Aeronautics

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.

No account of the early history of English aeronautics could possibly be complete unless it included a description of the Nassau balloon, which was inflated by coal-gas, from the suggestion of Mr. Charles Green, who was one of Britain's most famous aeronauts. Because of his institution of the modern method of using coal-gas in a balloon, Mr. Green is generally spoken of as the Father of British Aeronautics. During the close of the eighteenth and the opening years of the nineteenth century there had been numerous ascents in Charlier balloons, both in Britain and on the Continent.

I suppose many of my readers are quite familiar with the working of a steam-engine. Probably you have owned models of steam-engines right from your earliest youth, and there are few boys who do not know how the railway engine works.

The year 1912 was marked by the institution of the Royal Flying Corps. The new corps, which was so soon to make its mark in the greatest of all wars, consisted of naval and military "wings". In those early days the head-quarters of the corps were at Eastchurch, and there both naval and military officers were trained in aviation. In an arm of such rapid - almost miraculous - development as Service flying to go back a period of six years is almost to take a plunge into ancient history. Designs, engines, guns, fittings, signals of those days are now almost archaic.

No doubt many of those who read this book have seen an aeronaut descend from a balloon by the aid of a parachute. For many years this performance has been one of the most attractive items on the programmes of fetes, galas, and various other outdoor exhibitions.

The word "parachute" has been almost bodily taken from the French language. It is derived from the French parer to parry, and chute a fall. In appearance a parachute is very similar to an enormous umbrella.

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