the superintendency of the
Balloon Factory and Balloon School at Farnborough in 1906.
Colonel Capper's retirement in 1910 brought (then) Mr Mervyn
O'Gorman to command, and by that time the series of successes of
the Cody biplane, together with the proved efficiency of the
aeroplane in various civilian meetings, had convinced the
British military authorities that the mastery of the air did not
lie altogether with dirigible airships, and it may be said that
in 1910 the British War office first began seriously to consider
the possibilities of the aeroplane, though two years more were
to elapse before the formation of the Royal Flying Corps marked
full realisation of its value.

A triumph and a tragedy were combined in September of 1910. On
the 23rd of the month, Georges Chavez set out to fly across the
Alps on a Bleriot monoplane. Prizes had been offered by the
Milan Aviation Committee for a flight from Brigue in Switzerland
over the Simplon Pass to Milan, a distance of 94 miles with a
minimum height of 6,600 feet above sea level. Chavez started at
1.30 p.m. On the 23rd, and 41 minutes later he reached
Domodossola, 25 miles distant. Here he descended, numbed with
the cold of the journey; it was said that the wings of his
machine collapsed when about 30 feet from the ground, but
however this may have been, he smashed the machine on landing,
and broke both legs, in addition to sustaining other serious
injuries. He lay in hospital until the 27th September, when he
died, having given his life to the conquest of the Alps. His
death in the moment of success was as great a tragedy as were
those of Pilcher and Lilienthal.

The day after Chavez's death, Maurice Tabuteau flew across the
Pyrenees, landing in the square at Biarritz. On December 30th,
Tabuteau made a flight of 365 miles in 7 hours 48 minutes.
Farman, on December 18th, had flown for over 8 hours, but his
total distance was only 282 miles. The autumn of this year was
also noteworthy for the fact that aeroplanes were first
successfully used in the French Military Manoeuvres. The
British War Office, by the end of the year, had bought two
machines, a military type Farman and a Paulhan, ignoring British
experimenters and aeroplane builders of proved reliability.
These machines, added to an old Bleriot two-seater, appear to
have constituted the British aeroplane fleet of the period.

There were by this time three main centres of aviation in
England, apart from Cody, alone on Laffan's Plain. These three
were Brooklands, Hendon, and the Isle of Sheppey, and of the
three Brooklands was chief. Here such men as Graham Gilmour,
Rippen, Leake, Wickham, and Thomas persistently experimented.
Hendon had its own little group, and Shellbeach, Isle of
Sheppey, held such giants of those days as C. S. Rolls and
Moore Brabazon, together with Cecil Grace and Rawlinson. One or
other, and sometimes all of these were deserted on the occasion
of some meeting or other, but they were the points where the
spade work was done, Brooklands taking chief place. 'If you want
the early history of flying in England, it is there,' one of the
early school remarked, pointing over toward Brooklands course.

1911 inaugurated a new series of records of varying character.
On the 17th January, E. B. Ely, an American, flew from the shore
of San Francisco to the U.S. cruiser Pennsylvania, landing on the
cruiser, and then flew back to the shore. The British military
designing of aeroplanes had been taken up at Farnborough by G. H.
de Havilland, who by the end of January was flying a machine of
his own design, when he narrowly escaped becoming a casualty
through collision with an obstacle on the ground, which swept the
undercarriage from his machine.

A list of certified pilots of the countries of the world was
issued early in 1911, showing certificates granted up to the
end of 1910. France led the way easily with 353 pilots; England
came next with 57, and Germany next with 46; Italy owned 32,
Belgium 27, America 26, and Austria 19; Holland and Switzerland
had 6 aviators apiece, while Denmark followed with 3, Spain with
2, and Sweden with 1. The first certificate in England was that
of J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon, while Louis Bleriot was first on
the French list and Glenn Curtiss, first holder of an American
certificate, also held the second French brevet.

On the 7th March, Eugene Renaux won the Michelin Grand Prize by
flying from the French Aero Club ground at St Cloud and landing
on the Puy de Dome. The landing, which was one of the
conditions of the prize, was one of the most dangerous
conditions ever attached to a competition; it involved dropping
on to a little plateau 150 yards square, with a possibility of
either smashing the machine against the face of the mountain, or
diving over the edge of the plateau into the gulf beneath. The
length of the journey was slightly over 200 miles and the height
of the landing point 1,465 metres, or roughly 4,500 feet above
sea-level. Renaux carried a passenger, Doctor Senoucque, a
member of Charcot's South Polar Expedition.

The 1911 Aero Exhibition held at Olympia bore witness to the
enormous strides made in construction, more especially by
British designers, between 1908 and the opening of the Show.
The Bristol Firm showed three machines, including a military
biplane, and the first British built biplane with tractor screw.
The Cody biplane, with its enormous size rendering it a
prominent feature of the show, was exhibited. Its designer
anticipated later engines by expressing his desire for a motor
of 150 horse-power, which in his opinion was necessary to get
the best results from the machine. The then famous Dunne
monoplane was exhibited at this show, its planes being V-shaped
in plan, with apex leading. It embodied the results of very
lengthy experiments carried out both with gliders and
power-driven machines by Colonel Capper, Lieut. Gibbs, and
Lieut. Dunne, and constituted the longest step so far taken in
the direction of inherent stability.

Such forerunners of the notable planes of the war period as the
Martin Handasyde, the Nieuport, Sopwith, Bristol, and Farman
machines, were features of the show; the Handley-Page monoplane,
with a span of 32 feet over all, a length of 22 feet, and a
weight of 422 lbs., bore no relation at all to the twin-engined
giant which later made this firm famous. In the matter of
engines, the principal survivals to the present day, of which
this show held specimens, were the Gnome, Green, Renault
air-cooled, Mercedes four-cylinder dirigible engine of 115
horse-power, and 120 horsepower Wolseley of eight cylinders for
use with dirigibles.

On April 12th, of 1911, Paprier, instructor at the Bleriot
school at Hendon, made the first non-stop flight between London
and Paris. He left the aerodrome at 1.37 p.m., and arrived at
Issy-les-Moulineaux at 5.33 p.m., thus travelling 250 miles in a
little under 4 hours. He followed the railway route practically
throughout, crossing from Dover to nearly opposite Calais,
keeping along the coast to Boulogne, and then following the Nord
Railway to Amiens, Beauvais, and finally Paris.

In May, the Paris-Madrid race took place; Vedrines, flying a
Morane biplane, carried off the prize by first completing the
distance of 732 miles. The Paris-Rome race of 916 miles was won
in the same month by Beaumont, flying a Bleriot monoplane. In
July, Koenig won the German National Circuit race of 1,168 miles
on an Albatross biplane. This was practically simultaneous with
the Circuit of Britain won by Beaumont, who covered 1,010 miles
on a Bleriot monoplane, having already won the
Paris-Brussels-London-Paris Circuit of 1,080 miles, this also on
a Bleriot. It was in August that a new world's height record of
11,152 feet was set up by Captain Felix at Etampes, while
on the 7th of the month Renaux flew nearly 600 miles on a
Maurice Farman machine in 12 hours. Cody and Valentine were
keeping interest alive in the Circuit of Britain race, although
this had long been won, by determinedly plodding on at finishing
the course.

On September 9th, the first aerial post was tried between Hendon
and Windsor, as an experiment in sending mails by aeroplane.
Gustave Hamel flew from Hendon to Windsor and back in a strong
wind. A few days later, Hamel went on strike, refusing to carry
further mails unless the promoters of the Aerial Postal Service
agreed to pay compensation to Hubert, who fractured both his legs
on the 11th of the month while engaged in aero postal work. The
strike ended on September 25th, when Hamel resumed mail-carrying
in consequence of the capitulation of the Postmaster-General, who
agreed to set aside L500 as compensation to Hubert.

