LEARNING TO FLY
LEARNING TO FLY
A PRACTICAL MANUAL FOR BEGINNERS
CLAUDE GRAHAME-WHITE AND HARRY HARPER
NEW YORK THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
PRINTED IN ENGLAND.
I. THEORIES OF TUITION 9
II. TEMPERAMENT AND THE AIRMAN 20
III. FIRST EXPERIENCES WITH AN AEROPLANE 24 (AS DESCRIBED BY MR. GRAHAME-WHITE)
IV. THE CONTROLLING OF LATEST-TYPE CRAFT 31
V. THE STAGES OF TUITION 38
VI. THE TEST FLIGHTS 53
VII. PERILS OF THE AIR 56
VIII. FACTORS THAT MAKE FOR SAFETY 76
IX. A STUDY OF THE METHODS OF GREAT PILOTS 82
X. CROSS-COUNTRY FLYING 92
XI. AVIATION AS A PROFESSION 99
XII. THE FUTURE OF FLIGHT 104
A SCHOOL MACHINE WELL ALOFT Frontispiece
GRAHAME-WHITE SCHOOL BIPLANE 34
THE CONTROLS OF A SCHOOL BIPLANE 36
REAR VIEW OF A SCHOOL BIPLANE 38
POWER-PLANT OF A SCHOOL BIPLANE 40
MOTOR AND OTHER GEAR—ANOTHER VIEW 42
PUPIL AND INSTRUCTOR READY FOR A FLIGHT 44
PUPIL AND INSTRUCTOR IN FLIGHT (1) 46
PUPIL AND INSTRUCTOR IN FLIGHT (2) 48
PUPIL AND INSTRUCTOR IN FLIGHT (3) 50
Authors' Note.—The photographs to illustrate this book, as set forth above, were taken at the Grahame-White Flying School, the London Aerodrome, Hendon, by operators of the Topical Press Agency, 10 and 11, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, London, E.C.
This book is written for the novice—and for the novice who is completely a novice. We have assumed, in writing it, that it will come into the hands of men who, having determined to enter this great and growing industry of aviation, and having decided wisely to learn to fly as their preliminary step, feel they would like to gain beforehand—before, that is to say, they take the plunge of selecting and joining a flying school—all that can be imparted non-technically, and in such a brief manual as this, not only as to the stages of tuition and the tests to be undergone, but also in regard to such general questions as, having once turned their thoughts towards flying, they take a sudden and a very active interest.
It has been our aim, bearing in mind this first and somewhat restless interest, to cover a wide rather than a restricted field; and this being so, and remembering also the limitations of space, we cannot pretend—and do not for a moment wish it to be assumed that we pretend—to cover exhaustively the various topics we discuss. Our endeavour, in the pages at our disposal, has not been to satisfy completely this first curiosity of the novice, but rather to stimulate and strengthen it, and guide it, so to say, on lines which will lead to a fuller and more detailed research.
It is from this point of view, as a short yet comprehensive introduction, and particularly as an aid to the beginner in his choice of a school, and in what may be called his mental preparation for the stages of his tuition, that we desire our book to be regarded.
C. G.-W. H. H.
THEORIES OF TUITION
Only eight years ago, in 1908, it was declared impossible for one man to teach another to fly. Those few men who had risen from the ground in aeroplanes, notably the Wright brothers, were held to be endowed by nature in some very peculiar way; to be men who possessed some remarkable and hitherto unexplained sense of equilibrium. That these men would be able to take other men—ordinary members of the human race—and teach them in their turn to navigate the air, was a suggestion that was ridiculed. But Wilbur Wright, after a series of brilliant flights, began actually to instruct his first pupils; doing so with the same care and precision, and the same success, that had characterised all his pioneer work. And these first men who were taught to fly on strange machines—as apart from the pioneers who had taught themselves to fly with craft of their own construction—made progress which confounded the sceptics. They went in easy and leisurely fashion from stage to stage, and learned to become aviators without difficulty, and mainly without accident.
After this, increasing in numbers from two or three to a dozen, and from a dozen to fifty and then a hundred, the army of airmen grew until it could be totalled in thousands. Instead of being haphazard, the teaching of men to fly became a business. Flying schools were established; courses of tuition were arranged; certain pilots specialised in the work of instruction. It was shown beyond doubt that, instead of its being necessary for an aviator to be a species of acrobat, any average man could learn to fly.
Certainly a man who intends to fly should be constitutionally sound; this point is important. When in an aeroplane, one passes very quickly through the air, and such rapid movement—and also the effect of varying altitudes—entail a certain physical strain. A man with a weak heart might find himself affected adversely by flying; while one whose lungs were not sound might find that his breathing was impeded seriously by a swift passage through the air. More than one fatality, doubtful as to its exact cause, has been attributed to the collapse of a pilot who was not organically sound, or who ascended when in poor health. And here again is an important point. No man, even a normally healthy man, should attempt to pilot a machine in flight when he is feeling unwell. In such cases the strain of flying, and the effect of the swift motion through the air, may cause a temporary collapse; and in the air, when a man is alone in a machine, any slight attack of faintness may be sufficient to bring about a fatality.
A fair judgment of speed, and an eye for distance, are very helpful to the man who would learn to fly, and it is here that a man who has motored a good deal, driving his own car, is at advantage at first over one who has not. But otherwise, and writing generally, any man of average quickness of movement, of average agility, can learn without difficulty to control an aeroplane in flight. It is wrong to imagine that exceptional men are required. An unusual facility, of course, marks the expert pilot; but we are writing of men who would attain an average skill.
There has been discussion as to the age at which a man should learn to fly, or as to the introduction of age limits generally in the piloting of aircraft. But this introduces a difficult question; one which depends so entirely on the individual, and regarding which we need the data that will be provided by further experience. Some men retain from year to year, and to a remarkable extent, the faculties that are necessary; others lose them rapidly. The late Mr. S. F. Cody was flying constantly, and with a very conspicuous skill, at an age when he might have been thought unfit. But then he was a man of a rare vitality and a great enthusiasm—a man who, though he flew so often, declared that each of his flights was an "adventure." Taking men in the average one may say this: the younger a man is, when he learns to fly, the better for him. Much depends, naturally, on the sort of flying he intends to do after he has attained proficiency. If he is going to fly in war, or under conditions that impose a heavy strain, then he must be a young man. But if he intends to fly for his own pleasure, and under favourable conditions, then this factor of age loses much of its importance, and it is only necessary that a man should retain say, an ordinary activity, and a normal quickness of vision and of judgment.
Flying is not difficult. It is in a sense too easy, and this is just where its hidden danger lies. If a pupil is carefully taught, and flies at first only when the weather conditions are suitable, he will find it surprisingly easy to pilot an aeroplane. That it is not dangerous to learn to fly is proved daily. Though hundreds and thousands of pupils have now passed through the schools, anything in the nature of a serious accident is very rarely chronicled. This immunity from accident is due largely to the care and experience of instructors, and also to the fact that all pupils pass through a very carefully graduated tuition, and that no hazardous flights are allowed; while another and an important element of safety lies in the fact that no flying is permitted at the schools unless weather conditions are favourable. It is now a fair contention that, provided a man exercises judgment, and ascends only in weather that is reasonably suitable, there is no more danger in flying an aeroplane than in driving a motor-car.
Much depends of course on the dexterity of the pupil, and particularly on his manual dexterity—on what is known, colloquially, as "hands." Some men, even after they have been carefully taught, are apt to remain heavy and clumsy in their control. Others, though, seem to acquire the right touch almost by instinct; and these are the men who have in them the making of good pilots. Horsemen refer to "hands" when they speak of a man who rides well; and in flying, if a man is to handle a machine skilfully, there is need for that same instinctive delicacy of touch.
