Книги

Putnam
A.Andrews
The Flying Maschine: Its Evolution through the Ages
78

A.Andrews - The Flying Maschine: Its Evolution through the Ages /Putnam/

Again over a parallel period, from 1882 until 1906, but isolated in distant Australia, Lawrence Hargrave had been working and lecturing on aeronautics in New South Wales. He, too, began by building rubber-driven models, and was for many years becalmed in the back-waters of the world of flapping ornithopters. But he was then ‘converted’ to steam, and in a further stretch of imagination began to research the aerodynamics of kites. He invented the box-kite, and made a kite-train strong enough to lift him off the ground. He began to design a man-carrying box-kite to be powered by a steam engine. Hargrave’s box-kites unquestionably demonstrated longitudinal, lateral and directional stability, but he never developed the right power unit to raise them. After many years of experiment, during which he designed some 25 engines without having one take him off the ground, he decided that his finances would no longer allow him to continue full-time experimentation, and he erased himself from the record books. His work, however, was widely known and its influence was considerable. A Hargrave box-kite in tandem became the new characteristic configuration of a whole stream of biplanes in Europe, and the shape was visible in the first heavier-than-air machine to fly under power east of the Atlantic, in 1906, the year in which poor Hargrave dropped out of aeronautics. Although Hargrave’s great ambition had been to fly under power, and the later machines he was designing were box-kite aeroplanes, the first full-size machine he built, in 1894, was a tandem-wing monoplane glider. It is a fair certainty that Hargrave, who even from Australia kept a very keen eye on aeronautical events in the rest of the world, built a glider because he had seen in 1894 a very widely published set of photographs of a man gliding.
Lawrence Hargrave’s box-kite, invented in Australia in 1893, was belatedly seized on by many European constructors in the 1900s. The odd-looking aeroplanes that incorporated its cellular principle had undoubted stability.
The Roe II triplane of 1909, called contemporarily the Bullseye and built after its designer (later Sir Alliott Verdon Roe of AVRO) had seen drawings of the Goupy I, marks a typical sequence in the ‘back to the drawing board’ aspect of aeronautical progress. The Roe II flew for 300yd with a 9hp JAP engine driving a tractor propeller whose revolutions were reduced by gearing in the Wright manner. Then it crashed on Hackney Marshes. Roe picked himself out of the wreckage, pulled the peak of his cap to the front, and went back to other triplanes, some of which also crashed. The Roe III is illustrated The last of them was the Roe IV of 1911, distinguishable among other features by its monoplane tail, and very much taken to the heart of the British public.
This replica of the cuddly Roe IV was built for the film Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, and still flies under the aegis of the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden, Bedfordshire.
There is no record at all of any aeronautical activity or theoretical writing by Sir George Cayley between the years 1818 and 1836. Since he was so evidently and fervently busy for the double decades before and after this gap, it seems that there must be archives still to be discovered, and that a mine of further inspiration may be exploited when such missing papers are found. The bustling energy chronicled after the resumption of the records includes a fresh call to ‘the efficient mechanics of this engineering age’ to solve ‘perhaps the most difficult triumph of mechanical skill over the elements man has had to deal with - I mean the application of aerial navigation to the purpose of voluntary conveyance’. Backing his words with action, he founded in 1839 the Polytechnic Institution in Regent Street, London. Then, in 1842, there began a regrettably unsavoury sequence in his professional life.
  A young man from America sailed into Liverpool and at once wrote to Cayley, introducing himself as Robert B. Taylor, and stating that his father had been a doctor in Bolton before emigrating to America in 1819. Taylor said that he had ‘imbibed’ from his father, who had known Cayley and had often praised his devotion to flying, ‘a firm conviction of the practicability of travelling thro’ the air by mechanical means, without inflation’.
  Robert Taylor then freely outlined a strikingly novel idea, and he enclosed a rough sketch of a machine incorporating this invention, the design of which he intended to patent in the United States. The proposal was for a machine that would ascend as a helicopter by the power of two contra-rotating rotors revolving about the same axis as a double hollow perpendicular' shaft. The rotor blades were to be built as vanes, which, once the necessary height had been gained, would close and lock into a flat disk - in effect, a circular mainplane. A pusher propeller would then be operated for forward flight.
  Taylor showed that he had not only understood what Cayley had been teaching since 1809 - that the concise problem was ‘to make a surface support a given weight by the application of power to the resistance of air’ - but he had also gone logically beyond that. ‘The lateral movement of a large plane surface edgewise, to attain and retain altitude, is, I conceive, your original invention or idea. ... The rotary ascensive action could be dispensed with if sufficient speed were attained by the rotary propulsive action, with a general angle of the whole machine as in Fig. 1; but to start from the ground requires a perpendicular ascent at first, and I consequently screw the plane up as in Fig. 2.’ (This is a deliciously graphic Americanism which deserved a longer life, but the existence of this letter did not become public knowledge until 1961, by which time even our trainee pilots were mainly in the jet age.)
  Taylor had written this letter to enquire ‘whether I have been anticipated in the principle [v/c] ideas’ and to ask if he might visit Cayley. Cayley replied speedily that he had himself anticipated Taylor, but he would be glad to meet him and ‘arrange matters so as to be fair to each’. He wrote: ‘Long ago I came to the same conclusion as you have done, as to the main features of the mechanical aerial locomotive; that is, the first rise to be made by two opposite revolving oblique vanes, which should when required become simple inclined planes, or a part of them, for progressive motion by any other propelling apparatus.’ But, said Cayley, he had laid the project aside to work for 30 years on developing an engine of sufficiently light weight.
  Cayley’s assertion that he had a prior claim on this invention must be accounted as either a deliberate untruth or the self-deception of a man 68 years old. There is no evidence on record that Cayley had previously suggested any means of strictly horizontal propulsion - certainly not by the use of an airscrew - as an auxiliary to his 1796 helicopter, though he had referred to the helicopter several times in later papers.
  Cayley’s subsequent behaviour is even more questionable. He first privately checked that Robert Taylor had not taken out a British patent for his idea, and then coolly announced that he had invented a similar machine himself. With his superior experience he produced a much more impressive design, but it must still be deemed a straight theft. For reasons that may or may not have any connection with this action, nothing more was ever heard of Robert Taylor. The American eagle had made a first strike at the principle of mechanical flight, and the entrenched establishment had beaten him back.
The finished design for a twin helicopter, subsequently propelled by twin airscrews, which Sir George Cayley claimed to have invented. The rotor blades of the dihedrally-set (ie, V-inclined) disk wings are, at flying altitude, mechanically closed to form planes - ‘like a very flat umbrella’, wrote Cayley, repeating Taylor’s original words. Twin airscrews of the same shape as Taylor’s (which could not have been projected before Ericsson’s work was published in 1839) push the aircraft forwards. The car is ‘pure Cayley’.
In 1799 Sir George Cayley, at the age of 25, engraved a silver disk with the sketch of a flying machine manned by a pilot sitting between the cambered wings of a biplane that has tailplanes and fin in one unit shaped like a paper dart. It is the most significant single design in the whole history of the development of flight, for in one stroke it casts the matrix for future practical aircraft. It has aeroplanes, ie, fixed wings, a concept unique at that time, for it concedes that all the effort of past centuries spent in flapping artificial wings in imitation of birds flying (not soaring) is renounced. The problem of lift is isolated from preoccupation with thrust, and is tackled by the fixed wings and the angle they make with fluid air. The problem of thrust is likewise isolated and passed over to a method of separate propulsion - in this case not a power engine but a pair of broad paddles which the pilot is rowing remotely through levers by pulling on oar-handles. The tail is a separate unit on a universal joint, adjustable by the pilot for steering, and it is of a cruciform kite shape - a tail unit construction that Cayley did not fundamentally change in the 56 years during which he continued to experiment. The radical revolution, from an aeronautical point of view, is that the ornithopter is abandoned and the designer has adopted the aerodynamic principle of the kite.
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  Cayley had sent a boy for a few feet into the air in 1849, but not in free flight. He used a full-size aeroplane, designed as the triplane he had recommended at the time of the Henson controversy six years earlier. He was at the same time very preoccupied with developing the hot-air engine, but he did not install it in the glider. Instead he fitted the car with flappers'with which the pilot was supposed to row to glory. Glory of a sort did come. Cayley recorded: ‘A boy of about ten years of age was floated off the ground for several yards on descending the hill, and also for about the same space by some persons pulling the apparatus against a very slight breeze by a rope.’
  In 1853, using another full-size machine, which he called his New Flyer, Cayley and his ground crew moved on to the east side of the deep dale behind Brompton Hall, his country home. He requested his coachman to occupy the car, which was equipped with handles to work flappers and levers to brake the undercarriage wheels. The machine was hustled down the hill until it was launched into the air. It sailed across the valley, well stabilised because of Cayley’s previous trimming of the craft, and not immediately put out of kilter by the coachman’s frenzied manipulation of the flappers. It landed, after a flight of some 500yd, not so neatly as might have been hoped, hitting the opposite side of the dale and overturning the car. The ground crew rushed across to free the coachman from the debris, but old Cayley, knowing he was not spry enough to keep up with them, took his time. Consequently the coachman, once he had been set solidly on his feet, had to cup his hands to shout across the valley his reaction to this historic occasion. The bellowed message was: ‘Please, Sir George, I wish to give notice. I was hired to drive, and not to fly.’
  Four and a half years later Cayley was dead, having spent the interim designing an even more complex machine than any he had yet suggested. With the exception of the provision of an adequate engine, the key to almost all the aeronautical problems that presented themselves between his death and the Wrights’ triumph was tucked, not too obscurely, within the records and statements of his work. But he was forgotten almost immediately. For the next 50 years individual inventors were pecking away at problems he had already largely investigated and solved.
Qantas reconstruction of Cayley’s ‘boy carrier’, or Old Flyer, the triplane in which he floated a ten-year-old off the ground in 1849, the first time a human being had left the ground in a heavier-than-air machine. The wing-span was 10ft, overall length and height 20ft.
