E. Charles Vivian

On the fifth of June, 1783, the Montgolfiers' hot-air balloon rose at Versailles, and in its rising divided the study of the conquest of the air into two definite parts, the one being concerned with the propulsion of gas lifted, lighter-than-air vehicles, and the other being crystallised in one sentence by Sir George Cayley: 'The whole problem,' he stated, 'is confined within these limits, viz.: to make a surface support a given weight by the application of power to the resistance of the air.' For about ten years the balloon held the field entirely, being regarded as the only solution of th

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.

As far back as the period of the Napoleonic wars, the balloon was given a place in warfare, but up to the Franco-Prussian Prussian War of 1870-71 its use was intermittent. The Federal forces made use of balloons to a small extent in the American Civil War; they came to great prominence in the siege of Paris, carrying out upwards of three million letters and sundry carrier pigeons which took back messages into the besieged city. Meanwhile, as captive balloons, the German and other armies used them for observation and the direction of artillery fire.

Both Cayley and Walker were theorists, though Cayley supported his theoretical work with enough of practice to show that he studied along right lines; a little after his time there came practical men who brought to being the first machine which actually flew by the application of power. Before their time, however, mention must be made of the work of George Pocock of Bristol, who, somewhere about 1840 invented what was described as a 'kite carriage,' a vehicle which carried a number of persons, and obtained its motive power from a large kite.

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.

There are few outstanding events in the development of aeronautics between Stringfellow's final achievement and the work of such men as Lilienthal, Pilcher, Montgomery, and their kind; in spite of this, the later middle decades of the nineteenth century witnessed a considerable amount of spade work both in England and in France, the two countries which led in the way in aeronautical development until Lilienthal gave honour to Germany, and Langley and Montgomery paved the way for the Wright Brothers in America.

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 balloon was but a year old when the brothers Robert, in 1784 attempted propulsion of an aerial vehicle by hand-power, and succeeded, to a certain extent, since they were able to make progress when there was only a slight wind to counteract their work. But, as may be easily understood, the manual power provided gave but a very slow speed, and in any wind it all the would-be airship became an uncontrolled balloon.

Until the Wright Brothers definitely solved the problem of flight and virtually gave the aeroplane its present place in aeronautics, there were three definite schools of experiment.

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