Nowadays, when a pupil joins a well-established flying school, he finds that everything is made easy and pleasant for him. Most men enjoy very thoroughly the period of their tuition. A friendly regard springs up between the pupils and their instructors, and men who have learned to fly, and are now expert pilots, bear with them very pleasant reminiscences of their "school" days. But there were times, and it seems already in the dim and distant past, when learning to fly was a strange, haphazard, and hardly pleasant experience; though it had a sporting interest certainly, and offered such prospects of adventure as commended it to bold spirits who were prepared for hardship, and had a well-filled purse. The last requirement was very necessary. In the bad old days, amusing days though they were without doubt, no fixed charge was made to cover such breakages, or damage to an aeroplane, as a pupil might be guilty of during his period of instruction. These items of damage—broken propellers, planes, or landing gear—were all entered up very carefully on special bills, and presented from time to time to the dismayed novice; and a man who was clumsy or impetuous found learning to fly an expensive affair. There was a pupil who joined a school soon after Bleriot's crossing of the Channel by air. It was a monoplane school; and the monoplane, unless a man is careful and very patient, is not an easy machine to learn to fly. This beginner was not patient; he was indeed more than usually impetuous. His landings, in particular, were often abrupt. He broke propellers, frequently, to say nothing of wings and of alighting gear. And of all these breakages a note was made. Bills were handed to him—long and intricate bills, with each item amounting to so many hundreds of francs. Having a sense of humour, the pupil began to paper his shed with these formidable bills, allowing them to hang in festoons around the walls. What it cost him to learn to fly nobody except himself knew. He paid away certainly, in his bills for breakages, enough money to buy several aeroplanes.
This was in the early days, when aviators were few and all flying schools experimental. To-day a pupil need not concern himself, even if he does damage a machine. Before beginning his tuition he pays his fee, one definite sum which covers all contingencies that may arise. It includes any and all damage that he may do to the aircraft of his instructors; it covers also any third-party claims that may be made against him—claims that is to say from any third person who might be injured in an accident for which he was responsible. This inclusive fee varies, in schools of repute, from L75 to L100.
The modern aerodromes, or schools of flight, at which a pupil receives his tuition, have been evolved rapidly from the humblest of beginnings. The first flying grounds were, as a rule, nothing more than open tracts of land, such as offered a fairly smooth landing-place and an absence of dangerous wind-gusts. Then, as aviation developed, pilots came together at these grounds, and sheds were built to house their craft. And after this, quickly as a rule, an organisation was built up. Beginning from rough shelters, erected hastily on the brink of a stretch of open land, there grew row upon row of neatly-built sheds, with workshops near them in which aircraft could be constructed or repaired. And from this stage, not content with the provision made for them by nature, those in control of the aerodromes began to dig up trees, fill in ditches and hollows, and smooth away rough contours of the land, so as to obtain a huge, smooth expanse on which aircraft might alight and manoeuvre without accident. And after this came the building up of fences and entrance gates, the erection of executive offices and restaurants, the provision of telephone exchanges and other facilities—the creation in fact of a modern aerodrome.
A pupil to-day, if he decides to learn to fly, finds he has an ample choice in the matter of a school. He may feel indeed that there is almost an embarrassment of facilities. But there are certain very definite requirements, in regard to any modern flying school; and if a novice bears these in mind, and thinks of them carefully when he is considering what school he shall join, he cannot go far wrong. First there is the question of the aerodrome on which, and above which, the pupil will undergo his instruction. This should be of ample size and of an adequately smooth surface; and it should be so situated, also, that it is free from wind eddies and gusts, such as are set up by hills, woods, or contours of the land, and are likely to inconvenience a novice when he makes his first flights. The best position for an aerodrome is in a valley, not abrupt but gently sloping. With a flying ground so placed, shielded well by nature on every hand, it may prove sufficiently calm for instruction even on days when there is a gusty wind blowing across more exposed points; and such a natural advantage is of importance for a pupil. It may mean that he is obtaining his tuition from day to day, when other pupils, learning to fly at grounds less favourably situated, have to remain compulsorily idle, waiting either for the wind to drop, or to veer to some quarter from which their aerodrome is sheltered.
It is very necessary, of course, in the operation of a flying school, that there should be competent instructors; also a sufficient number of these to prevent them from being over-taxed, or having more pupils at any one time than they can handle conveniently. And it is greatly to the advantage of a pupil if these instructors have been chosen with an intelligent care. A man may be a capable pilot, and yet not have the temperament that will suit him for imparting his knowledge to others. The instructor who, besides being a fine flyer, has the patience and sympathy of a born teacher, is by no means easy to find. A school which does find such men, and retains their services, offers attractions for a pupil which—in any preliminary visit he pays to a school before joining it—he should look for keenly. And he should make certain, too, that the school has a staff of skilled and experienced mechanics.
Another indispensable feature of a school is a sufficient number of aeroplanes, machines suited specially for the purposes of tuition, and maintained at a high efficiency. It has been no uncommon thing—though here again one is writing of the past—for the total resources of a school to comprise, say, two machines. Hence a couple of smashes would put such a school temporarily out of action, and leave the pupils with nothing to do but kick their heels, and wait until the machines had been repaired. It is certainly an advantage, from the pupil's point of view, if there are well-equipped workshops in connection with the school he joins; also if the proprietors of his school have an ample supply of engines. With facilities for repair work immediately at hand, and with a spare engine ready at once to put in a machine—while one that has been giving trouble is dealt with in the engine-shop—there should always be a full complement of craft for the work of instruction. When workshops are in operation in connection with a school an opportunity is usually provided, also, for a novice to gain some knowledge as to the mechanism and working of the aero-motor: and this of course will be useful to him.
There has been discussion as to the type of aeroplane on which one should learn to fly; but in this question, as in that of an age limit for airmen, it is extremely difficult, besides being unwise, to attempt to frame a hard-and-fast rule. The monoplane, for instance, is not an easy machine to learn to fly: it is not easy, that is to say, compared with certain types of biplane. Yet numbers of pupils have been taught on monoplanes, and this without accident. There is also a question whether, among biplanes, it is best to learn on a tractor machine—one that is to say with the engine in front of the main planes—or on a "pusher" type of craft; this last mentioned having its motor behind the planes. Aeroplanes of both types are in use; and it would be advantageous, of course, for a novice to accustom himself to handle either. But from the point of view of those who operate large flying schools, and have to weigh one point against another, and eliminate so far as possible the elements of risk or difficulty, there are very distinct advantages in a "pusher" biplane, such as is illustrated facing page 34. The control of such a machine is simple, and can be grasped quite readily. It provides the novice, when he is seated in it, with a clear and unobstructed view of the ground immediately in front of and below him; and this, in the early stages of tuition, is an extremely important point. A craft of such a type, also, when built specially for instruction, can be given a very strong alighting gear, and this makes for safety when a pupil is in his first tests, and may be guilty of an abrupt or rough descent. Again, while such a school machine as this is engined adequately, it is at the same time comparatively slow in flight, and has the advantage also that it will alight at slow speeds. In the air, too, it has a large measure of stability, and is not too rapid in its response to its controls. It gives a pupil what is very necessary for him in his first flights, and that is a certain latitude for error. It is safe to say, indeed, without being dogmatic, that a "pusher" biplane of the type illustrated, if constructed specially for school work, offers a pupil two very clearly marked advantages. These are: (1) A craft which he can learn to fly quickly; and (2) A machine on which he can pass through his tuition with the least risk of accident.
This last-mentioned point is, naturally, one of extreme importance. It is very necessary, apart from any question of personal injury, that a pupil should be protected during his tuition from anything in the nature of a bad smash. A man should start to learn to fly with full confidence; the more he has the better, provided it is tempered with caution. And if he can go through his training without accident, and preserve the steadily growing confidence that his proficiency will give him, he is on the high road to success as a pilot. But if he meets with an accident while he is learning—some sudden and quite unexpected fall—this may have a serious and a permanent influence on his nerves, even if he escapes without injury. It happened frequently in the early days that a promising pupil, a man who showed both confidence and skill, had his nerve ruined, and all his "dash" taken from him, by some unlucky accident while he was learning to fly.
There are certain minor points a pupil should consider when he selects a flying school—points which have reference mainly to his own comfort and convenience. He will prefer, for instance, other things being equal, a school that is near some large town or city, and not buried away inaccessibly. It is a convenience also, and one that facilitates instruction, if a pupil can obtain, quite near the aerodrome, rooms where he can live temporarily while undergoing his instruction, and so be able to reach the flying ground in a minute or so, whenever and at any time the weather conditions are favourable. It is a convenience again if, either on the aerodrome itself or immediately adjacent, there is a canteen or restaurant where meals and other refreshments can be obtained. Dressing-rooms and reading rooms, when provided by the proprietors of a school, add to the comfort of the novice while he is in attendance on the aerodrome. In winter, particularly, such facilities are required.
