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A History of Aeronautics by Marsh and Vivian

While at Blackpool only 115 miles were flown


The success of this great meeting brought about a host of imitations of which only a few deserve bare mention since, unlike the first, they taught nothing and achieved little. There was the meeting at Boulogne late in September of 1909, of which the only noteworthy event was Ferber's death. There was a meeting at Brescia where Curtiss again took first prize for speed and Rougier put up a world's height record of 645 feet. The Blackpool meeting followed between 18th and 23rd of October, 1909, forming, with the exception of Doncaster, the first British Flying Meeting. Chief among the competitors were Henry Farman, who took the distance prize, Rougier, Paulhan, and Latham, who, by a flight in a high wind, convinced the British public that the theory that flying was only possible in a calm was a fallacy. A meeting at Doncaster was practically simultaneous with the Blackpool week; Delagrange, Le Blon, Sommer, and Cody were the principal figures in this event. It should be added that 130 miles was recorded as the total flown at Doncaster, while at Blackpool only 115 miles were flown. Then there were Juvisy, the first Parisian meeting, Wolverhampton, and the Comte de Lambert's flight round the Eiffel Tower at a height estimated at between 1,200 and 1,300 feet. This may be included in the record of these aerial theatricals, since it was nothing more.

Probably wakened to realisation of the possibilities of the aeroplane by the Rheims Meeting, Germany turned out its first plane late in 1909. It was known as the Grade monoplane, and was a blend of the Bleriot and Santos-Dumont machines, with a tail suggestive of the Antoinette type. The main frame took the form of a single steel tube, at the forward end of which was rigged a triangular arrangement carrying the pilot's seat and the landing wheels underneath, with the wing warping wires and stays above. The sweep of the wings was rather similar to the later Taube design, though the sweep back was not so pronounced, and the machine was driven by a four-cylinder, 20 horse-power, air-cooled engine which drove a two-bladed tractor propeller. In spite of Lilienthal's pioneer work years before, this was the first power-driven German plane which actually flew.

Eleven months after the Rheims meeting came what may be reckoned the only really notable aviation meeting on English soil, in the form of the Bournemouth week, July 10th to 16th, 1910. This gathering is noteworthy mainly in view of the amazing advance which it registered on the Rheims performances. Thus, in the matter of altitude, Morane reached 4,107 feet and Drexel came second with 2,490 feet. Audemars on a Demoiselle monoplane made a flight of 17 miles 1,480 yards in 27 minutes 17.2 seconds, a great flight for the little Demoiselle. Morane achieved a speed of 56.64 miles per hour, and Grahame White climbed to 1,000 feet altitude in 6 minutes 36.8 seconds. Machines carrying the Gnome engine as power unit took the great bulk of the prizes, and British-built engines were far behind.

The Bournemouth Meeting will always be remembered with regret for the tragedy of C. S. Rolls's death, which took place on the Tuesday, the second day of the meeting. The first competition of the day was that for the landing prize; Grahame White, Audemars, and Captain Dickson had landed with varying luck, and Rolls, following on a Wright machine with a tail-plane which ought never to have been fitted and was not part of the Wright design, came down wind after a left-hand turn and turned left again over the top of the stands in order to land up wind. He began to dive when just clear of the stands, and had dropped to a height of 40 feet when he came over the heads of the people against the barriers. Finding his descent too steep, he pulled back his elevator lever to bring the nose of the machine up, tipping down the front end of the tail to present an almost flat surface to the wind. Had all gone well, the nose of the machine would have been forced up, but the strain on the tail and its four light supports was too great; the tail collapsed, the wind pressed down the biplane elevator, and the machine dived vertically for the remaining 20 feet of the descent, hitting the ground vertically and crumpling up. Major Kennedy, first to reach the debris, found Rolls lying with his head doubled under him on the overturned upper main plane; the lower plane had been flung some few feet away with the engine and tanks under it. Rolls was instantaneously killed by concussion of the brain.


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