Popular Science Monthly/Volume 58/April 1901/Recent Progress in Aerial Navigation

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1408414Popular Science Monthly Volume 58 April 1901 — Recent Progress in Aerial Navigation1901Charles Henry Cochrane



THE recent successful trips of the Zeppelin airship make it appropriate to review and illustrate some of the less known attempts at aerial navigation. Somewhat similar in plan to Count von Zeppelin's enormous airship is the dirigible flying-machine shown in Fig. 1, with which at various times during 1897 and 1898 Dr. K. I. Danilewsky, of Charkov, Russia, made excursions. The object of making the balloon sausage-shaped was, of course, that its forward end might be brought toward the wind, and then, with the nose pointed upwards, as in the illustration, its under surface served somewhat as that of a kite. The wings were made about twelve feet in length, and it was found

Fig. 1. Danilewsky's Dirigible Balloon.

possible to handle them so as to turn the balloon entirely around in the air. and also to keep it practically stationary in a moderate breeze.

M. de Santos Dumont has sailed about the Eiffel Tower in Paris in the dirigible balloon shown in Fig. 2. It was 65 feet long. 25 in diameter and contained 17,658 cubic feet of gas. He used a small petroleum engine for controlling the rudder and aeroplane. The reports are that he was able to navigate very much at will. Fig. 3 is another form of dirigible balloon tried by M. Dumont. This was also reasonably successful.

Fig. 4 represents a machine designed by Frederick P. Merritt, with windmill sails below and on both sides of his balloon, and a mechanism for feathering them in such a manner as to drive the craft either forwards or backwards.

Fig. 5 is a design of Theodore Liebrand. The cylinder is of aluminum, and the wings transform themselves into wheels when the machine rims along the ground. I have no record of the actual success of either Merritt's or Liebrand's inventions, or even of their trial.

Returning to the realm of actual experiment, in Figs. 6 and 7 are shown views of Carl F. Myers's 'sky-cycle.' Of this Mr. Myers

Fig. 2. Santos Dumont's Dirigible Balloon (I).

Fig. 3. Santos Dumont's Dirigible Balloon (II).

writes, under date of February 5, 1900, with the enthusiasm of the inventor:

"The sky-cycle, or gas-kite, is a hand and foot propelled air-ship, provided with revolving screw-sails, vibrating wings, movable aeroplanes and universal rudder—the object of the entire equipage being to test the relative advantages of all known systems for propulsion and guidance, and to attain practical experience in manipulating air craft. The operator and machinery are suspended below a peculiarly shaped gas-spindle, whose fabric has been treated by a special process, original with me, which enables it to retain hydrogen permanently during use. It has within a limited period made upwards of one hundred flights, embracing New York State, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine,

Fig. 4. Merritt's Flying Machine.

Fig. 5. Liebrand's Flying Machine.

Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.

"Three machines only have been built, varying somewhat in form of spindle and extent of surface handled. As used at present, the screw, formerly fifteen feet diameter, has been reduced to eight feet, and the wings and rudder abandoned, the universal-jointed aeroplanes on each side haying proved in every way superior for all evolutions.

"With practice acquired by use of the sky-cycle, and with some indicated variation in structure and equipment, including a light auto-motor engine of best type, there should be no great difficulty in accomplishing an overland transcontinental journey by two or three persons with this type of air craft in less time than the same trip could be made by the same party on the ground."

In Fig. 6 the gas-kite shown is a concave-convex gas-vessel, like an upturned canoe. It is drawn forward by the screw-sail, which is rotated by hand and foot power. The steering is done by tipping to change the level or direction. In Fig. 7 the sky-cycle is shown tipping downward in the act of circling to the left in a descending spiral, the aeronaut using both screw-sail and small aeroplanes.

Jerome B. Blanchard, of Highlands, Col., patented in 1891 the aeroplane flying-machine shown in Fig. 8. He disdains the balloon

Fig. 6. Myers's sky-cycle (I).

and depends entirely on the two aeroplanes and the speed of the aviator to maintain the vessel in the air. The plan is to start the machine along an elevated tramway until a lifting speed is acquired, and then to depend upon the muscular exertion of the occupant.

Of a more practical character is the 'trolley flyer' of Daniel C. Funcheon, of Valderde, Col., illustrated by Fig. 9. A drum is supported on a platform and hung from an aeroplane. Around the drum coils a wire that may be made to convey a current of electricity for propelling the mechanism. Of course, the machine would require propellers and balancing devices, which are not shown in the drawing.

Fig. 10 represents a machine actually built and tried by Arthur Steutzel, of Altona, Prussia, in 1896. The wings were eleven feet long, and were flapped by the power of a carbonic acid gas-motor in the receptacle below. The rudder was designed to maintain the course set, and the wire simply to support the machine at the start. When the motor developed one and a half horse-power the stroke of the wings was sufficient to raise it and cause a jump along the wire. The total weight of the apparatus was about seventy-five pounds, and the motor could be run to develop three horse-power for a little time, and with that power it flew along in an interesting manner.