At a modern school, if it is well conducted, all heroics or exceptional feats are discouraged. Pupils who want to do wild things must be sternly repressed, even if only for the common good. The aim is to train a certain number of pupils, not hastening over the tuition but giving each man his full and complete course, and to do this with a minimum of risk. In the early days of flying there were remarkable exploits at the schools, and some very dangerous ones also. But nowadays the reckless, happy-go-lucky spirit has gone. Tuition is based on experience. Each pupil must submit to the routine, and listen attentively to the instructions given him. There are no short cuts—not at any rate with safety—in the art of learning to fly.
The question is asked, often, how long it should take a man to learn to fly. It is almost impossible, though, to specify any fixed time. A very great deal must depend on the weather. A pupil who joins a school in the summer is more likely, naturally, to complete his tuition quickly than one who begins in the winter. In periods when there are high and gusty winds it may be necessary to suspend school work for several days. But at such times the pupil need not be completely idle. Lectures on aviation are organised sometimes by the schools; while a pupil should have opportunities also—as has been mentioned before—of going into the engine-shop and studying the repair and overhaul of motors and machines.
It is on record that a pupil has learned to fly in a day, even in a few hours; but here the circumstances, and the men, were exceptional. Such an unusual facility represents one extreme; while as another, it may happen that a man, owing to a combination of adverse circumstances, is six months before he gains his certificate of proficiency. It may be taken, as a rule, that a pupil should set aside say a couple of months in order to undergo thoroughly, and without any haste, his full period of tuition. School records prove, as a rule, that the pilots who learn to fly abnormally quickly are apt to experience an abnormal number of accidents at a later date, due principally to a lack of real sound knowledge, which they should have gained during the period of their tuition. One must learn to walk before one can run, and this takes time; and the remark applies aptly to aviation. It is very necessary for the pupil to spend as much time as he can on the aerodrome. Much is to be learned, by an observant man, apart from the actual time during which he is engaged with his instructor. If he watches men who are highly skilled, he may gain many useful hints, though he himself is on the ground.
TEMPERAMENT AND THE AIRMAN
As aviation passed from its earliest infancy, and a number of men began to fly, the temperament of the individual pupil, and the effect of this temperament on his progress as an aviator, began to reveal itself. And temperament does play a large part in flying; as it does in any sport in which a man is given control of a highly sensitive apparatus, errors of judgment in the handling of which may lead to disaster. It is not, as a rule, until he has passed through his early stages of tuition, and has begun to handle an aeroplane alone, and is beyond the direct control of his instructor, that the temperament of a pupil really plays its part. Up to this point he is one among many, conforming to certain rules, and obliged to mould himself to the routine of the school. But when he begins to fly by himself, and particularly when he has passed his tests for proficiency, and is embarking, say, on cross-country flights, then this question of temperament begins really to affect his flying.
All men who learn to fly—numbering as they do thousands nowadays—cannot be endowed specially by nature for their task. There is indeed a wide latitude for temperamental differences—always provided that nothing more is required of a man than a certain average of skill. But if a man is to become a first-class pilot, one distinctly above the average, then the question of his temperament, as it influences his flying, is certainly important.
A rough classification of the pupils at a school—just a preliminary sorting of types—shows as a rule the existence of two clearly-marked temperaments. One is that of the man who is deliberate, whose temperament guards him from doing anything perfunctorily or in a hurry; the other is that of a man—a type frequently encountered nowadays—who while being quick, keen, and intelligent, mars these good qualities by a temperamental impatience which he finds it difficult or impossible to control, and which makes him irritable and restless at any suggestion of delay.
Now the first of these men need not to be wholly commended, nor the second entirely condemned. A capacity for deliberation, both in study and in practice, is very useful when learning to fly. It will protect a man from many errors, and render his progress sure, though it may be slow. But something more than deliberation is required in the aviator of distinction. There must be the vital spark of enterprise, the temperamental quality which is known as "dash," the quick action of the mind, in difficulty or peril, that will carry certain men to safety through many dangers. This imaginative power is possessed as a rule, though in ways that differ considerably, by the second type of pupil we have described—the restless, impatient man. But in his case this quality is, more often than not, marred by his instability; by the lack of that judgment which is so necessary to counterbalance imagination, but which is, unfortunately, not so often found.
A man who decides to become an aviator, and particularly if he intends to fly professionally, should ask himself quite seriously if his temperament is likely to aid him, or whether perhaps it may not be a danger. This point is certainly one of importance, though it cannot be stated directly or decided in so many words. There is a vital question at least that the novice should ask himself; and this is whether his temperament, whatever its general tendency may be, includes a sufficient leavening of caution. In the navigation of the air caution is indispensable. A pupil must remind himself constantly that, though it appears easy—and is indeed easy—to learn to handle a machine in flight, no liberties must under any circumstances be taken with the air. Every instant a man is flying he needs to remember the value of caution. In the air one cannot afford to make mistakes.
Naturally there is an ideal temperament for flying; but it is one which, owing to the combination of qualities that are required, is very rarely met with. The man who possesses it is gifted with courage, ambition, "dash," and with a readiness in an emergency that amounts to intuition. And yet these positive qualities are, in the ideal temperament, allied to, and tempered by, a strong vein of prudence and of caution. The pilot has absolute system, method, and thoroughness in everything he does. The average pupil cannot hope to be so luckily endowed. But he can study his personality, and seek to repress traits that may seem harmful.
There is need in flying for a sound judgment, one that will enable a man to come to a decision quickly and yet accurately. Things happen rapidly in the air. It is one of the grim aspects of flying that, just at a moment when everything appears secure, a sudden disaster may threaten. So it is of vast importance to a pilot, if he has to fly regularly, that he should have an instinctive and dependable judgment; a capacity for deciding quickly and without panic; a capacity, when several ways present themselves of extricating himself from some quandary, of being able to choose the right one, and of not having to think long before doing so. This implies a combination really of judgment and resource. The man of confidence, the man of resource, is well endowed for flying. But he must not be over-confident. The over-confident man is a menace to himself and to others. It is not a proper spirit at all in which to approach aviation. We do not know enough about the navigation of the air to be in the least over-confident. The spirit, rather, should be one of humility—a determination to proceed warily, and to make very certain of what limited knowledge we do possess.
Two of the worst traits in an aviator are impatience and irritability. A man who has these temperamental drawbacks in a form which is strongly marked, and who cannot control them, should not think of becoming an aviator. The man who is impatient and irritable finds himself out of harmony with the whole theory of aerial navigation. There is a long list of "don'ts" in flying; in the handling of one's machine, in the weather one flies in, in all the feats that one should attempt and leave alone. A number of details must be memorised, and must never be forgotten or overlooked, trivial though some of them may seem. The frame of mind of the man who flies must be alert, yet quiet and reposeful; he must be clear-headed, not hot-headed. The man who is in a hurry, who ignores details when he sets out on a flight, is the man who runs risks and is bound sooner or later to pay the penalty. The perils of recklessness in flying are very great. The man who "takes chances," who thinks he can do something when, as a matter of fact, he has neither sufficient knowledge or experience, runs a very grave and constant risk. It is the thoughtful, considering frame of mind, particularly in a pupil, which is the safe one; but this must not be taken to imply a type of man who lacks power of action. Initiative, and a quick capacity for action, are most necessary in aviation. New problems are being faced continually, and the brain succeeds which is the most active and original.
FIRST EXPERIENCES WITH AN AEROPLANE
(AS DESCRIBED BY MR. GRAHAME-WHITE)
After a period of ballooning, which offers experience for an aviator in the judging of heights and distances, and in growing accustomed to the sensation of being in the air, I devoted a good deal of time and attention—more indeed at the time, and in view of my other responsibilities, than I could reasonably spare—to a study of the theory of aeroplane construction, and to the making of models. This was prior to 1909; Bleriot had not yet flown the Channel in his monoplane. But when he did I put models aside, and determined to buy an aeroplane and learn to fly.
