Aeronautics

The coming of the motor engine made events move rapidly in the world of aviation. About the year 1906 people's attention was drawn to France, where Santos Dumont was carrying out the wonderful experiments which we have already described. Then came Henri Farman, who piloted the famous biplane built by the Voisin brothers in 1907; an aeroplane destined to bring world-wide renown to its clever constructors and its equally clever and daring pilot.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Though this book cannot pretend to go deeply into the technical side of aviation, there are certain terms and expressions in everyday use by aviators that it is well to know and understand.

First, as to the machines themselves. You are now able to distinguish a monoplane from a biplane, and you have been told the difference between a TRACTOR biplane and a PROPELLER biplane. In the former type the screw is in front of the pilot; in the latter it is to the rear of the pilot's seat.

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.

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