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A History of Aeronautics by Marsh and Vivian

There was one earlier than Ader


it not be thought that in this comment there is any desire to derogate from the position which Ader should occupy in any study of the pioneers of aeronautical enterprise. If he failed, he failed magnificently, and if he succeeded, then the student of aeronautics does him an injustice and confers on the Brothers Wright an honour which, in spite of the value of their work, they do not deserve. There was one earlier than Ader, Alphonse Penaud, who, in the face of a lesser disappointment than that which Ader must have felt in gazing on the wreckage of his machine, committed suicide; Ader himself, rendered unable to do more, remained content with his achievement, and with the knowledge that he had played a good part in the long search which must eventually end in triumph. Whatever the world might say, he himself was certain that he had achieved flight. This, for him, was perforce enough.

Before turning to consideration of the work accomplished by the Brothers Wright, and their proved conquest of the air, it is necessary first to sketch as briefly as may be the experimental work of Sir (then Mr) Hiram Maxim, who, in his book, Artificial and Natural Flight, has given a fairly complete account of his various experiments. He began by experimenting with models, with screw-propelled planes so attached to a horizontal movable arm that when the screw was set in motion the plane described a circle round a central point, and, eventually, he built a giant aeroplane

having a total supporting area of 1,500 square feet, and a wing-span of fifty feet. It has been thought advisable to give a fairly full description of the power plant used to the propulsion of this machine in the section devoted to engine development. The aeroplane, as Maxim describes it, had five long and narrow planes projecting from each side, and a main or central plane of pterygoid aspect. A fore and aft rudder was provided, and had all the auxiliary planes been put in position for experimental work a total lifting surface of 6,000 square feet could have been obtained. Maxim, however, did not use more than 4,000 square feet of lifting surface even in his later experiments; with this he judged the machine capable of lifting slightly under 8,000 lbs. weight, made up of 600 lbs. water in the boiler and tank, a crew of three men, a supply of naphtha fuel, and the weight of the machine itself.

Maxim's intention was, before attempting free flight, to get as much data as possible regarding the conditions under which flight must be obtained, by what is known in these days as 'taxi-ing'--that is, running the propellers at sufficient speed to drive the machine along the ground without actually mounting into the air. He knew that he had an immense lifting surface and a tremendous amount of power in his engine even when the total weight of the experimental plant was taken into consideration, and thus he set about to devise some means of keeping the machine on the nine foot gauge rail track which had been constructed for the trials. At the outset he had a set of very heavy cast-iron wheels made on which to mount the machine, the total weight of wheels, axles, and connections being about one and a half tons. These were so constructed that the light flanged wheels which supported the machine on the steel rails could be lifted six inches above the track, still leaving the heavy wheels on the rails for guidance of the machine. 'This arrangement,' Maxim states, 'was tried on several occasions, the machine being run fast enough to lift the forward end off the track. However, I found considerable difficulty in starting and stopping quickly on account of the great weight, and the amount of energy necessary to set such heavy wheels spinning at a high velocity. The last experiment with these wheels was made when a head wind was blowing at the rate of about ten miles an hour. It was rather unsteady, and when the machine was running at its greatest velocity, a sudden gust lifted not only the front end, but also the heavy front wheels completely off the track, and the machine falling on soft ground was soon blown over by the wind.'

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