At the end of August, 1909, so that I might inspect the various aeroplanes that were then available, and they were few enough, I went to Rheims, in France, and attended the first flying meeting the world had seen. At the aerodrome I met and talked with the great pioneers: with Bleriot, fresh from his cross-Channel triumph; with Levavasseur, the designer of the beautiful but ill-fated Antoinette monoplane, which had, through engine failure, let Hubert Latham twice into the Channel during his attempts to make the crossing; with Henry Farman who, fitting one of the first Gnome motors to a biplane of his own construction, flew for more than three hours at Rheims, and created a world's record; and also with M. Voisin, whose biplane was then being flown by a number of pilots.
Finally, after careful consideration, I made a contract with M. Bleriot to purchase from him, at the end of the meeting, a monoplane of a type that appeared first at Rheims, and of which there was not another model then in existence. This machine differed considerably from the one with which M. Bleriot had flown the Channel. His cross-Channel monoplane was a single-seated craft fitted with an air-cooled motor of about 25 h.p. The machine I agreed to buy at Rheims, and which was known as Bleriot No. XII., would carry two people, pilot and passenger, while it had an 8-cylinder water-cooled motor developing 60 h.p.—an exceptional power in those days. The position of the occupants, as they sat in the machine, differed from the arrangement in the cross-Channel Bleriot. In the latter the pilot sat in a hull placed between the planes, and with his head and shoulders above them. But in this new and larger machine the pilot and passenger sat in seats which were placed below the planes.
The craft was, as a matter of fact, an experiment, being built almost purely for speed; hence its powerful motor. M. Bleriot's idea, in constructing it, was to have a machine with which he might win the Gordon-Bennett international speed race at Rheims. But this hope he did not realise; nor did I obtain delivery of the craft I desired. Bleriot, flying alone in this big monoplane, started in a speed flight for the Gordon-Bennett; but he was only a quarter of the way round the course, on his second lap, when the machine was seen to break suddenly into flames and crash to the ground from a height of 100 feet. It was wrecked entirely, but Bleriot was fortunate enough to escape with nothing worse than burns about the face and hands, and a general shock. The cause of the accident was that an indiarubber tube, fixed temporarily to carry petrol from the tank to the carburettor, had been eaten through and had permitted petrol to leak out, and to ignite, on the hot exhaust pipes of the motor.
The destruction of this monoplane was, to me, a great disappointment. No other machine of the type was in existence, and I learned that it would take three months to build one. M. Bleriot promised, however, to put a machine in hand at once; and, as a special concession, I obtained permission to go daily to the Bleriot factory and superintend the construction of my own machine. This I did for a full period of three months, working daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and gaining some valuable knowledge as to aeroplane construction.
On November 6, 1909, after delays which had tried my patience sorely, I obtained delivery of the new machine—a replica of the craft that had been destroyed at Rheims. It was too late that day to begin any trials, so I and a friend who was with me arranged with M. Bleriot's mechanics that we would be at Issy-les-Moulineaux early next morning, and there put the craft through its preliminary tests. I can remember we went to bed early, but sleep was impossible; we were both too excited at the prospect that lay before us. So presently we got up—this was at 2 a.m.—and drove out to the flying ground.
It was pitch dark when we arrived at the aerodrome, but the morning promised to be favourable. Foggy it was; but there was no wind, and the fog seemed likely to clear. We roused the caretaker, and, after lengthy explanations and considerable monetary persuasion, induced him to open the shed and allow us to prepare the machine for its first flight. Then we waited for the mechanics and the first rays of dawn. We felt a desire to get the big engine started up, but had been warned of the risk of doing this without the help of mechanics. Time passed and still the mechanics did not come. At last, there being now sufficient light, we tied the aeroplane with ropes to a fence, so as to prevent its leaping forward, and then started up the motor by ourselves. I swung the nine-foot propeller—the only way of starting the engine; and at the first quarter-turn the motor began to fire. Then, as is quite usual, there was an incident that had been unforeseen in our excitement. We had forgotten to take up the slack of the rope; and the consequence was that, as the engine started, the machine gave a bound forward that was sufficient to knock me down. But I was unhurt, and picked myself up quickly. Then I hurried round to the driving seat and took my place at the control levers, motioning to my friend, who was looking after the ropes, to cast these loose and jump into the seat beside me. This was easier said than done. Directly he released the ropes the machine began to move across the ground, gathering speed very quickly; but he managed somehow, before the machine was running too fast, to scramble into the seat beside me.
Off we started across the aerodrome, the monoplane gaining a speed of 40 or 50 miles an hour. I did not attempt to rise from the ground, feeling it very necessary at first to grow familiar with the controls. So we sped along the ground for a distance of about a mile. Then, on nearing the far end, I slowed down the motor and our speed dropped to about 20 miles an hour. I wanted to turn the machine round on the ground and run back again towards our starting point. But such a manoeuvre, particularly for the novice, is far from easy. As the speed of the machine is reduced, the pressure of air on the rudder is lessened and so it loses its efficiency—in the same way that a ship is difficult to steer when she begins to lose way. We were faced also by another and a graver difficulty. Confused by the fog, which still hung over the aerodrome, I had misjudged our position. We found we were much nearer the end of the ground than I had imagined. In front of us there loomed suddenly a boundary wall, against which it seemed probable we should dash ourselves. There were no brakes on the machine; no way of checking it from the driving seat. Our position seemed critical.
It was now that I shouted to my friend, telling him to jump out of the machine as best he could, and catch hold of the wooden framework behind the planes, allowing the machine to drag him along the ground, and so using the weight of his body as a brake. This, with great dexterity, he managed to do, and we came to a standstill not more than a foot or so from the wall. This proved a chastening experience; we pictured our aeroplane dashed against the wall, and reduced to a mass of wreckage. Very cautiously we lifted round the tail of the machine. It was impossible to switch off the motor and have a rest, because, if we had stopped it, we should not have been able to start it again without our gear, which was away on the other side of the ground.
Now, having got the machine into position for a return trip across the aerodrome, I accelerated the engine, and we started off back. For about twenty minutes, without further incident, we ran to and fro; and now I felt that I had the machine well in control—on the ground at any rate. And so the next thing was to rise from the ground into the air. I told my friend my intention, calling to him above the noise of the motor; and I admired him for the calm way in which he received my news. I should not have been surprised if he had demanded that I should slow up the machine and let him scramble out. In those days it was thought dangerous to go up even with a skilled and more or less experienced pilot. How much greater, therefore, must have seemed the risk of making a trial flight with me—a complete novice in the control of a machine. But my friend nodded and sat still in his seat. So I accelerated the motor and raised very slightly our rear elevating plane. And then we felt we were off the ground! There was no longer any sensation of our contact with the earth—no jolting, no vibration. In a moment or so, it seemed, the monoplane was passing through the air at a height of about 30 feet. This, to our inexperienced eyes, appeared a very great altitude; and I made up my mind at once to descend. This manoeuvre, that of making contact with the ground after a flight, I had been told was the most difficult of all. It is not surprising that this should be so. Our speed through the air was, at the moment, about 50 miles an hour; and to bring a machine to the ground when it is moving so fast, without a violent shock or jar, is a manoeuvre needing considerable judgment. But, remembering that the main thing was to handle the control lever gently, I managed to get back again to the aerodrome without accident; and after this we turned the machine round again and made another flight.
The fog had cleared by now, and we were surprised to see a number of people running across the ground towards us. First there came the tardy mechanics; and with them were a number of reporters and photographers representing the Paris newspapers. These latter had—though I only found this out afterwards—been brought by the mechanics in the expectation of being able to record, with their notebooks and cameras, some catastrophe in which we were expected to play the leading parts. Knowing the powerful type of monoplane I had acquired, a machine not suited for a novice, the mechanics had felt sure some disaster would overtake me. But, as it happened, their anticipations were not fulfilled. The journalists and photographers did not, however, have a fruitless journey. Though there was nothing gruesome to chronicle, they found ample material, when they learned of them, in the early morning adventures of myself and my friend with this 60 h.p. monoplane. Next day, in fact, our exploits were given prominence in the newspapers, and I received a number of congratulatory telegrams; not forgetting one of a slightly different character which came from M. Bleriot. He was flying at the time in Vienna, and he warned me of the dangers of such boldness as I had displayed—having regard to the speed and power of my machine—and pleaded with me for a greater caution.
