Big Aviation Book
to the spirit and enthusiasm of youth
the guide and inspiration
of the leaders of tomorrow.
[Illustration: TIMES WIDE WORLD PHOTO Commander Byrd in His Antarctic
Costume. Original printed for the first time.]
BIG AVIATION BOOK
RICHARD E. BYRD
Joseph Lewis French
McLoughlin Bros. Inc.
By McLoughlin Bros., Inc.
Printed in U. S. A.
New York, N. Y.
August 13, 1928.
I was glad when I heard that Joseph Lewis French was going to turn his
attention to air adventures; especially because he planned to prepare a
recital of them for boy readers. Aviation still belongs essentially to
youth. The boy of today may be flying in five years. Certainly in ten he
will be a factor in the progress of flying if only as a regular
passenger. Another thing, it is the duty of those of us who are here
today to preserve in accurate detail the history of flying for those who
come after us. Mr. French has done this before for the sea. He has now
done it equally well for the air. I write this brief word on the eve of
sailing south toward the antarctic. With me will go a Boy Scout and
three other young men who are still undergraduates. One reason why I am
taking these lads is that the spirit and enthusiasm of a man is greatest
before he is twenty-five. I feel they will be a tonic stimulant for my
And America, as well as I, depends on her boys.
[signature: Richard E. Byrd]
THE STORY OF THE AIRSHIP .... Capt. T. J. C. Martyn
THE FIRST ATTEMPT AT THE NORTH POLE----CAPTAIN ANDREE AND HIS BALLOON
THE BALLOON IN WAR
THE WELLMAN ATTEMPT AT THE POLE . Walter Wellman
THE BIRTH AND GROWTH OF THE AEROPLANE
WILBUR AND ORVILLE WRIGHT .... Charles C. Turner
THE FIRST AEROPLANE FLIGHT .... Jessie E. Horsfall
SENSATIONS OF FLIGHT----LEARNING TO FLY
THE ARMY OF YOUTH
FIGHTING THE FLYING CIRCUS . . . Eddie Rickenbacker
THE GAUNTLET OF FIRE ....... By a British Airman
STUNT FLYING ........... Capt. T. J. C. Martyn
HOW TUBBY SLOCUM BROKE HIS LEG . . . James Warner Bellah
LINDBERGH'S START FOR PARIS ..... Jessie E. Horsfall
LINDBERGH TELLS OF HIS TRIP . . . Charles A. Lindbergh
CHAMBERLIN'S FLIGHT TO GERMANY . Jessie E. Horsfall
BYRD'S FLIGHT OVER THE NORTH POLE . . Floyd Bennett
COLUMBUS OF THE AIR .......... Augustus Post
"THE KID", ................ Victor A. Smith
DOWN TO THE EARTH IN 'CHUTES . . . Lieut. G. A. Shoemaker
SIR HUBERT WILKINS----HIS ARCTIC EXPEDITIONS . . . A. M. Smith
THE "BREMEN'S" FLIGHT TO AMERICA . Jessie E. Horsfall
THE BYRD ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION .... Russell Owen
ADVENTURING INTO THE ANTARCTIC . . . Commander Richard E. Byrd
RIDING THE NIGHT SKIES ..... Capt. T. J. C. Martyn
THE STORY OF THE AIRSHIP
BY T. J. C. MARTYN
IN the recent voyage of the Graf Zeppelin across the Atlantic Ocean to
these shores there is more to be read and understood than the lessons of
successful dirigible navigation and construction; it opens a new chapter
in the annals of lighter-than-air craft, one that has a rich background
of human endeavor in which skill and courage have played equal parts.
The Graf Zeppelin, in its construction and in its performance, marks the
latest advances in its own sphere of aeronautical science, an advance
that most certainly will have important influences upon the development
of the airship. At the same time its triumphant success is to be
measured in large part by the labors and researches of those pioneer
aeronauts who by their perseverance made lighter-than-air craft
Just as the history of the airplane cannot be divorced from the story of
the glider, the history of the dirigible is inseparably bound up in the
story of the balloon. In theory both types of aircraft have been studied
since ancient times. Flight through the air has lured man all through
the ages as perhaps few other things have, and it continues to weave its
spell over millions of people today. According to tradition it was
Archytas of Tarentum who invented the kite, the forerunner of the airplane, and
Archimedes who first discovered the theory that a body will rise in the
air if its total dead weight is less than that of the air which it
But the history of the lighter-than-air craft is shorter than that of
heavier-than-air craft and it is marked by no dramatic culmination such
as attended the first flight of a powered airplane at Kitty Hawk
twenty-five years ago, although the first success of the balloon had a
more immediate public response than had the successful demonstrations of
the Wright brothers, which received no more than a paragraph in a
metropolitan newspaper several days after the event.
America is the home of the airplane, but it was France that fathered the
balloon. To Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, sons of a prosperous paper
manufacturer of Annonay, goes the honor of constructing the first
successful balloon, lifted through the agency of hot air. Sir Walter
Raleigh, who was deputed by the British Air Ministry to write the
history of the Royal Air Force, described their success as due to a
"happy chance," although their achievement was in reality due to the
observation of clouds floating through the air and was based on
scientific deductions. It was on June 5, 1783, that they flew the first
balloon. It was a spheroid 110 feet in circumference, inflated with hot
air from a fire of wood shavings, and it flew to a height estimated at
6,000 feet and traveled a mile before it lost its buoyancy and fell.
The event aroused the wildest enthusiasm in Paris and the Montgolfiers
were at once summoned to the French Court at Versailles where, in the
midst of an admiring throng and in the presence of Louis XVI and Marie
Antoinette, they liberated another hot-air balloon, to which was
attached a basket holding a live sheep, a cockerel and a duck. The
physicist Charles at once perceived the advantage of using hydrogen and
for a brief spell ballooning was the craze of the age. Success had come
to the balloon almost over night in contrast to the decades--one might
by only a slight stretch of the imagination say centuries--of patient
experimentation that preceded the advent of a glider big and strong
enough to carry a man.
When the Englishman, Cayley, and the German, Lilienthal, indicated and
proved the possibilities of the glider, attention was immediately
centered upon the invention of a powered airplane. So with the balloon
half a century earlier. Flight in a lighter-than-air craft had been
effective and effectually demonstrated and man soon turned to the problem
of transforming the balloon into a dirigible ship, that is to say, into
an aircraft capable of being driven in any desired direction. The
history of the balloon was not a long nor a glorious one. After many
successful flights and after it had been put to military uses in the
revolutionary wars with but inconspicuous success, the craze for
ballooning waned and the pioneers struggled with their theories until
the arrival of the steam and the internal combustion engines.
Here the real history of the dirigible begins, and it is a history
replete with human patience and courage, fantastic notions and later
with mechanical and engineering skill wrested from actual experience in
the air. The problem was to get a balloon to travel in any direction,
even against the wind, instead of remaining exclusively at the mercy of
the air currents--and even today the problem has only been partly
solved, owing chiefly to the tremendous resistance offered by the
framework of a dirigible to its passage through the air. Once a light
engine had been invented the problem became one of constructing an
aerostat strong enough to resist the strain of flying through the air
and capable of control in the required direction.
Before this, however, many grotesque theories were put to the test. The
first idea was to place a sail to one side of the balloon, a theory put
forward by Thomas Martyn in England, despite the fact, not then
comprehended, that a sail would have no effect, since there is no fixed
point to which it can be attached, and the sail, therefore, travels
through the air at precisely the same rate as everything forming part of
the balloon. Oars were then thought of and tried, and although the idea
was theoretically correct, it was practically unsound; for the oars had
to be very strong and very large, and, moreover, to be effective they
had to be rowed at a speed that surpassed human endurance.
Nevertheless, the Robert brothers of France successfully navigated a
balloon with oars, hiring six sailors to do the rowing, and another
aspiring inventor drafted plans for a mammoth balloon that was to have a
galley of eighty oarsmen plying huge silken oars. The inventor, a French
General by the name of Meusnier, later killed in the revolutionary
wars,was, nevertheless, to recognize that an egg shape would be the best
for a dirigible balloon, and since the model he built inspired a host of
aeronauts after him his name is important. The great problem of
propulsion still remained and was neatly summed up by an anonymous poet:
To Montgolfier the Invention's due,
Unfinished as it lies,
But his will be the Glory who
Direction's art supplies.
The art of direction was not supplied until about 1850, although one
earlier attempt came near to success. This was the theory of the Abbes
Miollan and Janinet, who, utilizing quite correctly Newton's theory that
every action must have an equal and opposite reaction, thought of
supplying the propulsive energy by allowing hot air to escape from a
hole at one end of the bag with enough force, as they hoped, to drive
the balloon forward. Their experiments were delayed, for one reason and
another, and an infuriated public, evidently fearing that it was being
imposed upon, destroyed their balloon--a not uncommon experience for
In 1850 Henri Giffard came on the scene and earned for himself the title
(though some dispute it) of father of the dirigible. He had assisted in
that year a Swiss watchmaker to build a model dirigible that made
successful flights against moderate winds. Borrowing a sum of money from
friends, he built, next year, a full-sized ship, utilizing Meusnier's
principle of a long cigar-shaped gas bag, sharply pointed at the ends,
and the suggestion of Francis Hopkinson of Philadelphia that a propeller
be used (a suggestion made at the end of the eighteenth century, when
screws were not even used for ships).
Giffard's airship had its gas bag, 143 feet long by 39 feet in diameter,
covered with a network of cords drawn down beneath the balloon and
attached to a long pole, to which the car was fixed. In the rear was a
huge triangular fin designed to act as the rudder. The craft was powered
by a steam engine developing one horsepower per 110 pounds of weight.
Every precaution against fire was taken and on Sept. 23, 1852, he made a
semi-successful flight--that is to say, he managed to get the ship to
fly at an air speed of about four to five miles an hour, but the wind
being stronger than that he actually went backward. He made several
other small dirigibles and soon came to realize that he would need a
much more powerful engine if a high speed were to be achieved.
Accordingly he set to work and designed an enormous airship, which was
to be 2,000 feet long and which he expected would have a speed of some
forty-four miles an hour. Ill health intervened, however, and he died in
1882 without attempting his ambitious project.
The next important experiment in airship construction occurred in 1885,
when the Frenchman, Captain Charles Renard, working with Captain Krebs,
built the celebrated La France, having received a grant of money from
Gambetta for that purpose. The France was 165 feet long and 27 1/2 feet
wide at its maximum width. It was cigar-shaped, but it was the first to
use a streamlined bow, that is, a blunt instead of a sharp nose.
It was powered with an electric motor and made a number of successful
flights at an average speed of about fourteen miles an hour, and in five
out of seven flights over a period of two years returned obedient to its
controls to its starting point. Why they did not use a gas engine is
hard to understand, as the German Harlein had built and flown a small
dirigible equipped with such motive power as early as 1872. Wolfert,
another German, flew a dirigible in 1897 powered with a benzine motor,
but unhappily his craft caught fire in the air and he was killed. A
light, highly powered engine was, nevertheless, a vital necessity.
Hitherto dirigibles were either non-rigid or semi-rigid, that is, they
had either no internal bracing within the gas bag, which retained its
shape as the result of the internal pressure, or they were partially
braced by means of a longitudinal girder and perhaps a few lateral
spars and hoops. An Austrian named Schwartz was the first to build a
rigid dirigible, but neither of the two ships was successful. It was
left to the genius of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin to perfect the rigid
airship and it is he who is fairly to be considered the father of this
type of craft--that type that millions of New Yorkers have recently
seen flying gracefully over the city.
Not that non-rigid and semi-rigid airships died a natural death; they
were developed continuously in both France and Britain, and even Russia
favored them. Santos-Dumont, the wealthy young Brazilian who thrilled
France at the beginning of the century with his daring exploits and who
built dirigible after dirigible with a rare prodigality, is but one of
the men who labored to perfect the semi-rigid airship. In some ways
Dumont is the prototype of Colonel Lindbergh, for his zest and
enthusiasm and his love of flying for its own sake not only did much to
stimulate popular interest in aeronautics, but won him a golden
reputation in Europe, especially in France and England. The Lebaudy
brothers, too, were active in designing and building non-rigids and
semi-rigids; in fact, they brought the latter type to somewhere near its
present state of efficiency, building for the French Government such
famous airships as the Jaune, the Lebaudy, La Patrie, La Republique, La
Ville de Paris and the Clement-Bayard, built for the Russians. Several
of these ships met tragic fates, however.
THE FIRST ATTEMPT AT THE NORTH POLE
ANDREE AND HIS BALLOON
(From _The Conquest of the Air._ British copyright).
WE come now to the achievements of recent and living aeronauts, and
among these the names of Camille Flammarion, the celebrated French
astronomer, Gaston Tissandier, who, in 1883, was thought to have
partially solved the problem of steering a balloon, and W. de Fonvielle
are most distinguished. As with Glaisher, the impulse of the three
famous Frenchmen just named was mainly scientific, but they have all
come under the fascination of a pursuit which is perhaps the most
romantic left to man.
M. Flammarion expresses his feelings in this impassioned address to his
balloon as it lay formless in its shed before inflation:
"Inert and formless thing, that I can now trample under my feet, that I
can tear with my hands, here stretched dead upon the ground, my perfect
slave, I am about to give thee life that thou mayest become my
sovereign. In the height of my generosity I shall make thee even greater
than myself. O vile and powerless thing! I shall abandon myself to thy
majesty, O creature of my own hands! and thou shalt carry me beyond my
kingdom into thy own element, which I have created for thee; thou shalt
fly off to the regions of storms and tempests, and I shall be forced to
follow thee. I shall become thy plaything; thou shalt do what thou wilt
with me, and forget that I gave thee life . . . Perchance thou wilt
deprive me of my existence and leave my corpse floating in the hurricane
above, until thy perfidy, fatigued by its own exertions, shall fall like
a blind monster in some desert place, or into the foaming waves, which
shall swallow us up together!"
The name of S. A. Andree, the Swedish engineer, is famous for his
attempt to reach the North Pole by means of a balloon. But had he never
gone to seek death or glory in the frozen north, he would have been
entitled to our notice for his wonderful aerial voyage across the Baltic
Sea in October of 1893. He had ascended for purely scientific purposes
on the 19th of that month, and in making his descent found to his horror
that he had drifted out to sea, where his fate was certain unless he
could reach Finland or fall in with a vessel. He did sight a steamer,
but the captain, afraid of an explosion if the balloon came near his
fiery funnels, put out all fires, and so could not move to Andree's
assistance. In this critical condition the aeronaut maintained perfect
possession of himself, and now determined on reaching Finland.
The wind greatly increased, the balloon sailing on at eighteen miles an
hour, often dipping towards the water, but never touching it. To prevent
that danger, Andree cut away the anchor which he had been unable to
raise--a desperate expedient. At dusk he was flying over the cliffs of
Finland, but the wind changing, blew him along the coast. The remainder
of his extraordinary voyage is best told in his own words:
"For ninety minutes I was standing on the edge of the car, with some
ballast in my hands, ready to throw it out in case of danger of
collision with a cliff. Suddenly I saw a sharp light. I supposed it was
a lighthouse; but there appeared now two, then three lights; it was
evidently a building. For one moment I lost my presence of mind and
failed to grapple the rope to the ventilator and hang on to it with all
my powers. Now it was too late. I had passed the island, and the balloon
came down into the water. I was lying in the bottom of the car, and the
water rushed in with such force that I could not move. Most of the way
to the next island I was under water.
"But this could not continue. At length, after much turning and
twisting, I succeeded in getting my legs over the edge of the car, just
when the balloon swept over the next cliff. It was a wonder I escaped
without having them broken. I tried several positions, but the car was
so unsteady that I was never safe; but I could not endure it much
longer. I felt myself so feeble that it would have been an impossibility
for me to try to hold the balloon. I had only one course now to
pursue--to save my life. Passing over the next cliff, I jumped down. The
balloon shot up in the air and disappeared.
"I was saved; but, alas! in what condition and for how long a time! I
had hurt my leg in falling, and could not stand, so I crept round the
cliff in search of shelter; but none was to be found. It was now between
seven and eight o'clock. For a couple of hours I shouted aloud, in the
hope that I might be heard by some passing boat; but the raging storm
took away the sound of my voice.
"I then turned my attention to making myself as comfortable as possible
for the night, though the prospects were anything but pleasant. I was
wet through, my fur cap had blown away, and I had nothing to put on my
head. This made me specially anxious, because my only chance of being
rescued was to keep my head clear. I made a cap of some handkerchiefs
and lay down on the cold ground, hungry and shivering, trying to keep up
my courage if not my temperature. So passed the long night.
"At length day dawned. I was now able to stand, and, with my glasses,
which I had fortunately round my neck, I saw in the distance the island
over which I had passed the night before. In order to draw attention to
my position, I took off my trousers and waved them in the air. Shortly
afterwards I was glad to see a boat sail out from the island and steer
straight for the place where I lay.
"I soon saw they had not set out in response to my signal, for the men
never once looked in the direction of the cliff, and the boat passed me.
I shouted myself hoarse; but in vain. I began to look about to see if I
could make a raft out of the few trees there were; but as I had neither
axe nor knife, I was obliged to give up the idea.
"When I returned to my sleeping-place, I found a boat close by. A man on
the island had seen a big square boat, with an enormous sail, come
sailing from the sea with a terrific sweep, and go flying over the
ground, and again disappear in the sea. This was my balloon, or, rather,
his description of it, for the islanders had never seen anything of the
"His curiosity was aroused, and early in the morning he went down to the
beach with his glasses to see if he could find out what the strange
apparition could have been. He then saw my signals and put off to my
rescue. I was quickly taken over to his home and well cared for."
But, as we have said, it is his attempt to make an aerial voyage to the
North Pole that has rendered his name a familiar one throughout the
world. His balloon was called the "Eagle," and resembled the ordinary
aerostat, save that it also carried a sail; and the car, made to
accommodate three persons, had a comfortable sleeping apartment, the
roof of which served as a deck. Danskoe, in Spitzbergen, was the place
selected to start from. The balloon was inflated there on July 23rd,
1896, but two months passed, the winter came, and the adventurers had
waited in vain for a favorable wind. On July 11th, 1897, Andree and one
companion, Strindberg, returned to Danskoe, and soon were favored by a
south wind, borne by which the "Eagle" sailed away into the unknown.
It was a strange, bold scheme, and by no means so mad as some people
thought. But nearly five years have passed and the voyagers have never
returned, though countless reports about them, never quite
authenticated, have been circulated from time to time, the latest coming
from Kankakee, Illinois, to which town, it was stated, two citizens had
returned late in the autumn of 1901, from a tour in the Hudson Bay
territory, and according to a report alleged to have been made by these
gentlemen, certain Indians in the spring of the previous year found the
bodies of two white men and the basket of a balloon at a spot 900 miles
north of the Moose River. The description of one of the bodies given to
the Illinois tourists by the Indians tallied with that of Andree.
THE BALLOON IN WAR
(From _War in the Air._ British copyright).
NO sooner had a means of ascending into the air been discovered by the
two Montgolfiers than its importance to the art of war was perceived.
The first public exhibition of ballooning was in the year 1783. Europe
was about to be turned by French revolutions and by the boundless
ambition of Napoleon into an armed camp. It might be said that war at
that period was the principal industry of the civilised world. It is not
surprising, therefore, that in the year that saw the first demonstration
of ballooning, Girond de Villette made an ascent and pointed out the
advantages which must result from its use in war. Five years later the
Committee of Public Safety considered ballooning as an aid to the
defence of the country. And at this time Meusnier and Guyton de Morebeau
were at work on the problem of the dirigible balloon. At the siege of
Conde in 1794, attempts, which however proved futile, were made to
communicate with the besieged by means of unmanned balloons.
In those days, as now, the urgent needs of the military spurred the
inventiveness which would ultimately be for the benefit as much as for
the destruction of men. Urged on by de Morebeau, the chemist La Voisier,
who had discovered a new method of making hydrogen, set to work to turn
it to practical account. "With the help of a physicist named Coutelle,"
writes Hildebrandt in his _Airships Past and Present_, "they proceeded
to construct an oven which was to be used for preparing hydrogen by
passing steam over red-hot iron. This was soon ready, and the balloon,
30 feet in diameter, was filled with the gas in the gardens of the
Tuileries. The experiment succeeded so well that Coutelle was sent on a
mission to General Jourdan, who was commanding the armies on the Sambre
and Maas, with a view to induce him to make use of a captive balloon. It
so happened that when he arrived in Belgium he was received by a member
of the National Assembly. To him the idea of a military balloon appeared
so ridiculous that he threatened to shoot Coutelle. General Jourdan, on
the other hand, was much struck by the plan, and instructed Coutelle to
return to Paris and procure the necessary materials."
But before we relate how aerial vessels were employed in battle for the
first time, let us try to picture the impression made upon humanity by
this wonderful new element in the affairs of the world. Carlyle, in his
French Revolution, refers to this episode in a passage of singular
"What will not mortals attempt? From remote Annonay in the Vivarais, the
brothers Montgolfier send up their paper dome filled with the smoke of
burnt wool. The Vivarais Provincial Assembly is to be prorogued this
same day: Vivarais Assembly members applaud, and the shouts of
congregated men. Will victorious Analysis scale the very Heavens then?
"Paris hears with eager wonder; Paris shall ere long see. From
Reveillon's paper warehouse there, in the Rue Saint Antoine (a noted
warehouse), the new Montgolfier airship launches itself. Ducks and
poultry have been borne skyward: but now shall men be borne. Nay,
Chemist Charles thinks of hydrogen and glazed silk. Chemist Charles will
himself ascend, from the Tuileries Garden; Montgolfier solemnly cutting
the cord. By Heaven, this Charles does also mount, he and another! Ten
times ten thousand hearts go palpitating; all tongues are mute with
wonder and fear; till a shout, like the voice of seas, rolls after him,
on his wild way. He soars, he dwindles upwards; has become a mere
gleaming circlet--like some Turgotine snuff-box, what we call
'Turgotine-Platitude'; like some new daylight Moon! Finally he descends;
welcomed by the universe. Duchess Polignac, with a party, is in the Bois
de Boulogne, waiting; though it is drizzly winter, the 1st of December
1783. The whole chivalry of France, Duke de Chartres foremost, gallops
to receive him.
"Beautiful invention; mounting heavenward, so beautifully--so
unguidably! Emblem of much, and of our Age of Hope itself; which shall
mount, specifically light, majestically in this same manner; and
hover--tumbling whither Fate will. Well, if it do not, Pilatre-like,
explode; and demount all the more tragically! So, riding on wind-bags,
will men scale the Empyrean."
The first military balloon factory was established towards the end of
1793 at Meudon. In the making of the envelopes for the balloons, by the
way, was employed a varnish the secret of whose composition has been
lost, just as has the secret of some of the unfading blues used by the
Old Masters been forgotten. Whether this varnish was superior to all
those at present in use is unknown, but it had a very high reputation.
In the early military balloon messages were sent down on paper by means
of a small sand-bag along one of the ropes. Much the same method is now
used for drawings and photographs. Speaking-tubes and flag-signals were
The first military balloon division was formed on the 2nd of April 1794.
The division included a drummer-boy! The uniform of this branch of the
service consisted of a blue coat with black collar and facings and red
braid. The buttons bore the word "Aerostiers." These soldier aeronauts
were armed with swords and pistols. Within two months of their formation
they were employed in the battle against the Austrians at Maubeuge in
the first and one of the most dashing exploits in military ballooning.
The incident is a curious one. These soldier aeronauts, it appears,
because they were artisans, were regarded with contempt by the
swashbuckling, fire-eating warriors that in those days made battles,
with the result that their commander, Coutelle, begged for an
opportunity to distinguish themselves. This was given to them. An ascent
was made under fire, and, one way and another, a sub-lieutenant was
killed and two of the men were badly wounded. But the work done was
invaluable. Never had been such accurate reports of an enemy's
movements. The Austrians objected strongly, and not only objected, but
had a superstitious dread of the aerial monster. General Jourdan,
himself, made several ascents. In the same month ascents were made near
Charleroi, and also at the battle of Fleurus, describing which Carlyle
wrote: "Or see, over Fleurus in the Netherlands, where General Jourdan,
having now swept the soil of Liberty, and advanced thus far, is just
about to fight, and sweep or be swept, hangs there not in the Heaven's
Vault, some Prodigy, seen by Austrian eyes and spy-glasses: in the
similitude of an enormous Wind-bag, with netting and enormous Saucer
depending from it? A Jove's Balance, O ye Austrian spy-glasses? One
saucer-scale of a Jove's Balance; _your_ poor Austrian scale having
kicked itself quite aloft, out of sight? By Heaven, answer the
spy-glasses, it is a Montgolfier, a Balloon, and they are making
signals! Austrian cannon-battery barks at this Montgolfier; harmless as
dog at the Moon: the Montgolfier makes its signals; detects what
Austrian ambuscade there may be, and descends at its ease. What will not
these devils incarnate contrive?"
The battle was won, and the victory was attributed largely to the work
of the balloonists. The Austrians announced that all balloonists who
fell into their hands would be treated as spies.
From time to time balloons were used in wars in Europe, and in 1798 the
First Company were ordered to Egypt. On the way thither the vessel
containing them was sunk by a British man-of-war. A second company was
captured. Then, in 1799, Napoleon disbanded the balloon division. Some
of their material was sold and some was sent to Metz for storage. The
story goes that Napoleon disliked the balloon after the day on which one
sent up in his honour descended on the tomb of Nero.
But the French army had not had their last experience of balloons, apart
from the revival in military aeronautics which took place about the year
1840. On entering Moscow in 1812, Napoleon's legions found in the camp
of Voronzoif a large balloon bearing many thousands of pounds of
gunpowder which was to have been launched upon them. It was fitted with
wings, and it was intended to hover over the French army and destroy
Napoleon and his staff. The French made attempts to raise it, but
In their bombardment of Venice in 1849 the Austrian army, at the
suggestion of Uchatius, an artillery officer, employed balloon
torpedoes. It was found that the range of the besieging batteries was
insufficient, so Uchatius devised paper balloons, each capable of
carrying bombs weighing 30 lbs. for thirty-three minutes. These were
sent up from the windward side of the town with a time-fused
contrivance. By this means bombs were dropped in the streets, and
although little material damage was done the moral effect was great.
The next big occasion for the use of military balloons was provided by
the American civil war, General MacClellan making excellent use of them
with the co-operation of Professor Lowe. As an instance of what can
sometimes be done by a balloon, it may be mentioned that a man named Le
Mountain passed right over the enemy's camp, took very complete
observations, and then, ascending higher, found a current of air which
took him straight back to his friends. Ascents and descents under heavy
artillery fire were made on several occasions, and on May 24, 1862,
General Stoneman from his position in a balloon directed the fire of the
artillery with great effect. Important work by balloons was done at
Chikahoming, and later at Fair Oaks and Richmond, where a balloon was
attached to a locomotive and moved from place to place. On August 16,
1862, the position in the James River of the fleet under Wilkes was
exposed by a balloonist.
The siege of Paris brought the balloon into service under most romantic
conditions. No fewer than sixty-six balloons left the besieged city,
some to fall into the enemy's hands, others to convey important
personages from isolated Paris, others to convey letters, and two to be
lost at sea. In the same war the Germans formed two balloon detachments
under the direction of the English aeronaut Coxwell, but very little
service to the invading force was done.
The balloon service in besieged Paris was under the control of the
brothers Eugene and Julius Godard and Yon and Dartois. The Godards had
charge of the Orleans railway station depot, the other firm had the
northern station. Godard's balloons were coloured red and yellow or blue
and yellow, the balloons of Yon and Dartois were white. During the siege
66 aeronauts, 102 passengers, over 400 carrier pigeons, 6 dogs, and 9
tons of letters and telegrams were carried out of Paris through the air.
Of the carrier pigeons, 57 returned to the city with messages. Five of
the dogs were sent back, but nothing more was heard of them. Five
balloons were captured by the enemy.
Some remarkable things were done with the aid of these balloons. On one
occasion Tissandier threw down 10,000 copies of a proclamation addressed
to the German soldiers. It demanded peace, but asserted that
nevertheless France was prepared to fight to the end. On October 7th,
Gambetta left Paris in the balloon "Armand Barbes" with the object of
organising a fresh army in the country districts to march to the relief
of the beleaguered city. The balloon came perilously near the earth
close to the German outposts, and shots were fired, one striking
Gambetta in the hand. By throwing ballast the balloonists escaped before
worse could befall them.
The first duel in the air occurred in connection with the siege of
Paris. The French balloon "Intrepide" was seen floating near the fort at
Charenton and a second balloon was in the air at the same time. On
account of the vagaries of the air-currents these balloons were slowly
approaching each other. Both flew the French colours. When very close
together rapid shots were heard below, and one aeronaut was seen to
fling himself into the network of his balloon and to cling to its side.
The "Intrepide" descended rapidly, and suddenly the French flag of the
second balloon was removed and a Prussian flag flaunted in its place. It
is related that the French balloonist on reaching ground repaired a hole
in his balloon and ascended again, continuing the fight with such effect
that the Prussian balloon fell, and its occupant, now wounded, was
rescued with great difficulty by a troop of Uhlans. Not much credence is
given to this story, which, however, was believed in Paris at the time.
The Pigeon Post was conducted in such an interesting manner that it is
well worth describing. it was organised by the Paris Pigeon Fanciers'
Society. After one successful experiment a regular service was
instituted. The despatches, of course, had to be very small and light,
and recourse was had to microscope photography. By this means sixteen
pages of print containing 32,000 words could be reduced to a small
packet measuring 2 inches by 1 1/4 and weighing less than a grain. These
messages were sent from all over France into Paris. One pigeon could
carry twenty of them. On arrival at the pigeon-cote in Paris the
messages were taken from the bird, and the sheets, enlarged, were thrown
on to a screen and thence copied. The charge was a halfpenny per word.
The Prussians endeavoured to harass this post by sending up hawks, but
without very good results.
Great Britain has used balloons in war as much as any country. In the
Egyptian campaign of 1882 and in the South African trouble in 1885
balloons were employed with good results. In the Boer War of 1900 they
were employed by General Buller on the Tugela and during the battles of
Vaalkrantz, Spion Kop, and Springfontein. On the 10th of February a
balloon was shot down by the Boer artillery. When Roberts and Kitchener
rounded up Cronje, the position of the Boer army was located by means of
balloons and the artillery fire was directed by signals.
Italy employed balloons in its Abyssinian campaigns and the Dutch used
them in Atschin.
Kite balloons were used by both sides in the Russo-Japanese war; and in
manoeuvres in France, Germany, and England dirigible balloons and
aeroplanes are now regularly employed, and with steadily increasing
The first aeroplane used in actual war was employed by the United States
in February 1911 to observe the Mexican frontier near Juarez during some
revolutionary fighting in Mexico. The aviator was Charles Hamilton, and
the machine a Wright biplane. Aeroplanes were also used by the military
authorities in France during the "Champagne Riots" in 1911.
Curtiss demonstrated the possibility of alighting upon and ascending
from a cruiser's deck, which had, however, to be adapted to the purpose
by means of a large temporary platform; and he also adapted an aeroplane
to ascend from and alight upon water.
"The aeroplane has proved that it is a marvellous instrument of war,"
wrote Clementel in presenting the French War Minister's budget for 1911.
Aeroplanes were extensively used in the manoeuvres in Picardy in the
autumn of 1910. Taking at random the report of one aerial
reconnaissance, one finds that after a voyage of sixty-five minutes,
during which the scout followed an appointed route of sixty kilometres,
he was able to disclose four important positions occupied by the enemy.
The aeroplane was kept at an altitude of about 1500 feet, and during
part of the journey it followed the flight of one of the enemy's
aeroplanes. The altitude, although not out of range, was a fairly safe
one for an aeroplane moving at about forty miles per hour.
THE WELLMAN ATTEMPT FOR THE POLE
THE PROBLEM OF ESCAPE
(From _The Aerial Age_ by Walter Wellman).
Note:. These short chapters from the book of Walter Wellman's _The
Aerial Age_, N. Y. 1911, describe in graphic fashion that daring
American journalist's rescue by a British steamship in the Atlantic
Ocean when he was obliged to give up the second attempt ever made to
reach the North Pole by the air route. Wellman made the venture starting
from New York in 1910 in a balloon largely of his own devising. He had
for a quarter century been in the employ of the Chicago Daily News who
backed the enterprise.--Editor.
TO get ourselves out of the airship and safely upon the sea in the
lifeboat was anything but a simple problem. We studied that problem
carefully, you may be sure. The _America_ was running an average of
from 15 to 18 knots per hour with the wind. She was drifting broadside
on to the course, which meant that as the lifeboat was launched into the
sea, it, too, must take the water headside on. What we asked ourselves,
over and over, was this: Will not the craft be instantly capsized and
foundered? And if she be lucky enough to escape that fate, how about the
equilibrator, tearing along a few feet in the rear? Will it not strike
the struggling boat with the force of its two-tons moving rapidly
through the water, act as a battering ram, and smash us to pieces?
These were pretty serious problems, indeed, and we considered them long
and earnestly, though without the slightest trace of excitement. One
proposal which found favor for a time was that of Louis Loud to be let
down in a boatswain's chair, and there, dangling between sea and sky and
leaping from wave to wave, with his legs gripping the swaying hawsers,
to cut the equilibrator away, thus removing that part of the danger.
There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the brave fellow would
have accomplished this daring feat if he had had the chance; but upon
reflection we decided it would never do to cut loose the equilibrator,
for then the America would rise to the clouds, and when she came down
again we had little in the way of ballast to lighten her and prevent her
going plump into the sea, lifeboat and all.
We had this very day an illustration of the supreme importance of the
equilibrator or something else to take its place in principle. The sun
came out clear and warm. The gas absorbed heat and expanded rapidly.
Tank by tank the serpent was lifted, and finally the entire device was
in the air, and the ship rising. At this point a stupid bit of work was
done. The only way to prevent a heating balloon or airship rising to a
great altitude is to let out gas the moment the aerostat starts upward;
for if it be permitted to rise, every yard of ascent means diminished
atmospheric pressure, and consequently greater and greater expansion of
the gas and more and more altitude.
On this occasion, notwithstanding my order to the contrary, Mr. Vaniman,
who was nearest the valve-cords, opened still wider the air-valves
instead of the gas-valves. The result was that instead of letting out of
the distending balloon, for every thousand cubic feet of expansion, a
weight of about 7 lbs. of hydrogen, there was let out a weight of about
80 lbs. of air. Many thousand cubic feet were thus set free. Relieved of
this load, the America shot upward--up so rapidly that we all suffered
pains in our ears, whose membranes are adjusted to normal atmospheric
pressure and find it difficult to accommodate themselves quickly to
sudden changes, to a rapid ascent or descent. Up we went nearly 3,000
feet as shown upon our barograph. My aneroid dropped 1.8 inches in that
needless ascent. Beautiful indeed was the view at that height, the
weed-strewn waters of the eastern edge of the gulf stream below us,
glistening in the sun, but it was a scenic delight obtained at the
sacrifice of about one-seventeenth of our whole volume of gas--too high
And when the airship started down--having found her equilibrium in the
lighter air up high--she acquired a great momentum; again the pains in
our ears; and but for the two-ton equilibrator dangling below her she
would have gone souse into the sea. As it was, the serpent went in
almost its full length before the _America_ rebounded and rose 200 or
300 feet again like a rubber ball. Gradually she settled down. After
that, orders to open the gas-valves the moment the tail crept up out of
the water, were obeyed. Lying in the water-tight compartment of the
lifeboat, watching the aneroid and the barograph, I could tell the
moment the serpent was rising from the sea without looking over the side
of the ship.
It was a serious question during this Monday afternoon if we could keep
the _America_ afloat during the night, as the gas cooled after the sun
should set. We decided to try it, hazardous as it was--hazardous because
if it should come on to blow during the night, or rain, and thus drag
the airship down to the ocean, we should be compelled to launch the
lifeboat, no matter what the conditions. With a high wind or rough sea
that would mean disaster. And it was with most anxious eyes I watched
the barometer; we were approaching the area of the cyclone we had heard
by wireless was coming up the coast, and which did strike Florida a few
hours later with destructive force; had the glass shown any marked drop
we should have taken to the life-boat at once for fear of running into
the edge of the storm.
Irwin told me that day a regular steamer left Bermuda Monday. Taking my
chart, reckoning our position and course, and also the course and
probable speed of the steamer, my conclusion was we should have at least
a chance to pick her up Tuesday forenoon. It is always well to be an
optimist. And if we had to launch the lifeboat, and run the risk of
foundering and being smashed by the steel serpent, it would be pleasant
to have a steam-ship somewhere in the neighborhood.
This third night out, a bright, full moon brilliantly illumined the
waters. Wind from the northeast, about 15 to 18 miles per hour. Warmer,
and the gas did not contract as much as we had feared. Not so difficult
to keep afloat. Only a little lubricant and remaining parts of the motor
thrown overboard. Barring the uncertainty as to how we were to get out
of the dilemma, an agreeable experience. Most of the crew slept fairly
well--and heaven knows they needed it. I had had more rest, and stood
watch most of the night, eyes alert for signs of a ship--which I had a
belief we should find. I am not a fatalist, nor superstitious, nor
anything of that sort. But I had been in so many tight corners, and
always getting out of them with an approximately whole skin, that not
for a moment did I doubt we should get out of this one, sometime,
That Bermuda steamship would be about right. I looked for her so
intently, and at times so drowsily, my eyes began seeing things in the
gleaming horizon or the gloomier depths covered by passing clouds. I saw
a hundred steamers, some of them full electric lighted from stem to
stern; trains of cars, rushing automobiles, tall buildings shining with
lights. Then I shook myself, and saw nothing at all, only to drowse
again, and have more optical delusions; then rouse, and nibble, and
We ate at all times, cold ham, ship's biscuits, tinned meats, Horlick's
malted milk tablets, drank much water, and not an ounce of spirits was
used on the trip. The cat ate, too; now the garret was not so strange.
We were all settling down to the strange life.
But we knew, each one of us, this was our last night; we could keep the
_America_ up during the following day, Tuesday, but when night fell
again, and the sun set and the gas cooled, down she must come and into
the lifeboat we must go, be the conditions for launching what they
might--favorable or fatal. We have not enough ballast left for another
How is the barometer? Is the West Indian cyclone anywhere in the
neighborhood? Where is that Bermuda steamer? And if we don't see her,
what is to become of us?
At four-thirty Tuesday morning I thought I saw the lights of a ship; but
had so often deceived myself that I looked again, long and carefully,
before crying out. This time it was sure. I called to my mates; told
Vaniman to get out some sort of torch or signal; roused Irwin and all
the others. Vaniman soaked some waste with gasoline, lighted it,
suspended the blazing mass from a wire; the steamer changed her
course--they had seen us.
Irwin tried his wireless but got no response. Then he seized the
electric "blinker" and with Morse dashes and dots in flashes of light
signaled to the steamer. Her officers replied in the same fashion. We
told them we wanted them to stand by, prepared to help us, and they said
they would do so. We asked the name of the ship; she was the
_Trent_--the Bermuda steamer we had been looking for! Then Irwin
signaled we had wireless aboard, and in a short time Mr. Ginsberg, the
_Trent's_ operator, was got out of bed. From that on we conversed
freely back and forth by wireless. The America kept drifting, and the
_Trent_ followed us, having about all she could do to keep up at her
Strange chance that brought these two ships together--that gave us the
pleasure of establishing another record, the first rescue of an airship
by a steamship. If we could not reach Europe with the _America_, it
seemed the fates had conspired to make our adventure as thrilling and
dramatic as if a Sardou or a Belasco had written it all out for us, and
we were merely rehearsing. If the _America_ had drifted a few miles
faster or slower, or half a point of the compass to the right or left;
if the wind had not shifted to the eastward an hour or two earlier in
the morning; and if the _Trent_ had not on this voyage for the first
time visited a Cuban port before starting to New York, thus being out of
her regular schedule, the ship of the air and the ship of the sea would
not have come together. And in that case what would have become of us?
We have not the slightest idea.
Navigator Simon, with the instinct of the brave sailor, soon blurted out
that we'd better stick to the _America_ and make a run for it. But that
was instinct, not reason. We should have been forced to leave our ship
within twelve hours at most, and had we run into the cyclone area, as
was not improbable, it might have gone very hard with us. The chance for
safety at hand, it would have been madness to go on, with nothing to be
gained by the further hazard.
But how to get out of the airship and upon the _Trent_? It was not as
easy as it looked. In fact, it was that same big problem we had so often
and so anxiously considered. There was the danger that the lifeboat
would be swamped or crushed in launching her. But we could find no other
way. Vaniman did, indeed, dream of having the _Trent_ come up and get a
line to us, when we were to be transferred to her deck by life-buoys. An
effort was made to attach a line, but it was lucky it was not
successful, for if it had been probably the straining of the line would
have pulled the steel car of the _America_ in pieces and thrown us into
the sea. Captain Down came very near us, incurring the danger of
collision or of the ignition of the balloon by sparks from his
smokestacks, but he handled his ship with great skill and fine judgment.
Other plans were suggested and discussed, the _Trent_ patiently
following, her passengers now all on deck to witness the rare spectacle,
and, as they afterward told us, so fearful for our fate that many of
them were weeping or praying for our escape.
While we were hesitating and discussing, the America lost her
equilibrium, and was in imminent danger of capsizing, end over end. The
air ballonet at one end had not been completely filled with air, the
supply pipe having become deranged. Thus that end of the ship was
lighter than the other; as this lighter end rose in the air the hydrogen
rushed to the elevated part, greatly increasing the buoyancy there, and
threatening disaster. None of us would have been surprised if in the
next moment the air-ship had taken a header.
At this crucial juncture it was young Fred Aubert who leaped. up into
the car, ran forward to the disarranged pipe, put it in order, rushed to
the engine room, started the service motor, and kept it going until the
_America_ was once more upon an even keel--a brave deed by the
youngster of our party, of whom we are all proud. Had the _America_
turned turtle, as she came very near doing, this is what would have
happened, in all probability: The weight of the car would have been
thrown upon one end of the balloon; the suspension would have stripped;
the car would have been thrown into the sea. We five men in the lifeboat
might have had some chance to save ourselves. But how much chance would
there have been for the brave boy up aloft?
That is the sort of crew I had with me--every one of them. To bring out
these qualities of courage, coolness, resourcefulness, good humor, was
worth all the cost of the voyage.
To end the discussion of other plans of escape I announced that there
was nothing for it but to go back to our first proposal and take our
chances in the launching of the lifeboat. Everything was made ready for
the maneuver. Vaniman passed the gas cord down within reach, and began
opening the valve, letting out hydrogen and causing the airship to
descend slowly; Simon saw that all the boat tackle was in proper trim;
we took our places in the boat, ready for the plunge.
But stop--the cat! Vaniman, who had wanted to leave Kiddo behind, now
worried lest puss in the water-tight compartment should not have enough
fresh air, and in his excitement asked for time to make an opening.
Critical as the moment was, we had to laugh; there must have been enough
fresh air in that compartment to keep kitty going for at least a month!
We had to have our joke at Vaniman's expense, even if we were to die
with it the next minute!
THE FATES WERE KIND THIS DAY
Down came the _America_ nearer and nearer the sea. We gripped the
lashings of the boat, and each of us held fast to a life-preserver. No,
Vaniman had none--and called attention to the fact; so Louis Loud and
Jack Irwin promptly gave him one of theirs and shared the other between
them, though neither is much of a swimmer. Simon and Loud held the lines
which were to release the boat at a single pull.
