Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Danger of Air Raids

It is only natural that my gentle readers, Londoners especially, might feel particularly fearful of air raids, given the current climate. This was not always so. When the war began, one had no more fear of Boche bombs falling over England than of a lightning strike. Indeed, the latter seemed far more likely than the former. Such naive views were clearly displayed even in our own newspapers, as the following, amusing sketch demonstrates.

But even in a time of such naivete with regards to the dangers posed by the Hun and his fleet of bombing aeroplanes, one can find certain knowledge of the advances in technology which led to our present situation. Indeed, in that very same sketch, one can see the ape-like Hun clinging to a bomb of new design.

The Roland bomb-dropping apparatus, designed by the Luftfahrzeug-Gesellschaft, weighs a mere fifteen pounds, but is capable of dropping three bombs of substantial power atop the heads of innocent British women and children. Moreover, it is easily refilled, enabling the devious Hun to perform many bombing raids in a single evening. Note the similarity in appearance between the Roland bomb-dropping apparatus, and the bombs being held by the Teutonic ape in the aforementioned sketch.

These and other methods have been used by the Boche to drop bombs on our soldiers and civilians alike. However, it has long been the Zeppelin which posed the greatest threat to civilians, living far back from the front. The range of the German airships, coupled with their great bomb-carrying capacity has long sent Londoners scurrying into tube tunnels, desperate to escape the incessant bombardment. New advances in aeroplanes, including our own Sopwith Comic night-fighters have sent many a Zeppelin down in flames. But now, the threat of aerial bombardment has changed shape yet again, in the form of advanced Hun technology in the accurate delivery of their deadly cargo.

The Goerz rangefinder, as pictured below, is the newest in a long line of Teutonic technological developments aimed at sapping the will of the British citizen to pursue this war to its conclusion.

This device is designed to compensate for the natural drift inherent in dropping a bomb from an aeroplane. As aeroplanes move through the air with a great deal of speed - some one-hundred miles to the hour, in many cases, the bombs themselves are imparted with that same speed on the moment they are dropped. The result is that they travel not straight down, as those ignorant of aeronautical matters might imagine, but rather in a curving trajectory, seen here in this diagram.

In order to compensate scientifically for this phenomenon, the Boche have mounted their Goerz bombsights in a great number of Gotha aeroplanes - the very machines which have lately wrought such devastation on the innocent inhabitants of London. One can see from this diagram, the position in which the Goerz bombsight is mounted, thus allowing the Hun bombadiers to effectively drop their bombs on their favored targets - Hospitals, Churches, and Primary Schools.

How then are our demure young ladies and innocent children to be protected? Well, barring the timely intervention of our Sopwith Comics, the government has produced the following announcement, to allay public fears and to minimize casualties in the event of a Boche air raid:

The results of last night's air raid bear out the importance of persons in the open taking the best available cover as soon as they know a raid is proceeding. The comparative lightness of the casualties may be attributed in large measure to most persons having been under cover. Persons in the open run greater risks than those under cover, and when the simple precaution of going indoors and, wherever possible, moving to a lower floor affords a greater chance of safety, it is folly to remain in the open out of curiosity or bravado.

Moreover, the government would have you understand clearly the following procedure in the event of an air raid:

As soon as it is clear that a raid is proceeding take the best available cover near at hand by entering the nearest building. Do not wait for the explosion of bombs, as one never knows where the next one may fall.

A doorway or open archway, though some protection, is not good cover, as it does not give security from fragments of a bomb exploding on the ground or flying debris. It must also be remembered that injuries are sometimes caused by our own gunfire, and this can only be avoided by taking cover.

If you are in a building on an upper floor, go downstairs in order to have the best available cover overhead. Avoid positions under skylights, and do not look out of the windows, but keep where you will be out of the line of fragments of metal or debris, which may enter by a window or a door if a bomb should explode outside.

So there you are. Keep under cover, keep a stiff upper lip, and remember to beware the Hun in the Sun.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Triplane: A Curiously English Contraption

When a chappie calls to mind a triplane, it is likely that the first image to be conjured is the gaudy, all-red affair of Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen, the Hun flying ace who used the machine to such deadly effect over the skies of France. Indeed, the Teutonic association with the triplane is so strong, that it might shock the modern reading public to learn that triplanes are not German innovations. Rather, they are wholly English. For it was in England that the machine was first devised, in England that it was refined, and in England that it first went to war.

