APPENDIX A. GENERAL MENSIER'S REPORT ON THE TRIALS OF CLEMENT ADER'S AVION.
Paris, October 21, 1897.
Report on the trials of M. Clement Ader's aviation apparatus.
M. Ader having notified the Minister of War by letter, July 21, 1897, that the Apparatus of Aviation which he had agreed to build under the conditions set forth in the convention of July 24th, 1894, was ready, and therefore requesting that trials be undertaken before a Committee appointed for this purpose as per the decision of August 4th, the Committee was appointed as follows: -
Division General Mensier, Chairman; Division General Delambre, Inspector General of the Permanent Works of Coast Defence, Member of the Technical Committee of the Engineering Corps; Colonel Laussedat, Director of the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers; Sarrau, Member of the Institute, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Polytechnic School; Leaute, Member of the Institute, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Polytechnique School.
Colonel Laussedat gave notice at once that his health and work as Director of the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers did not permit him to be a member of the Committee; the Minister therefore accepted his resignation on September 24th, and decided not to replace him.
Later on, however, on the request of the Chairman of the Committee, the Minister appointed a new member General Grillon, commanding the Engineer Corps of the Military Government of Paris.
To carry on the trials which were to take place at the camp of Satory, the Minister ordered the Governor of the Military Forces of Paris to requisition from the Engineer Corps, on the request of the Chairman of the Committee, the men necessary to prepare the grounds at Satory.
After an inspection made on the 16th an aerodrome was chosen. M. Ader's idea was to have it of circular shape with a width of 40 metres and an average diameter of 450 metres. The preliminary work, laying out the grounds, interior and exterior circumference, etc., was finished at the end of August; the work of smoothing off the grounds began September 1st with forty-five men and two rollers, and was finished on the day of the first tests, October 12th.
The first meeting of the Committee was held August 18th in M. Ader's workshop; the object being to demonstrate the machine to the Committee and give all the information possible on the tests that were to be held. After a careful examination and after having heard all the explanations by the inventor which were deemed useful and necessary, the Committee decided that the apparatus seemed to be built with a perfect understanding of the purpose to be fulfilled as far as one could judge from a study of the apparatus at rest; they therefore authorised M. Ader to take the machine apart and carry it to the camp at Satory so as to proceed with the trials.
By letter of August 19th the Chairman made report to the Minister of the findings of the Committee.
The work on the grounds having taken longer than was anticipated, the Chairman took advantage of this delay to call the Committee together for a second meeting, during which M. Ader was to run the two propulsive screws situated at the forward end of the apparatus.
The meeting was held October 2nd. It gave the Committee an opportunity to appreciate the motive power in all its details; firebox, boiler, engine, under perfect control, absolute condensation, automatic fuel and feed of the liquid to be vaporised, automatic lubrication and scavenging; everything, in a word, seemed well designed and executed.
The weights in comparison with the power of the engine realised a considerable advance over anything made to date, since the two engines weighed together realised 42 kg., the firebox and boiler 60 kg., the condenser 15 kg., or a total of 117 kg. for approximately 40 horse-power or a little less than 3 kg. per horse-power.
One of the members summed up the general opinion by saying: 'Whatever may be the result from an aviation point of view, a result which could not be foreseen for the moment, it was nevertheless proven that from a mechanical point of view M. Ader's apparatus was of the greatest interest and real ingeniosity. He expressed a hope that in any case the machine would not be lost to science.'
The second experiment in the workshop was made in the presence of the Chairman, the purpose being to demonstrate that the wings, having a spread of 17 metres, were sufficiently strong to support the weight of the apparatus. With this object in view, 14 sliding supports were placed under each one of these, representing imperfectly the manner in which the wings would support the machine in the air; by gradually raising the supports with the slides, the wheels on which the machine rested were lifted from the ground. It was evident at that time that the members composing the skeleton of the wings supported the apparatus, and it was quite evident that when the wings were supported by the air on every point of their surface, the stress would be better equalised than when resting on a few supports, and therefore the resistance to breakage would be considerably greater.
After this last test, the work on the ground being practically finished, the machine was transported to Satory, assembled and again made ready for trial.
At first M. Ader was to manoeuvre the machine on the ground at a moderate speed, then increase this until it was possible to judge whether there was a tendency for the machine to rise; and it was only after M. Ader had acquired sufficient practice that a meeting of the Committee was to be called to be present at the first part of the trials; namely, volutions of the apparatus on the ground.