Classic History Books


William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

over. For fully half a minute he flew underneath the monoplane, and then gradually brought it round to
the normal position.

In the afternoon he continued his experiments, but this time at a height of nearly 3000 feet. At this
altitude he was flying quite steadily, when suddenly he assumed a perpendicular position, and made a

dive of about 600 feet. The horrified spectators thought that the gallant aviator had lost control of his

machine and was dashing straight to Earth, but quickly he changed his direction and slowly planed

upwards. Then almost as suddenly he turned a complete somersault. Righting the aeroplane, he rose in a

succession of spiral flights to a height of between 3000 and 3500 feet, and then looped the loop twice in

quick succession.

On coming to earth M. Bleriot heartily congratulated the brave Englishman. Mr. Hucks admitted a little
nervousness before looping the loop; but, as he remarked: "Once I started to go round my nervousness

vanished, and then I knew I was coming out on top. It is all a question of keeping control of your nerves,

and Pegoud deserved all the credit, for he was the first to risk his life in flying head downwards."

Mr. Hucks intended to be the first Englishman to fly upside down in England, but he was forestalled by
one of our youngest airmen, Mr. George Lee Temple. On account of his youth - Mr. Temple was only

twenty-one at the time when he first flew upside-down - he was known as the "baby airman", but there

was probably no more plucky airman in the world.

There were special difficulties which Mr. Temple had to overcome that did not exist in the experiments
of M. Pegoud or Mr. Hucks. To start with, his machine - a 50-horse-power Bleriot monoplane - was said

by the makers to be unsuitable for the performance. Then he could get no assistance from the big

aeroplane firms, who sought to dissuade him from his hazardous undertaking. Experienced aviators

wisely shook their heads and told the "baby airman" that he should have more practice before he took

such a risk.

But notwithstanding this lack of encouragement he practised hard for a few days by hanging in an
inverted position. Meanwhile his mechanics were working night and day in strengthening the wings of

the monoplane, and fitting it with a slightly larger elevator.

On 24th November, 1913, he decided to "try his luck" at the London aerodrome. He was harnessed into
his seat, and, bidding his friends farewell, with the words "wish me luck", he went aloft. For nearly half

an hour he climbed upward, and swooped over the aerodrome in wide circles, while his friends far below

were watching every action of his machine.

Suddenly an alarming incident occurred. When about a mile high in the air the machine tipped
downwards and rushed towards Earth at terrific speed. Then the tail of the machine came up, and the

"baby airman" was hanging head downwards.

But at this point the group of airmen standing in the aerodrome were filled with alarm, for it was quite
evident to their experienced eyes that the monoplane was not under proper control. Indeed, it was

actually side-slipping, and a terrible disaster appeared imminent. For hundreds of feet the young pilot,

still hanging head downwards, was crashing to Earth, but when down to about 1200 feet from the ground

the machine gradually came round, and Mr. Temple descended safely to Earth.

The airman afterwards told his friends that for several seconds he could not get the machine to answer
the controls, and for a time he was falling at a speed of 100 miles an hour. In ordinary circumstances he

 

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