When the water was only four or five feet from us the word was given,
snap went the two release-hooks simultaneously, up shot the lightened
airship, down into the rough sea plumped our craft. She almost capsized,
then righted herself in a twinkling. At that instant the dreaded
equilibrator hit us, bruised Irwin and Loud, and stove a hole in the
forward compartment of the boat, fortunately above the
water-line--probably the kind fates were eager to make sure kitty had
enough air--and it was all over. In ten seconds from the pull on the
release-hooks we were calmly riding the waves in a staunch,
well-provisioned and watered, fully-equipped lifeboat, prepared to sail
to land or wait to be picked up by some passing ship. There was some
satisfaction in the thought that we had really saved ourselves, as the
_Trent_ did not put a boat over into the water; which her officers were
prepared to do, but could not for this reason; the moment the _Trent_
should stop her engines and slacken speed sufficiently to permit of the
safe launching of one of her boats, the fast-drifting _America_ would
have run away from her, and it was doubtful if the steamship would again
be able to overtake us. As it was, we were running about as fast as the
_Trent_ could steam. We had foreseen this possibility, and prepared in
case of necessity to start our motor and try to bring the _America_
round under her own power so that the steamship might overhaul us. For,
to tell the truth, we were glad enough to have the ship somewhere near
by when we resorted to the dangerous experiment of launching our
lifeboat. Now we were in our boat, the cat and all, and barring accident
or hurricane could probably have taken care of ourselves.
But there was the splendid and now famous _Trent_, a ship's length
away, her passengers and crew waving welcome to us in their joy that we
had escaped the perils which beset us. How good she looked--one of our
men said she appeared to him as big as the Waldorf-Astoria. And how glad
we were that we did not have to spend a week or ten days pounding about
in the sea in a half open boat trying to reach land or meet a ship in a
part of the ocean where ships are but rarely seen.
Still we were not quite out of danger. Almost before we could realize
it, before we had time to unship oars and get our somewhat clumsy craft
under control, the _Trent_ was upon us. Her prow, rising it seemed to
us as high as a church, was coming straight for us at a speed of fifteen
knots. Were we to be smashed to smithereens here within ten feet of
safety and after escaping all these other dangers through which we had
passed? Five seconds will tell the story. She is going to smash us! No,
her sharp stem hits us a glancing blow on the side, we sheer off, we are
running along her port quarter. We are all right. Indeed the fates are
good to us this day; thrice within as many minutes they have resolved
dubious chances in our favor.
But we are not yet aboard. One more chance at least one of us must run
before safety is ours. As we spin along the iron sides of the big ship
the sailors on deck throw us a line. Someone on our craft swings out to
catch it. We all grab. I chance to be in the middle of the group of six.
We all grip the line. But they have made it fast on deck, and our
lifeboat is heavy, and the ship is running fifteen knots the hour. The
line sings and burns through our fingers. In some way a hitch has come
into the rope; the hitch is round my right hand; the others have let go,
but I can't. The line winds round my fist, draws tighter and tighter,
and it flashes through my mind that one of two things is sure to
happen--my fingers will go with the rope, or I shall; and what chance
shall I have to get out of the sea alive, dragging captive at the end of
a line trailing at fifteen knots? Of course it was only a flash; for in
two seconds it was all over--and strange to say, neither happened. My
fingers were not torn off--I was not dragged into the sea; only a
lacerated and bruised hand, that was all. Such a day for good luck!
[Illustration: An Early Design for a Dirigible Balloon with Sails]
But this was not quite all. Just behind us the sea was boiling. We were
nearing the propellers. One of our men cried out that we were lost. Were
we going to be cut to pieces by those rapidly revolving blades of the
ship the fates had sent to save us? Into the whirlpool we drifted, and
for a moment the outcome was rather doubtful; but the motion of the
waters sent us safely past the propellers. The _Trent_ was running away
from us. We were rolling in the trough of the sea. "That must have been
our ninth escape from Davy Jones's locker," quoth sailor Simon; "told
you it was a good thing to have a cat along--cats have nine lives!"
At last we were safe on board the _Trent_, where we were received with
amazing kindness by Captain Down, his officers and crew, and all the
passengers. Soon we were again in wireless communication with the shore,
and learned of the more than generous interest and sympathy the people
of the whole world had felt for us during our adventurous wandering, and
for which my comrades and I feel more grateful than words can tell.
Upon a printed passenger list of the _Trent_ there soon appeared this
Picked up at sea, from the Airship _America_, Oct. 18, 1910:
W. Wellman M. Vaniman
M. Simon L. Loud
J. Irwin F. Aubert
The last we saw of our good airship, which had carried us, under her own
power and drifting, a little more than a thousand statute miles over the
sea, she was floating about 800 feet high, 375 nautical miles east of
Cape Hatteras. A day or two later, in all probability, she disappeared
beneath the waves; the gas-valve was tied open when we left her, and the
big steel gasoline reservoir, with a capacity of 1,600 gallons, had been
cut open so that the sea water could enter and sink it. With just a
little moistening of the eyes Vaniman and I said good-bye to the big
craft that had brought us so much trouble in this world--dropping us
once upon a Spitzbergen glacier, a second time into the polar sea, and
this third and last time into the Atlantic.
Good old _America_, farewell. Thank you for the noble comrades and rare
experiences you have brought me, for the lessons you have taught us. You
played your part in the game of progress. In the years to come many
aircraft will cross the Atlantic; and you will be honored as the ship
that showed the way.
THE BIRTH AND GROWTH OF THE AEROPLANE
(From _Heroic Airmen and Their Exploits_)
ONE of the first principles of the biplane was proposed and explained by
a British subject, Mr. F. H. Wenham, as far back as 1866. He pointed out
that the lifting power of a surface can be economically obtained by
placing a number of smaller surfaces one above another. Indeed,
flying-machines were built by Wenham on this principle, with appliances
for the use of his own muscular power. He did not, however, accomplish
actual flight, although valuable results were obtained as regards the
driving power of superposed surfaces.
After various further experiments in the same direction, it fell to H.
von Helmholtz to emphasize the improbability that man could drive a
flying-machine by his own muscular power. A period of stagnation
followed. But interest was revived later, and fresh efforts were made,
varying in importance, down to the experiments of Sir Hiram Maxim and
These two eminent men, who took up the subject of flying in the last
decade of the last century, came to their task with great scientific
knowledge. Hitherto flying was associated in the minds of the public
with failure and folly. Indeed, Sir Hiram Maxim once remarked that at
the time he took up the subject it was almost considered a disgrace to
any one to think of it. It was thought 'quite out of the practical
question'. But the two great men now in mind were not to be turned aside
by ridicule. 'They rescued aeronautics from a fallen position, and fired
in its cause the enthusiasm of men of light and learning.'
Sir Hiram Maxim's experiments were on a large scale. He built the
largest flying-machine that had then been constructed. It had 4,000 feet
of supporting surface and weighed 8,000 lbs.; the screw propellers
measured 17 feet 11 inches in diameter, the width of the blade at the
tip being 5 feet. The boiler was of 363 h.-p. This remarkable machine
had wheels and a railway line, and was restrained from premature flight
by a system of wooden rails. But it proved unruly. It burst through the
wooden rails, and flew in a wholly unexpected fashion for 300 feet!
Professor Langley's experiments carried flying still further. In 1896 he
built a machine that flew for more than three-quarters of a mile. In
this machine there was only 70 square feet of supporting surface, and
the weight was only 72 lbs. It had a 1 h.-p. engine, weighing 7 lbs.
But Professor Langley had still to build a machine that would carry a
man. This he did in due course, but when the machine was being put to
the test over water, and at the very moment of being launched, it caught
in the launching ways and was pulled into the water. Progress had,
however, been made, and it is well worthy of note that of recent date an
American aviator has unearthed Langley's machine and flown on it, thus
giving posthumous honour to the inventor.
Following the professor's efforts, further progress was made by Mr.
Octava Chanute, who introduced the important principle of making
moveable surfaces. He also made use of superposed surfaces. But it was
reserved for the two famous aviators, the brothers Wright, to bring the
desired conquest of the air to a definite point.
Their first practical experiment was with gliding machines at Kitty
Hawk, North Carolina, in 1900. They endeavoured with comparatively small
surfaces to raise their machines like a kite by the wind. But they found
that the wind was not always in their favour and often blew too strongly
for their method. Consequently, they abandoned the idea, and resorted to
flight by gliding. Their machines now had two superposed surfaces. They
also introduced two highly important principles, namely, a horizontal
rudder in front for controlling the vertical movements, and the
principle of warping or flexing one wing or the other for steering
purposes. Later a vertical rudder was added.
Writing of these improvements, Mr. Eric Stuart Bruce, Vice-President of
the Aerial League of the British Empire, remarks that their importance
cannot be over-estimated: 'We have only to look at the nature of their
raison d'etre, and observe the flight of seagulls over the sea. How
varied are the flexings of nature's aeroplanes in their wonderful
manoeuvrings to maintain and recover equilibrium!'
A feature of these early experiments was the placing of the operator
prone upon the gliding machine, instead of in an upright position, to
secure greater safety in alighting and to diminish the resistance. This,
however, was only a temporary expedient while the Wrights were feeling
their way. In the motor-driven aeroplanes the navigator and his
companion were comfortably seated. After the experiment of 1901, the
Wrights carried on laboratory researches to determine the amount and
direction of the pressure produced by wind upon planes and arched
surfaces exposed at various angles of incidence. They discovered that
the tables of the air pressures which had been in use were incorrect.
As the result of these experiments the Wrights produced in 1902 a new
and larger machine. This had 28.44 square metres of sustaining surfaces,
about twice the area of previous experiments. At first the machine was
flown in the manner of a kite, with a view of learning whether it would
soar in a wind. Experiments showed that the machine soared whenever the
wind was of sufficient force to keep the angle of incidence between four
and eight degrees. Later, in 1903, screw propellers were applied and
four flights made. Definite progress favoured the venture. Two hundred
and sixty metres were covered at a height of two metres!
In the following year, 1904, there was further marked progress, many
successful flights, some 'circular,' being made. In the next year came
an astonishing achievement: The Wrights flew no less than 24 1/2 miles
in half an hour. This was rightly deemed at the time a great flight
forward. But a period of silence and seeming inactivity followed. It was
not until 1908 that further revelations were made. It was then seen that
the Wrights had not been idle. Indeed, it is said (and with obvious
justice) that 'to the labours of the Wright brothers we owe the advent
of the mobile and truly efficient military air scout.'
The earliest experiments in the construction of aeroplanes were, as we
have seen, to a considerable extent made in France. The United States
have also played an active part. Meanwhile England had not been idle.
Mr. Henry Farman, the inventor of the Farman Biplane, was the first to
apply the famous Gnome motor, in which seven or more cylinders revolved.
The influence of this motor in facilitating flight generally has been
remarkable. The early forms of aeroplane engines had proved unreliable,
owing to the great speed demanded. Indeed, it is said that if the
aeroplanes of the great European War were flying over the enemy's line
with old-fashioned engines they would drop down into hostile hands as
quickly as dying flies from the ceiling on the first winter day.
Side by side with the efforts of Mr. Henry Farman in the construction of
biplanes, M. Bleriot gave his attention to the construction of
monoplanes. After attempts, which unfortunately brought disaster and
disappointment, he produced a machine which astonished by its remarkable
performances the whole aeronautical world.
Simplicity was the keynote of the Bleriot monoplane. The machine in
which M. Bleriot flew over the Channel in 1909 has been described by a
well-known member of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain as
'stretching like the wings of a bird on either side of a tubular wooden
frame partly covered with canvas and tapering to the rear, with two
supporting planes, rounded at the ends. At the front was placed the
motor, geared direct to a 6 feet 6 inch wooden propeller, and on a level
with the rear end of the planes. Immediately behind the engine was a
petrol tank, and behind that the aviator's seat. Near the end of the
frame and beneath it was the fixed tail, with two moveable, elevating
tips. The act of moving a lever backwards and forwards actuated the tips
of the fixed tail at the back of the machine, and caused it to rise and
fall. Moving the same lever from side to side warped the rear surfaces
of the supporting planes. The act of pushing from side to side a bar on
which the aviator's feet rested put the rudder into action and steered
Still fresh in the memory is the flight in which the Bleriot monoplane
carried M. Prior from London to Paris, covering 250 miles in three hours
and fifty-six minutes. Later, a Bleriot monoplane carried M. Garros up
to a height of 5,000 metres. At this height the engine broke down, but
in virtue of wonderful gliding powers the machine was landed safely. It
was this same type of machine that flew over the Alpine peaks, and later
carried the first aeroplane post, flying from Hendon to Windsor in
Another monoplane which calls for special reference is the Latham
Antoinette monoplane, which enjoyed the great distinction of being the
first to fly effectively in a wind. Before the invention of this
machine, aviators had only dared to fly in favourable conditions. It
consisted of large, strongly constructed wings. The motor was about 60
h.-p. At the rear of the machine were fixed horizontal and vertical
fins. At the end of the tail there were hinged horizontal planes for
elevating or lowering the machine. The machine, with its ability to
withstand high winds, gave great impetus to the adoption of the
aeroplane for military purposes. Latham, the inventor, performed some
remarkable feats, and must be accounted an heroic pioneer in the more
recent history of flying.
Progress continued on the lines indicated. But it is impossible, for
obvious reasons, to touch upon the modern types of machines employed by
Great Britain and her Allies. We may, however, deal briefly with certain
outstanding types of enemy machines.
One of the most familiar German machines is the Aviatik biplane. The
vital parts of this 'fighting dragon' are fortified with metallic
'capot.' The rest of the fuselage is also armoured. In the forepart of
the fuselage a space is provided allowing the observer free movement for
scouting, photographing, &c. The machine can be quickly erected and
dismantled. The supporting surface consists of two planes of unequal
dimensions, the upper plane being the larger. Stability is assured by a
fixed plane prolonged by a rudder. Two 'ailerons' at the back of the
upper planes give lateral stability. Steering is effected by means of a
vertical rudder placed between the two portions of the horizontal plane
Another familiar type, the Etrich monoplane, is on the lines of the
German bird-shape design. The wing-shaped supporting planes have
upturned wing tips at the back, which are flexed up and down for the
purpose of lateral stability. The back part of the tail planes is also
moveable, and can be flexed for elevating. The Germans also have large
numbers of the well-known Albatross biplanes and various monoplanes of
the Taube design, and also many waterplanes of the Albatross type. An
interesting feature of these machines is the fact that they are all
double seated with the exception of the Argo type of monoplane.
The swiftly dashing scouting monoplane did not at first find favour with
the enemy, but the war has brought many sudden and sweeping changes,
and, following the much-vaunted Fokker, we learn of a German machine
able to attain the astonishing speed of 120 miles an hour!
The Albatross, a much used type of German machine, was first made at
Johnnisthal, near Berlin (about 200 of these machines were made in
1913). Mercedes motors are fitted capable of attaining a high speed.
In the Rumpler monoplane, another well-known German type, the wings are
again in the shape of a dove's wings, the ends being flexible. 'The
stability of the apparatus,' writes a well-known authority, 'is assured
both by the shape of the wings and their flexibility. It is at once a
combination of the inherent stability type and the depending on the
warping of surfaces.'
The Rumpler biplane, as in the case of the Aviatik, is remarkable for
the space provided for the pilot and observer. In this case also the
fuselage is strongly protected. The upper plane varies from that of the
majority of German machines; it is not made to move in the centre. There
is a short moveable central plane, attached to the fuselage by four
tubes. The other planes are fixed to this central plane.
WILBUR AND ORVILLE WRIGHT
Note:--This describes their first experiments among the hills of North
BY CHARLES C. TURNER
(From The _Romance of Aeronautics_ London, Seely Service & Co., 1912).
BY long practice the management of a flying machine should become as
instinctive as the balancing movements a man unconsciously employs with
every step in walking; but, in the early days, it is easy to make
blunders," says Wilbur Wright. He and his brother made most of their
glides quite close to the ground. Often a glide of several hundred feet
would be made at a height of a few feet or even a few inches sometimes.
Their aim was to avoid unnecessary risk.
Fully half of their glides were made in winds of over twenty miles an
hour. On one occasion they found they had been gliding in a wind of
thirty-seven miles an hour. Of course such high winds require much
greater readiness on the part of the operator than the low winds, since
everything happens much more quickly, but otherwise the difference is
not so very marked. "In those machines which are controlled by the
shifting of weight, the disturbing influences increase as the square of
the velocity, while the controlling factor remains a constant quantity.
For this reason, a limit to the wind velocity which it is possible to
encounter safely with such machines is soon reached regardless of the
skill of the operator."
Since soaring is merely gliding in a rising current, it would be easy to
soar in front of any hill of suitable slope if a wind blew of sufficient
force to furnish support provided the wind were steady. But, by reason
of changes in wind velocity, there is more support at times than is
needed, while at others there is too little, so that a considerable
degree of skill, experience, and sound judgment are required to keep the
machine exactly in the rising current. So far their only attempts at
soaring had been made on the Little Hill, which has a slope of only
seven degrees. In a wind blowing from twenty-five to thirty-five miles
per hour they frequently made glides of eight to fifteen seconds'
duration with very little forward motion. Keeping within five or six
feet of the ground, a momentary lessening of the wind-speed or a slight
error in management was sufficient to bring about a landing in a short
"The wind had too little rising trend to make soaring easy. The buzzards
themselves were baulked when they attempted to soar on this hill, as we
observed more than once. It would be well within the power of the
machine to soar on the Big Hill, which has steeper slopes, but we did
not feel that our few hours of practice were sufficient to justify
ambitious attempts too hastily. Before trying to rise to any dangerous
height a man ought to know that, in an emergency, his mind and muscles
will work by instinct rather than by conscious effort. There is no time
"No complete record was kept of all the glides made. In the last six
days of experiment we made more than 375, but these included our very
best days. The total number for the season was probably between 700 and
1000. The longest glide was 622 1/2 feet, and the time twenty-six
"On two occasions we observed a phenomenon whose nature we were not able
to determine with certainty. One day my brother noticed in several
glides a peculiar tapping as if some part of the machine were loose and
flapping. Careful examination failed to disclose anything about the
machine which could possibly cause it. Some weeks later, while I was
making a glide, the same peculiar tapping began again in the midst of a
wind-gust. It felt like little waves striking the bottom of a
flat-bottomed row-boat. While I was wondering what the cause could be,
the machine suddenly, but without any noticeable change in its
inclination to the horizon, dropped a distance of nearly ten feet, and
in the twinkling of an eye was flat on the ground. I am certain that the
gust went out with a downward trend, which struck the surface on the
upper side. The descent was at first more rapid than that due to
gravity, for my body apparently rose off the machine till only my hands
and feet touched it. Toward the end the descent was slower. It may be
that the tapping was caused by the wind rapidly striking the surfaces
alternately on the upper and the lower sides. It is a rule almost
universal that gusts come on with a rising trend and die out with a
descending trend, but on these particular occasions there must have been
a most unusual turmoil during the continuance of the gust which would
have exhibited a very interesting spectacle had it been visible to the
"Irregularities of the wind are most noticeable when the wind is high,
on account of the greater power then exhibited, but light winds show
almost equal relative variations. An aviator must expect to encounter in
every flight variations in velocity, in direction, and in upward or
downward trend. And these variations not only give rise to those
disturbances of the equilibrium which result from the travel of the
centre of pressure due to the changed angle of incidence, but also, by
reason of the fact that the wind changes do not occur simultaneously or
uniformly over the whole machine, give rise to a second series of
disturbances of even more troublesome character. Thus, a gust coming on
very suddenly will strike the front of the machine and throw it up
before the back part is acted upon at all. Or the right wing may
encounter a wind of very different velocity and trend from the left
wing, and the machine will tend to turn over sideways. The problem of
overcoming these disturbances by automatic means has engaged the
attention of many very ingenious minds, but, to my brother and myself,
it has seemed preferable to depend entirely on intelligent control. In
all of our machines the maintenance of the equilibrium has been
dependent on the skill and constant vigilance of the aviators.
"In addition to the work with the machine we also made many observations
on the flight of soaring birds, which were very abundant in the vicinity
of our camp. Bald eagles, ospreys, hawks, and buzzards gave us daily
exhibitions of their powers. The buzzards were the most numerous, and
were the most persistent soarers. They apparently never flapped except
when it was absolutely necessary, while the eagles and hawks usually
soared only when they were at leisure. Two methods of soaring were
employed. When the weather was cold and damp and the wind strong the
buzzards would be seen soaring back and forth along the hills or at the
edge of a clump of trees. They were evidently taking advantage of the
current of air flowing upward over these obstructions. On such days they
were often utterly unable to soar, except in these special places. But
on warm, clear days when the wind was light they would be seen high in
the air soaring in great circles. Usually, however, it seemed to be
necessary to reach a height of several hundred feet by flapping before
this style of soaring became possible. Frequently a great number of them
would begin circling in one spot, rising together higher and higher till
finally they would disperse, each gliding off in whatever direction it
wished to go. At such times other buzzards only a short distance away
found it necessary to flap frequently in order to maintain themselves.
But when they reached a point beneath the circling flock they began to
rise on motionless wings. This seemed to indicate that rising columns of
air do not exist everywhere, but that the birds must find them. They
evidently watch each other, and when one finds a rising current the
others quickly make their way to it. One day, when scarce a breath of
wind was stirring on the ground, we noticed two bald eagles sailing in
circling sweeps at a height of probably 500 feet. After a time our
attention was attracted to the flashing of some object considerably
lower down. Examination with a field-glass proved it to be a feather
which one of the birds had evidently cast. As it seemed apparent that it
would come to earth only a short distance away, some of our party
started to get it. But in a little while it was noticed that the feather
was no longer falling, but, on the contrary, was rising rapidly. It
finally went out of sight upward. It apparently was drawn into the same
rising current in which the eagles were soaring, and was carried up like
"The days when the wind blew horizontally gave us the most satisfactory
observations, as then the birds were compelled to make use of the
currents flowing up the sides of the hills, and it was possible for us
to measure the velocity and trend of the wind in which the soaring was
performed. One day four buzzards began soaring on the north-east slope
of the Big Hill at a height of only ten or twelve feet from the surface.
We took a position to windward and about 1200 feet distance. The
clinometer showed that they were 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 degrees above our
horizon. We could see them distinctly with a field-glass. When facing us
the under side of their wings made a broad band on the sky, but when, in
circling, they faced from us we could no longer see the under side of
their wings. Though the wings then made little more than a line on the
sky, the glass showed clearly that it was not the under side that we
saw. It was evident that the buzzards were soaring with their wings
constantly inclined about five degrees above the horizon. They were
attempting to gain sufficient altitude to enable them to glide to the
ocean beach three-fourths of a mile distant, but after reaching a height
of about 75 feet above the top of the hill, they seemed to be unable to
rise higher, though they tried a long time. At last they started to
glide towards the ocean, but were compelled to begin flapping almost
immediately. We at once measured the slope and the wind. The former was
12 1/2 degrees; the latter was six to eight metres per second (about
fifteen miles per hour). Since the wings were inclined five degrees
above the horizon and the wind had a rising trend of fully 12 degrees,
the angle of incidence was about 17 degrees. The wind did not average
more than seven metres--fifteen miles an hour. For the most part the
birds faced the wind steadily, but in the hills they were compelled to
circle or glide back and forth in order to obtain speed sufficient to
provide support. As the buzzard weighs about 8 lbs. per foot of wing
area, the lifting power of the wind at 17 degrees angle of incidence was
apparently as great as it would have been had it been blowing straight
upward with equal velocity. The pressure was inclined five degrees in
front of the normal, and the angle of the descent was 12 1/2 degrees.
"On another day I stood on top of the West Hill, directly behind a
buzzard which was soaring on the steep southern slope. It was just on a
level with my eye and not more than 75 feet distant. For some time it
remained almost motionless. Although the wings were inclined about five
degrees above the horizon it was not driven backward by the wind. This
bird is specially adapted to soaring at large angles of incidence in
strongly rising currents. Its wings are deeply curved. Unless the upward
trend amounts to at least eight degrees it seems to be unable to
maintain itself. One day we watched a flock attempting to soar on the
west slope of the Big Hill, which has a descent of nearly nine degrees.
The birds would start near the top and glide down along the slope very
much as we did with the machine, but we noticed that whenever they
glided parallel with the slope their speed diminished, and when their
speed was maintained the angle of descent was greater than that of the
hill. In every case they found it necessary to flap before they had gone
200 feet. They tried time and again, but always with the same results.
Finally, they resorted to hard flapping until a height of about 150 feet
above the top of the hill was reached, after which they were able to
soar in circles without difficulty.
"On another day they finally succeeded in rising on almost the same
slope, from which it was concluded that the buzzards' best angle of
descent could not be far from eight degrees. There is no question in my
mind that men can build wings having as little as or less relative
resistance than that of the best soaring birds.
"The bird's wings are undoubtedly very well designed indeed, but it is
not any extraordinary efficiency that strikes with astonishment, but
rather the marvellous skill with which they are used. It is true that I
have seen birds perform soaring feats of almost incredible nature in
positions where it was not possible to measure the speed and trend of
the wind, but whenever it was possible to determine by actual
measurement the conditions under which the soaring was performed it was
easy to account for it on the basis of the results obtained with
artificial wings. The soaring problem is apparently not so much one of
better wings as of better operators.
"The first flights with the power-machine were made on the 17th of
December 1903. Although a general invitation had been extended to the
people living within five or six miles, only five were willing to face
the rigours of a cold December wind to see, as they no doubt thought,
another flying machine not fly. The first flight lasted only twelve
seconds. The fourth lasted fifty-nine seconds.
"In the spring of 1904 experiments were continued on Huffman Prairie at
Simms Station, eight miles east of Dayton. The new machine was heavier
and stronger, but similar to the one flown at Kill Devil hill. When it
was ready for its first trial every newspaper in Dayton was notified,
and about a dozen representatives of the Press were present. Our only
request was that no pictures be taken and that the reports be
unsensational so as not to attract crowds to our experiment-grounds.
There were probably fifty persons altogether on the ground. When
preparations had been completed a wind of only three or four miles was
blowing--insufficient for starting on so short a track--but since many
had come a long way to see the machine in action, an attempt was made.
To add to the other difficulty the engine refused to work properly. The
machine after running the length of the track slid off the end without
rising into the air at all. Several of the newspaper men returned the
next day, but were again disappointed. The engine performed badly, and
after a glide of only sixty feet the machine came to the ground. Further
trial was postponed until the motor could be put in better running
"We had not been flying long in 1904 before we found that the problem of
equilibrium had not as yet been entirely solved. Sometimes in making a
circle the machine would turn over sideways despite anything the
operator could do, although under the same conditions in ordinary
straight flight it could have been righted in an instant. In one flight,
in 1905, while circling round a honey locust-tree at a height of about
fifty feet, the machine suddenly began to turn up on one wing and took a
course toward the tree. The operator, not relishing the idea of landing
in a thorn-tree, attempted to reach the ground. The left wing, however,
struck the tree at a height of ten or twelve feet from the ground, and
carried away several branches; but the flight, which had already covered
a distance of six miles, was continued to the starting-point.
"The causes of these troubles--too technical for explanation here--were
not entirely overcome till the end of September 1905. The flights then
rapidly increased in length, till experiments were discontinued after
the 5th of October, on account of the number of people attracted to the
field. Although made on a ground open on every side and bordered on two
sides by much-travelled thoroughfares, with electric cars passing every
hour, and seen by all the people living in the neighborhood for miles
around, and by several hundred others, yet these flights have been made
by some newspapers the subject of a great mystery."
At the time scarcely anybody attached any credence to the stories of the
flying experiments at Kitty Hawk. They were not, as a matter of fact,
studiously kept as a secret by the Wright Brothers. Many people
witnessed them. But in Europe they were regarded as newspaper
sensationalism, and Bennet Burleigh, the war correspondent, who
witnessed some of them and wrote an account of them in the Daily
Telegraph, found that the general public were not prepared to welcome
the conquest of the air.
It is not necessary to detail here the later career of the two brothers.
They found that their own countrymen were unsympathetic. All the
experiments had been conducted at their own expense, and attempts to
secure the aid of rich Americans failed. In France, however, they met
with enthusiasm. Their success on European soil in the summer of 1908
was at once acknowledged by the characteristically warm-hearted and
imaginative French; and coming, as it did, at the time when Frenchmen
were giving particular attention to the same problem it found an
enlightened public opinion. The French were ready to acknowledge that
the American school of flight was superior as regards achievement, but
they were quick to oppose their own theories to it. For instance, the
French aviators would have nothing to do with the tailless principle.
They demanded automatic stability, and this they sought to obtain in the
earlier machines, not only by means of a large tail, but also with the
aid of vertical plane surfaces dividing two main planes into boxlike
compartments. All this was before the triumphant monoplane had made its
It was on August 8, 1908, that Wilbur Wright made his first flight in
Europe, and on various occasions he flew at Houandieres, Auvours, Pau,
Chalons, Le Mans, Berlin, and elsewhere. His first flight in France was
almost exactly two years after Santos-Dumont's first aeroplane ascent.
In the autumn of 1908 Wilbur Wright took up various passengers, among
the first being Charles Stewart Rolls, who soon afterwards became a
pupil. Rolls was the first English martyr to the motor-driven aeroplane,
being killed at Bournemouth on July 2, 1910, soon after making the
double crossing of the English Channel on his Wright machine.
It was while Wilbur Wright was making his early flights in France that
his brother Orville, and Lieutenant Selfridge, of the United States
army, had a terrible accident at Fort Meyer, when the latter was killed
and the former severely injured. The accident was due to the
transmission gear of the motor breaking.
Among the many distinguished people Wilbur Wright took up into the air
was the German Crown Prince, on October 3, 1909. The two brothers
received the gold medal of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain in
the same year. Orville Wright achieved a flight of over an hour's
duration as long ago as September 9, 1908, and on September 12th he
stayed up for one hour and fourteen minutes. These feats created a
tremendous impression at the time and did much to destroy the
callousness and indifference which prevailed, especially in this
country. On December 31st of that memorable year Wilbur Wright made a
flight of two hours and nineteen minutes. He also demonstrated that his
pupils could become adept after spending a few hours in the air, and his
pupils in their turn became teachers.
One little incident revealed the real partnership which existed between
the two brothers. The Wrights won the Michelin prize of £800 in 1908,
and at the presentation Wilbur, having expressed his thanks, calmly
divided the notes into two packets, and without a word handed one of
them to Orville, while he put the other into his pocket.
The devotion of the two American experimenters to their work was shown
in their manner of living. In 1909 they were still living with their
father and sister in the wooden house they had grown up in from the time
when they were all children. The workshop where they make their engines
was within a quarter of a mile, and was the same where, six years
before, they were turning out Wright bicycles. Even closer to the house
was the little printing-works, where, before making bicycles, they
expended their unlimited energy and ingenuity, not only in printing a
newspaper, but in making the printing-machine, which they constructed
out of pieces of wood and bits of string. This Robinson Crusoe
printing-press was only designed for home use. At Le Mans, Wilbur Wright
lived in his aeroplane shed, and was thereby enabled to keep guard over
THE FIRST AEROPLANE FLIGHT
JESSIE E. HORSFALL
(From the _Aero Digest_ N. Y.)
THE flights of their glider in 1902 convinced Wilbur and Orville Wright
of the efficiency of their system of maintaining equilibrium and the
accuracy of the laboratory work upon which the design of their glider
was based. They then felt they were prepared to calculate in advance the
performance of machines with a degree of accuracy that had never been
possible with the data and tables used by their predecessors. Before
leaving their camp at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1902 they were at
work on the general design of a new machine which they proposed to
operate with engine-driven propellers.
Upon their return to Dayton they wrote to a number of automobile and
engine builders stating the purpose for which they desired an engine,
and asking whether one could be furnished that would develop eight brake
horsepower, with a weight complete not exceeding 200 pounds. Most of the
companies answered that they were too busy with their regular business
to undertake the building of such an engine, but one company replied
that they had engines which weighed only 135 pounds and rated at 8 h.p.,
according to the French system of ratings. It had but a single cylinder
of 4 inch bore and 5 inch stroke and its power probably was much
overrated. Unless it would develop a full 8 brake horsepower it would
not serve its purpose.
Finally the Wright brothers decided to build an engine themselves. They
designed an engine of four cylinders with 4 inch bore and stroke,
weighing not over 200 pounds including all accessories. Up to that time
their only experience in the building of gasoline engines had been in
the construction of an air-cooled engine, 5 inch bore and 7 inch stroke,
used to run the machinery in their small workshop. To be certain that
four cylinders of the size they had decided upon would develop the
necessary 8 h.p. they first fitted them into a temporary frame of simple
and cheap construction. Six weeks from the time the design was started
they had the engine on the block testing its power. There was no
provision for lubricating either cylinders or bearings while this engine
was running and for that reason it was not possible to run it more than
a minute or two at a time. In these short tests the engine developed
about 9 h.p. They were then satisfied that with proper lubrication and
better adjustments a little more power could be expected. The completion
of the engine was therefore proceeded with at once.
While their assistant, Mr. C. E. Taylor, was engaged with this work,
Wilbur and Orville were completing the design of the machine itself. The
preliminary tests of the engine having indicated that more than 8 h.p.
would be secured, they felt free to add enough weight to build a more
substantial machine than originally contemplated.
Their tables of air pressures and experience in flying with the 1902
glider enabled them to calculate the thrust necessary to sustain the
machine in flight. But to design a propeller that would give this thrust
with the power at their command was a matter not yet seriously
considered. Data on air propellers was not available but they understood
that an efficiency of 50 per cent with marine propellers was not unusual
and that it would be necessary only to learn the theory of the operation
of marine propellers from books on marine engineering, substituting air
pressures for water pressures. Several such books were secured from the
Dayton Public Library. All the formulae on propellers contained in these
books were of an empirical nature and there was no way of adapting them
to calculations of aerial propellers. As they could neither afford the
time nor expense of a long series of experiments to find by trial a
propeller suitable for their machine, they decided to rely more on
theory than was the practice of marine engineers.
They agreed that a propeller was simply an aeroplane traveling in a
spiral course. As they could calculate the effect of an aeroplane
traveling in a straight course, they felt that to calculate the effect
of one traveling in a spiral course would not be difficult. On further
consideration they found it hard to find even a point from which to make
a start, for nothing about a propeller, or the medium in which it acts,
stands still for a moment. The thrust depends upon the speed and the
angle at which the blade strikes the air; the angle at which the blade
strikes the air depends upon the speed at which the propeller is
turning, the speed the machine is traveling forward, and the speed at
which the air is slipping backward; the slip of the air backward depends
upon the thrust exerted by the propeller and the amount of air acted
upon. When any one of these changes it alters all the rest, as they are
all interdependent. But these are only a few of the many factors that
must be considered and determined in calculating and designing
propellers. Their minds became so obsessed with it that they could do
little other work. They engaged in innumerable discussions and often
after an hour or so of heated argument would discover that they were as
far from agreement as when they started, but that both had changed to
the other's original position in the discussion. After several months of
this study and discussion they were able to follow the various reactions
in their intricate relations long enough to begin to understand them.
They realized that the thrust generated by a propeller when not moving
through the air was no indication of the thrust when moving forward.
Their only recourse to really test the efficiency of propellers would be
to actually try them on the machine.
For two reasons they decided to use two propellers. In the first place
by the use of two propellers they could secure a reaction against a
greater quantity of air and at the same time use a larger pitch angle
than was possible with one propeller; and in the second place by having
the propellers turn in opposite directions the gyroscopic action and
torque of one would neutralize that of the other. The method adopted of
driving the propellers in opposite directions by means of chains is now
too well-known to need description here. They placed the engine to one
side of the pilot so in case of a plunge headfirst, the engine could not
fall upon him. In their gliding experiments they had had a number of
experiences in which they had landed upon one wing, but the crushing of
the wing had absorbed the shock, so that they were not uneasy about the
motor in case of a landing of that kind. To provide against the machine
rolling over forward in landing they designed skids like sled runners
extending out in front of the main surfaces. Otherwise the general
construction and operation of the machine was to be similar to that of
the 1902 glider.
When the engine was completed and tested, they found that it would
develop 16 h.p. for a few seconds, but that the power rapidly dropped
till, at the end of a minute, it was only 12 h.p. Ignorant of what a
motor of this size ought to develop they were greatly pleased with its
performance. With 12 h.p. at their command, they considered that they
would permit the weight of the machine with operator to rise 750 to 800
pounds and still have as much surplus power as they had originally
allowed for in the first estimate of 550 pounds.
Before leaving for their camp at Kitty Hawk they tested the chain drive
for the propellers in their shop at Dayton and found it satisfactory.
They found, however, that their first propeller shafts, which were
constructed of heavy gauge steel tubing, were not strong enough to stand
the shocks received from a gasoline engine with a light fly wheel
although they would have been able to transmit three or four times the
power uniformly applied. They therefore built a new set of shafts of
heavier tubing, which were tested and thought to be strong enough.
They left Dayton, September 23, arrived at the camp at Kill Devil Hill
on Friday, the 25th. Provisions and tools had been shipped by freight
several weeks in advance. The building, erected in 1901 and enlarged in
1902, was found to have been blown by a storm from its foundation posts
a few months previously. While they were awaiting the arrival of the
shipment of machinery and parts from Dayton, they put the old building
in repair and erected a new building to serve as a workshop for
assembling and housing a new machine.
Just as the building was being completed, the parts and material for the
machine arrived. The next three weeks were spent in setting the motor
machine together. On days with more favorable winds they gained
additional experience in handling a flyer by gliding with the 1902
While Mr. Chanute was with them a great deal of time was spent in
discussion of the mathematical calculations upon which the Wrights had
based their machine. Mr. Chanute informed them that, in designing
machinery, 20 per cent was usually allowed for the loss in the
transmission of power. As they had allowed only 5 per cent, a figure
arrived at by some crude measurements of the friction of one of the
chains when carrying only a very light load, they were much alarmed.
More than the whole surplus in power allowed in their calculations
would, according to Mr. Chanute's estimate, be consumed in friction in
the driving chains. After Mr. Chanute's departure, they suspended one of
the drive chains over a sprocket and on it fixed a weight approximately
equal to the pull that would be exerted on the chains when driving the
propellers. By measuring the extra amount of weight needed on one side
to lift the weight on the other they calculated the loss in
transmission. This indicated that the loss of power from this source
would be only 5 per cent, as originally estimated. But while they could
see no serious error in this method of determining the loss, they were
uneasy until they had a chance to run the propellers with the engine to
see whether they could get the estimated number of turns.
The first run of the motor on the machine developed a flaw in one of the
propeller shafts. The shafts were sent at once to Dayton for repair, and
were not received again until November 20. They put them in the machine
and made another test. A new trouble developed. The sprockets, which
were screwed on the shafts and locked with nuts of opposite thread,
persisted in coming loose. They heated the shafts and sprockets, melted
hard tire cement into the threads and screwed them together again. This
trouble was over. The sprockets stayed fast.
Just as the machine was ready for test, bad weather set in. It had been
disagreeably cold for several weeks, so cold that some days they could
scarcely work on the machine. But it now began to rain and snow, and
from the north a wind of 25 to 30 miles blew for several days. While
they were being delayed by the weather they arranged a mechanism to
measure the duration of flight from the time the machine started to move
forward to the time it stopped, the distance traveled through the air in
that time, and the number of revolutions made by the propellers. The
watch, anemometer and revolution counter were all automatically started
and stopped simultaneously. From data thus obtained they expected to
prove or disprove the accuracy of their propeller calculations.
On November 28, while giving the motor a run indoors, one of the tubular
shafts cracked! Solid tool-steel shafts of smaller diameter than the
tubes previously used were decided upon. They would allow a certain
amount of spring. The tubular shafts were many times stronger than would
have been necessary to transmit the power of the motor if the strains
upon them had been uniform. But the large hollow shafts had no spring in
them to absorb the unequal strains.
Wilbur remained in camp while Orville went to get the new shafts.
Orville did not get back to camp again till Friday, the 11th of
December. Saturday afternoon the machine was again ready for trial, but
the wind was so light a start could not have been made from level ground
with the run of only 60 feet permitted by their monorail track; nor was
there enough time before dark to take the machine to one of the hills,
where, by placing the track on a steep incline, sufficient speed could
be secured for starting in calm air.
Monday, December 14, was a beautiful day but there was not enough wind
to enable a start to be made from the level ground about camp. They
therefore decided to attempt a flight from the side of the Kill Devil
Hill. Having arranged with the members of the Kill Devil Life Saving
Station, located a little over a mile from camp, to inform them when the
first trial of the machine was ready to be made, they were soon joined
by J. T. Daniels, Robert Westcott, Thomas Beachem, W. S. Dough, and
Uncle Benny O'Neal, of the station, who helped get the machine to the
hill, a quarter-mile away. A track was laid 150 feet up the side of the
hill on a 9 degree slope. With the slope of the track, the thrust of the
propellers and the machine starting directly into the wind, they did not
anticipate any trouble in getting up flying speed on the 60-foot
monorail track. But they did not feel certain the operator could keep
the machine balanced on the track.
When the machine had been fastened with a wire to the track so that it
could not start until released by the operator, and the engine had been
run to make sure it was in condition, the brothers tossed up a coin to
see who should make the first trial. Wilbur won. Orville took a position
at one of the wings intending to help balance the machine as it ran down
the track. When the restraining wire was slipped the machine started off
so quickly he could stay with it only a few feet. After a 35 or 40-foot
run, it lifted from the rail. But it was allowed to turn up too much. It
climbed a few feet, stalled, and then settled to the ground near the
foot of the hill, 105 feet below. The stop watch showed that it had been
in the air just 3 1/2 seconds. In landing the left wing touched first.
The machine swung around, dug the skids into the sand and broke one of
them. Several other parts were also broken but the damage to the machine
was not serious. The test had shown nothing as to whether the power of
the motor was sufficient to keep the machine up, since the landing was
made many feet below the starting point, but the experiment showed that
the method adopted for launching the machine was a practical one. On the
whole they were much pleased.
Two days were consumed in making repairs and the machine was not ready
again till late in the afternoon of the 16th. During the night a strong
cold wind blew from the north. When they arose on the morning of the
17th the puddles of water, which had been standing about camp since the
recent rains, were covered with ice. The wind had a velocity of 22 to 27
miles an hour. They thought it would die down before long and so
remained indoors the early part of the morning. But when 10 o'clock
arrived and the wind was as brisk as ever they decided they had better
get the machine out and attempt a flight. They hung out the signal for
the men of the Life Saving Station. They thought that by facing the
flyer into a strong wind, there ought to be no trouble in launching it
from the level ground about camp. They realized the difficulties in
flying in so high a wind but estimated the added dangers in flight would
be partly compensated for by the slower speed in landing.
A track was laid on the smooth stretch of ground about 100 feet north of
the new building. The biting cold wind made work difficult and they had
to warm up frequently in their living room, where there was a good fire
in an improvised stove made of a large carbide can. By the time all was
ready, J. T. Daniels, W. S. Dough and A. D. Etheridge, members of the
Kill Devil Life Saving Station, W. C. Brinkley of Mateo, and Johnny
Moore, a boy from Nags Head, had arrived.
They had a hand anemometer with which they measured the velocity of the
wind. Measurements made just before the first flight showed velocities
of 24 to 27 miles per hour. The records of the Government Weather Bureau
at Kitty Hawk gave the velocity of wind between the hours of 10:30 and
12 o'clock, the time during which the four flights were made, as
averaging 27 miles at the time of the first flight and 24 miles at the
time of the last.
Wilbur, having used his turn in the unsuccessful attempt on the 14th,
the right to the next trial now belonged to Orville. After running the
engine a few minutes to heat it up he released the wire that held the
machine to the track, and the machine started forward into the wind.