Sir George Cayley’s model glider of 1804, seen here in accurate reconstruction, offered roughly twice the wing area, and had its cruciform tail unit set at a positive angle of 11 1/2 degrees to the rod forming the main horizontal beam, and the kite-form mainplane set at 6 degrees to this beam. Cayley wrote, with some exaggeration, that with this configuration ‘it would proceed uniformly in a right line for ever’. Penaud’s Planophore, which did not ‘proceed for ever’ but did fly 131ft in 11 seconds before the gravest technical witnesses, enshrined in the minds of the French, who were the most serious aircraft designers in Europe, the ideal of predominant equilibrium, or inherent stability, which culminated in the BE2c of Great Britain.
Cayley’s design, engraved on a silver disk, of his first aeroplane - a fixed-wing biplane with a kite-form tail unit. The aircraft is propelled by paddles, graphically separating thrust from lift.
On 16 October 1908 S. F. Cody got British Army Aeroplane No 1 indisputably into the air and fairly indisputably into the first significant flight in Great Britain. But it was more by luck than judgement, and ended in accident, as is shown by Colonel Capper’s report to the War Office of that date, a document still to be seen in the Science Museum in London:
  Mr Cody has been running the machine about on a good many occasions in order to get its balance, but he was instructed to attempt nothing sensational or any long flight but as soon as he was sure that he could really fly he waste let me know with a view to our having a proper power trial. The machine has left the ground for short runs, at a height of one or two feet, on several occasions.
  This morning Mr Cody took the machine out as usual, and ran it up a slight slope on to a plateau, near the Farnborough road; to his surprise it lifted off the ground for about 50 yards when going up this hill but he did not seem to attach much importance to this. He ran along the plateau and down the slope as usual, when to his astonishment the machine went to a considerable height in the air. He tried to bring it down but he states the front plane [ie, the Wright-type forward elevator] is not big enough to bring it down sufficiently quickly when once it has got up and, seeing in front of him a clump of trees, decided to try and clear them. However, another clump of trees beyond looked so forbidding that he thought it appropriate to turn to the left and try to come down on a piece of ground. He was, I should estimate, at a height of 16-20 feet above the ground at the time. He turned, gradually sinking all the time. The left wing tilted down and struck the ground hard, crumpling up the tips. Then of course the machine turned round and fell on its nose.
  The estimated distance of flight was 1,390ft and the speed between 25 and 30mph.
British Army Aeroplane No 1, flown by S. F. Cody to his great surprise as the first aeroplane to fly in Great Britain, had a Wright-type biplane configuration, but ran on a wheeled undercarriage and required no assisted take-off. There were forward elevators and a rear rudder. Cody also fitted between-wing ailerons. A 40-50hp Antoinette engine drove two pusher propellers.
The De Havilland II, the aeroplane which Geoffrey de Havilland successfully launched in 1910, and which successfully launched him on his career as designer, test pilot, and constructor. When Sir Geoffrey died in 1965 at the age of 83 his ashes were scattered, by his request, over the airfield at Beacon Hill near Newbury, where the man who had built the DH4, the Moth, the Mosquito, the Vampire and the Comet had tested and flown his original practical aircraft.
Three-quarter view of the Dunne aeroplane from behind. This is the best general view of the machine that it was possible to obtain, since it alone gives the correct impression of the slope back of the main planes. The twist of the surfaces caused by their peculiar camber is very noticeable in the right-hand upper deck, which also indicates the diverging gap.
The Dunne D5 twin-propeller pusher tail-less biplane of 1910 was powered by a 60hp Green engine driving propellers 7ft in diameter. It took a crew of two in a boat-shaped nacelle. It was the culmination of a long series of experiments by J. W. Dunne on tail-less aircraft, and led on much later to modern delta-wing designs. Demonstrating that it fulfilled his design objective of extreme stability, Dunne (who was not officially allowed to fly as a pilot because of a heart condition) took the machine up with Orville Wright’s patent agent aboard, and flew it ‘hands off’ while he wrote out specification details on a scribbling pad.
Weiss’s swept-back wing were a feature of the Handley-Page Yellow Peril of 1911.
Weiss was later snapped up by Sir Frederick Handley-Page to design his company’s early machine.
The Aerial Steam Carriage, the aircraft that never was but which crystallised in Victorian hearts the conviction that man would fly in their lifetime. This influential phantom, illustrated in magazines all over the world, did more to condition stolid humanity that it was no longer earthbound than any nicely calculated hypothesis of the devoted thinkers who made the achievement possible. Ariel had cambered wings measuring 150ft by 30ft, a mobile tailplane working as elevator, and a 25hp steam engine operating two six-bladed pusher airscrews. The tricycle undercarriage was fitted with Cayley’s tension wheels. The payload was light, possibly 1,000lb.
The climax of the heavyweight contest to launch a steam-powered aeroplane was signalled by the huffing and puffing generated by Hiram Stevens Maxim. Maxim, born an American citizen in Maine but later becoming a naturalised Briton, was an extremely capable operator, who diminished his own reputation by writing too many flourishes into his own fanfares. Trained as a naval architect and later as an electrical engineer, Maxim became a very thrusting businessman after his invention of the Maxim quick-firing gun (producing 10 shots a second) and his entry into the Vickers armaments consortium. By 1887 he was convinced that aeronautics was not only a feasible but a profitable concept for the future, and in 1889 the Vickers directors gave him financial support in a long-term project to construct a large aircraft designed to convey passengers.
  At this crucial moment Maxim opted for steam power, although he had originally intended to develop Otto-type gas engines. He did not grasp the potential of the internal combustion engine in spite of the fact that Daimler’s two-cylinder V-type engine was then on show at the Paris Exhibition. It is true that the first Panhard-Levassor motor car incorporating this engine was not sold until 1891, but Levassor had had the skill to project its successful future, and it may be held against Maxim that he did not. On the other hand Maxim, to his great credit as a visionary, was aiming uncompromisingly for big size. He wanted to construct a machine that would transport a payload weighing several thousand pounds. In the 1890s, the decade of his most concentrated experimentation, reliance on steam may have seemed the more correct solution - even after Maxim’s most successful effort the Comte de Dion was racing steam carriages and Leon Bollee putting an eight-seater steam omnibus on the grid for speed and endurance contests in France.
  While he was developing a suitable aero engine, Maxim began to superintend further research in an admirably wide field. He built a wind tunnel, tested and recorded the aerodynamic reaction of a series of wing sections, and emerged with a selection of cambered wings labelled with the details of lift and resistance apposite to their individual shapes. He tested various arrangements of these sections, and concluded a theoretical ideal of a multiplane format, equipping a sharply dihedral biplane with three auxiliary wings, to be rigged almost at will, as when a barque crowded on more sail. He built a whirling arm with an eventual girder radius of 50m (including an attached wire) so that he could test models in the air at 80mph around a 1,000ft orbit. He experimented with propeller construction and shape, torsion and strength , until he produced the design of laminated wood that was later adopted as standard for three decades. Again in advance of the practice of the time, he designed his aircraft of tubular steel construction with oxyacetylene-welded side trusses - all this before an aeroplane had ever flown.
  Maxim proposed to run the 8,000lb 104ft wing-span aircraft he was creating from two independent pusher propellers nearly 18ft long, driven by two engines each developing 181hp but weighing only 1,800lb, together with the specially designed boiler (weighing 2,400lb, including water and the naphtha, which was burnt from 7,560 jets in a continuous ‘square bed’ of flame 20in deep). This concentration of weight was correctly sited so that the centre of gravity of the machine was accurately related to the position of the wings.
  After seven years’ work Hiram S. Maxim was ready for take-off. His creation was not yet a ‘flying machine’, although it was always called so. Its covered wings were of a finely calculated camber, but it did not yet have its full wing-span, and it did not have directional steering (except by individual variation of the speeds of the airscrews). It did, however, possess elevators. Maxim was at the time concerned only to test the lifting capacity of his design - recorded, even before take-off, by measuring the tension of springs between airframe and undercarriage - and for this purpose the kite-formation of the lifting surfaces of the centre section of the aeroplane was deemed sufficient; tapered dihedral extensions of the mainplane were not fitted.
  Maxim knew that it would take much time and experience to learn to control the machine in the air, and therefore he contrived that it could not lift more than 2ft off the ground. He achieved this by running the machine on heavy iron wheels along a straight railway track, 1,800ft long, of wide 9ft gauge, and having two other raised wooden rails mounted on posts 2ft above the ground, each guard rail 13ft on the outside of the steel rails. Under the guard rail ran disengaged wheels mounted on outriggers from the machine’s fuselage. If the craft rose 2ft in the air, the extra wheels engaged, and ran along the underside of the wooden ‘horizontal fence’, thus keeping the machine from rising higher. The locomotive had no brakes and was restrained at the end of its 1,800ft run by three ropes stretched across the end of the track and working on tension capstans.
  On 31 July 1894 Maxim boarded his machine with his additional crew of three - one to work the elevators and two to shout out the dial readings, while Maxim himself twirled the wheels of the throttles. They prepared for flight. While steam pressure was being increased and the propellers screwed into the air, the craft was tethered to a dynamometer. Maxim ran up the steam pressure to 2,200lb per sq in. As the machine strained, throbbing at its mooring, Maxim suddenly gave the signal for release, and the two dial-watchers were thrown to the slatted floor with the acceleration. Recovering his own balance while his chief continued to open the throttles, Tom Jackson, the Number One, shifted the elevator controls and the craft edged upwards. Maxim recounted:
  We soon obtained a speed of 42 m.p.h., when all [guard] wheels were seen to be running on the upper track, and revolving in the opposite direction from those on the lower track. After running about 1000 feet, one of the restraining axletrees [of the guard wheels] doubled up. This put the lift of the machine on to the other three. The upper track was broken, the machine was liberated and floated in the air, giving those on board the sensation of being in a boat. However, a piece of the broken track caught in one of the screws: at the same instant I shut off the steam, and the machine stopped and settled to the ground. ... It was the first time in the world that a powered flying machine had actually lifted itself, and its crew, into the air.
  One wing was wrecked, the others were displaced, and the fuselage was distorted. There was proof'enough that the quartet had ‘flown’, or at least been lifted by ‘making a surface support a given weight by the application of power to the resistance of air’. The freshly painted rims of the guard wheels had made a continuous mark on the underside of the guard rails.
