William J. Claxton

One of the most recent developments in aviation is the hydroplane, or water-plane as it is most commonly called. A hydroplane is an aeroplane fitted with floats instead of wheels, so that it will rise from, or alight upon, the surface of the water. Often water-planes have their floats removed and wheels affixed to the chassis, so that they may be used over land.

In the year 1782 two young Frenchmen might have been seen one winter night sitting over their cottage fire, performing the curious experiment of filling paper bags with smoke, and letting them rise up towards the ceiling. These young men were brothers, named Stephen and Joseph Montgolfier, and their experiments resulted in the invention of the balloon.

Though, as we have seen, most of the early attempts at aerial navigation were made by foreign engineers, yet we are proud to number among the ranks of the early inventors of heavier-than-air machines Sir Hiram Maxim, who, though an American by birth, has spent most of his life in Britain and may therefore be called a British inventor.

Though Harry Hawker made such a brilliant and gallant attempt to win the L5000 prize, we must not forget that great credit is due to Mr. Sopwith, who designed the water-plane, and to Mr. Green, the inventor of the engine which made such a flight possible, and enabled the pilot to achieve a feat never before approached in any part of the world.

The safe descent of the three animals, which has already been related, showed the way for man to venture up in a balloon. In our time we marvel at the daring of modern airmen, who ascend to giddy heights, and, as it were, engage in mortal combat with the demons of the air. But, courageous though these deeds are, they are not more so than those of the pioneers of ballooning.

In the beginning of the twentieth century many of the leading European newspapers contained brief reports of aerial experiments which were being carried out at Dayton, in the State of Ohio, America. So wonderful were the results of these experiments, and so mysterious were the movements of the two brothers - Orville and Wilbur Wright - who conducted them, that many Europeans would not believe the reports.

"Even in the region of the air, into which with characteristic British prudence we have moved with some tardiness, the Navy need not fear comparison with the Navy of any other country. The British sea-plane, although still in an empirical stage, like everything else in this sphere of warlike operations, has reached a point of progress in advance of anything attained elsewhere.

It has been said that the honour of making the first ascent in a balloon from British soil must be awarded to Mr. Tytler. This took place in Scotland. In this chapter we will relate the almost romantic story of the first ascent made in England.

This was carried out successfully by Lunardi, the Italian of whom we have previously spoken. This young foreigner, who was engaged as a private secretary in London, had his interest keenly aroused by the accounts of the experiments being carried out in balloons in France, and he decided to attempt similar experiments in this country.

We have several times remarked upon the great handicap placed upon the pioneers of aviation by the absence of a light but powerful motor engine. The invention of the internal-combustion engine may be said to have revolutionized the science of flying; had it appeared a century ago, there is no reason to doubt that Sir George Cayley would have produced an aeroplane giving as good results as the machines which have appeared during the last five or six years.

The honour of being the first man to fly in this country is claimed by Mr. A. V. Roe, head of the well-known firm A. V. Roe Co., of Manchester, and constructor of the highly-efficient Avro machines.

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