THE CONTROLLING OF LATEST-TYPE CRAFT
People are puzzled, often, when they try to explain to themselves how it is that an aeroplane, which is so much heavier than air, manages to leave the ground and to soar in flight. When balloons or airships ascend, it is realised of course that the gas, imprisoned within their envelopes, draws them upward. But the aeroplane—weighing with pilot, passenger, and fuel perhaps several thousand pounds—rises without the aid of a gas-bag and with nothing to sustain it but narrow planes; and these do not beat, like the wings of a bird, but are fixed rigidly on either side of its body. How is the weight of machine and man borne through this element we cannot see, and which appears intangible?
The secret is speed—the sheer pace at which an aeroplane passes through the air. As a craft stands on the ground, its planes are inoperative. Power lies dormant in the air, but only when it is in motion, or when some object or apparatus is propelled through it at high speed. Have you stood on a height, in a gale, and felt an air wave strike powerfully against your body? The blow is invisible; but you yield a step, gasping; and, had you wings at such a moment, you would not doubt the power of the wind to sweep you upward. This is the force the aeroplane utilises.
If, on a calm day, you accelerate your motor-car to 60 miles an hour, the air sweeps past you in a powerful stream; just as it would if you were standing still, and there was a gale of wind. Instead of the wind possessing the speed, in this instance, it is you who provide it. The motor of an aeroplane, driving the propeller of the machine, turns this at 1000 or more revolutions a minute, and causes its curved blades to screw forward through the air as they turn, like those of a ship's propeller through water—or a gimlet into wood. The propeller, as it bores its way into the air, draws or pushes the aeroplane across the ground; and the speed grows rapidly until the air, sweeping with an increasing pressure beneath the planes, becomes sufficient to bear the craft in flight.
But the wing of an aeroplane would not sustain its load unless designed specially to act upon the air. A man, if he is unlucky enough to fall from a tall building, passes through the air at a high speed. His body obtains no support from the air; so he crashes to the ground. This is because his body is heavy, and presents only a small surface to the air. To secure a lifting influence from the air, it must be struck swiftly with a large, light surface.
Men go to Nature when building wings for aeroplanes, and imitate the birds. The wing of a bird arches upward from front to back, most of the curve occurring near the forward edge; and this shape, when applied to an aeroplane wing, is known as its camber. With an aeroplane wing, if its curve is adjusted precisely, the air not only thrusts up from below as a machine passes through it, but has a lifting influence also from above; an effect that is secured by the downward slope of the plane towards its rear edge. The air, sweeping above the raised front section of the plane, is deflected upward, and with such force that it cannot descend again immediately and follow the downward curve of the surface. So, between this swiftly-moving air stream, and the slope to the rear of the plane, a partial vacuum is formed, and this sucks powerfully upward. With a single wing, therefore, it is possible to gain a double lifting influence—one above and one below.
The building of aeroplanes, once their wing lift is known, becomes a matter of precision. According to the speed at which they fly, and the size and curve of their planes, machines will sustain varying loads. In some machines, as a general illustration—craft which fly fast—the planes may bear a load equal to 10 lbs. per square foot. In others the loading may be less than 3 lbs. per square foot.
Apart from raising a craft into the air, by the lifting power of its wings, there is the problem of controlling it when in flight. The air is treacherous, quickly moving. Gusts of abnormal strength, sweeping up as they do invisibly, may threaten to overturn a machine and dash it to earth. Eddies are formed between layers of warm and cold air. There are, as a craft flies, constant increases or lessenings of pressure in the air-stream that is sweeping under and over its wings; and all these fluctuations influence its equilibrium. Unless, therefore, a machine is automatically stable—and with craft of this type we shall deal later—the pilot must be ready, by a movement of the surfaces which govern the flight of the machine, to counteract quickly, with a suitable action of his levers, the overturning influence that may be exercised by a gust of wind. Here lies the art of flying. A man is given a machine which, by the action of its motor and propeller, will raise itself into the air; and it is his task, when the craft is once aloft, to manipulate it accurately and without accident, and to bring it to earth safely after he has made a flight.
In the description of controlling movements which follows we shall, for the sake of convenience, and for the sake also of brevity, deal only with the type of "pusher" biplane to which reference has been made already, and on which large numbers of pupils have been, and are being, trained to fly. This casts no aspersion whatever on tractor machines or on monoplanes. On either, if he has an inclination, a pupil can undergo his instruction, and do so usually with success. But explanation is rendered more easy, and there is less likelihood of a dispersal of interest, if one machine is selected for illustration; and our reasons for the choice of a "pusher" biplane, regarded from the point of view of tuition, have been explained already.
First, therefore, one may deal with raising the craft into the air, and causing it to descend. In the photograph of the school machine shown facing this page, it will be seen that the control surfaces are indicated by lettering. In front of the biplane, on outriggers, is the plane "A." This surface (aided in its action by a rear plane) governs the rise or descent of the machine. When the motor is started, and the propeller drives the biplane across the ground on its chassis B, the machine would, if this lifting plane was held in a negative position, continue to move forward on the earth and would make no attempt to rise. In order to leave the ground, when the speed of the machine is sufficient for its main-planes (C.C.) to become operative, and bear its weight through the air, the pilot draws back slightly towards him a lever, which is placed just to the right of his driving-seat and is held with the right hand. A photograph which shows this lever, and the other controls, appears facing page 36, the lever to which we are referring being indicated by the figure 1. The effect on the aircraft when the pilot draws back this lever—the motion being slight and made gently—is to tilt up the elevating plane A, and this in its turn, owing to the pressure of air upon it, raises the front of the machine. The result of this alteration in the angle of the craft is that it presents its main-planes at a steeper angle to the air. Their lifting influence is increased, with the result that—at an angle governed by the pilot with his movement of the elevating plane—they bear the machine from the ground into the air.
A reverse movement of the elevator reduces the lift of the main-planes; hence, when an aviator wishes to descend, he tilts down his elevator, bringing his machine at such an angle that it is inclined towards the ground. Then, switching off his engine so as to moderate the speed of his descent, and by such manipulations as may be necessary of his elevator, he pilots his craft to earth in a vol-plane, during which gravity takes the place of his motor, and he is able—by steadying his machine and bringing it into a horizontal position just at the right moment—to make a gentle contact with the ground.
A pilot must be able to do more than cause his aeroplane to ascend and to alight: he must have means to check the lateral movements which, under the influence of wind gusts, may develop while the biplane is in flight. At the rear extremities of the main-planes as illustrated in the photograph facing page 34—and marked D.D.—are flaps, or ailerons, which are hinged so that they may be either raised or lowered. These ailerons are operated, through the medium of wires, by the same hand-lever which governs the movement of the elevator. This lever is mounted on a universal joint, and can be moved from side to side as well as to and fro. Should the biplane tilt, while flying, say towards the left, the pilot moves his hand-lever sideways towards the right. This is a natural movement, the instinct being to move the lever away from the direction in which the machine is heeling. This movement of the lever has the effect of drawing down the ailerons on the left-hand side of the machine; on the side, that is to say, which is tilted down; and the depression of these auxiliary surfaces, increasing suddenly as they do the lifting influence of the main-planes to which they are attached, tend to thrust up the down-tilted wings, and so restore the equilibrium of the machine.
In the operation of his ailerons, combined with the use of his elevator, a pilot is given means to balance his craft while in flight. One should not gain the impression that an aeroplane is threatening ceaselessly to heel this way and that. This is not so. The machine has a large measure of stability, apart from any manipulation of its controls, and needs balancing only when some disturbance of the atmosphere affects its equilibrium. Under favourable conditions, such as a pupil will experience in his first flights, nothing more is necessary with the hand-lever than a very slight but fairly constant action; a similar motion, in a way, as is made by the driver of a motor-car when he maintains, by his "feel" on the wheel, his sense of control over the machine. In the controlling actions of an aeroplane—and this is a fact which tends sometimes to the confusion of the novice—nothing more is required, normally, than the most delicate of movements. The difference say between ascending, and skimming along the ground, is represented by a movement of the hand-lever of only a few inches. Delicate, sure, quick, and firm; such is the touch needed with an aeroplane.
