Aeronautics

As was the case with the aeroplane, Great Britain left France and Germany to make the running in the early days of airship construction; the balloon section of the Royal Engineers was compelled to confine its energies to work with balloons pure and simple until well after the twentieth century had dawned, and such experiments as were made in England were done by private initiative. As far back as 1900 Doctor Barton built an airship at the Alexandra Palace and voyaged across London in it. Four years later Mr E. T.

So far, the stories of the development of flight are either legendary or of more or less doubtful authenticity, even including that of Danti, who, although a man of remarkable attainments in more directions than that of attempted flight, suffers - so far as reputation is concerned - from the inexactitudes of his chroniclers; he may have soared over Thrasimene, as stated, or a mere hop with an ineffectual glider may have grown with the years to a legend of gliding flight.

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.

Prior to the war period, between the years 1910 and 1914, a German undertaking called the Deutsche Luftfahrt Actien Gesellschaft conducted a commercial Zeppelin service in which four airships known as the Sachsan, Hansa, Victoria Louise, and Schwaben were used. During the four years of its work, the company carried over 17,000 passengers, and over 100,000 miles were flown without incurring one fatality and with only minor and unavoidable accidents to the vessels composing the service.

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.

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