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A History of Aeronautics by Marsh and Vivian

With a first flight of 6 seconds on a Bleriot monoplane


Grahame White had made a most heroic attempt to beat his rival. An hour before dawn on the 28th, he went to the small field in which his machine had landed, and in the darkness managed to make an ascent from ground which made starting difficult even in daylight. Purely by instinct and his recollection of the aspect of things the night before, he had to clear telegraph wires and a railway bridge, neither of which he could possibly see at that hour. His engine, too, was faltering, and it was obvious to those who witnessed his start that its note was far from perfect.

At 3.50 he was over Nuneaton and making good progress; between Atherstone and Lichfield the wind caught him and the engine failed more and more, until at 4.13 in the morning he was forced to come to earth, having covered 6 miles less distance than in his first attempt. It was purely a case of engine failure, for, with full power, he would have passed over Paulhan just as the latter was preparing for the restart. Taking into consideration the two machines, there is little doubt that Grahame White showed the greater flying skill, although he lost the prize. After landing and hearing of Paulhan's victory, on which he wired congratulations, he made up his mind to fly to Manchester within the 24 hours. He started at 5 o'clock in the afternoon from Polesworth, his landing place, but was forced to land at 5.30 at Whittington, where he had landed on the previous Saturday. The wind, which had

forced his descent, fell again and permitted of starting once more; on this third stage he reached Lichfield, only to make his final landing at 7.15 p.m., near the Trent Valley station. The defective running of the Gnome engine prevented his completing the course, and his Farman machine had to be brought back to London by rail.

The presentation of the prize to Paulhan was made the occasion for the announcement of a further competition, consisting of a 1,000 mile flight round a part of Great Britain. In this, nineteen competitors started, and only four finished; the end of the race was a great fight between Beaumont and Vedrines, both of whom scorned weather conditions in their determination to win. Beaumont made the distance in a flying time of 22 hours 28 minutes 19 seconds, and Vedrines covered the journey in a little over 23 1/2 hours. Valentine came third on a Deperdussin monoplane and S. F. Cody on his Cathedral biplane was fourth. This was in 1911, and by that time heavier-than-air flight had so far advanced that some pilots had had war experience in the Italian campaign in Tripoli, while long cross-country flights were an everyday event, and bad weather no longer counted.


There is so much overlapping in the crowded story of the first years of successful power-driven flight that at this point it is advisable to make a concise chronological survey of the chief events of the period of early development, although much of this is of necessity recapitulation. The story begins, of course, with Orville Wright's first flight of 852 feet at Kitty Hawk on December 19th, 1903. The next event of note was Wright's flight of 11.12 miles in 18 minutes 9 seconds at Dayton, Ohio, on September 26th, 1905, this being the first officially recorded flight. On October 4th of the same year, Wright flew 20.75 miles in 33 minutes 17 seconds, this being the first flight of over 20 miles ever made. Then on September 14th 1906, Alberto Santos-Dumont made a flight of eight seconds on the second heavier-than-air machine he had constructed. It was a big box-kite-like machine; this was the second power-driven aeroplane in Europe to fly, for although Santos-Dumont's first machine produced in 1905 was reckoned an unsuccessful design, it had actually got off the ground for brief periods. Louis Bleriot came into the ring on April 5th, 1907, with a first flight of 6 seconds on a Bleriot monoplane, his eighth but first successful construction.

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