The very first triplane was constructed in 1868, by Mr. John Stringfellow, a charter member of the Royal Aeronautical Society. The machine was powered by means of an exceptionally light steam engine. While only a model, the triplane could nonetheless leave the ground and fly for short distances under its own power. Further, the design of that triplane would have a great influence on later multi-plane machines.

As some of my gentle readers might recall, Mr. Stringfellow's triplane was put on public display by the Royal Aeronautical Society in the Crystal Palace in 1868. There, it amazed onlookers, eager to glimpse the future of transportation. Gentlemen and ladies alike marveled at its unique and innovative appearance, and no doubt the more technically-minded fellows were eager to examine its steam engine and the careful construction of its flight surfaces. The following sketch depicts the exhibition as it is fondly recalled by those who experienced it.

But it was some years before the triplane reappeared in the history of aviation. It wasn't until forty years after the Crystal Palace exhibition that Mr. A.V. Roe, founder of A.V. Roe and Company (the reputable aeronautical firm later to be known to the world as Avro), created a working triplane that was capable of carrying a man aloft.

The Avro Triplane was, at its time, the only triplane being produced anywhere in the world. Further, it was the first machine to combine the aerodynamic qualities of the monoplane fuselage, with the superior lift of the multiplane configuration. Heretofore, multiplane machines had been designed after those of Messrs. Wright and Farman. The Avro triplane represented a leap forward in the business of aeronautics, for soon all multiplane machines would utilize this configuration.

The control configuration of the Avro Triplane is more or less conventional. A control column coupled with a steering wheel control the elevators and the wing-warping, whilst a rudder bar controls movement in the yaw axis. The bottom-most plane of the machine is shorter than the other two, and it is this plane that is warped in order to effect the rolling movement necessary for banking the machine.

Flight magazine has provided your humble correspondent with a detailed sketch of the Avro Triplane, for those enthusiasts who wish to build one themselves, or for the budding young aeronaut who wishes to construct models of the machine.

But the evolution of the triplane, to borrow a term from Mr. Darwin's infamous work, did not cease in England. While the triplane fell out of favor with the start of the war, it wasn't long before the most brilliant aeroplane designer of his time, Mr. Thomas Sopwith, produced a triplane of his own.

The Sopwith Triplane was flown exclusively by His Majesty's Royal Naval Air Service. It began its career during the month of Bloody April, a time when Hun attacks were sweeping the Royal Flying Corps from the skies. The superiority of the new Albatross and Pfalz scouts caused the RFC its greatest losses of the war. But the same could not be said for the RNAS and their new Sopwith Triplane. The following account, taken directly from men on the ground who witnessed the action, demonstrates not only the triplane's superiority in combat, but also the superior spirit of the English aviator.

At 6:45 p.m. on April 7th, 1917, a Sopwith Triplane, working alone, attacked eleven hostile machines, almost all Albatross scouts, N.E. of Arras. He completely outclassed the whole patrol of hostile machines, diving through them and climbing above them. One Albatross scout, painted red, which had been particularly noticed by this section, dived on him and passed him. The Sopwith dived on him and then easily climbed again above the whole patrol, drawing them all the time towards the anti-aircraft guns. As soon as they were within range, the anti-aircraft guns opened fire on the patrol, which turned eastward, and the Sopwith returned safely. The officers who witnessed the combat report that the manoeuvering of the Sopwith Triplane completely outclassed the Albatross scout.

Indeed, the Sopwith machine was far superior to the biplane designs currently favored by all major powers during the war. Its rate of climb was noted, even amongst Boche reports, to be far beyond that of its contemporaries. Its maneuverability was exceptional. The only area where it lacked was in its speed in the dive, owing to the increased drag caused by the third plane. The following sketch gives one a sense of the clean, elegant lines that characterized Sopwith scouts generally, and the triplane in particular.

The Germans would not admit publicly to the superiority of the Sopwith machine. The reports they sent to their soldiers on the front questioned its strength and maneuverability, stating:

(The Sopwith)...as far as possible avoids any excessive demands upon itself, for it breaks up easily. ...after an unsuccessful attack, (the Sopwith) generally avoids a battle of turns.