  Possibly Maxim boasted too much of his incomplete achievement, for most historians say he never did another thing with his partially wrecked machine, but merely talked about his ‘triumph’. He certainly never went on to practise steering and control in freer flight. But he did rebuild, he did make further designs, within three years even patenting a four-rotor helicopter. The flying machine was restored to full operational efficiency, as far as it had progressed, an action which has escaped most aeronautical writers, but they have omitted to research the royal archives; for in the summer after the crash of 1894 Maxim invited to his test ground at Baldwyns Park, Bexley, the then Duke of York, afterwards King George V. The Duke went aboard the machine. Again the pressure against the mooring was increased until there was a screw thrust of 2,000lb. Maxim had the machine cut loose and it plunged forward. ‘For God’s sake, slow up!’ roared the Duke’s escort, Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Commerell. ‘No! Let her go for all she’s worth!’ countermanded Prince George. The future King George V, a very careful and reserved man who was not inclined to exaggerate the wonders of nature or man, recorded in his diary that night: ‘It made two runs for me to see. I was in it for one of them; it did lift off the ground part of the time.’
  Many years later, when the Duke of York became king, he gave Maxim a knighthood. Undoubtedly Sir Hiram Maxim did too little in the aeronautical field for all the expense he incurred, and talked too much. He unctuously wrote in 1908 after a nil achievement over the preceding decade: ‘It is very gratifying to me to know that all the successful flying machines of today are built on the lines which I had thought out [in 1893 and 1894]. ... I had reasoned out the best type of a machine even before I commenced a stroke of the work.’
  Part of the truth about Maxim is, without doubt, that he had plenty to do and plenty to earn, not only in the armament world but in other spheres of achievement, by no means always in Great Britain. Some of this private enterprise may present the clue to his virtual abandonment of the flying machine as powered by steam. In 1896 he was concerned in harnessing factories in the United States to manufacture the automobiles designed by his son, Hiram Percy Maxim, which were marketed as Columbias. The system of propulsion chosen was the petrol (‘gasoline’) engine. In reality this was no revolutionary change. In his youth he had studied and developed both steam and internal combustion engines, and had invented an automatic gas engine. The helicopter that Maxim pere was planning in 1897 had an internal combustion engine, driven by exploding acetylene. But when Hiram Percy Maxim came down for petrol he came down in a very big way, having also risked going up a much longer distance while making up his mind. He cheerfully described his introduction to the explosive mixture:
  My first experiment was a rough ‘get acquainted’ test. My idea of such a test was to introduce a drop [of gasoline] out of the bottle into an empty six-pounder cartridge case and then touch it off. I began with one drop [plugging the 12-inch case and rolling it around a few times]. I was excited, for I felt this might be a historic moment for me. Standing back, I scratched the match and tossed it in. There was a short and very ominous pause. Then the end of the world came, it seemed to me. There was a terrifying explosion, fire shot up out of the cartridge case, the latter staggered drunkenly on the bench, and the match I had thrown in went hurtling to the ceiling. It was evident that there was about a thousand times more kick in a drop of gasoline than I had pictured in my wildest flights of imagination.
  If that experience seems to depict a somewhat naive approach from a man who was the nephew of an inventor of high explosives, the son of the inventor of automatic weaponry, and himself the inventor of a silencer for firearms, it may merely demonstrate that all the Maxims had a slightly unscientific gift of the gab. But, for what it was worth, it was the outward and visible sign that Hiram Stevens Maxim was lining up with the Wright brothers - or possibly in his own estimation ahead of them - in the resolution of the conflict of thought concerning the struggle over power in aeronautical machines.
Hiram S. Maxim’s 8,000lb ‘flying machine’ (strictly, a lift test-rig) powered by two 181 hp steam engines and manned by a crew of four. In 1894 it took off, without directional steering, and was airborne for some 600ft.
Members of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain with Hiram Maxim’s ‘Flying Machine’, 1894. At this time Otto Lilienthal, the greatest man in aeronautics before the Wright brothers, was building a new carbonic acid gas engine to attempt powered flight. He died in 1896 from a broken spine after stalling in a monoplane glider while advancing his experiments to achieve responsible control of an aeroplane in flight - a necessity which only he and the Wrights then fully recognised.
Maxim stands impotently at the throttles after his machine had soared higher than intended (that is, over 2ft altitude) and the restraining frame broke up and fouled an airscrew, 31 July 1894.
One year after the du Temple take-off at Brest the English engineer Thomas Moy built a steam engine weighing 80lb and developing 3hp, which he installed in a tandem-wing monoplane of about 15ft wing-span. Either in deference to Henson, or in an attempt to borrow his withered laurels, he called his creation the Aerial Steamer, and ran it tethered to a central fountain on a circular track at the Crystal Palace, in south London. Propelled by twin fan-type airscrews 6ft in diameter, the steamer did lift some 6in off the ground, but there was no semblance of aerial control and, of course, no pilot. The whole contraption weighed some 120lb.
Moy's Aerial Steamer, a 15ft wing-span model weighing 120lb with a 3hp steam engine, ran like a dog on a leash round a circular track in 1875. It did lift off, but never flew.
In 1875 a serious young English engineer, Horatio Phillips, then only 20 years old, had been experimenting with hydrofoils and took out a patent on them. He turned to aerofoils, and devised a new wind-tunnel to test them, inducing by steam injection a much steadier airflow than Wenham’s fan-generated currents. By 1884 he had registered patents on six double-surface aerofoil sections of varying gradation and camber, intended to shape curved wings for aircraft. Phillips laid down the theory that increased camber on the top of a double-surface wing creates the suction of reduced pressure above, and gives lift. Later he refined the shape of his double-surface aerofoils to flatten the lower part of the leading-edge into a bi-convex shape designed to diminish drag and increase lift. He went on to build both models and full-size aircraft based on his corollary that superimposed aerofoils of his design, constructed with high aspect ratio (ie, long and narrow) would provide admirable lift. From this assertion there came the famous ‘Venetian blind’ - not Phillips’s term, but everybody else’s for his multiplane of 1893, an erection of no less than 40 aerofoils 19ft long and l|in chord, set vertically behind a 6ft 6in tractor propeller in a wheeled frame on a circular track over 100yd round.
  This test-rig did rather worse than Hiram Maxim’s, which was being operated about the same time. At 40mph the rear wheel of the tricycle dolly lifted 3ft but the front wheels stayed earthbound. But a similar rig on a 200yd circuit lifted almost 4001b. In 1904, when the light petrol engine was more advanced, Horatio Phillips put a pilot aboard a similar machine, free-running this time, though with only 20 cambered aerofoils. But, although again the lift was good, the balance was wrong and the multiplane had poor longitudinal stability.
The first ‘Venetian blind’ multiplane test-rig of Horatio Phillips, constructed in 1893, ran on a circular track and showed good powers of lift, but not enough longitudinal balance to take the machine in a steady ascent from the ground. Forty aerofoils, 19ft long, were designed to a shape that Phillips had patented.
In 1907 the indefatigable Phillips, now aged 62, put four banks of 48 aerofoils in tandem behind a 7ft propeller driven by a 20hp engine; and there is good ground for believing his report that it lifted off the ground of Streatham Common for 500ft - which would make it the first powered aeroplane ever to be flown in Great Britain, beating Samuel Franklin Cody’s performance at Farnborough in 1908 by over a year.
  Phillips continued to design, though no longer to build, his individualist aeroplanes. But his theoretical work on the aerodynamic properties of aerofoils was confirmed and enlarged in the first decade of the twentieth century by F. W. Lanchester of England, G. H. Bryan of Wales, and Ludwig Prandtl of Germany. As a quartet of individual thinkers, these men laid the foundations of aerodynamic theory, which influenced all ensuing aircraft design and construction.
The Phillips multiplane of 1907 may well have been the first British powered aircraft to fly.
Phillips No.5 multiplane was airborne at Streatham for a 500ft straight flight and for circular flights anchored to a pole in 1907.
Pilcher had been a Royal Navy cadet at the age of 13, but retired at 19 to concentrate on engineering. When he was 27 he became assistant lecturer in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at Glasgow University. Almost immediately the current newspaper detail and photographs of Lilienthal’s activities injected him with the fever to fly. He built one glider, the Bat, a monoplane with a vertical fin aft but no tailplane, the wings showing sharp dihedral; and during his summer vacation of 1895 he went to Lilienthal in Berlin in order to be taught to fly. He came back to test the Bat on the slopes of the Clyde valley and speedily followed Lilienthal’s advice and added a tailplane for stability. In two subsequent models he increased the wing area and greatly mitigated the dihedral angle, which he had found was making his gliders almost unmanageable in strong winds; they plunged out of control before recovering stability from the effect of gusts. This seems a small point, but it is a very clear example of the application of experience to modify what had become to some designers almost a religious theory, mainly propagated because none of them had ever been called on to control an aeroplane with the stipulated dihedral.
  In 1896 Pilcher came south to join Hiram Maxim, who had not yet wholly abandoned work on his biplane test-rig and had other plans in mind. In the summer of that year Pilcher built his best designed hang-glider, the Hawk, with cambered canopy wings having an area of 180sq ft, undercarriage wheels braced by stiff spiral springs, and an attachment for a new towing technique for efficient take-off. In the same year Pilcher took out a patent for a powered flying machine with a 4hp petrol engine driving a pusher propeller. After failing to find a suitable engine, he began to build one. At the same time he set himself, in partnership with Maxim, to develop a projected helicopter; and still he continued to develop his gliding and modify his gliders. But on 2 October 1899 he died after falling 30ft in the Hawk during a towed take-off, when the sudden load imposed by two horses over-active on the tow-rope broke up the tail unit of the machine.
Percy Sinclair Pilcher in flight with his best designed hang-glider, the Hawk, 1896. The undercarriage wheels are not too clearly evident in this picture. Pilcher’s best flight in this machine was 250yd, and he died when it crashed in 1899.