September also witnessed the completion in America of a flight
across the Continent, a distance of 2,600 miles. The only
competitor who completed the full distance was C. P. Rogers,
who was disqualified through failing to comply with the time
limit. Rogers needed so many replacements to his machine on the
journey that, expressing it in American fashion, he arrived with
practically a dfferent aeroplane from that with which he

With regard to the aerial postal service, analysis of the matter
carried and the cost of the service seemed to show that with a
special charge of one shilling for letters and sixpence for post
cards, the revenue just balanced the expenditure. It was not
possible to keep to the time-table as, although the trials were
made in the most favourable season of the year, aviation was not
sufficiently advanced to admit of facing all weathers and
complying with time-table regulations.

French military aeroplane trials took place at Rheims in
October, the noteworthy machines being Antoinette, Farman,
Nieuport, and Deperdussin. The tests showed the Nieuport
monoplane with Gnome motor as first in position; the Breguet
biplane was second, and the Deperdussin monoplanes third. The
first five machines in order of merit were all engined with the
Gnome motor.

The records quoted for 1911 form the best evidence that can
be given of advance in design and performance during the year.
It will be seen that the days of the giants were over; design
was becoming more and more standardised and aviation not so much
a matter of individual courage and even daring, as of the
reliability of the machine and its engine. This was the first
year in which the twin-engined aeroplane made its appearance,
and it was the year, too, in which flying may be said to have
grown so common that the 'meetings' which began with Rheims were
hardly worth holding, owing to the fact that increase in height
and distance flown rendered it no longer necessary for a
would-be spectator of a flight to pay half a crown and enter an
enclosure. Henceforth, flying as a spectacle was very little to
be considered; its commercial aspects were talked of, and to a
very slight degree exploited, but, more and more, the fact that
the aeroplane was primarily an engine of war, and the growing
German menace against the peace of the world combined to point
the way of speediest development, and the arrangements for the
British Military Trials to be held in August, 1912, showed that
even the British War office was waking up to the potentialities
of this new engine of war.


Consideration of the events in the years immediately preceding
the War must be limited to as brief a summary as possible, this
not only because the full history of flying achievements is
beyond the compass of any single book, but also because, viewing
the matter in perspective, the years 1903-1911 show up as far
more important as regards both design and performance. From
1912 to August of 1914, the development of aeronautics was
hindered by the fact that it had not progressed far enough to
form a real commercial asset in any country. The meetings which
drew vast concourses of people to such places as Rheims and
Bournemouth may have been financial successes at first, but, as
flying grew more common and distances and heights extended, a
great many people found it other than worth while to pay for
admission to an aerodrome. The business of taking up passengers
for pleasure flights was not financially successful, and,
although schemes for commercial routes were talked of, the
aeroplane was not sufficiently advanced to warrant the
investment of hard cash in any of these projects. There was a
deadlock; further development was necessary in order to secure
financial aid, and at the same time financial aid was necessary
in order to secure further development. Consequently, neither
was forthcoming.

This is viewing the matter in a broad and general sense; there
were firms, especially in France, but also in England and
America, which looked confidently for the great days of flying to
arrive, and regarded their sunk capital as investment which would
eventually bring its due return. But when one looks back on
those years, the firms in question stand out as exceptions to the
general run of people, who regarded aeronautics as something
extremely scientific, exceedingly dangerous, and very expensive.
The very fame that was attained by such pilots as became
casualties conduced to the advertisement of every death, and the
dangers attendant on the use of heavier-than-air machines became
greatly exaggerated; considering the matter as one of number of
miles flown, even in the early days, flying exacted no more toll
in human life than did railways or road motors in the early
stages of their development. But to take one instance, when C.
S. Rolls was killed at Bournemouth by reason of a faulty
tail-plane, the fact was shouted to the whole world with almost
as much vehemence as characterised the announcement of the
Titanic sinking in mid-Atlantic.

Even in 1911 the deadlock was apparent; meetings were falling
off in attendance, and consequently in financial benefit to the
promoters; there remained, however, the knowledge--for it was
proved past question--that the aeroplane in its then stage of
development was a necessity to every army of the world. France
had shown this by the more than interest taken by the French
Government in what had developed into an Air Section of the
French army; Germany, of course, was hypnotised by Count
Zeppelin and his dirigibles, to say nothing of the Parsevals
which had been proved useful military accessories; in spite of
this, it was realised in Germany that the aeroplane also had its
place in military affairs. England came into the field with the
military aeroplane trials of August 1st to 15th, 1912, barely two
months after the founding of the Royal Flying Corps.

When the R.F.C. was founded--and in fact up to two years after
its founding--in no country were the full military
potentialities of the aeroplane realised; it was regarded as an
accessory to cavalry for scouting more than as an independent
arm; the possibilities of bombing were very vaguely considered,
and the fact that it might be possible to shoot from an
aeroplane was hardly considered at all. The conditions of the
British Military Trials of 1912 gave to the War office the
option of purchasing for L1,000 any machine that might be
awarded a prize. Machines were required, among other things, to
carry a useful load of 350 lbs. in addition to equipment, with
fuel and oil for 4 1/2-hours; thus loaded, they were required to
fly for 3 hours, attaining an altitude of 4,500 feet, maintaining
a height of 1,500 feet for 1 hour, and climbing 1,000 feet from
the ground at a rate of 200 feet per minute, 'although 300 feet
per minute is desirable.' They had to attain a speed of not less
than 55 miles per hour in a calm, and be able to plane down to
the ground in a calm from not more than 1,000 feet with engine
stopped, traversing 6,000 feet horizontal distance. For those
days, the landing demands were rather exacting; the machine
should be able to rise without damage from long grass, clover, or
harrowed land, in 100 yards in a calm, and should be able to land
without damage on any cultivated ground, including rough ploughed
land, and, when landing on smooth turf in a calm, be able to pull
up within 75 yards of the point of first touching the ground. It
was required that pilot and observer should have as open a view
as possible to front and flanks, and they should be so shielded
from the wind as to be able to communicate with each other.
These are the main provisions out of the set of conditions laid
down for competitors, but a considerable amount of leniency was
shown by the authorities in the competition, who obviously wished
to try out every machine entered and see what were its

The beginning of the competition consisted in assembling the
machines against time from road trim to flying trim. Cody's
machine, which was the only one to be delivered by air, took 1
hour and 35 minutes to assemble; the best assembling time was
that of the Avro, which was got into flying trim in 14 minutes 30
seconds. This machine came to grief with Lieut. Parke as pilot,
on the 7th, through landing at very high speed on very bad
ground; a securing wire of the under-carriage broke in the
landing, throwing the machine forward on to its nose and then
over on its back. Parke was uninjured, fortunately; the damaged
machine was sent off to Manchester for repair and was back again
on the 16th of August.

