Classic History Books

William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

In some cases a PANCAKE descent is made. This is caused by such a decrease of speed that the
aeroplane, though still moving forward, begins to drop downwards. When the pilot finds that this is

taking place, he points the nose of his machine at a much steeper angle, and so reaches his normal flying

speed, and is able to effect a safe landing. If he were too near the earth he would not be able to make this

sharp dive, and the probability is that the aeroplane would come down flat, with the possibility of a

damaged chassis. It is considered faulty piloting to make a pancake descent where there is ample landing

space; in certain restricted areas, however, it is quite necessary to land in this way.

A far more dangerous occurrence is the SIDE-SLIP. Watch a pilot vol-planing to earth from a great
height with his engine shut off. The propeller rotates in an irregular manner, sometimes stopping

altogether. When this happens, the skilful pilot forces the nose of his machine down, and so regains his

normal flying speed; but if he allowed the propeller to stop and at the same time his forward speed

through the air to be considerably diminished, his machine would probably slip sideways through the air

and crash to earth. In many cases side-slips have taken place at aerodromes when the pilot has been

rounding a pylon with the nose of his machine pointing upwards.

When a machine flies round a corner very quickly the pilot tilts it to one side. Such action as this is
known as BANKING. This operation can be witnessed at any aerodrome when speed handicaps are

taking place.

Since upside-down flying came into vogue we have heard a great deal about NOSE DIVING. This is a
headlong dive towards earth with the nose of the machine pointing vertically downwards. As a rule the

pilot makes a sharp nose dive before he loops the loop.

Sometimes an aeroplane enters a tract of air where there seems to be no supporting power for the planes;
in short, there appears to be, as it were, a HOLE in the air. Scientifically there is no such thing as a hole

in the air, but airmen are more concerned with practice than with theory, and they have, for their own

purposes, designated this curious phenomenon an AIR POCKET. In the early days of aviation, when

machines were far less stable and pilots more quickly lost control of their craft, the air pocket was greatly

dreaded, but nowadays little notice is taken of it.

A violent disturbance in the air is known as a REMOUS. This is somewhat similar to an eddy in a
stream, and it has the effect of making the machine fly very unsteadily. Remous are probably caused by

electrical disturbances of the atmosphere, which cause the air streams to meet and mingle, breaking up

into filaments or banding rills of air. The wind - that is, air in motion - far from being of approximate

uniformity, is, under most ordinary conditions, irregular almost beyond conception, and it is with such

great irregularities in the force of the air streams that airmen have constantly to contend.


CHAPTER XLIX. The Future in the Air

Three years before the outbreak of the Great War, the Master-General of Ordnance, who was in charge of
Aeronautics at the War Office, declared: "We are not yet convinced that either aeroplanes or air-ships

will be of any utility in war".

After four years of war, with its ceaseless struggle between the Allies and the Central Powers for
supremacy in the air, such a statement makes us rub our eyes as though we had been dreaming.

Seven years - and in its passage the air encircling the globe has become one gigantic battle area, the
British Isles have lost the age-long security which the seas gave them, and to regain the old proud


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