The first ‘undisputed truly stable general­purpose aeroplane’, the prototype BE2c of 1913
With his friend John Stringfellow, an engineer who was also in the lace industry at Chard, W. S. Henson built a model of Ariel with a 20ft wing-span and an ingenious little steam engine refined by Stringfellow. Before the tests were complete, the money ran out. At this stage, three years after the moral collapse of the Aerial Steam Carriage, Henson wrote to Sir George Cayley asking for aid:
  You probably imagined that I had long since given it up as a failure, and you will no doubt be pleased to hear that I have, in conjunction with my friend Mr Stringfellow, been [working] more or less ever since 1843 towards the accomplishment of Aerial Navigation, and that we feel very sanguine as to the result of our endeavour and consider that we have arrived at that stage of proceedings which justifies us in obtaining that pecuniary assistance necessary to carry on our efforts upon an enlarged scale and with increased energy. We therefore resolved to apply to you as the Father of Aerial Navigation to ascertain whether you would like to have anything to do in the matter or not.
  It is perhaps a little disconcerting to realise that the reason why Cayley was given the title of Father of Aerial Navigation, which everyone since has confirmed rather than challenged, was because he was being addressed by a man who wanted some money from him. But there is no reason to believe that Henson was just flattering him.
  In any case the ploy did not work. In a kind but firm letter - very fatherly, indeed - Cayley encouraged Henson, and invited him to London to demonstrate ‘any experimental proof of mechanical flight maintainable for a sufficient time by mechanical power’. He ended his letter with a moving and dignified acceptance of the ugly truth that many aeronautical inventors have had to stomach - that their best hope for support depends on their value as a circus attraction, and that this value is enhanced by the occurrence of death in their aeronautical sphere and the likelihood of the death of the enthusiast himself. Yet these deaths might be necessary:
  Though I have not any weight of capital to apply to such matters, I perhaps might be able to aid you in some manner by my experience in connection with other mechanical persons. I do not however think that any money, excepting by exhibition of a novelty, can be made by it. A hundred necks have to be broken before all the sources of accident can be ascertained and guarded against.
  Henson continued for a little time to experiment with his model, unsupported by Cayley or other ‘mechanical persons’ except Stringfellow, but he lost heart, left Chard, married, and in 1849 emigrated to America. Stringfellow remained. He redesigned Henson’s model with a tiny steam engine driving four-bladed pusher propellers, and demonstrated it in an empty factory building in Chard and at the Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea - the showman’s exhibition that Cayley had prophesied they must accept. The working model aircraft was launched from an overhead wire in the correct attitude of flight. For many years it was said that it genuinely flew, and that this was therefore the first instance of mechanical flight (with an unmanned model) in history. This claim is no longer believed. In any case Stringfellow made no money from the exploit, and decided to cut his losses. He, too, went to the United States, but he returned: 20 years later, in 1868, when he was almost 70, Stringfellow exhibited at the historic first exhibition of the Aeronautical Society a model steam-powered triplane resolving the main criticism by Cayley in 1843 of the Aerial Steam Carriage with which he had been connected. This model, which also did not fly, again caught the public imagination by its appearance as the older Ariel had once done; and because it was often illustrated, it kept the multiplane structure within the vision of the designers, and led to the shape of the first practical biplane.
Stringfellow’s fresh design of a steam-powered model based on Henson’s Aerial Steamer, demonstrated in 1848 and flown off an overhead wire, was for long thought to have made the first genuine mechanical flight in history.
Stringfellow’s triplane, following the suggestion of Cayley, which was exhibited in 1868, and had a powerful influence on future design.
There is no record at all of any aeronautical activity or theoretical writing by Sir George Cayley between the years 1818 and 1836. Since he was so evidently and fervently busy for the double decades before and after this gap, it seems that there must be archives still to be discovered, and that a mine of further inspiration may be exploited when such missing papers are found. The bustling energy chronicled after the resumption of the records includes a fresh call to ‘the efficient mechanics of this engineering age’ to solve ‘perhaps the most difficult triumph of mechanical skill over the elements man has had to deal with - I mean the application of aerial navigation to the purpose of voluntary conveyance’. Backing his words with action, he founded in 1839 the Polytechnic Institution in Regent Street, London. Then, in 1842, there began a regrettably unsavoury sequence in his professional life.
  A young man from America sailed into Liverpool and at once wrote to Cayley, introducing himself as Robert B. Taylor, and stating that his father had been a doctor in Bolton before emigrating to America in 1819. Taylor said that he had ‘imbibed’ from his father, who had known Cayley and had often praised his devotion to flying, ‘a firm conviction of the practicability of travelling thro’ the air by mechanical means, without inflation’.
  Robert Taylor then freely outlined a strikingly novel idea, and he enclosed a rough sketch of a machine incorporating this invention, the design of which he intended to patent in the United States. The proposal was for a machine that would ascend as a helicopter by the power of two contra-rotating rotors revolving about the same axis as a double hollow perpendicular' shaft. The rotor blades were to be built as vanes, which, once the necessary height had been gained, would close and lock into a flat disk - in effect, a circular mainplane. A pusher propeller would then be operated for forward flight.
  Taylor showed that he had not only understood what Cayley had been teaching since 1809 - that the concise problem was ‘to make a surface support a given weight by the application of power to the resistance of air’ - but he had also gone logically beyond that. ‘The lateral movement of a large plane surface edgewise, to attain and retain altitude, is, I conceive, your original invention or idea. ... The rotary ascensive action could be dispensed with if sufficient speed were attained by the rotary propulsive action, with a general angle of the whole machine as in Fig. 1; but to start from the ground requires a perpendicular ascent at first, and I consequently screw the plane up as in Fig. 2.’ (This is a deliciously graphic Americanism which deserved a longer life, but the existence of this letter did not become public knowledge until 1961, by which time even our trainee pilots were mainly in the jet age.)
  Taylor had written this letter to enquire ‘whether I have been anticipated in the principle [v/c] ideas’ and to ask if he might visit Cayley. Cayley replied speedily that he had himself anticipated Taylor, but he would be glad to meet him and ‘arrange matters so as to be fair to each’. He wrote: ‘Long ago I came to the same conclusion as you have done, as to the main features of the mechanical aerial locomotive; that is, the first rise to be made by two opposite revolving oblique vanes, which should when required become simple inclined planes, or a part of them, for progressive motion by any other propelling apparatus.’ But, said Cayley, he had laid the project aside to work for 30 years on developing an engine of sufficiently light weight.
  Cayley’s assertion that he had a prior claim on this invention must be accounted as either a deliberate untruth or the self-deception of a man 68 years old. There is no evidence on record that Cayley had previously suggested any means of strictly horizontal propulsion - certainly not by the use of an airscrew - as an auxiliary to his 1796 helicopter, though he had referred to the helicopter several times in later papers.
  Cayley’s subsequent behaviour is even more questionable. He first privately checked that Robert Taylor had not taken out a British patent for his idea, and then coolly announced that he had invented a similar machine himself. With his superior experience he produced a much more impressive design, but it must still be deemed a straight theft. For reasons that may or may not have any connection with this action, nothing more was ever heard of Robert Taylor. The American eagle had made a first strike at the principle of mechanical flight, and the entrenched establishment had beaten him back.
Robert Taylor’s rough sketch, sent to Sir George Cayley, of a machine to combine forward propulsion with vertical ascent. The vanes of the contra-rotating rotors lift the craft as in Fig 2. When the required height is reached the vanes merge into one plane as in Fig 1 - ‘my machine will resemble an immense flat umbrella’, said Taylor - and the airscrew pushes the craft forward. The design of the airscrew is based on the new ship’s propeller recently introduced by John Ericsson (the screw-propelled Great Britain did not make her first Atlantic crossing until 1845). The propeller mechanism is operated from the car in the ‘handle’ of the umbrella. Taylor believed that the power for his engine would be ‘derived from electro-magnetism - from which can be obtained from five to ten horse power in the space of an ordinary lady’s band box’.
Another artist - the Alsatian Jose Weiss, who was domiciled in England - showed heartening understanding of the properties of the aerofoil in this thickening bird-wing model glider, which he exhibited in 1905.
Although Lilienthal’s achievement was always in hang-gliding - supporting himself by arms and elbows and letting his body swing to change the trim of his machine - he wanted eventually to fly, not soar. From the age of 21, in 1869, he had committed himself to the flapping ornithopter. He built fixed-wing gliders only to apprentice himself in the mastery of the air and the irregularities of the wind. To the same end he closely studied bird flight and the structure and shape of bird wings. He rediscovered the screwing action of the outer primary feathers by which the bird pulls itself forward and, perhaps impatiently, tried to duplicate this action with individual artificial feathers powered as propellers by a 2hp carbonic acid (compressed) gas motor. He was constantly building new machines, each one designed to possess improved stability.
  In 1895 he decided to concentrate on biplane gliders, in which the required wing area, being nearer the longitudinal axis, was handier in control. But while he was actually gliding he could make relatively little adjustment - that is, coax little positive response from the machine in flight. He had a certain control over pitch by swinging his body backwards and forwards to alter the centre of gravity of the glider, and he countered roll by swinging his body to the side. He did build into his later machines an upwards-hingeing tailplane, and in the last days of his life he was working on a head harness by which he could mechanically lower this tailplane and use it in a limited fashion as an elevator. While testing this harness in flight, he stalled, side-slipped and crashed 50ft to the ground. On the following day, 10 August 1896, he died from the effects of a broken spine. The resigned expression he frequently used - Opfer mussen gebracht werden (Sacrifices must be made) - is carved on his tombstone.
  Lilienthal had made great use of photography in his study of the flight of birds; and in turn many excellent photographs were made of Lilienthal in flight - a principal reason why he came so quickly to the attention of Hargrave in Australia and the Wright brothers in Ohio. Another man who admired, imitated, and positively developed his work was a British engineer, Percy Pilcher.
Artistically a most evocative composition, explains some of the great influence he exerted in presenting the grace and release of soaring flight.
The Flight of Birds as the Basis for the Art of Flying was the theoretical work published by Otto Lilienthal in which he published his rediscovery of the fact ignored since Cayley had demonstrated it, that the outer primary feathers of a bird’s wings screw into the forward air and achieve the onward drive in flying. Lilienthal duplicated these outer primaries - there are six in each wing - and intended to activate them as individual airscrews by a small portable gas engine. (He was professionally a specialist in light steam engines.) But in this picture the contraption is being used solely as a hang-glider. Lilienthal eventually favoured the biplane glider as giving the required lift with more manageable control.