It is to be noted that by this time the Royal Aircraft Factory
was building aeroplanes of the B.E. and F.E. types, but at the
same time it is also to be noted that British military interest
in engines was not sufficient to bring them up to the high level
attained by the planes, and it is notorious that even the
outbreak of war found England incapable of providing a really
satisfactory aero engine. In the 1912 Trials, the only machines
which actually completed all their tests were the Cody biplane,
the French Deperdussin, the Hanriot, two Bleriots and a Maurice
Farman. The first prize of L4,000, open to all the world, went
to F. S. Cody's British-built biplane, which complied with all
the conditions of the competition and well earned its official
acknowledgment of supremacy. The machine climbed at 280 feet per
minute and reached a height of 5,000 feet, while in the landing
test, in spite of its great weight and bulk, it pulled up on
grass in 56 yards. The total weight was 2,690 lbs. when fully
loaded, and the total area of supporting surface was 500 square
feet; the motive power was supplied by a six-cylinder 120
horsepower Austro-Daimler engine. The second prize was taken by
A. Deperdussin for the French-built Deperdussin monoplane. Cody
carried off the only prize awarded for a British-built plane,
this being the sum of L1,000, and consolation prizes of L500 each
were awarded to the British Deperdussin Company and The British
and Colonial Aeroplane Company, this latter soon to become famous
as makers of the Bristol aeroplane, of which the war honours are
still fresh in men's minds.

While these trials were in progress Audemars accomplished the
first flight between Paris and Berlin, setting out from Issy
early in the morning of August 18th, landing at Rheims to refill
his tanks within an hour and a half, and then coming into bad
weather which forced him to land successively at Mezieres,
Laroche, Bochum, and finally nearly Gersenkirchen, where, owing
to a leaky petrol tank, the attempt to win the prize offered for
the first flight between the two capitals had to be abandoned
after 300 miles had been covered, as the time limit was
definitely exceeded. Audemars determined to get through to
Berlin, and set off at 5 in the morning of the 19th, only to be
brought down by fog; starting off again at 9.15 he landed at
Hanover, was off again at 1.35, and reached the Johannisthal
aerodrome in the suburbs of Berlin at 6.48 that evening.

As early as 1910 the British Government possessed some ten
aeroplanes, and in 1911 the force developed into the Army Air
Battalion, with the aeroplanes under the control of Major J. H.
Fulton, R.F.A. Toward the end of 1911 the Air Battalion was
handed over to (then) Brig.-Gen. D. Henderson, Director of
Military Training. On June 6th, 1912, the Royal Flying Corps was
established with a military wing under Major F. H. Sykes and a
naval wing under Commander C. R. Samson. A joint Naval and
Military Flying School was established at Upavon with Captain
Godfrey M. Paine, R.N., as Commandant and Major Hugh Trenchard
as Assistant Commandant. The Royal Aircraft Factory brought out
the B.E. and F.E. types of biplane, admittedly superior to any
other British design of the period, and an Aircraft Inspection
Department was formed under Major J. H. Fulton. The military
wing of the R.F.C. was equipped almost entirely with machines
of Royal Aircraft Factory design, but the Navy preferred to
develop British private enterprise by buying machines from
private firms. On July 1st, 1914 the establishment of the Royal
Naval Air Service marked the definite separation of the military
and naval sides of British aviation, but the Central Flying
School at Upavon continued to train pilots for both services.

It is difficult at this length of time, so far as the military
wing was concerned, to do full justice to the spade work done by
Major-General Sir David Henderson in the early days. Just before
war broke out, British military air strength consisted officially
of eight squadrons, each of 12 machines and 13 in reserve, with
the necessary complement of road transport. As a matter of fact,
there were three complete squadrons and a part of a fourth which
constituted the force sent to France at the outbreak of war. The
value of General Henderson's work lies in the fact that, in spite
of official stinginess and meagre supplies of every kind, he
built up a skeleton organisation so elastic and so well thought
out that it conformed to war requirements as well as even the
German plans fitted in with their aerial needs. On the 4th of
August, 1914, the nominal British air strength of the military
wing was 179 machines. Of these, 82 machines proceeded to
France, landing at Amiens and flying to Maubeuge to play their
part in the great retreat with the British Expeditionary Force,
in which they suffered heavy casualties both in personnel and
machines. The history of their exploits, however, belongs to the
War period.

The development of the aeroplane between 1912 and 1914 can be
judged by comparison of the requirements of the British War
Office in 1912 with those laid down in an official memorandum
issued by the War Office in February, 1914. This latter
called for a light scout aeroplane, a single-seater, with fuel
capacity to admit of 300 miles range and a speed range of from
50 to 85 miles per hour. It had to be able to climb 3,500 feet
in five minutes, and the engine had to be so constructed that
the pilot could start it without assistance. At the same time,
a heavier type of machine for reconnaissance work was called
for, carrying fuel for a 200 mile flight with a speed range of
between 35 and 60 miles per hour, carrying both pilot and
observer. It was to be equipped with a wireless telegraphy set,
and be capable of landing over a 30 foot vertical obstacle and
coming to rest within a hundred yards' distance from the
obstacle in a wind of not more than 15 miles per hour. A third
requirement was a heavy type of fighting aeroplane accommodating
pilot and gunner with machine gun and ammunition, having a speed
range of between 45 and 75 miles per hour and capable of
climbing 3,500 feet in 8 minutes. It was required to carry fuel
for a 300 mile flight and to give the gunner a clear field of
fire in every direction up to 30 degrees on each side of the
line of flight. Comparison of these specifications with those
of the 1912 trials will show that although fighting, scouting,
and reconnaissance types had been defined, the development of
performance compared with the marvellous development of the
earlier years of achieved flight was small.

Yet the records of those years show that here and there an
outstanding design was capable of great things. On the 9th
September, 1912, Vedrines, flying a Deperdussin monoplane at
Chicago, attained a speed of 105 miles an hour. On August 12th,
G. de Havilland took a passenger to a height of 10,560 feet
over Salisbury Plain, flying a B.E. biplane with a 70
horse-power Renault engine. The work of de Havilland may be
said to have been the principal influence in British military
aeroplane design, and there is no doubt that his genius was in
great measure responsible for the excellence of the early B.E.
and F.E. types.

on the 31st May, 1913, H. G. Hawker, flying at Brooklands,
reached a height of 11,450 feet on a Sopwith biplane engined with
an 80 horse-power Gnome engine. On June 16th, with the same type
of machine and engine, he achieved 12,900 feet. On the 2nd
October, in the same year, a Grahame White biplane with 120
horse-power Austro-Daimler engine, piloted by Louis Noel, made a
flight of just under 20 minutes carrying 9 passengers. In France
a Nieuport monoplane piloted by G. Legagneaux attained a height
of 6,120 metres, or just over 20,070 feet, this being the world's
height record. It is worthy of note that of the world's aviation
records as passed by the International Aeronautical Federation up
to June 30th, 1914, only one, that of Noel, is credited to Great

Just as records were made abroad, with one exception, so were
the really efficient engines. In England there was the Green
engine, but the outbreak of war found the Royal Flying Corps
with 80 horse-power Gnomes, 70 horse-power Renaults, and one or
two Antoinette motors, but not one British, while the Royal
Naval Air Service had got 20 machines with engines of similar
origin, mainly land planes in which the wheeled undercarriages
had been replaced by floats. France led in development, and
there is no doubt that at the outbreak of war, the French
military aeroplane service was the best in the world. It was
mainly composed of Maurice Farman two-seater biplanes and
Bleriot monoplanes-- the latter type banned for a period on
account of a number of serious accidents that took place in 1912

America had its Army Aviation School, and employed Burgess-Wright
and Curtiss machines for the most part. In the pre-war years,
once the Wright Brothers had accomplished their task, America's
chief accomplishment consisted in the development of the 'Flying

Boat,' alternatively named with characteristic American
clumsiness, 'The Hydro-Aeroplane.' In February of 1911, Glenn
Curtiss attached a float to a machine similar to that with which
he won the first Gordon-Bennett Air Contest and made his first
flying boat experiment. From this beginning he developed the
boat form of body which obviated the use and troubles of
floats--his hydroplane became its own float.

