Page:EB1922 - Volume 30.djvu/48

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The Art of Flying in War. If, in war, higher performance was the prime means of gaining the position to strike, controllability was essential to direct the blow. Pegoud had given a glimpse of the possibilities of aerobatics in 1913, and during the war these possibilities were explored to the uttermost. Probably owing to temperament, the French led the way. The pilot of a fighting aeroplane simply came to regard his machine as a mobile gun platform, whose motion must be in sympathy with his lightest touch to enable him to get his sights on the target. In fighting- scouts the guns were integral with the aeroplane, the nose of which was controlled so as to point them at the target. With opposing machines of equal performance the striking position had to be gained by manoeuvre, confidence in which was inspired by a good view of the opponent. In order to use his guns effec- tively, the pilot's arcs of view had therefore to be made as large as possible. Though " looping " itself was little used, half-loops and " Immelmann " turns enabled the pilot to turn rapidly while gaining height.

FIG. 5. Immelmann Turn.

Until 1916 spinning nose-dives had merely been associated with loss of flying speed and control, almost always with fatal results. A courageous demonstration of the method of recovery from a spin by Goodden, and later the practical application of the theory by Lindemann, both at the Royal Aircraft factory, did much to prevent future accidents. A spin came to be regarded, not with fear, but as a means, if crippled, of eluding attack.

French pilots again pointed the way in the art of " rolling," a manoeuvre in which the aeroplane is rolled about its longitudi- nal axis. In 1017 this manoeuvre was widely practised. The development of an aerial combat was so swift that the first few seconds might decide the fate of one of the opponents. It was rather in a brilliant combination of the manoeuvres described above, calculated to make effective striking possible while pre- senting an elusive target, than in the use of any single manoeuvre, that the war pilot put his trust. He had to study the characteris- tics of the aeroplane he was attacking, single or two-seater or large bomber, gauge its weakness, divine the mentality of its pilot and pit his skill against it; but it was grit and the will to close and finish it that alone could be the decisive factor.

To make possible the achievements of the fighting pilots, and to solve aerodynamic problems continuous experiments with new engines were carried on behind the scenes. High per- formance and controllability were not achieved without the incessant labour of scientists and designers, who were not a little baffled by the conflicting and rapidly changing demands often expressed with emphasis rather than illuminating precision; by the time new features in design could be given air trial the original demand had changed out of recognition.

And for military requirements something more than controlla- bility was required; for besides having to control the aeroplane the pilot had to examine maps, operate wireless, watch many in- struments, navigate, care for his guns, and keep a perfect look-out. If the controls were temporarily released the aeroplane ought in some measure to look after itself; in other words, be stable. In 1914 the BE2, and later the FEz, aeroplanes were altered so as to be stable longitudinally in partial conformity with Busk's REi design. They were thereupon called BEaC and FE2B ; with these the flier's hands were free, and with them no less than seven airships were brought down, a result no doubt assisted

by the confidence which stability inspired in night flying. But it then seemed that stability impaired controllability. By 1916 so strongly did war pilots desire the maximum of control that for some time many looked upon stability with disfavour. Gradually, however, a neutral stability was found to be compatible with the desired control. An added safety was that stable aeroplanes would automatically tend to recover from a spin after loss of control, and that, unlike unstable aeroplanes, they would tend to return to a normal attitude if they became inverted uninten- tionally or during the course of violent manoeuvres. Great as was this advance in aerodynamic knowledge, problems equally great remain, the solution of which can only be reached by con- stant and arduous experiment.

The Return to Peace. Civil aviation was mainly restarted by the conversion of war types, which were not so well suited as if designed for the purpose. Specialization of type commenced in two directions: aeroplanes destined for travel and transport and those designed for racing.

The year 1919 saw wonders as great as any that had gone be- fore. On June i4th-isth Alcock crossed the Atlantic on a Vickers-Vimy with twin Rolls engines in 16 hours 12 minutes, by which he won the Daily Mail 10,000 prize, and for which he was knighted. Of Hawker's plucky attempt and descent into mid- Atlantic; of Alcock's battle with driving mist, cloud and darkness; of the navigation of Whitten Brown, his companion; above all, of the human endurance underlying the feat, it is impossible to speak in measured terms. Just prior to Alcock's achievement there was one of a different kind, a triumph of organization for the Americans; for Lt.-Comm. Read and his crew came from America to England via the Azores and Lisbon, including the remarkable passage of 150 m. under power on a rough sea, in the flying-boat NC4. In the late autumn Ross-Smith and his brother flew another Vickers-Vimy to Australia in 28 days, won the 10,000 offered by the Australian Government, and were both knighted.

High-powered racing aeroplanes again appeared. Janello, in an Italian seaplane, put up a fine performance for the Schneider Cup at Bournemouth at a speed estimated at 140 m.p.h., but, though virtual winner, had unfortunately to be disqualified. Gathcrgood won the Aerial Derby at 129 m.p.h. on a De Havi- land aeroplane. Racing machines reached speeds of 170 and 180 m.p.h., and climbs were made to over 30,000 feet.

In 1920 Van Ryneveld flew from England to Cairo, and thence after many adventures to the Cape. He crashed two aeroplanes on the way, and arrived at his destination on a third supplied by the South African Government; but considering the conditions for flying in Central Africa his achievement is of the first rank.

The Schneider Cup and the Gordon Bennett, two classic races, were won respectively for Italy by Lt. Bologna in a Savoia sea- plane at Venice with an average speed of io(5 m.p.h., and by Sadi Lecointe at Etampcs at 169 m. per hour. Courtney won the fifth Aerial Derby in a Martinsyde racer with an average speed of 153 m. per hour. At Etampes the Farman " Goliath," a large- passenger machine, remained aloft for 24 hours 19 minutes, beat- ing all duration records. In America Maj. Schroeder on a Le Pere biplane with a supercharged engine reached a height of 33,000 feet. The fast American and French racers continually raised the speed record, until Sadi Lecointe on a Nieuport reached 313 km. per hour over a measured kilometre. By the end of 1920 racing machines had reached a speed of nearly 200 m.p.h., a military type scout had climbed to 20,000 ft. in 15 minutes, a large com- mercial machine had climbed to 15,000 ft. with a weight equiva- lent to 26 passengers, fliers had climbed over six miles into the air, and an aeroplane had remained aloft for over 24 hours.

To promote safety, experiments were carried out to reduce landing-speed while retaining a reasonable top speed by means of wings variable in flight, a problem to the solution of which Handley Page offered a notable contribution. In spite of these and other difficulties so little risk now remains that the number of miles flown for every accident is something like 35,000, or one- and-a-half times round the world.

The years from 1909 to 1920 reveal a story of progress that, even allowing for the extraordinary stimulus of the World War,