M.Goodall, A.Tagg British Aircraft before the Great War (Schiffer)
Deleted by request of (c)Schiffer Publishing
P.Lewis British Aircraft 1809-1914 (Putnam)
White and Thompson No. 1
The publication of F. W. Lanchester's Aerodynamics in 1907 aroused considerable interest for the subject in Norman A. Thompson, an electrical engineer by profession, who was, at that time, manager of the Clyde Valley Electrical Power Company. The appearance of Aerodonetics by the same author during the following year was responsible in 1908 for Thompson's decision finally to enter the field of aviation, as he felt that the time had arrived for practical engineering experience to be applied to the theory of flight. Thompson met Lanchester in March, 1909, and enlisted his services as a designer and adviser to White and Thompson, a partnership which he had formed with Dr. Douglas White, a friend of substantial means and with varied interests. Dr. White agreed to finance experiments, not for profit but to help to ensure that Great Britain remained in the forefront of progress.
Lanchester's first design for the partnership was planned originally as a single-seat machine with one engine, but was then revised as a two-seater with two 50 h.p. Gnomes, coupled to each other by a crossed belt in case of failure of one of them. Construction was placed in the hands of the Daimler Motor Company of Coventry, who had started the fuselage and engine installation when, in the summer of 1910, the work was transferred to the White and Thompson premises at Middleton-on-Sea, near Bognor, Sussex. A shed and offices had been set up with a staff of ten under Dr. White and Norman Thompson as joint managers, and the site was chosen because of the fine stretches of sand along the shore between Bognor and Littlehampton which were very suitable for testing. The surface, however, was changed greatly by a heavy storm before the firm completed the Daimler-built chassis. The No. 1 emerged finally as a pusher biplane with Warren-girder braced, all-metal wings which were covered with 23 s.w.g. aluminium, and mounted on a fuselage consisting of an ash frame clad with sheet steel. Dihedral was incorporated in the lower wings only, and biplane tail surfaces were combined with four fixed fins, construction being similar to that of the wings, while movable surfaces comprised a nose-mounted rudder and split elevators. The sturdy four-wheel undercarriage was of the pneumatic type. Conforming with Lanchester's ideas, the machine was designed for high-speed flight by fitting small wings and opposite-rotating narrow, three-bladed propellers of only 5 ft. 2 ins. diameter.
Tests were carried out along the shore by Norman Thompson and by Captain Wilmot Nicholson, R.N., with employees of the firm chasing the Grey Angel, as the aircraft was called, with planks to be placed under the wheels to prevent it sinking into the sand when it stopped rolling. Owing to the meagre wing area provided and insufficient thrust available, the machine could not be persuaded to take off, and many detail modifications were made, including the fitting of new propellers, each with four wide blades, and of larger wheels and tyres. The White and Thompson No. 1 was too complex and advanced in conception for its time to be successful. It finally rose from the sands on one occasion, but development was abandoned ultimately when, during testing by Captain Nicholson, the undercarriage collapsed and the machine overturned after running into the water. Span, 25 ft. Wing area, 100 sq. ft. Weight empty. 1.200 lb.