Wilbur ran at the side of the machine, holding the wing to balance it on
the track. Unlike the start on the 14th, made in a calm, the machine now
facing a 27-mile wind started very slowly. Wilbur was able to stay with
it till it lifted from the track after a 40-foot run. One of the Life
Saving men snapped the camera for them, taking a picture just as the
machine had reached the end of the track and had risen to a height of
about 2 feet. The slow forward speed of the machine is clearly shown by
Wilbur's attitude. He stayed along beside the machine without any
The course of the flight up and down was exceedingly erratic, partly due
to the irregularity of the air, and partly to lack of experience in
handling this machine. The control of the front elevator was difficult
on account of its being balanced too near the center. This gave it a
tendency to turn itself when started, so that it turned too far on one
side and then too far on the other. As a result the machine would rise
suddenly to about 10 feet, and then as suddenly dart for the ground. A
sudden dart when a little over a hundred feet from the end of the track,
or a little over 120 feet from the point at which it rose into the air,
ended the flight. As the velocity of wind was over 25 feet per second
and the speed of the machine over the ground against this wind 10 feet
per second, the speed of the machine relative to the air was over 45
feet per second, and the length of the flight was equivalent to a flight
of 540 feet made in calm air. This flight lasted only 12 seconds but it
was nevertheless the first in the history of the world in which a
machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into the air
in full flight, had sailed forward without reduction of speed, and had
finally landed at a point as high as that from which it started.
SENSATIONS OF FLIGHT--LEARNING TO FLY--BALLOON AND AEROPLANE
BY A MEMBER OF THE ROYAL BRITISH AIR FORCE
IT IS not easy to describe the sensation of flying. It is entirely
different from that of ballooning; but perhaps before endeavoring from
my own experience and that of others to give some idea of it, a few
words on ballooning may prove a suitable introduction.
In a balloon the moment you leave the ground you feel absolutely
motionless. It is the earth that recedes from you downward and,
according to the wind, in a lateral direction. You may be travelling at
sixty miles per hour, but you have no sensation of speed; there is no
breath of wind in the face; the car hangs always vertically from the
envelope. It is only when you touch earth again that you realize your
speed, for at the moment that the car stops you feel the wind; and if it
be a strong wind your repose and quietude are rudely dispelled, and your
balloon, caught by the wind, heels over and drags you along the ground.
There is no sensation of height and none of giddiness. At a great height
the earth has a concave appearance, but as there is no wall or line from
you to the ground the ordinary sensation of looking down a cliff is
quite absent. At any considerable height also you are so far away from
the ground that even if you are travelling at a very great speed it is
difficult to see that you are moving at all. It is the same when you are
in an express train and your eyes are fixed on a distant part of the
landscape; so slowly does the scene change that relatively to the swift
passage of nearer objects it appears to be going in the opposite
direction to them and in the same direction as the train. Looking down
from a balloon it is necessary to take a careful observation of the end
of the trail-rope hanging free in the air and watch its slow passage
across the map-like country thousands of feet below in order to note the
The extent of the views obtained from a balloon is only limited by the
amount of haze or mist in the atmosphere. To a man standing on the
seashore the horizon is 3 1/2 miles distant. A flag on a mast 45 feet
high and 12 miles distant appears to be on the edge of the horizon. The
following table shows the extent of the balloonist's vision:----
Height in Feet. Distance of Horizon
500 ..............30 miles.
1000 ..............42 "
2000 .,............59 1/2 "
3000 ..............72 1/2 "
4000 ..............83 3/4 "
5000 ..............93 1/2 "
1 mile ............. 96 "
At the height of one mile, in perfectly clear weather, the balloonist
can see 96 miles in any direction. Theoretically, the top of the Alps
could be seen from an elevation of 10,000 feet over London. But the air
is never so clear as to give such extensive vision. Balloonists over
London, however, frequently see the sea.
As the balloonist reaches the higher altitudes, the sky becomes of a
deeper blue, and the sun appears like a glaring bright disc on a dark
background. Beautiful phenomena are seen by the balloonist. Halos round
the sun and moon, rainbows, "glories," or "aureoles"--the coloured rings
seen round the shadow cast by the balloon on the clouds--and splendid
seas of rolling cloud above and below, reward his enterprise.
But the scenery beheld by the balloonist is an inexhaustible subject. No
two voyages are like one another. Quoting from my own description in the
Daily Graphic of a night ascent from London:--
"For some moments our eyes were riveted on the Crystal Palace, where our
friends were now watching us, some of them probably feeling anxious on
our behalf. Soon the lights of the Crystal Palace could not be
distinguished from the myriad lights stretching away on all sides to the
horizon. The lights of London's 150 square miles were displayed below
us, infinite in degrees of colour, brilliance, and arrangement. Overhead
the stars completed the picture. It was as if we were poised in centre
of a vast illuminated globe, whose dark sides were frosted with silver
and gold, the roof glittering with lights of peculiar beauty, and
adorned with the crescent moon, now hanging over the southwestern
Over Essex at night the silence was broken only by the barking of dogs
and the occasional whistle and rattle of a train. Suddenly a voice
hailed us out of the darkness, sounding very near. We had descended near
the earth without knowing it, and quickly we shouted, "Where are we?"
"Going towards Dunmow," came the instant reply.
Later on, as we were over the North Sea, crossing 360 miles of it: "At
ten minutes to one we became aware of a sudden change in the conditions
around us. As if by magic, summoned to appear out of the void in all
directions, at a great distance from us, but about the same level, a
great number of small, white, fluffy clouds appeared. The circle was
complete. It seemed as if the demonstration must be intended for us.
Then we became aware that similar clouds were forming another ring
nearer to us. Quite motionless in relation to ourselves these weird
shapes remained. They were travelling in the same wind. As for our
progress, no sense of motion was perceptible. Not a tremor of the car,
not a breath of wind, yet we were going at thirty-five miles an hour."
In another voyage we crossed the sea by day:--
"Sea everywhere, and no land in sight. The tens of millions of waves
looked very diminutive, but crystal clear, and reflected from their
facets every degree of grey and green, light and shadow. The sea was not
rough, but the tops of an infinite number of waves were broken to
snow-white foam. As we descended nearer to it the incessant murmur of
the commotion of waters reached us--a sound of unique quality and
Dawn in cloudland is always impressive:--
"At five o'clock the light was strong enough to make a faint shadow. The
balloon had fallen to 4500 feet. The cloud scenery now began to bestir
itself. As if for our sole benefit, it commenced a series of wonderful
groupings. Across the northeast a straight row of weird and fantastic
shapes appeared, black as ink against the lightening sky. They resembled
gigantic trees rearing themselves from a flat land covered with white
mist. These grotesque shapes appeared to be the same clouds that
half-an-hour before had passed slowly below us, then appearing
indefinite and fleecy.
"The dawn grew nearer, and a red tinge appeared behind the row of
cloud-trees, which became blacker and more sharply defined. A beautiful
green hue appeared above the red. To the south the clouds were
bluish-grey. The stars were still very brilliant.
"Almost suddenly, at about six o'clock, the row of strange trees lifted
up to a higher level. The balloon's altitude remained the same.
Imperceptibly the tree-clouds disappeared, and a series of mysterious
and ever-changing clouds took their place. One slate-grey,
ponderous-looking mass occupied a giant's share of the northern sky
slightly below us, but with its topmost peaks and domes far above our
"It is impossible to give any idea of the immensity and variety of these
changing scenes. Nothing like them could be seen from the ground. In the
south a limitless stretch of cloud-peaks look like Switzerland moulded
in snow. The impression of distance conveyed by it was wonderful, and
probably our view extended to 150 miles or more of cloud."
Infinite is the variety of cloudland! Here is another dawn:--
"Across the light in the east, regiments of vapoury figures slowly
stalked. It is easy to imagine that these grotesque shapes were
inhabited by spirits akin to their weird forms. There was strange
commotion in the field of grey fog. Wisps of thin cloud would suddenly
rise here and there, and as the light increased the cloud-shapes became
better defined. Never at rest in the general movement eastward, varying
currents of air carried some portions of the cloud area faster than
others. There were other movements of irregular surfaces up and down.
The woolly hillocks passed and repassed each other, rose and fell before
each other, and, against the background of the lightening sky, they
appeared like small moving pasteboard targets in a shooting-saloon, only
white and soft-edged like frisking lambs."
Passing over Germany at night:--
"At a distance villages and towns were mere blotches of milky light in
the darkness. As we approached one it would slowly grow, the blur
resolving itself into a group of tiny points of light, becoming larger
and larger, and developing in character every minute. In the case of a
large town the effect was very striking. What had appeared a small blur
of light would extend until it covered half the visible area below with
lights of every possible shade of yellow and white and the bluish-white
of electric lamps.
"Later the country seemed to be almost deserted. Only occasionally could
we hear the barking of a dog or the roar of a train. When above the
clouds silence seemed absolute. We appeared to be going in the same
direction as the clouds below, only faster than they. It was a curious
race between the balloon and the patches of vapour, and the balloon
never failed to overtake and to pass any point in the diversified field
of grey upon which we set our eyes. At rare intervals through an
interstice in the clouds we caught a glimpse of a cottage light."
In a night voyage over England a remarkable experience befell us, the
balloon sailing near the ground and disturbing a vast number of
pheasants, partridges, and water-fowl, whose remarkable, shrill cries
and the rushing of myriad wings amounted to a deafening volume of sound.
Dogs barked, and we heard the tinkling of sheep-bells and the trampling
of horses over turf. Coveys of partridges created sudden disturbances as
we approached. We heard the peewit's shrill calls and the alarmed
twitter of many small birds. It was interesting to observe that the
perfectly silent passage across the sky of our balloon was sometimes
sufficient to arose these sleepers. We became enveloped in thick fog. We
could not see any habitation, but once the sound of a man's cough
reached us, and we constantly heard small birds twittering and the calls
of water fowl.
It is impossible to describe the innumerable small entertainments, and
the constant anxiety of a night in the air under these circumstances.
Fog is the balloonist's particular enemy, and although we were
fortunately not imperilled by it, it certainly caused us much anxiety.
Fog all around, above and below, and suddenly, close to one's elbow, as
it seems, the bell of a church clock chimes three o'clock. There is the
constant inquiry, "Is our course the same?" and the eager watching for a
momentary clearing of the fog in which to take an observation.
Aerial travellers will be out in all weathers. Here is the description
of our cold night over Russia:--
"We were huddled up in corners, keeping our electric lamp ready for
reading the aneroid, the glass of which was coated with ice, which had
frequently to be rubbed off. Our caps and coats were thick with snow,
and altogether a colder and gloomier aspect of affairs could scarcely be
imagined except in the Arctic Circle. Steadily we climbed to 11,000,
12,000, 13,000, 14,000 feet, each thousand taking no more than ten
minutes to accomplish. As steadily the thermometer went down to 5° Fahr.
Fifteen thousand, 16,000 feet high, and the thermometer down to zero,
beyond which point it would not indicate, for so great a cold had not
entered into our calculations.
"Even at this height the snow was falling. Through 16,000 feet we had
forced our way upwards against it, in spite of our increasing burden.
Less rapidly the aneroid indicates that we crept up to 17,000 feet, and
200 feet above that--17,200 feet--and the temperature probably at 2°
Fahr. below zero.
"I think we were all worn out by the exposure and the hardships, and it
is likely enough that the rarity of the air at this altitude of over
three miles--higher than the highest mountain in Europe--may have
distressed us a little. It was easy to imagine strange forms in the
blackness, out of which streamed cold, light particles touching our
faces and clinging to our clothes: there a gigantic monstrous shape
floating by; below, a dimly seen palace, and a woman descending its
marble steps, finding her way by the light of a lamp."
Entirely different is aeroplaning. My own first flights were as a
passenger towards the end of 1910 at Brooklands, where I took my first
photograph from an aeroplane, and at Hendon. My first cross-country
flight was on a "Bristol" military biplane under the care of Archibald
Low, who took me from Amesbury, Wiltshire, over hill and dale and woods
and pastures--and Stonehenge!
The circumstances that placed one of Great Britain's first aviation
centres in sight of Stonehenge, that mysterious monument of ancient
times, must surely have been something more than chance. So dramatic and
romantic an encounter between the ghostly past and the mightiest and
most modern of scientific miracles might well have been arranged by a
supreme artist weaving strange pictures in the loom of time. We sped
swiftly through the air some hundreds of feet directly over Stonehenge.
Behind me the roar of a mighty Gnome engine that impelled this great
machine; around me the buoyant wings of the aeroplane obeying the
lightest touch of the hand of the pilot in front; and, tearing past like
a gale of wind, the frosty air that held us up yet seemed to strive its
utmost to bar our way. Towards the end of the journey Low stopped the
engine and brought the aeroplane down in a steep vol-plane to a lower
altitude, approaching a flock of sheep, who scattered wildly. Then he
started the engine again, and we resumed skimming along a few feet from
In an aeroplane there is no sense of height except that deduced from the
apparent size of familiar objects. The rush of wind is ever on the face,
and in cold weather it is very cold indeed. But always it is
It is as easy to learn to fly as to learn to ride a bicycle; but as a
blunder in a flying machine is apt to result in broken wood and wire, so
it is necessary in learning to fly to proceed by comparatively cautious
steps. In learning to ride a bicycle the pupil is almost from the
beginning entrusted with the sole command of the machine. He cannot
easily damage it or seriously hurt himself. The vast majority of
cyclists have become proficient riders without doing any damages; and
this can now be said also of the great majority of flight pupils. Take
my own case, and it is typical of that of the average pupil. I learned
to fly, and in the process I did not break wood or strain a wire up to
the time of obtaining my pilot's certificate--I was, by the way, the
fifth Englishman to do so under the new stringent conditions imposed in
1911 by the International Aeronautical Federation, and I am No. 70 on
the list of British aeroplane pilots--I never did more damage than could
have been repaired for five shillings, and this was not due to a
beginner's blunder, but was simply what a golfer would call the "fortune
of the green": it was done in a bad landing brought about by my
encountering thick fog, in which I flew perilously near to some
telegraph wires and was obliged to make a quick descent. I learned to
fly on a "Bristol" biplane at the school near Amesbury or Salisbury
Whether ballooning is a very valuable preparative for mechanical flight
I am unable to say. It cannot be denied that it has some value, and I
found that the idea of leaving Mother Earth for an excursion into the
air had, of itself, no terrors. That many people are appalled at the
prospect is undeniable, and it is a factor that we must take into
account. But it is not reasonable; and people who would not on any
inducement make a balloon or an aeroplane ascent have shown themselves
indifferent to far greater risks on _terra firma_.
Flying has been compared to many things; but, in truth, no comparison is
good. Let me, however, correct one or two common, but false, notions
concerning it. There is, as I have said, no sense of travelling at a
great height: there is not the slightest danger of giddiness. To me this
gave no surprise; for, as every balloonist knows, it matters not whether
he look down from twenty or from two thousand feet the sensation of
height is absent. To take my own case, I cannot look down a hundred-feet
precipice for many seconds without being compelled to turn back from the
edge, but I can look down from a balloon that is 10,000 feet above the
ground for half-an-hour at a stretch without feeling a qualm. And I can
guarantee the same immunity to my readers.
In an aeroplane flight, when the engine starts, the noise, vibration,
and sense of speed as the machine shoots forward over the ground are
certainly tremendous. Some people find them at first somewhat unnerving,
but even nervous people soon get used to them. It is almost impossible
to perceive the exact moment that the machine leaves the ground; only
there is, with the increased speed along the ground and when flying, a
rapid diminution of the noise, a swift decrease of the vibration, until
the machine is simply gliding with perfect smoothness and there is
nothing to inform you of the speed except the rush of wind upon the
face. For as you rise from the ground it does not continue to rush
beneath you, and the higher you get the slower do you appear to be
moving. As to one's sensations in full flight, there is the growl of the
engine, which, with use, soon becomes unnoticeable, and with this there
is the steady rush of air over the planes giving forth its own peculiar
music. Sometimes the machine rocks slightly laterally and in the path of
flight, but the movements are as a rule very small and are corrected as
soon as they occur. Occasionally, too, the machine will seem to sink
slightly and suddenly in what is known as "a hole in the wind"; and at
times one hears a slight thumping as with a muffled mallet on the
planes, caused by the buffeting of the air.
The pupil's lessons begin with passenger flights, followed by
instructional flights during which he is allowed to place a hand upon
the lever in order to feel the movements and to understand better what
the pilot is doing. When he has obtained experience the time approaches
for him to make his first solo ascent, which, as can readily be
imagined, is a great event in his life. Having made his first solo
flight, no matter how short, or how confused his feelings, the battle is
more than half over. His second flight is infinitely easier, and with
the third and fourth he feels quite at home in the air. From that point
his progress is rapid, for there is nothing in the least difficult in the
control of an aeroplane except in high wind. The ground-work was laid
while the instructor was deeply imbuing him with the idea of flying and
compelling him to realise, so as to make a second nature or an instinct
of making all his movements very gently and nicely but also as quickly
After my sixth or seventh flight with the machine in my sole charge I
was ready to fly for my certificate. This, perhaps, would have been
"pressing the game" somewhat; and, as a matter of fact, it was not until
I had made eleven solo flights, including the first two straight hops
which are scarcely worthy of the name, that I was put through my tests.
These tests required that the pupil shall make two separate flights,
each consisting of five complete figures of eight; that in one of them
he should attain an altitude of at least 50 metres (167 feet); and that
from each he should land with the motor cut off and come to a halt
within fifty yards of a spot previously designated. Two of us pupils
were flying for our "brevets" on the first test, and as my fellow pupil
had made two of his figures of eight before I was sent up, it was
necessary to fly high in order not to embarrass him. So that in my first
test I flew at a height of 700 or 800 feet. The second test took place
three days later, namely, on the 23rd of April 1911. It had been windy
all day, but towards sunset the wind fell to about ten miles an hour,
and I declared my intention to make the attempt, the official of the
Royal Aero Club being present and everything ready. As it may give the
reader an idea of what flying in difficult conditions is like, perhaps I
may be pardoned for describing at length my final test flight.
I had no sooner left the ground than I realized that the wind was
stronger than it had seemed. As a matter of fact the wind was rapidly
increasing. Rising against the wind just after crossing between the two
mark-flags the machine almost stopped in its career. It reared up
considerably and rolled from side to side, calling for quickness and
strength to keep it in even flight. I soon found that going against the
wind the speed of the machine, judged from familiar landmarks below me,
was not more than 6 or 10 miles per hour; the wind, therefore, was about
30 miles per hour; also it was clear that I was to have a severe tussle.
But finding that I could manage to fly I kept on, taking care to go far
beyond the mark-flag before attempting to turn; for immediately the
machine had its side, and then its tail to the wind it would be driven
along at a great pace. This, of course, proved to be the case, and it
was only by care that I managed to effect the turn in time to cross
between the flags again. Also, with a following wind the machine had a
strong tendency to come down to the ground. This, by the way, would not
be the case were wind to blow in an even current of uniform velocity;
nor would a machine tend to plunge upwards when flying against the wind
were this the case. But, as the reader knows, all wind is made up of
alternations of small and comparatively high velocity, the variation in
most cases amounting to 30 per cent of the average velocity; and this
factor, taken in conjunction with the inertia of the flying machine,
accounts for the phenomena I have mentioned, as also it accounts for at
least 80 per cent of the difficulties and dangers, such as they are, of
mechanical flight. But, further, I found naturally that in going with
the wind the speed relatively to the earth was at least 70 miles per
hour, and it required considerable strength and quickness to keep her on
her course. At the same time, whether flying with this strong wind
abeam, or ahead, or behind, the sensation of wind on my face was
unvarying, so that if I shut my eyes I could not have perceived whether
I was flying in one direction or another relatively to the wind.
After completing one figure of eight, taking care not to bank the
machine up in turning with the wind from the outside of the turn, but
taking advantage of having the wind on the inside of the turn when on
the opposite side of the circle to bank the machine up considerably and
so to some extent prevent the side-drifting, I decided to continue; and
I was the more desirous of continuing because not only is every pupil
anxious to win his certificate, but I saw my instructors, Jullerot and
Collyns Pizey, together with the other pupils standing between the
mark-flags, clapping their hands in encouragement every time I crossed.
One figure eight was like another save in detail. I endeavoured to
change my course somewhat and find out if it were possible to avoid
certain difficult spots, but in each case it was necessary to make a
wide detour against the wind in order to gain room enough to tum, and at
the end of the eight away from the wind I was each time drifted half a
mile or so out of my way. In flying against the wind I increased my
altitude as much as possible in order to allow for the downward course
with the wind. In the fourth eight I experienced a "side-slip." In
turning to the right with the wind on the outside, although careful not
to bank the machine up on the left, the wind, nevertheless, caught it
and threw the left wing up at such an angle that the machine began to
slide downwards to the right. Good teaching came to my rescue. I turned
the machine hard into the wind, i.e. to the left, and corrected the
inclination by a very pronounced movement with the ailerons. After a
moment my efforts had the desired result: the slip was checked with
still fifty feet or so to spare, and the machine righted itself.
The flight lasted 25 minutes, whereas in ordinary conditions the trial
can be got into 16 minutes with a machine of the type I was using. But I
had won my brevet, and had gained experience of flying in wind which
would certainly prove valuable. Also, I had gained a confidence in the
machine and in flying which were well worth the trouble.
Wilbur Wright described the sensation of aviation as "something more
exhilarating than motoring, easier and smoother, with a movement of
"At a height of 100 feet you feel hardly any motion at all, except for
the wind which strikes your face. If you did not take the precaution to
fasten your hat before starting you have probably lost it by this time
. . . You make a very short turn, yet you do not feel the sensation of
being thrown from your seat, so often experienced in automobile and
"The operator stops the motor while still in the air . . . The motor
close beside you kept up an almost deafening roar during the whole
flight, yet in your excitement you did not notice it till it stopped."
Frantz Reichel, writing in the _Figaro_, recorded his impressions in
the following manner:--
"I have known to-day a magnificent intoxication. I have learned how it
feels to be a bird. I have flown. Yes, I have flown!
"I am still astonished at it; still deeply moved. For nearly an hour I
have lived that daring dream vainly pursued through all the ages by
"When we started there was a sudden impression of a plunge into space
which gave me a _coup a l'estomac_. Then suddenly it was all very
smooth, a cradling amid the thunder of the motor. I did my utmost to see
well, to feel everything radiant, but not daring to move or even to
"We advanced towards the horizon, the dunes, the hills, the fir-trees,
in a giddy gliding. It was strange and exquisite. The air flowed upon me
caressingly. I could keep my eyes wide open; the air bathed me but did
not whip me. This was the first impression a mile from the
starting-place, above a magnificent carpet of heather.
"I hung out my head and looked at the crowds below. They were waving
handkerchiefs. Gently, with my elbow firmly fixed to my side, I moved my
arm in a mechanical manner, like a dummy. I let go of the iron bar by
which I was supporting myself. It was quite safe to move, and I risked
more and more.
"The sun is sinking, we are flying in the twilight. From the ground
appears and descends a slight mist, which covers the big glens with a
white carpet. It is the doubtful and suspicious hour of the day.
"The night has come. It is getting dark, and the moon is rising. Silence
reigns over the woods and fields. I cannot believe that it is I who am
flying in the night. The sensation is so magnificent that I long to pass
several hours in such a manner.
"Night is now complete. Cyclists, peasants, and chauffeurs have lighted
their lanterns or their torches. And this illumination pierces through
the darkness. But we fly on, chasing our shadow, which the moon throws
"If I had known I should have brought a pencil and a writing-block with
me, and have recorded my impressions. One is able to write much more
comfortably in an aeroplane than in a train or motor-car."
Finally, Frank Hedges Butler, the founder of the Royal Aero Club, very
happily describes the sensation as that of skating on very clear ice and
seeing with perfect clearness the bottom of the lake.
THE ARMY OF YOUTH
HOW THE BOYS WERE TRAINED IN ENGLAND
(From _Training the Airman_)
IN A corner room of the Hotel Cecil, with windows whence we gained a
superb vista of the Thames flowing beneath its many bridges, sat a small
man talking quietly of the difficulties that had arisen in his work. He
was a Scotsman, with that definite accent which is to be found in all
positions where organising ability opens the way to supremacy. When the
war broke out he was known only in shipping circles, but the nation
needed his services, and in one rapid step he became Secretary of State
for Air, which marks a new era in Government and civilisation alike.
Lord Weir was the administrative head of the Royal Air Force, and when
one read at the breakfast-table one morning that youth had taken wings
and given the citizens of Frankfort a bad half-hour in the dead of
night, then one knew that a part of his organization had been set in
motion over the proud soil of the German fatherland.
The blow on Frankfort, however, is the final act of an immense machine
whose ramifications I have been permitted to follow. The alert,
laughing-eyed young man with wings on his left breast, whom we see in
hotels and other public places, so cherubic that we are apt to think the
wings have been misplaced, is the product of a wonderful mushroom
organization, of a system that combines psychology with science and
takes earth and air into its domain. There is but six months' distance
between the schoolboy who, in the fifth form, familiarized himself with
quadratic equations and the debonair young gentleman whose knowledge of
aerial navigation, twelve-cylinder engines, and absence of the first
sense have enabled him to travel 300 miles through the night at an
altitude of 5000 feet and drop high-sounding visiting cards on cowering
hosts. It is the record of six months of concentrated pressure such as
would burst any head not possessing the resilience and ardour of youth.
Let us live that six months and follow him from the day he leaves a
tearful mother until the proud hour that he monopolises a line of type
in an R. A. F. communique.
The future airman may be nearly eighteen or thirty when he begins his
career; if near the latter age he can pride himself upon being a fine
specimen of preserved youth. The medical test is essentially severe, for
fitness is the first requisite of the man who would scorn earth and
sever the air at a hundred miles an hour. He may be slightly lame, for
walking is not a strict test, but he must possess perfect sight, strong
lungs, a sense of balance, quick hearing, and above all, indomitable
pluck. Indeed, he must have acquired the negation of fear which only
youth can accomplish by indifference. The Royal Air Force is no place
for the sensitive egoist. But the strictly medical test is only one
hurdle of many to be cleared. The acutest test may be classed as a
psychological one. In the rooms of a house in Hampstead, remotely
associated with medical matters in that it was once the home of a
millionaire pill-maker, I watched the cadets as they appeared in tum
before the doctors. They were fresh-cheeked schoolboys, with curly hair
and clear eyes. Their bodies had the suppleness and rhythmical grace of
youth which make _embonpoint_ at forty seem a miracle of degeneracy.
The resisting power of their lungs was tested by a method which
threatened slow suffocation, they were made thoroughly dizzy, and yet
trod a line with perfection that would have inspired rapture in the
breasts of alcoholic performers. They were jerked and expected to keep
their feet, they were subjected to sudden noises and expected to show no
surprise, and they were called upon to perform balancing acts that
aroused the shade of Blondin.
The youngster I watched was eighteen, with the supple muscles of a
panther; he held his breath until the examining officer began to think
of writing to the _Lancet_. He did not flinch when a sudden noise made
us jump, and the tell-tale turning fork held outright in his hand did
not make even "the little noiseless noise" of which Keats spoke. He was
made to tread a straight and narrow line,--no easy task when keen eyes
are watching one and the nerves are strained by self-consciousness; this
accomplished, progress must be made backwards, and the candidate must
prove a birdlike ability to stand motionless upon one leg, as though he
had been metamorphosised into a stork. Then follows a quaint test that
might have come from the Spanish Inquisition. The victim sits in a chair
which rapidly revolves. At a given signal he must jump out of it and
walk unwaveringly along a narrow line--it is like the bridge of hair
along which the good Mohammedan crosses to Paradise. A specialist with
the eye of an eagle and the mouth of a barrister looked up the
candidate's nose, down his mouth, and into his ears. He insisted upon
calling his patient "Laddie," and said it with such fatherly affection
that one began to comprehend the splendid spirit that had made him
forsake the West-end practice worth several thousands a year to become a
colonel in a bare room. One could see by the manner in which he asked
for the repetition of unsatisfactory tests how it grieved him to
disappoint the eager spirit of a boy. He was determined that shyness and
nervousness should be banished from his presence.
My young friend, safely out of the specialist's room, had not finished
with the lynx-eyed examiners. He was led into a dark chamber where
oculists had laid cunning devices to prove that he could not see
straight. Little holes, lights, letters, and needles assailed the
candidate with doubt. Clear vision seemed as impossible there as in a
theological conference--only those of great faith could possibly survive
the temptations assailing the senses. But our young candidate was
determined to fly, and overcoming all provocation to squint, he passed
out, his flag flying. He had now to pass the final review of the medical
assessors, but here again pulse and blood pressure, determined by a
black scarf and a chronometer that would have fired the tortured
imagination of Edgar Allan Poe, were regular and uninterrupted even by
the issue at stake. With a triumphant gleam in his eye he marched out,
and his fresh young spirit was seized upon by a sergeant. Two months of
strict discipline are now before him, in which his feet and head will
act under the stentorian tones of those weather-beaten backbones of the
Army. But the candidate has a little breathing space ere he receives his
kit and is sent on to the Cadet Brigade for the first stage of his
training. He uses it for the sending of a triumphant telegram home, in
which he mingles flamboyant exultation with judicious pleading for cash;
and, although his income is now one and sixpence per day, with uniform,
messing, and quarters found, what stern parent could suppress
prodigality on learning that his flawless youngster has become a
fledgling, a choice spirit of the air?
An open, wind-swept place, with low-roofed hangars camouflaged with
streaks of paint, a broad strip of tarmac on which various aeroplanes
are receiving the solicitous attention of greasy-coated, shock-headed
mechanics, and a few debonair young gentlemen in fur-lined helmets and
glossy leather boots--that is the sight which quickens the cadet's
pulse. He has arrived at the place where he will leave the earth. It is
his jumping-off ground. Man's ambition and the progress of science have
brought the cadet to his exalted moment.
At last he is seated in his machine. It has a dual control, by which
means he can watch his instructor and copy his actions. They are wheeled
off the tarmac, the engine whirrs with anticipatory delight. "Contact,
sir!" rings out, and they are off. The ground hurries by, and the cadet
takes a deep breath; the edge of the aerodrome is perilously near. He
prays that the farmhouse in front may dissolve, when lo! he is gliding
over its chimney-pots. That is the first surprise of flying--the
realisation that one has left the earth. Sight, and not feeling, informs
one; the rising into space is an apparently motionless transition. Then
comes the second revelation: there is little sense of speed. The earth
below seems winding away slowly; the fields huddle themselves closer.
The cadet is now holding his joystick; for two minutes he has flown the
machine, and the fact must be gently broken to him lest the ease and
surprise should shock him into sudden failure. So he hears a voice in
his ear, surprisingly near, and loud above the roar of the engine. Down
the telephone connecting his head with that of the instructor's comes
the voice of assurance. The cadet's heart leaps with great joy. He has
done it. The dream of man for ages has been fulfilled. And down there
the silly old earth goes reeling by with enfeebled age--at one
revolution per twenty-four hours!
Such is the beginning, but the end is far off. After several trips dual,
he must fly solo, and then his pride will be lowered. Once more he must
bridle his head with the telephone and be told that he's contracted bad
habits, and is asking for a fall. So his career and education proceeds,
with hours of single joy and periods of dual control. At the end of six
weeks, if he has a sense of balance and a great store of pluck, he will
be able to loop the loop, nose-dive, and half-roll. Then he gets his
wings, opens his chest another two inches--and a banking account at Cox
The hour of his great accomplishment marks the beginning of that line
humility characteristic of the airman. They are devout lads, these. They
know how near Death is, and although they laugh in his face with the
insolence of youth, yet they know the significance of what they do, of
what may happen. It is told of the late Captain Ball that always before
flying he could be seen in his pilot's seat, eyes shut, praying silently
for a few minutes; a moment later he poured forth an avalanche of oaths
upon the laggard mechanics ere he leapt skywards. It was characteristic
of the airman's temperament. There is something more than a mere custom
in the fact that they measure their lives by hours. "How long were you
at the Front?" I asked a young major with three decorations. "Four
hundred hours," he replied, and I learned that that was a very long
life. "How long have you been flying?" I asked a marvellous stunter when
he alighted. "Nearly two hundred hours now," he said. They only live
when they fly, and scorn time passed upon earth.
At the cadet's training depot station, where he first experiences
flight, the gunnery learned at the Armament School is put into practice.
True, the target is not exciting, a gleaming pond is whipped into
showers of protest by constant bombardment from the air. Once, the story
is told, a young airman, in the glory of the moment, kept on firing long
after he had flown over the pond, and an inoffensive cow was put out of
action. The cow, quite dead, at least represented a carcase, and for
hours afterwards lead was pumped into her, until, as an airman
announced, "the milk ran out." There was something so ludicrous in the
last remark that we all rocked with laughter; we were sorry for the cow,
of course--but the humour was delicious.
The young airman will later have an opportunity of becoming an expert.
The instructors are drawn from experienced pilots who have returned from
the battle front with the latest manoeuvres. He will have learned to
throw his machine about, to test his instinct for balance by wilfully
upsetting himself, to make forced landings in confined spaces, to alight
almost in the length of his own machine with the delicacy and poise of a
But supposing he does not take kindly to flight, that he crashes and is
turned out of the aerodrome? Even then he will have a second chance,
after filling in a fearful paper wherein he confesses to his favourite
poet or his hatred of solitude. And although psychology is not yet
sufficiently advanced to quite justify its presence as a legitimate test
in a medical research department, the fact remains that the pilot gets a
second chance under instructors who may prove more congenial or clearer
in their methods. It took several months to fetch those wings to the
surface, and now infinite care is taken to get them well spread in
flight; and whoever gained heaven with such ease before?
The boy who stood stripped in the doctor's room a few months previously
is now resplendent in uniform, with those white wings on the breast
which represent an increase of dignity and income. He can fly--he has
learned the thrill of seeing the silver side of the cloud lining of
which he was told by encouraging uncles from boyhood.
FIGHTING THE FLYING CIRCUS
Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, "American Ace of Aces" here tells his own
story. Mr. Rickenbacker has a record of twenty-five victories in the
Great War._ Editor.
(This book is copyrighted by Mr. Rickenbacker, 1919. By his permission.)
AFTER days of schooling and nights of anticipation, I woke up one
morning to find my dreams come true. Major Raoul Lufbery, the most
famous of our American flyers, and the Commanding Officer of our group,
announced that a flight would take off after breakfast for a look at the
war across the German lines. He himself was to lead the flight. The
patrol was to be over enemy territory in the Champagne sector.
"Who is to go?" was the thought in every pilot's mind, as we all stood
by in more or less unconcealed eagerness. None of us had as yet caught a
glimpse of our future arenas. We all had vague ideas of the several
kinds of surprises in store for us over Hun lines and every one of us
was keen to get into it.
Major Lufbery looked us over without saying much. Luf was very quiet in
manner and very droll when he wanted to be. He had seen almost four
years of service with the French Air Service and in the Lafayette
Escadrille and had shot down seventeen Hun aeroplanes before the
American Air Service began active work at the front. Every one of us
"Rick!" said the Major casually, "you and Campbell be ready to leave at
I tried to appear nonchalant as I replied, "Yes, sir."
Douglas Campbell put up a much better face than I did. The other boys
crowded around and presented us with good advice, such as "Look out for
Archy, mind," and one thoughtful fellow kindly cautioned me to crash in
our lines if the Huns got me, so that he could personally put a cross
over my grave.
That memorable morning was the 6th day of March, 1918. I had joined the
Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron just two days before at Villeneuve. We were
then some twenty miles behind the lines and were well installed on an
old aerodrome that had been used previously by several French Aero
Squadrons. This expedition was to be the first essay over the lines by a
Sharp upon eight o'clock I walked into the 94th Squadron hangar and
called my mechanics. We were flying the French single-seater Nieuport
with a rotary motor, and every machine was kept in the pink of condition
at all times. Nevertheless I wanted to make doubly sure that everything
was right on this occasion, for Major Lufbery had a reputation for
"Henry," I demanded. "how is my Number 1?"
"Best machine in the shop, sir," the mechanic replied. "She's been all
tuned up since you came in last night and there's not a scratch on her."
"There will be when you see her again," I muttered. "Run her out on the
field and warm her up."
I left the hanger and looked down the road for the Major. Campbell was
already in his flying clothes. I wanted to be ready on the exact minute,
but not too soon. So I lit a cigarette and kept an eye on the Major's
door. All the boys came sauntering up, trying to look as though they
were not half mad with envy over my chance to get my head blown off
first. They wished me well, they said, but they would like to know what
to do with my personal effects.
When Major Lufbery entered the hangar he found us ready for him. It
takes about ten seconds to step into your Teddy-Bear suit, slip a flying
helmet over your head and snap on the glasses. Campbell and I climbed
into our Nieuports. The Major gave a few instructions to Lieutenant
Campbell, then came over to me. I felt like a man in the chair when the
dentist approaches. Of course I listened politely to his parting words,
but the only thing that appealed to me in his discourse was the order to
stick close to him and keep formation. He did not have to repeat that
order. Never before did I realize how seductively cold death beckons a
pilot towards his first trip over enemy lines.
Lufbery ran up his motor for a moment, then took off. Campbell followed
upon his heels and then I opened up my throttle. I cast a last, longing
glance at the familiar flying field as I felt my tail go up, the wheels
began to skim the ground and with the wind in my teeth I pulled her up
and headed after Campbell. What a devil of a hurry they were in! I knew
I should never catch up with them.
The beautiful ruins of Rheims soon spread beneath my right wing. My
machine was certainly not as fast as either Lufbery's or Campbell's. I
continued to hang back far behind my formation. The lines of the enemy
were approaching and Lufbery, my only salvation, as it appeared to me,
was at least a mile ahead of me.
I shall believe to my dying day that Major Lufbery knew my thoughts at
that moment. For just as I felt that he had forgotten all about me he
suddenly made a virage and took up a position a few hundred feet from
me, as much as to say, "Don't worry, my boy, I have an eye on you."
Again and again this occurred.
It was with great difficulty that I tried to perform the same maneuvers
that Major Lufbery executed with such great ease. I grew somewhat
interested with my attempts to imitate his example in preserving our
little flight formation, and this occupation of keeping within shouting
distance of my companions made me forget entirely that old Mother Earth
was some 15,000 feet underneath me and the trenches about the same
distance ahead. The bitter, numbing cold which always prevails at these
high altitudes was of course by this time an old and familiar experience
We had been sailing along at this dizzy height for some thirty minutes
between Rheims and the Argonne Woods when it occurred to me to look
below at the landscape. And such a spectacle spread itself out before my
eyes when I at last did look over the side of my little office!
The trenches in this sector were quite old and had remained in
practically the same position for three years of warfare. To my
inexperienced view there appeared to be nothing below me but old
battered trenches, trench works and billions of shell holes which had
dug up the whole surface of the earth for four or five miles on either
side of me. Not a tree, not a fence, no sign of familiar occupation of
mankind, nothing but a chaos of ruin and desolation. The awfulness of
the thing was truly appalling.
Perhaps this feeling got the best of me for a moment. I don't know of
what Campbell was thinking and I suppose Major Lufbery was far too
accustomed to the situation to give a thought to it.
But just when I had gained enough equilibrium of mind to keep my place
in formation and at the same time take an interest in the battlefields
below me, I began to feel a terrible realization that seasickness had
overcome me. A stiff wind was blowing all this time and no ship upon the
high seas ever rolled and pitched more than my Baby Nieuport did this
15,000 feet above No Man's Land, while I was attempting to follow Major
Lufbery's evolutions and maneuvers.
I didn't want to confess even to myself that I could get sick in the
air. This was what would be expected from a brand new aviator on his
first trip over the lines. It would be wonderfully amusing to Lufbery
and the rest of the boys in the Squadron when I got back to the
field--if I ever did [Illustration with signature: Captain Eddie
Rickenbacker]--to advise me to take along a bottle of medicine next time
I tried to fly. I grew cold with the thought of it. Then I set my teeth
and prayed that I might fight it off. I determined to look straight
ahead and fly straight ahead and to concentrate my whole mind on the
task of sticking it out, no matter how I felt.
I had hardly got control of myself when I was horribly startled by an
explosion which seemed only a few feet in my rear. I didn't even have
time to look around, for at the same instant the concussion caught my
plane and I began to roll and toss much worse than I had ever realized
was possible. The very terror of my situation drove away all thoughts of
sickness. In the midst of it several more shocks tipped my machine and
repeated sounds of nearby explosions smote my ears. No matter what
happened, I must look around to see what awful fate was overtaking me.
All that I could see were four or live black puffs of smoke some
distance behind and below my tail.
I knew what they were right enough. They were "Archy"! They were
eighteen-pound shells of shrapnel which were being fired at me by the
Germans. And the battery which were firing them was only too well known
to me. We had all been told about the most accurate battery that allied
aviators had met in this sector. It was situated just outside of the
town of Suippe. And there was Suippe down there just under my left wing.
A mile north of Suippe was the exact location of this famous shooting
battery. I looked down and picked it out quite clearly. And I knew they
could see me and were seeing me much more plainly than I was seeing
them. And probably they had quite a few more of those shells on hand
which they were contemplating popping up at me.
I shall never forget how scared I was and how enraged I felt at the old
pilots at home, who pretended to like the Archies. The latter were
bursting all around me again and were terribly close and I felt a
vengeful desire to get home just once more in order to take it out on
those blase pilots, who had been telling us newcomers that anti-aircraft
guns were a joke and never did any damage. They used to count up the
cost of each shell at five or ten dollars apiece and then figure that
they had cost the German Government about a million dollars for their
morning's amusement in flying over the Archy batteries, with never a
hit. And I had been fool enough to believe them. Any one of those shells
might happen to hit me just as well as happen to burst a hundred yards
away. It was due entirely to my own good luck, and not at all to those
scoffers' silly advice, that one of them hadn't hit me already. I was
more indignant with the boys who had been stuffing me with their
criminal wit than I was with the Boche gunners who were firing at me.
Never before did I, and never again will I quite so much appreciate the
comfort of having a friend near at hand. I suddenly noticed Major
Lufbery was alongside me. Almost subconsciously I followed his maneuvers
and gradually I began to realize that each maneuver he made was a direct
word of encouragement to me. His machine seemed to speak to me, to
soothe my feelings, to prove to me that there was no danger so long as I
followed its wise leadership.
Little by little my alarm passed away. I began to watch the course of
the black puffs behind me. I grew accustomed to the momentary
disturbance of the air after each explosion and almost mechanically I
met the lift of the machine with the gentle pressure of my joystick,
which righted my Nieuport and smoothed its course. And a rush of
happiness came over me with the assurance that I was neither going to be
sick nor was I any longer in any terror of the bursting shells. By Jove,
I had passed through the ordeal! A feeling of elation possessed me as I
realized that my long dreamed and long dreaded noviciate was over. At
last I knew clear down deep in my own heart that I was all right. I
could fly! I could go over enemy lines like the other boys who had
seemed so wonderful to me! I forgot entirely my recent fear and terror.
Only a deep feeling of satisfaction and gratitude remained that warmed
me and delighted me, for not until that moment had I dared to hope that
I possessed all the requisite characteristics for a successful war
pilot. Though I had feared no enemy, yet I had feared that I myself
might be lacking.
This feeling of self-confidence that this first hour over the Suippe
battery brought to me is perhaps the most precious memory of my life.
For with the sudden banishment of that first mortal fear that had so
possessed me came a belief in my own powers that knew no bounds. I loved
flying. I had been familiar with motors all my life. Sports of every
sort had always appealed to me. The excitement of automobile racing did
not compare with what I knew must come with aeroplane fighting in
France. The pleasure of shooting down another man was no more attractive
to me than the chance of being shot down myself. The whole business of
war was ugly to me. But the thought of pitting my experience and
confidence against that of German aviators and beating them at their own
boasted prowess in air combats had fascinated me. I did not forget my
inexperience in shooting. But I knew that could be learned easily
enough. What I hungered to ascertain was my ability to withstand the
cruelties and horrors of war. If that could be conquered, I knew I could
hold my own with any man who ever piloted an aeroplane.
