IV. THE MIDDLE NINETEENTH CENTURY
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. It is on record that, in the year 1846 one of these carriages conveyed sixteen people from Bristol to London. Another device of Pocock's was what he called a 'buoyant sail,' which was in effect a man-lifting kite, and by means of which a passenger was actually raised 100 yards from the ground, while the inventor's son scaled a cliff 200 feet in height by means of one of these, 'buoyant sails.' This constitutes the first definitely recorded experiment in the use of man-lifting kites. A History of the Charvolant or Kite-carriage, published in London in 1851, states that 'an experiment of a bold and very novel character was made upon an extensive down, where a large wagon with a considerable load was drawn along, whilst this huge machine at the same time carried an observer aloft in the air, realising almost the romance of flying.'
Experimenting, two years after the appearance of the 'kite-carriage,' on the helicopter principle, W. H. Phillips constructed a model machine which weighed two pounds; this was fitted with revolving fans, driven by the combustion of charcoal, nitre, and gypsum, producing steam which, discharging into the air, caused the fans to revolve. The inventor stated that 'all being arranged, the steam was up in a few seconds, when the whole apparatus spun around like any top, and mounted into the air faster than a bird; to what height it ascended I had no means of ascertaining; the distance travelled was across two fields, where, after a long search, I found the machine minus the wings, which had been torn off in contact with the ground.' This could hardly be described as successful flight, but it was an advance in the construction of machines on the helicopter principle, and it was the first steam-driven model of the type which actually flew. The invention, however, was not followed up.
After Phillips, we come to the great figures of the middle nineteenth century, W. S. Henson and John Stringfellow. Cayley had shown, in 1809, how success might be attained by developing the idea of the plane surface so driven as to take advantage of the resistance offered by the air, and Henson, who as early as 1840 was experimenting with model gliders and light steam engines, evolved and patented an idea for something very nearly resembling the monoplane of the early twentieth century. His patent, No. 9478, of the year 1842 explains the principle of the machine as follows: -
In order that the description hereafter given be rendered clear, I will first shortly explain the principle on which the machine is constructed. If any light and flat or nearly flat article be projected or thrown edgewise in a slightly inclined position, the same will rise on the air till the force exerted is expended, when the article so thrown or projected will descend; and it will readily be conceived that, if the article so projected or thrown possessed in itself a continuous power or force equal to that used in throwing or projecting it, the article would continue to ascend so long as the forward part of the surface was upwards in respect to the hinder part, and that such article, when the power was stopped, or when the inclination was reversed, would descend by gravity aided by the force of the power contained in the article, if the power be continued, thus imitating the flight of a bird.
Now, the first part of my invention consists of an apparatus so constructed as to offer a very extended surface or plane of a light yet strong construction, which will have the same relation to the general machine which the extended wings of a bird have to the body when a bird is skimming in the air; but in place of the movement or power for onward progress being obtained by movement of the extended surface or plane, as is the case with the wings of birds, I apply suitable paddle-wheels or other proper mechanical propellers worked by a steam or other sufficiently light engine, and thus obtain the requisite power for onward movement to the plane or extended surface; and in order to give control as to the upward and downward direction of such a machine I apply a tail to the extended surface which is capable of being inclined or raised, so that when the power is acting to propel the machine, by inclining the tail upwards, the resistance offered by the air will cause the machine to rise on the air; and, on the contrary, when the inclination of the tail is reversed, the machine will immediately be propelled downwards, and pass through a plane more or less inclined to the horizon as the inclination of the tail is greater or less; and in order to guide the machine as to the lateral direction which it shall take, I apply a vertical rudder or second tail, and, according as the same is inclined in one direction or the other, so will be the direction of the machine.'