Classic History Books


William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

thought that a dive of 500 feet after the upside-down stretch should get him the right way up, but it really
took him nearly 1500 feet. Fortunately, however, he commenced the dive at a great altitude, and so the

distance side-slipped did not much matter.

It is sad to relate that Mr. Temple lost his life in January, 1914, while flying at Hendon in a treacherous
wind. The actual cause of the accident was never clearly understood. He had not fully recovered from an

attack of influenza, and it was thought that he fainted and fell over the control lever while descending

near one of the pylons, when the machine "turned turtle", and the pilot's neck was broken.

 

CHAPTER XLV. Accidents and their Cause

"Another airman killed!" "There'll soon be none of those flying fellows left!" "Far too risky a game!"
"Ought to be stopped by law!"

How many times have we heard these, and similar remarks, when the newspapers relate the account of
some fatality in the air! People have come to think that flying is a terribly risky occupation, and that if

one wishes to put an end to one's life one has only to go up in a flying machine. For the last twenty years

some of our great writers have prophesied that the conquest of the air would be as costly in human life as

was that of the sea, but their prophecies have most certainly been wrong, for in the wreck of one single

vessel, such as that of the Titanic, more lives were lost than in all the disasters to any form of aerial craft.

Perhaps some of our grandfathers can remember the dread with which many nervous people entered, or
saw their friends enter, a train. Travellers by the railway eighty or ninety years ago considered that they

took their lives in their hands, so to speak, when they went on a long journey, and a great sigh of relief

arose in the members of their families when the news came that the journey was safely ended. In George

Stephenson's days there was considerable opposition to the institution of the railway, simply on account

of the number of accidents which it was anticipated would take place.

Now we laugh at the fears of our great-grandparents; is it not probable that our grandchildren will laugh
in a similar manner at our timidity over the aeroplane?

In the case of all recent new inventions in methods of locomotion there has always been a feeling among
certain people that the law ought to prohibit such inventions from being put into practice.

There used to be bitter opposition to the motor-car, and at first every mechanically-driven vehicle had to
have a man walking in front with a red flag.

There are risks in all means of transit; indeed, it may be said that the world is a dangerous place to live
in. It is true, too, that the demons of the air have taken their toll of life from the young, ambitious, and

daring souls. Many of the fatal accidents have been due to defective work in some part of the machinery,

some to want of that complete knowledge and control that only experience can give, some even to want

of proper care on the part of the pilot. If a pilot takes ordinary care in controlling his machine, and if the

mechanics who have built the machine have done their work thoroughly, flying, nowadays, should be

practically as safe as motoring.

The French Aero Club find, from a mass or information which has been compiled for them with great
care, that for every 92,000 miles actually flown by aeroplane during the year 1912, only one fatal

accident had occurred. This, too, in France, where some of the pilots have been notoriously reckless, and

where far more airmen have been killed than in Britain.

 

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