Aeronautics

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

An offshoot from the vertical type, doubling the power of this with only a very slight - if any - increase in the length of crankshaft, the Vee or diagonal type of aero engine leaped to success through the insistent demand for greater power. Although the design came after that of the vertical engine, by 1910, according to Critchley's list of aero engines, there were more Vee type engines being made than any other type, twenty-five sizes being given in the list, with an average rating of 57.4 brake horse-power.

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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