Mainly owing to greater engine reliability the duration records
steadily increased. By September of 1912 Fourny, on a Maurice
Farman biplane, was able to accomplish a distance of 628 miles
without a landing, remaining in the air for 13 hours 17 minutes
and just over 57 seconds. By 1914 this was raised by the German
aviator, Landemann, to 21 hours 48 3/4 seconds. The nature of
this last record shows that the factors in such a record had
become mere engine endurance, fuel capacity, and capacity of the
pilot to withstand air conditions for a prolonged period, rather
than any exceptional flying skill.

Let these years be judged by the records they produced, and even
then they are rather dull. The glory of achievement such as
characterised the work of the Wright Brothers, of Bleriot, and
of the giants of the early days, had passed; the splendid
courage, the patriotism and devotion of the pilots of the War
period had not yet come to being. There was progress, past
question, but it was mechanical, hardly ever inspired. The
study of climatic conditions was definitely begun and
aeronautical meteorology came to being, while another development
already noted was the fitting of wireless telegraphy to
heavier-than-air machines, as instanced in the British War
office specification of February, 1914. These, however, were
inevitable; it remained for the War to force development beyond
the inevitable, producing in five years that which under normal
circumstances might easily have occupied fifty --the aeroplane of
to-day; for, as already remarked, there was a deadlock, and any
survey that may be made of the years 1912-1914, no matter how
superficial, must take it into account with a view to retaining
correct perspective in regard to the development of the

There is one story of 1914 that must be included, however
briefly, in any record of aeronautical achievement, since it
demonstrates past question that to Professor Langley really
belongs the honour of having achieved a design which would ensure
actual flight, although the series of accidents which attended
his experiments gave to the Wright Brothers the honour of first
leaving the earth and descending without accident in a
power-driven heavier-than-air machine. In March, 1914, Glenn
Curtiss was invited to send a flying boat to Washington for the
celebration of 'Langley Day,' when he remarked, 'I would like to
put the Langley aeroplane itself in the air.' In consequence of
this remark, Secretary Walcot of the Smithsonian Institution
authorised Curtiss to re-canvas the original Langley aeroplane
and launch it either under its own power or with a more recent
engine and propeller. Curtiss completed this, and had the
machine ready on the shores of Lake Keuka, Hammondsport, N.Y., by
May. The main object of these renewed trials was to show whether
the original Langley machine was capable of sustained free flight
with a pilot, and a secondary object was to determine more fully
the advantages of the tandem monoplane type; thus the aeroplane
was first flown as nearly as possible in its original condition,
and then with such modifications as seemed desirable. The only
difference made for the first trials consisted in fitting floats
with connecting trusses; the steel main frame, wings, rudders,
engine, and propellers were substantially as they had been in
1903. The pilot had the same seat under the main frame and the
same general system of control. He could raise or lower the
craft by moving the rear rudder up and down; he could steer
right or left by moving the vertical rudder. He had no ailerons
nor wing-warping mechanism, but for lateral balance depended on
the dihedral angle of the wings and upon suitable movements of
his weight or of the vertical rudder.

After the adjustments for actual flight had been made in the
Curtiss factory, according to the minute descriptions contained
in the Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, the aeroplane was
taken to the shore of Lake Keuka, beside the Curtiss hangars,
and assembled for launching. On a clear morning (May 28th) and
in a mild breeze, the craft was lifted on to the water by a
dozen men and set going, with Mr Curtiss at the steering wheel,
esconced in the little boat-shaped car under the forward part of
the frame. The four-winged craft, pointed somewhat across the
wind, went skimming over the waveless, then automatically headed
into the wind, rose in level poise, soared gracefully for 150
feet, and landed softly on the water near the shore. Mr Curtiss
asserted that he could have flown farther, but, being unused to
the machine, imagined that the left wings had more resistance
than the right. The truth is that the aeroplane was perfectly
balanced in wing resistance, but turned on the water like a
weather vane, owing to the lateral pressure on its big rear
rudder. Hence in future experiments this rudder was made
turnable about a vertical axis, as well as about the horizontal
axis used by Langley. Henceforth the little vertical rudder
under the frame was kept fixed and inactive.[*]

That the Langley aeroplane was subsequently fitted with an 80
horse-power Curtiss engine and successfully flown is of little
interest in such a record as this, except for the fact that with
the weight nearly doubled by the new engine and accessories the
machine flew successfully, and demonstrated the perfection of
Langley's design by standing the strain. The point that is of
most importance is that the design itself proved a success and
fully vindicated Langley's work. At the same time, it would be
unjust to pass by the fact of the flight without according to
Curtiss due recognition of the way in which he paid tribute to
the genius of the pioneer by these experiments.

[*] Smithsonian Publications No. 2329.


Full record of aeronautical progress and of the accomplishments
of pilots in the years of the War would demand not merely a
volume, but a complete library, and even then it would be barely
possible to pay full tribute to the heroism of pilots of the war
period. There are names connected with that period of which the
glory will not fade, names such as Bishop, Guynemer, Boelcke,
Ball, Fonck, Immelmann, and many others that spring to mind as
one recalls the 'Aces' of the period. In addition to the
pilots, there is the stupendous development of the
machines--stupendous when the length of the period in which it
was achieved is considered.

The fact that Germany was best prepared in the matter of
heavier-than-air service machines in spite of the German faith
in the dirigible is one more item of evidence as to who forced
hostilities. The Germans came into the field with well over 600
aeroplanes, mainly two-seaters of standardised design, and with
factories back in the Fatherland turning out sufficient new
machines to make good the losses. There were a few
single-seater scouts built for speed, and the two-seater
machines were all fitted with cameras and bomb-dropping gear.
Manoeuvres had determined in the German mind what should be the
uses of the air fleet; there was photography of fortifications
and field works; signalling by Very lights; spotting for the
guns, and scouting for news of enemy movements. The methodical
German mind had arranged all this beforehand, but had not allowed
for the fact that opponents might take counter-measures which
would upset the over-perfect mechanism of the air service just as
effectually as the great march on Paris was countered by the
genius of Joffre.

The French Air Force at the beginning of the War consisted of
upwards of 600 machines. These, unlike the Germans, were not
standardised, but were of many and diverse types. In order to
get replacements quickly enough, the factories had to work on
the designs they had, and thus for a long time after the
outbreak of hostilities standardisation was an impossibility.
The versatility of a Latin race in a measure compensated for
this; from the outset, the Germans tried to overwhelm the French
Air Force, but failed, since they had not the numerical
superiority, nor--this equally a determining factor--the
versatility and resource of the French pilots. They calculated
on a 50 per cent superiority to ensure success; they needed more
nearly 400 per cent, for the German fought to rule, avoiding
risks whenever possible, and definitely instructed to save both
machines and pilots wherever possible. French pilots, on the
other hand, ran all the risks there were, got news of German
movements, bombed the enemy, and rapidly worked up a very
respectable antiaircraft force which, whatever it may have
accomplished in the way of hitting German planes, got on the
German pilots' nerves.

It has already been detailed how Britain sent over 82 planes as
its contribution to the military aerial force of 1914. These
consisted of Farman, Caudron, and Short biplanes, together with
Bleriot, Deperdussin and Nieuport monoplanes, certain R.A.F.
types, and other machines of which even the name barely survives
--the resourceful Yankee entitles them 'orphans.' It is on
record that the work of providing spares might have been rather
complicated but for the fact that there were none.