With the one hand-lever, as we have shown, it is possible for a pilot to control the rise and descent, and also the lateral movements of his machine; and there remains only the steering to be effected—the movement from side to side, from right to left, or vice-versa. At the rear of the biplane, as shown facing page 34, will be seen two vertical planes, E.E. These, being hinged, will swing from side to side; and they exercise a sufficient influence, when working in the strong current of air that blows upon them when a machine is in flight, to steer it accurately in any direction. The pilot, to operate this rudder, rests his feet on a conveniently-placed bar, which is mounted on a central swivel, and allows the bar to be swung by a pressure of either foot. When the pilot needs to make a turn say to the left, as he is flying, he presses his left foot forward. This swings the bar in same direction; and, by a simple connection of wires running to the tail of the machine, the rudders are made to swing over to the left also, and the machine turns in response to them. A similar movement to the right produces a right-hand turn. This foot rudder bar, being numbered 2, is shown in the picture facing page 36.
Apart from the movements we have described, which are extremely simple, a pilot needs also to maintain control over his motor. Near his left hand, fixed to the framework just at one side of his seat, are levers which govern the speed of the engine, also the petrol supply; while close to them is the switch by which the ignition can be switched on or off.
A final word is necessary here, perhaps, and it is this: the glamour and mystery which, in the early days, clung to the handling of an aeroplane has now been dispelled almost entirely. A well-constructed machine, flying under favourable conditions, requires surprisingly little control; what it does, one may almost say, is to fly itself.
THE STAGES OF TUITION
Flying schools—those which really can be described as such—have been in operation now for seven years; and during this time, with thousands of pupils going through their period of tuition, many very valuable lessons have naturally been learned. To-day, at a well-managed school, each stage in a pupil's instruction, mapped out as a result of experience, is arranged methodically and with care; the idea being that the novice should pass from one stage to another by a smoothly-graduated scale, facilitating his progress and reducing elements of risk.
It is in the early morning, and again in the evening, that the flying schools are most busy as a rule. At such times—morning and evening—the wind blows with least violence; and it is very necessary that a pupil, when he is handling craft for the first time, should have weather conditions which are favourable. Summer and winter, as soon as it is light, and granted conditions appear suitable, mechanics wheel the aeroplanes from the sheds, and the instructors begin their work. Should there be any doubt as to the weather, or as to the existence, say, of difficult air currents, an instructor will fly first, circling above the aerodrome at various heights, and satisfying himself, by the behaviour of his machine, whether it will be safe for the novices to ascend. If he pronounces "all well," school work begins in earnest, and continues—provided the weather remains favourable—until all the pupils have had a spell of instruction. Towards the middle of the day, and in the afternoon, it is quite likely the wind may blow and school work be suspended. But in the evening again, when there is usually a lull, a second period of instruction will be carried out. In well-equipped schools, to meet such conditions as these, it is customary to provide two complete and distinct staffs, both of instructors and mechanics. One staff takes the morning spell of work, while the second is held in readiness for the evening. This ensures that, both morning and evening, there shall be available for instruction a fresh, alert, and unfatigued staff.
A pupil will find that, as the first stage of his tuition, he is given the task of familiarising himself with the controls of a school biplane. The system we have described already, and a pupil should find no difficulty in mastering it. Placing himself in the driving-seat of the machine, while it is at rest on the ground, the pupil takes the upright lever in his right hand, and rests his feet on the rudder-bar, making the various movements of control, again and again, until he finds he is growing accustomed to them, and can place his levers in a position for an ascent or descent, or for a turn, without having to wait while he thinks what it is necessary to do.
In the next stage, a more interesting one, the pupil, occupying a seat immediately behind his instructor, is taken for a series of passenger flights. These accustom him to the sensation of being in the air, and also train his eye in judging heights and distances. A minor point the pupil should bear in mind, though his instructor will be quick to remind him, is not to wear any cap or scarf that may blow free in the rush of wind and become entangled with the propeller. Scarves need to be tightly wrapped; while it is usual, with a cap, to turn it with the peak to the back, and so prevent it from having a tendency to lift from the head. Many pupils provide themselves with a helmet designed to protect the head in case of an accident, and these are held firmly in position. Should a passenger's cap blow off, and come in contact with the propeller, it may be the cause of an accident. How carelessness may lead to trouble, in this regard, will be gathered from the following incident.
Some slight repairs had been made one day to the lower plane of a machine while it stood out on the aerodrome, and one of the workmen, through inadvertence, had left lying on the plane, near its centre, a roll of tape. The pilot decided to make another flight, and the motor was started and the machine rose. Suddenly the aviator was startled by a sound like a loud report, which seemed to come from the rear of his machine. The craft trembled for a moment, and he feared a structural collapse. Nothing worse happened, however, and he was able to pilot his machine in safety to the aerodrome. What had happened, it was then ascertained, was that the roll of tape, sucked back in the rush of wind, had been drawn into the revolving propeller and had broken a piece out of it. Luckily the impact had not been heavy enough to damage the propeller seriously, or cause it to fly to pieces.
A problem with which the pupil will be faced in his first flights, particularly if he is learning in winter, will be that of keeping himself warm. The speed at which an aeroplane travels, combined with the fact that it is at an elevation above the ground, renders the "bite" of the cold air all the more keen, and makes it difficult very frequently, even when one is warmly clad, to maintain a sufficient warmth in the body, and particularly in the hands and feet. The question of cold hands is, from a pilot's point of view, often a serious one. There is a case on record of an aviator who, his hands being so numbed that his fingers refused to move, found he could not switch off his motor when the time came to descend; and so he had to fly round above the aerodrome, several times, while he worked his numb fingers to and fro, and beat some life into them against his body. At last, having restored their circulation to some extent, he was able to operate the switch and make a landing. While on active service in winter, after flying several hours at high altitudes, and in bitter cold, the occupants of a machine have descended in such a numbed condition, despite their heavy garments, that it has been found necessary to lift them out of their seats. But a pupil need not face such hardships as these. He will be flying for short periods only, and at low altitudes; so if he makes a few wise purchases from among the selection of flying gear now available, and particularly if he equips himself with some good gloves, he should be able to keep sufficiently warm in the air, even if he is going through his training in winter.
A pupil will feel curious, naturally, as to his sensations in the first flights he makes with his instructor. Of the exact moment when the machine leaves ground he will be unaware probably, save for the cessation of any jolting or vibration, such as may be caused by the contact of the running wheels with the surface of the aerodrome. His first clearly-marked sensation, when in actual flight, will occur most likely when the pilot rises a little sharply, so as to gain altitude. Then the pupil will have a feeling one might liken to the ascent, in a motor-car, of a steep and suddenly-encountered hill; though in this case the hill is invisible, and there is no earth contact to be felt. This sensation of climbing is exhilarating; and when the pilot makes a reverse movement, descending towards the ground, the feeling is pleasant enough also, provided the dive is not too steep.
The pupil's chief sensation, probably, will be that of the rush of wind which beats against him. Some people feel this much more than others. There is sometimes a feeling—it is no more than temporary—of inconvenience and of shock. The pupil feels as though his breathing was being interfered with seriously; as though the pressure was so great he could not expel air from his lungs. But this sensation, even when it is experienced, is short-lived. In a second flight, quite often, the novice finds that this oppression diminishes very perceptibly; and soon he does not notice it at all. Motoring experience proves useful here, particularly high-speed driving on a track.
Some confusion is felt by the pupil, as a rule, and this is only natural, in regard to the pace at which the aeroplane travels through the air, and at the way in which the ground seems to be tearing away below. Occasionally, in a first flight, this impression of speed, and of height, produce in the pupil a sensation of physical discomfort; but it is one again which, in the majority of cases, is quickly overcome. A few balloon trips are a useful preliminary to flights in an aeroplane. They familiarise one in a pleasant way with the sensation of height, and accustom the eye also to the look of the ground, as it passes away below.