This confidence in myself must have aided me considerably in my learning
to fly. After twelve flights in a machine in France, I went aloft for a
flight alone. After that first solo flight, I tried several different
types of machines with never any feeling of insecurity.
I was floating along through enemy skies in ecstatic contemplation of
these thoughts when I suddenly discovered that Major Lufbery was leading
us homewards. I glanced at the clock on my dashboard. It was nearly ten
o'clock. We had been out almost two hours and our fuel supply must be
running low. These fast-flying fighting machines cannot carry a large
supply of gasoline and oil, as every pound of weight counts against the
speed and climbing powers of the aeroplane.
Gradually we descended as we approached the vicinity of our aerodrome.
This lovely section of France, as yet undevastated by war, spread below
the wings of our little Nieuports in peaceful contrast to the ugliness
that lay behind us. Some snow still filled the hollows as far as the eye
could reach, for a severe storm had raged over this section of the
country but a few days before.
We circled once about the field and, shutting off motor, slid gently
down into the mud which quickly brought the machines to a full pause.
Quickening the speed of the propellers we taxied one by one towards the
door of the hangar before which every pilot and mechanic stood awaiting
us with open-armed expectancy. They were eager to hear the details of
our first flight into enemy territory and to see how two beginners, like
themselves, had stood the experience.
Both Campbell and I wore satisfactory countenances of bored
indifference. We had had a little flip around over the Hun batteries and
it had been most droll seeing the gunners wasting their ammunition. We
must have cost the Kaiser a year's income by our little jaunt into his
lines. As for enemy aeroplanes, none of them dared to venture up against
us. Not a plane was in our vicinity.
Just here Major Lufbery broke into the conversation and asked us
particularly what we had seen. I didn't like the sound of his customary
little chuckle on this occasion. But we both repeated as easily as we
could that we hadn't seen any other aeroplanes in the sky.
"Just what I expected. They are all the same!" was the Major's only
We indignantly asked him what he meant by addressing two expert war
pilots in such tones.
"Well," said Lufbery, "one formation of five Spads crossed under us
before we passed the lines and another flight of five Spads went by
about fifteen minutes later and you didn't see them, although neither
one of them was more than 500 yards away. It was just as well they were
"Then there were four German Albatros two miles ahead of us when we
turned back and there was another enemy two-seater nearer us than that,
at about 5,000 feet above the lines. You ought to look about a bit when
you get in enemy lines."
Campbell and I stood aghast, looking at each other. Then I saw he was
thinking the same thoughts as I. The Major was ragging us from a sense
of duty, to take some of the conceit out of us. But it was only after
weeks of experience over the front that we realized how true his
statements probably were. No matter how good a flyer the scout may be
and no matter how perfect his eyesight is, he must learn to see before
he can distinguish objects either on the ground or in air. What is
called "vision of the air" can come only from experience and no pilot
ever has it upon his first arrival at the front.
Then sauntering over to my machine the Major bucked me up very
considerably by blandly inquiring, "How much of that shrapnel did you
get, Rick?" I couldn't help laughing at his effort to put me in a heroic
picture-frame for the benefit of the boys who were listening. Imagine my
horror when he began interestedly poking his finger in one shrapnel hole
in the tail; another fragment had gone through the outer edge of the
wing and a third had passed directly through both wings not a foot from
The boys told me afterwards that I stayed pale for a good thirty minutes
and I believe them, for a week passed before the Major suggested to me
that I again accompany him into the German lines.
DOWNING MY FIRST HUN
It will be noticed that my preparation for combat fighting in the air
was a gradual one. As I look back upon it now, it seems that I had the
rare good fortune to experience almost every variety of danger that can
beset the war pilot before I ever fired a shot at an enemy from an
This good fortune is rare, it appears to me. Many a better man than
myself has leaped into his stride and begun accumulating victories from
his very first flight over the lines. It was a brilliant start for him
and his successes brought him instant renown. But he had been living on
the cream at the start and was unused to the skim-milk of aviation. One
day the cream gave out and the first dose of skim-milk terminated his
So despite the weeks and weeks of disappointment that attended my early
fighting career, I appreciated even then the enormous benefit that I
would reap later from these experiences. I can now most solemnly affirm
that had I won my first victory during my first trips over the lines I
believe I would never have survived a dozen combats. Every
disappointment that came to me brought with it an enduring lesson that
repaid me eventually tenfold. If any one of my antagonists had been
through the same school of disappointments that had so annoyed me it is
probable that he, instead of me, would now be telling his friends back
home about his series of victories over the enemy.
April in France is much like April anywhere else. Rains and cloudy
weather appear suddenly out of a clear sky and flying becomes out of the
question or very precarious at best. On the 29th of April, 1918, we rose
at six o'clock and stuck our heads out of doors as usual for a hasty
survey of a dismal sky. For the past three or four days it had rained
steadily. No patrols had gone out from our aerodrome. If they had gone
they would not have found any enemy aircraft about, for none had been
sighted from the lines along our sector.
About noon the sun suddenly broke through and our hopes began to rise. I
was slated for a patrol that afternoon and from three o'clock on I
waited about the hangars watching the steadily clearing sky. Captain
Hall and I were to stand on alert until six o'clock that night at the
aerodrome. Precisely at five o'clock Captain Hall received a telephone
call from the French headquarters at Beaumont stating that an enemy
two-seater machine had just crossed our lines and was flying south over
Captain Hall and I had been walking about the field with our flying
clothes on and our machines were standing side by side with their noses
pointing into the wind. Within the minute we had jumped into our seats
and our mechanics were twirling the propellers. Just then the telephone
sergeant came running out to us and told Captain Hall to hold his flight
until the Major was ready. He was to accompany us and would be on the
field in two minutes.
While the sergeant was delivering the message I was scanning the
northern heavens and there I suddenly picked up a tiny speck against the
clouds above the Foret de la Reine, which I was convinced must be the
enemy plane we were after. The Major was not yet in sight. Our motors
were smoothly turning over and everything was ready.
Pointing out the distant speck to Jimmy Hall, I begged him to give the
word to go before we lost sight of our easy victim. If we waited for the
Major we might be too late.
To my great joy Captain Hall acquiesced and immediately ordered the boys
to pull away the blocks from our wheels. His motor roared as he opened
up his throttle and in a twinkling both our machines were running
rapidly over the surface of the field. Almost side by side we arose and
climbing swiftly, soared away in a straight line after our distant
In five minutes we were above our observation balloon line which
stretches along some two miles or so behind the front. I was on Jimmy's
right wing and off to my right in the direction of Pont-a-Mousson I
could still distinguish our unsuspecting quarry. Try as I might I could
not induce the Captain to turn in that direction, though I dipped my
wings, darted away from him and tried in every way to attract his
attention to the target which was so conspicuous to me. He stupidly
continued on straight north.
I determined to sever relations with him and take on the Boche alone,
since he evidently was generous enough to give me a clear field.
Accordingly I swerved swiftly away from Captain Hall and within five
minutes overhauled the enemy and adroitly maneuvered myself into an
ideal position just under his sheltering tail. It was a large
three-seater machine and a brace of guns poked their noses out to the
rear over my head. With fingers closing on my triggers I prepared for a
dash upwards and quickly pulled back my stick. Up I zoomed until my
sights began to travel along the length of the fusilage overhead.
Suddenly they rested on a curiously familiar looking device. It was the
French circular cocard painted brightly under each wing! Up to this time
I had not even thought of looking for its nationality, so certain had I
been that this must be the Boche machine that had been sighted by the
Completely disgusted with myself, I viraged abruptly away from my latest
blunder, Ending some little satisfaction in witnessing the startled
surprise of the three Frenchmen aboard the craft, who had not become
aware of my proximity until they saw me flash past them. At any rate I
had stalked them successfully and might have easily downed them if they
had been Boches. But as it was, it would be a trifle difficult to face
Jimmy Hall again and explain to him why I had left him alone to get
myself five miles away under the tail of a perfectly harmless ally
three-seater. I looked about to discover Jimmy's whereabouts.
There he was cavorting about amidst a thick barrage of black
shell-bursts across the German lines. He was half-way to St. Mihiel and
a mile or two inside Hun territory. Evidently he was waiting for me to
discover my mistake and then overtake him, for he was having a
delightful time with the Archy gunners, doing loops, barrels, side-slips
and spins immediately over their heads to show them his contempt for
them, while he waited for his comrade. Finally he came out of the Archy
area with a long graceful dive and swinging up alongside my machine he
wiggled his wings as though he were laughing at me and then suddenly he
set a course back towards Pont-a-Mousson.
Whether or not he knew all along that a German craft was in that region
I could not tell. But when he began to change his direction and curve up
into the sun I followed close behind him knowing that there was a good
reason for this maneuver. I looked earnestly about me in every
Yes! There was a scout coming towards us from north of Pont-a-Mousson.
It was at about our altitude. I knew it was a Hun the moment I saw it,
for it had the familiar lines of their new Pfalz. Moreover, my
confidence in James Norman Hall was such that I knew he couldn't make a
mistake. And he was still climbing into the sun, carefully keeping his
position between its glare and the oncoming fighting plane. I clung as
closely to Hall as I could. The Hun was steadily approaching us,
unconscious of his danger, for we were full in the sun.
With the first downward dive of Jimmy's machine I was by his side. We
had at least a thousand feet advantage over the enemy and we were two to
one numerically. He might outdive our machines, for the Pfalz is a
famous diver, while our faster climbing Nieuports had a droll little
habit of shedding their fabric when plunged too furiously through the
air. The Boche hadn't a chance to outfly us. His only salvation would be
in a dive towards his own lines.
These thoughts passed through my mind in a flash and I instantly
determined upon my tactics. While Hall went in for his attack I would
keep my altitude and get a position the other side of the Pfalz, to cut
off his retreat.
No sooner had I altered my line of flight than the German pilot saw me
leave the sun's rays. Hall was already half-way to him when he stuck up
his nose and began furiously climbing to the upper ceiling. I let him
pass me and found myself on the other side just as Hall began firing. I
doubt if the Boche had seen Hall's Nieuport at all.
Surprised by discovering this new antagonist, Hall, ahead of him, the
Pfalz immediately abandoned all idea of a battle and banking around to
the right started for home, just as I had expected him to do. In a trice
I was on his tail. Down, down we sped with throttles both full open.
Hall was coming on somewhere in my rear. The Boche had no heart for
evolutions or maneuvers. He was running like a scared rabbit, as I had
run from Campbell. I was gaining upon him every instant and had my
sights trained dead upon his seat before I fired my first shot.
At 150 yards I pressed my triggers. The tracer bullets cut a streak of
living fire into the rear of the Pfalz tail. Raising the nose of my
aeroplane slightly the fiery streak lifted itself like the stream of
water pouring from a garden hose. Gradually it settled into the pilot's
seat. The swerving of the Pfalz course indicated that its rudder no
longer was held by a directing hand. At 2000 feet above the enemy's
lines I pulled up my headlong dive and watched the enemy machine
continuing on its course. Curving slightly to the left the Pfalz circled
a little to the south and the next minute crashed onto the ground just
at the edge of the woods a mile inside their own lines. I had brought
down my first enemy aeroplane and had not been subjected to a single
Hall was immediately beside me. He was evidently as pleased as I was
over our success, for he danced his machine about in incredible
maneuvers. And then I realized that old friend Archy was back on the
job. We were not two miles away from the German anti-aircraft batteries
and they put a furious bombardment of shrapnel all about us. I was quite
ready to call it a day and go home, but Captain Hall deliberately
returned to the barrage and entered it with me at his heels.
Machine-guns and rifle fire from the trenches greeted us and I do not
mind admitting that I got out quickly the way I came in without any
unnecessary delay, but Hall continued to do stunts over their heads for
ten minutes, surpassing all the acrobatics that the enraged Boches had
ever seen even over their own peaceful aerodromes.
Jimmy exhausted his spirits at about the time the Huns had exhausted all
their available ammunition and we started blithely for home. Swooping
down to our field side by side, we made a quick landing and taxied our
victorious machines up to the hangars. Then jumping out we ran to each
other; extending glad hands for our first exchange of congratulations.
And then we noticed that the squadron pilots and mechanics were
streaming across the aerodrome towards us from all directions. They had
heard the news while we were still dodging shrapnel and were hastening
out to welcome our return. The French had telephoned in a confirmation
of my first victory, before I had had time to reach home. Not a single
bullet hole had punctured any part of my machine.
There is a peculiar gratification in receiving congratulations from
one's squadron for a victory in the air. It is worth more to a pilot
than the applause of the whole outside world. It means that one has won
the confidence of men who share the misgivings, the aspirations, the
trials and dangers of aeroplane fighting. And with each victory comes a
renewal and re-cementing of ties that bind together these
brothers-in-arms. No closer fraternity exists in the world than that of
the air-fighters in this great war. And I have yet to find one single
individual who has attained conspicuous success in bringing down enemy
aeroplanes who can be said to be spoiled either by his successes or by
the generous congratulations of his comrades. If he were capable of
being spoiled he would not have had the character to have won continuous
victories, for the smallest amount of vanity is fatal in aeroplane
fighting. Self-distrust rather is the quality to which many a pilot owes
his protracted existence.
It was with a very humble gratitude then that I received the warm
congratulations of Lufbery, whom I had always revered for his seventeen
victories--of Doug Campbell and Alan Winslow who had brought down the
first machines that were credited to the American Squadrons, and of many
others of 94 Squadron who had seen far more service in the battle areas
than had I. I was glad to be at last included in the proud roll of
victors of this squadron. These pals of mine were to see old 94 lead all
American Squadrons in the number of successes over the Huns.
The following day I was notified that General Gerard, the Commanding
Officer of the Sixth French Army, had offered to decorate Captain Hall
and myself in the name of the French Government for our victory of the
day before. We were then operating in conjunction with this branch of
the French Army. The Croix de Guerre with palm was to be accorded each
of us, provided such an order met the approval of our own government.
But at that time officers in the American Army could not accept
decorations from a foreign Government, so the ceremony of presentation
was denied us. Both Captain Hall and myself had been included, as such
was the French rule where two pilots participated in a victory.
The truth was that in the tense excitement of this first victory, I was
quite blind to the fact that I was shooting deadly bullets at another
aviator; and if I had been by myself, there is no doubt in my own mind
but that I should have made a blunder again in some particular which
would have reversed the situation. Captain Hall's presence, if not his
actual bullets, had won the victory and had given me that wonderful
feeling of self-confidence which made it possible for me subsequently to
return to battle without him and handle similar situations successfully.
AMERICAN ACE OF ACES
On September 15th the weather was ideal for flying. I left the aerodrome
at 8:30 in the morning on a voluntary patrol, taking the nearest air
route to the lines.
I had reached an altitude of 16,000 feet by the time I had reached the
trenches. The visibility was unusually good. I could see for miles and
miles in every direction. I was flying alone, with no idea as to whether
other planes of our own were cruising about this sector or not. But
barely had I reached a position over No Man's Land when I noticed a
formation of six enemy Fokkers at about my altitude coming towards me
from the direction of Conflans.
I turned and began the usual tactics of climbing into the sun. I noticed
the Fokkers alter their direction and still climbing move eastward
towards the Moselle. I did not see how they could help seeing me, as
scarcely half a mile separated us. However, they did not attack nor did
they indicate that they suspected my presence beyond continuing steadily
their climb for elevation. Three complete circles they made on their
side of the lines. I did the same on my side.
Just at this moment I discovered four Spad machines far below the enemy
planes and some three miles inside the German lines. I decided at once
they must belong to the American Second Fighting Group, at that time
occupying the aerodrome at Souilly. They appeared to be engaged in
bombing the roads and strafing enemy infantry from a low altitude. The
Spads of the Second Pursuit Group had but recently been equipped with
bomb racks for carrying small bombs.
The leader of the Fokker Formation saw the Spads at about the same
moment I did. I saw him dip his wings and stick down his nose.
Immediately the six Fokkers began a head-long pique directly down at the
Spads. Almost like one of the formation I followed suit.
Inside the first thousand feet I found I was rapidly overtaking the
enemy machines. By the time we had reached 5,000 feet I was in a
position to open fire upon the rear man. Not once had any of them looked
around. Either they had forgotten me in their anxiety to get at their
prey or else had considered I would not attempt to take them all on
single-handed. At all events I was given ample time to get my man dead
into my sights before firing.
I fired one long burst. I saw my tracer bullets go straight home into
the pilot's seat. There came a sudden burst of fire from his fuel tank
and the Fokker continued onwards in its mad flight--now a fiery furnace.
He crashed a mile inside his own lines. His five companions did not stay
to offer battle. I still held the upper hand and even got in a few
bursts at the next nearest machine before he threw himself into a vrille
and escaped me. The sight of one of their members falling in flames
evidently quite discouraged them. Abandoning all their designs on the
unsuspecting Spads below they dived away for Germany and left me the
I returned to my field, secured a car and drove immediately up to the
lines to our Balloon Section. I wanted to get my victories
confirmed--both this one of today and the Fokker that I had brought down
yesterday in the same sector. For no matter how many pilots may have
witnessed the bringing down of an enemy plane, official confirmation of
their testimony must be obtained from outside witnesses on the ground.
Often these are quite impossible to get. In such a case the victory is
not credited to the pilot.
Upon the tragic death of Major Lufbery, who at that time was the leading
American Ace, with 18 victories, the title of American Ace of Aces fell
to Lieutenant Paul Frank Baer of Fort Wayne, Ind., a member of the
Lafayette Escadrille 103. Baer then had 9 victories and had never been
Baer is a particularly modest and lovable boy, and curiously enough he
is one of the few fighting pilots I have met who felt a real repugnance
in his task of shooting down enemy aviators.
When Lufbery fell, Baer's Commanding Officer, Major William Thaw, called
him into the office and talked seriously with him regarding the
opportunity before him as America's leading Ace. He advised Baer to be
cautious and he would go far. Two days later Baer was shot down and
slightly wounded behind the German lines!
Thereafter, Lieutenant Frank Bayliss of New Bedford, Mass., a member of
the crack French Escadrille of the Cigognes, Spad 3, held the American
title until he was killed in action on June 12, 1918. Bayliss had 13
victories to his credit.
Then David Putnam, another Massachusetts boy, took the lead with 12
victories over enemy aeroplanes. Putnam, as I have said, was, like
Lufbery, shot down in flames but a day or two before my last victory.
Lieutenant Tobin of San Antonio, Texas, and a member of the Third
Pursuit Group (of which Major William Thaw was the Commanding Officer),
now had six official victories. He led the list. I for my part had five
victories confirmed. But upon receiving confirmation for the two Fokkers
I had vanquished yesterday and to-day, I would have my seven and would
lead Tobin by one. So it was with some little interest and impatience
that I set off to try to find ground witnesses of my last two battles
above St. Mihiel.
Mingled with this natural desire to become the leading fighting Ace of
America was a haunting superstition that did not leave my mind until the
very end of the war. It was that the very possession of this title--Ace
of Aces--brought with it the unavoidable doom that had overtaken all its
previous holders. I wanted it and yet I feared to learn that it was
mine! In later days I began to feel that this superstition was almost
the heaviest burden that I carried with me into the air. Perhaps it
served to redouble my caution and sharpened my fighting senses. But
never was I able to forget that the life of a title-holder is short.
Eating my sandwiches in the car that day I soon ran through St. Mihiel
and made my way on the main road east to Apremont and then north to
Thiaucourt. I knew that there had been a balloon up near there both days
and felt certain that their observers must have seen my two combats
Unfortunately the road from Apremont to Thiaucourt was closed, owing to
the great number of shellholes and trenches which criss-crossed it.
After being lost for two hours in the forest which lies between St.
Mihiel and Vigneulles, I was finally able to extricate myself and found
I had emerged just south of Vigneulles, I was about one mile south of
our trenches. And standing there with map in hand wondering where to go
next to find our balloons, I got an unexpected clue.
A sudden flare of flames struck my sight off to the right. Running
around the trees I caught a view of one of our balloons between me and
Thiaucourt completely immersed in flames! Half-way down was a graceful
little parachute, beneath which swung the observer as he settled slowly
to Mother Earth!
And as I gazed I saw a second balloon two or three miles further east
towards Pont-a-Mousson perform the same maneuver. Another of our
observers was making the same perilous jump! A sly Heinie had slipped
across our lines and had made a successful attack upon the two balloons
and had made a clean getaway. I saw him climbing up away from the
furious gale of anti-aircraft fire which our gunners were speeding after
him. I am afraid my sympathies were almost entirely with the airman as I
watched the murderous bursting of Archy all around his machine. At any
rate I realized exactly how he was feeling, with his mixture of
satisfaction over the success of his undertaking and of panic over the
deadly mess of shrapnel about him.
In half an hour I arrived at the balloon site and found them already
preparing to go aloft with a second balloon. And at my first question
they smiled and told me they had seen my Fokker of this morning's combat
crash in flames. They readily signed the necessary papers to this
effect, thus constituting the required confirmation for my last victory.
But for the victory of yesterday that I claimed they told me none of the
officers were present who had been there on duty at that time. I must go
to the 3rd Balloon Company just north of Pont-a-Mousson and there I
would find the men I wanted to see.
After watching the new balloon get safely launched with a fresh observer
in the basket, a process which consumed some ten or fifteen minutes, I
retraced my steps and made my way back to my motor. The observer whom I
had seen descending under his parachute had in the meantime made his
return to his company headquarters. He was unhurt and quite enthusiastic
over the splendid landing he had made in the trees. Incidentally I
learned that but two or three such forced descents by parachute from a
flaming balloon are permitted any one observer. These jumps are not
always so simple and frequently very serious if not fatal injuries are
received in the parachute jump. Seldom does one officer care to risk
himself in a balloon basket after his third jump. And this fear for his
own safety limits very naturally his service and bravery in that trying
business. The American record in this perilous profession is held, I
believe, by Lieutenant Phelps of New York, who made five successive
jumps from a flaming balloon.
On my way to the 3rd Balloon Company I stopped to enquire the road from
a group of infantry officers whom I met just north of Pont-a-Mousson. As
soon as I stated my business, they unanimously exclaimed that they had
all seen my flight above them yesterday and had seen my victim crash
near them. After getting them to describe the exact time and place and
some of the incidents of the fight I found that it was indeed my combat
they had witnessed. This was a piece of real luck for me. It ended my
researches on the spot. As they were kindly signing their confirmation I
was thinking to myself, "Eddie! You are the American Ace of Aces!" And
so I was for the minute.
Returning home, I lost no time in putting in my reports. Reed Chambers
came up to me and hit me a thump on the back.
"Well, Rick!".he said, "how does it feel?"
"Very fine for the moment, Reed," I replied seriously, "but any other
fellow can have the title any time he wants it, so far as I am
I really meant what I was saying. A fortnight later when Frank Luke
began his marvelous balloon strafing he passed my score in a single
jump. Luke, as I have said, was on the same aerodrome with me, being a
member of 27 Squadron. His rapid success even brought 27 Squadron ahead
of 95 Squadron for a few days.
The following day I witnessed a typical expedition of Luke's from our
own aerodrome. Just about dusk on September 16th Luke left the Major's
headquarters and walked over to his machine. As he came out of the door
he pointed out the two German observation balloons to the east of our
field, both of which could be plainly seen with the naked eye. They were
suspended in the sky about two miles back of the Boche lines and were
perhaps four miles apart.
"Keep your eyes on these two balloons," said Frank as he passed us. "You
will see that first one there go up in flames exactly at 7:15 and the
other will do likewise at 7:19."
We had little idea he would really get either of them, but we all
gathered together out in the open as the time grew near and kept our
eyes glued to the distant specks in the sky. Suddenly Major Hartney
exclaimed, "There goes the first one!" It was true! A tremendous flare
of flame lighted up the horizon. We all glanced at our watches. It was
exactly on the dot!
The intensity of our gaze towards the location of the second Hun balloon
may be imagined. It had grown too dusk to distinguish the balloon
itself, but we well knew the exact point in the horizon where it hung.
Not a word was spoken as we alternately glanced at the second-hands of
our watches and then at the eastern skyline. Almost upon the second our
watching group yelled simultaneously. A small blaze first lit up the
point at which we were gazing. Almost instantaneously another gigantic
burst of flames announced to us that the second balloon had been
destroyed! It was a most spectacular exhibition.
We all stood by on the aerodrome in front of Luke's hangar until fifteen
minutes later we heard through the darkness the hum of his returning
motor. His mechanics were shooting up red Very lights with their pistols
to indicate to him the location of our field. With one short circle
above the aerodrome he shut off his motor and made a perfect landing
just in front of our group. Laughing and hugely pleased with his
success, Luke jumped out and came running over to us to receive our
heartiest congratulations. Within a half hour's absence from the field
Frank Luke had destroyed a hundred thousand dollars' worth of enemy
property! He had returned absolutely unscratched.
A most extraordinary incident had happened just before Luke had left the
ground. Lieutenant Jeffers of my Squadron had been out on patrol with
the others during the afternoon and did not return with them. I was
becoming somewhat anxious about him when I saw a homing aeroplane coming
from the lines towards our field. It was soon revealed as a Spad and was
evidently intending to land at our field, but its course appeared to be
very peculiar. I watched it gliding steeply down with engine cut off.
Instead of making for the field, the pilot, whoever he was, seemed bent
upon investigating the valley to the north of us before coming in. If
this was Jeff he was taking a foolish chance, since he had already been
out longer than the usual fuel supply could last him.
Straight down at the north hillside the Spad continued its way. I ran
out to see what Jeff was trying to do. I had a premonition that
everything was not right with him.
Just as his machine reached the skyline I saw him make a sudden effort
to redress the plane. It was too late. He slid off a little on his right
wing, causing his nose to turn back towards the field--and then he
crashed in the fringe of bushes below the edge of the hill. I hurried
over to him.
Imagine my surprise when I met him walking towards me, no bones broken,
but wearing a most sheepish expression on his face. I asked him what in
the world was the matter.
"Well," he replied, "I might as well admit the truth! I went to sleep
coming home, and didn't wake up until I was about ten feet above the
ground. I didn't have time to switch on my engine or even flatten out!
I'm afraid I finished the little 'bus!"
Extraordinary as this tale seemed, it was nevertheless true. Jeffers had
set his course for home at a high elevation over the lines and cutting
off his engine had drifted smoothly along. The soft air and monotonous
luxury of motion had lulled him to sleep. Subconsciously his hand
controlled the joystick or else the splendid equilibrium of the Spad had
kept it upon an even keel without control. Like the true old coach-horse
it was, it kept the stable door in sight and made directly for it.
Jeff's awakening might have been in another world, however, if he had
not miraculously opened his eyes in the very nick of time!
The next day, September 18th, our group suffered a loss that made us
feel much vindictiveness as well as sorrow. Lieutenant Heinrichs and
Lieutenant John Mitchell, both of 95 Squadron, were out together on
patrol when they encountered six Fokker machines. They immediately began
Mitchell fired one burst from each gun and then found them both
hopelessly jammed. He signaled to Heinrichs that he was out of the
battle and started for home. But at the same moment Heinrichs received a
bullet through his engine which suddenly put it out of action. He was
surrounded by enemy planes and some miles back of the German lines. He
broke through the enemy line and began his slow descent. Although it was
evident he could not possibly reach our lines, the furious Huns
continued swooping upon him, firing again and again as he coasted down.
Ten different bullets struck his body in five different attacks. He was
perfectly defenseless against any of them. He did not lose
consciousness, although one bullet shattered his jaw-bone and
bespattered his goggles so that he could not see through the blood. Just
before he reached the ground he managed to push up his goggles with his
unwounded arm. The other was hanging limp and worthless by his side.
He saw he was fairly into a piece of woodland and some distance within
the German lines. He swung away and landed between the trees, turning
his machine over as he crashed, but escaping further injury himself.
Within an hour or two he was picked up and taken to a hospital in Metz.
After the signing of the Armistice we saw Heinrichs again at the Toul
Hospital. He was a mere shell of himself. Scarcely recognizable even by
his old comrades, a first glance at his shrunken form indicated that he
had been horribly neglected by his captors. His story quickly confirmed
For the several weeks that he had lain in the Metz hospital he told us
that the Germans had not reset either his jaw or his broken arm. In fact
he had received no medical attention whatsoever. The food given him was
bad and infrequent. It was a marvel that he had survived this frightful
In all fairness to the Hun I think it is his due to say that such an
experience as Heinrichs suffered rarely came to my attention. In the
large hospital in which he was confined there were but six nurses and
two doctors. They had to care for several scores of wounded. Their
natural inclination was to care for their own people. But how any people
calling themselves human could have permitted Heinrichs' suffering to go
uncared for during all those weeks passes all understanding. Stories of
this kind which occasionally came to our ears served to steel our hearts
against any mercy towards the enemy pilots in our vicinity.
And thus does chivalry give way before the horrors of war--even in
LAST VICTORY OF THE GREAT WAR
Returning from Paris on November 5th I found it still raining. Almost no
flying had been possible along this sector since my departure. In fact
no patrol left our field until November 8th, the same day on which we
caught by wireless the information that the Boche delegates had crossed
the lines between Haudry and Cheme on the La Chapelle road to sign the
armistice. Peace then was actually in sight.
For weeks there had been a feeling in the air that the end of the war
was near. To the aviators who had been flying over the lines and who had
with their own eyes seen the continuous withdrawals of the Germans to
the rear there was no doubt but that the Huns had lost their immoderate
love for fighting and were sneaking homewards as fast as their legs
would carry them. Such a certainty of victory should have operated to
produce a desire to live and let live among men who were desirous of
"seeing the end of the war," that is, men who preferred to survive
rather than run the risks of combat fighting now that the war was fairly
But it was at this very period of my leadership of the 94th Squadron
that I found my pilots most infatuated with fighting. They importuned me
for permission to go out at times when a single glance at the fog and
rain showed the foolishness of such a request. Not content with the
collapse of the enemy forces the pilots wanted to humiliate them further
with flights deep within their country where they might strafe aeroplane
hangars and retreating troops for the last time. It must be done at
once, they feared, or it would be too late.
On the 9th day of November Lieutenant Dewitt and Captain Fauntleroy came
to me after lunch and begged me to go to the door of my hut and look at
the weather with them. I laughed at them but did as they requested. It
was dark and windy outside, heavy low clouds driving across the sky,
though for the moment no rain was falling. I took a good look around the
heavens and came back to my room, the two officers following me. Here
they cornered me and talked volubly for ten minutes, urging my
permission to let them go over the lines and attack one last balloon
which they had heard was still swinging back of the Meuse. They overcame
every objection of mine with such earnestness that finally against my
best judgment I acquiesced and permitted them to go. At this moment
Major Kirby who had just joined 94 Squadron for a little experience in
air fighting before taking command of a new group of Squadrons that was
being formed, and who as yet had never flown over the lines stepped into
the room and requested permission to join Dewitt and Fauntleroy in their
expedition. Lieutenant Cook would go along with him, he said, and they
would hunt in pairs. If they didn't take this opportunity the war might
end overnight and he would never have had a whack at an enemy plane.
Full of misgivings at my own weakness I walked out to the field and
watched the four pilots get away. I noted the time on my watch, noted
that a heavy wind was blowing them away and would increase their
difficulties in returning, blamed myself exceedingly that I had
permitted them to influence me against my judgment. The next two hours
were miserable ones for me.
The weather grew steadily worse, rain fell and the wind grew stronger.
When darkness fell, shortly after four o'clock, I ordered all the lights
turned on the field and taking my seat at the mouth of our hangar I
anxiously waited for a glimpse of the homecoming Spads. It was nearing
the limit of their fuel supply and another ten minutes must either bring
some word from them or I should know that by my orders four pilots had
sacrificed themselves needlessly after hostilities had practically
ceased. I believe that hour was the worst one I have ever endured.
Night fell and no aeroplanes appeared. The searchlights continued to
throw their long fingers into the clouds, pointing the way home to any
wandering scouts who might be lost in the storm. Foolish as it was to
longer expect them I could not order the lights extinguished and they
shone on all through the night. The next day was Sunday and another
Decorations Ceremony was scheduled to take place at our field at eleven
o'clock. A number of pilots from other aerodromes were coming over to
receive the Distinguished Service Cross from the hands of General
Liggett for bravery and heroic exploits over enemy's lines. Several of
our own Group, including myself were to be among the recipients.
The band played, generals addressed us and all the men stood at
attention in front of our line of fighting planes while the dignified
ceremony was performed. Two more palms were presented to me to be
attached to my decoration. The Army Orders were read aloud praising me
for shooting down enemy aeroplanes. How bitter such compliments were to
me that morning nobody ever suspected. Not a word had come from any one
of my four pilots that I had sent over the lines the day before. No
explanation but one was possible. All four had been forced to descend in
enemy territory--crashed, killed or captured--it little mattered so far
as my culpability was concerned.
In fact a message had come in the night before that a Spad had collided
in air with a French two-seater near Beaumont late that afternoon. A
hurried investigation by telephone disclosed the fact that no other
Spads were missing but our own--thus filling me with woeful conjectures
as to which one of my four pilots had thus been killed in our own lines.
At the conclusion of the presentation of decorations I walked back to
the hangar and put on my coat, for it was a freezing day and we had been
forced to stand for half an hour without movement in dress tunic and
breeches. The field was so thick with fog that the photographers present
could scarcely get light enough to snap the group of officers standing
No aeroplanes could possibly be out to-day or I should have flown over
to Beaumont at daybreak to ascertain which of my pilots had been killed
I was invited to mess with 95 Squadron that noon and I fear I did not
make a merry guest. The compliments I received for my newly received
decorations fell on deaf ears. As soon as I decently could get away I
made my adieus and walked back across the aerodrome. And about half-way
across I saw an aeroplane standing in the center of the field. I looked
at it idly, wondering what idiot had tried to get away in such a fog.
Suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks. The Spad had a Hat-in-the-Ring
painted on its fusilage--and a large number "3" was painted just beyond
it. Number "3" was Fauntleroy's machine!
I fairly ran the rest of the way to my hangar where I demanded of the
mechanics what news they had heard about Captain Fauntleroy. I was
informed that he had just landed and had reported that Lieutenant Dewitt
had crashed last night inside our lines but would be back during the
course of the day. And to cap this joyful climax to a day's misery I was
told five minutes later at Group Headquarters that Major Kirby had just
telephoned in that he had shot down an enemy aeroplane across the Meuse
this morning at ten o'clock, after which he had landed at an aerodrome
near the front and would return to us when the fog lifted!
It was a wild afternoon we had at 94 mess upon receipt of this wonderful
news. Cookie too was later heard from, he having experienced a more
serious catastrophe the previous afternoon. He had attacked an
observation balloon near Beaumont. The Hun defenses shot off one blade
of his propeller and he had barely made his way back across the lines
when he was compelled to land in the shell-holes which covered this
area. He escaped on foot to the nearest American trench and late Sunday
afternoon reached our mess.
Major Kirby's victory was quickly confirmed, later inquiries disclosing
the wonderful fact that this first remarkable victory of his was in
truth the last aeroplane shot down in the Great War! Our old 94 Squadron
had won the first American victory over enemy aeroplanes when Alan
Winslow and Douglas Campbell had dropped two biplane machines on the
Toul aerodrome. 94 Squadron had been first to fly over the lines and had
completed more hours flying at the front than any other American
organization. It had won more victories than any other--and now, for the
last word, it had the credit of bringing down the last enemy aeroplane
of the war! One can imagine the celebration with which 94 Squadron would
signalize the end of the war! What could Paris or any other community in
the whole world offer in comparison?
And the celebration came even before we had lost the zest of our present
gratitude and emotion.
The story of Major Kirby's sensational victory can be told in a
paragraph. He had become lost the night before and had landed on the
first field he saw. Not realizing the importance of telephoning us of
his safety, he took off early next morning to come home. This time he
got lost in the fog which surrounded our district. When he again emerged
into clear air he found he was over Etain, a small town just north of
Verdun. And there flying almost alongside of his Spad was another
aeroplane which a second glance informed him was an enemy Fokker! Both
pilots were so surprised for a moment that they simply gazed at each
other. The Fokker pilot recovered his senses first and began a dive
towards earth. Major Kirby immediately piqued on his tail, followed him
down to within fifty feet of the ground firing all the way. The Fokker
crashed head on, and Kirby zoomed up just in time to avoid the same
fate. With his usual modesty Major Kirby insisted he had scared the
pilot to his death. Thus ended the War in the Air on the American front.
While listening to these details that evening after mess, our spirits
bubbling over with excitement and happiness, the telephone sounded and I
stepped over and took it up, waving the room to silence. It was a
message to bring my husky braves over across to the 95 Mess to celebrate
the beginning of a new era. I demanded of the speaker, (it was Jack
Mitchell, Captain of the 95th) what he was talking about.
"Peace has been declared! No more fighting!" he shouted. _"C'est le
finis de la Guerre."_
Without reply I dropped the phone and turned around and faced the pilots
of 94 Squadron. Not a sound was heard, every eye was upon me but no one
made a movement or drew a breath. It was one of those peculiar
psychological moments when instinct tells every one that something big
In the midst of this uncanny silence a sudden BOOM-BOOM of our Archy
battery outside was heard. And then pandemonium broke loose. Shouting
like mad, tumbling over one another in their excitement the daring
pilots of the Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron sensing the truth darted into
trunks and kitbags, drew out revolvers, German Lugers, that some of them
had found or bought as souvenirs from French poilus, Very pistols and
shooting tools of all descriptions and burst out of doors. There the sky
over our old aerodrome and indeed in every direction of the compass was
aglow and shivering with bursts of fire. Searchlights were madly
cavorting across the heavens, paling to dimness the thousands of colored
lights that shot up from every conceivable direction. Shrill yells
pierced the darkness around us, punctuated with the fierce
rat-tat-tat-tat-tat of a score of machine-guns which now added their
noise to the clamor. Roars of laughter and hysterical whoopings came to
us from the men's quarters beside the hangars. Pistol shots were fired
in salvos, filled and emptied again and again until the weapon became
too hot to hold.
At the corner of our hangar I encountered a group of my pilots rolling
out tanks of gasoline. Instead of attempting the impossible task of
trying to stop them I helped them get it through the mud and struck the
match myself and lighted it. A dancing ring of crazy lunatics joined
hands and circled around the blazing pyre, similar howling and revolving
circuses surrounding several other burning tanks of good United States
gasoline that would never more carry fighting aeroplanes over enemy's
lines. The stars were shining brightly overhead and the day's mist was
gone. But at times even the stars were hidden by the thousands of
rockets that darted up over our heads and exploded with their soft
'plonks, releasing varicolored lights which floated softly through this
epochal night until they withered away and died. Star shells, parachute
flares, and streams of Very lights continued to light our way through an
aerodrome seemingly thronged with madmen. Everybody was laughing--drunk
with the outgushing of their long pent-up emotions. _"I've lived through
the war!"_ I heard one whirling Dervish of a pilot shouting to himself
as he pirouetted alone in the center of a mud hole. Regardless of who
heard the inmost secret of his soul, now that the war was over, he had
retired off to one side to repeat this fact over and over to himself
until he might make himself sure of its truth.
Another pilot, this one an Ace of 27 Squadron, grasped me securely by
the arm and shouted almost incredulously, _"We won't be shot at any
more!"_ Without waiting for a reply he hastened on to another friend
and repeated this important bit of information as though he were
doubtful of a complete understanding on this trivial point. What sort of
a new world will this be without the excitement of danger in it? How
queer it will be in future to fly over the dead line of the silent
Meuse--that significant boundary line that was marked by Arch shells to
warn the pilot of his entrance into danger.
How can one enjoy life without this highly spiced sauce of danger? What
else is there left to living now that the zest and excitement of
fighting aeroplanes is gone? Thoughts such as these held me entranced
for the moment and were afterwards recalled to illustrate how tightly
strung were the nerves of these boys of twenty who had for continuous
months been living on the very peaks of mental excitement.
In the mess hall of Mitchell's Squadron we found gathered the entire
officer personnel of the Group. Orderlies were running back and forth
with cups brimming with a hastily concocted punch, with which to drink
to the success and personal appearance of every pilot in aviation. Songs
were bellowed forth accompanied by crashing sounds from the Boche piano
--the proudest of 95's souvenirs, selected from an officer's mess of an
abandoned German camp. Chairs and benches were pushed back to the walls
and soon the whole roomful was dancing, struggling and whooping for joy,
to the imminent peril of the rather temporary walls and floor. Some
unfortunate pilot fell and in a trice everybody in the room was forming
a pyramid on top of him. The appearance of the C. O. of the Group
brought the living mass to its feet in a score of rousing cheers to the
best C. O. in France. Major Hartney was hoisted upon the piano, while a
hundred voices shouted, "SPEECH--SPEECH!" No sooner did he open his lips
than a whirlwind of sound from outside made him pause and reduced the
room to quiet. But only for an instant.
"It's the jazz Band from old 147!" yelled the pilots and like a
tumultuous waterfall they poured en masse through a doorway that was
only wide enough for one at a time.
Whooping, shrieking and singing, the victors of some 400-odd combats
with enemy airmen encircled the musicians from the enlisted men of 147
Squadron. The clinging clay mud of France lay ankle deep around them.
Within a minute the dancing throng had with their hopping and skipping
plowed it into an almost bottomless bog. Some one went down, dragging
down with him the portly bass drummer. Upon his foundation human forms
in the spotless uniforms of the American Air Service piled themselves
until the entire Group lay prostrate in one huge pyramid of joyous
aviators. It was later bitterly disputed as to who was and who was not
at the very bottom of this historic monument erected that night under
the starry skies of France to celebrate the extraordinary fact that we
had lived through the war and were not to be shot at to-morrow.
It was the _"finis de la Guerre!"_ It was the _finis d'aviation_. It
was to us, perhaps unconsciously, the end of that intimate relationship
that since the beginning of the war had cemented together
brothers-in-arms into a closer fraternity than is known to any other
friendship in the whole world. When again will that pyramid of entwined
comrades--interlacing together in one mass boys from every State in our
Union--when again will it be formed and bound together in mutual
THE GAUNTLET OF FIRE,
(From _Heroes of the Flying Corps_)
IF an airman in war could fly always under favourable conditions, and
was not obliged often to descend quite near the earth, he would have
little to fear from the anti-aircraft guns. But when he ascends on
active service he has a definite mission to fulfil. He must survey some
position, whether the air is clear or misty; or he must carry his bombs
above a certain point and then descend low enough, before he drops them,
to give them the best possible chance of hitting their target. Thus in
one flight, if the weather is favourable, and the observation he has to
make proves simple, he may run very little risk from hostile gunfire;
while on another occasion, taking bombs with him to drop, say, on a
railway station that is well defended, he may have to dive deliberately
into a zone of heavy fire, and trust to luck and his own skill to save
him from annihilation.
The danger that threatens a pilot when he is compelled to descend near
the earth, and pass within close range of a position where there are
anti-aircraft guns, has been demonstrated many times during the war;
and, of unofficial stories available, that which follows is one of the
During March 1915, with the idea of harassing the Germans as much as
possible in their submarine warfare, our Naval Air Service organised
attacks by air, on the extensive scale, against the bases the Germans
had established along the Belgian coast. In one of these raids a British
naval pilot, flying a seaplane and armed with bombs, was instructed to
fly above a certain position and release his missiles to the best
advantage. He started accordingly and arrived above his objective, being
at an altitude of about 8,000 feet. This height was too great for
anything like effective bomb-dropping; so he marked the point he wished
to attack, and brought his machine down in a swift, steep dive. The
enemy had seen him and guessed his intention, and were ready to give him
a hot reception. Several thousand feet he descended, shells bursting all
round him; then one of them, exploding quite near his machine, jerked
its bow downward, owing to the air disturbance of the explosion, until
he was diving almost vertically towards the ground; while some of the
shrapnel bullets, besides puncturing his wings, struck and damaged his
engine, putting two of its cylinders out of action.
