BLTC Press Titles

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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

Learning to fly in the U. S. Army

by Elisha Noel Fales





That part of the history of Aviation which has especial interest for aviators is of recent date, and extends back only two dozen years. Of course efforts have been made toward manflight ever since the early sixteenth century, when Leonardo da Vinci invented the parachute and became the first patron of aeronautics; between the time of this famous artist and the present many experimenters have given their attention to the problem, but previous to the last decade of the nineteenth century nothing practical was achieved. Then, with the perfection of the steam engine and the development of the gasoline engine, there came inducement to sound experimentation, bringing forth such wellknown figures as Maxim, Langley, Lillienthal and Chanute.

The work of each of these men is an interesting story by itself, especially that of Langley, who approached the matter from a strictly scientific


viewpoint, established testing apparatus and built successful self-propelled steam models years before the Wright brothers reported their independent successes. He reproduced his models to full scale with every expectation of success, but failed, due to exhaustion of his capital.

Langley's Experiments in Aerial Navigation.— In all the history of aerial navigation one of the most romantic stories is that describing the scientific researches begun in 1887 by Langley and culminating in 1896 in the first really successful case of mechanical flight using a prime mover; continuing up to 1903 when this first successful machine, a model of 12-ft. span, was reproduced to full scale and manned for its trial flight by a human pilot; and ending with the destruction of this full-sized machine on launching, so that Langley missed the glory of being the actual discoverer of manflight only by a hair's breadth, dying shortly afterward of a broken heart, as is conceded by those who knew him. If this full-scale machine had performed as successfully in 1903 as it actually did after being rebuilt and partly remodelled a decade later by the Curtiss company, Langley would have antedated the first successful flight made by the Wright brothers by a narrow margin of about 2 months.

Lillienthal (Germany, 1894).—But omitting details regarding the early experimenters we will consider only that part of the history of aviation most important to the prospective aviator. We will confine ourselves to the sequence of gliding and

power experiments begun by Lillienthal, carried forward by Chanute and brought to completion by the Wrights.

Lillienthal was the first man to accomplish successful flights through the air by the use of artificial

(Courtesy Jas. Means' "Aeronautical Annual.") Fig. 2.—Lillienthal's biplane glider in flight, 1894. Note.—(a) Arched wings; (b) fixed tail; (c) method of balancing by swinging legs

wing surfaces. After many years of experiment and study of soaring birds he constructed rigid wings which he held to his shoulders and which, after he had gained considerable velocity by running forward downhill, would catch the air and lift his weight completely off the ground. The wings were arched, for he observed this was the case in all birds; flat wings proved useless in flight, and suggested a reason for the failure of previous experi

(Courtesy Jos. Means' "Aeronautical Annual") Fig. 3.—Chanute's biplane glider, 1896. Note improvement in rigidity by bridge-type trussing.

menters. To these rigid wings Lillienthal fastened a rigid tail; the wings and the tail comprised his "glider." There were no control levers and the only way the operator could steer was to shift the balance by swinging his legs one way or the other. Lillienthal constructed an artificial hill for his gliding so that he could coast downward for some distance without striking the ground and he was able to accomplish many glides of a couple of hundred yards in length.

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