Classic History Books

William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

At last the amazing feat began. His left wing was raised, his right wing dipped, and the nose of the
machine dived steeply, and turned right round with the airman hanging head downwards, and the wheels

of the monoplane uppermost. In this way he travelled for about a hundred yards, and then slowly righted

the machine, until it assumed its normal position, with the engine again running. Twice more the

performance was repeated, so that he travelled from one side of the aerodrome to the other - a distance of

about a mile and a half.

Next he descended from 4000 feet to about 1200 feet in four gigantic loops, and, as one writer said: "He
was doing exactly what the clown in the pantomime does when he climbs to the top of a staircase and

rolls deliberately over and over until he reaches the ground. But this funny man stopped before he

reached the ground, and took his last flight as gracefully as a Columbine with outspread skirts."

Time after time Pegoud made a series of S-shaped dives, somersaults, and spiral descents, until, after an
exhibition which thrilled quite 50,000 people, he planed gently to Earth.

Hitherto Pegoud's somersaults have been made by turning over from front to back, but the daring aviator,
and others who followed him, afterwards turned over from right to left or from left to right. Pegoud

claimed to have demonstrated that the aeroplane is uncapsizeable, and that if a parachute be attached to

the fuselage, which is the equivalent of a life boat on board a ship, then every pilot should feel as safe in

a heavier-than-air machine as in a motor-car.


CHAPTER XLIV. The First Englishman to Fly Upside Down

After M. Pegoud's exhibition of upside-down flying in this country it was only to be expected that British
aviators would emulate his daring feat. Indeed, on the same day that the little Frenchman was turning

somersaults in the air at Brooklands Mr. Hamel was asking M. Bleriot for a machine similar to that used

by Pegoud, so that he might demonstrate to airmen the stability of the aeroplane in almost all conceivable


However, it was not the daring and skilful Hamel who had the honour of first following in Pegoud's
footsteps, but another celebrated pilot, Mr. Hucks.

Mr. Hucks was an interested spectator at Brooklands when Pegoud flew there in September, and he felt
that, given similar conditions, there was no reason why he should not repeat Pegoud's performance. He

therefore talked the matter over with M. Bleriot, and began practising for his great ordeal.

His first feat was to hang upside-down in a chair supported by a beam in one of the sheds, so that he
would gradually become accustomed to the novel position. For a time this was not at all easy. Have you

ever tried to stand on your hands with your feet upwards for any length of time? To realize the difficulty

of being head downwards, just do this, and get someone to hold your legs. The blood will, of course,

"rush to the head", as we say, and the congestion of the blood-vessels in this part of the body will make

you feel extremely dizzy. Such an occurrence would be fatal in an aeroplane nearly a mile high in the air

at a time when one requires an especially clear brain to manipulate the various controls.

But, strange to say, the airman gradually became used to the "heels-over-head" position, and, feeling sure
of himself, he determined to start on his perilous undertaking. No one with the exception of M. Bleriot

and the mechanics were present at the Buc aerodrome, near Versailles, when Mr. Hucks had his

monoplane brought out with the intention of looping the loop.

He quickly rose to a height of 1500 feet, and then, slowly dipping the nose of his machine, turned right


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