While he is making his first flights with the instructor, and apart from analysing his sensations, the pupil will observe the lever movements made by the pilot in controlling the machine; and the fact that will impress itself upon him, as he watches these movements, is that they are not made roughly or spasmodically, but are almost invariably gentle. During these flights as a passenger, and after he has accustomed himself to the novelty of being in the air, the pupil will be allowed by the instructor to lean forward and place his hand on the control lever; and in this way, by actually following and feeling for himself the control actions the pilot makes, he will gain an idea of just the extent to which the lever must be moved, to gain any specific result in the flight of the machine.
The next stage of tuition is that in which a pupil is allowed to handle a biplane alone, not in flight though but only in "rolling" practice on the ground—driving the machine to and fro across the aerodrome. The motor is adjusted so that, while it gives sufficient power to drive the machine on the ground and render the control surfaces effective, it will not permit the craft to rise into the air. This stage, a very necessary one, teaches the pupil, from his own unaided experience just what movements he must make with his levers to influence the control surface of the machine, and to maintain it, say, on a straight path while it runs across the ground. One of the discoveries he will make is that the biplane, if left to itself, shows a tendency to swerve a little to the left—the way the propeller is turning; but this inclination may be corrected, easily, by a movement of the rudder.
The pupil learns also to accustom himself, while in this stage, to the engine controls which have been explained already; and he is not likely to be guilty of the error of one excitable novice who, while driving his machine back on the ground towards the sheds at an aerodrome, after his first experience in "rolling" became so confused, as he saw the buildings looming before him, that he lost his head completely and forgot to switch off his motor. The result was that the aeroplane, unchecked in its course, crashed into some railings in front of the sheds and stood on its head. Not much damage was done however, and the novice was unhurt. He seemed as surprised as anyone at what had happened, and confessed that, for the moment, his mind had been an utter blank.
A pupil continues his practice in "rolling" till he can drive his machine to and fro across the aerodrome on a straight course, and with its tail raised off the ground; the latter action being obtained by the pupil by means of a suitable movement of the vertical lever which operates his elevating planes.
Now comes the time when a pupil, taking the pilot's seat, and with the instructor sitting behind him—so as to be ready, if necessary, to correct any error the novice may make—begins his first short flights across the aerodrome. He rises only a few feet to begin with, and flies on a straight course, alighting each time before he turns, and running his machine round on the ground. He repeats this test until his instructor feels he is sufficiently expert to take the machine into the air alone. When this stage is reached, the instructor leaves his position behind the pupil, and the latter goes on with his practice till he can fly the length of the aerodrome alone, landing neatly and bringing his machine round on the ground, and then flying back again to his starting point.
In the early days of flying schools, before a pupil went through any regular system of instruction, there were remarkable incidents in regard to these first flights. In one case a pupil, having bought his own aeroplane from the proprietors of a school, insisted on having installed in it a motor of exceptional power. When the time came for him to make his first flight alone, and he opened the throttle of this engine and it began to give its full power, the aeroplane ran only a short distance across the ground, and then leapt into the air. The engine was in charge of the machine, in fact, and not the pupil. Away above the aerodrome, and beyond its limits, in a strange, erratic flight, the biplane made its way. As the pupil struggled valiantly with his engine switch, which appeared to have become jammed, he made unconscious and jerky movements of his control levers. One moment the machine would ascend a little, the next it would approach nearer the ground; then it would swing either right or left. Those watching from the aerodrome held their breath. But with the luck of the beginner, a luck which is proverbial and sometimes amazing, the pupil managed at length to stop his motor and land without accident—though by no means gracefully—in an abrupt gliding descent.
Another story concerns one of those temperamentally reckless, happy-go-lucky men who, though providence seems to watch over them, are an anxiety nevertheless to their instructors. This pupil, breaking the rules of a school, flew out on one of his first flights beyond the limits of the aerodrome, disappearing indeed from the view of those near the sheds. Not far from the aerodrome lay a main road, with tramway-lines along it. A tram, with passengers on top, happened to be passing down the road; and it was to the astonishment of these passengers, and to their perturbation as well, that they observed an aeroplane in full flight, moving very low across a neighbouring field, and bearing down straight towards them. The machine passed, indeed, unpleasantly close above their heads, and then vanished as dramatically as it had appeared. Its pilot, as may be guessed, was the pupil who had disobeyed orders, and was now on a wild and erratic flight. Presently, after swerves and wanderings over the surrounding country, he was discerned making his way back towards the aerodrome, still flying unreasonably low. Some trees bordered one end of the aerodrome; and towards these, as though he meant to finish his exploit by charging into them, the novice was seen to be steering an undeviating course. Nearer he came to them, and still he did not turn either right or left. The instructor, and those gathered with him, made up their minds that nothing could avert an accident. But it happened that there was, between two of the trees, a space only large enough for an aeroplane to pass through. A skilled pilot, a man of experience, would not have cared to risk his machine in an endeavour to creep between those trees. But this pupil, a complete novice, steered boldly towards the opening and slipped through it with a precision that would have aroused the envy of an accomplished pilot. Then he landed on the aerodrome and climbed in leisurely fashion from his machine—"not having turned a hair," as the saying goes. The remarks of the instructor when he neared the machine, and began to unburden himself, do not appear to be on record, and no doubt this is as well.
Having shown his ability to make a succession of straight flights, taking his machine into the air with precision and landing without awkwardness, the pupil finds himself faced next with the problem of turning while in the air. On this stage, however, he is not allowed to embark alone. The instructor takes his place again in the passenger's seat, so as to be ready to help the novice should he become confused, or find himself in any difficulty. Turns to the left are attempted first; and the reason is that, the propeller of the aeroplane revolving to the left—and the motor too if it is a rotary one—the machine has a tendency which is natural to turn in this direction. Half turns only are tried at first, the pupil landing before he has completed the movement. In making these first turns a pupil finds that, apart from his action with the rudder-bar, it is necessary to employ the ailerons slightly, so as to prevent the biplane from tilting sideways. The outer plane-ends of the machine have indeed, when a turn is being made, a natural tendency to "bank" as it is called, or tilt upward; the reason being that, as the machine swings round, these outer plane-ends, moving faster for the moment than the wing-tips on the inside of the turn, exercise a greater lift, and have an inclination to rise. An experienced aviator, having learned what is a safe "banking" angle, makes a deliberate use of this tendency when he is turning, and may on occasion even exaggerate it, to facilitate the swing of his machine on a very rapid turn, and to prevent it skidding outwards. But with the novice, engrossed completely as he is with the mere problem of getting his machine round in the air, "banking" is an art that must be deferred for awhile. It is perilously easy, for a beginner, to overstep the danger-line between a safe "bank" and a side-slip.
It is not long before the pupil can make a full left-hand turn; and then he goes on to perfect himself in this movement, flying alone now, and repeating the turn till he feels he can make it with confidence, and at a fair height.
And now he comes to his final evolutions. Having mastered the left-hand turn, he proceeds to make one to the right. It used to be the contention—a contention that is now disputed—that in this movement, if the pupil employed his rudder-bar only, he would find the biplane showed an inclination to rise; a tendency due to the gyroscopic influence of the engine and propeller which—assuming a rotary engine is used—are now revolving in the opposite direction to that on which the machine is turned. What the pupil was recommended to do, in order to counteract this rising movement, was to tilt down his elevator a little, as he would in making a descent.
When right-hand turns can be made with the same facility as those to the left, the pupil begins to combine the two without descending, making left turns and right turns, and so achieving in the air a series of figures of eight. He learns also to fly a little higher, thus preparing himself for one of his certificate tests.
There are now certain very important rules which, in the navigation of his craft, he must accustom himself to bear constantly in mind. Should the engine of his machine, for example, betray any signs of failing, he must tilt down his elevator very promptly, and place his craft in a position for a descent. If he does not do this, and should the motor stop before he has his biplane at an angle for descent, the machine may lose speed so quickly, and its tail-planes show such a tendency to droop—owing to the lessening of pressure on their surfaces, consequent upon the failure of the motor—that there is a risk of the craft coming to a standstill in the air and then either falling tail-first, or beginning a side-slip that may bring it crashing to the ground.