There is no doubt that the Germans had made study of aerial
military needs just as thoroughly as they had perfected their
ground organisation. Thus there were 21 illuminated aircraft
stations in Germany before the War, the most powerful being at
Weimar, where a revolving electric flash of over 27 million
candle-power was located. Practically all German aeroplane
tests in the period immediately preceding the War were of a
military nature, and quite a number of reliability tests were
carried out just on the other side of the French frontier.
Night flying and landing were standardised items in the German
pilot's course of instruction while they were still experimental
in other countries, and a system of signals was arranged which
rendered the instructional course as perfect as might be.

The Belgian contribution consisted of about twenty machines fit
for active service and another twenty which were more or less
useful as training machines. The material was mainly French,
and the Belgian pilots used it to good account until German
numbers swamped them. France, and to a small extent England,
kept Belgian aviators supplied with machines throughout the War.

The Italian Air Fleet was small, and consisted of French machines
together with a percentage of planes of Italian origin, of which
the design was very much a copy of French types. It was not
until the War was nearing its end that the military and naval
services relied more on the home product than on imports. This
does not apply to engines, however, for the F.I.A.T. and S.C.A.T.

were equal to practically any engine of Allied make, both in
design and construction.

Russia spent vast sums in the provision of machines: the giant
Sikorsky biplane, carrying four 100 horsepower Argus motors,
was designed by a young Russian engineer in the latter part of
1913, and in its early trials it created a world's record by
carrying seven passengers for 1 hour 54 minutes. Sikorsky also
designed several smaller machines, tractor biplanes on the lines
of the British B.E. type, which were very successful. These
were the only home productions, and the imports consisted mainly
of French aeroplanes by the hundred, which got as far as the
docks and railway sidings and stayed there, while German
influence and the corruption that ruined the Russian Army helped
to lose the War. A few Russian aircraft factories were got into
operation as hostilities proceeded, but their products were
negligible, and it is not on record that Russia ever learned to
manufacture a magneto.

The United States paid tribute to British efficiency by adopting
the British system of training for its pilots; 500 American
cadets were trained at the School of Military Aeronautics at
oxford, in order to form a nucleus for the American aviation
schools which were subsequently set up in the United States and
in France. As regards production of craft, the designing of the
Liberty engine and building of over 20,000 aeroplanes within a
year proves that America is a manufacturing country, even under
the strain of war.

There were three years of struggle for aerial supremacy, the
combatants being England and France against Germany, and the
contest was neck and neck all the way. Germany led at the
outset with the standardised two-seater biplanes manned by
pilots and observers, whose training was superior to that
afforded by any other nation, while the machines themselves were
better equipped and fitted with accessories. All the early
German aeroplanes were designated Taube by the uninitiated, and
were formed with swept-back, curved wings very much resembling
the wings of a bird. These had obvious disadvantages, but the
standardisation of design and mass production of the German
factories kept them in the field for a considerable period, and
they flew side by side with tractor biplanes of improved design.
For a little time, the Fokker monoplane became a definite threat
both to French and British machines. It was an improvement on
the Morane French monoplane, and with a high-powered engine it
climbed quickly and flew fast, doing a good deal of damage for a
brief period of 1915. Allied design got ahead of it and finally
drove it out of the air.

German equipment at the outset, which put the Allies at a
disadvantage, included a hand-operated magneto engine-starter
and a small independent screw which, mounted on one of the main
planes, drove the dynamo used for the wireless set. Cameras
were fitted on practically every machine; equipment included
accurate compasses and pressure petrol gauges, speed and height
recording instruments, bomb-dropping fittings and sectional
radiators which facilitated repairs and gave maximum engine
efficiency in spite of variations of temperature. As counter to
these, the Allied pilots had resource amounting to impudence.
In the early days they carried rifles and hand grenades and
automatic pistols. They loaded their machines down, often at
their own expense, with accessories and fittings until their
aeroplanes earned their title of Christmas trees. They played
with death in a way that shocked the average German pilot of the
War's early stages, declining to fight according to rule and
indulging in the individual duels of the air which the German
hated. As Sir John French put it in one of his reports, they
established a personal ascendancy over the enemy, and in this
way compensated for their inferior material.

French diversity of design fitted in well with the initiative
and resource displayed by the French pilots. The big Caudron
type was the ideal bomber of the early days; Farman machines
were excellent for reconnaissance and artillery spotting; the
Bleriots proved excellent as fighting scouts and for aerial
photography; the Nieuports made good fighters, as did the Spads,
both being very fast craft, as were the Morane-Saulnier
monoplanes, while the big Voisin biplanes rivalled the Caudron
machines as bombers.

The day of the Fokker ended when the British B.E.2.C. aeroplane
came to France in good quantities, and the F.E. type, together
with the De Havilland machines, rendered British aerial
superiority a certainty. Germany's best reply--this was about
1916--was the Albatross biplane, which was used by Captain Baron
von Richthofen for his famous travelling circus, manned by
German star pilots and sent to various parts of the line to
hearten up German troops and aviators after any specially bad
strafe. Then there were the Aviatik biplane and the Halberstadt
fighting scout, a cleanly built and very fast machine with a
powerful engine with which Germany tried to win back superiority
in the third year of the War, but Allied design kept about three
months ahead of that of the enemy, once the Fokker had been
mastered, and the race went on. Spads and Bristol fighters,
Sopwith scouts and F.E.'s played their part in the race, and
design was still advancing when peace came.

The giant twin-engined Handley-Page bomber was tried out, proved
efficient, and justly considered better than anything of its
kind that had previously taken the field. Immediately after the
conclusion of its trials, a specimen of the type was delivered
intact at Lille for the Germans to copy, the innocent pilot
responsible for the delivery doing some great disservice to his
own cause. The Gotha Wagon-Fabrik Firm immediately set to work
and copied the Handley-Page design, producing the great Gotha
bombing machine which was used in all the later raids on England
as well as for night work over the Allied lines.

How the War advanced design may be judged by comparison of the
military requirements given for the British Military Trials of
1912, with performances of 1916 and 1917, when the speed of the
faster machines had increased to over 150 miles an hour and
Allied machines engaged enemy aircraft at heights ranging up to
22,000 feet. All pre-war records of endurance, speed, and climb
went by the board, as the race for aerial superiority went on.

Bombing brought to being a number of crude devices in the first
year of the War. Allied pilots of the very early days carried up
bombs packed in a small box and threw them over by hand, while, a
little later, the bombs were strung like apples on wings and
undercarriage, so that the pilot who did not get rid of his load
before landing risked an explosion. Then came a properly
designed carrying apparatus, crude but fairly efficient, and with
1916 development had proceeded as far as the proper bomb-racks
with releasing gear.

Reconnaissance work developed, so that fighting machines went as
escort to observing squadrons and scouting operations were
undertaken up to 100 miles behind the enemy lines; out of this
grew the art of camouflage, when ammunition dumps were painted
to resemble herds of cows, guns were screened by foliage or
painted to merge into a ground scheme, and many other schemes
were devised to prevent aerial observation. Troops were moved by
night for the most part, owing to the keen eyes of the air
pilots and the danger of bombs, though occasionally the aviator
had his chance. There is one story concerning a British pilot
who, on returning from a reconnaissance flight, observed a
German Staff car on the road under him; he descended and bombed
and machine--gunned the car until the German General and his
chauffeur abandoned it, took to their heels, and ran like
rabbits. Later still, when Allied air superiority was assured,
there came the phase of machine-gunning bodies of enemy troops
from the air. Disregarding all antiaircraft measures, machines
would sweep down and throw battalions into panic or upset the
military traffic along a road, demoralising a battery or a
transport train and causing as much damage through congestion of
traffic as with their actual machine-gun fire. Aerial
photography, too, became a fine art; the ordinary long focus
cameras were used at the outset with automatic plate changers,
but later on photographing aeroplanes had cameras of wide angle
lens type built into the fuselage. These were very simply
operated, one lever registering the exposure and changing the
plate. In many cases, aerial photographs gave information which
the human eye had missed, and it is noteworthy that photographs
of ground showed when troops had marched over it, while the
aerial observer was quite unable to detect the marks left by
their passing.

