THEORY, DEVELOPMENT, AND USE.
While every craft that navigates the air is an airship,
all airships are not flying machines. The balloon,
for instance, is an airship, but it is not what is known
among aviators as a flying machine. This latter term
is properly used only in referring to heavier-than-air
machines which have no gas-bag lifting devices, and are made to
really fly by the application of engine propulsion.
All successful flying machines--and there are a number
of them--are based on bird action. The various
designers have studied bird flight and soaring, mastered
its technique as devised by Nature, and the modern flying
machine is the result. On an exaggerated, enlarged
scale the machines which are now navigating the air
are nothing more nor less than mechanical birds.
Origin of the Aeroplane.
Octave Chanute, of Chicago, may well be called "the
developer of the flying machine." Leaving balloons and
various forms of gas-bags out of consideration, other
experimenters, notably Langley and Lilienthal, antedated
him in attempting the navigation of the air on
aeroplanes, or flying machines, but none of them were
wholly successful, and it remained for Chanute to demonstrate
the practicability of what was then called the
gliding machine. This term was adopted because the
apparatus was, as the name implies, simply a gliding
machine, being without motor propulsion, and intended
solely to solve the problem of the best form of
construction. The biplane, used by Chanute in 1896, is
still the basis of most successful flying machines, the
only radical difference being that motors, rudders, etc.,
have been added.
Character of Chanute's Experiments.
It was the privilege of the author of this book to be
Mr. Chanute's guest at Millers, Indiana, in 1896, when,
in collaboration with Messrs. Herring and Avery, he was
conducting the series of experiments which have since
made possible the construction of the modern flying
machine which such successful aviators as the Wright
brothers and others are now using. It was a wild
country, much frequented by eagles, hawks, and similar
birds. The enthusiastic trio, Chanute, Herring and
Avery, would watch for hours the evolutions of some
big bird in the air, agreeing in the end on the verdict,
"When we master the principle of that bird's soaring
without wing action, we will have come close to solving
the problem of the flying machine."
Aeroplanes of various forms were constructed by Mr.
Chanute with the assistance of Messrs. Herring and
Avery until, at the time of the writer's visit, they had
settled upon the biplane, or two-surface machine. Mr.
Herring later equipped this with a rudder, and made
other additions, but the general idea is still the basis of
the Wright, Curtiss, and other machines in which, by
the aid of gasolene motors, long flights have been made.
Developments by the Wrights.
In 1900 the Wright brothers, William and Orville, who were then
in the bicycle business in Dayton, Ohio,
became interested in Chanute's experiments and
communicated with him. The result was that the Wrights
took up Chanute's ideas and developed them further,
making many additions of their own, one of which was
the placing of a rudder in front, and the location of the
operator horizontally on the machine, thus diminishing
by four-fifths the wind resistance of the man's body.
For three years the Wrights experimented with the
glider before venturing to add a motor, which was not
done until they had thoroughly mastered the control of
their movements in the air.
Limits of the Flying Machine.
In the opinion of competent experts it is idle to look
for a commercial future for the flying machine. There
is, and always will be, a limit to its carrying capacity
which will prohibit its employment for passenger or
freight purposes in a wholesale or general way. There
are some, of course, who will argue that because a
machine will carry two people another may be constructed
that will carry a dozen, but those who make
this contention do not understand the theory of weight
sustentation in the air; or that the greater the load the
greater must be the lifting power (motors and plane
surface), and that there is a limit to these--as will be
explained later on--beyond which the aviator cannot go.
Some Practical Uses.
At the same time there are fields in which the flying
machine may be used to great advantage. These are:
Sports--Flying machine races or flights will always
be popular by reason of the element of danger. It is
a strange, but nevertheless a true proposition, that it is
this element which adds zest to all sporting events.
Scientific--For exploration of otherwise inaccessible
regions such as deserts, mountain tops, etc.
Reconnoitering--In time of war flying machines may
be used to advantage to spy out an enemy's encampment,
ascertain its defenses, etc.