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TGPLANES AVIATION DIRECTORY --
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1919-20

 

Into the later months of 1919 comes the flight by Captain Ross-Smith from England to Australia and the attempt to make the Cape to Cairo voyage by air. The Australian Government had offered a prize of L10,000 for the first flight from England to Australia in a British machine, the flight to be accomplished in 720 consecutive hours. Ross-Smith, with his brother, Lieut. Keith Macpherson Smith, and two mechanics, left Hounslow in a Vickers-Vimy bomber with Rolls-Royce engine on November 12th and arrived at Port Darwin, North Australia, on the 10th December, having completed the flight in 27 days 20 hours 20 minutes, thus having 51 hours 40 minutes to spare out of the 720 allotted hours.

 

Early in 1920 came a series of attempts at completing the journey by air between Cairo and the Cape. Out of four competitors Colonel Van Ryneveld came nearest to making the journey successfully, leaving England on a standard Vickers-Vimy bomber with Rolls-Royce engines, identical in design with the machine used by Captain Ross-Smith on the England to Australia flight. A second Vickers-Vimy was financed by the Times newspaper and a third flight was undertaken with a Handley-Page machine under the auspices of the Daily Telegraph. The Air Ministry had already prepared the route by means of three survey parties which cleared the aerodromes and landing grounds, dividing their journey into stages of 200 miles or less. Not one of the competitors completed the course, but in both this and Ross-Smith's flight, valuable data was gained in respect of reliability of machines and engines, together with a mass of meteorological information.

 

The Handley-Page Company announced in the early months of 1920 that they had perfected a new design of wing, which brought about a twenty to forty per cent improvement in lift rate in the year. When the nature of the design was made public, it was seen to consist of a division of the wing into small sections, each with its separate lift. A few days later, Fokker, the Dutch inventor, announced the construction of a machine in which all external bracing wires are obviated, the wings being of a very deep section and self-supporting. The value of these two inventions remains to be seen so far as commercial flying is concerned.

 

The value of air work in war, especially so far as the Colonial campaigns in which British troops are constantly being engaged is in question, was very thoroughly demonstrated in a report issued early in 1920 with reference to the successful termination of the Somaliland campaign through the intervention of the Royal Air Force, which between January 21st and the 31st practically destroyed the Dervish force under the Mullah, which had been a thorn in the side of Britain since 1907. Bombs and machine-guns did the work, destroying fortifications and bringing about the surrender of all the Mullah's following, with the exception of about seventy who made their escape.

 

Certain records both in construction and performance had characterized the post-war years, though as design advances and comes nearer to perfection, it is obvious that records must get fewer and farther between. The record aeroplane as regards size at the time of its construction was the Tarrant triplane, which made its first and last flight on May 28th, 1919. The total loaded weight was 30 tons, and the machine was fitted with six 400 horse-power engines; almost immediately after the trial flight began, the machine pitched forward on its nose and was wrecked, causing fatal injuries to Captains Dunn and Rawlings, who were aboard the machine. A second accident of similar character was that which befell the giant seaplane known as the Felixstowe Fury, in a trial flight. This latter machine was intended to be flown to Australia, but was crashed over the water.

 

On May 4th, 1920, a British record for flight duration and useful load was established by a commercial type Handley-Page biplane, which, carrying a load of 3,690 lbs., rose to a height of 13,999 feet and remained in the air for 1 hour 20 minutes. On May 27th the French pilot, Fronval, flying at Villacoublay in a Morane-Saulnier type of biplane with Le Rhone motor, put up an extraordinary type of record by looping the loop 962 times in 3 hours 52 minutes 10 seconds. Another record of the year of similar nature was that of two French fliers, Boussotrot and Bernard, who achieved a continuous flight of 24 hours 19 minutes 7 seconds, beating the pre-war record of 21 hours 48 3/4 seconds set up by the German pilot, Landemann. Both these records are likely to stand, being in the nature of freaks, which demonstrate little beyond the reliability of the machine and the capacity for endurance on the part of its pilots. 