My gentle readers are, no doubt, aware that the Boche are absolutely not to be trusted under any circumstances, least of all where the superiority of the English aviator is concerned. However, one need not belabor the point. The actions of the Hun after the introduction of the Sopwith Triplane make the reality of the situation clear enough.

The Boche, you see, whilst a generally humorless and cold race, are nonetheless eminently practical in military matters. Publicly, they may have denied Mr. Sopwith his due, as the designer of a brilliant new sort of fighting scout, but privately, they coveted the machine for themselves. Your humble correspondent, at great personal risk, has obtained definitive proof of the Germans' desperate attempts to copy English ingenuity. Here is a secret sketch, created by the Hun, analyzing the characteristics of a captured Sopwith machine.

In the same, secret, documents, the Germans have perjured themselves, stating that the Sopwith triplane, owing to its exceptionally light wing-loading, is an extremely fast scout, and further that it is possessed of a very high rate of climb.

The greatest proof of all, however, can be found in the actions of the German aircraft designers. It has been said, and not without justice, that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If such is the case, then one wonders if perhaps Messrs. R. Schubert, A. Fokker, J. von Berg, and B. Meyer, will not be courting Mr. Sopwith in the near future. All of these designers, and more, produced triplanes in the months following the introduction of the Sopwith scout. Indeed, such was the Teutonic fear of the machine, that there existed a veritable race to produce a worthy counterpart to the English scout.

The most famous of these "dreideckers" is, of course, the Fokker design, but Anthony Fokker was far from the only German designer who attempted to reproduce Mr. Sopwith's success. To give one an idea as to the depth of the German fear of the Sopwith machine, I have enumerated here a small sampling of the attempts made by the Germans and Austrians to duplicate the technology.

The AEG triplane reached the prototype stage but was never entered into series production:

The Albatros Flugzeugwerke, noted for its rather brilliant biplane scouts, nonetheless attempted to produce triplanes to match the Sopwith. Both designs failed.

The Aviatik corporation, which achieved only moderate success with its D.I scout on the Italian front, nonetheless produced an experimental triplane of its own, in reaction to the Sopwith's appearance.

Hansa-Brandenberg, an Austrian aircraft manufacturer noted for its successful C.I two-seaters, and relatively unsuccessful D.I single-seat scouts, attempted to create a triplane of their own, during the German dreidecker craze.

Even Deutsche Flugzeug-Werke, a company not known for its scouts, created a triplane for consideration by the German Jadgstaffelen.

Of course, as any student of aviation knows, only one German triplane met with any kind of success, and that was the Fokker Dr.1. The machine was used by some of the leading German aces such as Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen, and Werner Voss.

Curiously, both Richthofen and Voss perished flying the scout, and it was not well-loved by the Germans. Nor was it produced in any significant quantity. This might lead one to believe that the age of the triplane had passed, but it fell to one of our American cousins to prove the Hun wrong, and to illustrate the capacity of the type to continue to give good service.

Glenn Curtiss, inventor of the aileron, once the fastest man on Earth (owing to his remarkable V-8 motorcycle), refined Mr. Sopwith's triplane design, producing a new, two-seater machine which retained the trademark maneuverability and climb rate for which the type was noted. To that, Mr. Curtiss added his racing pedigree. He streamlined the design wherever possible, removing unnecessary struts and bracing cables. The result was the Curtiss 18T, known unofficially as the Wasp.

The Curtiss machine, owing to its remarkable four-hundred horsepower engine, is capable of speeds in excess of one-hundred and sixty miles to the hour. This speed is greater than any known German scout, and indeed, greater than any scout in the world. Despite being a two-seater, and carrying a full military load, the Curtiss Wasp nonetheless succeeded in achieving a world speed record. Furthermore, a refined version of the machine also suceeded in achieving a world altitude record, showing the phenomenal rate of climb for which triplanes have long been admired. The machine's wing-loading is lighter than the Fokker D.VII biplane, indicating that the Curtiss, despite the extra weight of an observer, might nonetheless be maneuverable enough to dogfight with enemy scouts.

For the moment, the Curtiss machine represents the pinnacle of triplane design. However, as the triplane is, and always has been, a curiously English contraption, it is the opinion of your humble correspondent, that it will not be long before an Englishman wrests that title away from Mr. Curtiss' fine aeroplane.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The History of the Immelmann Turn

One of the most popular maneuvers in the repertoire of every competent aviatrix is the Immelmann turn. But what is the Immelmann turn? It may surprise my gentle readers to learn that there are, in fact, two such maneuvers in existence. One of these was invented by Max Immelmann, the handsome Teutonic flying ace. The other was developed later, and the man's name was attached to it posthumously.