In studying the principles of mechanical flight, many experimenters have made little flying toys and have launched them in the air to see how they worked. M. Pichancourt made a number of these, with twisted rubber as motive power, but no one of them ever sailed more than sixty-three feet. Prof. S. P. Langley had greater success in this

Fig. 7. Myers's Sky-cycle (II).

direction, and one of the rubber motor toys' is shown in Pig. 11. I do not know how far it flew. Lawrence Margrave made use of a tube of compressed air, on which were mounted wings that vibrated as long as the air furnished enough power. Tie built one of these, seven feet in length, that weighed only fifty-nine ounces, and it flew 350 feet. Another form of toy, designed to be thrown from a high station, is shown in Fig. 12. Several of these were built by James Means and launched from the top of a lighthouse in Boston harbor. The length was about six feet, and they sailed a considerable distance.

Mr. Beecher Moore, of Buffalo, N. Y., has originated the very interesting machine shown in Fig. 13. Mr. Moore states that the working model which he constructed was charged with a slow-burning mixture of saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal, and would fly about 500 feet, or until the mixture was burned out. lie claims that it sails along evenly, balancing perfectly, and that it may be steered by the rudder. He prefers to fill the tank of the car with liquid air, on the ground that it furnishes a maximum of stored power with light weight. The air is exhausted and expanded through the nozzle at the top of the pipe. Mr. Moore says:

"The nozzle is placed at the top of the pipe, so that the push will act directly on the string of the kite and not push the car out of plumb, nor disturb the equilibrium of the machine. The kite is attached to the machine by wires, which allows it to balance itself automatically. Tin's property would be destroyed if it was attached rigidly
Fig. 8. Blanchard's Flying Machine.
Fig. 9. Funcheon's 'Trolley Flyer.’
to the balance of the machine. The method of attaching the wires is original and adds to the stability of the kite. The wheels are not necessary for the locomotion of the machine in the air, but are necessary in starting and alighting. In starting the machine, it is placed in an open road, and when the power is applied it runs along on the ground, gathering speed and giving the kite lifting power. When the machine has attained the necessary speed, it will leave the ground at a slight angle and continue in the air as long as it is forced ahead at sufficient speed to sustain its weight on the aeroplane. In alighting, the power should be shut off slowly until the machine settles to the ground, where it would slow down and stop."

Mr. Moore is a strong advocate of the rocket-like form of propulsion for flying machines. He admits that it is wasteful as far as expense is concerned, but contends that it will make a machine go where propellers will fail. He claims that the propeller "is very wasteful of power from friction of the blades in the air, and from 'end stroke,' or currents of air set in motion in the wrong direction." He says further:

"I have studied and experimented extensively with small aeroplane
Fig. 10. Steutzel Flying Machine.
Fig. 11. Langley's Model for studying the Principle of Mechanical Flight.
Fig. 12. Means's Model.
machines of every conceivable shape to test their balancing power, and have concluded that it is impossible to build a compact aeroplane machine that will balance and be under control in the air, with present known means. The aeroplane machine of the average inventor consists of aeroplanes elevated in various manners, and most of the weight arranged below to give them stability and keep them from upsetting. This may appear all right in theory, but actual experiments will at once demonstrate that any compact aeroplane machine, with sufficient aeroplane surface to support the accompanying weight, will sway, turn sideways and upset, with all manner of erratic and unexpected movements.

Some four years ago M. Ader, a French engineer, attracted a great deal of attention with a machine styled the 'Avion.' It had a car running on four wheels, two propellers forward to pull it along, and

Fig. 13. Beecher Moore's Flying Machine.

two enormous bat-like wings. The wings were designed to assist in soaring and in sustaining the mechanical bird in flight, when enough speed was secured to carry it off the ground. The machine did fly a little, but, unfortunately, like Maxim's famous machine, described in the Popular Science Monthly a few years ago, broke down just as it demonstrated that it had enough lifting power to get off the track. Fig. 14 shows the 'Avion' as it was designed to appear in flight. George L. O. Davidson, an English engineer, a year or two ago designed a bird-like machine, to be built of steel, and to sail along with spread wings, on the principle of a Lilienthal soaring apparatus, but I have never learned that the machine got beyond the stage of being represented in drawings.

This article would not be complete without a reference to Prof. S. P. Langley's aerodome, shown in Fig. 15. It has, however, been described so fully that it is only necessary to refer to it here.

Fig. 14. 'The Avion.’
Fig. 15. Langley's Aerodome.

The conclusion may be fairly drawn from these brief descriptions of experiments in aerial navigation, that the aerodrome is supplanting the balloon, but that it can not as yet be used alone successfully. All the flying machines that depend solely upon a motive power and supporting planes are unable to carry any large supply of fuel, and descend after a short flight. The balloon can remain in the air a long time, but it is unwieldy. The practical inference is that some combination of the balloon and the aeroplane is necessary to produce a machine that will be of commercial use in aerial navigation.