Some small mention must be made of seaplane activities, which,
round the European coasts involved in the War, never ceased.
The submarine campaign found in the spotting seaplane its
greatest deterrent, and it is old news now how even the deeply
submerged submarines were easily picked out for destruction from
a height and the news wirelessed from seaplane to destroyer,
while in more than one place the seaplane itself finished the
task by bomb dropping. It was a seaplane that gave Admiral
Beatty the news that the whole German Fleet was out before the
Jutland Battle, news which led to a change of plans that very
nearly brought about the destruction of Germany's naval power.
For the most part, the seaplanes of the War period were heavier
than the land machines and, in the opinion of the land pilots,
were slow and clumsy things to fly. This was inevitable, for
their work demanded more solid building and greater reliability.
To put the matter into Hibernian phrase, a forced landing at sea
is a much more serious matter than on the ground. Thus there
was need for greater engine power, bigger wingspread to support
the floats, and fuel tanks of greater capacity. The flying
boats of the later War period carried considerable crews, were
heavily armed, capable of withstanding very heavy weather, and
carried good loads of bombs on long cruises. Their work was not
all essentially seaplane work, for the R.N.A.S. was as well
known as hated over the German airship sheds in Belgium and
along the Flanders coast. As regards other theatres of War,
they rendered valuable service from the Dardanelles to the
Rufiji River, at this latter place forming a principal factor in
the destruction of the cruiser Konigsberg. Their spotting work
at the Dardanelles for the battleships was responsible for
direct hits from 15 in. guns on invisible targets at ranges of
over 12,000 yards. Seaplane pilots were bombing specialists,
including among their targets army headquarters, ammunition
dumps, railway stations, submarines and their bases, docks,
shipping in German harbours, and the German Fleet at
Wilhelmshaven. Dunkirk, a British seaplane base, was a sharp
thorn in the German side.

Turning from consideration of the various services to the
exploits of the men composing them, it is difficult to
particularise. A certain inevitable prejudice even at this
length of time leads one to discount the valour of pilots in the
German Air Service, but the names of Boelcke, von Richthofen,
and Immelmann recur as proof of the courage that was not wanting
in the enemy ranks, while, however much we may decry the Gotha
raids over the English coast and on London, there is no doubt
that the men who undertook these raids were not deficient in the
form of bravery that is of more value than the unthinking valour
of a minute which, observed from the right quarter, wins a
military decoration.

Yet the fact that the Allied airmen kept the air at all in the
early days proved on which side personal superiority lay, for
they were outnumbered, out-manoeuvred, and faced by better
material than any that they themselves possessed; yet they won
their fights or died. The stories of their deeds are endless;
Bishop, flying alone and meeting seven German machines and
crashing four; the battle of May 5th, 1915, when five heroes
fought and conquered twenty-seven German machines, ranging in
altitude between 12,000 and 3,000 feet, and continuing the
extraordinary struggle from five until six in the evening.
Captain Aizlewood, attacking five enemy machines with such
reckless speed that he rammed one and still reached his
aerodrome safely--these are items in a long list of feats of
which the character can only be realised when it is fully
comprehended that the British Air Service accounted for some
8,ooo enemy machines in the course of the War. Among the French
there was Captain Guynemer, who at the time of his death had
brought down fifty-four enemy machines, in addition to many
others of which the destruction could not be officially
confirmed. There was Fonck, who brought down six machines in
one day, four of them within two minutes.

There are incredible stories, true as incredible, of shattered
men carrying on with their work in absolute disregard of
physical injury. Major Brabazon Rees, V.C., engaged a big
German battle-plane in September of 1915 and, single-handed,
forced his enemy out of action. Later in his career, with a
serious wound in the thigh from which blood was pouring, he kept
up a fight with an enemy formation until he had not a round of
ammunition left, and then returned to his aerodrome to get his
wound dressed. Lieutenants Otley and Dunning, flying in the
Balkans, engaged a couple of enemy machines and drove them off,
but not until their petrol tank had got a hole in it and Dunning
was dangerously wounded in the leg. Otley improvised a
tourniquet, passed it to Dunning, and, when the latter had
bandaged himself, changed from the observer's to the pilot's
seat, plugged the bullet hole in the tank with his thumb and
steered the machine home.

These are incidents; the full list has not been, and can never
be recorded, but it goes to show that in the pilot of the War
period there came to being a new type of humanity, a product of
evolution which fitted a certain need. Of such was Captain
West, who, engaging hostile troops, was attacked by seven
machines. Early in the engagement, one of his legs was
partially severed by an explosive bullet and fell powerless into
the controls, rendering the machine for the time unmanageable.
Lifting his disabled leg, he regained control of the machine,
and although wounded in the other leg, he manoeuvred his machine
so skilfully that his observer was able to get several good
bursts into the enemy machines, driving them away. Then,
desperately wounded as he was, Captain West brought the machine
over to his own lines and landed safely. He fainted from loss
of blood and exhaustion, but on regaining consciousness,
insisted on writing his report. Equal to this was the exploit
of Captain Barker, who, in aerial combat, was wounded in the
right and left thigh and had his left arm shattered,
subsequently bringing down an enemy machine in flames, and then
breaking through another hostile formation and reaching the
British lines.

In recalling such exploits as these, one is tempted on and on,
for it seems that the pilots rivalled each other in their
devotion to duty, this not confined to British aviators, but
common practically to all services. Sufficient instances have
been given to show the nature of the work and the character of
the men who did it.

The rapid growth of aerial effort rendered it necessary in
January of 1915 to organise the Royal Flying Corps into
separate wings, and in October of the same year it was
constituted in Brigades. In 1916 the Air Board was formed,
mainly with the object of co-ordinating effort and ensuring both
to the R.N.A.S. and to the R.F.C. adequate supplies of material
as far as construction admitted. Under the presidency of Lord
Cowdray, the Air Board brought about certain reforms early in
1917, and in November of that year a separate Air Ministry was
constituted, separating the Air Force from both Navy and Army,
and rendering it an independent force. On April 1st, 1918, the
Royal Air Force came into existence, and unkind critics in the
Royal Flying Corps remarked on the appropriateness of the date.
At the end of the War, the personnel of the Royal Air Force
amounted to 27,906 officers, and 263,842 other ranks. Contrast
of these figures with the number of officers and men who took
the field in 1914 is indicative of the magnitude of British
aerial effort in the War period.


There was when War broke out no realisation on the part of the
British Government of the need for encouraging the enterprise of
private builders, who carried out their work entirely at
their-own cost. The importance of a supply of British-built
engines was realised before the War, it is true, and a
competition was held in which a prize of L5,000 was offered for
the best British engine, but this awakening was so late that the
R.F.C. took the field without a single British power plant.
Although Germany woke up equally late to the need for home
produced aeroplane engines, the experience gained in building
engines for dirigibles sufficed for the production of aeroplane
power plants. The Mercedes filled all requirements together
with the Benz and the Maybach. There was a 225 horsepower Benz
which was very popular, as were the 100 horse-power and 170
horse-power Mercedes, the last mentioned fitted to the Aviatik
biplane of 1917. The Uberursel was a copy of the Gnome and
supplied the need for rotary engines.

