Classic History Books

William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

descend; but in making a landing in a very small field, not much larger than a tennis-court, several struts
of the machine were damaged. It was at once seen that the aeroplane could not possibly be flown until it

had been repaired and thoroughly overhauled. To do this would take several days, especially as there

were no facilities for repairing the craft near by, and to prevent anyone from making a careful

examination of the aeroplane, and so discovering the secret features which had been so jealously

guarded, the machine was smashed up after the engine had been removed.

At that time this was the only Dunne aeroplane in existence, but of course the plans were in the
possession of the inventor, and it was an easy task to make a second machine from the same model. Two

more machines were put in hand at Hendon, and a third at Eastchurch.

On 18th October, 1913, the Dunne aeroplane made its first public appearance at Hendon, in the London
aerodrome, piloted by Commander Felix. The most striking distinction between this and other biplanes is

that its wings or planes, instead of reaching from side to side of the engine, stretch back in the form of

the letter V, with the point of the V to the front. These wings extend so far to the rear that there is no

need of a tail to the machine, and the elevating plane in front can also be dispensed with.

This curious and unique design in aeroplane construction was decided upon by Lieutenant Dunne after a
prolonged observation at close quarters of different birds in flight, and the inventor claims for his

aeroplane that it is practically uncapsizable. Perhaps, however, this is too much to claim for any

heavier-than-air machine; but at all events the new design certainly appears to give greater stability, and

it is to be hoped that by this and other devices the progress of aviation will not in the future be so deeply

tinged with tragedy.


CHAPTER XXXI. The Romance of a Cowboy Aeronaut

In the brief but glorious history of pioneer work in aviation, so far as it applies to this country, there is
scarcely a more romantic figure to be found than Colonel Cody. It was the writer's pleasure to come into

close contact with Cody during the early years of his experimental work with man-lifting box-kites at the

Alexandra Park, London, and never will his genial smile and twinkling eye be forgotten.

Cody always seemed ready to crack a joke with anyone, and possibly there was no more optimistic man
in the whole of Britain. To the boys and girls of Wood Green he was a popular hero. He was usually clad

in a "cowboy" hat, red flannel shirt, and buckskin breeches, and his hair hung down to his shoulders. On

certain occasions he would give a "Wild West" exhibition at the Alexandra Palace, and one of his most

daring tricks with the gun was to shoot a cigarette from a lady's lips. One could see that he was entire

master of the rifle, and a trick which always brought rounds of applause was the hitting of a target while

standing with his back to it, simply by the aid of a mirror held at the butt of his rifle.

But it is of Cody as an aviator and aeroplane constructor that we wish to speak. For some reason or other
he was generally the object of ridicule, both in the Press and among the public. Why this should have

been so is not quite clear; possibly his quaint attire had something to do with it, and unfriendly critics

frequently raised a laugh at his expense over the enormous size of his machines. So large were they that

the Cody biplane was laughingly called the "Cody bus" or the "Cody Cathedral."

But in the end Cody fought down ridicule and won fame, for in competition with some of the finest
machines of the day, piloted by some of our most expert airmen, he won the prize of L5000 offered by

the Government in 1912 in connection with the Army trials for aeroplanes. In these trials he astonished

everyone by obtaining a speed of over 70 miles an hour in his biplane, which weighed 2600 pounds.


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