William J. Claxton

The desire to fly is no new growth in humanity. For countless years men have longed to emulate the birds - "To soar upward and glide, free as a bird, over smiling fields, leafy woods, and mirror-like lakes," as a great pioneer of aviation said. Great scholars and thinkers of old, such as Horace, Homer, Pindar, Tasso, and all the glorious line, dreamt of flight, but it has been left for the present century to see those dreams fulfilled.

About the time that M. Bleriot was developing his monoplane, and Santos Dumont was astonishing the world with his flying feats at Bagatelle, a young army officer was at work far away in a secluded part of the Scottish Highlands on the model of an aeroplane. This young man was Lieutenant J. W. Dunne, and his name has since been on everyone's lips wherever aviation is discussed.

One of the main causes of aeroplane accidents has been the breakage of some part of the machine while in the air, due to defective work in its construction. There is no doubt that air-craft are far more trustworthy now than they were two or three years ago. Builders have learned from the mistakes of their predecessors as well as profited by their own. After every serious accident there is an official enquiry as to the probable cause of the accident, and information of inestimable value has been obtained from such enquiries.

by William J. Claxton

Hitherto we have traced the gradual development of the balloon right from the early days of aeronautics, when the brothers Montgolfier constructed their hot-air balloon, down to the most modern dirigible. It is now our purpose, in this and subsequent chapters, to follow the course of the pioneers of aviation.

In the brief but glorious history of pioneer work in aviation, so far as it applies to this country, there is scarcely a more romantic figure to be found than Colonel Cody. It was the writer's pleasure to come into close contact with Cody during the early years of his experimental work with man-lifting box-kites at the Alexandra Park, London, and never will his genial smile and twinkling eye be forgotten.

Many people still think that if the engine of an aeroplane should stop while the machine was in mid-air, a terrible disaster would happen. All petrol engines may be described as fickle in their behaviour, and so complicated is their structure that the best of them are given to stopping without any warning. Aeroplane engines are far superior in horse-power to those fitted to motorcars, and consequently their structure is more intricate. But if an airman's engine suddenly stopped there would be no reason whatever why he should tumble down head first and break his neck.

This book makes no pretence of going minutely into the technical and scientific sides of human flight: rather does it deal mainly with the real achievements of pioneers who have helped to make aviation what it is to-day.

For many years after the publication of Sir George Cayley's articles and lectures on aviation very little was done in the way of aerial experiments. True, about midway through the nineteenth century two clever engineers, Henson and Stringfellow, built a model aeroplane after the design outlined by Sir George; but though their model was not of much practical value, a little more valuable experience was accumulated which would be of service when the time should come; in other words, when the motor engine should arrive.

When the complete history of aviation comes to be written, there will be three epoch-making events which will doubtless be duly appreciated by the historian, and which may well be described as landmarks in the history of flight. These are the three great contests organized by the proprietors of the Daily Mail, respectively known as the "London to Manchester" flight, the "Round Britain flight in an aeroplane", and the "Water-plane flight round Great Britain."

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