In Great Britain there were a number of aeroplane constructing
firms that had managed to emerge from the lean years 1912-1913
with sufficient manufacturing plant to give a hand in making up
the leeway of construction when War broke out. Gradually the
motor-car firms came in, turning their body-building departments
to plane and fuselage construction, which enabled them to turn
out the complete planes engined and ready for the field. The
coach-building trade soon joined in and came in handy as
propeller makers; big upholstering and furniture firms and scores
of concerns that had never dreamed of engaging in aeroplane
construction were busy on supplying the R.F.C. By 1915 hundreds
of different firms were building aeroplanes and parts; by 1917
the number had increased to over 1,000, and a capital of over a
million pounds for a firm that at the outbreak of War had
employed a score or so of hands was by no means uncommon. Women
and girls came into the work, more especially in plane
construction and covering and doping, though they took their
place in the engine shops and proved successful at acetylene
welding and work at the lathes. It was some time before Britain
was able to provide its own magnetos, for this key industry had
been left in the hands of the Germans up to the outbreak of War,
and the 'Bosch' was admittedly supreme--even now it has never
been beaten, and can only be equalled, being as near perfection
as is possible for a magneto.

One of the great inventions of the War was the synchronisation
of engine-timing and machine gun, which rendered it possible to
fire through the blades of a propeller without damaging them,
though the growing efficiency of the aeroplane as a whole and of
its armament is a thing to marvel at on looking back and
considering what was actually accomplished. As the efficiency
of the aeroplane increased, so anti-aircraft guns and
range-finding were improved. Before the War an aeroplane
travelling at full speed was reckoned perfectly safe at 4,000
feet, but, by the first month of 1915, the safe height had gone
up to 9,000 feet, 7,000 feet being the limit of rifle and machine
gun bullet trajectory; the heavier guns were not sufficiently
mobile to tackle aircraft. At that time, it was reckoned that
effective aerial photography ceased at 6,000 feet, while
bomb-dropping from 7,000-8,000 feet was reckoned uncertain except
in the case of a very large target. The improvement in
anti-aircraft devices went on, and by May of 1916, an aeroplane
was not safe under 15,000 feet, while anti-aircraft shells had
fuses capable of being set to over 20,000 feet, and bombing from
15,000 and 16,000 feet was common. It was not till later that
Allied pilots demonstrated the safety that lies in flying very
near the ground, this owing to the fact that, when flying swiftly
at a very low altitude, the machine is out of sight almost before
it can be aimed at.

The Battle of the Somme and the clearing of the air preliminary
to that operation brought the fighting aeroplane pure and simple
with them. Formations of fighting planes preceded reconnaissance
craft in order to clear German machines and observation balloons
out of the sky and to watch and keep down any further enemy
formations that might attempt to interfere with Allied
observation work. The German reply to this consisted in the
formation of the Flying Circus, of which Captain Baron von
Richthofen's was a good example. Each circus consisted of a
large formation of speedy machines, built specially for fighting
and manned by the best of the German pilots. These were sent to
attack at any point along the line where the Allies had got a
decided superiority.

The trick flying of pre-war days soon became an everyday matter;
Pegoud astonished the aviation world before the War by first
looping the loop, but, before three years of hostilities had
elapsed, looping was part of the training of practically every
pilot, while the spinning nose dive, originally considered fatal,
was mastered, and the tail slide, which consisted of a machine
rising nose upward in the air and falling back on its tail,
became one of the easiest 'stunts' in the pilot's repertoire.
Inherent stability was gradually improved, and, from 1916 onward,
practically every pilot could carry on with his machine-gun or
camera and trust to his machine to fly itself until he was free
to attend to it. There was more than one story of a machine
coming safely to earth and making good landing on its own account
with the pilot dead in his cock-pit.

Toward the end of the War, the Independent Air Force was formed
as a branch of the R.A.F. with a view to bombing German bases
and devoting its attention exclusively to work behind the enemy
lines. Bombing operations were undertaken by the R.N.A.S. as
early as 1914-1915 against Cuxhaven, Dusseldorf, and
Friedrichshavn, but the supply of material was not sufficient to
render these raids continuous. A separate Brigade, the 8th, was
formed in 1917 to harass the German chemical and iron
industries, the base being in the Nancy area, and this policy
was found so fruitful that the Independent Force was constituted
on the 8th June, 1918. The value of the work accomplished by
this force is demonstrated by the fact that the German High
Command recalled twenty fighting squadrons from the Western
front to counter its activities, and, in addition, took troops
away from the fighting line in large numbers for manning
anti-aircraft batteries and searchlights. The German press of
the last year of the War is eloquent of the damage done in
manufacturing areas by the Independent Force, which, had
hostilities continued a little longer, would have included Berlin
in its activities.

Formation flying was first developed by the Germans, who made
use of it in the daylight raids against England in 1917. Its
value was very soon realised, and the V formation of wild geese
was adopted, the leader taking the point of the V and his
squadron following on either side at different heights. The air
currents set up by the leading machines were thus avoided by
those in the rear, while each pilot had a good view of the
leader's bombs, and were able to correct their own aim by the
bursts, while the different heights at which they flew rendered
anti-aircraft gun practice less effective. Further, machines
were able to afford mutual protection to each other and any
attacker would be met by machine-gun fire from three or four
machines firing on him from different angles and heights. In
the later formations single-seater fighters flew above the
bombers for the purpose of driving off hostile craft. Formation
flying was not fully developed when the end of the War brought
stagnation in place of the rapid advance in the strategy and
tactics of military air work.


The end of the War brought a pause in which the multitude of
aircraft constructors found themselves faced with the possible
complete stagnation of the industry, since military activities
no longer demanded their services and the prospects of
commercial flying were virtually nil. That great factor in
commercial success, cost of plant and upkeep, had received no
consideration whatever in the War period, for armies do not
count cost. The types of machines that had evolved from the War
were very fast, very efficient, and very expensive, although the
bombers showed promise of adaptation to commercial needs, and,
so far as other machines were concerned, America had already
proved the possibilities of mail-carrying by maintaining a mail
service even during the War period.

A civil aviation department of the Air Ministry was formed in
February of 1919 with a Controller General of Civil Aviation
at the head. This was organised into four branches, one dealing
with the survey and preparation of air routes for the British
Empire, one organising meteorological and wireless telegraphy
services, one dealing with the licensing of aerodromes, machines
for passenger or goods carrying and civilian pilots, and one
dealing with publicity and transmission of information
generally. A special Act of Parliament 264 entitled 'The Air
Navigation Acts, 1911-1919,' was passed on February 27th, and
commercial flying was officially permitted from May 1st, 1919.

Meanwhile the great event of 1919, the crossing of the
Atlantic by air, was gradually ripening to performance. In
addition to the rigid airship, R.34, eight machines entered for
this flight, these being a Short seaplane, Handley-Page,
Martinsyde, Vickers-Vimy, and Sopwith aeroplanes, and three
American flying boats, N.C.1, N.C.3, and N.C.4. The Short
seaplane was the only one of the eight which proposed to make
the journey westward; in flying from England to Ireland, before
starting on the long trip to Newfoundland, it fell into the sea
off the coast of Anglesey, and so far as it was concerned the
attempt was abandoned.