In 1912 J. C. H. Ellehammer also raised himself a few inches off the ground, using the system of cyclic pitch control, which was further developed in the years after World War I by the Argentinian Marquis de P. Pescara in machines built in Europe.
J C H Ellehammer, the often under-rated Danish pioneer, with his helicopter in 1912. The craft lifted from the ground but failed to fly.
In a further tribute to Henson, Captain Alexander Mozhaiski of the Russian Navy built an endearing full-size monoplane based in extraordinary detail on the design of the original Ariel and powered by a steam engine specially built in London‘for aeronautical purposes’. He tested it at Krasnoye Selo, near St Petersburg, in 1884. It was a man-carrying machine in the sense that it had a pilot, I. N. Golubev, aboard, but there is no evidence that Golubev had a clue about flying it, and he certainly was given no chance to do so. The steamer was launched down a ski-jump ramp and it was claimed that it had remained airborne for 20 or 30m after the fall away of the run-down. The aircraft then hit the ground and never rose again, duplicating the powered take-off and the subsequent dejected return to the drawing board registered By du Temple 10 years earlier.
Much more lovingly based on Henson's Aerial Steamer was Alexander Mozhaiski's steam-powered monoplane. It took off by plunging down a ski-jump ramp in 1884 - and sailed on for far less distance than a modern ski-jumper. An English steam engine drove a large tractor propeller backed by two smaller pusher propellers cut into the trailing-edges of the main-plane. Its untrained pilot could take little action, except to pray.
The earliest capacious aeroplane designed for passengers, breath-takingly conceived only two years after the first Russian had flown, was Igor Sikorsky’s Bolshoi (‘Great’), a biplane with 92ft wing-span powered by four 100hp Argus engines, which accommodated eight people - the pilot and co-pilot in an enclosed cockpit, and the others in armchairs and sofa sitting round a table in a ‘greenhouse’ cabin glazed with unbreakable glass. This made its first incredible flight in 1913, with high success.
The Bolshoi, a four-engined cabined aircraft built in Russia by Igor Sikorsky in 1913, led big-aircraft thinking. It swiftly came back from the drawing board as the Ilya Mourometz with a capacity of sixteen people aboard.
Curtiss then built, with the speed characteristic of those days, a third machine, June Bug, and on 4 July 1908 he won a trophy offered by the magazine Scientific American for the first public and officially measured flight of over a kilometre. Seven weeks later it was coaxed to fly for two miles, and it also achieved one circular flight.
June Bug, designed by Glenn Curtiss for the AEA series, and piloted by Curtiss in this photograph, was flying within a month of the crash of its predecessor and eventually achieved a 2-mile flight on 29 August 1908. The characteristic bowed effect of the mainplanes is visible. June Bug had a biplane tail unit and four triangular wing-tip ailerons. The Wrights promptly accused Curtiss of infringing their wing-warping patents with his ailerons, and the bitter legal wrangle went on for years.
After Langley’s death a fresh consortium of American enthusiasts came together as the Aerial Experiment Association at Hammondsport, NY. They designed and constructed a number of machines - biplanes with Wright-type forward elevators and a variety of tail units. The distinguishing visual feature of these biplanes was a dihedral lower wing and anhedral upper wing, so that all AEA aero­planes display mainplanes shaped like crossbows twinned, with the bow-strings between the wings. Their distinguished mechanical feature was the 30-40hp air-cooled engine built by Glenn H. Curtiss.
  Curtiss, aged 29 in 1907, was already the fastest man in the world, having ridden a motorcycle over a measured mile at 136-3 mph in that year. He was a specialist in engines, and was then running a motorcycle and engine factory. The first AEA machine, Red Wing, was designed by Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge and tested in March 1908 from the ice-bound surface of Lake Keuka. At the first take-off, piloted by the Canadian F. W. Baldwin, it was airborne for just over 100yd. At the second it crashed, and no more work was done on it. Instead, Baldwin designed a successor called White Wing, replacing the skids installed in the first machine with landing wheels, and incorporating small ailerons. Flying two months after Red Wing, it achieved a soaring distance of 1,000ft but again crash-landed. Curtiss then built, with the speed characteristic of those days, a third machine, June Bug, and on 4 July 1908 he won a trophy offered by the magazine Scientific American for the first public and officially measured flight of over a kilometre. Seven weeks later it was coaxed to fly for two miles, and it also achieved one circular flight.
Red Wing, first of the American AEA series sponsored by the Aerial Experiment Association, was designed by Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge and flew on 12 March 1908, only 6 months before Selfridge died - the first casualty in history as a result of powered flight - when Orville Wright, piloting with Selfridge as passenger, saw his machine break up around him at Fort Myer on 17 September 1908. Red Wing, like its immediate successors, had a 30-40hp Curtiss air-cooled V-8 engine. It is seen fitted with skids for take-off from the ice-bound surface of Lake Keuka, NY. F. W. Baldwin, who took it up for a flight of 319ft, was the first Canadian ever to fly. Like the mayfly, Red Wing had a life of less than a day. When it crash-landed after its second flight, it was abandoned after the engine had been salvaged - an unplanned and undesired obsolescence that was accepted philosophically by the early pioneers.
Octave Chanute, a French-born railway engineer domiciled in (though not confining himself to) the United States, who was 64 years of age when he tested by proxy his most significant biplane hang-glider in 1896.
  Chanute had made himself the encyclopedist of aeronautics. The cream of what every designer needed to know lapped through the pages of his classic compilation Progress in Flying Machines, published in 1894. In 1900 Chanute met the Wright brothers, at their request, and he became their stimulator, sounding-board and propagandist. His inspiration was in the sphere of morale rather than practical innovation. The only physical features the Wrights took over from him in their machines were the secure trussed bracing of their biplane wings and the seed of their method of assisted take-off. But Chanute took the configuration of the Lilienthal-type biplane glider as far as it could go before moving control surfaces were introduced by the Wrights.
Working at the same time and on the same principle of the mastery of flight control as Lilienthal and Pilcher, Octave Chanute was too old at 64 to go aloft himself in this biplane hang-glider built in 1896.
Curtiss then formed the Herring-Curtiss Aeroplane Company and, abandoning the crossbow configuration, built a square flat-winged biplane with oblong ailerons between the wings, the Golden Flier, in which in July 1909 he flew 24-7 miles nonstop. At the same time he was building a modification of this machine with a Curtiss 50hp engine, which he entered for the great Reims Air Week of August 1909, and which scored some notable successes. Glenn Curtiss then went on to concentrate on seaplanes, and to pioneer air operations to and from United States Navy vessels — making the cruisers Birmingham and Pennsylvania the first aircraft carriers in history by his experiments early in 1911. Curtiss seaplanes were supplied to the Royal Naval Air Service in World War I. They were the only American machines to go into combat, for after the United States entered the war in 1917, all the aircraft used by the United States Air Service were either British or French.
Golden Flier, the Curtiss machine designed independently of the AEA, and flown in the spring and summer of 1909, had flat unbowed biplane wings with substantial between-wing ailerons - Curtiss’ interim effort to avoid any suggestion of infringing the Wrights’ warp-wing patent.
Tandem-winged with attractive dihedral, but still with negative flight control, Langley’s Aerodrome A, Charles Manly up, falls at the first water-jump on the Potomac, 7 October 1903.
Wilbur and Orville Wright, aged 32 and 28 respectively in 1899 when they began to study aeronautics seriously, were the sons of a bishop of the United Brethren Church living in Dayton, Ohio. They had built up a modest business success in selling, and later making, cycles. By that time they had been attracted by the exploits of Lilienthal and had closely studied the flight of birds. In 1899 they acquired, among other works whose titles they had requested from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, Chanute’s great summary of the technical progress of aeronautics, and in August of that year they built a biplane kite.
  Its wing-span was only 5ft, but it demonstrated from the start the most significant feature of their innovation in aircraft control - the system of wing-warping. This is an inaccurate expression that history has saddled us with. It means that they twisted screw-wise the extremities of the wings to alter the angle made by the wing-tips to the wind, and so control roll caused by currents of unstable air. The increase of resistance (or lift) at one wing-tip and the diminution of lift at the other would induce the machine to return to the horizontal, or to bank. It was a system whereby the pilot - not yet ‘flying by the seat of his pants’, because the Wrights began by flying in a prone position - developed an intuitive reaction to what was happening to the machine and an increasingly speedy correction of its attitude by mechanical means, which were also improving.
  From the outset the Wrights were defying the mainstream of European thought, which decreed the construction of an inherently stable aeroplane. Only the glider pilots Lilienthal, Pilcher and Chanute - and Le Bris in his albatross craft of 1857 and 1868 - had previously rejected this trend. The Wrights sought to build inherently unstable aircraft demanding from the pilot continuous control in flight. Wilbur was uncompromising about this ‘fundamentally different principle’. Their resolve, he said, was that ‘we would arrange the machine so that it would not tend to right itself’.
  Their small-scale biplane kite of 1899 was succeeded by their No 1 glider in 1900. This had fixed biplane wings with a span of 17ft and a horizontal plane braced for ward of the wings to act as elevator and to protect the pilot in nose-dive crashes. This elevator moved up and down automatically as the glider changed its fore-and-aft attitude. The wing-warping could be adjusted only from the ground, not during flight. After very few flights the original dihedral wing-setting was cancelled, and with that step the Wrights abandoned all formal automatic stability. Like Pilcher, they had found the effect of the lateral dihedral too extreme to master in strong irregular gusting wind.
  In 1901 they constructed their No 2 glider, with the wings, cambered after trials to a new curvature of 1 in 19, measuring roughly 22ft by 6ft 6in, giving an area of 290 sq ft, and having a slight anhedral droop. They had now fashioned a hip-cradle in which the pilot lay face down, and, by turning his body to right or left, he could warp the wings. This machine was tested with fair success near the Kill Devil sandhills, south of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, where there was fairly constant strong wind and soft sandy landing. The glider was launched by being run by hand into a strong wind, the two ground staff holding the wing-tips.
