Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/468

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

454

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

Everything connected with the work was expedited as much as possible with the expectation of being able to have the first trial flight before the close of 1899, and time and money had been spent on the aerodrome, which was ready, except for its engine, when the time for the delivery of this arrived. But now the builder proved unable to complete his contract, and, after months of delay, it was necessary to decrease the force at work on the machine proper and its launching appliances until some assurance could be had of the final success of the engine. During the spring and summer of 1899, while these delays were being experienced in procuring suitable engines, former experiments on superposed wing surfaces were continued, time was found for overhauling the two steam-driven models which had been used in 1896, and the small house boat was rebuilt so that further tests of these small machines might be made in order to study the effect of various changes in the balancing and the steering, equilibrium preserving and sustaining appliances, and the months of June, July and a portion of August were spent in actual tests of these machines in free flight.

A new launching apparatus following the general plan of the former overhead one, but with the track underneath it, was built for the models, and it was used most successfully in these experiments, more than a dozen flights in succession being made with it, while in every case it worked without delay or accident. As soon as these tests with the models on this underneath launching apparatus were completed, that for the large machine was built as an exact duplicate, except for the enlargement, and with some natural confidence that what had worked so perfectly on a small scale would work fairly on a large one.

It was recognized from the very beginning that it would be desirable in a large machine to use "superposed" sustaining surfaces (that is, with one wing above another) on account of their superiority so far as the relation of strength to weight is concerned, and from their independence of guy wiring; and two sets of superposed sustaining surfaces of different patterns were built and experimented with in the early tests. These surfaces proved, on the whole, inferior in lifting power, though among compensating advantages are the strength of a "bridge" construction which dispenses with guy wires coming up from below, which, in fact, later were the cause of disaster in the launching.

It was finally decided to follow what experiment had shown to be successful, and to construct the sustaining surfaces for the large machine after the "single-tier" plan. This proved to be no easy task, since in the construction of the surfaces for the small machines the main and cross ribs of the framework had been made solid, and, after steaming, bent and dried to the proper curvature, while it was