But the aviator was undeterred; he had no intention of abandoning his
task. Regaining control of his machine, and with shells still bursting
near him, he continued his descent and began to drop his bombs. Again a
well-placed shell came perilously near him. This time one of the bullets
scratched his cheek; while others, passing between his sustaining
planes, cut several wires and weakened dangerously one of the wings.
Still he remained within fire until he had dropped the last of his
bombs; then, turning his crippled machine, he steered seaward in an
endeavour to return to his starting-point. But his motor, damaged as it
had been, failed to give him enough power to maintain his craft in
flight; while one of his planes threatened at any moment to collapse.
The only thing for him to do was to plane down towards the sea and
alight on it, his craft resting on its floats. This he did; and
immediately the machine was floating on the water he moved back from his
driving-seat to the engine, endeavouring to repair it sufficiently to
enable him to resume his flight. But in this he failed; and the end of
his adventure was that his craft drifted down the sea-coast until it
arrived in neutral waters, where the pilot was rescued only to be
During the worst of the winter weather, when our air scouts were
obliged--if they wanted to see the movements of the enemy--to fly low
through zones of gunfire, there were some extraordinary escapes from
One British military pilot, accompanied by an observer, setting out on a
special reconnaissance on a misty day, had to risk passing low near some
of the enemy's batteries. A deadly fire was--according to the unofficial
story told concerning this incident--concentrated upon his machine. One
shot hit an interplane strut and smashed it; many more tore holes
through the wings; and then, damaged by a shot, the motor ceased to
revolve. The airman turned and began to plane towards his own lines.
These he reached, though only by prolonging his glide to its limit. And
then, when he was only a hundred feet or so above the ground, his
machine passed suddenly beyond his control and dived helplessly to
The craft was badly smashed by the impact, and it seemed to those who
saw the fall that both its occupants must have been killed; but the
pilot escaped with a damaged leg--it had been caught and pinned down
beneath the motor--while the observer was lucky enough to sustain only
A German aviator, piloting a Gotha type of Taube monoplane, has
described a flight of 170 miles he made across the Meuse, examining a
French line of defence on the western bank.
He started at dawn with a German officer as his observer, and they flew
first towards a French fortification, which they had been ordered to
inspect. Here, however, guns were fired at them, and they were chased by
three hostile aeroplanes; but they managed to escape and continued on
their way. Then they came in view of a large body of French troops, and
saw a company of soldiers, halting in a road, raise their rifles to
their shoulders and fire a volley at the aeroplane. The pilot, sitting
anxiously in his driving-seat, waited for the effect of this fire.
Suddenly the monoplane trembled; but the motor did not stop, and the
machine continued its flight. Bullets had penetrated its wings, but had
struck no vital part; and the airman was able to complete his
observation, and return to his base.
One of the most daring feats of the war, in its defiance by an airman of
a concentration of gunfire, occurred during an attack that was planned,
in April, against an airship shed the Germans had erected in the
neighbourhood of Ghent. This shed, one of great strategic importance to
the Germans, was guarded not only by anti-aircraft guns on the ground,
but also by marksmen who were stationed at some altitude in the car of a
captive balloon. Yet it was against this position, completely armed
though it was and with its defenders on the alert, that one of our
airmen, flying single-handed in a fast machine, delivered a successful
attack; the details of which, as set forth below, are compiled from both
official and unofficial sources.
With three powerful bombs in his machine, besides hand-grenades, he
arrived above the airship shed in the calm of the evening, flying at a
considerable altitude. For awhile he reconnoitred; then, from a height
of 6000 feet, he dropped one of his bombs at the airship shed, which lay
very clearly revealed below him. Immediately he had discharged this
bomb, he found that those in the car of the captive balloon were firing
at him; while a heavy fusillade was being directed also from the ground.
He was still too high to make good practice with his bombs against the
shed, and yet it seemed to be courting almost certain death to descend
any lower, in view of the storm of shot that was being launched against
him. He flew in a circle, considering the position; then he decided on a
method of attack which could have been carried out only by a pilot who
was exceptionally skilled. Flying until he was exactly above the balloon
in which the marksmen were stationed who were firing volleys at him, he
began to descend very rapidly, steering his machine in a series of
small, steeply-banked spirals, which kept him so directly above the
balloon that the occupants of its car, with the gas-container between
them and the descending aeroplane, were unable to see the machine or
fire upon it.
Stealing down in this way, and shielding himself against the fire from
the balloon--at which by the way he hurled a bomb that missed its
mark--the airman came down until he was just over the balloon; then,
with a rapid outward swerve, he passed it on his descent and came even
nearer the ground--the car of the balloon being above him now, and his
machine exposed to the fire of those who were stationed on the ground.
But, owing to the pilot's clever flying, the Germans were still in a
quandary. He kept his machine moving in the smallest of circles,
immediately under the balloon. Thus the men in its car, when they aimed
down on the aeroplane, were in danger with every shot of hitting their
comrades, who were grouped around the airship shed; while the gunners on
the ground, when they came to fire upward at the aeroplane, ran the risk
of killing or wounding those who were in the balloon.
The airman, profiting by the confusion this shrewd manoeuvre caused,
came down within 200 feet of the ground. Then, and not till then, did he
drop the last of his heavy bombs. This, released at such a point-blank
range, struck the roof of the airship shed; and the impact was followed
by a heavy explosion from within the shed. But the aviator did not, as
may be imagined, wait to see exactly what damage his bomb had done.
In extreme peril, every moment he remained within such short range, he
steered away rapidly from the scene of conflict, and returned to his
base with no greater injuries to his machine than the perforation of its
planes by a number of bullets; he himself being unhurt, despite the
volume of fire that had been directed against him.
An exploit that needed exceptional courage, and unusual skill also, was
that of Flight-Lieutenant Marix at Dusseldorf, in the early stages of
the war. He, with two other naval aviators, had been detailed to make a
raid by aeroplane on the important Zeppelin air station that has been
established at Dusseldorf, and endeavour if possible to destroy one of
these giant aircraft while it lay in its shed. A previous raid, in which
bombs were dropped with effect by Flight-Lieutenant Collet, had been
made against Dusseldorf; but in this case the weather had proved
unfavourable, and sufficient damage had not been done. Therefore a
second attack was planned, and carried out--as described below largely
from official sources--under weather conditions which were more
Lieut. Marix was flying a very fast single-seated biplane; and on this
machine, after invading Germany by air for more than 100 miles--starting
his flight from a point near Antwerp--he arrived over Dusseldorf and
came in sight of the Zeppelin sheds. These were very completely guarded,
there being machine-guns fixed on their roofs, with larger anti-aircraft
guns stationed on the ground near by, and picked riflemen ready to fire
volleys upward. But Lieut. Marix, despite this armament, flew straight
towards his goal, descending as he approached the sheds until he was not
more than 500 feet high. He relied on the speed of his flight, and his
own dexterity in controlling his machine, to carry him through this area
of fire. How violent the gunfire was, and what peril the aviator ran,
may be guessed from the fact that, though he flew over the shed at a
very high speed--seeming indeed to dash in and out of range almost in a
moment--his craft was hit several times by shot before he could escape
out of range. Most of these hits, however, were merely punctures of his
wing fabric and had no significance; but one shot, by such a stroke of
ill-luck as may cost an airman his life, severed a couple of his control
wires. This was extremely serious of course, but not as it happened
fatal. The biplane, though crippled, was just controllable--at any rate
to so skilled a pilot as Lieut. Marix. He contrived to remain aloft and
to steer his craft; in fact, though flying all the time under great
difficulties, he succeeded in returning to a point within fifteen miles
of Antwerp. Here his petrol failed him, and he had to land in dangerous
proximity to the German lines. Fortunately for him, however, an armoured
Belgian motor-car had been waiting about the roads so as to be ready, if
necessary, to aid the British pilots on their return from their flight.
Those in charge of this car saw Lieut. Marix descend, and came promptly
to his assistance. But his machine had landed so near one of the advance
posts of the enemy that it was considered too risky to attempt to
dismantle it and transport it to the Belgian lines. At any moment the
party might have been surprised by German cavalrymen. So the biplane,
which had served its pilot so well, was destroyed where it had alighted
so that it might not come into the hands of the enemy; and then Lieut.
Marix, entering the armoured car, was driven swiftly into Antwerp.
His raid on the Zeppelin sheds had been well worth while. In passing
above one of the sheds, in which a Zeppelin was lying berthed, he had
managed to drop two of his bombs with accuracy. Both of them, striking
the roof of the shed, had punctured it and burst inside; and, within
thirty seconds of their explosion, a sheet of flame had shot out from
within the shed, rising high into the air. This showed, without any
doubt, that one or more of the gas-containers of a Zeppelin had been
pierced, and the gas within them ignited. And this would mean that the
airship would be destroyed. Such, in fact, seems clearly to have been
the case. Reports reached our authorities subsequently, from various
sources, which placed it beyond doubt that Lieut. Marix had, with these
two bombs, brought about the destruction of the Zeppelin that lay in the
Mr. Robert Loraine, the actor who learned to pilot an aeroplane soon
after Bleriot had flown the Channel in 1909, and who has made some
remarkable flights--including an aerial crossing of the Irish Sea--went
to France as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, and had an adventure in
November, 1914, which nearly cost him his life. He had made several
scouting flights, and had been fired at by a battery whose attentions he
had begun to notice particularly, but the shells from which he was for a
time able to avoid. One day, however--according to details published
unofficially--a shell burst quite close to his machine, and a shrapnel
bullet, striking Mr. Loraine in the back, passed completely through his
body and came out near his neck, perforating his right lung. His
companion in the aeroplane, who was acting at the time as pilot,
returned quickly to their headquarters, and Mr. Loraine was taken to
hospital. His wound, though very serious, did not prove fatal.
It is not always, indeed, skilled though he may be, that a pilot escapes
without injury from a zone of heavy fire. Take the case of M. Verrier, a
French aviator who, after flying for several seasons at the London
Aerodrome, Hendon, and being an extremely popular figure at that flying
ground, joined the French air service at the beginning of the war, and
was soon doing valuable work as a scout.
One day, with an observation officer flying as passenger in his machine,
he was passing above the enemy's lines. The weather, unfortunately for
him, was not good for aerial scouting. There were low-lying clouds; and
so he had to creep nearer and nearer the earth, until he was well within
rifle range of any hostile bodies of troops which might lurk below him.
And it was at this moment--according to M. Verrier's own
statement--while the aeroplane was in a dangerous proximity to the
earth, that it came under the fire of a body of German infantry. The
first bullet that reached the machine passed through a map the
observation officer was holding in his hands. And then, before M.
Verrier could ascend, or steer his craft out of this danger-zone, there
came a second bullet into the hull of the machine which wounded the
observer in the foot. The pilot, of course, was now climbing as rapidly
as he could, hoping to escape out of range with no further damage than
he had already sustained. But the rifle fire from the ground was
exceptionally heavy; and in a moment or so, while the biplane was
ascending steeply, a bullet tore its way through the floor-boards of the
hull and struck M. Verrier just near the ankle, piercing his leg as far
as the knee--where it emerged--leaving him with a painful wound.
The position of an airman who is wounded, while flying thus above the
lines of the enemy, is serious in the extreme. If he stops his engine,
and descends at once, he knows he will be made a prisoner, and that his
headquarters will lose the value of any news he may have gleaned; while
if he flies on, striving to regain his own lines before he descends, he
may be so overcome by weakness, owing to shock and loss of blood, that
he will collapse suddenly over his control levers. And this, in all
probability, will mean death, seeing that the aeroplane, with the pilot
ceasing to control it, will side-slip or dive towards the earth, and end
its career in a helpless fall, perhaps on a roof of a building or in the
tree-tops of a wood.
M. Verrier, wounded though he was, did not hesitate as to what he should
do. He had, before being hit, gained information as to the enemy's
dispositions that was of value; and this, come what may, he determined
should be carried back to the French headquarters. So he turned his
biplane, operating the rudder-bar with difficulty owing to his injured
leg, and made off towards the French lines, which were more than ten
miles away. Each minute, as he flew, he felt weaker; but still he clung
grimly to his levers, watched anxiously by the passenger--who knew that
his life, as well as that of the airman, depended on the spirit and
endurance the latter could display.
The flight was made. Almost exhausted, scarcely able at the last to
control the movements of his machine, M. Verrier regained his
starting-point and planed to earth; and the news he had to communicate
was borne in safety to headquarters.
Less fortunate, though equally courageous, was M. Reymond, a French
senator who had learned to fly before the war, and who joined the
aviation service and did excellent work as a scout. One day--as the
story is told unofficially in France--he was despatched on an urgent
reconnaissance, and passed above the German battle-front, securing in
the course of his flight some important news. Then, turning his craft,
he steered towards the French lines. But suddenly, just as he was
passing over the advanced trenches of the Germans, he came into a zone
of rifle fire. Bullets hummed past his machine; and presently one,
entering the hull, wounded him seriously.
He did not collapse, though he felt his strength was failing. The
distance to be flown, before he could regain the French lines, was not
great; in a few minutes, in fact, he knew he would be over his own
troops. But he was unable to reach them. Overcome by exhaustion, he was
compelled to plane to earth; and the point at which he alighted was
almost exactly midway between the German and French trenches.
Germans ran out to capture him, and at the same time a party of French
soldiers, eager to rescue the fallen aviator, dashed also from their
trenches. Whereupon there was a fierce encounter, in which the French
were successful, and brought back the wounded pilot to their own lines.
Here, though sinking fast, he was able to furnish particulars to his
superiors of the reconnaissance he had made; and then a few hours later
he died--but not before the Cross of the Legion of Honour had been
pinned on his breast.
There are two points in regard to these stories that are
interesting--apart from the courage the pilots displayed. One is the
question of protecting the hull of an aeroplane from gun-fire by means
of armour-plating. If, for instance, the hull of his craft had been
armoured, the bullet that struck M. Verrier would have been unable to
penetrate the floor-boards. Why, therefore, was not the machine
armoured? The answer is simple: in flying, seeing that the planes of an
aircraft will only bear aloft a certain limited load, it is the aim to
reduce, in every reasonable way, the weight that must be carried through
the air. Machines can be armoured; there is no difficulty in that; and
craft will ascend, even when their hulls bear the weight of steel
plating. But the efficiency of machines, if armoured to any extent, and
when driven by such motors as are at present available, is reduced
appreciably. What this means, exactly, is that the speed of an armoured
craft is distinctly less than it would be were it not to bear the weight
of armouring; while it ascends less rapidly, and is less quickly
manoeuvred while in flight. And, remembering that speed and ascensional
power are vital in a war aeroplane, the drawbacks of armouring are
serious, and need to be studied very carefully.
What it was decided to do after the outbreak of war--and after a number
of cases had been recorded in which bullets had struck up through the
floor-boards of the hull and wounded an airman as he sat at his
levers--was to place a very light but extremely tough sheet of steel
plating immediately beneath the seats occupied by the pilot and the
observer, and so protect them from any direct hit from below, without
burdening the aircraft with a heavy weight of armour. And this safeguard
has proved a wise one--particularly when, in delivering say a
point-blank attack against railway communications or supply depots, an
airman has had to sweep down into a zone of rifle fire.
It is not always that the airman, while flying on his mission overhead,
is content to remain a passive target, and allow gunners on the earth to
fire at him without fear of retaliation. Usually, though, seeing that he
is on some urgent task, and must not waste time or risk his craft in any
duel with those on the ground, he needs to fly on grimly through the
zones of fire, and content himself with making his machine as difficult
a target as he can. But occasionally, should conditions favour him, the
airman may turn the tables upon his adversaries on the ground; and one
of the strangest incidents of the war, so far as aircraft and gunfire
are concerned, was an engagement that took place near Bruges, according
to an unofficial report, between a French biplane and a German armoured
car which carried an anti-aircraft gun.
The armoured car, moving along a flat, open road, came within sight of
the aeroplane and stopped, its gunner opening fire promptly. The biplane
was a large, powerful machine, and carried, in addition to its pilot, a
passenger who was armed with a small machine-gun. This fact emboldened
the occupants of the aeroplane, when they noted the exposed section of
road on which the armoured car had halted, and the fact that the Germans
had no other guns in sight, to descend to a lower altitude and deliver a
counter-attack. The pilot, a skilled flyer, swung sideways at first so
as to take his craft temporarily out of range; then, making a quick
half-turn and diving until he was near the ground, he drove his machine
straight towards the armoured car, and at a speed of seventy miles an
The occupants of the car were disconcerted by this manoeuvre. The last
thing they had expected was an attack from the aeroplane--which was
moving at such a pace, and was drawing in on them so quickly, that they
had no time to get their car in motion, whatever might have been their
wish. The gunner, turning his weapon against the approaching aircraft,
did his best to hit it with a shell; but the target offered was
extremely small, and he made bad practice. Meanwhile the biplane was
closing in very rapidly, and the passenger, operating his machine-gun,
began to pour a stream of lead against his antagonists below. The car,
though it was armoured, was protected only against attack from the
earth, its occupants being exposed completely to the bullets that began
to rain on them from the air. Some replied to the aerial gunner with
their rifles, but this was ineffective; and in a moment or so, leaping
from their car and abandoning it, they were in full retreat towards some
trees that offered shelter. But the aeroplane, its machine-gun still
rattling, was now at a very short range; and two of the car's crew fell
dead, and two more were wounded, before the shelter of the trees was
And then the biplane, undamaged, rose again to a high altitude and
continued its flight.
BY T. J. C. MARTYN
(By permission of N. Y. Times.)
NOW that the open season for flying has begun, the average man on the
ground--especially one who has watched the sea gulls glide effortlessly
through the air, turning sharp angles, swooping suddenly to the water
and soaring up again--may occasionally see the stunting of an airplane
and decide that it looks rather clumsy. If he be watching from the
bottom of one of Manhattan's yawning chasms a plane looping high in the
heavens, he will naturally miss much of the movement and beauty of it;
but if he be looking from the terra firma of an airport at a machine
stunting near the ground--zooming over trees or flying between
hangars--he will catch some of the breathless excitement of the swift
and perilous manoeuvres.
Instruction in stunting outside the army and navy is beginning in the
commercial flying schools. At the Roosevelt Field Flying School and at
the Curtiss School all pilots are now required to put the machine into a
spin and pull it out, before they can go on their first solos. This,
though but a step in the right direction, is one the importance of which
cannot be too highly emphasized; for a thorough knowledge of aerial
acrobatics is almost certainly going to be the most valuable that a
commercial pilot can acquire.
Stunts, so called, may be divided into two categories--the foolish and
the useful. The foolish ones are those done close to the ground; for no
matter how expert a pilot is it is only a matter of time before a slight
error of judgment will cost him his life, or at best a serious accident.
The useful stunts, such as looping, spinning, rolling, Immelmann turns,
&c., were developed in the wartime exigencies of pursuit flying and are
performed, usually at a safe height--that is, at an altitude sufficient
to enable the pilot to right his machine without running the risk of a
crash. But to the ground observer, stunts may seem quite unnecessary in
this day and age of commercial aviation.
This, however, is not the case. Stunt flying is every bit as much of a
science as, for example, aerodynamics. There is a wrong way and a right
way to loop; one way can strain the machine seriously; the other will
put no more strain on it than it will normally encounter riding through
rough weather. Moreover, although stunt flying is usually supposed to
relate to air fighting, it has a definite peace-time value; the pilot
who knows how to stunt, how to get his machine into every conceivable
position and difficulty and how to get it out again, is the one who is
the most to be trusted with the lives of passengers and the one who is
never likely to be caught unawares in one of those sudden, dangerous
situations that all pilots sooner or later experience. He knows what to
do in almost every crisis and he knows it because his judgment has been
formed and tested in the arduous school of scientific stunt flying.
Suppose you are a ground observer, and accompany an instructor of stunt
flying. Perhaps you learned to fly years ago; perhaps you have flown
several hundred hours in the mail service; it makes no difference. You
will be treated as a novice whether the object is a thrill or to qualify
for passenger or pursuit flying--a test that ought universally to be
applied but at present is not. On reaching a height of two or three
thousand feet you will experience nothing more exciting than learning
how to fly straight and you will be shown the effects of too much right
or left rudder or too much right or left bank.
That is easy. Next come turns to the right and left, and as you improve
the turns become steeper and steeper until they are vertical. In a
vertical turn an extraordinary thing happens. The rudder becomes the
elevator and the elevator, the rudder. In fact, the more a plane is
inclined laterally the more the controls change places, so that each
turn at a different degree of bank is different, and the difference is
detected by feel, or in instrument flying by the indicators on the
pilot's dashboard. But when you have progressed to the vertical bank
stage the instructor will suddenly kick on top rudder; the plane stalls
and goes into a spin.
Then comes the quiet voice of the instructor over the telephone: "Switch
off the engine. Push the stick forward. Centralize the rudder bar." And
in a moment the plane is flying on an even keel. There is no hurry, no
excitement (except, perhaps, to an embryo airman), for there is no
Landings will be the next and longest lesson of all. When you have been
taught to judge distances you will be permitted to land straight into
the wind. The next thing that will probably happen is to have the engine
cut out when the plane is vertically above the airport at a height of,
say, 1,000 feet. The instructor has purposely cut the engine out and is
telling you to land on the airdrome. That will be your first lesson in
spiraling--losing height by circling down, either in one direction or
alternately to the right and left--and one way or another you will have
to get into the airdrome.
Spot landings--landings on a mark on the ground--and cross-wind landings
follow. The latter are done by side-slipping into the wind and landing
on one wheel, immediately after tuming into the wind--the most difficult
of all landings. These are necessary for forced landings in which a
head-to-wind landing is impossible for lack of time or space.
You can now fly straight, turn in both directions at any angle, land
regardless of the wind on a mark on the airport. You are now ready to
learn stunting. The instructor no longer shows you how to do anything;
he merely directs you and never comes to your assistance, other than
verbally, unless it is absolutely necessary to avoid a crash. When the
plane is soaring about 3,000 feet up, his voice will come over the plane
telephone: "Put your nose down to 90 (or whatever the speed is for your
particular plane). Keep the rudder bar straight and pull the stick back
toward you with a firm movement. When you see the ground, switch off the
You push the stick forward and the plane gathers speed, and when the air
speed indicator shows 90 you will pull the stick back as far as it will
go. The plane rises swiftly, the earth disappears as if it had suddenly
shot off from under you and you are conscious of a vast expanse of sky
and clouds rushing down to meet you, and the next moment the earth is
directly below you. If this is your first loop you are probably so
excited that you have forgotten to switch off the engine and the plane
begins to tear down at a terrific speed. In a moment the instructor's
voice is calmly telling you, "Off with the engine." Your first loop is
In some ways a loop is the easiest of all the stunts and after you have
done twenty or so of them they cease to yield any thrills. But at some
time or other the instructor will almost certainly wait until you are
about one-third up on a loop and then cut the engine out. He wants to
see if you will keep your head. The plane, deprived of its power, does
not have speed enough to complete the loop and stalls; that is, for an
infinitesimal second it hangs in the air and then either whips over and
goes down in a spin or begins to tail slide (go down tail first), from
which position it may go into a tail spin, giving a most uncomfortable
feeling to the novice. If you know what to do and do it the instructor
will remain silent; if you lose your head his voice will soon calm you
and instruct you in what you should be doing. And within a minute the
plane will be once more sailing on a level keel.
On another occasion the instructor will wait until you are on top of a
loop and suddenly kick on right or left rudder with the result that the
plane falls out of the curve sideways and rapidly goes into a spin
unless you take immediate steps to counteract it. But by this time you
are getting hardened to surprises of this kind and have control of the
plane every minute.
So the times comes when you are taught to roll--a side loop executed by
putting on sharp rudder and bank one after the other and then pulling
the stick back. In a training dual-control plane the movement is slow
and cumbersome, but in a fast pursuit plane, which you will shortly fly,
the machine whips over in the twinkling of an eye and may even go over
twice before you can stop it, after which it stalls into a spin. In
fact, a spin is usually the way out of all uncontrolled stunts, but as
the spin is easily stopped there is never cause for alarm.
Next comes the Immelmann turn, invented by the famous German war ace. It
is merely a sideslip from a stall and has the advantage of bringing the
plane around in the opposite direction to which it was going. There is
the tail spin, one of the most difficult of stunts. Some machines will
not do it and invariably complete the initial stall into which it is
normally necessary to put the plane. You perform the stunt by getting
the machine to slide backward and then putting on opposite bank and
rudder, as in a forward spin. To get out of it you straighten out the
rudder bar and bring the stick to the centre of the cockpit but not
backward or forward until the spin stops, when you pull it back to cause
The falling leaf is perhaps the most difficult stunt, with the exception
of an outside loop--one in which the plane is dived down on its back and
climbed out to the top. What makes the falling leaf so difficult is that
the plane has to be stalled, with the engine off, in a horizontal
position; that is, flying level with as little forward speed as
possible. In this position the plane is balanced laterally as if on the
edge of a razor and the successful completion of the stunt calls for
As soon as the plane is brought to a halt you push the stick over to one
side sharply and at the same time kick on the rudder. The controls are
limp and it feels as if nothing much has happened, but the machine heels
over to one side. As soon as it does you have to bring the controls over
to the other side and the plane should recover and list over to the
opposite side. The effect is that of a leaf falling through the air,
swinging first in one direction and then in the other. The great
difficulty is in keeping the nose of the plane up and in preventing it
from falling too far over to one side.
All through this stunting period you will be practicing forced landings.
You will find yourself coming out of a spin. You open the throttle but
the engine is "dead." The instructor tells you to pick out a field and
land on it. This you do. One day, when you are getting fairly expert,
you will be taking off from the airport and at about 300 feet up your
engine will cut out. Man's normal instinct is to try to turn and get
back on the air-drome, but this is almost invariably fatal. Possibly
more deaths in the air have been caused by this foolishness than by
The only thing to be done is to go straight ahead and make the best
landing possible, and as you have by this time been taught to land on a
pocket handkerchief you should find no difficulty in making this
extremely difficult forced landing. It is, however, the one test in
which the instructor will not stop to instruct you; if you do not do the
right thing right away, he will, and if you "freeze" on to the stick you
will probably get a swift knock over the head with a heavy stick that
the instructor keeps by him for such dangerous pupils.
Solo is child's play. In reality you have flown the machine yourself for
perhaps fifty hours. You can loop, spin and roll as easily as turn. You
are thoroughly airbroken. Then when your chest is puffed out to its
maximum, your instructor will suggest some more dual-control. He wants
to make sure that you are doing everything in the way he taught you. So
up you go and are put through your paces, so to speak. As usual he will
surprise you with engine failure in an awkward moment, only this time he
will indicate a field for you to land in. It is the prize field of all.
It probably has high trees around it, a high fence between them on one
side and high bushes between them on all the others, and the field
itself is about half an acre or less.
You will not, if you are smart, bother about the wind, and will circle
around the field. Seeing a gap in between the trees, you will make for
it. Your wheels have to scrape the tops of the low bushes and you will
have to make a "pancake" landing, one with no forward speed. This done,
you will have to get out of the field again, which is almost as
difficult as getting into it. If you are successful you can be assured
that you will be passed as a first-class pilot; for the field has been
artificially created, in all probability, so that only an expert pilot
can get into it and take off from it.
Since the scientific knowledge of stunting--knowing how much each
control does and why--makes for safe flying, the observer on the ground
should feel assured that in this way pilots are training for the day
when they will take him from New York to San Francisco, and he may be
further assured that no matter what ills befall the plane en route his
life will be as safe in their keeping as it is in the hands of a
HOW TUBBY SLOCUM BROKE HIS LEG
BY JAMES WARNER BELLAH
(By permission of the _Aero Digest_ N. Y.)
THE flying man's god," says "Hell's Bells" O'Neil, "is more powerful
than dynamite. Call him what you like, but, always remember that he's
got his tongue in his cheek and his thumb half-way to his nose--and
never light three on a match.
"Tubby Slocum was seventeen when he joined up. He had a hard time
getting in on account of his lines which were more or less on the order
of a bloated blimp--but a Turkish bath steamed his blubber off enough
for him to pass and in he came. At his training 'drome they called him
Crashing Tubby Slocum. If there was a forced landing to be made, he made
it on a hangar roof, or a greenhouse or in a lake. He always cracked his
'buses to splinters when he cracked 'em at all, and he never even got
bruised. There was only one tree near that 'drome and he pancaked into
it three times in Jennies. Couldn't get by it, it seemed. They almost
fired him out altogether for mounting up the war debt. But he stuck it
somehow and got through his training days without even ripping his
"Everybody shook his hand and told him to save a place in hell for them,
because the way he had hard luck looked like he'd get the first wooden
kimono in the crowd.
"Well, the first thing he done at the war was to smack himself plumb
into a chimney one evening in a fog. He was lost, 'way behind our own
lines. The chimney shears off his port wings as easy as cutting cake,
and the Camel ricochets like a drunken mule driver into a nearby treetop
and lands as softly as you please. Whereupon Tubby climbs out, wipes his
nose and says 'Hell!'
"Was little Tubby hurt? You can just bet he wasn't.
"About three weeks later, I was flying with him on early morning escort.
We'd seen a couple of Huns and got ourselves shot at, but nothing
serious came of it. About ten minutes later, Tubby starts down. I stand
by him but he waves 'No good' and keeps going down. It looks like he's
got a bullet in his tank and the gas is gone. We were about twenty or
thirty miles in, and God knows where our bombers had got to, and we
weren't worrying. Down goes Tubby and the last I see of him, he's picked
his field and landed. I felt pretty bad about it so I circled around a
bit. He climbed out of his 'bus and waved good-bye to me. I hated to let
him go that way, but that's what they paid him for, so I waves him 'pip
pip' and beat it before an 'archie' party opened up on me. When I got
back to the 'drome, there was Tubby on the tarmac. You could've knocked
me down with a blackjack. He'd stood around waiting to be taken
prisoner, and when no Jerries came out for him, he fiddles a bit with
his motor, gives the prop a flip and she starts again. So he hops in and
"The next thing that happens to him is that he comes in to the airdrome
out of gas and cross-wind, making pretty nearly a hundred and
twenty-five by the time he gets close to the floor. He can't sit her
down, so he hops some tree stumps that used to be a forest, goes into
the next county, skidding to the left, and smacks into the far lip of a
shell-hole. The left skid tears his motor off sideways, away from him.
All four longerons break and Tubby, still strapped to his seat, takes a
flying loop out of the wreck and lands in the next shell-hole up to his
ears in mud. Hurt? Not Tubby.
"Then there was the time the Huns came over on a night Gotha raid to get
the hospital that was near us. They drop more eggs than an orphan asylum
has on Easter morning. It looks like the end of the world to me. We all
bolted for our funk holes to wait 'till the reception was over and most
of us slept in tin hats. But not Tubby. He was drunk and asleep in his
hut, and a sixteen-pound bomb smashed through the roof and the floor and
covered him with wood splinters. Hurt? Hell, no! It was a dud.
"Well, one thing and another, and never a scratch on Tubby. If his guns
jammed in a fight, all the Huns' guns would jam too. If he got a burst
of twenty in his control wires, one strand would hold out until he
landed. I remember once--you may recall it--they still talk about it
when the bottles are full. He'd lost his left wheel taking off from a
'drome up near the Ypres-Menin Road--smashed it ballywest on a horse
carcass, or a stump or something. He knew it was gone, but he had a job
to do, so he did it. They got him in the motor and his prop froze at
about sixteen thousand. He dove out of the fight and flopped down to let
'em think he was done in. Got clean away and tried to make the 'drome,
but he'd lost so much height he had to land near a battery of heavies.
There wasn't much room and there wasn't anything to wedge his wings
between, so he side-slipped and tried to pancake. The broken wheel
caught in something and pirouetted him around about six times, and he
landed smack on the ammunition dump. The gunners did a getaway in
something under nothing flat. Half-a-dozen shells were knocked about
like tenpins. When the gunners came back, there was Tubby sitting on one
of them lighting a cigarette. Not a scratch on him--and he'd had four
Cooper sixteen--pound bombs in his rack when he hit! Luck? My God!
"One night we were roaring back to work after a night in Busigny. We
were red-eyed drunk and couldn't find the road. We'd gotten around to
'The Captain has the Croix de Guerre, parley-voo!' in bar-room tenor,
when the car takes a neat Immelman, does a split-air turn and plops
athwart a crater upside down. I clawed the mud and half a dead horse
outa my mouth, and calls the roll. We're all there but Tubby. We poked
round in the debris that someone who had been fighting a war had left,
but we can't find him anywhere. Then I give a yell for him and I hear
his voice, sort of muffled like, say, 'Lemmelone--umtakinbath.' There
he was under the car, up to his chin in shell-hole syrup. If there'd of
been an inch less space he'd of been drowned. But not Tubby. Safe and
sound he was, without a scratch.
"The cards wasn't right, you see," says "Hell's Bells, "so the flying
man's god let it pass. Then one day he raised his thumb to his nose and
wiggled his fingers. The way of it was this. The Armistice was fought
and won, and the squadron was ordered to Marquis to turn in the ships and
report to the repatriation camp at Shornecliffe. Tubby was listed as a
student in civil life, and he had a cousin in the Air Ministry who got
him special embarkation orders. He was to go direct to Southampton and
back to God's Country, traveling like a general. He was to meet his
'Sweet and Only' at the dock, and marry her before his stuff got through
Customs. He was all het up over it. Said he'd give a farewell supper in
Paris. Took us all down and set us up royally. By the time we'd got to
the point of drinking the champagne from the champagne cooler, he
decided to have a toast. 'Beslilolesquarronworld!' he toasts, drinks his
drink, sits half in and half out of his chair, chair tips
over--crashes--and Tubby yells blue murder. We pick him up and I'm a son
of a gun if his leg wasn't broken in two places just below the knee!
"He spent three months at a Frog hospital in a plaster cast, missed his
boat home, spent four more months at Shornecliffe, waiting for that
damned, concrete-bottomed tub they called the _Canada_ and got a
wedding invitation from his girl just before he sailed!"
LINDBERGH'S START FOR PARIS
BY JESSIE E. HORSFALL
WHEN Lindbergh came down from his room into the lobby of the hotel at
2:15 on the morning of the flight, he said:
"Don't pass the word around because I am not sure I am going until I get
further weather reports."
He was the least excited person in the lobby.
We had become well acquainted with him during the days of waiting after
his record-breaking flight eight days before from San Diego to New York.
He got into our car and we took him to the hangar on the field through
rain and absolute darkness. Probably 5,000 aviation enthusiasts were on
the field despite the dreary weather.
During these crucial hours his manner was perfectly normal, his hand
entirely steady, his expression wholly unexcited. He had had little
sleep but he refused the "shot" of caffein which the doctors offered; he
even declined a cup of coffee before he got into his plane to hop off.
"I need no drugs to keep me awake," was his very simple comment, a part
of that supreme self-confidence with which he deeply impressed
everyone, not only during the slow days of waiting for favorable weather
but during the final moments prior to his departure.
He took with him five sandwiches and two canteens of water. His friend
from St. Louis, Mr. George J. Stumpf, representing the St. Louis backers
of the enterprise, laid these supplies in the cockpit carefully so that
contamination by oil or gas would be unlikely. Lindbergh said of the
"They will be enough for me if I get to Paris and if I don't get there
they will be more than enough."
His further luggage consisted of a small white canvas dunnage
bag--exactly like a mammoth tobacco sack--containing his maps and
weather charts, a hunting knife and fishing tackle.
He was dressed in an immaculate flying suit consisting of a tannish grey
cloth lumber jacket shirt with a wide collar which in time of need could
be turned up. Underneath this was a conventional soft white shirt, with
a collar and dark tie. The two pockets of his outer shirt held a
fountain pen and two handkerchiefs. He wore grey Bedford cord knickers,
grey golf stockings and high tan shoes. Not a grease spot was visible.
His mother calls him a neat person, saying that he could clean a motor
in evening dress without getting spots on his shirt front.
His silver watch had been in his pocket during four parachute jumps
which he had been compelled to make in order to save his life. But in
the Lindbergh estimation it was merely his watch, not a lucky charm.
A spectator commented: "Isn't he clean looking!"
A real characterization. Lindbergh looks and is mentally, morally and
When we reached the field Neon beacon lights cast their red flashes upon
the crowd but even this picturesque, unusual scene didn't distract the
aviator's attention. Partly because of the crowd but mostly because of
the lad's modesty, we drove to the back of his hangar. He didn't want to
The patient, waiting spectators did not catch sight of him until we
stopped in front of the door from which the silver nose of the "Spirit
of St. Louis" gleamed in marked contrast to the surrounding velvety
darkness. Then Lindbergh stepped out of the car and made a bee-line for
the hangar door behind which waited his beloved ship which meant so much
to him and the cause of aviation.
Immediately he had gone in to her; unseen hands closed the doors of the
modest shelter which in its simplicity and unpretentiousness was in such
marked contrast to the larger and elaborately painted and decorated
house of the "America," Commander Byrd's transatlantic plane.
Lindbergh's hangar in its noteworthy aspects already had suggested to me
the descriptive term, Air Livery, for besides the "Spirit of St. Louis"
two Orioles and a Waco were also stored there. But to these that
particular night meant nothing. To Lindbergh's silvery steed it meant
defiance of fate with death or glory at the end of the gesture.
He examined his plane with calm, careful, expert eyes. Perhaps he put an
affectionate hand upon its side as a man might touch a horse about to
undergo epochal strain, but if so, we didn't see him. His mind was not
occupied by sentiment, but concentrated upon the weather reports, which
Brice Goldsborough, the Pioneer Aircraft instrument specialist and navigator,
who was his meteorological advisor, had waiting for him.
He went into the tiny store-room of the hangar where, sitting on a keg
of nuts and bolts and mechanical miscellany, he studied the weather
Presently, perhaps, the thought came to him that many hours were before
him during which he would have no choice but to remain seated, unable to
stretch those long legs of his, for he rose, completing his checking of
the weather data standing. Lindbergh found these moments full of
satisfaction. The reports revealed almost precisely such an atmospheric
situation as he previously had declared would be ideal. The only
unfavorable detail was the presence of fog off the Banks of Newfoundland
which was likely to clear a little as the flight progressed:
"I'll go," he said.
Note that I don't put an exclamation point after the word "go." It was
not an exclamation but as if he had remarked that he would cross the
street. No watcher ignorant of the circumstances could have dreamed that
the two words meant that he would dare alone nearly 3,000 miles of sea.
Quiet within the hangar but for the tunking of the rain on the tin roof.
The showers were indicated as local and therefore troubled the young
aviator not at all. But another detail had its disconcerting aspect--the
field would be soft and muddy, complicating the take-off.
The plane was turned in the hangar and taken out tail first.
The Curtiss Field flood light fell upon the little ship and with the
flares made high-lights bright as day, shadows very black.
Lindbergh in the littered stockroom waited for more weather reports.
The crowd went wild as the plane was moved out of the hangar--proof to
them that he was to start. Police on roaring motorcycles fought to herd
the crowd back from the area which had to be kept clear.
A strange crowd. Of course many in it were technically interested and
informed, but the general public was there too. Cars by the hundreds had
concentrated on this especial bit of ground, from New York, all parts of
Long Island, everywhere. Among their passengers were people of all
sorts. Gotham's night clubs were as fully represented as the air clan,
for it was a thrilling entertainment, a great human episode, as well as
a tremendous scientific moment. Small boys had haunted the field for
days and nights. Long before one lad had confided to us his mother's
decision that he could not come out that night. We understood the
dreadful disappointment which would agonize his boyish heart if
Lindbergh got away when his worshipful eyes were not at hand to see the
sight. I telephoned him and his mother let him come, bringing this
message for the Captain: "Our whole family is praying for you."
No crowd ever gathered amidst circumstances more disheartening. The
uneven surface of the field was dotted with a multitude of pools; some
deep, some shallow. The buzz of conversation, the bursts of laughter,
the sudden silences now and then were punctuated by the splashes of
unfortunates. One heard little screams from women as they stepped into
deep, over-slipper puddles.
But only murmurs of outer sounds crept into the hangar where the
atmosphere was dank, damp, unpleasant. Stale gasoline. The grooms were
working on the flying horse which Lindbergh was to ride that morning.
The oil made a curious tunking sound as it was poured into the tank
behind the engine. Not a word from Lindbergh. But he was not
silent--while they filled the oil tank he walked up and down the hangar
with his hands deep in his pockets, whistling cheerfully. It was as if
the thing were commonplace.
Many strong hands were ready to raise the plane's tail onto a truck
which backed into position. The tail skid was carefully secured.
Lindbergh emerged from the gloom within the hangar to watch this process
with that careful interest which characterized his scrutiny of every
detail of procedure.
Lindbergh did not go with his plane. When the plane had been started
toward Roosevelt Field, a mile away, he went back into the hangar to
study a weather chart newly arrived from the office of the New York
Having absorbed the message of this chart he went to a side door and
cast a weather eye up at the sky. The rain poured steadily; the
southeastern sky which he could see showed the grey advance light of a
The men with the plane had their own troubles. The truck wheels cut deep
into the saturated earth; now and then the vehicle bumped into ruts, the
water splashing on the few permitted to participate in the procession.
Stern, official arms outstretched and harsh authority forbade the
curious crowd to follow.
Motor-cycles flanked each side of the strange almost funereal cortege.
The little silvery "Spirit of St. Louis," dragged backward through the
mud, seemed humiliated. It was rough treatment for an instrument
designed to undertake in a few hours so tremendous an adventure.
The time came for the calm-eyed Lindbergh to follow the machine on which
his life soon would depend. For the journey of the mile he had his
choice between a Lincoln and a flivver. He chose the flivver. Lindbergh
again. We followed in the Lincoln.
The dawn-grey lightened morosely.
A spectator watching the procession from a short distance saw the plane
blend so perfectly into the grey sky that for many minutes he doubted if
the machine was there. It took sharp eyes to make sure.
Now and then along the line of the procession a flashlight flared as
some cameraman made one more picture for his paper. The balloons of
smoke left by these explosions trended lazily away in dense formation
which there was not wind enough to dissipate.
Presently the plane came to a halt and stood in bold relief upon a rise
against the sky. There was a significance in this particular place,
noteworthy to us. It had been the elevation from which the big Sikorsky
had crashed as Rene Fonck had tried to take off last September. That
tragic episode came to our minds but I know that Lindbergh was not
thinking back toward last September and another man's disaster, but was
thinking forward to the day after to-morrow and his own triumph.
Alongside Lindbergh's ship appeared the gasoline truck which had been
held nearby in position several days. The barrel-shaped metallic drums
were in the careful charge of Mr. B. F. Mahoney, president of the Ryan
Airlines, Inc., which manufactured the "Spirit of St. Louis." The fuel
from the drums was poured into 5-gallon milk cans by workers
tremendously deliberate, like figures in a slow-motion picture.
Lindbergh's coolness during this to me slow torture again characterized
his personality. Speaking to no one he sat in his car or stood beside
the gas truck with his lips pursed as if he were whistling noiselessly.
I stood six feet from him. There was no sound.
Immense care was exercised to prevent any dropping of the fuel into the
cockpit and the fuselage where gas fumes later might have troubled the
Why on this supreme mechanical occasion this archaic method of filling
cans from the drums and then filling the plane's tanks from the cans
when close at hand were highly perfected gas pumps? No flivver which
brought out to the field that early morning the least important of the
spectators had had its tank filled by so crude a method. Not only crude
but cruel, because it held Lindbergh waiting for three dreary hours with
what many thought was certain death ahead. Many of us were thinking: "If
he had had these hours for sleep!"
