Classic History Books


William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

wooden deck was about 123 feet in length. Two 50-horse-power engines drove four propellers, two of
which were at either end.

The inventor employed a most ingenious contrivance to preserve the horizontal balance of the air-ship.
Fitted, one at each end of the carriage, were two 50-gallon tanks. These tanks were connected with a long

pipe, in the centre of which was a hand-pump. When the bow of the air-ship dipped, the man at the pump

could transfer some of the water from the fore-tank to the after-tank, and the ship would right itself. The

water could similarly be transferred from the after-tank to the fore-tank when the stern of the craft

pointed downwards.

There were many reports, in the early months of 1905, that the air-ship was going to be brought out from
the shed for its trial flights, and the writer, in common with many other residents in the vicinity of the

park, made dozens of journeys to the shed in the expectation of seeing the mighty dirigible sail away. But

for months we were doomed to disappointment; something always seemed to go wrong at the last

minute, and the flight had to be postponed.

At last, in 1905, the first ascent took place. It was unsuccessful. The huge balloon, made of tussore silk,
cruised about for some time, then drifted away with the breeze, and came to grief in landing.

A clever inventor of air-ships, a young Welshman, Mr. E. T. Willows, designed in 1910, an air-ship in
which he flew from Cardiff to London in the dark - a distance of 139 miles. In the same craft he crossed

the English Channel a little later.

Mr. Willows has a large shed in the London aerodrome at Hendon, and he is at present working there on
a new air-ship. For some time he has been the only successful private builder of air-ships in Great

Britain. The Navy possess a small Willows air-ship.

Messrs. Vickers, the famous builders of battleships, are giving attention to the construction of air-ships
for the Navy, in their works at Walney Island, Barrow-in-Furness. This firm has erected an enormous

shed, 540 feet long, 150 feet broad, and 98 feet high. In this shed two of the largest air-ships can be built

side by side. Close at hand is an extensive factory for the production of hydrogen gas.

At each end of the roof are towers from which the difficult task of safely removing an air-ship from the
shed can be directed.

At the time of writing, the redoubtable DORA (Defence of the Realm Act) forbids any but the vaguest
references to what is going forward in the way of additions to our air forces. But it may be stated that

air-ships are included in the great constructive programme now being carried out. It is not long since the

citizens of Glasgow were treated to the spectacle of a full-sized British "Zep" circling round the city prior

to her journey south, and so to regions unspecified. And use, too, is being found by the naval arm for that

curious hybrid the "Blimp", which may be described as a cross between an aeroplane and an air-ship.

 

CHAPTER VIII. The First Attempts to Steer a Balloon

For nearly a century after the invention of the Montgolfier and Charlier balloons there was not much
progress made in the science of aeronautics. True, inventors such as Charles Green suggested and carried

out new methods of inflating balloons, and scientific observations of great importance were made by

balloonists both in Britain and on the Continent. But in the all-important work of steering the huge craft,

progress was for many years practically at a standstill. All that the balloonist could do in controlling his

balloon was to make it ascend or descend at will; he could not guide its direction of flight. No doubt

 

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