Classic History Books

William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

"In a gale the machine might be upset at many different angles. Pegoud has shown us that it is easily
possible to recover from such predicaments. He has dealt with nearly every kind of awkward position

into which one might be driven in a gale of wind, or in a flight over mountains where air-currents prevail.

"He has thus gained evidence which will be of the utmost value to present and future pilots, and prove a
factor of signal importance in the preservation of life in the air."

Such words as these, coming from a man of Mr. Hamel's reputation as an aviator, clearly show us that M.
Pegoud has a life-saving mission for airmen throughout the world.

Let us stand, in imagination, with the enormous crowd of spectators who invaded the Surrey aerodrome
on 25th September, and the two following days, in 1913.

What an enormous crowd it was! A line of motor-cars bordered the track for half a mile, and many of the
spectators were busy city men who had taken a hasty lunch and rushed off down to Weybridge to see a

little French airman risk his life in the air. Thousands of foot passengers toiled along the dusty road from

the paddock to the hangars, and thousands more, who did not care to pay the shilling entrance fee, stood

closely packed on the high ground outside the aerodrome.

Biplanes and monoplanes came driving through the air from Hendon, and airmen of world-wide fame,
such as Sopwith, Hamel, Verrier, and Hucks, had gathered together as disciples of the great life-saving

missionary. Stern critics these! Men who would ruthlessly expose any "faked" performance if need were!

And where is the little airman while all this crowd is gathering? Is he very excited? He has never before
been in England. We wonder if his amazing coolness and admirable control over his nerves will desert

him among strange surroundings.

Probably Pegoud was the coolest man in all that vast crowd. He seemed to want to hide himself from
public gaze. Most of his time, was taken up in signing post-cards for people who had been fortunate

enough to discover him in a little restaurant near which his shed was situated.

At last his Bleriot monoplane was wheeled out, and he was strapped, or harnessed, into his seat. "Was the
machine a 'freak' monoplane?" we wondered.

We were soon assured that such was not the case. Indeed, as Pegoud himself says: "I have used a
standard type of monoplane on purpose. Almost every aeroplane, if it is properly balanced, has just as

good a chance as mine, and I lay particular stress on the fact that there is nothing extraordinary about my

machine, so that no one can say my achievements are in any way faked."

During the preliminary operations his patron, M. Bleriot, stood beside the machine, and chatted affably
with the aviator. At last the signal was given for his ascent, and in a few moments Pegoud was climbing

with the nose of his machine tilted high in the air. For about a quarter of an hour he flew round in

ever-widening circles, rising very quietly and steadily until he had reached an altitude of about 4000 feet.

A deep silence seemed to have settled on the vast crowd nearly a mile below, and the musical droning of

his engine could be plainly heard.

Then his movements began to be eccentric. First, he gave a wonderful exhibition of banking at right
angles. Then, after about ten minutes, he shut off his engine, pitched downwards and gracefully righted

himself again.


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