Classic History Books

William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

In the picture there is shown the petrol storage-tank, which is suspended immediately under the rear
horizontal plane, where it is out of danger of ignition from the hot engine placed in the car.


CHAPTER XII. A Non-rigid Balloon

Hitherto we have described the rigid and semi-rigid types of air-ships. We have seen that the former
maintains its shape without assistance from the gas which inflates its envelope and supplies the lifting

power, while the latter, as its name implies, is dependent for its form partly on the flat rigid framework to

which the car is attached, and partly on the gas balloon.

We have now to turn our attention to that type of craft known as a NON-RIGID BALLOON. This vessel
relies for its form ENTIRELY upon the pressure of the gas, which keeps the envelope distended with

sufficient tautness to enable it to be driven through the air at a considerable speed.

It will at once be seen that the safety of a vessel of this type depends on the maintenance of the gas
pressure, and that it is liable to be quickly put out of action if the envelope becomes torn. Such an

occurrence is quite possible in war. A well-directed shell which pierced the balloon would undoubtedly

be disastrous to air-ship and crew. For this reason the non-rigid balloon does not appear to have much

future value as a fighting ship. But, as great speed can be obtained from it, it seems especially suited for

short overland voyages, either for sporting or commercial purposes. One of its greatest advantages is that

it can be easily deflated, and can be packed away into a very small compass.

A good type of the non-rigid air-ship is that built by Major Von Parseval, which is named after its
inventor. The Parseval has been described as "a marvel of modern aeronautical construction", and also as

"one of the most perfect expressions of modern aeronautics, not only on account of its design, but owing

to its striking efficiency.

The balloon has the elongated form, rounded or pointed at one end, or both ends, which is common to
most air-ships. The envelope is composed of a rubber-texture fabric, and externally it is painted yellow,

so that the chemical properties of the sun's rays may not injure the rubber. There are two smaller interior

balloons, or COMPENSATORS, into which can be pumped air by means of a mechanically-driven fan or

ventilator, to make up for contraction of the gas when descending or meeting a cooler atmosphere. The

compensators occupy about one-quarter of the whole volume.

To secure the necessary inclination of the balloon while in flight, air can be transferred from one of the
compensators, say at the fore end of the ship, into the ballonet in the aft part. Suppose it is desired to

incline the bow of the craft upward, then the ventilating fan would DEFLATE the fore ballonet and

INFLATE the aft one, so that the latter, becoming heavier, would lower the stern and raise the bow of the


Along each side of the envelope are seen strips to which the car suspension-cords are attached. To
prevent these cords being jerked asunder, by the rolling or pitching of the vessel, horizontal fins, each

172 square feet in area, are provided at each side of the rear end of the balloon. In the past several serious

accidents have been caused by the violent pitching of the balloon when caught in a gale, and so severe

have been the stresses on the suspension cords that great damage has been done to the envelope, and the

aeronauts have been fortunate if they have been able to make a safe descent.

The propeller and engine are carried by the car, which is slung well below the balloon, and by an
ingenious contrivance the car always remains in a horizontal position, however much the balloon may be


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