Classic History Books

William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

In the opening years of the present century Cody spent much time in demonstrations with huge box-kites,
and for a time this form of kite was highly popular with boys of North London. In these kites he made

over two hundred flights, reaching, on some occasions, an altitude of over 2000 feet. At all times of the

day he could have been seen on the slopes of the Palace Hill, hauling these strange-looking, bat-like

objects backward and forward in the wind. Reports of his experiments appeared in the Press, but Cody

was generally looked upon as a "crank". The War Office, however, saw great possibilities in the kites for

scouting purposes in time of war, and they paid Cody L5000 for his invention.

It is a rather romantic story of how Cody came to take up experimental work with kites, and it is repeated
as it was given by a Mohawk chief to a newspaper representative.

"On one occasion when Cody was in a Lancashire town with his Wild West show, his son Leon went
into the street with a parrot-shaped kite. Leon was attired in a red shirt, cowboy trousers, and sombrero,

and soon a crowd of youngsters in clogs was clattering after him.

"'If a boy can interest a crowd with a little kite, why can't a man interest a whole nation?' thought Cody -
and so the idea of man-lifting kites developed."

In 1903 Cody made a daring but unsuccessful attempt to cross the Channel in a boat drawn by two kites.
Had he succeeded he intended to cross the Atlantic by similar means.

Later on, Cody turned his attention to the construction of aeroplanes, but he was seriously handicapped
by lack of funds. His machines were built with the most primitive tools, and some of our modern

constructors, working in well-equipped "shops", where the machinery is run by electric plant, would

marvel at the work accomplished with such tools as those used by Cody.

Most of Cody's flights were made on Laffan's Plain, and he took part in the great "Round Britain" race in
1911. It was characteristic of the man that in this race he kept on far in the wake of MM. Beaumont and

Vedrines, though he knew that he had not the slightest chance of winning the prize; and, days after the

successful pilot had arrived back at Brooklands, Cody's "bus" came to earth in the aerodrome. "It's

dogged as does it," he remarked, "and I meant to do the course, even if I took a year over it."

Of Cody's sad death at Farnborough, when practising in the ill-fated water-plane which he intended to
pilot in the sea flight round Great Britain in 1913, we speak in a later chapter.


CHAPTER XXXII. Three Historic Flights

When the complete history of aviation comes to be written, there will be three epoch-making events
which will doubtless be duly appreciated by the historian, and which may well be described as landmarks

in the history of flight. These are the three great contests organized by the proprietors of the Daily Mail,

respectively known as the "London to Manchester" flight, the "Round Britain flight in an aeroplane", and

the "Water-plane flight round Great Britain."

In any account of aviation which deals with the real achievements of pioneers who have helped to make
the science of flight what it is to-day, it would be unfair not to mention the generosity of Lord Northcliffe

and his co-directors of the Daily Mail towards the development of aviation in this country. Up to the time

of writing, the sum of L24,750 has been paid by the Daily Mail in the encouragement of flying, and

prizes to the amount of L15,000 are still on offer. In addition to these prizes this journal has maintained

pilots who may be described as "Missionaries of Aviation". Perhaps the foremost of them is M. Salmet,


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