  After intensive redesign in 1902, which included wind-tunnel research to test aerofoil sections, the Wrights built their No 3 glider, with reduced wing camber, maintained anhedral droop, and a slightly increased wing-span to 32ft, giving with decreased chord an area of 305 sq ft. Initially they had a fixed double fin at the rear, but after some disastrous spins they replaced this with a movable single rudder, its controls always linked to the warp-cradle so that it invariably turned in the direction of bank. With this vital innovation the brothers made up to 1,000 controlled glides in the autumn of 1902 and became highly experienced pilots. They once noted without rancour that during five years of experimental gliding Otto Lilienthal had been airborne for little more than five hours; it seems that they logged at least half this flying time during five weeks in 1902 alone, with a maximum glide of over 200yd in 26 seconds.
The Wrights’ No 1 glider, 1900, being flown as a tethered kite, the wing-warping not being adjustable in flight. What they called the ‘horizontal rudder’ - the horizontal adjustable forward elevator - is not obvious because of the angle of the photograph.
The Wrights’ No 2 glider of 1901 had an anhedral droop to the wings and the pilot lay in a hip cradle by which he controlled wing-warping.
The launching technique for the Wright gliders, in this case their No 3 of 1902 after modification that substituted a single rear rudder for the previous two fixed fins.
Wilbur and Orville Wright now set themselves to the construction of a powered machine. After failing to find an automobile engine of suitably light weight, they entirely adapted the engine they had built for their wind-tunnel, and they designed and built, with their mechanic C. Taylor, a four-cylinder, 4in by 4in bore and stroke, petrol-driven engine weighing 179 lb dry weight with the magneto, and giving 12hp before pre-heating of the inlet air reduced it to 9hp. The engine’s 1,090rpm were reduced by chain drive to run two counter-rotating pusher propellers, which were also designed by the Wrights.
  They installed this engine in their newly designed Flyer No 1, a 1 in 20 cambered biplane of 40ft 4in span, and 510 sqft wing area, with a double elevator forward and a double rudder aft. The machine was launched from a wheeled truck set on a 60ft carrying rail laid into the wind, the wing-tips being supported by ground staff.
  On 17 December 1903 this rail was laid on level ground at Kill Devil and the Wright brothers, piloting in turn, made four flights against a wind of about 25mph. The fourth flight, with Wilbur in the cradle, covered 852ft and lasted 59 seconds. The Wright brothers had ‘done it’ four and a half years after, as enthusiastic innocents, they had written to the Smithsonian for a reading list on aeronautics.
  In 1904, using the Flyer II - basically the same design as Flyer 1 but with an improved engine giving some 16hp - the Wrights flew on 80 experimental flights and developed a system of accelerated take-off. This required a tall derrick suspending a heavy weight on a rope, which, with pulley connections, eventually ran along the starting track and doubled back to the aeroplane. When the weight dropped, the Flyer II - and every subsequent Wright machine until 1910, when they belatedly changed from skids to wheels - was pulled forward at speed for take-off.
  The assisted take-off was originally introduced because of the diminutive ‘airfield’ they were now using, the so-called Huffman’s Prairie, a 300-acre meadow near Dayton. The main ultimate virtue of this patch was that it forced the Wrights into volatile manoeuvrability. Wilbur’s five-minute flight of 9 November 1904 took him four times round the prairie!
  But the tight turns which were necessary emphasised a recurring tendency to stall. In 1905, with their new machine Flyer III, the Wrights deliberately unlinked the irrevocable connection between warping and rudder movement. Warping had two objectives: to change direction and to counter roll. Rudder movement was necessary in turning but counter-productive when warping was being used to correct lateral instability caused by gusting wind.
  Thus, in the great confrontation of opposing schools crying and decrying the slogan of stability, the Wrights made their final point for constant pilot control. Having immeasurably improved equilibrium in flight by abandoning reliance on architecture but rigidly linking roll and rudder, they modified their practice into a much more conscious, even less automatic, fluency of control. If their hip-cradle governing warp and rudder had been capable of construction and operation with a universal joint, like the joystick of the future, they might never have needed to disconnect the wires. They now began to fly, fully aware of the relation between warp and rudder, with free controls and the steadily increasing knowledge of their most effective coordination.
The Wrights’ powered aeroplane, Flyer No 1, with Wilbur Wright in the hip­cradle, shows the chain drives, crossed on the left for counter-rotation, which reduced the pusher propeller speeds in relation to engine speed.
Wilbur in the 1903 Flyer after the abortive flight attempt of 14 December. Note the damaged front elevator supports.
The successful one-off 12hp Wright aero-engine of 1903, designed from scratch by Orville and Wilbur Wright arid installed in the Wright Flyer I to make the machine the first aeroplane to achieve controlled powered flight: a front view of its original installation.
This miniscule rivalry between the courageous and inventive — but, in some aspects of technique, almost wilfully blind—fliers in France was transformed between August and December 1908 by the arrival at Le Mans of Wilbur Wright. The Wright brothers had gone into utter hibernation, as far as practical flight was concerned, between October 1905 and May 1908. They had applied for a patent for their machines that was slow in being granted. In the meantime they tried to influence, in respective order, the Governments of the United States, Great Britain and France, into purchasing the rights on their aeroplanes. They offered a package deal in the sense that negotiations should be all or nothing — the take-over of the rights on the trusted testimony of the brothers without detailed prior examination of the machines — since they feared rejection of the offer after adequate commercial spying on their exclusive features. All these negotiations were at first unsuccessful. The Wrights therefore closed down all flying, though they successively improved their engine and perfected their Flyer III into a standard two-seater — and pilot and passenger now literally sat instead of sprawling — which is now known as the Wright A. This impasse was broken in 1908 when satisfactory business arrangements were made with both the United States and the French Governments. Then, while Orville Wright demonstrated the Wright A at Fort Myer, Washington, DC, Wilbur Wright travelled to France, assembled his machine at the Leon Bollee factory near Le Mans, and finally demonstrated it over four and a half months, principally flying from the military Camp d’Auvours near Le Mans.
  Altogether Wilbur Wright put in some 26 flying hours in this protracted exhibition. It was an undisputed triumph. The French had until that moment never really trusted the reports that the Wrights had flown between 1903 and 1905, and the subsequent long inactivity supported their suspicion. Now every aeronautical enthusiast in Europe, after the incredulous reports of the first day’s flying, strained to make the trip to Auvours, and all were struck with wonder and enthusiasm at the apparently effortless and intricate flying that they witnessed. They had never seen, and scarcely thought possible, such technical achievement as the efficiency of engine and propeller, and such individual mastery of flight control as Wright was exhibiting in his nonchalant climbing, banking and turning — accomplished, as the Europeans now accepted, by the unique linkage of warp and rudder.
Wilbur Wright’s first public flight in France in August 1908, at Hunandieres, near Le Mans, before he transferred to the neighbouring military camp at Auvours. This Wright A, the 1908 refinement of the 1905 Flyer III, was the model used by Orville and Wilbur Wright for their demonstrations to the Governments of the United States and France of the potentialities of flight a la Wright. The A-type was a two-seater pusher biplane with wing-span of 41ft, chord 6.5ft, area 510sq ft, forward elevator area 70sq ft, powered by a Wright four-cylinder 30hp engine driving twin propellers at 420rpm, and attaining a speed of up to 40mph. It was launched by the Wright’s peculiar ‘derrick-and-weight’ method, illustrated here at Auvours.
The shape in the sky which proclaimed that practical flying had been achieved: the Wrights’ Flyer III, with wing-span 40ft 6in and area 503sq ft, the wings cambered 1 in 20 and set flat, without dihedral or anhedral, biplane forward elevator and twin rudders, new propellers and the tested 16hp Wright engine. The flight photographed here took place on 19 September 1905. In the next modification of Flyer III the hip-cradle was abandoned, the pilot sat upright and there was a second seat, and rudder and wing-warping were controlled by hand levers and cables.
Contemporarily with Mozhaiski the very accomplished French electrical engineer Clement Ader, who had acquired an early fortune from developing telephone equipment but had a private passion for aeronautics, began to construct a powered aeroplane. He chose steam as his medium, and designed a very efficient light engine. He installed this in a striking bat-winged monoplane, which he named Eole, and personally piloted it in a historic test at Armainvilliers in 1890. Witnesses said that it took off from level ground and was airborne for some 50m, but not even Ader then claimed that this very creditable powered take-off was a sustained flight. Sixteen years later he alleged that he had made a further flight of 100m in Eole in 1891, but this claim has been authoritatively refuted.
A very advanced light steam engine developing some 20hp drove Clement Ader’s eerie bat-winged Eole, which took off from level ground in 1890 with Ader fussing over complicated controls that were intended to reproduce many of the movements of the bat’s wing except actual flapping. Airborne for only 50m, and as blind as a bat because he had placed the pilot’s seat behind a tall boiler, Ader had no time to test these mechanical aids.
Commissioned by the French War Ministry, Ader went on to construct a series of further machines, which crystallised into a complicated movable-wing twin-engined steamer called Avion III. During two tests of this machine on a circular track in October 1897 Ader completed one circuit under power, but always earthbound, and then succumbed to a gust of wind, which blew him off the track and put him hors de combat. Nine years later he claimed, again falsely, that he had achieved a smooth flight of 300m in Avion III.
Ader brought in two 20hp steam engines to drive his Avion III, again of simulated bat-wing construction, with variable sweep-back wings intended to shift the centre of pressure during flight. Ader falsely claimed that he flew for 300m in this machine in 1897. Avion III was constructed as the result of a commission from the French War Ministry, the first indication by any government of a practical interest, backed by central finance, in the development of the flying machine. This picture is faked.
Leon Levavasseur, first an artist then a designer of the Antoinette engine, which he named after the daughter of his partner Jules Gastambide, put the first Antoinette driving two four-bladed propellers in a large monoplane, which he designed in the shape of a bird and tested unsuccessfully in 1903. Levavasseur retired to develop his engine in racing motorboats. He came back to aeronautics in 1908 when he designed the Gastambide-Mengin I which crash-landed after eight days of trial - quite a normal life for an aircraft of that period. But this was developed into the Antoinette series of aeroplanes, which confirmed Levavasseur’s position as a brilliant designer of pure aircraft as well as of engines.
