CHAPTER XXVIII. M. Bleriot and the Monoplane
If the Wright brothers can lay claim to the title of "Fathers of the Biplane", then it is certain that M. Bleriot, the gallant French airman, can be styled the "Father of the Monoplane."
For five years - 1906 to 1910 - Louis Bleriot's name was on everybody's lips in connection with his wonderful records in flying and skilful feats of airmanship. Perhaps the flight which brought him greatest renown was that accomplished in July, 1909, when he was the first man to cross the English Channel by aeroplane. This attempt had been forestalled, although unsuccessfully, by Hubert Latham, a daring aviator who is best known in Lancashire by his flight in 1909 at Blackpool in a wind which blew at the rate of nearly 40 miles an hour - a performance which struck everyone with wonder in these early days of aviation.
Latham attempted, on an Antoinette monoplane, to carry off the prize of L1000 offered by the proprietors of the Daily Mail. On the first occasion he fell in mid-Channel, owing to the failure of his motor, and was rescued by a torpedo-boat. His machine was so badly damaged during the salving operations that another had to be sent from Paris, and with this he made a second attempt, which was also unsuccessful. Meanwhile M. Bleriot had arrived on the scene; and on 25th July he crossed the Channel from Calais to Dover in thirty-seven minutes and was awarded the L1000 prize.
Bleriot's fame was now firmly established, and on his return to France he received a magnificent welcome. The monoplane at once leaped into favour, and the famous "bird man" had henceforth to confine his efforts to the building of machines and the organization of flying events. He has since established a large factory in France and inaugurated a flying school at Pau.
All the time that the Wrights were experimenting with their glider and biplane in America, and the Voisin brothers were constructing biplanes in France, Bleriot had been giving earnest attention to the production of a real "bird" machine, provided with one pair of FLAPPING wings. We know now that such an aeroplane is not likely to be of practical use, but with quiet persistence Bleriot kept to his task, and succeeded in evolving the famous Antoinette monoplane, which more closely resembles a bird than does any other form of air-craft.
In the illustration of the Bleriot monoplane here given you will notice that there is one main plane, consisting of a pair of highly-cambered wings; hence the name "MONOplane". At the rear of the machine there is a much smaller plane, which is slightly cambered; this is the elevating plane, and it can be tilted up or down in order to raise or lower the machine. Remember that the elevating plane of a biplane is to the front of the machine and in the monoplane at the rear. The small, upright plane G is the rudder, and is used for steering the machine to the right or left. The long narrow body or framework of the monoplaneis known as the FUSELAGE.
By a close study of the illustration, and the description which accompanies it, you will understand how the machine is driven. The main plane is twisted, or warped, when banking, much in the same way that the Wright biplane is warped.
Far greater speed can be obtained from the monoplane than from the biplane, chiefly because in the former machine there is much less resistance to the air. Both height and speed records stand to the credit of the monoplane.
The enormous difference in the speeds of monoplanes and biplanes can be best seen at a race meeting at some aerodrome. Thus at Hendon, when a speed handicap is in progress, the slow biplanes have a start of one or two laps over the rapid little monoplanes in a six-lap contest, and it is most amusing to see the latter dart under, or over, the more cumbersome biplane. Recently however, much faster biplanes have been built, and they bid fair to rival the swiftest monoplanes in speed.
There is, however, one serious drawback to the use of the monoplane: it is far more dangerous to the pilot than is the biplane. Most of the fatal accidents in aviation have been caused through mishaps to monoplanes or their engines, and chiefly for this reason the biplane has to a large extent supplanted the monoplane in warfare. The biplane, too, is better adapted for observation work, which is, after all, the chief use of air-craft.
In a later chapter some account will be givcn of the three types of aeroplane which the war has evolved - the general-purposes machine, the single-seater "fighter", and those big bomb-droppers, the British Handley Page and the German Gotha.