The pupil must learn also, and this again is important, not to force his machine round on a turn while it is climbing. If he does so the power absorbed in the ascent, combined with the resistance of the turn, may so reduce the speed of the machine that it threatens to become "stalled," or reach a standstill in the air, with the result that it either side-slips or falls tail-first. The procedure the pupil is taught to follow is this: when he leaves the ground he climbs a little, then he allows his machine to move straight ahead; then he proceeds to ascend again for a spell, repeating afterwards the horizontal flight. In this way he ascends by a series of steps, like climbing a succession of hills in a car; and his turns should be made only during the spells when he is flying horizontally.
In this stage of his tuition, the pupil must learn also to make a vol-plane, or descent with his engine stopped. The essential point to be borne in mind, here, is that an aeroplane will continue in flight, and remain under control, even when it is no longer propelled by its engine. But what the aviator must do, should his engine stop through a breakdown, or should he himself switch it off, is to bring the force of gravity to his aid, and maintain the flying speed of his craft by directing it in a glide towards the ground. Provided he does this, and keeps his machine at such an inclination that it is moving at a sufficient speed through the air, he will find that the craft maintains its stability and that he has full command over its control surfaces, being able to turn, say, right or left, or either increase or slightly decrease the steepness of his descent. But all the time, of course, seeing that it is gravity alone which is giving him his flying speed, he is obliged to plane downward.
A vital point to remember, when a pupil is handling a "pusher" type of biplane, is to incline the machine well downward, by a use of the elevator, before switching off the motor. Unless this is done, and if the machine is, say, at its normal horizontal angle when the engine is stopped, the sudden removal of pressure from the tail-planes of the craft, brought about by the absence of the wind-draught from the propeller, may cause the tail so to droop as to render inoperative any subsequent action of the elevator. When the tail droops, the main-planes are set at a steep angle to the air, and this has a slowing-up influence on the whole machine. It threatens therefore to stand still in the air; its controls become useless; and the pupil is faced probably with the danger of a side-slip.
A story will illustrate this point; and it is one that has a special significance, seeing that the error which might have cost him his life was made by an aviator of experience. He had learned to fly on a monoplane, and had devoted his subsequent flying, for many months, to this one type of machine. Then he found himself associated with an enterprise in which a number of "pusher" biplanes were employed, and he decided that it would be useful for him to become accustomed to this type of machine. His flying experience of course helped him, and he soon found himself passing to and fro above the aerodrome, the biplane well in hand. Then he thought he would make a vol-plane, with his motor stopped, as he had been in the habit of doing in a monoplane. He switched off his engine without further thought, and moved his elevator to a position for the descent. But it was here that he made the mistake. In a monoplane, which has the weight of the engine and other gear well forward in the machine, the bow has a natural tendency to tilt down when the motor is cut off—particularly as the propeller-draught ceases to sweep under the sustaining planes. Therefore one can, in such a machine, switch off safely without first shifting the elevator, and getting the bow down as a preliminary. What the pilot had forgotten, for the moment, was the essential difference between monoplane and biplane. When he had switched off the engine in the biplane, and moved his elevator as he was accustomed to do, he found to his dismay that the machine failed to respond. Instead of pointing its bow down, indeed, it began to tilt rearward. Also, and this fact was noted by the airman with even more dismay, the craft lost forward speed so rapidly that it became uncontrollable. The next moment, the pilot helpless in his seat, the machine began a side-slip towards the ground. One sweep it made sideways, falling till it was not far short of the surface of the aerodrome. It paused an instant, then began a side-slip in the opposite direction. But here good fortune came to the pilot's aid. In this second swing, the machine being near the ground, it came in contact with the surface of the aerodrome before the "slip" had time to develop any high rate of speed. The biplane took the ground sideways, breaking its landing-chassis and damaging the plane-ends which came first in contact with the earth. But the pilot emerged from the wreckage unhurt. The accident was a lesson to him, though, as it was to others, and as it should be to all pupils. A machine must be in a gliding position before the engine is switched off.
The art of the accomplished pilot, granted there is no reason for him to reach earth quickly, is to glide at as fine an angle as is possible, consistent of course with maintaining the speed of the machine through the air, and so preserving his command over its controls. A beautifully-timed, fine glide, the machine stealing down gracefully, and touching the aerodrome light as a feather, at a precise spot the airman has decided on even when he was several thousand feet high, is a delightful spectacle for the onlooker, and a keen pleasure also—from the point of view of his manipulative skill—to the aviator himself. But a pupil, at any rate in his first attempts, must not concern himself too much with any idea of a fine or graceful glide. It is his business to get to the ground safely, and not trouble too much whether his method is accomplished, or merely effective. Once with the bow of his machine down, and his motor switched off, it must be his concern to maintain the forward speed of his machine, which can be done only by holding it well on its dive. For the novice, if he attempts any fine or fancy gliding, there is the very real danger that, in his inexperience, he may lose forward speed to such an extent that his controls become inoperative, and his machine threatens to side-slip. One's ear should, apart from the inclination of the machine, and the sensation of the descent, help one materially in judging the speed of a glide. There is a "swish" that comes to the ear, now the engine is no longer making its clamour, which gives a guide to the pace of one's downward movement. Aviators who are skilled, and have done a large amount of flying, are able to judge with accuracy, by the ear alone and without the aid of a mechanical indicator, what their speed is as they pass through the air.
Having held his machine firmly on its glide, till it is quite near the surface of the aerodrome, the pupil has next to think of making a neat contact with the ground. The art here is, at a moment which must be gauged accurately, to check the descent of the machine by a movement of the elevator—to "flatten out," as the expression goes. If the movement is made neatly the craft should, when only a few feet from the ground, change from a descent into horizontal flight, and continue on this horizontal flight for a short distance, losing speed naturally each moment—seeing that there is no driving power behind it—and so losing altitude also through its decrease in speed, until its wheels come lightly in contact with the ground, and it runs forward and then stands still. What the novice may do, if he is not careful, is to "flatten out" when he is too high above the ground. The result is that the machine slows up till it stands still in the air, robbed of its speed, and then makes what is called a "pancake" landing: it descends vertically, that is to say, instead of making contact with the ground at a fine angle and with its planes still supporting it; and the effect of such a "pancake," if the machine comes down with any force, may be that the landing-chassis is damaged, or perhaps wrecked. But as a rule, remembering that he has careful instruction to guide him before he attempts a gliding descent, the pupil masters the art of landing without difficulty, and without mishap.
Now, after repeating perhaps certain of his evolutions, at the discretion of his instructor, in order to make sure that he can accomplish them with ease, the pupil is ready for the tests which will give him his certificate of proficiency.
THE TEST FLIGHTS
The sport of aviation is controlled throughout the world, and flying tests and events of a competitive character are governed, by the International Aeronautical Federation. To the deliberations of this central authority are sent delegates from the Aero Clubs of various countries; and to these Aero Clubs, each in its respective country, falls the task of governing flight, according to the rules and decisions of the central authority. In Britain, controlling aviation in the same way that the Jockey Club controls the Turf, we have the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom; and it is this body, acting in its official capacity, which grants to each new aviator, after he has passed certain prescribed tests, a certificate which proclaims him a pilot of proved capacity, and without which it is impossible for him to take part in any contests held under the auspices of the Club. The certificate, which is of a convenient size for carrying in the pocket, contains a photograph of the pilot for purposes of identification, and specifies also the rules under which the certificate is issued and held.
The theory of these tests, as imposed by the Club before it grants its certificates, is that the novice should—so far as is possible in one or two flights, made over a restricted area, and in a limited space of time—be called on to show that he has a full control over a machine in what may be called the normal conditions of flight. He is asked to ascend, for instance, and gain a fair flying altitude; then to make such evolutions as will demonstrate his command over the control surfaces of the machine; and finally to show that he can, with his motor switched off, descend accurately in a vol-plane, and bring his machine to a halt within a specified distance of a mark. The tests are set forth, officially, as follows:—
A and B. Two distance flights, consisting of at least 5 kilometres (3 miles 185 yards) each in a closed circuit, without touching the ground; the distance to be measured as described below.
C. One altitude flight, during which a height of at least 100 metres (328 feet) above the point of departure must be attained; the descent to be made from that height with the motor cut off. The landing must be made in view of the observers, without re-starting the motor.