Still Lindbergh was Lindbergh.
A man stepped out of the crowd, approaching him. His presence at that
particular moment was dramatic. With pleasant and fraternal courtesy
Commander Byrd of the "America" asked his rival flyer if while he was
fueling he would mind if the "America" made use of the runway in taking
off for a trial flight.
"Not a bit," said Lindbergh, grinning.
Soon the "America" roared down the runway, passed the Lindbergh plane
and headed away on its trial run. The rival plane sailed almost over
When the last gallon of gas had been poured into the tanks of the
"Spirit of St. Louis" Lindbergh walked toward his ship, his hands deep
in his pockets, his stride as free and unconcerned as if he had been
going for breakfast.
His critical, minutely expert, but all-seeing gaze was like that of a
man who saw that plane for the first time. The outside world did not
exist for him. He was alone in the universe with his little silver
airplane. Lindbergh's absorption in whatever at a particular moment he
happens to be doing, always is complete.
Out of the sidelines rose a loud chorus from the photographers who
wished for one more pose. They all called him "Slim." He didn't resent
this, but it bored him. It was as if his calm, clear, thoughtful eyes
"All right, but hurry. I have something else to do."
He had. He had to fly across the ocean.
The clicking of the cameramen's instruments was plainly audible. By this
time the grey murk of the dawn had given place to the clear light of a
The recording barograph was sealed, a customary preliminary to all
flights where records are to be attempted.
Commander Byrd returned from his trial spin, and gave Lindbergh a fine
greeting--one sportsman to another. "Good Luck to you, old man; see you
in Paris." It came from Byrd's heart.
A close observer could not have failed to note frank and perfect
admiration in the Commander's eye, as he looked at the stripling. Other
celebrities came forward to bid Lindbergh Godspeed: Fokker, Bellanca,
Chamberlain, Acosta, Noville and many others.
Now he stepped into his flying suit, with Mahoney acting as his valet.
There was a spatter of applause.
Lindbergh, the clean, with a bit of waste wiped from one hand a spot of
The spatter of applause continued. Lindbergh turned to his plane as if
to look for something in the cockpit, but really, I think, to hide
embarrassment. The seclusion that the cockpit gave his face apparently
was grateful for he held his head thus for a moment. Then he tacked his
sheet of compass deviations to the instrument board for ready
Workmen now grasped the "Spirit of St. Louis" by the tail and leveled
her so that the gas would flow into the feed pipes ready for the tuning
up. Her tail was lowered then as gingerly as if it had been charged with
dynamite or made of glass. A mechanic climbed into the cockpit and
tested the fuel control stop-cocks. A quarter-inch stream of gasoline
ran from the pipe through the bottom of the plane, making a tiny pool
upon the sodden ground. All okay!
The boy had won the love of everyone with whom he had come into close
contact at the field. As Lindbergh prepared to climb into the cockpit
Captain Skidmore of the Nassau County Police affectionately put his arm
about his shoulders, saying:
"Even if you have to come back, kid, we'll give you a great reception."
Lindbergh grinned again and nodded. Then his long legs took him to and
through the small door at the side of the cabin. He is not awkward. He
is tall, but every movement of his limbs has a certainty of meaning.
There is no waste in anything that Lindbergh does.
He took his place on the wicker seat which he would not leave again
until he had swept across the sea. He tried out the controls; observers
saw the ailerons upon the wing and the flippers and rudder of the
airplane move slightly and attributed that to the pilot's nervousness.
But the man who moved them showed no signs of nervousness.
He started the motor which barked and the barking gradually became a
The police on their motorcycles dashed down the runway, their sirens
sounding in awe-inspiring chorus as they cleared away the few who had
encroached upon the muddy course.
On both sides spectators anxious to see the actual take-off ran along
while Lindbergh was revving up the motor after "Spoons" Boedecker had
whirled the blade which was to keep whirling over 3,600 miles of land
Lindbergh beckoned to Boedecker and Ed Mulligan, the engine experts in
charge of his motor. They approached. He asked: "How's she running?
Everything all right?"
Boedecker later said: "I have tested a good many engines and always
wished to say that they were running well, but this time I paused. A
lump came in my throat and made it hard for me to say 'O. K.,' but the
engine was running sweetly so I said it."
I looked through the side window of the cabin and never have I seen on a
human face a look of such determination, of such almost divine courage.
"Well," Lindbergh shouted, with no violation of his usual calm, "Let's
Boedecker and his assistant pulled away the chocks and the plane stood
trembling for a few seconds as the engine gathered speed.
That plane was alive. The personality of Lindbergh had thrust itself
through every fibre. No one ever can tell me that the "Spirit of St.
Louis" did not know as well as any of us that it was on its way to
At exactly 7:51 30 1/5 seconds by my stop watch, Friday morning, May 20,
the plane began to move, rolling slowly along the runway and gradually
gathering speed, the tail skid ploughing a deep rut through the mud. The
three tracks left in the ground were evidence of the great weight which
Lindbergh was attempting to carry through the air on this unprecedented
The plane had run nearly 2,000 feet before Lindbergh apparently made any
effort to put it into the air. Finally the machine left the ground.
But the plane only described a graceful arc and bounded back to the
earth, to roll on for a short run before a second attempt. This also
failed. Another gasp.
It now seemed to everyone as if it would be impossible to clear the
telegraph wires just beyond the edge of the field. Beyond them were
The distorting magic of the mist made the trees, really several hundred
yards beyond the runway, seem close to it. They added their threat to
that of the wires.
But . . . then----
When all hope seemed gone, with a final bound, the "Spirit of St. Louis"
slowly . . . slowly . . . slowly rose into the air.
Actually off the ground to stay, Lindbergh levelled off to gain speed. A
moment later, he climbed slowly and steadily to a safe altitude above
Lindbergh was off on the greatest flight in aviation's history. The haze
was thick. Almost immediately the daring venturer was lost to view.
[Illustration: Tuning Up for The Flight to Paris]
LINDBERGH TELLS OF HIS TRIP
BY CHARLES A. LINDBERGH
TELLING of his New York to Paris flight in a speech at the luncheon
given in his honor by the American Club of Paris, Captain Lindbergh
"Gentlemen, I am not going to express my appreciation of the reception I
have had here from Paris and the French. I would be unable to do so in
words. But I will tell you a little about the flight from New York, and
I believe you will be more interested in that than anything I can say,
because I am not used to public speaking.
SUCCESS MEANT MUCH
"We first considered this project last fall in St. Louis. We had one of
the most successful air races there that has ever been made, so we
decided to organize a flight, and at that time the Atlantic flight from
New York to Paris seemed to be the greatest achievement we could
consider--although there are other projects that would be greater--also
because a flight from New York to Paris meant a good deal to us.
"There is no other country after America in which we would rather land
than France, and I believe the name of the plane itself, 'Spirit of St.
Louis', was meant to convey a certain meaning to the people of France. I
hope it has.
"There was a good deal of consideration of the type of plane to be used
in the flight, but the single-motored was considered the best, and the
reason for not carrying an observer was that we could carry more
gasoline without one. It was impossible to miss the coastline of Europe,
but we might have missed the coast of France by a few hundred miles if
we had not carried enough fuel.
PRAISES HIS MOTOR
"The order for the plane was placed in San Diego. The motor of this
plane is, I consider, one of the best types made in America. The record
of the Wright motors is greater than that of any other type.
"After visiting San Diego, I awaited favorable weather conditions in the
United States to make the flight to New York. It was during that time
the immortal Frenchmen, Nungesser and Coli, left France, and as I have
said before, on a much greater flight from France to America, because
they were knowingly going into greater difficulties on account of wind
and weather than from America to France.
"Unfortunately, they probably met on the western coast with as bad
weather conditions as ever existed.
ALL IN DAY'S WORK
"During four days I was tied up in San Diego awaiting clearer weather to
go to New York. Finally we left San Diego one evening, flying over the
mountains during the night, and arrived in St. Louis. Then from St.
Louis we went to New York. In New York we were again delayed by weather
conditions and it was necessary to check up, but nothing beyond
inspection was done to either the motor or the plane.
"The machine had already done 6,200 miles--over 61 hours. I think this
demonstrates the reliability of the commercial motor of today and
demonstrates also the reliability of planes of modern construction.
"We finally decided to leave New York, upon receiving fairly good
weather reports, and after working on the plane and making ready for the
flight, we left New York at 7:52 in the morning (Friday, May 20).
(Lindbergh habitually refers to himself and his plane as "we.")
"Weather conditions were satisfactory over Newfoundland, but after
leaving the coast it was necessary to fly over 10,000 feet because of
PLOWED THROUGH FOG
"Then at night we flew over 6,000 to 10,000 feet, but in the daytime we
plowed through the fog. We finally picked up a course definitely about
three miles north of the point on the west coast of Ireland which we had
hoped to reach.
"I want to say that the fact that we came within three miles of that
point was an accident. Had it been 25 miles, it might have been
"During the entire trip, I saw no ship at any time. The first trace of a
human being was a small fishing boat, probably 50 miles from Ireland.
Several hours after leaving Newfoundland I saw the lights of one boat.
There were large ice fields.
"My time is very short now and I believe I will be unable to tell you
more of my flight at present. I hope I haven`t taken up too much of your
time as it is."
CHAMBERLIN'S FLIGHT TO GERMANY
Establishing a non-stop distance record of 3,923 miles from Roosevelt
Field, New York, to Eisleben, Germany.
BY JESSIE E. HORSFALL
(By permission of the _Aero Digest_, N. Y.)
AFTER several reported leave-takings from Roosevelt Field, Long Island,
New York, the Bellanca monoplane Columbia, piloted by Clarence D.
Chamberlin actually made its aerial exit on June 4th, and before it
again touched terra firma had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and established
a new record for sustained flight--3,923 miles.
Chamberlin had as his passenger Charles A. Levine, owner of the plane,
who sprang a surprise by climbing into the glass-enclosed cabin at the
last minute. Their destination in Europe was not announced, but
Chamberlin said that he would fly until every drop of gasoline on board
Police arrangements were less efficient than when Lindbergh took off and
it was difficult for Chamberlin to obtain a clear space to accomplish
his take-off. At his request, two motorcycle policemen started across
the field, chasing the crowd before them. His motor well warmed, the
Bellanca pilot started immediately in the wake of the officers, but he
had gone only about a thousand feet when one of the officers got in his
path and he was forced to bring the _Columbia_ to an abrupt stop. However,
he skillfully turned the plane about and taxied back to the starting
point at the western end of the runway.
After giving the policemen a little more time to clear the way,
Chamberlin again opened the throttle of his motor and the plane moved
forward, actually leaving the ground within the first thousand feet.
Chamberlin kept the ship on the runway until it began plunging up and
down like a rocking horse.
Then the ship began to rise and the take-off was officially clocked at
6:05:27 o'clock, Eastern daylight saving time, which was two hours
earlier than Lindbergh's take-off. Chamberlin got into the air in a
thousand feet less than his predecessor and the _Columbia_ carried a load
350 pounds (total weight, 5,500 pounds) heavier than that of the Spirit
of St. Louis.
Weather conditions for the flight were ideal at the start of the flight.
Before they reached the Nova Scotia coast they began to buck head winds
and when they got there they were miles off their course and two a half
hours behind schedule in covering the first 600 miles. Soon after
passing Halifax, however, a sixteen-knot wind got behind the Columbia
and increased her speed to nearly a hundred miles an hour. At Yarmouth
she was flying low and could readily be seen by watchers on the ground.
Visability was so good that Chamberlin could see 50 to 100 miles.
Chamberlin's "running card," Eastern daylight saving time, was as
follows, according to reports from various points along his route:
6:05 a.m.--The plane takes off.
8:00 a.m.--Sighted at North Westport, Massachusetts.
8:25 a.m.--Reported over the town of Long Pond, Massachusetts.
12:06 p.m.--Passed over Yarmouth, N. S.
1:10 p.m.--Passed over La Have Harbor, N. S.
1:30 p.m.--Approached Chedabucto Head, N. S.
1:55 p.m.--Passed over Shag Lodge Lighthouse.
3:00 p.m.--Passed over Wedge Island, N. S.
No fog was encountered off the Grand Banks, but after leaving the North
American coast at Cape Race, the _Columbia_ ran into storms, fog and
clouds but had no great difficulty in continuing on its way. At 11:30
a. m., June 5th the Bellanca monoplane met the _Mauretania_, 360 miles
west of the Scilly Islands, and gave its passengers the thrill of a
lifetime as it circled low over the ship. Chamberlin calmly surveyed the
ship as he made a complete circuit of it, and then headed eastward at
terrific speed. Within three minutes the plane was out of sight.
The _Mauretania_ passed the _Memphis_, upon which Colonel Lindbergh
was returning home, and radioed the battleship the news that the
Columbia was tearing off another world's record.
Chamberlin flew a modification of the Great Circle route and first
sighted land in England, whereas Lindbergh flew very near the Great
Circle, and sighted Ireland first.
Late Sunday afternoon they passed over Land's End and Plymouth, England,
en route to Germany.
At 11 p. m., Eastern daylight saving time, it was reported that the
plane had passed over the airdrome at Dortmund, Germany, and that
Chamberlin had dropped low and called out: "To Berlin! To Berlin!" The
aviation police signalled the direction of the Teutonic capital, 260
miles away, and the plane rose again and pointed for its destination.
The ship's gasoline supply was rapidly becoming depleted so that at
05:35 hours, Mid-European time (12:35 a. m., Eastern daylight saving
time) a forced landing, due to exhaustion of the gasoline supply, was
made near Eisleben, about 110 miles southwest of Berlin and 3,923 miles
from Roosevelt Field. Their elapsed non-stop flying time was 42 1/2
hours. The motor was functioning perfectly and, after refueling, the
plane again took to the air in an attempt to reach Berlin. Becoming
confused in the darkness Chamberlin made another landing, this time at
Klinge, a village near Kottbus, Germany, 70 miles southeast of Berlin.
Thus, he actually traveled further than if he had gone to Berlin.
The ground was marshy and resulted in the propeller striking the ground
and one of the blades was broken off, so that the fliers were compelled
to delay their journey until a new propeller could be secured.
The _Columbia_ was located by one of the Lufthansa planes from the
Tempelhofer Field, at Berlin, just as it was landing in the bog, where
it dug its nose in the soft earth.
Police established a guard around the plane and the tired, but
uninjured, fliers were taken to a modest hotel for food and rest. The
Mayor of Kottbus welcomed the airmen officially and invited them to be
the guests of the city.
The fliers reported that their worst air troubles began when they
reached the Irish Sea and that they had to go higher and higher to avoid
storms. Over Belgium and Holland much fog was encountered and at one
time it looked as if they would have to land regardless of conditions
The populace of Kottbus massed itself in front of the hotel where
Chamberlin and Levine stopped, and cheered vociferously from time to
time for a sight of them. Intermittent showers seemed to have no
dampening effect on the spirit of the crowd.
On the day after their arrival, the fliers were made honorary citizens
of Kottbus at a special ceremony in the town hall.
As soon as word of their mishap reached Berlin, the civilian Lufthansa
organization offered to place its facilities at the disposal of the
Americans with transportation to the Templehofer airdrome by means of a
large plane dispatched for the purpose to Kottbus. Chamberlin, however,
felt that if it were at all possible, the trip should be completed in
A propeller was at once shipped by air from Berlin and, in addition, two
wheels, larger than those originally placed on the Bellanca, were
supplied so that the take-off from the marshy soil would be facilitated.
Mechanicians were sent to the scene to make such adjustments as were
required and the _Columbia_ was able to start once again for Berlin on
June 7, the day after they came down at Kottbus.
When they arrived at the German capital they were warmly greeted by the
President of Germany, Field Marshall von Hindenburg, who received them
at the executive mansion. After congratulating the Americans upon their
record-breaking feat, President von Hindenburg presented each of his
visitors with a framed, autographed portrait of himself. He expressed
the hope that the flight would aid in bringing the American and German
peoples into closer communication. He also sent a message to President
Chamberlin and Levine were accompanied to the Presidential residence by
the American Ambassador, Dr. Jacob Gould Schurman. Outside, in the
Wilhelmstrasse, a tremendous crowd gave a rousing welcome to the
Chamberlin was offered $100,000 to fly back to the United States, but it
seems highly improbable that he would elect to make the attempt.
Throughout Berlin the Stars and Stripes were conspicuously displayed,
often in company with the German national colors and the Prussian state
flag. Numerous dinners and luncheons were scheduled for the aviators and
invitations to visit Austria, Italy and other countries poured in.
President Coolidge sent the following message to the men in care of the
American Embassy at Berlin: "Congratulations upon your wonderful feat in
setting a non-stop record in conquest of the air. Our country rejoices
with me in your safety making first sustained flight from America to
Germany with our greetings to its people."
Following a week of social activities, the aviators left Berlin by
train, on June 13th for Baden Baden, the _Columbia_ being in the hands
of the mechanics at Tempelhofer Field. At Baden Baden, the flyers were
the guests of the Mayor and of Count von Bernstorff, who will be
remembered as the German ambassador at Washington during the early days
of the Great War. Crowds of people acclaimed them.
In the Lufthansa plane, they flew to Friedrichshafen where they visited
the Zeppelin works and the plant of the Dornier airplane company.
From Friedrichshafen they went to Stuttgart by plane and were given a
formal luncheon. Over one hundred thousand people lined the streets and
many pelted the fliers with flowers. At Frankfort, in the evening, they
were the guests of the city at an elaborate dinner in the Town Hall.
After resting there overnight they went by air to Hanover and thence to
Bremen and Bremerhaven. Leaving Bremen, they flew to Hamburg, where they
were welcomed by a Senate delegation, and from there to Magdeburg and
Hopping from Berlin on June 19th in the repaired Bellanca, Chamberlin
and Levine reached Munich that afternoon. They were received by the Lord
Mayor, representatives of the Bavarian Ministry, the Aero Club and the
American Consul. The City of Munich presented the fliers with the
Bavarian colors attached to an American flag and the golden pin of the
German touring club. An official honor decoration was also given to
They arrived in Vienna at 7:25 in the evening during a heavy rain. High
dignitaries of the Austrian Government, city officials and the entire
general staff of the Army awaited the aviators in a reserved enclosure
at Aspern Field. Outside, thousands of men and women roared a welcome.
Both men were presented with diamond-studded medals by the Aero Club of
Austria, and on the following day President Hainisch conferred upon
Chamberlin the Austrian Order of Merit in recognition of his great
non-stop flight. They are the first Americans to receive the honor for
other than distinctly benevolent activities. It is the only decoration
conferred by the Austrian Republic on foreigners.
Thousands of people made the seven-mile journey to the aerodrome at
Aspern last Sunday and from 15,000 to 20,000 of them stood from four to
five hours in a steady rain waiting for the _Columbia_ to arrive, which
it did three hours after the scheduled time. A crowd of several thousand
took up a stand in front of their hotel when the fliers entered it after
their arrival, and on Thursday afternoon, when Chamberlin and Levine
left, it had only dwindled to hundreds. Whenever they went forth they
were followed by cheering Viennese.
On June 22nd the transatlantic fliers arrived at Budapest, then returned
to Vienna and flew from there, through wind and rain, to Prague,
Czechoslovakia, on June 23rd, where they were feted by President Masaryk
at Hardschin, Prague's ancient seat of government. The President of the
Aero Club, the Mayor and the Secretary of the American Legation were
among those who welcomed them. The news of their arrival spread rapidly
and soon the streets were filled with the cheering Czechs. The American
Minister, Lewis Einstein, gave the airmen a hearty greeting.
Hopping off from Prague the transatlantic fliers landed at Pilsen. After
being guests of honor at a luncheon they visited the famous brewery
where Pilsener beer is made. They continued their flight that afternoon
On June 27th the _Columbia_ landed at Warsaw and immediately was
surrounded by a cheering throng. The fliers were entertained by the
Polish-American Association. Leaving Warsaw on June 28th, they flew to
Zurich. They visited Berne, Paris and London before they completed their
air tour of Europe's leading cities.
BYRD'S FLIGHT OVER THE NORTH POLE
BY FLOYD BENNETT
(By permission of the _Aero Digest_, N. Y.)
_This is the First Exclusive Story by the Pilot of the Josephine Ford on
the North Pole Flight._
OUR expedition left New York April 5th, with a crew of 52 men aboard the
_S. S. Chantier_, the 3500-ton steamer supplied to us by the U. S.
Shipping Board. We carried two airplanes, a small Curtiss Oriole, to be
used for finding a suitable landing field for our big three-motor Fokker
monoplane, the _Josephine Ford_, which was to carry Commander Byrd and
me from Spitzbergen to the North Pole. Our 1500 tons of supplies and
equipment was sufficient for a cruise of 10,000 miles.
On the morning of April twenty-ninth we sighted Spitzbergen and at 4:30
that afternoon entered King's Bay where we were met by Lieutenant Ulling
of the Norwegian gunboat _Heimdal_. He piloted the _Chantier_ to a berth
alongside his ship. We had hoped to find the bay solidly frozen over so
that we could tie up the _Chantier_ alongside the ice barrier and land
the _Josephine Ford_ with our supplies and make our attempt from the
ice as Amundsen had done last year. But the few small floes were barely
large enough to support the weight of a man. The season was the most
advanced in years. We had to devise other plans immediately. To have
waited for a place alongside the dock would have delayed us too long, as
the _Heimdal_ would be coaling there for the next four or five days.
A party, composed of Commander Byrd, "Doc" Kinkaid, Doctor O'Brien,
Peterson, Touchette and I went ashore in search of a landing field and
base. A large space between the village of King's Bay and the hangar
built for the Amundsen-Ellsworth-Noble airship _Norge_, about a mile
wide and a mile and one-half long, would give us a runway for the
takeoff about 600 yards long; it was down grade 5 per cent and as good a
landing place as we could hope for. One drawback was that it was a
one-way field, and we could not take advantage of the wind in getting
off and landing. But there was no other place in the vicinity. Our next
problem was to get our equipment ashore. The snow was coming down fast
and the bay was freezing over. It was miserable weather. We worked all
night in cold slush and sleet that at times obscured everything more
than fifteen feet distant. By morning however, the first load, the
_Oriole_, had been taken ashore through gathering ice floes, and
greeted the inhabitants when they awoke and came to watch us with
curiosity which often developed amusement for us all.
We had chopped a runway through the edge of the ice, cutting it down to
the level of the pontoon we constructed so we could haul the planes up
to the beach, and on these landed the small plane. The work had nearly
exhausted the men, so we returned to the ship to sleep.
On the afternoon of the 30th we hoisted the fuselage of the _Josephine
Ford_ out of the hold and lashed it to a raft alongside the ship. A
strong wind was blowing and the bay was filled with drifting ice, so we
did not then attempt to place the large wing on the fuselage. We were
compelled to keep men on the raft to push away floating ice cakes which
would have broken the raft. The following morning, May 1st, was
perfectly calm, but the bay was packed with drift ice. Conditions were
perfect for hoisting out the big wing and placing and securing it on the
fuselage. In about an hour we reached the beach.
The first big job of getting the plane on shore was done. Our two wing
motors, gas and other supplies remained to be ferried over, but our
success in surmounting obstacles in getting the plane ashore made us
regard this as a small job. Two more trips with our ferry and we were
Our base camp on the shore was then established. Our plane motors were
installed and we had the plane ready for the motor test on May 3rd. We
were working under difficult conditions. The temperature was 7 degrees
(F) below zero and several of the men had frost-bitten hands and feet.
We had worked almost continuously for three days and greatly needed
sleep before attempting our test flight. It was difficult for us to
sleep with the constant daylight--one could work until nearly exhausted
and still not feel the need of sleep. It is an odd sensation to wake at
midnight and find the sun shining as at noon.
On May 4th we were ready for the first engine test. The difficulty of
starting our three Wright "Whirlwind" air-cooled engines in the extreme
cold had been anticipated before leaving New York. Therefore, for each
motor we made a hood or cover of fireproof canvas which fitted snugly
around the motor with a funnel-like extension below the motor. Three
gasoline stoves with vertical blow torch burners were placed so the heat
would be carried through the canvas ducts to the hoods. The heated air
thus circulating around the engines warmed them up in a few minutes. The
oil tanks were filled with warm oil. After these preparations the motors
started as easily as in a temperate climate,--a tribute to our Flight
Engineer, Lt. Noville.
We were next ready to try the skis. To my knowledge no plane of this
size has ever been started on skis, especially with a useful load of
6000 pounds. I had never flown any plane with skis, and had little
knowledge as to how the plane would act. A test flight of at least two
hours was decided on before the final start, to give us a chance to see
how our motors would function under these severe conditions.
Finally all was ready. One motor was opened. Nothing happened! Two
motors were opened and still nothing happened. With the third motor wide
open our plane did not move an inch! After considerable effort we
finally got the plane moving, taxied away up the hill, and turned around
for the trial take-off. Again all motors would not start the plane
moving and the crew gathered around to give a lift for a start.
Touchette, who was standing near, found a break in the main fitting
which secures the landing gear to the fuselage age. The ship was strong
enough for use with wheels, for which it was designed, but when equipped
with skis and either of the wing motors used separately there is a
terrific strain on the landing gear, because the skis do not turn on the
snow as easily as wheels on the ground. It requires a larger space to
turn a plane when equipped with skis. We found that a crew of men could
not lift the tail of the plane and turn it, as is usual in turning a
ship with wheels. It was by attempting this that we broke the first set
of skis and landing fittings. We had come prepared for trouble and had
an extra landing gear and two extra sets of skis. But it means time and
labor to change them on a plane weighing 4000 pounds and in four feet of
light snow. It was necessary to dig down through the snow in four places
and build a foundation of gasoline drums upon which we could place jacks
and raise the plane clear of the landing gear. This was a delicate
operation as an increase of wind might have forced the plane off the
jacks and the expedition would have reached its end. No plane, no
After fifteen hours of hard work we were again ready to attempt the test
flight. Lieutenant Parker and I were at the controls of the big plane
and Flight Engineer Noville and Mechanician Peterson in the cabin. It
was necessary to make a slight turn to the right as we got under way as
we had cleared only a narrow runway and there was a snow bank on the
left. The plane did not move until all three motors were opened. Then
the left ski stuck slightly and the plane headed to the left instead of
to the right, which caused the left ski to catch and break in a snow
bank just as we had nearly cleared it. The plane whirled around and, as
the ski broke, plunged her nose into the snow. This experience increased
our respect for the snow. We were learning.
One ski was ruined, one landing gear strut broken, and other members of
the landing gear were badly bent. The metal propeller of the center
motor was out of line and had to be replaced. We were getting quite
experienced in jacking up the plane in the snow, but this meant another
day's work and delay which was serious. Every day lessened our chances
should we have to walk back over the polar sea. The sooner we could get
away the less fog we would encounter upon our flight, and naturally we
hoped to be the first to reach the pole by air.
On May 5th we were ready for another attempt to get off on our test
flight. Everything was set, the motors turning up and it seemed as
though every possible precaution was taken. The _Norge_ was due the
next day and as we were quite close to the entrance of their hangar it
would be necessary to move our plane before they could land. Lieutenant
Parker and I were in the pilot's cockpit and Lieutenant Noville and
Peterson in the cabin. With motors wide open we gained speed as we
glided down grade. It looked as though we would make it. Off at last!
What a glorious sensation to be in the air after all that work. I wished
then that the ship was loaded and headed for the North Pole.
At the end of an hour everything was fine and the motors going great.
The temperature and pressures remained constant and everything looked
favorable. Suddenly after about an hour and thirty minutes in the air
there was an alarming vibration throughout the plane accompanied by a
dull hum. The motors were throttled preparatory to landing when it
occurred to me what the trouble might be. The plane was equipped with
radio and the small electric generator was mounted on the outside of the
fuselage just off the cockpit. I looked out just in time to see the
generator torn from its mounting. A portion of it went overboard, the
balance hanging on about four feet of wire, Noville and Peterson had
seen the generator and by opening a window in the cabin, reached down
and pulled it in. We continued our flight for a period of two hours and
thirty minutes with no further trouble.
Our first landing on skis was made, which we found not at all difficult,
and the plane turned around by hand and headed down grade, where it
would start on its history-making flight.
Final examination of plane and motor showed me we had a leaking oil tank
on the starboard motor. This we removed and repaired, and a new radio
generator was installed. All that remained for us to do was to load the
plane with the fuel and equipment and give the motors a final looking
over. Our equipment consisted of about three hundred pounds of food,
mostly pemmican; two twelve-pound portable rubber boats with paddles; a
tent built especially for us; two pairs of snow shoes; a sledge built
for us in Spitzbergen; a thirty-caliber Remington rifle and a
twelve-gauge shot gun; 300 rounds of rifle ammunition and 200 rounds of
shotgun ammunition; an extra parka; two pairs of winter mukluks and two
pairs for summer; an extra pair of reindeer trousers; and a total of 615
gallons of gasoline and 40 gallons of oil (sufficient for a flight of at
least twenty hours), 410 gallons of this gasoline was in our tanks and
200 in 5-gallon cans to be emptied through a chamois into the main tanks
The seventh of May was spent in getting the gear stored in the plane.
While this was being done, Peterson and Kinkaid were carefully
inspecting the motors. On May 5th, about 12:30 G. M. T. we were ready
for the great adventure. The motors were warmed up and "good byes" were
said. I would have preferred to omit the "good byes" as I was not so
sure we would get off. The plane was loaded to capacity; our total
useful load being 6000 pounds, 500 pounds more than we had taken off
with on our test flight at Mitchel Field, New York.
Everything was set to go. Motors opened wide, the plane started slowly
down the long runway. We moved along 100 yards before our motors were
full out but still I thought we could get off. So we continued down the
long runway, our speed gradually increasing until we reached the end of
the runway where we had packed the snow. I knew that if we could not
clear the snow here there would be no use continuing further, for as
soon as we came in contact with the soft snow we would lose speed. At
the end of the runway I made a final attempt to get the heavily-laden
plane off the snow. It was unsuccessful as we had only about thirty-five
miles air speed and it required around forty-five miles to ride with
this load. I throttled the motors so as to stop before we reached the
open waters of King's Bay, one hundred yards away; when the motors were
throttled the plane stopped almost immediately.
We had failed in our first attempt. After all our work and worry we had
failed to get off. To say that I was disappointed is putting it lightly.
Then I thought of the crew who had worked almost continuously for the
past forty-eight hours. They must have sleep and rest before any more
work could be done. Every hour was vital to us as the weather was now
perfect for our start. Buried as it was in the soft snow it seemed
impossible to move the plane with its extremely heavy load without
wrecking the landing gear. It was necessary to remove most of the 6,000
pounds of weight and carry it back to the top of the grade for another
trial. The crew was tired out and needed sleep and it looked as though
it would be some time before we could make another trial. If we could
get the plane back to its starting place immediately we could make
another attempt at once. Therefore we took out about 1,000 pounds of the
load and within half an hour we had the big _Josephine Ford_ back to
the top of the hill for another start. With the plane back in this
position the spirit of the crew rose. They felt there was still a
chance. We decided to take out everything that we could possibly spare
without greatly decreasing our cruising radius. By taking out various
articles we reduced the weight about 450 pounds.
The runway was again smoothed out and the first hundred feet sprinkled
with water to form ice which would better support the weight of the
plane. The tail of the plane was secured so that the plane would not
move until all three motors were developing full power. A line was
passed around the tail skid and fixed to the ground, to be cut when our
engines reached their full power. The gas and supplies were restored to
the plane and all was in readiness.
The question arose as to whether we should start immediately or get some
rest before going on the flight. Commander Byrd and I thought that we
should go immediately but Captain Brennan of the _Chantier_ insisted
that we should get some rest first. We agreed to go to the ship and
sleep for four hours. As we started down the runway towards the
_Chantier_ the Commander said, "Bennett, we ought to go while the
weather is good." I answered, "Then let's go now."
We turned and walked back to the plane and gave instructions to have the
motors warmed up and made ready. As this would take about two hours, I
thought I might get a little sleep while this was being done, so put on
my flying suit of reindeer and laid down on the snow to rest. But there
was too much on my mind for sleep. I rested for about an hour.
At 12:50 A. M. (G. M. T.) on May 9th we were again in the plane and
ready for another start, twelve hours after our first attempt. We had no
"good byes" or handshaking this time. We took our places in the plane
and when all motors were full out the signal was given to cut the line
holding the tail skid. The plane glided smoothly down the long runway,
rapidly increasing its speed. It was apparent immediately that this time
we would get off. When a little more than half way down the runway we
cleared the snow and were actually in the air. What a glorious feeling!
After four months of preparation with its many disappointments and
uncertainties we were actually started on our flight to the pole.
It was a beautiful morning with the sun comparatively low on the
horizon. Our first sixty miles took us along the coast of Spitzbergen
and over open water. After this our course was directly north out into
the great unknown. We expected to find open water for the first hundred
miles off the coast of Spitzbergen but the polar ice pack extended
nearly to Danes Island. The edge of the pack was made of large fields of
floating ice extending back a few miles before the solid pack was
reached. We expected to find a belt of slush ice along the edge of the
pack. We were not disappointed in not finding this slush ice for in case
of motor failure we would have a better chance to land on the large
fields of floating ice than in the small broken slush ice.
I thought we would find the polar sea a mass of broken ice with no
chance to land without wrecking our ship. I was surprised at the
condition of the ice; it did not appear nearly as rough as I had
expected. Running in every direction there were great pressure ridges,
from ten to twenty feet high, formed by cakes of ice of all sizes. It
was a great network of pressure ridges, but between some of these ridges
were fields of comparatively smooth ice. All of this great mass of ice
was covered with snow and in many of the fields between the pressure
ridges could plainly be seen large blocks of ice projecting out of the
snow. Some of the fields which I observed closely seemed smooth and I
believe that a plane could land with some chance of rising again. Of
course there would be great risk.
I noted the various sizes and shapes of the sections between the
pressure ridges. We saw three open leads of water resembling long
winding rivers extending through the ice. Two of these were very narrow,
perhaps thirty or forty feet in width. The third was somewhat larger,
large enough, I believe, to land a large seaplane in. There seemed to be
no great change in the condition of the ice throughout the entire
flight. There was an occasional lead that had just recently frozen over,
presenting a blue line across the glaring white surface.
Everything went along smoothly for the first six hours, Commander Byrd
continually checking our course with his sun compass, taking the drift
of the plane, using his sextant to determine our position and taking
photographs, both still and motion pictures. He relieved me at the wheel
about twenty minutes out of every hour so that I might check up the gas
consumption and pour more gas into the tanks from the 40 five-gallon
cans. We did not have much time to let our thoughts wander and perhaps
it was just as well.
After about seven and one-half hours Commander Byrd reported an oil leak
in the starboard motor. From the cabin he had a good view of the wing
motors and could see the oil leaking out and covering the cowling and
tail section. He came forward and took the controls and I went back into
the cabin to see if I could determine the seriousness of the leak. It
looked bad and I did not know how long the oil would last. It is not
possible to get out to the motor. The oil tank was completely cowled in
and covered with asbestos and over this a covering of canvas. Therefore
there was no way to determine the position of the leak. If it should be
at the bottom of the tank all of our oil would drain out in a short time
and our motor would be useless. I returned to my seat and Commander Byrd
asked, "Is it a bad leak?" I wrote on a pad "It is a bad leak and we may
lose the motor at any time."
Then we throttled the leaking motor to determine if we could continue
with the two remaining motors should we lose this one, and we were able
to maintain our altitude of 2,000 with the two motors. I indicated to
Commander Byrd that we might land and fix the motor. We decided however
to continue the flight to the pole and if necessary to return on two
For the next hour and thirty-five minutes Commander Byrd was busy with
his sun compass, sextant, drift indicators and cameras. Suddenly he came
forward and shook hands with me. We had reached the pole!
We circled at the pole and then started on our return. The sun was now
almost directly in front of us to the left, that is, it passed across
the windshield from left to right, and I was able to use it as a check
in holding my course. After about six hours on our return course I
sighted what I thought to be land but as I was not sure I did not call
the Commander's attention to it. After another fifteen minutes I was
sure it was land and it certainly looked good. It was apparent we were
making better speed on our return than going out.
We were about a hundred miles from land when it was first sighted as it
took us about an hour to reach the coast of Spitzbergen. The remarkable
thing was that the oil pressure was still up on the starboard motor,
although half of the oil had leaked away. (Later examination on our
return showed the leak was due to a rivet coming loose half way down the
tank.) We neared the coast of Spitzbergen within one mile of the point
toward which Commander Byrd had set the course--a tribute to his skill
as a navigator.
Now we had only one hour more to reach King's Bay. I was glad of that as
I had been awfully sleepy for the past two hours. I spiraled down for a
landing and came over the field to land. As there were too many people
where I wanted to land, I had to make another circle of the field. This
time there was a place clear and we settled down safely on the snow and
taxied up to the place we left sixteen hours before. Our mission was
accomplished, and at last I could get some sleep!
COLUMBUS OF THE AIR
BY AUGUSTUS POST
(_North American Review_, by permission)
ONE night in May, 1927, a tall, good-looking American boy stands in line
unnoticed before a New York moving picture house, like anyone else; a
few hours later he drops from the sky in Paris, and the theatre before
which he stood is crowded to the roof to see the world's hero upon the
screen. No man since men began to make history has risen so swiftly to
world wide fame as this young American, Colonel Charles Augustus
Lindbergh. The man, the deed and the hour combined to make this the
event most quickly and widely known to the greatest multitude of
rejoicing human beings. He had just come from San Diego, California,
alone, in twenty-one hours, the fastest air time across the Continent,
and a record that would have put him on the front page of the newspapers
in quieter times than these. But this was only tuning up for the flight
that he was about to make; crossing the Atlantic on a sandwich and a
half and a few swallows of water; landing at night, on unknown ground,
in a machine with not a spot of oil on it nor a sign of having come from
across the globe. It seems to be the peculiar attribute of Lindbergh to
do the formidable, the fantastic and the incredible, in the simplest and
most everyday fashion, and to keep this everyday simplicity through the
fire of the most intense and exhausting publicity that has ever been
turned upon a single individual.
It was eight years ago, while Lindbergh was still a school-boy, that
Alcock and Brown made the first air crossing of the Atlantic, linking
America with England. This fired Raymond Orteig, of New York City, a
passionately patriotic Frenchman, with the determination to do something
not only to advance aviation but to bring France into these new
world-relations. I was at that time secretary of the Aero Club of
America, and it was to me that he telephoned to ask my assistance in
It was clear that the best way would be to link Paris with New York by
air. This would require a machine to do double what had ever been done
before, new instruments, and scientific navigation in addition to
piloting. Naturally Mr. Orteig thought the French would be the first to
do it, and so did I; he drew up a deed of gift for twenty-five thousand
dollars, and I drew up the rules to win this prize that was a challenge
to aviation. Five years passed, however, without a start from either
side. The general public did not take it seriously--indeed, up to the
very day of Lindbergh's starting, Mr. Orteig was berated in letters to
the press, for instigating men to go to their deaths for a deed not only
impractical but impossible of accomplishment.
Mr. Orteig, however, extended the time, when an entry came from the
foremost French flyer, Rene Fonck, and an attempt was made. In the
following year, 1927, several entries were made from this side, and from
France two of the most intrepid flyers of the world, Nungesser and Coli,
flew out into the unknown and disappeared. Finally, on May 20, in the
mist before morning, Lindbergh rose alone from Roosevelt Field, Mineola,
Long Island; was sighted along our coast to the tip of Newfoundland;
surprised a fisherman in Dingle Bay by asking from the clouds, "Is this
the road to Ireland?" and before the day ended, was in Paris.
The keynote then struck was soon to swell into a world symphony of
homage; as he passed from France, to Belgium, to England, kings and
commoners joined the acclaim and expressed, each in his own way, the
long-waiting joy of humanity at the coming of the first citizen of the
world, the first human being truly entitled to give his address as "The
Earth," the first Ambassador-at-Large to Creation. Brought home in an
American warship, he received the official welcome of his Nation at the
hands of the President at Washington, was greeted in New York with a
demonstration to which that of Armistice Day alone might be compared,
and set sail for home in the plane that he had always recognized as part
of himself and partaker of his glory.
The reader of this survey of events, reviewing the great day of Le
Bourget from the perspective of even a comparatively brief interval, may
be permitted to ask, why all the excitement? Just what is the
significance of Charles Lindbergh's achievement, that a world no longer
looking on the aeroplane as a marvel, a world that had already acclaimed
the crossing of the Atlantic, the circumnavigation of the globe by air,
and the traversing of the North Pole by aeroplane and dirigible, should
thrill to this exploit as if life were in some way beginning over again?
The answer is that the world is right. Aviation is beginning over again.
An epoch in air history was closed by the flight of Lindbergh, and with
it an epoch begins.
Before the hero of the New York to Paris flight had regained New York on
the _Memphis_, another American youth had crossed the Atlantic, this
time with a passenger; Clarence Chamberlin with Charles Levine. Steering
for Berlin, their gasoline supply had lasted to within a comparatively
few miles of their destination, when they were forced down. Chamberlin
is another type of American airman in time of peace; he was a "gypsy
flyer," the picturesque phrase for a picaresque way of life. The gypsy
flyer owns his plane and picks up a living by it however and wherever he
can; taking up passengers, buying and selling second-hand machines,
taking photographs, and especially stunt-flying at fairs or other open
air assemblies. The gypsy flyer has been quite naturally looked down
upon by the profession as a sort of aerial acrobat and camp follower,
but he furnishes some of the most interesting and significant types of
young Americans. The country is, if not full of them, at least well
sprinkled with bronzed and competent youths, who may drop from the
clouds almost anywhere over the countryside and earn a living by their
skill, their courage and their often brilliant resourcefulness.
While all this was going on, a scientific expedition, headed by
Commander Richard E. Byrd, was waiting suitable weather conditions for
an Atlantic flight in the giant monoplane America. The crew consisted of
Bert Acosta, chief pilot; Lieutenant George O. Noville, radio operator;
and Bernt Balchen, reserve pilot. They were not competing for the Orteig
Prize, but intended to chart the weather at various altitudes and
generally to accumulate scientific data in regard to storms and air
currents that would be of value to aircraft plying between America and
Europe. Commander Byrd is yet another type of American airman; engineer,
naval officer, scientist and explorer, intrepid and devoted. His flights
over the Pole and Arctic Regions were made in the interests of
exploration, and he is at this writing arranging an expedition to the
South Pole. He not only sustains the tradition of the American navy, but
represents a family that has been prominent in the councils of the
American Nation since the time of Washington.
After waiting, like a good sportsman, for the return of Lindbergh to
this country, the _America_ took off from the very field from which the
other two flights started, kept in touch with shore stations all the way
by wireless,--which neither of the other planes did,--but was
exceptionally unfortunate in running into dense fog which obscured the
ocean for the greater part of the course. When the voyagers reached the
coast of France the weather was so thick they were unable to determine
their position, and their compass went out of commission for some
unaccountable reason; but in spite of these disheartening difficulties
they were able to return to the seacoast, and by the best of airmanship
made a fortunate landing at Ver-sur-Mer, in the ocean, coming to shore
in their collapsible life-raft.
Brief as the time has been since 1903 when the Wright Brothers rose from
the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk and opened the era of aviation, it is
already divided into clearly defined periods, with each of which
everything may be said to have started all over again. A man still in
middle age might have lived through them all; it has been my good
fortune to be so placed that I could watch all these developments at
close hand. The first division was the period of the Inventors and
Builders, such as the Wrights and Curtiss in America, the Voisin
Brothers and Bleriot in France; it would be hard to separate builders
from inventors, for though the arch-inventors approached the subject by
way of laboratory experiments in aerodynamics, and others of their type
sought results by elaborate calculation, there were yet others who made
valuable contributions to the changing machine by empirical methods,
approaching the subject by trying one thing and then another, working
"by guess and by gosh," as the farmer built his bridge, and acting as
developers in the building process.
