CHAPTER XXXVII. The First Man to Fly in Britain
The honour of being the first man to fly in this country is claimed by Mr. A. V. Roe, head of the well-known firm A. V. Roe Co., of Manchester, and constructor of the highly-efficient Avro machines.
As a youth Roe's great hobby was the construction of toy models of various forms of machinery, and later on he achieved considerable success in the production of aeroplane models. All manner of novelties were the outcome of his fertile brain, and as it has been truly remarked, "his novelties have the peculiarity, not granted to most pioneers, of being in one respect or another ahead of his contemporaries." In addition, he studied the flight of birds.
In the early days of aviation Mr. Roe was a firm believer in the triplane form of machine, and his first experiments in flight were made with a triplane equipped with an engine which developed only 9 horse-power.
Later on, he turned his attention to the biplane, and with this craft he has been highly successful. The Avro biplane, produced in 1913, was one of the very best machines which appeared in that eventful year. The Daily Telegraph, when relating its performances, said: "The spectators at Hendon were given a remarkable demonstration of the wonderful qualities of this fine Avro biplane, whose splendid performances stamped it as one of the finest aeroplanes ever designed, if not indeed the finest of all".
This craft is fitted with an 80-horse-power Gnome engine, and is probably the fastest passenger-carrying biplane of its type in the world. Its total weight, with engine, fuel for three hours, and a passenger, is 1550 pounds, and it has a main-plane surface of 342 square feet.
Not only can the biplane maintain such great speed, but, what is of great importance for observation purposes, it can fly at the slow rate of 30 miles per hour. We have previously remarked that a machine is kept up in the air by the speed it attains; if its normal flying speed be much reduced the machine drops to earth unless the rate of flying is accelerated by diving, or other means.
What Harry Hawker is to Mr. Sopwith so is F. P. Raynham to Mr. Roe. This skilful pilot learned to fly at Brooklands, and during the last year or two he has been continuously engaged in testing Avro machines, and passing them through the Army reception trials. In the "Aerial Derby" of 1913 Mr. Raynham piloted an 80-horse-power Avro biplane, and came in fourth.