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Over the Front in an Aeroplane and Scenes Inside t

The aviator was ignorant of this


Before

long we reached Senlis, where I had stopped on my way to Compiegne the other day to take snap-shots of the streets of houses gutted by the Germans during their brief occupation before the battle of the Marne. Passing over Senlis, we dropped lower, so that I could get a clear bird's-eye view of the havoc. Then on and on, without incident, till the smoke of Paris came in sight, and on and on again, till I looked down through a thousand yards or so of space on the aviation field from which I had started just one hour and twenty-five minutes earlier.

Suddenly the motors stopped, the aeroplane keeled over onto the tip of its left wing and, pivoting round on it, we began our dizzy spiral descent. First on one wing-tip, and then on the other, we corkscrewed dizzily down. First the whole surface of the earth would swiftly fly up, revolving as it came, and slap me on the left side of the face, then, a fraction of a second later, the same revolving surface would heave swiftly up to slap me on the right side of my face. This double spiral descent is certainly by all odds the dizziest proceeding that was ever devised by man.

Finally, with a swoop which I made sure would carry away most of the chimney-pots of the suburb, we made a beautiful glide and alighted on the grass of the aviation field as smoothly as a canoe launched from a beach into a quiet lake.

Here one would think our day had

ended, but there was one very vivid thrill left.

As the aeroplane came to a stop a mechanic came running up, carrying a pneumatic wheel. He spoke a few sharp words to the pilot, and the latter asked me to get out quickly, saying that he would return and explain some of the details of our flight a little later. So I scrambled out, the machinist scrambled into my place, carrying the pneumatic wheel, and with a rattle and a roar the aeroplane rolled across the field and leaped into the air again.

I joined some aviation officers and asked what was the matter. They pointed to a machine a few thousand feet above us, and explained that in leaving the ground that machine had lost one of its pneumatic wheels. The aviator was ignorant of this, and, unless warned in time, would, on trying to make his landing, turn turtle and get killed. My pilot had gone up to meet him in the upper air and by waving the wheel at him indicate his predicament, so that he could land on the left wheel and tail of his machine.

"Unless he understands before he lands he is a dead man," said the officer. This really was a dramatic spectacle--the one aviator soaring on guard high in the sky in complete unconsciousness of the death that awaited him; the other, climbing nearer and nearer, then circling round and round in narrowing circles. Finally, the first machine started down.

"He understands," said some one.

"No, he doesn't," said others.

"Get the ambulance ready," ordered the aviation Captain, and the engine of the motor-ambulance began to chug with a most sinister effect.


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