Classic History Books

William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

1540-miles course.

Though the complete course was not covered, neither Mr. Sopwith - who built the machine and bore the
expenses of the flight - nor Mr. Hawker attached any blame to the engine. At a dinner of the Aero Club,

given in 1914, Mr. Sopwith was most enthusiastic in discussing the merits of the "Green", and after

Harry Hawker had recovered from the effects of his fall in Lough Shinny he remarked in reference to the

engine: "It is the best I have ever met. I do not know any other that would have done anything like the


At the same time that this race was being held the French had a competition from Paris to Deauville, a
distance of about 160 miles. When compared with the time and distance covered by Mr. Hawker, the

results achieved by the French pilots, flying machines fitted with French engines, were quite

insignificant; thus proving how the British industry had caught up, and even passed, its closest rivals.

In 1913 Mr. Grahame White, with one of the 100-horse-power "Greens" succeeded in winning the
duration Michelin with a flight of over 300 miles, carrying a mechanic and pilot, 85 gallons of petrol, and

12 gallons of lubricating oil. Compulsory landings were made every 63 miles, and the engine was

stopped. In spite of these trying conditions, the engine ran, from start to finish, nearly nine hours without

the slightest trouble.

Sufficient has been said to prove conclusively that the thought and labour expended in the perfecting of
the Green engine have not been fruitless.


CHAPTER XXIV. The Wright Biplane (Camber of Planes)

Now that the internal-combustion engine had arrived, the Wrights at once commenced the construction
of an aeroplane which could be driven by mechanical power. Hitherto, as we have seen, they had made

numerous tests with motorless gliders; but though these tests gave them much valuable information

concerning the best methods of keeping their craft on an even keel while in the air, they could never hope

to make much progress in practical flight until they adopted motor power which would propel the

machine through the air.

We may assume that the two brothers had closely studied the engines patented by Daimler and Levassor,
and, being of a mechanical turn of mind themselves, they were able to build their own motor, with which

they could make experiments in power-driven flight.

Before we study the gradual progress of these experiments it would be well to describe the Wright
biplane. The illustration facing p. 96 shows a typical biplane, and though there are certain modifications

in most modern machines, the principles upon which it was built apply to all aeroplanes.

The two main supporting planes, A, B, are made of canvas stretched tightly across a light frame, and are
slightly curved, or arched, from front to back. This curve is technically known as the CAMBER, and

upon the camber depend the strength and speed of the machine.

If you turn back to Chapter XVII you will see that the plane is modelled after the wing of a bird. It has
been found that the lifting power of a plane gradually dwindles from the front edge - or ENTERING

EDGE, as it is called - backwards. For this reason it is necessary to equip a machine with a very long,

narrow plane, rather than with a comparatively broad but short plane.

Perhaps a little example will make this clear. Suppose we had two machines, one of which was fitted


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