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A History of Aeronautics by Marsh and Vivian

Working under Professor Langley


One

of the chief problems in connection with the construction of a full-sized apparatus was that of the construction of an engine, for it was realised from the first that a steam power plant for a full-sized machine could only be constructed in such a way as to make it a constant menace to the machine which it was to propel. By this time (1898) the internal combustion engine had so far advanced as to convince Langley that it formed the best power plant available. A contract was made for the delivery of a twelve horse-power engine to weigh not more than a hundred pounds, but this contract was never completed, and it fell to Charles M. Manly to design the five-cylinder radial engine, of which a brief account is included in the section of this work devoted to aero engines, as the power plant for the Langley machine.

The history of the years 1899 to 1903 in the Langley series of experiments contains a multitude of detail far beyond the scope of this present study, and of interest mainly to the designer. There were frames, engines, and propellers, to be considered, worked out, and constructed. We are concerned here mainly with the completed machine and its trials. Of these latter it must be remarked that the only two actual field trials which took place resulted in accidents due to the failure of the launching apparatus, and not due to any inherent defect in the machine. It was intended that these two trials should be the first of a series, but the unfortunate

accidents, and the fact that no further funds were forthcoming for continuance of experiments, prevented Langley's success, which, had he been free to go through as he intended with his work, would have been certain.

The best brief description of the Langley aerodrome in its final form, and of the two attempted trials, is contained in the official report of Major M. M. Macomb of the United States Artillery Corps, which report is here given in full:--

REPORT

Experiments with working models which were concluded August 8 last having proved the principles and calculations on which the design of the Langley aerodrome was based to be correct, the next step was to apply these principles to the construction of a machine of sufficient size and power to permit the carrying of a man, who could control the motive power and guide its flight, thus pointing the way to attaining the final goal of producing a machine capable of such extensive and precise aerial flight, under normal atmospheric conditions, as to prove of military or commercial utility.

Mr C. M. Manly, working under Professor Langley, had, by the summer of 1903, succeeded in completing an engine-driven machine which under favourable atmospheric conditions was expected to carry a man for any time up to half an hour, and to be capable of having its flight directed and controlled by him.

The supporting surface of the wings was ample, and experiment showed the engine capable of supplying more than the necessary motive power.


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