Bleriot’s No VI Libellule (Dragon­fly), which hopped 150m in 1907.
The Bleriot VII of 1907, a classic-styled cantilever monoplane, increased Bleriot’s airborne record to 500m.
He spent the first half of 1908 building the Bleriot VIII, a monoplane which, in various versions, was largely the test-bed for his further success. During the second half of the year he not only achieved a celebrated cross-country journey of 28km, but designed and completed three more machines, which he exhibited at the Paris Motor Show in December. The Bleriot VIII-bis - probably the most promising modification, though he revised it later - had large downward-moving flaps as ailerons.
One of the versions of the Bleriot VIII with pivoted wing-tip elevons.
The Bleriot XI (mod) of 1909, with the characteristic open fuselage adopted by the designer at this time, was the first machine in Europe to achieve efficient lateral control by the application of wing­warping. In this machine Bleriot made his historic flight across the English Channel.
Louis Breguet’s biplane, the Breguet I, clearly derived from the Pischoff I, had a tractor propeller, wings of unequal span, twin rear rudders, and wing-warping for both lateral control and elevation. The machine was very influential because it received much attention, on the ground, at the great formative Reims Aviation Week of 1909. Its actual performance at the Reims meeting was not so distinguished. While Henry Farman was flying 180km in his biplane, the Breguet made three short flights of which the maximum distance was 500m, and it crash-landed after being airborne for 300m on the last attempt.
Paul Cornu’s experimental powered helicopter was the first to raise a man (marginally) on 13 November 1909.
Nevertheless the pure birdmen gallantly continued their hopeless course. In 1742 the Marquis de Bacqueville thought he could fly across the Seine with four individual insect-wings on arms and legs. Originally he thought his valet could do it, but the servant declined on a point of precedence. The Marquis took off from the Quai Vol­taire and crashed on a washerwoman’s raft in midstream.
Pancake landing imminent: the Marquis de Bacqueville somewhat fancifully ‘frozen’ in mid-flight between the Quai Voltaire and the waters of the Seine, 1742.
The first powered model aircraft to fly was the graceful monoplane designed by the 34-year-old French naval officer Felix du Temple, working with his brother Louis. Powered by steam operating one 12-bladed tractor airscrew, it took off from the ground under its own power and landed without damage. Encouraged by this success, du Temple patented a full-size aeroplane, but he was not able to build it for many years. However, in 1874, the machine was constructed and tested with a pilot. Powered with a hot-air engine, it was launched (down a ramp) and it took off successfully - the first powered man-carrying aircraft to do so. But it cannot be said to have flown under control.
A reconstructed model (made for the Qantas History of Flight collection) of du Temple’s full-size powered aircraft of 1874, the first to take off carrying a man. It had a retractable tricycle undercarriage. The wingspan was 117ft 8in, the length 53ft 5in.
A reliable impression of du Temple’s power-driven aircraft in which a pilot was launched down a ramp into a powered take-off (but not sustained flight) in 1874. At some stage a steam engine was fitted as power unit to the machine which had swept-forward wings enclosing a tractor propeller, and a rudder beneath the kite-form tailplane.
In 1857 Felix du Temple flew the first powered model aircraft to take off under its own steam (literally) and land without damage. Immediately he registered a patent for this beautifully designed full-size aircraft.
Captain Ferdinand Ferber, of the French Artillery, was 36 years old when Otto Lilienthal was killed, and he alone in France, with.Pilcher in England, had the understanding, the ambition and the youth to consider powered flight within his personal reach. In 1901 he built a Lilienthal-type hang-glider and began jumping off 20ft-high scaffolding to practise with it. But at the end of that year, through correspondence with Chanute, he learned of the work of the Wrights and built a Wright-type glider, basing his design on photographs Chanute had sent him. But he did not comprehend either the theory or the practice of the Wrights concerning control in roll, and did not incorporate wing-warping. His slightly improved version of his original glider, built in 1903, had two wing-tip rudders - affording him in reality no extra control - but he was so over-confident after soaring in it that he declared he was now ready to install a motor. His powered version of this Wright-type glider was a complete failure. During the next year, 1904, he recast his thinking and decided to aim for inherent stability by adding a tailplane to his design. When this picture of Ferber flying in his new machine was published in 1905, it had great influence in swinging European designers towards the Wright-type configuration of aeroplane, but in combination with the ‘old-world’ reversion to attempted inherent stability. As a ‘mood’ picture this conveys most seductively the exhilaration of flight. It will be judged that the flapping wing-tip rudders were giving Ferber no more control than a couple of burgees.
Ferdinand Ferber, though always pluckily trying to design a winner, never succeeded ‘ in building a powered aeroplane that did more than hop, and when in desperation he bought a Standard Voisin in 1909, he hit a ditch at speed between a landing and a second take-off at Boulogne, and was killed.
Goupil’s monoplane of 1884 was designed to duplicate the body of a bird as well as its wings. The novel feature was the inclusion - separately placed and not set in the wings - of elevons, the projecting control surfaces intended to act not only as elevators but as opposite-acting ailerons for control of roll. But they were not linked to the rudder action. Goupil’s steam engine intended as the power plant for this graceful machine was built but never installed in the airframe. But in 1917 Glenn Curtiss, who was trying to break the Wright patents on wing-warping - which the Wrights had said as early as 1908 included wing-tip ailerons - reconstructed the Goupil machine with a petrol engine and flew it. Between-wings ailerons in a biplane (most nearly corresponding to Goupil’s design for the monoplane) had been adopted by Curtiss much earlier.
The triplane had been a feature in the mental landscape of aeronautical designers since John Stringfellow’s well known model of 1868, and this itself was based on a far more seriously designed and tested 1843 triplane of Cayley’s, which was then less familiar. Moreover, there was already a triplane flying from Issy. It was a short-span (7 1/2 m) tractor-propeller ‘three-decker’ with side curtains enclosing the mainplanes and a box-kite biplane tail with the elevator in the middle of the box and a rudder projecting behind. It had been built by the Voisin brothers to the design of Ambroise Goupy. Though the Goupy I (it was followed by an influential biplane, the Goupy II) did get off the ground for a not exactly stupendous distance, its greatest impact was that, through advance descriptions of it printed in England, it inspired the Englishman A. V. Roe to build a much more effective series of triplanes that even today, two-thirds of a century later, provide one of the immortal mascots of aeronautics; and its replica is still flying. But when the Goupy I first hopped in September 1908, no one in Britain had ever yet flown an aeroplane. On this side of the Atlantic the delivery ward was still located at Issy.
The Goupy I triplane, built by the Voisins to the design of Ambroise Goupy, had a wing-span of 7 1/2 m and a weight, including its eight-cylinder 50hp Renault engine, of 500kg. Its best performance under test in 1908 at Issy was a hop of 150m, but it inspired other designers.
Over the same period another French sailor, Captain Jean-Marie Le Bris, was designing, occasionally flying, and inevitably crashing, a full-size glider of parachute design. This seems to have been the last practical glider to carry its man in a boat-shaped cradle corresponding to the airship gondola or Cayley’s car. Its wings were modelled on the albatross, a bird Captain Le Bris had studied on voyages in southern seas. He was also enterprising in using a moving cart from which to launch himself. He made one successful glide, but crashed after a second take-off and broke a leg. He made another machine with which he conducted many practical experiments, mainly in ballast. He finally saw it destroyed in a serious accident. But Le Bris had set a good standard for detailed experimentation with full-size machines.
  Sir George Cayley died in the year du Temple and Le Bris notched their own first gratifying successes. Cayley had never got as far as installing his hot-air engine in even a model aircraft, like du Temple, or experiencing the fearful personal test of preliminary flight control, like Le Bris. But he did put a man into the air on an aeroplane and, as an old man in his eighties, there was excuse enough for him that he could not himself make the ascent. The Marquis de Bacqueville, consumed with ambition to wing-flap across the Seine, felt cold feet and asked his valet to put on the wings. Cayley, with none of his endurance or keenness of observation surviving to take him gliding, requested his coachman to go in his place. But he met with a parallel mutinous response.
Le Bris’ second albatross-winged glider, seen on its launching cart. It crashed in 1868.
‘A hundred necks have to be broken’, warned Sir George Cayley, and this machine caused the first. Francois Letur had made several successful gliding descents from a balloon in this canopy-wing glider with additional flappers. He gave a display at the Cremorne Gardens - Cayley had also declared that there was no money to be made out of aeronautics except from fairground exhibitions. He was trying to right a defect in the balloon when the wind dashed him against some trees. He died of his injuries a week later, in July 1854.
Alfred de Pischoff drove out to Issy in 1907 and 1908 to test what was then a revolutionary biplane he had had built in the workshops of Lucien Chauviere. It had wings of unequal span, the upper wing being longer. There was nothing of the box-kite about it. There was an open configuration about this machine, and the floating tail went back even to Cayley. This was the first full-scale biplane with a tractor propeller, and Chauviere had improved on the warped canoe-paddles that were used up to that time - and well beyond that time in England - and had produced the first ‘sophisticated’ airscrew used in Europe. Pischoff’s aircraft had no forward control surfaces, and in appearance it set the standard for the new look of a whole generation of practical biplanes. But the unsavoury truth about this machine was that in itself it was not exactly practical. Its best flight at Issy was a hop of 7m in December 1907.
Before maturing as an outstanding theoretician of space flight (as early as 1912), Esnault-Pelterie had progressed from gliding to build some effective unconventional aircraft like this REP2 of 1908 - which, curiously, had no ailerons but used a primitive form of wing-warping.