 

Meanwhile, on February 14th, Lieuts. Masiero and Ferrarin left Rome on S.V.A. Ansaldo V. machines fitted with 220 horse-power S.V.A. motors. On May 30th, they arrived at Tokio, having flown by way of Bagdad, Karachi, Canton, Pekin, and Osaka. Several other competitors started, two of whom were shot down by Arabs in Mesopotamia.

 

Considered in a general way, the first two years after the termination of the Great European War form a period of transition in which the commercial type of aeroplane was gradually evolved from the fighting machine, which was perfected in the four preceding years. There was about this period no sense of finality, but it was as experimental, in its own way, as were the years of progressing design, which preceded the war period. Such commercial schemes as were inaugurated call for no more note than has been given here; they have been experimental, and, with the possible exception of the United States Government mail service, have not been planned and executed on a sufficiently large scale to furnish reliable data on which to forecast the prospects of commercial aviation. And there is a school rapidly growing up which asserts that the day of aeroplanes is nearly over. The construction of the giant airships of to-day and the successful return flight of R34 across the Atlantic seem to point to the eventual triumph, in spite of its disadvantages, of the dirigible airship.

 

This is a hard saying for such of the aeroplane industry as survived the War period and consolidated itself, and it is but the saying of a section which bases its belief on the fact that, as was noted in the very early years of the century, the aeroplane is primarily a war machine. Moreover, the experience of the War period tended to discredit the dirigible, since, before the introduction of helium gas, the inflammability of its buoyant factor placed it at an immense disadvantage beside the machine dependent on the atmosphere itself for its lift. 

 

As life runs to-day, it is a long time since Kipling wrote his story of the airways of a future world and thrust out a prophecy that gas-bag vessels would carry the bulk of the world’s air traffic. If the school which inclines to belief in the dirigible is right in its belief, as it well may be, then the foresight was uncannily correct, not only in the matter of the main assumption, but in the detail with which the writer embroidered it.

 

On the constructional side, the history of the aeroplane is still so much in the making that any attempt at a critical history would be unwise, and it is possible only to record fact, leaving it to the future for judgment to be passed. But, in a general way, criticism may be advanced with regard to the place that aeronautics takes in civilisation. In the past hundred years, the world has made miraculously rapid strides materially, but moral development has not kept abreast. Conception of the responsibilities of humanity remains virtually in a position of a hundred years ago; given a higher conception of life and its responsibilities, the aeroplane becomes the crowning achievement of that long series which James Watt inaugurated, the last step in intercommunication, the chain with which all nations are bound in a growing prosperity, surely based on moral well-being.

 

Without such conception of the duties as well as the rights of life, this last achievement of science may yet prove the weapon that shall end civilization as men know it to-day, and bring this ultra-material age to a phase of ruin on which saner people can build a world more reasonable and less given to groping after purely material advancement.

 

 
 
Section 1
The Period of Legend | Early Experiments | Sir George-Thomas | The Middle 19 Century | Wenham Bris & Others | The Age of Giants | Lili & Pilcher | American Gliding Experiments | Not Proven | Samuel Langley | The Wright Brothers | First Year of Conquest | First Flier in England | Rhems and After | The Channel Crossing | London to Manchester | Summary to 1911 | Summa to 1914 | The War Period-I | The War Period-II | Reconstruction | 1919-1920


 
Section 2
The Beginnings | Multiplicity of Ideas | Progress on Standardized Lines | The War Period
 

 
Section 3
The Beginning | The First Dirigibles | Santos Dumont | The Military Dirigible | British Airship Design | The Airship Commercially | Kite Balloons
 

 
Section4
The Vertical Type | The Vee Type | The Radial Type | The Rotatory Type | The Horizontal Opposed Engine | The Two Stroke Cycle Engine | Engines of the War Period
 
 
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