CHAPTER XXIII. A Famous British Inventor of Aviation Engines
In the general design and beauty of workmanship involved in the construction of aeroplanes, Britain is now quite the equal of her foreign rivals; even in engines we are making extremely rapid progress, and the well-known Green Engine Company, profiting by the result of nine years' experience, are able to turn out aeroplane engines as reliable, efficient, and as light in pounds weight per horse-power as any aero engine in existence.
In the early days of aviation larger and better engines of British make specially suited for aeroplanes were our most urgent need.
The story of the invention of the "Green" engine is a record of triumph over great difficulties.
Early in 1909 - the memorable year when M. Bleriot was firing the enthusiasm of most engineers by his cross-Channel flight; when records were being established at Rheims; and when M. Paulhan won the great prize of L10,000 for the London to Manchester flight - Mr. Green conceived a number of ingenious ideas for an aero engine.
One of Mr. Green's requirements was that the cylinders should be made of cast-steel, and that they should come from a British foundry. The company that took the work in hand, the Aster Company, had confidence in the inventor's ideas. It is said that they had to waste 250 castings before six perfect cylinders were produced. It is estimated that the first Green engine cost L6000. These engines can be purchased for less than L500.
The closing months of 1909 saw the Green engine firmly established. In October of that year Mr. Moore Brabazon won the first all-British competition of L1000 offered by the Daily Mail for the first machine to fly a circular mile course. His aeroplane was fitted with a 60-horse-power Green aero engine. In the same year M. Michelin offered L1000 for a long-distance flight in all-British aviation; this prize was also won by Mr. Brabazon, who made a flight of 17 miles.
Some of Colonel Cody's achievements in aviation were made with the Green engine. In 1910 he succeeded in winning both the duration and cross-country Michelin competitions, and in 1911 he again accomplished similar feats. In this year he also finished fourth in the all-round-Britain race. This was a most meritorious performance when it is remembered that his Cathedral weighed nearly a ton and ahalf, and that the 60-horse-power Green was practically "untouched", to use an engineering expression, during the whole of the 1010-mile flight.
The following year saw Cody winning another Michelin prize for a cross-country competition. Here he made a flight of over 200 miles, and his high opinion of the engine may be best described in the letter he wrote to the company, saying: "If you kept the engine supplied from without with petrol and oil, what was within would carry you through".
But the pinnacle of Mr. Green's fame as an inventor was reached in 1913, when Mr. Harry Hawker made his memorable waterplane flight from Cowes to Lough Shinny, an account of which appears in a later chapter. His machine was fitted with a 100-horse-power Green, and with it he flew 1043 miles of the 1540-miles course.
Though the complete course was not covered, neither Mr. Sopwith - who built the machine and bore the expenses of the flight - nor Mr. Hawker attached any blame to the engine. At a dinner of the Aero Club, given in 1914, Mr. Sopwith was most enthusiastic in discussing the merits of the "Green", and after Harry Hawker had recovered from the effects of his fall in Lough Shinny he remarked in reference to the engine: "It is the best I have ever met. I do not know any other that would have done anything like the work."
At the same time that this race was being held the French had a competition from Paris to Deauville, a distance of about 160 miles. When compared with the time and distance covered by Mr. Hawker, the results achieved by the French pilots, flying machines fitted with French engines, were quite insignificant; thus proving how the British industry had caught up, and even passed, its closest rivals.
In 1913 Mr. Grahame White, with one of the 100-horse-power "Greens" succeeded in winning the duration Michelin with a flight of over 300 miles, carrying a mechanic and pilot, 85 gallons of petrol, and 12 gallons of lubricating oil. Compulsory landings were made every 63 miles, and the engine was stopped. In spite of these trying conditions, the engine ran, from start to finish, nearly nine hours without the slightest trouble.
Sufficient has been said to prove conclusively that the thought and labour expended in the perfecting of the Green engine have not been fruitless.