Immediately after this came the era of the Demonstrators, the age of
"aerial jockeys." At first these were the inventors and builders
themselves--Wilbur Wright at Le Mans, France; Orville Wright at Fort
Meyer, and Glenn Curtiss elsewhere in the United States. But soon this
duty of demonstration fell to a generation of pupils, who did not add a
nut or a bolt to the construction of the machine, who flew what was
given them, but who by their intrepid use of what they had, constantly
set the constructors new tasks, and constantly required of them new
machines that would respond to their abilities and fulfill their
It was this generation that by concentrating on flying proved
possibilities undreamed of by the public, and only remotely hoped for by
the builder. Pegaud's feat in looping-the-loop was reviled by the
unthinking as foolhardiness, serving no good purpose; a reproach that
has never been withheld from any stage of development of air flight, and
from which even Lindbergh himself has not been free. But by Pegaud the
aeroplane builder was challenged to provide for all future flyers a
machine that would withstand the strain of this new manoeuvre, to the
general improvement of the plane and to the vast enlargement of the
possibilities of flight, especially in warfare. During this period these
expert demonstrators developed the plane by races and contests in
reliability and speed, and carried it to undreamed of altitudes. They
were enlarging the pattern: already by the close of this era, the
Atlantic Flight was on the horizon as the greatest possibility of all in
the way of demonstration.
But this period was to come to a violent end. The World War intervened.
Only to compare the little, light machine that went into the war with
the deadly efficiency of the engines that emerged from it, is to see for
one's self that this period brought about developments in aviation
comparable only to those in surgery and in chemistry. The vital
necessity that made surgeons and chemists take chances that a century of
peace would not justify, sent men into the clouds to perform the
impossible and make it the commonplace of a flyer's day. This period
added armament to the plane and made the gun its raison d'etre, with
flying only a means to this end instead of an occupation for all the
powers and energies of hand and brain, as heretofore. It not only
developed a type of flyer who could run his machine almost
automatically, reserving his darting intelligence for the exigencies of
conflict, but it laid upon the builder the necessity of providing him
with a plane whose mechanism would respond at once to the most sensitive
control. When the war stopped, the Ace had been evolved, a creature
whose personality extended to the tips of its wings and in whom mind and
motor were one.
Opportunity for the Ace stopped with the war, and with the coming of the
fourth period, Commercial Aviation, the machine began to take first
place in the public mind--the machine and the organization that made its
operation possible on a large scale. Air lines opened in every direction
in Europe, and became in a short time a valued method of transportation,
not only in respect to speed, but for the even more important
qualification of safety. The Channel as a barrier had crumbled under
Bleriot and disappeared during the war; it was now to be crossed daily
by steady airgoing craft used by tourists no more freely than by staid
business men desiring conservative and speedy methods of transportation
for themselves and for fragile merchandise. From every airport of Europe
lines crossed and recrossed the map. The globe was circled, Australia
linked to the mother-country, the Sahara opened and Darkest Africa
illuminated; the Atlantic, North and South, was crossed no less than
fifteen times by airship and aeroplane; the islands of the Pacific,
Hawaii and the Aleutian Islands were joined to the mainland, the flights
depending in each instance not only upon the skill of the pilots in
flying and navigating, but upon long preparation, organization and team
work of their supporters, in some instances of supporting Governments.
But although our Government took some part in this procession, the peak
of our activity in this period was the air mail, a fine example of
organized support of individual bravery and skill.
The actual achievement of Lindbergh is easily set down. In a monoplane
named for the city of his financial backers, The Spirit of St. Louis,
built for him in sixty days, he flew on May 20-21, 1927, 3,610 flying
miles, without stop or deviation from a determined course, in
thirty-three hours and twenty-nine minutes. His only new instrument of
importance was the earth-inductor compass; this he constantly watched,
and in order to fly, as he flew, on the arc of a great circle, it had to
adjust about every hundred miles. He had continually to judge the
side-drift of his machine and allow for it, and also to use his judgment
in manoeuvring around fog and storm centres. The distance he covered
constituted the world's record for non-stop flight, at the time, but
this was never emphasized in the popular mind, and I doubt if one man in
a thousand who cheered Lindbergh could have told offhand the number of
miles that he had flown in those memorable hours above the ocean.
There are some flights that make records and some that make history:
this was a history-making flight. As with all the other periods of
flying history, everything is beginning over again with it. Attention is
again directed, not only to the machine, but to the man, as in the first
days, when aviation was a matter of great individuals. Old and young
share in the thrill, for youth acclaims the young hero and to those who
lived through the pioneer days, the days of pioneering begin anew. In
1926 Commander Byrd's magnificent feat in crossing the North Pole roused
the admiration of the world, but once done it was, so far as the public
mind was concerned, done with, while Lindbergh's flight, almost
immediately followed by Chamberlin's and then by Byrd's, seems even to
the unimaginative the opening of a new era of transportation. As
important as its being done was the fact that it was done on time, and
again, it was the aspect of ambassadorship that loomed large in the
public imagination. America is a long way off from Europe, and, with the
best will in the world, professional diplomacy does not always tend to
diminish the distance. Radio--whose development has progressed step by
step with aviation, as the telegraph accompanied the railroad and the
telephone the automobile--was doing much to bring the two hemispheres
together in thought, but it needed the actual crossing at a single step
of this level-headed boy, bringing a greeting no more official than his
first words "I'm Charles Lindbergh," but with a smile that carried with
it those assurances of good will that words are more apt to obscure than
to explain. There is no doubt that Europe took his coming in this
spirit, and Lindbergh was fulfilling a sacred trust to humanity when in
his brief speech to the multitudes at Washington and to the thirty
millions of radio listeners, he spoke only of the affection for America
that he had seen and felt everywhere displayed, in France, in Belgium
and in England, and of his sense of obligation to bring back with him
the impression of this frame of mind, undimmed by time, and transmit it
to his countrymen.
People appreciate what comes within their experience. Though the public
thought the flight was great, it was even more impressed by the flawless
tact with which Lindbergh met the kings of the Old World and the crowds
of the New, and the unerring judgment that steered him past the two
storm centers of sentimentality and commercialism. He conveyed far more
by his actions than he did by his words, well chosen as they invariably
were; he brought new power and vitality to diplomacy by the addition of
the dramatic element.
His actions the public could see, but what it could only faintly
envisage was, after all, the flight itself. This, strictly speaking, not
more than a dozen men can really appreciate; these are the aviators who
have had at least a similar experience; who have made, or partly made, a
transoceanic flight. They know the fierceness of the forces that block
the road through the unknown, the icy mist that may reduce the lifting
power of the wings and in a moment change success to failure, life to
death; the swift springing storms or blinding fog that may, as they did
for Byrd, blot out land and sea for nineteen hours together, and the
immeasurable waste of waters whose very thought pulls down the mind, the
waters that hold somewhere the secret of Nungesser and Coli. But
aviators in general, given even a slight amount of imagination, can
appreciate all this indirectly, and it is from them that the praise most
valued by Lindbergh has come. It is they also who can value the exploit
of Byrd as it should be valued. With the public at large the disposition
has been to regard it as a flight that failed only in its avowed
objective; though it was beset with incidents of dramatic grandeur. The
superhuman skill and the highest science of aerial navigation on the
part of Commander Byrd, and the cool bravery and heroic courage of each
member of the crew, brought them through imminent dangers in safety to a
well earned ovation from the nations of the world as well as of all
their fellow citizens of America. Chamberlin, heading for Berlin, found
himself in a cucumber-patch in Kottbus; the fact that this was some
miles further than Lindbergh had flown did not count with the crowd in
comparison with the fact that it was some miles short of the spot he had
expected to reach--though he had carefully refrained from making
official announcement of this expectation. Byrd, in the _America_,
carried three times the weight, chanced three times the motor
difficulties, and, with four times the human risk, completed a
tremendous scientific experiment, and revealed the possibilities of
radio communication almost as remarkable as those of the aeroplane, and
demonstrated, against almost inconceivable dangers and difficulties,
that it was by no mere lucky fluke that the others had made the flight,
and that the crossing could be made in almost any weather.
The trans-Pacific flight of Maitland and Hegenberger, which took place
with brilliant precision at almost the same time as Byrd's, was but
another proof to the public of the marvelous state of accuracy to which
the navigation of aircraft had reached; such small objects as the
Hawaiian Islands, after a flight of twenty-five hours and fifty minutes,
could be hit "plumb on the nose," although they were a distance of
twenty-four hundred miles away over water. But long distance flights are
becoming of everyday occurrence and the public no longer complains that
human life is being risked for only a brief moment of glory. The
mortality rate has always been lower for aviation than people generally
believed, for the emphasis has been not upon the man that flies but the
man that falls; now the expectation is that the pilot will win through,
just as the traveller on the railroad train believes that he will reach
Chicago on time. If there is a train wreck the papers do not at once
complain that the steam engine is an affront to Providence.
Lindbergh's perfect flight revealed the highest and noblest
characteristics of man: daring, skill, calculation and genius. It
brought into the limelight of public knowledge the vast height of
attainment and the tremendous possibilities even now at our command in
the aeroplane of today; and as a flash of lightning illumines the
landscape for a moment so that we see the mountain peaks upon the
horizon, so this brilliant deed revealed to the imagination of man a
clear vision of the future. He had faith not only in his motor but, what
is still more important, in himself, and he was upheld by the wishes,
the hopes and the prayers of the whole Nation.
Today not only the airmen but the earthmen are planning and prophesying.
In 1914 I wrote an article called _Columbus of the Air_, and I said:
"A man is now living who will be the first human being to cross the
Atlantic ocean through the air. He will cross while he is still a young
man. All at once, Europe will move two days nearer; instead of five days
away, it will be distant only thirty hours . . . It would seem out of
keeping with the general economy of weight, when even the parts are not
duplicated, that the pilot should be carried in duplicate .... As for
keeping awake and alert for the whole time of the flight, every aeronaut
knows that this is possible. I myself have kept alert for longer periods
than this several times in international balloon races. Whoever crosses
the ocean through the air for the first time will be too busy to be
". . . Imagine then, the welcome that awaits the Columbus of the air! The
cable warns of his departure, before him flies the wireless announcing
his progress. Ship after ship, waiting the great moment, catches
glimpses of the black dot in the sky; ocean steamers bearing each a
cityful of human beings, train thousands of glasses on the tiny winged
thing, advance herald of the aerial age. The ocean comes to life with
gazing humanity; above all he rides, solitary, intent. There will have
been no time to decorate for his coming; flags will run up hurriedly,
roofs in an instant turn black with people, wharves and streets white
with upturned faces, while over the heads of the multitude he rides in,
to such a shout as the ear of man has never heard. No explorer ever knew
such a welcome, no conqueror, as awaits the 'Columbus of the Air.'"
To say that within less than a decade America will be covered with
commercial air-lines is only to remind the public that America is now
far behind Europe, where time-tables for air routes are at this time as
much a part of a business man's equipment as those for land or sea.
Landing devices must be improved; this is most evident in the case of
airships. Indeed the main reason for the lagging behind of the dirigible
is that it must be pulled down to earth by a swarm of men. Imagine the
Leviathan being warped into her dock by an army of men each pulling on a
rope, and you have something like the present anachronism in the working
of the dirigible. That this will be overcome there can be no doubt, nor
that the landing devices of aeroplanes will be made safer than they are
at present. The parachute as an emergency measure with the aeroplane is
of comparatively recent date, and in its present improved form provides
something like that "sky-hook" the old-timers used to declare every
aviator needed. Platforms over city blocks and piers will make every
city a port of the air and bring to pass the famous predictions of
Kipling's _With the Night Mail_. There will be "floating islands" in
the ocean and moored ships for weather reports with _ballons sondes_
and kites for high altitude data; mail and passengers will be flown to
shore from Atlantic liners, cutting two days off the passage. New and
better instruments will come, a capacity indicator to show how high you
are above the surface of the ground will make crossing mountains less
perilous, and an instrument will measure distance traveled over the
earth's surface, and an automatic pilot keep a predetermined course as
set by an earth-inductor compass, as is done now on ocean liners by what
is known to seamen as "Metal Mike." We will have devices to dissipate
and to guide through fog, the greatest enemy of all craft, especially to
assist pilots to land; neon lights and wireless beacons and powerful
radio direction stations to transmit meteorological information and give
bearings must be generally established with observation stations in the
Polar Regions, on the ice-cap of Greenland and in the Antarctic. In the
course of these investigations and discoveries, great flights must soon
be made. No spot on the earth will be unseen by man. The Pacific will be
crossed in a single flight, the world circumnavigated in fifteen days.
Heights of 50,000 feet will be reached, and it may be possible to
utilize the vast possibilities of speed at very great altitudes. We may
see "superterranean" machines with apparatus for supplying passengers
with air under pressure mixed with oxygen; Breguet built such a machine
in France; and on account of the reduced resistance of the air speeds of
five hundred miles an hour might be attained, according to some
authorities. Experiments are now in progress in the use of the
reactionary principle in propulsion, doing away with the propeller and
motor as used in the present plane and substituting the exhaust of
liquid air through nozzles. Wireless transmission of power is still
distant, but not below the horizon. Machines have been re-fueled in the
air, enabling them to make continuous journeys of indefinite duration.
By the time the earthbound reader has reached this point in this
conservative forecast, his mind may be preparing to let go, and it is
time to round off this survey of reasonable possibilities of the future
of air transport.
BY VICTOR A. SMITH
(From the _Aero Digest_ N. Y. By permission.)
GAWD-A-MITY, don't look! That fool Kid is at it again." The C. O. ducked
and turned away. I didn't. I knew the Kid. He had taught me to fly and I
was used to his hair-raising stunts. But he'd only been with us about
ten days and the C. O. and everybody else still threw fits every time he
went up. They were all afraid--that is, all but the Kid. "Fear," as Alex
Smart, the field fool put it, "wasn't in the Kid's Webster. He didn't
Noah the word."
The Kid could do more things with a plane than any man I ever saw and
I'd seen 'em all--good and bad. His reputation, like his nickname, had
preceded his coming to us, but there was a lot of head-wagging and many
doubtful looks the day a dapper little fellow about five feet three
inches high, weighing just over a hundred pounds and looking about
seventeen years of age, reported for duty as the much touted new
"Your name," said the C. O.
"The Kid," answered the new instructor.
"I mean your real name. Haven't you one?"
And the Kid did, this way: T. H. E. Kidd.
"Who'll we notify in the case of accident?"
"Nobody," said the Kid, "there ain't gonner be no accident. Me and the
American Eagle is buddies."
The C. O. let the Kid get away with it.
About that American eagle the Kid told the truth. An old silver dollar
was his luck piece and I remember how, at another field, he had lost it
one night in a crap game. That was three days before payday. In those
three days he never touched a plane, but the minute he got his money he
started out to find his dollar. He paid the robber that had it ten
dollars to get it back. Then he went up. Like a blinking idiot, I went
with him. On that flight, the Kid invented sky-writing.
By the time he had been with us a week, the Kid was a popular favorite.
Everybody, from the C. O. down, loved him. That is, everybody but Bill
Brawner. Bill was a great rough-neck of a husky, so, naturally, with his
initials, he became the original Big Boy, and he had been, until the
Kid's arrival, the flying hero of our outfit.
Two days after the Kid reached us, he and Big Boy happened to be up at
the same time. The B. B. decided he'd show the Kid up and he started a
lot of fancy stuff. The Kid watched him for a little while, then he got
busy. He looped and nose-dived and did falling leaves all around the Big
Boy. He flew so close to him that the Big Boy got nervous and started to
get away, but the Kid was right on his tail. Then, gradually, he got
above him and judging his dive to within ten feet of the Big Boy's
plane, he pulled off the prettiest noser anybody ever saw. It completely
got the B. B.'s nerve and he started down with the Kid just above him
all the time, circling around like an eagle after his prey.
The Big Boy came to earth, literally run out of the air. But the Kid
stayed up a few minutes longer. By the time he came down, the Big Boy
had been pretty well kidded and he was sore. After that he was always
making dirty digs at and about the Kid, who stood it like the sport he
was until one night when six or eight of us were having a quiet little
party. Present were a couple of quarts of white lightning, two or three
sets of nice dice and very little money. The Big Boy wasn't expected,
but he came in. He'd had a few and when he saw the Kid a nasty look came
into his eyes.
"Hello, you little son-of-"
"Wait a minute, Big Boy," drawled the Kid. "Don't call me that. Us
southern fellows only use that particular cuss word in so-called funny
stories, or when we're hankering for a nice big fight."
"Fight, hell," snarled the Big Boy. "Why, Kid, I can break you with two
fingers of my left hand."
"Fair enough," said the Kid very quietly, "but I've warned you."
Nothing else was said, the tension passed and the B. B. edged into the
circle around the table, but on the opposite side from the Kid.
Presently the dice got around to him. Looking at the Kid as if to nag
him on, he said--
"I'll shoot five bucks."
Nobody said a word. Our speed that night was about a quarter.
"What's 'a matter," snarled the Big Boy, "are you pikers broke?" Again
he looked at the Kid, who then dug down into his pocket and pulled out
four one-dollar bills. There was a dollar on the table in front of me.
As the Kid reached for it, I nodded.
"Ain't there any he-sports in this crowd of cheap skates," said the Big
Boy, again right at the Kid. "I'm shooting five bucks."
"You're faded," said the Kid as he threw down his five ones.
"Y'don't say," came back the Big Boy. "Well, I don't shoot craps with no
little southern son-of-"
He didn't get any further. Like a flash the Kid was over the table and
at him. His body landed square in the Big Boy's arms and his fist landed
square in the Big Boy's mouth. The impact from the Kid's jump threw both
the fighters to the floor. When we pulled the Kid off two minutes later,
the Big Boy had two black eyes and three front teeth were missing. Then
the Kid said--"I'm sorry, Big Boy, but I told you we didn't use that
word down south unless we were huntin' trouble." Then he bathed the B.
B.'s eyes, saw him to his quarters and said "good-night" just as though
nothing had happened. The aftermath was, and this is to the Big Boy's
credit, he became the Kid's greatest admirer. Of course, the Kid
harbored no grudge. He met the Big Boy half-way and taught him a lot of
It was on one of their flights together that the Kid walked out on the
wing of his plane to wig-wag "hello" to the fellows below. Every man of
'em turned away.
"Is the Kid trying to commit suicide?" said some one.
When they got down the C. O. gave the Kid particular, red-hot hell. He
just grinned and said--"What's all the row about? I'm here, ain't I?"
"Yes, but you won't be long if you keep up that foolishness."
But the Kid did keep it up and never did he get a scratch until one day
he asked leave to let him spend the week-end at home. The C. O.,
thinking he was going by train, said 'all right.' The Kid's home was
just 200 miles from the field. At ten in the morning he telephoned his
folks that he'd drop in on 'em that day at one o'clock for dinner. He
did. His father fished him out of a live oak tree, in his own back yard,
at twelve forty-live. The Kid had fallen two thousand feet and with the
exception of a ruined uniform and a few scratches, he wasn't hurt. His
plane was not even badly damaged. He told me later that it was just like
landing in a feather bed. "Always," he said, "pick out a nice, big live
oak tree to fall in."
The Kid came back to the field on the train. When the C. O. heard his
report, he immediately ordered him to Texas, from which place, it so
happened, he had that day received a request for the loan of an
"How'll I travel?" asked the Kid.
"On the train," answered the C. O.
"All right," said the Kid, "I'll leave tonight."
"Good," said the C. O. "Now I know you'll get there alive, anyway."
"You're damn'd tootin," said the Kid as he walked away.
"C. O.," I asked, "Why do you let the Kid talk to you like that?"
"Well," he replied, "I happen to know all about that boy and his family.
I know, too, that the Kid has refused three commissions, because, he
said, he didn't want to be weighted down with shoulder straps and could
do better instructing as a private with privates; and finally, Captain,
because I'm so fond of him. I honestly hate to see him go, but if he
stays much longer I'll have a nervous breakdown. That's really why I'm
sending him away. I just can't stand the strain of his stunts any
The Kid left us that night. Two days later the C. O. received the
following telegram, collect--
"Saved the Government five hundred dollar repair bill and railroad fare
by fixing up plane I damaged at home last week and flying to Texas in
it. Told you I'd get here safe."
The C. O. exclaimed, "he ought to be court-martialed!" But, as far as I
know, he never was.
DOWN TO THE EARTH IN 'CHUTES
BY LIEUTENANT G. A. SHOEMAKER
_Former Chief Instructor in Parachute Jumping, Army Air Corps_
(By permission of the _Aero Digest_, N. Y.)
PARACHUTES have saved the lives of nearly one hundred American airmen in
the past two years. Their adoption as a standard part of pilots'
equipment has saved for our air services more pilots than would normally
graduate from one of our advanced flying schools in a year. Yet, it was
only six years ago that jumping was regarded as high adventure in the
air service. In the spring of 1920 there were only six of us who had
ever taken the leap from an Army airplane.
The present perfection of parachute design was only attained after
making many radical alterations of the original training type in which
we made the first jumps. Each alteration was followed by weight tests
and then it was my job to make the first live jump with the remodeled
chute. Some of these tests were productive of real thrills.
The seat pack, which is now the standard service chute, required many
months of experimental jumping and alterations before we reduced its
landing speed to a safe figure. We tested various diameters ranging from
18 to 24 feet. On the first jump ever made with a seat pack I attained a
rate of descent of 40 feet per second. As the normal rate is only 17
feet per second the chute was unsafe for service. We had on that day
taken the precaution of putting one plane in the air with orders to
circle the field at a constant altitude of 1000 feet. We ascended to
3000 feet from where I jumped. In checking my elapsed time from leaving
my plane and arriving abreast of the one at the 1000-foot level, I found
that distance had been covered in 50 seconds. To land at the speed at
which I was traveling would not have been healthful. A reserve chute,
one of the old training type, was on my chest for just such an emergency
and I lost no time in opening it.
It was later discovered that by cutting the silk panels of the chute on
the bias more resistance was offered to the air in descent and as a
result the speed decreased. This, together with a new type of vent, gave
us a chute that landed at 17 feet per second and was small enough to
make a compact pack. Such a chute is today the most efficient airplane
life preserver in the world.
Many student classes were trained by us at the Air Service Mechanics'
School. One of my first pupils was the present Assistant Chief of Air
Service, Brigadier General James Fechet. In August, 1920, he was Lieut.
Colonel and Air Officer of the 8th Corps Area. Colonel Fechet displayed
a keen interest in our parachute work at Kelly Field and was a frequent
visitor. One day he rode the rear cockpit while Lieut. Eugene Eubanks
and I were making the first double "lift-off" from the upper wings of a
DH. The next day Colonel Fechet came to the parachute school and
informed us that he wished to make a lift-off from the upper wing that
afternoon. After witnessing the packing of his chute he was ready for
Just before taking his place on the wing the Colonel was informed of the
signals to be used between us after taking the air. After we had reached
an altitude of about 3500 feet a slight mishap occurred. His goggles
flew to the rear of his helmet and the rush of air over the wing was
blinding him. Hanging to a supporting rope with one hand, he at last
recovered the straying goggles with the other and we were again ready
for the jump. I signaled him to rise to his feet. A half-inch rope was
attached to the leading edge of the wing for use as a support when in
this position. It was only two feet long and the day before I had
discovered that it had to be held as loosely as possible in order to
prevent burning the palm when the chute lifted one off the wing. As the
Colonel stood up I was astounded to see that he had taken a half hitch
with the rope about his right wrist. He was awaiting the signal to pull
his rip cord and I was afraid to move a hand lest he interpret it as a
signal to go. Should he pull the cord his arm might be torn off and
worse might happen.
Kneeling down on my small platform I began to attract his attention with
constant negative shakes of my head. At the same time I looked back at
the pilot and signaled him to make another circle over the field. Then
began a series of gestures for the Colonel's benefit. Using my right
hand and my own guide rope I at last attracted his attention to the
position of his own rope and was rewarded by seeing him take the proper
grip and look over to me for approval. All this time he had been on his
feet on the wing and I had been in various poses. We were both worn out.
As soon as we reached a position over the field where it would be safe
to lift off the signal was given and Colonel Fechet took the air. It was
the first and the only time I have ever seen a field officer tumbled
head over heels into space. Leaping immediately after the Colonel I
drifted over toward him and both saw and heard him land with a
resounding thud. As he arose to his feet his first words were "wait till
my wife hears about this." The Colonel had a badly burned palm but
otherwise was unhurt. He also was game for another jump.
Lieut. Jimmie Doolittle, winner of last year's Schneider Cup competition
at Baltimore, was another of my pupils who had a most interesting
introduction to the parachute. The platforms which had been placed on
the upper wing surfaces to protect the fabric against our weight were of
very light wood construction. To reduce the air pressure beneath them
while in flight and so keep them from tearing loose from the wing spars
to which they were screwed, we left openings almost a half-inch wide
between the boards. The entire platform was only two feet square.
Doolittle and I took off for his first jump laying on two such
platforms. After we had attained our altitude we were flying over South
San Antonio, headed for the field. I signaled him to rise to his feet as
we would be ready to lift off in a few seconds. After this signal I
again looked ahead toward the field. As we approached the spot over
which I wanted him to pull his rip cord I turned to his side of the
plane to give the signal and was greatly surprised to find him gone.
Looking back at the pilot I saw him waving his hand to the rear. There,
floating slowly to earth, was Jimmie. He was headed for the outskirts of
the village of South San Antonio. I jumped at once and upon landing in
the field ordered the ambulance which met me to drive toward the spot
where Doolittle would probably land. The plane had turned about and was
now circling over this area. About twenty minutes later we found him
suspended from the branches of a small oak tree, his chute draped over
the topmost branches and his feet just out of reach of the ground. No
one had seen him come down and his harness had held him a close
It developed then that, while we were lying on the wing platform his rip
cord ring had dropped through one of the cracks in the platform and as
he got the signal to rise and made his first move the cord had been
accidently pulled and the parachute released. By this mishap we
discovered that a person could leave the wing while the plane was in
normal flying position. Prior to this time we had always banked to the
left wing to let the man on the left off and side slipped to unload the
one on the right. It had been our opinion that we would strike the tail
surfaces unless our ship had been so manoeuvered.
Students were at first introduced to the parachute by making a live jump
from the step alongside the front cockpit. Two classes were graduated in
this manner. Then, as a result of a near fatality, we were forced to
cast about for a safer method of getting the student off on his first
leap. The lift-off from the upper wing was the solution.
Our engineers figured that the wing of a DH would support the weight of
a man's body at the take-off without undue danger. For the first jump of
this type I had no platform to protect the fabric. A rope was stretched
along the leading edge of the upper wing and to this rope another was
tied in a place directly in front of where I was to take my position.
This was to give me added support after rising to my feet as about to
leave the plane. Lieut. Harry Weddington piloted the ship.
San Antonio newspapers had been none too optimistic as to the outcome of
the stunt and as a result a large crowd were assembled at Kelly field
when we were ready to take off for this first lift-off. The only bad
moment we had was as the plane was reaching flying speed and we were
cutting along the top of the grass. Weddington could not tell how much
extra aileron it would take to overcome my added weight and as a result
over-controlled and almost rolled me off the wing. This was overcome in
an instant and for the rest of the trip we maintained an even keel. It
was most pleasant riding on the wing away from the slipstream.
Another plane was flying only fifty feet away with a newsreel cameraman
aboard to get the pictures. As we reached 3000 feet I arose to my feet
and Weddington put the plane into a side-slip so as to assure my
clearing the tail surfaces with my chute and body. Giving the rip cord a
jerk I found my chute lifting me off and the next instant I was on the
way down to the field. After this experiment we adopted the lift-off
method for all our students. We found that with two men on the upper
wings the plane balanced perfectly and was easy to handle. The chance
that a student would "freeze" onto his rip cord and neglect to open the
chute was eliminated. So it was through another mishap that we found the
safest way to put the novice into the air for his first leap. Just prior
to my experiment a student had "frozen" after leaving the step and after
falling 500 feet his chute had opened as a result of his left hand
having the rip cord in a death grip and as his body began to spin in the
fall, the centrifugal force had flung his arm away from his trunk and
torn the pack open.
My most thrilling experience while in parachute work came one afternoon
at Chanute Field at Rantoul, Illinois. Lieut. Hamilton, former holder of
the world's parachute altitude record, was riding the other wing with me
and we were merely making a practice jump. He was wearing standard
training chutes and I was equipped with the newly perfected seat pack.
Hamilton got away in good shape and as I reached for my rip cord to open
my own chute we hit a bump in the air which threw my wing up several
feet and pitched me off forward toward the propeller.
In that short instant I pictured in my mind the results to the plane,
pilot and myself should my body hit that whirring prop. I also saw the
result that would follow should I open my chute and become entangled in
the tail surfaces. I had been thrown well toward the engine. Having made
about two hundred jumps with Weddington always piloting the plane I
figured that he would sense the danger and do the only thing left to
do--give the ship hard right rudder and drive the tail away over to the
left. This would allow me to open my chute from where I was falling
without so much danger of striking the tail. All these thoughts flashed
through my mind in a fraction of a second. Confidence in my pilot
enabled me to take the chance of opening the chute which I did. The
chute cleared the fuselage and tail surfaces by inches and my body at
the end of the shroud lines flew by Weddington so closely that I could
have touched him. As I cleared the horizontal stabilizer my elbow struck
it a glancing blow. We all came out of this tight situation with no one
on the ground realizing at any time the predicament we were in. Had I
been equipped with the larger training chutes such as Hamilton wore on
the other wing this might not have been written.
Almost every time we made a parachute jump we learned something new
which we could pass on to new students and which added to their safety.
When an emergency arises, to have had the experience of a jump under
ideal conditions behind one is of inestimable value and very few of our
pilots are without this training.
THE WILKINS ARCTIC EXPEDITIONS
BY A. M. SMITH
_Detroit News and North American Newspaper Alliance correspondent,
Detroit News--Wilkins Arctic Expedition, 1927_
(By permission of the _Aero Digest_)
THE Eskimos of Barrow would say that Captain George Hubert Wilkins
"knows his muktuk." Since 1914, they have called him "Anakluto," which
How many white folks have called Wilkins a fool, because the exploratory
efforts of the Wilkins expeditions of 1926 and '27 failed of their
objective, that is, a series of flights over various areas of the Arctic
Ocean, with landings and the gathering of scientific data?
No one has made the count of the smirkers and critics. They at least
served to amuse Wilkins, for he is too well acquainted with the
fickleness of the thrill-hunting public to be disturbed by the carping
criticism of the ignorant herd.
More than once I have said to the man who guffawed at the Wilkins
expeditions of 1926 and '27: "Mr. Man! Go on up to the Arctic. Get into
the comforting temperature of 40 below zero. Go out over the most
desolate, threatening--and threat-fulfilling--place on the face of this
earth. Go in an airplane. Get an Arctic blizzard to help you go and to
prevent you from returning. When you get there, feel of your pulse--if
you can still feel. And when you get back--if you ever do--tell us what
kinds of fool you were."
"Sure!" replies Mr. Man. "Anyone is a fool to go there like that."
Today, the highest award of the American Geographic Society, the Samuel
Finley Breese Morse gold medal; a flood of congratulatory messages from
all parts of the civilized world, some from crowned heads, and many from
friends who never misunderstood Wilkins' purpose and mission in the
aerial exploration of the Arctic, and know him for what he is,
"Anakluto," are the answer to "Fool" from the ranks of the ignorant,
Sharing in the honor and congratulation of the world, is Wilkins'
gentleman friend, Carl Ben Eielson, more gentleman than a college and
two university courses could make him, though he had that training.
Eielson, like Wilkins, was born with the soul of a gentleman, with all
the finesse of modesty, sense of proportion, tenacity of purpose, quiet
and efficient performance which born gentlemanliness implies.
Neither Wilkins nor Eielson were ever interested in aviation stunts. The
most skillful piloting under the most difficult conditions in the
history of aviation has been Eielson's contribution to the new science
of the air.
In all the plans and work of the three Wilkins Arctic Expeditions, both
Wilkins and Eielson were interested solely in gathering new and useful
knowledge about a large and important unexplored area of this earth. How
important such knowledge would be, if gained, they fully understand, as
all scientifically-minded people do. They knew they had the sympathetic
and understanding backing of the small minority of people--the
scientists--and with that they were content to go ahead, merely amused
by the critics and the hoi poloi who said; "Fools."
I have digressed at the outset in this outline of the work of the
Wilkins Arctic Expeditions because, after all, the human element is at
the heart of anything interesting to thoughtful people. And because,
with all the real friends of the two "heroes of the hour," I take vast
comfort in looking over the former critics who today are "eating up" the
news about these two men, and I smack my lips as I wink one eye at them.
There is a deal of comfort in "I told you so."
However, the critical attitude of the world that acclaims the man who
goes through a hero, and condemns the same man as a fool if anything
stops him from going through, had a certain unhappy effect on the plans
of Wilkins in the early months of preparation for the expedition of this
year. It left him out in the cold, so to speak.
It threw him back on his personal resources in financing the expedition,
and he had invested virtually all of his personal fortune in the
expeditions of 1926 and '27. The excitement and romance of those two
expeditions had passed. Neither of them had gained the results hoped
for. There were some friends who doubtless would have chipped in to help
finance this last flight if Wilkins had undertaken the role of salesman.
Personal pride and dignity, and the dogged independence which is always
the other side of the shield of Courage, doubtless stopped him from
making any appeal for financial aid.
[Illustration: Capt. Sir Hubert Wilkins after Flight over the North
The three Wilkins Arctic Expeditions of 1926, '27, and '28 covered more
than 17,400 miles in flights above the Arctic Circle, with the loss of
only one plane (Stinson biplane) in exploratory flights; the destruction
of one Fokker wing in a test flight at Fairbanks, Alaska; the loss of
one man, Palmer H. Hutchinson, Detroit News and North American Newspaper
Alliance correspondent on the 1926 expedition, who stepped back into a
whirling propeller of the tri-motored Fokker on the landing field at
Fairbanks; and the loss of one finger, from freezing, by Eielson, chief
pilot, on the 1927 expedition.
The total personnel of the three expeditions was 20 men--11 in 1926; 7
in 1927; 2 in 1928.
Major Thomas G. Lanphier, of Selfridge Field, on the 1926 expedition
covered approximately 1,000 miles in flights between Fairbanks and
Barrow, the Arctic shore base of exploration. Alger Graham, of Detroit,
relief pilot of the 1927 expedition, made approximately 5,000 miles in
similar flights and in the Arctic shore area. Eielson, pioneer of
Alaskan pilots and the most experienced of all Arctic aviators who have
tried their wings in those regions, covered approximately 10,000 miles
on the three expeditions. Joe Crosson, who has flown all over Alaska in
the past five years, made two flights for the expedition of 1927,
totalling 1,400 miles.
On all of these flights, except trips by Lamphier, Crosson, and some of
Graham's shore flights, Captain Wilkins was navigator with Eielson or
Graham, and has to his credit a total of approximately 13,000 miles of
Four different types of planes were used--Fokker, Stinson biplane,
Swallow and Lockheed. Two Fokkers, one with Liberty Engine, and one
tri-motored with Wright Whirlwinds, were used. Two Stinsons, with Wright
Whirlwinds; the Swallow with a Hispano-Suiza motor; and the Lockheed,
with Wright Whirlwind.
Landing gears were used in tests and on flights were wheels, landing on
dirt, snow and ice; skis, both wood and Severski metal, the latter
landing on ground in the last flight of the 1927 expedition from Barrow
to Fairbanks; and a combination of skis and wheels was tried out in
The Fokker plane made a total of six round trips over the Endicott
Mountains in 1926, from Fairbanks to Barrow, rising, as all planes on
this route must, to 9,000 elevation to clear the lowest point, Anaktuvak
Pass, and carrying loads up to 6,000 pounds, chiefly gasoline.
The Stinsons were loaded up to 2300 pounds. The Lockheed, in Wilkins'
and Eielson's flight from Barrow to Spitzbergen, took off with a load of
more than 3,000 pounds, the bulk of this consisting of 370 gallons of
gasoline and 12 gallons of oil.
Temperatures ranging from 33 above to 48 below zero, were encountered in
the various flights of the expedition, the lowest, 48 when Wilkins and
Eielson neared Spitzbergen on their last flight. Except for the
inconvenience and delay of warming motors by covering them with tents,
with oil stoves underneath, before starting in low temperatures, the
cold of the Arctic did not appear at any time to prevent the proper
functioning of motors.
The only forced landings, during the three expeditions, were those of
March 29, 1927, when Wilkins and Eielson, 500 miles northwest of Barrow,
were compelled to come down because a leaky oil pipe fouled one of the
magnetos of their Stinson; and their landing that night, after nine
o'clock, because of failure of gasoline, after they had fought their way
to 100 miles of the coast against a southwest blizzard with wind at 70
miles per hour. Coming down in pitch darkness, unable to see out of the
windows of the cabin, they crashed on the ice, breaking the skis, but
with no other mishap. They were held in the plane cabin for five days by
the blizzard, then took 13 days to walk 80 miles to shore, arriving at
Beachy Point, 92 miles down the east shore from Barrow. During their
wait of five days in the plane they had drifted 167 miles southeastward.
On that one flight they succeeded in taking a sounding of more than
three miles, 500 miles northwest of Barrow, proving the continental
shelf in that direction, and the impossibility of land in that area of
The expedition of 1926 was sponsored by the Detroit Aviation Society and
the American Geographic Society, and by the people of Detroit. It failed
in Arctic exploratory flights because the Endicott mountains proved
impassable to dog teams trying to get gasoline through to Barrow.
The expedition of 1927 was sponsored by the Detroit News, the North
American Newspaper Alliance, and the American Geographic Society; the
Detroit News bearing most of the expense of the expedition.
At the termination of that expedition, the Detroit News gave to Captain
Wilkins the remaining Stinson plane. The Fokker had been left in
Fairbanks, during the 1927 expedition, because the propeller would not
lift a useful load over the Endicott mountains. This plane, and the
fuselage of the other Fokker, whose wing had been crashed the year
before, were the property of Captain Wilkins. He sold the Stinson and
the Fokker equipment, and put the proceeds into the Lockheed plane of
his 1928 expedition.
Wilkins and Eielson were the total personnel of this last expedition.
They left Fairbanks in the Lockheed March 20; flew over the Endicott
range to Barrow, and on April 15th made their memorable flight to
Spitzbergen, landing on a small island in the north of the archipelago,
where they were storm bound for five days, finally getting off again and
landing safely at Green Harbor, where, as this is written, they were
waiting for the Arctic ice to break up sufficiently to allow a boat from
Norway to bring them out.
The severity of the weather; the storm area into which they ran on the
Spitzbergen side; the impossibility of safe landing on the ice en route;
and, more than all else, the rapid and great changes of magnetic fields
in the area northeast of Barrow on their route, makes the flight to
Spitzbergen epochal in history of aviation.
They crossed the area of the northern hemisphere most difficult of
aerial navigation, in a flight of 2,200 miles, terminating in the worst
storm Spitzbergen has seen in years in the month of April, and reached
their target in a non-stop flight--a remarkable feat of navigation.
The fact that no land was discovered on this flight is a negative
scientific result, but of great value to oceanography and to
meteorological developments of the future. Captain Wilkins reports that
over a distance of 120 miles, an area between Greenland and the Pole was
blanketed with fog, making it impossible to determine whether there
might be land there. Except for this spot, their route, for nearly 100
miles on either side, was free from land, though this fog, like a drawn
curtain, may have shut off extensive land to the north.
Will they go again? If they do the whole world will wish them God-speed,
for the world today acknowledges the courage, skill and steadfastness of
purpose of Wilkins and Eielson.
THE "BREMEN'S" FLIGHT TO AMERICA
BY JESSIE E. HORSFALL.
(Permission of the _Aero Digest_)
THE first westward non-stop flight of an airplane across the North
Atlantic nearly ended in disaster before the wheels were three feet off
the ground. A runway 4,000 feet long had been constructed at Baldonnel,
the military flying field on the outskirts of Dublin. The wall
surrounding the military reservation was removed and the runway extended
into pasturage lands that lay beyond. The heavily loaded _Bremen_--its
total weight was 8,140 pounds at the take-off--was unaided by even a
breeze. If anything there was a slight tail wind. Captain Hermann Koehl,
who flew heavy bombers during the war and who since then has spent much
of his time flying almost equally heavy passenger transports, was at the
controls. The ship had used nearly all of its runway, the tail was up,
the wheels barely touching the grass and Koehl was raising her
carefully, by inches.
Then a sheep appeared on the runway and started to browse directly in
the path of the nine-foot propeller. Koehl saw the animal, lifted the
ship, and made it. There was another obstacle, a large tree, just ahead
but the all-metal plane was climbing now and cleared it by a matter of a
yard or less, or so it seemed to the little group of Irish Free State
officers and their friends who had gathered at the airdrome for the
Among those who had gathered for the take-off were William T. Cosgrave,
President of the Free State Executive Council, and Mrs. Cosgrave, Herr
G. von Dehn, the German Consul General in Dublin, Mr. Desmond
Fitzgerald, the Irish Minister of Defense, and brother officers of Major
With Captain James Fitzmaurice (since then elevated by the Irish Free
State to a majority in recognition of his accomplishment) pointing out
landmarks, and Baron Guenther von Huenefeld, whose reckless energy,
personal fortune and enthusiasm for flying had made the attempt
possible, more or less buried among the benzol tanks in the dark
fuselage, Koehl drove the low-winged monoplane for the Galway Coast and
thence along the coast toward Slyne Head Light and out to sea.
Slyne Head was the last land they saw until daylight the next morning
thirty hours later and the first half of the water jump was uneventful.
Variable winds prevailed, and for the first 400 miles after leaving land
the weather was fair. Sometimes the wind helped them a bit coming from
the east and southeast. Then it would veer into the west for fifty or a
hundred miles but it was never strong enough to give the fliers either
great joy for its assistance or anxiety because of its opposition. From
time to time they corrected drift by dropping smoke bombs and circling
as they watched. According to Fitzmaurice they also obtained a very fair
estimate of wind velocity by this maneuver. Their speed for this part of
the trip they estimate at slightly better than 100 miles an hour.
About four hours out they encountered their first change in weather and
from that time on until within 400 miles of Newfoundland or as it turned
out, Labrador, they ran into frequent snow and rain storms and cloud
banks. None of these were extended over a big region. Some of them they
drove through and they went around others.
One incident occurred to break the monotony of the endless expanse of
blue sky and sea during that first morning. The motor sputtered! But it
was nothing of importance. One of the pilots in adjusting his mixture
had "leaned" it a trifle more than the Junkers L5 could stand. This was
remedied quickly, and the Bremen continued serenely on its way into the
west with first Koehl doing the flying and then Fitzmaurice, each pilot
taking the stick for about three hours at a stretch. As the load came
slowly down away from the danger point they began to frequently change
their altitude, seeking out levels close to the water when the wind
shifted for a time into the west, and going higher to get as much help
as they could from the wind when it favored them. Thus they ranged up
and down from fifty feet to two thousand.
There was little for the Baron to do. Now and then he passed out coffee
and meat sandwiches. Some of the time he slept and again busied himself
with his pen writing verse or prose, seeking to set down for posterity
just how it felt to be the first passenger ever to fly westward across
the North Atlantic. Hitherto, while preparation for the flight had been
going on, his dynamic energy had been expended to the utmost and now the
enforced inactivity began to be trying. At 5 o'clock in the afternoon he
stepped to the door leading into the cockpit, his monocle at its most
formal and proper pitch, and announced "Tea."
