Classic History Books


William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

moved forward; to turn to the right the right foot.

But it was in the balancing control of their machine that the Wrights showed such great ingenuity.
Running from the edges of the lower plane were some wires which met at a point where the pilot could

control them. The edges of the plane were flexible; that is, they could be bent slightly either up or down,

and this movement of the flexible plane is known as WING WARPING.

You know that when a cyclist is going round a curve his machine leans inwards. Perhaps some of you
have seen motor races, such as those held at Brooklands; if so, you must have noticed that the track is

banked very steeply at the corners, and when the motorist is going round these corners at, say, 80 miles

an hour, his motor makes a considerable angle with the level ground, and looks as if it must topple over.

The aeroplane acts in a similar manner, and, unless some means are taken to prevent it, it will turn over.

Let us now see how the pilot worked the "Wright" glider. Suppose the machine tilted down on one side,
while in the air, the pilot would pull down, or warp, the edges of the planes on that side of the machine

which was the lower. By an ingenious contrivance, when one side was warped down, the other was

warped up, with the effect that the machine would be brought back into a horizontal position. (As we

shall return to the subject of wing warping in a later chapter, we need not discuss it further here.)

It must not be imagined that as soon as the Wrights had constructed a glider fitted with this clever system
of controlling mechanism they could fly when and where they liked. They had to practise for two or three

years before they were satisfied with the results of their experiments: neglecting no detail, profiting by

their failures, and moving logically from step to step. They never attempted an experiment rashly: there

was always a reason for what they did. In fact, their success was due to systematic progress, achieved by

wonderful perseverance.

But now, for a short time, we must leave the pioneer work of the Wright brothers, and turn to the
invention of the petrol engine as applied to the motor car, an invention which was destined to have

far-reaching results on the science of aviation.

 

CHAPTER XX. The Internal-combustion Engine

We have several times remarked upon the great handicap placed upon the pioneers of aviation by the
absence of a light but powerful motor engine. The invention of the internal-combustion engine may be

said to have revolutionized the science of flying; had it appeared a century ago, there is no reason to

doubt that Sir George Cayley would have produced an aeroplane giving as good results as the machines

which have appeared during the last five or six years.

The motor engine and the aeroplane are inseparably connected; one is as necessary to the other as clay is
to the potter's wheel, or coal to the blast-furnace. This being the case, it is well that we trace briefly the

development of the engine during the last quarter of a century.

The original mechanical genius of the motoring industry was Gottlieb Daimler, the founder of the
immense Daimler Motor Works of Coventry. Perhaps nothing in the world of industry has made more

rapid strides during the last twenty years than automobilism. In 1900 our road traction was carried on by

means of horses; now, especially in the large cities, it is already more than half mechanical, and at the

present rate of progress it bids fair to be soon entirely horseless.

About the year 1885 Daimler was experimenting with models of a small motor engine, and the following
year he fitted one of his most successful models to a light wagonette. The results were so satisfactory,

 

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