The joiliest of all the daring young men whose career spanned the birth of flight was Alberto Santos-Dumont. He was the son of a wealthy Brazilian coffee planter, on whose vast estate Santos was driving railway engines at the age of 10. He came to Paris in 1891, when he was 18, to study the development of the automobile. But he swiftly developed a passion for aeronautics and, as inventor and patron, he was an inspiring pioneer of flight in machines both lighter and heavier than air. He first took up ballooning in 1897, and went on to build airships. He was the first to put the internal combustion engine into the air as a practical instrument. By 1901, at the age of 28, he had won fame and the then gigantic prize of 125,000 francs by navigating his Airship No 6 from Saint-Cloud, around the Eiffel Tower, and back again - the first really guided flight by air. Santos-Dumont captured the affections of the Parisians by flying his airship very low (and quietly) down the Paris boulevards, and surprising strollers by unexpectedly joining in their conversation as he passed them from the rear. He used to tie his airship up at his country club as a cowboy would hitch his horse to a rail.
  Santos-Dumont subsequently went to America, learned from Chanute of the achievement of the Wrights, and enthusiastically came back to France to concentrate on heavier-than-air flying. He built his famous 14-bis canard-type cellular biplane, which he first tested from an overhead wire rope ineffectively pulled by a trotting donkey, and later (see illustration, p. 108) suspended from his Airship No 14. In free flight in this machine he first hopped 60m on 23 October 1906, and later 220m in 21-2 seconds on 12 November 1906, and won the prize offered by the Aero-Club 'de France for the first heavier-than-air machine to fly for over 100m.
Alberto Santos-Dumont’s 14-bis in flight on 23 October 1906, the first considerable and witnessed aeroplane flight in Europe. The machine, which is going from left to right in the picture, had pronounced dihedral box-kite wings with an area of 52sq m. A 25hp Antoinette engine originally drove a 2 1/2 m diameter pusher propeller at 900rpm, but for this, its second free flight, a 50hp Antoinette was substituted. The forward box-elevator pivoted vertically. Santos-Dumont is standing in a wicker basket and he is wearing a body-harness which in the following month he adapted to control octagonal ailerons between the wing-tips, leaning to right or left to establish some lateral control. In this finally-modified 14-bis he made a record flight of 220m, but crashed the next time he took the machine up. That was the end of the 14-bis - typical of the short life of aircraft types in the 1900s.
Santos-Dumont soon abandoned biplanes and the canard-type configuration. In 1907 he built his No 19 light monoplane, weighing only 110kg, which he modified in 1908 and from which finally grew his definitive Demoiselle (Dragonfly), the No'20 of 1909, a sporting machine weighing 143kg. In the following year he fell a victim to disseminated sclerosis and was forced out of aeronautics, though he survived helplessly until 1932.
The first popular light aircraft, Santos-Dumont’s Demoiselle in 1909, at Issy. The designer had utilised an effective Chauviere propeller and the machine’s top speed was 90km per hour. The wing­span was 10sq m. The cruciform tail unit, acting as rudder and elevator, was fixed by a universal joint, operated by handlever. Lateral control was through wing-warping operated by a rocking lever strapped to the (sitting) pilot’s waist.
If Alphonse Penaud, 1850-1880, was a shooting star, his compatriot Victor Tatin, 1843-1913, was a stayer whose career spanned every phase of man’s final soaring into flight yet could not notch one clear triumph. He was making rubber-driven ornithopters when Penaud was producing his grand design of the amphibious monoplane. By 1879 he had produced a famous model monoplane, though not so graceful or influential as Penaud’s first success, which worked by compressed air. Between 1890 and 1897 he successfully tested a large twin (tandem)-screw monoplane driven by steam. In the next decade he became a Grand Old Man and cheer leader for the French aeroplane constructors in their rivalry with the Wrights. He sponsored an unsuccessful monoplane, the Tatin-De-La-Vaulx, in 1907, and a striking streamlined aircraft, the Tatin-Paulhan Aero-Torpille, in 1911. Victor Tatin, very typical of the keen engineer who never bothered to abandon machinery for a sabbatical year and study actual flight, maintained an enthusiasm for 40 years yet never once saw any of his full-size machines achieve more than a hop before crashing.
The references to gunpowder already made may be expanded. In 1870 Gustave Trouve actually made a model ornithopter fly for 60m, after a mid-air launch, by the action of 12 blank cartridges automatically fired into a Bourdon tube [a coiled metallic tube which tends to straighten out when pressure is exerted within it, and to spring back into coil afterwards]. The straightening of the tube flapped down the wings and the relaxation of the tube at the end of the explosion brought the wings up, while the next cartridge slipped into place for another shot.
Powered by blank revolver cartridges, Gustave Trouve’s model ornithopter flew 60m in 1870, the wings being flapped by the action of the pistol shots straightening out Bourdon tubes.
At Billancourt, a mile away from Issy on the other side of the Seine, the brothers Charles and Gabriel Voisin had set up the world’s first aircraft factory, where they developed their own rather pedes¬trian designs, but, much more importantly, coped with all comers by fulfilling individual orders. Among their clients were the friendly rivals Henry Farman and Leon Delagrange.
  Henry Farman, whose father had settled in Paris as a newspaper correspondent, was of British nationality, though he could speak no English. He did not take French nationality until 1937, and he survived until 1958, when he was 84. He was trained as an art student — an extraordinary number of early pilots and aircraft designers were artists — but he abandoned art, first for cycle racing and then for automobile racing, winning the heavy car class of the great Paris-Vienna race of 1902 in a 70hp Panhard. In 1907, at the age of 33, he was ‘converted’ to aeronautics, and commissioned from the Voisin brothers one of the stock biplanes they were then producing. (They had filched the design from an inaccurate diagram of the Wright machine of 1903.) This had box-kite configuration of wings and tail unit, with pusher propeller and forward elevator. Farman speedily modified this, and by November 1907 he had achieved a flight of over a minute. After further modification he flew the Voisin-Farman I (mod) on the first half-kilometre-and-back {Kilometre boucle, or kilometre return-to-base) accomplished in Europe, at Issy on 13 January 1908. Leon Delagrange, flying a machine with very similar progressive modifications, the Voisin-Delagrange II and III, accomplished in the first six months of 1908 flights that gradually improved to a 14km stretch done in 18 1/2 minutes. Farman maintained a parallel progression.
A prize of 50,000 francs went to Henry Farman for the execution, on 13 January 1908, of the first kilometre return-to-base flight in Europe, achieved in his Voisin-Farman I (mod) biplane. Since Farman was not to adopt lateral control for another 9 months he could make no sharp turn and, once past the starting pylon, he had to fly in a banked attitude following a steady circle throughout.
Having modified his previous modification to produce the Voisin-Farman I-bis (mod) with four side-curtains between the wings, and putting up a creditable 40km flight with this adaptation, Henry Farman ‘saw the light’ regarding lateral control, which was making the flying of Wilbur Wright the envy of all French airmen, and he installed four broad wing-tip ailerons in his revised model, the Voisin-Farman I-bis (2nd mod). Later he used neater ailerons in his first ‘signed’ aircraft, the classic Henry Farman III.
The Standard Voisin pusher biplane seen here, a box-kite construction with front elevators and side-curtains to aid its already formidable stability, was the unexciting all-purpose ‘Ford Model T’ of the air for some years. But it was overdue back at the drawing board because of its then retrogressive design. It was very easy to fly so long as the pilot wanted only to go in a straight line.
The Vuia monoplane, which was bouncing about the fields near Paris in 1906 and 1907, was the last notable aeroplane to be powered by a carbonic acid motor - in this case made by Serpollet, who had a reputation for steam engines. Lilienthal had installed two carbonic acid gas motors in glider-cum-ornithopter machines in 1893 and later in 1895, but had not tested them in 1896, at the time when he stalled his ‘pure’ glider No 11 and crashed, and subsequently died. The Vuia aircraft was far more important as being the world’s first full-size conventionally shaped monoplane - influencing many contemporary designers - and it was also the first machine in Europe with pneumatically tyred wheels. The carbonic acid motor did work, up to a point. The machine made several recorded hops, the longest being 24m.
Cayley’s preoccupation with flapper wings (even after he had altered their angle of attack to conform with his discovery of the true way in which a bird propels itself) seems to have derived from a curious mental block. In 1809 a Swiss watchmaker named Jacob Degen was reported from Vienna as having ‘ascended above the trees in the Prater with artificial wings, taken his flight in various directions, and alighted on the ground with as much ease as a bird’. Cayley fully believed this report, that Degen had mastered some moving-wing machine, and his credulity was bolstered when Viscount Mahon sent him a clear sketch of Degen in his wing harness. What the sketch did not show, because two-thirds of it had been cut out, was that Degen was not ‘flying’ at all. He was suspended from a balloon that took over half his weight, and he was performing nothing more than pneumatic bounds, or balloon-hopping. Mahon eventually found this out, actually saw the balloon, and told Cayley; but the baronet seemed to want to believe that Degen had really flown, and 36 years later he was still mentioning this feat as a fact. It gave him throughout his life an altogether unreasonable faith in the functional potential of flappers. Even though he had long discarded any reliance on a moving wing for the support of an aeroplane and had accepted fixed wings, he still tended to incorporate separate flappers for propulsion in preference to airscrews.
  Cayley should have been convinced by the debacle in 1811 of Albrecht Berblinger, the famous ‘Tailor of Ulm’, who tried to take off with Degen’s wings but without his balloon, and crashed straight into the drink in the Danube.
  The melancholy fact that clinched the limitations of Degen’s performance was that, like many another aeronautical experimenter, he was heavily in debt, and had been taken to a debtor’s prison in Vienna. He arranged the balloon-cum-wings demonstration to raise some money. In order that he should not use the balloon to escape from custody, a rope was tied round his body and held by the jailer, so that he could not jump upwards to a height much more than 50ft. When he had finally paid off his debts in Vienna, Degen moved to Paris. He was badly manhandled by a crowd there when his performance was not considered spectacular enough. Paris was always a dangerous place in which to crash back to the drawing board. The crew of a Montgolfiere balloon had endured similar rough treatment there when their display had had to be cancelled because of a technical hitch.
Jacob Degen in his balloon-hopping, wing-flapping kit, 1809. The full diagram shows that Cayley was deceived, and Degen was not fully supported by his wings.
Jacob Degen with his manually operated flapping wings. A similar sketch was sent by Lord Mahon to Sir George Cayley in 1810 and convinced Cayley that flappers were the preferable means of propulsion of airships and aeroplanes.