About this time the wind came about into the southwest. For some time it
had held steadily from the southeast, gradually increasing in velocity
until the white caps were piling up below them.
Then as the sun was climbing all too fast down the western sky trouble
loomed up ahead. The wind increased in violence and shifted into the
southwest. As close as they could judge they were about 400 miles out
from the North American coast for ahead was the first real fog they had
encountered. It blanketed the water below them and reached up like the
Himalayas above them. They started to climb the ship and went up to
6,000 feet without being able to get over it. Then it grew cold and they
went down again, down to within fifty feet of the waves where the going
was exceedingly bumpy.
It was in this situation that darkness overtook them and affairs were
further complicated by the discovery that their lighting system was not
functioning, leaving their instrument board in darkness. Now and then
they used a flashlight but only for moments at a time. They did not dare
to stay so close to the water here because they knew that they were
approaching land so up they climbed again to 6,000 feet. These hours in
the clouds and fog and cold proved one thing of great importance it is
believed. Either ice does not form as easily on the corrugated duralumin
leading edge as on some other forms of construction or the thick coating
of paraffin which was painted on just before the take-off or the
combination of corrugated metal and the oil was an efficient defense
against it. Further flights, not necessarily transoceanic, of course
will be needed before this theory can be accepted by builders as
absolute fact. The idea is interesting, the results of this test
The night wore on and finally they flew out of the fog and saw the stars
from which they at once discovered that they were still flying westward.
For two hours more they kept to the westward course although they knew
that they should have crossed from sea to land some time before. Then
with the help of flares they discovered that they were over land. For
some time both pilots had been watching broken patches of what they
thought was low fog. By the flares they learned that they were over vast
snow covered forests and rolling hills with mountains ahead. The fact
that they were over Labrador indicates that during the hours of blind
flying they had been steadily making northing. When they should have
bent their course to the southwest they were probably not willing to
trust their compasses which had been showing the effects of the magnetic
changes and so they kept on. The head winds had been causing them to use
up more fuel than they had figured and at times they were running their
motor to the point where their airspeed showed 130 miles an hour. Such a
speed eats the gas.
Shortly after sunrise the fliers came to the conclusion that they were
many miles inland over Labrador and they swung around into the southeast
holding on this course for four hours. Thus they arrived over Greenly
Island, saw the lighthouse, circled and came down to a landing on a tiny
reservoir in its center. Koehl made a perfect landing but the ice failed
and the ship nosed over.
They had been thirty-six hours and thirty minutes in the air. They had
crossed 2,000 miles of open water and, while exact data is not
available, they probably cruised over 800 miles of land striking Belle
Isle Straits one or two hundred miles to the south of the point where
they left the sea for the land.
The rest is well known; how the light keeper, Johnny Le Tamplier, his
buxom wife and six children, to say nothing of a dozen or so
Newfoundland puppies and sled dogs, rushed out to greet them, how they
were made at home at the Le Tamplier fireside while Johnny sent word to
the Point Amour wireless station several miles across the straits on the
They landed about 1 p.m. on April 13 Eastern Standard Time, but it was
7 o'clock that night before the waiting hundreds at Mitchel Field whose
numbers had dwindled from thousands in the last hour before darkness
learned that they were safe even though 1300 miles from their announced
destination. At once Miss Herta Junkers, the energetic daughter of Dr.
Hugo Junkers, now on his way to this country, started to organize a
relief expedition, although it was not known in New York just how much
the _Bremen_ was injured.
Preparations to start planes northward were made at Curtiss Field, at
Hartford and by the Canadian Transcontinental Airways. On the evening of
the fifteenth a Junkers mechanic started north by train taking with him
a complete landing gear for that of the _Bremen_ had been badly
damaged. Struts and wheels were bent and the axle was cracked. The
propeller tips also were bent.
After several attempts made abortive by storms Duke Schiller and Dr.
Louis Cuisinier flying a Fairchild-Pratt and Whitney "Wasp" job made the
flight to Greenly Island and the next day he started back with
Fitzmaurice for spare parts. They were forced down at Natashquan on the
Banks of the St. Lawrence but two hundred miles from Greenly.
It was April 18 when Duke Schiller finally set his plane down on the ice
of St. Agnes near Murray Bay where Fitzmaurice made known the needs of
the fliers and their ship to Miss Junkers.
Meanwhile the Ford expedition, Floyd Bennett's last flight, was getting
under way at Detroit. Both Bennett and his fellow flier, Bernt Balchen,
left hospital beds to fly the tri-motored Ford into the frozen north.
When they landed at Murray Bay on April 20th, Bennett had to be helped
from his plane and two days later he was lying in a Quebec Hospital
close to death. He was not destined to live to see the accomplishment of
this rescue expedition but Balchen carried on.
April 23 he took off, with a heavily loaded plane carrying benzol, spare
parts, Ernest Koeppen of the Junkers Company here and Charles Murphy. He
landed at Greenly. It was found that the engine of the _Bremen_ had
suffered from exposure and that take-off conditions for wheels were
impossible, so regretfully the German-Irish crew decided to abandon ship
until a later date and fly down in the Ford. They landed at Murray Bay,
April 26, to learn that Bennett had died the day before.
At once a pall of gloom enshrouded everyone. The _Bremen's_ crew
decided that they would go on to Washington for the funeral but at New
York, because of storms, they left the Ford ship and went to Washington
by train, too late for the services. The next morning after laying
wreaths on the grave, they returned to New York. In so far as possible
they avoided greetings on that day, Saturday, April 28.
The reception on April 30 was unique. Not so boisterous as Lindbergh's,
not so noisy as that to returning troops after the war.
But it had its own great significance. It brought home to the millions
who took part and to the Irish-German crew of the _Bremen_ that peace
between great nations had come again. Transatlantic flights may be
useless stunts as far as aviation is concerned. Some "experts" avow this
over and over but the great gift of aviation to the world is clearly
realized in them because it so graphically illustrates how the airplane
brings peoples closer together.
A word about the ship itself and its motor. The _Bremen_ is a Junkers,
type W33, low wing, cantilever, monoplane powered by a Junkers 285-310
horsepower six cylinder in line water-cooled engine. It has a span of 58
feet 6 inches, a length over all of 34 feet 6 inches and a height over
all of 9 feet 6 inches.
Its weight empty is 2640 pounds, useful normal load 1990 pounds, total
load 4630 pounds. Its wing area is 463 square feet, wing loading 10
pounds to the square foot, power loading 15 pounds to the square foot.
For the ocean flight its total load was 8140 pounds, wing loading 17.6
pounds, power loading 26.2 pounds.
It has a normal high speed of 123 miles per hour, but can be pushed
faster. Its cruising speed is 97 miles an hour, landing speed 53 miles
per hour. Its ceiling is 19,000 feet and its actual climb from 3300 feet
to 6500 consumes 5 minutes and 30 seconds.
The Junkers Aero engine L5 is a recent development of the Dessau
laboratories. Its weight is 690 pounds. The six cylinders have a bore of
6.3 inches and 7.5 inch stroke. The fuel used on this flight was a 90
per cent benzol compound and the engine was adjusted for this fuel with
a compression ratio of 7 to 1. Its standard compression ratio is 5.5 to
This engine draws the intake air to the carburetor through the
crankcase. Additional warming is provided by water jackets on the
carburetor bodies. A double throat Zenith carburetor is used; it has an
auxiliary air control for altitude flying and for economical cruising
when flying with a partially closed throttle.
The fuel load for the ocean flight was slightly over 600 gallons.
THE BYRD ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION
BY RUSSELL OWEN
(N. Y. Times by Permission)
BEFORE another month has passed the auxiliary ship _Samson_, which will
carry the Byrd Antarctic Expedition to the Ross Ice Barrier, will have
arrived in New York and the assembling of the planes, stores and
personnel of the expedition will be well under way. It will be the first
time that airplanes have been taken into the Antarctic and because of
them it is probable that more will be accomplished in a relatively short
time than has been done before in the many painful years that men have
struggled on foot over the desolate southern wilderness.
Commander Richard E. Byrd, whose flights over the North Pole and the
Atlantic are now a part of aviation history, will take at least three
planes with him. His most important ship will be a new and specially
built three-motored Ford. There are several reasons for his not using
the Fokker tri-motored plane this year, the most important of which is
that the Ford wing can be disassembled and packed away in much smaller
space than the one piece wooden Fokker wing. When so much material has
to be stowed on a ship as small as the _Samson_ this is an important
The Ford is built of a much thinner duralumin than the standard
commercial planes, and several hundred pounds have been taken off in
this way. The wing spread is also greater, measuring 78 feet, and the
combination of larger wing and lighter material has given the plane a
quick take-off and rapid climb. With a load of several hundred gallons
of gas at the Ford airport it got off the ground in five seconds, much
to the delight of Floyd Bennett, Byrd's second in command and chief
pilot on the expedition. The first tests of the plane indicated that it
was well suited to its task.
Another plane to be used is a Bellanca monoplane, which has been tested
on skis in Canada and showed good performance. The Bellanca has a
cruising radius of 3,000 miles, and the Ford about the same, although it
is not probable that they will be loaded to full fuel capacity on the
Antarctic flights. Byrd's longest flight, that to the South Pole and
back, will be about 1,400 miles less than his North Pole flight, but
under conditions just as dangerous. A third plane with a short cruising
radius will be taken for scouting for airplane bases which can later be
put down by dog sled.
The flight to the pole will be the least of Commander Byrd's
achievements if he carries through his full program of exploration. He
intends to make many side trips into the absolutely unknown land east of
King Edward VII Land, where there is a stretch of coast 2,000 miles long
which has never been seen or charted. He will not be able to explore it
all, but with side trips from his bases along the line of the polar
flight he will be able to clear up a great deal of the mystery of what
lies in that blank white space on the map.
[Illustration: Plan of the Route of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition]
It is because of this that Byrd has an opportunity to do much more
scientific work on this trip than on his North Pole expedition. Although
he did survey on that trip a part of the polar basin never before seen,
he traversed a relatively small part of it. In the Antarctic there are
4,600,000 square miles of unknown territory, and Byrd should be able to
observe and to some extent map a considerable extent of the quadrant to
the east of his main base. Just what he will find there nobody knows. It
is not known whether the Antarctic continent, which is really a vast ice
cap, rests on islands, water or on two huge bodies of land. It is
possible that between the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea there is a great
ice stream which would show a division between two continents, and if
this can be established it would be a great contribution to geographical
knowledge. In the other parts of this sector which Byrd can reach by a
series of 500-mile flights there may be volcanoes, mountain ranges, all
sorts of formations which would give some indication of the land beneath
No greater proof of the value of airplanes in exploration could be
offered than the possibilities of discovery which lies before Byrd
compared to the relatively small areas explored by Amundsen, Scott,
Shackleton and others who have risked their lives on foot over hundreds
of weary miles. Byrd will face great dangers also, but they will be
dangers of flying in a country where snowstorms driven on terrific winds
spring up in a few hours. But with good fortune he will be able from his
elevation of thousands of feet to see scores of thousands of square
miles of virgin territory on which men have never looked, and do it in a
His base is ideally situated for his purpose. It will be on the Ice
Barrier at the Bay of Whales, an indentation in the barrier where the
ice is low enough so that it will be easy to unload the planes and
supplies. At other points the barrier rises to a height which may be 280
feet, a glistening white cliff which has effectively repelled invasion.
In most places the barrier rests upon the water, and the outer edge
retreats or advances with the years. But at the Bay of Whales it
apparently rests on solid ground, for it has not changed its position
there in many years, and Amundsen came to the conclusion that it was
anchored there. At least it was safe enough for Amundsen to spend a
winter on it about ten miles back from the shore line, and Byrd will
also pitch his tiny village there.
The main base in this case will be near the eastern edge of the barrier,
and the central point from which flights diverging like the spreaders of
a fan may be made back of King Edward VII Land. And if it is desired to
extend these flights farther south toward the pole, the bases, which
will be laid down at 100-mile intervals until the polar plateau is
reached, may be used for the same purpose. These bases also will serve
as emergency stations, in case the plane is forced down by a storm, and
Byrd, Bennett and Bernt Balchen, who will be the third member of the
crew, have to walk back.
Flying conditions on the ice barrier are expected to be fairly good in
the summer time. There may be some fog, and there are certain to be
snowstorms and wind. Amundsen reported only two severe storms while he
was there, but the Antarctic weather is about the most uncertain thing
in the world. When it does blow it blows more than 100 miles an hour,
and the snow comes down off the plateau by the millions of tons, until
the air is almost fluid with it. If the fliers encounter a storm of this
kind there will be nothing for them to do except land and dig in until
it is over, with a bare possibility of being able to get the plane off
The worst of these storms will be encountered over the edge of the
plateau, where the cold air rolls down from the dome-like cap, gaining
momentum as it comes. The ice barrier runs into the continent toward the
plateau in shape roughly like a triangle, and around the edge the storms
die down about 25 miles after they reach the ice barrier, which extends
to within about 400 miles of the pole itself. So, although flying over
the barrier may not be so difficult, there is no telling what will be
encountered when the plateau is reached, and the plateau goes to an
elevation of more than 10,000 feet.
At the South Pole itself, however, the air will be comparatively calm,
due to a definite meteorological condition which always exists there.
The cold upper air flows on all sides toward the pole and then drops
downward because of its greater weight, to again flow outward and
downward off the dome. When Byrd is flying toward the pole he will know
when he reaches this downward current by a sudden sharp drop in
temperature, and once past it he will be in a region where the wind
flows gently all ways at once because of its general downward direction.
So on the barrier and at the pole conditions will be much better than
along the edge of the plateau, or over the mountains which are believed
to fringe the Antarctic ice barrier to the eastward. There he will meet
as dangerous conditions as a flier has ever faced, and it will be a
severe test of planes and engines. Wright Whirlwinds will be used on all
planes. They will probably be cowled in even more than on the North Pole
plane, and they will be started in the same way by heating them with a
gas stove at the end of the long fireproof canvas funnel.
Byrd is going to equip the plane for every possible emergency. He will
be able to carry more equipment than on his North Pole flight, and it is
possible that he will be able to take a few dogs and a sled in the plane
with him, as well as quantities of emergency rations, a tent, skis and
other necessary articles to use in a forced landing. He is none too
optimistic about his chances of getting back, however, unless he lands
within a reasonable distance of one of his emergency bases.
As the scientific work of the expedition will be its most important
achievement, a number of scientists will be taken on the _Samson_.
There will be a geographer, who will also be a geologist, a
meteorologist, a physicist and possibly an ornithologist, and
ichthyologist. They will make side trips and investigations while the
flying is going on, and if the expedition spends the winter on the ice
barrier they will be able to obtain a great deal of information about
this mysterious sheet of ice. Byrd himself will carry special cameras
for surveying, which are being built by the Fairchild company, and map
as much as possible of the unknown territory by camera.
In the expedition when it leaves New York there will be fifty-five men,
including the crew of the ship. There will be one or two Norwegian
veterans of the Antarctic. The others will be mechanics, another pilot
or two, radio operators and other men necessary to carry on the details
of the expedition. Special short-wave radio sets will be taken, and by
means of them it is believed that direct communication will be
maintained with _The New York Times_, which has purchased the rights to
Commander Byrd's story, as this newspaper did with Peary, Scott,
Amundsen, Lindbergh, Chamberlin and other explorers and aviators on
their historic trips. It will be the first time that direct radio
communication has been maintained with an Antarctic expedition, and the
first time that news of every important movement of such an expedition
has been sent to the world a short time after it occurred.
The _Samson_ will probably leave New York early in September, and may
not return for a year and nine months. It will depend entirely on how
soon the ship can fight its way through the ice pack which lies off the
Ross Sea. Byrd hopes to get through to the ice barrier by December 15,
but he may not make it until early in January. That will leave him only
two months to get his equipment ashore and set up, for the winter season
begins in March, and the _Samson_ will have to put back to New Zealand
to avoid being crushed in the ice.
Two months is a short time to do all Byrd wishes to accomplish, and he
may be checked by the weather, so the chances are that he will be forced
to spend the winter on the ice barrier, and start in again early the
ADVENTURING INTO THE ANTARCTIC
BY COMMANDER RICHARD E. BYRD
(By permission of the New York Times)
THE long, tiresome and yet interesting days of preparing for our
Antarctic adventure are over at last and we are about to start south.
What may be ahead of us no one can foresee. We have prepared as
carefully and as thoroughly as has been possible, but the Antarctic has
ways of playing strange tricks on those who invade her desolate icebound
coast and it may be that we shall seem to fall short of what may be
expected of us.
But I do not think so. If the skill and courage and resourcefulness of
the men who are going with me to live more than a year on the ice are
what I believe them to be, the expedition will give a good account of
itself. We shall do our best. We are attempting a new kind of
exploration in a little known part of the world. We should be able to
learn more of the Antarctic in two short seasons than all the brave and
able men who have suffered or given their lives in other expeditions.
Even a superficial glance at the region that we hope to penetrate will
show why that is so. Nature has guarded the secrets of Antarctica by
locking them within a wall of ice, and clothing the land with a white
desolation in which no living thing exists. When man forces his way on
foot into this great wilderness, he attempts the most difficult task
that can confront an explorer. Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen, Mawson, all
those who have made such a glorious record in the Antarctic, pitted the
strength and endurance of their bodies and their wills against odds that
seem almost insuperable. And yet they conquered as much as man can
conquer when he relies on his own unaided physical capacity. We are more
fortunate in having the wings of science to carry us quickly over the
snow through which they laboriously forced their way.
The Antarctic has always fascinated those who have been there. It is
bounded by a belt of floating ice, a drifting, shifting mass of
treacherous floes through which ships must pick their way carefully.
Sometimes the belt is held fast for days at a time. While a ship is
icebound, sleet and snow sweep by on the gale, and the explorer is
wrapped in a gray shroud of storm that seems to warn him that he is
venturing on forbidden seas.
And then one day the sun shines, the storm passes and the ship finds its
way through the ice and comes out into the vast Ross Sea, where whales
play and the light shines on great icebergs. Through this sea, which
lies between promontories of the Antarctic Continent and which is one of
the few places where the land may be safely approached, we shall sail
until the great ice barrier rises before us.
That barrier has been a symbol of the Antarctic since Sir James Ross
first found it and coasted along its precipitous front. It rises as high
as 250 feet, a solid mass of cliff-like ice, which seems effectually to
shut off the interior. It rests most of its length upon the sea and
parts of it break off and drift away in the form of those vast tabular
bergs which are peculiar to the South. Some of them are many miles long.
It would be impossible to winter on the ice barrier because of this
danger, even if one were able to scale the cliff at more than one point.
That point is the Bay of Whales, an indentation in the ice barrier which
gets its name from the schools of whales found there. Amundsen picked
this bay for his Winter quarters because he shrewdly suspected that the
ice there rested on land. He discovered no movement during his Winter
stay and the charts of the ice barrier indicate that, although it
advances and recedes at most points, and is now receding, it is fairly
stationary at the Bay of Whales. The bay ice also has the great
advantage of being only a few feet above the water, so that it is
possible to discharge a ship there by mooring it to the floe.
When we step ashore there we will see before us a mile or so of sea ice,
then a gently rising slope glittering white in the sun and extending
inland as far as the eye can reach. Far to the left are the heights of
King Edward VII Land and to the right the undulating capes and
promontories of the ice barrier. There is little wind at this point and
the silence is broken only by the cries of gulls and petrels. Seals bask
on the isle and the droll penguins cock their heads to one side and walk
up to the queer visitors--the explorers.
Before us will lie, wrapped in its mantle of ice and snow, 4,600,000
square miles of almost unknown territory, an area as large as the United
States and Mexico. A few paths have been painfully blazed through this
land by Scott and Shackleton along the western side of the ice barrier
toward the Pole and by Amundsen due south to the Pole from the Bay of
Whales. The edges of the Weddell Sea, Graham Land and a few other places
on the circumference of this vast area have been charted, but the bitter
cold, the treacherous storms that blow with a greater violence there
than anywhere else in the world, and the complete absence of animal or
plant life have prevented men from gaining any real knowledge of the
I have been asked many times why we are going to the Antarctic, what we
can do or learn there which will justify the expense or danger of such
an expedition. This is a hard question to answer, not because there is
any doubt in my own mind or in the minds of the scientists who are
accompanying or advising me as to the value of the trip, but because the
significance of data which may be obtained is far removed from popular
knowledge and experience.
Why did Peary labor for years to reach the North Pole? Why did Nansen,
Nordenskjold and Amundsen, Greely and Franklin and many other men, spend
years and some of them sacrifice life itself to penetrate the Arctic
Sea? Why did Scott spend five years in the Antarctic and lay down his
life there in one of the most noble and dramatic chapters of polar
exploration? Why did Shackleton return again to this desolate region to
die finally from hardship and exhaustion? Why did Mawson struggle for a
foothold on the frozen threshold of the Antarctic in gales that lasted
all year? Why do scientists go again and again to the frozen North and
South and spend weary months in seeking to reveal some of the secrets of
these mysterious regions?
The human answer to these questions is simple. Men do these things
because they are men; because in the unknown lies a ceaseless challenge
to man's curiosity, to his ever-expanding fund of knowledge. While
anything is to be learned of this earth of ours, of its form, its
history, its strange forces, men will be found who will not rest until
that knowledge is complete. That man himself advances, that life is
better worth living now than it was in medieval times, that we have
radio and moving pictures and flying machines, is due to this driving
force in man which will not let him rest. Some men invent things which
add to the comfort of life, some delve into the secrets of nature in
laboratories that we may have electric lights and better food and
machines which heal our bodies. Some men explore unknown lands and seek
to solve in them the riddles of nature, that we may have a more complete
and nobler comprehension of our world.
The mere fact that on this earth of ours is a region larger than our own
country of which nothing is known is a sufficient motive for our trip.
So long as that great space remains unexplored, men will attempt to
penetrate it. America should have its share in that work. We cannot hope
to complete it, although we hope to do more than has been done before
because of our airplanes. There are many interesting speculations with
regard to the interior, and geologists have long been puzzled over some
of the contradictory features of the known landscape.
Is the Antarctic one continent or two huge islands? It is known that the
polar plateau rises to 10,000 feet in the interior and that there are
two large mountain chains running inland from the Ross Sea and at either
side of the ice barrier. But opposite the Ross Sea is another
indentation in the continent, the Weddell Sea, so similar in appearance
to the Ross Sea, so apparently related to it in position that there has
long been speculation as to whether or not these two bodies of water did
not at one time meet in a strait which has since become overlaid with
the ice of the polar plateau. Nobody knows how deep is the ice covering,
and it is probable that a careful survey from the air would show that
there once was a connection between the two Antarctic seas and that the
continent of ice was two large islands before the Ice Age.
It is probable that we shall also be able to determine whether one of
the mountain ranges is actually a continuation of the Andean Cordillera.
The interior of King Edward VII Land, or rather that part of the
interior to the southeast of that land, has never been seen, and if we
are able to penetrate it some distance by air, we shall learn definitely
the trend of the mountains, or perhaps discover an undulating plain.
That is one of the greatest geographical problems of the Antarctic.
There are many other things to do, of which flying to the South Pole is
far from being the most important. The purpose of the flight to the Pole
is not only to reach the Pole itself but to survey as much of the polar
plateau as possible, something which Amundsen and Scott were unable to
do because of the limitations of their method of travel. My greatest
desire in going to the Pole is to fly beyond it, if possible, and
ascertain the extent of the plateau and its physical characteristics. It
is probable that it extends for many miles in an undulating plain, but
nobody knows. It has never been approached except from the Ross Sea
All of this country over which we fly will be mapped with the aid of
aerial cameras, specially constructed instruments which will record a
wide territory on each side of our routes, the size depending on the
height we are able to attain over many elevations of the landscape. From
these photographs maps will be drawn which for the first time will give
nearly accurate details of the country. Although mountain ranges have
been glimpsed at a distance by expeditions in the Antarctic, their
actual position and detail have never been accurately ascertained.
There are many problems for the physicist in auroral observations, earth
radiation, radio-activity of snow and ice and glaciology. There are
meteorological studies to be made, perhaps as important a task as
anything else, for the Antarctic cold and storms affect the climate of
half the world. There are studies in magnetism and spectro-photography,
and the causes of that little-understood phenomenon, the aurora
australis. It is believed that it is the result of an electronic
bombardment from the sun under which certain atoms are broken up, but
that also is speculation.
Fossils are to be sought, and rock specimens will be obtained for
careful examination. There is much valuable experimental radio work to
be undertaken. There is almost no limit to the scientific work which may
be done in the Antarctic; for, despite the accomplishments of Scott,
Mawson, Amundsen, Shackleton and others, the surface has been merely
Our geographical work will be controlled almost entirely by
meteorological conditions. Airplanes have never been used in the
Antarctic, and any one who uses them there must begin his work with
somewhat the feeling that he is going into danger. The reports of
Antarctic blizzards would cause the most adventurous spirit to become
cautious. It is obvious that flying should not be a slap-dash proceeding
in a region where winds rise from dead calm to forty miles an hour in
two minutes, and out of a sky that had been clear, carrying blinding
clouds of snow through which it would be impossible to fly safely. It
can be understood why we are taking four planes. We shall be extremely
fortunate if we bring them all back.
Our testing and early flying in laying down bases will be comparatively
simple. We shall have an opportunity to test our skis under loads, for
the weather at the Bay of Whales is unusually uniform and free from
storms. This is due to the unusual formation of the ice barrier, which
is a vast triangle, 600 miles long at its sea base and running inland
about 400 miles. It is believed that this offers a zone of comparative
calm because of the peculiar nature of the storms which roll down off
the high polar plateau, the largest plateau of similar height in the
Professor Hobbs of Michigan believes that the strong winds on the edge
of the continent are caused by the gravitational force of descending
currents of cold air, but that on the barrier these winds are checked by
their own pressure within a few miles of the interior edge of the
barrier. Whatever the reason for this phenomenon, it seems certain that
on the barrier we shall have an unusually good base for our planes.
But once we pass beyond this region in flight we enter meteorological
conditions that are uncertain and dangerous. The flight to the Pole will
indicate what I mean. It seems reasonable to assume that from the edge
of the barrier, where our main base will be located, up to the glacier
over which Amundsen made his way at the edge of the plateau, the flying
will be in fairly smooth air and with little danger of a sudden storm.
This is fortunate, for it will give us an opportunity to climb slowly
with our heavy load to an altitude of 12,000 feet or more, which we need
to cross the mountains and the plateau. We may, of course, take off from
a base at the foot of the plateau, but this must be decided by
conditions as we find them.
The moment we reach the mountains, we enter a storm area. Winds howl
down the passes in the mountains from the plateau, bearing dense clouds
of snow through which it will be difficult to fly. The air is turbulent
and the velocity of the wind such that we shall literally have to fight
our way through it. This will tax the plane and the pilots to the
utmost, unless it is possible to climb above the storm, and I very much
doubt that we will be able to avoid all of it. Just how far this storm
area may stretch it is impossible to tell, and it is barely possible
that we may reach the mountains in one of those strange periods of calm
which are almost as inexplicable as the storms themselves.
But once through the mountains and well into the plateau, it is probable
that we shall encounter merely moderate winds and little snowfall, which
should make this part of our journey favorable for exploration of a part
of the plateau and for close examination and for photographing of the
mountains seen by Amundsen, to which he gave the name of the Queen Maude
Range. Whether we shall be able to alight at the Pole and make
observations on the ground is problematical. I should like very much to
do so and possibly prolong our stay there a day or two, but this will
have to depend entirely on the surface we find and the ability of the
plane to rise with a load from an elevation of more than 10,000 feet,
which, as every aviator knows, is very difficult even under the most
favorable conditions. We are still held by the present limitations of
A flight to the east and southeast over the mountains that are supposed
to exist to the east of the barrier will be a very different and much
more difficult trip. There we will be over absolutely unknown land,
flying directly into the path from which come the pressure waves that
control to a large extent the storms of Antarctica.
The origin and cause of these waves are unknown, so we shall have the
condition of flying over an unknown area, never before seen by man,
toward the threat of storms which we can neither anticipate nor avoid.
In these side-flights, however, may lie the greatest successes of the
expedition, as they will result in the mapping of a vast territory
hitherto unknown, and so they will be worth all the risk.
They will not be long flights, of course, and will be started from
inland bases, so that it will be possible to dash out and back again as
a precaution against being caught in a storm. Every flight will be over
a predetermined route which will be held to rigidly, so that in the
event of a forced landing the crew may be rescued by another plane. It
can readily be seen that a sudden storm with snow would blind the pilot
so that it would be impossible to keep going, and if he should be caught
in a storm there would be only two possible manoeuvres--either to land
at once and wait until it was over, which would be safest, or try to
beat the storm back to the base. That might be possible, as the pressure
waves move at a velocity of only forty miles an hour, and, fortunately,
directly toward our main base. It is for this reason that the Bay of
Whales offers, of all known parts of the Antarctic, the best base from
which to direct operations by air.
It can readily be seen that flying in the Antarctic is very different
from Arctic flying. There are few storms in the Arctic during the Spring
months, but there is the constant danger of fog. In the Antarctic, on
the other hand, there is little fog but constant danger from storms.
There is no other part of the world where the weather is so uncertain,
or rather, so certain in its constant menace. In the Arctic, also, it is
possible to fly at a low elevation above sea level, which makes it
possible to utilize the full efficiency of the plane, but in the
Antarctic nearly all flights must be at a height of many thousands of
feet above sea level, which limits the capacity of the plane and makes
forced landings with a load very dangerous.
There is the satisfaction of having a solid surface instead of floating
ice on which to come down; but Antarctic cold is much more severe than
that of the Arctic in the Summer months. In the Antarctic it never gets
above freezing. In flying, of course, lower temperatures would be
We hope to carry out most of our extensive program, and believe that we
shall be able to do so. The personnel of the expedition is all that
could be asked; no better men ever went into the Antarctic. I have every
confidence in them and am proud to be at their head. Our equipment is of
the best, both aeronautic and scientific. Nothing which foresight could
provide has been overlooked. And so we push off in the hope that we
shall be able to accomplish all that is expected of us, and that our
expedition will carry a step further the glorious tradition of
achievement which has already been made in the Antarctic.
RIDING THE NIGHT SKIES ON THE WINGS OF A PLANE
BY T. J. C. MARTYN
(By permission of _New York Times_).
EACH night when you are probably tucked away safely in bed the night
pilot wings his way through the air with the mail and perhaps a
passenger or two. Across lakes and rivers, over towering mountains or
vast plains, through the silvery moonlit air or under the yawning
star-studded sky, in fair weather and in foul, he carries out the
bravest and greatest duty of commercial flying at speeds that make
snails out of the fastest trains.
If flying at night is theoretically the same as flying in the daytime,
in practice it is vastly different. In daylight there are those infinite
combinations of cloud and wind and temperature conditions that mean
good, fair or bad weather. At night each condition varies according to
the fullness of the moon, giving rise sometimes to some of the most
beautiful and awesome sights to be seen under creation. And then there
is the dark period, when there is no moon and when, every now and then,
there is nothing whatever to be seen--for you are flying through the
blackest of black fogs.
In the daytime one good flying day may be said to differ little from
another, wind and temperature being equal; but at night any given
weather conditions has at least two phases. There is literally a world
of difference between flying in a clear, dark night, when only the stars
in the heavens and the lights on the ground are visible, and under a
full moon, when the ground is seen almost as clearly as in daylight.
If you ascend in a plane on a clear, moonless night over New York you
will see a sight hard to match for its brilliance. You will see in an
ebony setting many diamond-studded lanes across the East
River--Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queensboro and Hell Gate bridges--and to the
west a myriad of luminous beetles, apparently motionless--the boats on
the Hudson River. At the Battery there is a small cluster of lights in
the deserted downtown skyscrapers and Broadway is to be seen with
difficulty as a line of faint lights. Between City Hall Park and the
Thirties Broadway is no more, but from Thirty-fourth Street it reappears
in a burst of illumination and can be traced as a line of evenly spaced
lights intersecting other straight lines of lights, until at
Forty-second Street it merges into a flooding glow of brilliance. The
Great White Way is greater and whiter from the black sky than it is from
the ground, distance lending enchantment to the view. And finally the
lights grow dimmer and lose themselves in the gloom of distance. In the
middle of the island Central Park's location will be faintly discernible
from the irregularity of the lights that dot it, while skyscrapers,
viewed obliquely, rise up like giant illuminated honeycombs.
Get away from the city, far out into the country, away from the towns
and villages, and all you will see is the occasional light of some
remote house, the glow from a railroad locomotive reflected in its
smoke, or a motor car with bright, searching eyes going along the road.
Elsewhere the earth is invisible and you gaze seemingly into a vast,
bottomless void--no trees, no roads, no rivers, no railroads, no
buildings, no anything; just an enveloping inky blackness perforated
above by the stars and below by occasional pinpoints of artificial
But there is one sight that is only to be seen in its full brilliance on
a dark night, and that is a busy airport. The lights of an airport are
often to be seen from great distances, and as you get close to them they
appear as a fairyland, or as Coney Islands or Palisades--which
themselves present very beautiful spectacles from the air. The airport
will be first distinguished by the dazzling floodlights that bathe the
surface of the landing field in a light many times stronger than the
daylight. These are powerful searchlights trained on the field so as to
provide a wide area of illumination. Sometimes a narrow path of light is
preferred and this is lit by a single searchlight into which the planes
land and from which they take off. Under the floodlight system planes
can land almost anywhere in the lighted area.
Then there are the hangars. They, too, are lighted, inside and out, and
all other buildings and natural obstacles carry a light to distinguish
them in the dark. Sometimes a searchlight is to be seen sweeping the
sky, its great white beam making its inky surroundings even blacker. But
for the most part you will see only the humbler landing lights of an
emergency field and the great beacons flashing their seeming pinpoints
of red or white lights to guide the night pilot on his way.
How different is the view on a clear moonlight night! The city lights
are still there, but robbed now of their brilliance by the sheen of the
moon. The outline of Manhattan, its streets, its massed buildings and
its parks are all visible. You will see the East and the Hudson and the
Harlem rivers as streams of purest silver dotted with boats that now
look like gray driftwood rather than beetles. Central Park appears as a
ghostly wilderness of shreds and patches. If you gaze closely at the
scene from 2,000 feet, which is the lowest you may come down to, you
will see the automobiles along the streets.
In the open country the aspect of the scenery undergoes a remarkable
change--the view is now identical with that seen in the daylight, except
that the outline of everything is softened by the flooding moonlight.
Nowhere is that fabled charm of the moonbeam more felt and appreciated
than in the air, and nowhere will you feel more the silent majesty of
the earth bathed in a poetic and alluring beauty beyond expression.
Rivers like ribbons of silver, roads like long, winding, criss-crossed
ribbons of white silk, forests shading from greenish gray to jet black,
houses, towns and hamlets shrouded in an almost visible silence,
railroad tracks like endless serrated bracelets of shining
platinum--such are the views on which your eyes will feast, and more
than at any other time in the air the sheer magnificence, the exotic
beauty, and the phantasmagorial unreality of the landscape will sweep
you through space far from the din and actuality of the ground.
It is often said that bad weather is bad weather and whether you are
flying through it in daylight or darkness makes little difference. This
is truer in the moonlight than in the dark period; for there are few
nights that the moon fails to pierce the clouds or the fog sufficiently
to relieve the darkness, just as the sun relieves the shadowing storm
sky in the daytime. But on the moonless night, if ground and sky be
obscured by storm clouds or mists, there is nothing but a Stygian
darkness impenetrable on all sides of your plane, above and below it.
Navigating by night in such weather is no joke and the strain of it
broke more than one man's nerve during the war; for it is difficult to
escape the feeling of acute isolation and loneliness that restricted
vision entails for some men. But usually the pilot is too busy watching
his instruments to be distracted by such sensations; it is only after
the flight that the strain begins to tell on him.
It will naturally be assumed that flying by night is more dangerous than
flying in the daytime, and it is useless to deny it. It must be
remembered, however, that night flying, relatively speaking, is still in
its infancy; a great deal remains to be done to improve equipment and
training methods for personnel. Nevertheless, the dangers of night
flight are easy to exaggerate. In the first place, radio and the neon
light have come forward to aid the nocturnal navigator, although their
use is by no means as general as it might be. By means of radio a pilot
can be guided home through the murkiest of nights. All the pilot has to
do is to send a signal that he is lost. Two wireless stations pick the
message up and both telephone it to the nearest airport where, by
triangulation, the exact position of the plane is determined. The pilot
is then told the direction of the airport and the course he must fly on
to reach it, his position in the air being checked up repeatedly until
he is eventually steered into port. But if thick mist is lying on the
ground, how can he land? The neon light, with red rays reaching through
the fog, answers the question; it is said that these lights sunk into
the ground will enable the pilot to make a landing over them in the
worst mist, but the process is still in its experimental stage and the
neon light is used mostly for beacons.
Engine failure is, of course, the greatest risk the night pilot has to
run. If the engine fails in the daytime, he can usually manage to come
down more or less safely, but on a dark stormy night all he has to rely
upon in case of a forced landing are his landing lights which, situated
on the wingtips, shed a considerable light and may enable a pilot to
land in a field. However, the time limit is short and in mist or fog
these lights are worse than useless, having the effect of blinding the
Emergency landing grounds equipped--if they prove practicable--with
neon floodlights, seem for night passenger services the only solution of
the problem of forced landings. It seems not improbable that along
passenger airways landing grounds will be placed close enough together
so that a plane flying at a convenient height will never be out of
gliding distance of one, certainly not for any appreciable time. And
until some reliable mechanical landing device has been invented such
improvements seem to offer the only way of making night flying as safe
as day flying.
How, it may be asked, does a pilot navigate at night when he can see
nothing, or not enough to follow any natural feature on the ground? How
did Lindbergh fly from San Diego across the continent to New York? He
did it, at night, by what is known as instrument flying, which was first
developed in a very primitive way by the night flying squadrons in
France. The night pilot depends for his direction on his compass, and if
it be an earth induction compass, whatever changes take place in the
wind's direction he will be able to correct them; for the compass will
instantly show any deviation from left to right of a given course. To
keep a course accurately requires continuous concentration of the most
exhausting kind. But this is not the only instrument the pilot has to
watch. If you climb into a pilot's cockpit in any fully fitted plane you
will find the front dashboard covered with instruments, with others
underneath it and to the side. To all these except two the pilot will
pay only perfunctory attention. The two that he must watch as closely as
the compass are the bank and turn indicator and the inclinometer.
It is a curious thing that in flying "blind" either in daylight or at
night man has not enough natural sense of balance to keep a plane in its
normal flying position. If you go up in the daytime and practice flying
through the clouds without looking at your instruments, you will most
likely be surprised, despite the fact that you know something is wrong,
to find yourself actually flying upside down when you emerge from the
clouds. It is the same in a black night when no lights are to be seen.
You feel you are diving and you pull the stick toward you to bring the
nose of the plane up, whereas you probably were stalling and suddenly
you feel your stick go quite limp. Then you feel that the plane is
turning and you attempt to counteract it and very probably speed up the
turn instead of correcting it. Without instruments there is no way of
telling what you are doing, and even with instruments one has such
strong feelings that they are wrong and you are right that there is ever
a strong temptation to take the matter into one's own hands--with
disastrous consequences. Thus an intensive concentration on one's
instruments has to be bolstered up with inflexible will power.
The bank and turn indicator shows the pilot when he is and is not flying
laterally even; that is to say, when one wing goes up and one down, or
when the plane side-slips to one side or the other, the fact is recorded
on the instrument and the pilot is able to correct it. The inclinometer
similarly tells the pilot when the plane is flying level fore and aft.
Now there is available an instrument that performs both these functions
and at the same time acts as a compass. It is a French device and is
called a gyroclinometer. When the plane is flying normally a light
behind the disk that forms the face of the instrument is in a dead
centre position; if the plane moves in any direction, up or down, to
left or right, that fact is immediately recorded by the instrument and
the pilot can make the necessary movements to counteract it. But the
instrument demands the same intensity of concentration as the others.
Night flying calls not only for special training but for a special type
of man. Not every good day pilot makes a good night flier. The night
pilot must, in addition to many other requisite qualities, be a man of
iron nerve well able to withstand the strain of flying weary miles by
instrument alone; he must have the faculty of cool, rapid judgment, and
he must be an expert flier in the daytime. As a matter of fact the pick
of airmen are the night pilots.
The training of night pilots should involve, but sometimes does not, a
long course of special instruction. It is only fair to say, however,
that most aviation companies in this country employ only the most expert
fliers on their night lines, and any passenger who makes an air trip
after dusk may be generally well assured that he is in the best hands.
Presuming that a pilot has graduated in day work, the normal procedure
is to allow him to "pile up" several hundred hours of flying experience
in the daytime. Then he practices landings at dusk, then at night in the
moonlight period, and finally into the bright floodlights on a dark
night. Next he is taught instrument flying, at first through clouds and
afterward in a covered cockpit in which he can see only the
instrument--a method invented by a Dutch commercial air line. Behind him
is his instructor--the only one he really needs in all his night flying
work--to tell him when he goes wrong, as he is almost sure to do. It is
a long process, but it rounds out a man's knowledge of the air, and no
would-be pilot need think for a moment that he will get far without
qualifying as a night pilot, and to become first a good day pilot and
then an experienced night pilot takes several hundreds of hours of
For the passenger no air experience is necessary before he takes his
first night flight. If, for example, you go up for the first time on a
pitch-black night you will probably find less thrills in flying than you
will in the daytime. For one thing there are rarely any bumps, and
although bumps are nothing to be worried about, they are unpleasant,
especially to the person who is not flying the machine. But the chief
reason for lack of thrills is that there is nothing to be seen, and an
air journey of any length is apt to be rather monotonous than thrilling.
The result is that if you happen to have no weighty problems of your own
on your mind you will most probably fall asleep.
If you are a business man and believe that time is money you will at
some period or other fly through the night with every assurance that you
will land at your destination not only safely but with a punctuality
unsurpassed by any other form of travel.
Night flying is necessary to aviation. There is a tradition in the mail
service that a plane never waits on the weather, and if this is a little
optimistic it is nevertheless almost true. It may not be long, as time
is reckoned, before the same thing will be said of night passenger
flying; for in all passenger flying speed and endurance have to be
sacrificed to reliability, and it is not too much to expect, if
passenger flying is to fulfill its manifest destiny, that reliable
planes will roar in increasing numbers through the night skies.
Some important Dales in Aviation History
June 5, 1783 ........... First balloon, flown by Joseph and Etienne
September 23, 1852 .... Henry Giffard (father of the dirigible) made
October 7, 1893 ........ S. A. Andree, Swedish engineer, flew across
Baltic Sea in a balloon.
July 23,1896 .......... S. A. Andree inflated balloon in preparation for
trip to North Pole.
December 17, 1903 ..... Wright Brothers made first flight with power
August 8, 1908 ......... Wilbur Wright made his first flight in Europe.
September 9,1908 ..... Orville Wright achieved flight of over an hour's
December 31, 1908 ..... Wilbur Wright made flight of two hours and
July 25, 1909 .......... L. Bleriot flew over English Channel in
February, 1911 ......... First aeroplane used in actual war employed by
the United States to observe Mexican frontier near Juarez.
May 9, 1926 ........... Commander Richard E. Byrd left from base camp
near village of King's Bay in aeroplane for North Pole.
May 20, 1927 .......... Charles Lindbergh started his flight to Paris in
the "Spirit of St. Louis."
June 4, 1927 ........... Clarence D. Chamberlin made flight to Germany.
March 29, 1927 ........ Wilkins, on second flight to Arctic forced to
land in ice fields--the only forced landing in his three expeditions.
April 12, 1928 .......... Bremen trip to the United States.
August 14, 1928 ........ Commander Richard E. Byrd starts trip to South