The first machines to start from the Western end were the three
American seaplanes, which on the morning of May 6th left
Trepassy, Newfoundland, on the 1,380 mile stage to Horta in the
Azores. N.C.1 and N.C.3 gave up the attempt very early, but
N.C.4, piloted by Lieut.-Commander Read, U.S.N., made Horta on
May 17th and made a three days' halt. On the 20th the second
stage of the journey to Ponta Delgada, a further 190 miles, was
completed and a second halt of a week was made. On the 27th,
the machine left for Lisbon, 900 miles distant, and completed
the journey in a day. On the 30th a further stage of 340 miles
took N.C.4 on to Ferrol, and the next day the last stage of 420
miles to Plymouth was accomplished.

Meanwhile, H. G. Hawker, pilot of the Sopwith biplane, together
with Commander Mackenzie Grieve, R.N., his navigator, found the
weather sufficiently auspicious to set out at 6.48 p.m. On
Sunday, May 18th, in the hope of completing the trip by the
direct route before N.C.4 could reach Plymouth. They set out
from Mount Pearl aerodrome, St John's, Newfoundland, and vanished
into space, being given up as lost, as Hamel was lost immediately
before the War in attempting to fly the North Sea. There was a
week of dead silence regarding their fate, but on the following
Sunday morning there was world-wide relief at the news that the
plucky attempt had not ended in disaster, but both aviators had
been picked up by the steamer Mary at 9.30 a.m. on the morning of
the 19th, while still about 750 miles short of the conclusion of
their journey. Engine failure brought them down, and they planed
down to the sea close to the Mary to be picked up; as the vessel
was not fitted with wireless, the news of their rescue could not
be communicated until land was reached. An equivalent of half
the L10,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail for the non-stop
flight was presented by the paper in recognition of the very
gallant attempt, and the King conferred the Air Force Cross on
both pilot and navigator.

Raynham, pilot of the Martinsyde competing machine, had the bad
luck to crash his craft twice in attempting to start before he
got outside the boundary of the aerodrome. The Handley-Page
machine was withdrawn from the competition, and, attempting to
fly to America, was crashed on the way.

The first non-stop crossing was made on June 14th-15th in 16
hours 27 minutes, the speed being just over 117 miles per hour.
The machine was a Vickers-Vimy bomber, engined with two
Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII's, piloted by Captain John Alcock, D.S.C.,
with Lieut. Arthur Whitten-Brown as navigator. The journey was
reported to be very rough, so much so at times that Captain
Alcock stated that they were flying upside down, and for the
greater part of the time they were out of sight of the sea. Both
pilot and navigator had the honour of knighthood conferred on
them at the conclusion of the journey.

Meanwhile, commercial flying opened on May 8th (the official
date was May 1st) with a joy-ride service from Hounslow of Avro
training machines. The enterprise caught on remarkably, and the
company extended their activities to coastal resorts for the
holiday season--at Blackpool alone they took up 10,000
passengers before the service was two months old. Hendon,
beginning passenger flights on the same date, went in for
exhibition and passenger flying, and on June 21st the aerial
Derby was won by Captain Gathergood on an Airco 4R machine with
a Napier 450 horse-power 'Lion' engine; incidentally the speed
of 129.3 miles per hour was officially recognised as constituting
the world's record for speed within a closed circuit. On July
17th a Fiat B.R. biplane with a 700 horse-power engine landed at
Kenley aerodrome after having made a non-stop flight of 1,100
miles. The maximum speed of this machine was 160 miles per
hour, and it was claimed to be the fastest machine in existence.
On August 25th a daily service between London and Paris was
inaugurated by the Aircraft Manufacturing Company, Limited, who
ran a machine each way each day, starting at 12.30 and due to
arrive at 2.45 p.m. The Handley-Page Company began a similar
service in September of 1919, but ran it on alternate days
with machines capable of accommodating ten passengers. The
single fare in each case was fixed at 15 guineas and the parcel
rate at 7s. 6d. per pound.

Meanwhile, in Germany, a number of passenger services had been
in operation from the early part of the year; the Berlin-Weimar
service was established on February 5th and Berlin-Hamburg on
March 1st, both for mail and passenger carrying. Berlin-Breslau
was soon added, but the first route opened remained most
popular, 538 flights being made between its opening and the
end of April, while for March and April combined, the
Hamburg-Berlin route recorded only 262 flights. All three
routes were operated by a combine of German aeronautical firms
entitled the Deutsch Luft Rederie. The single fare between
Hamburg and Berlin was 450 marks, between Berlin and Breslau 500
marks, and between Berlin and Weimar 450 marks. Luggage was
carried free of charge, but varied according to the weight of
the passenger, since the combined weight of both passenger and
luggage was not allowed to exceed a certain limit.

In America commercial flying had begun in May of 1918 with the
mail service between Washington, Philadelphia, and New York,
which proved that mail carrying is a commercial possibility, and
also demonstrated the remarkable reliability of the modern
aeroplane by making 102 complete flights out of a possible total
of 104 in November, 1918, at a cost of 0.777 of a dollar per
mile. By March of 1919 the cost per mile had gone up to 1.28
dollars; the first annual report issued at the end of May showed
an efficiency of 95.6 per cent and the original six aeroplanes
and engines with which the service began were still in regular

In June of 1919 an American commercial firm chartered an
aeroplane for emergency service owing to a New York harbour
strike and found it so useful that they made it a regular
service. The Travellers Company inaugurated a passenger flying
boat service between New York and Atlantic City on July 25th, the
fare, inclusive of 35 lbs. of luggage, being fixed at L25 each

Five flights on the American continent up to the end of 1919
are worthy of note. On December 13th, 1918, Lieut. D. Godoy of
the Chilian army left Santiago, Chili, crossed the Andes at a
height of 19,700 feet and landed at Mendoza, the capital of the
wine-growing province of Argentina. On April 19th, 1919, Captain
E. F. White made the first non-stop flight between New York and
Chicago in 6 hours 50 minutes on a D.H.4 machine driven by a
twelve-cylinder Liberty engine. Early in August Major Schroeder,
piloting a French Lepere machine flying at a height of 18,400
feet, reached a speed of 137 miles per hour with a Liberty motor
fitted with a super-charger. Toward the end of August, Rex
Marshall, on a Thomas-Morse biplane, starting from a height of
17,000 feet, made a glide of 35 miles with his engine cut off,
restarting it when at a height of 600 feet above the ground.
About a month later R. Rohlfe, piloting a Curtiss triplane, broke
the height record by reaching 34,610 feet.

XXII. 1919-20

Into the later months of 1919 comes the flight by Captain
Ross-Smith from England to Australia and the attempt to make the
Cape to Cairo voyage by air. The Australian Government had
offered a prize of L10,000 for the first flight from England to
Australia in a British machine, the flight to be accomplished in
720 consecutive hours. Ross-Smith, with his brother, Lieut.
Keith Macpherson Smith, and two mechanics, left Hounslow in a
Vickers-Vimy bomber with Rolls-Royce engine on November 12th and
arrived at Port Darwin, North Australia, on the 10th December,
having completed the flight in 27 days 20 hours 20 minutes, thus
having 51 hours 40 minutes to spare out of the 720 allotted

Early in 1920 came a series of attempts at completing the
journey by air between Cairo and the Cape. Out of four
competitors Colonel Van Ryneveld came nearest to making the
journey successfully, leaving England on a standard Vickers-Vimy
bomber with Rolls-Royce engines, identical in design with the
machine used by Captain Ross-Smith on the England to Australia
flight. A second Vickers-Vimy was financed by the Times

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