In the modern field of aviation, it is believed that the Immelmann turn is an altitude-gaining reversal. The pilot first of all pulls his aeroplane through a half-loop, and then, at the top of the loop, rolls the aeroplane until it is facing the right way up. Thus, the aeroplane continues to fly in the opposite direction, at a higher altitude than it started. The following sketch might prove useful for an understanding of the maneuver's appearance.

On first blush, it might seem that the mystery of the Immelmann turn has been solved, but if one delves deeper, one discovers that the Immelmann turn illustrated above would have been quite impossible in a Fokker Eindecker, Immelmann's aeroplane of choice during the great Fokker Scourge. Most aeroplanes of the period did not possess the ability to perform this maneuver. To demonstrate, I have performed the maneuver in a Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a, a much more advanced scout than Immelmann's Fokker Eindecker. The maneuver was captured by the new kinetograph, recently made available to the general public. It can be found here, on YouKinetoscope:

The knowledgeable observer will note that the aeroplane begins to precipitously lose airspeed at the top of the loop, resulting in a degradation of aileron authority. As speed decreases in an aeroplane, the ailerons generally become less effective, and thereby the aeroplane's ability to roll is compromised. Even in a powerful new fighting scout like the SE5a, this correspondent found the maneuver exceedingly difficult, requiring a high degree of speed on the entry, and a great deal of delicate manipulation of the rudder bar in order to prevent a stall.

The more observant of you may have noticed that, as the maneuver was completed, your humble correspondent found herself face to face with a Fokker biplane, but I assure you I dealt with the Teutonic scoundrel quite forcefully, with a liberal application of lead courtesy of Messrs. Vickers and Lewis. Proof of the feat may be found in my second series of kinetograph images, wherein the hapless Hun is seen plunging to the ground, trailing a plume of black smoke.

But back to the point of the thing, the evidence is quite clear that Herr Immelmann could by no means have performed such a maneuver in his Fokker monoplane, as it was equipped with primitive wing-warping technology, which has a tendency to be even less reliable than the modern aileron. So, what then did the Immelmann turn actually look like?

As many aviators from the war will attest, the real Immelmann turn consisted of a steep reversal, using the vertical, and the application of rudder rather than aileron control. As the Fokker Eindecker used a Morane-style rudder and elevator assembly, its response in those axes of control was quite good. This stands in stark contrast to its aileron control, which was quite poor. Consequently, it seems logical that the maneuver performed by Immelmann would have utilized the best qualities of his scout - namely the rudder and elevator controls.

The following sketch is rather in the way of being a secret. It was drawn for my by Flight-Lieutenant E.L. Ford of His Majesty's Royal Naval Air Service. As such, it is absolutely imperative that this information not be leaked to the Hun. I shall trust my readers to remember that loose lips sink ships, and also shoot down aeroplanes and do loads of other awful things. However, for the general edification of the public, my integrity as a journalist requires that I display the sketch.

To further demonstrate the technique, I performed it myself, in the same Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a. Note the airspeed indicator on the right-hand side of the cockpit control panel. One can see quite clearly that this Immelmann maneuver retains more speed than the other, and is completed much more smoothly. Both of these factors are crucially important in aerial warfare.

Now that the history of the Immelmann turn has been made clear, it is this correspondent's fondest hope that her readership will utilize this information to give Harry Hun the sound thrashing that he deserves.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Fashionable Aviatrix

Aviation has heretofore been considered the province of men, but those of the fairer sex have made important forays into the art and science of piloting aeroplanes. Indeed, piloting an aeroplane seems to be a task uniquely suited to ladies, as it requires but little in the way of brute strength. Rather, technique, skill, and understanding are the concomitants of a successful aeronaut. And these qualities ladies possess in abundance.

In spite of this fact, the society papers have been unnecessarily cruel in their depictions of the modern aviatrix. They imagine her to be a masculine creature, utterly unsexed by means of her knickerbocker uniform and a liberal application of castor oil. But such statements could not be further from the actual truth of the matter. By examining two young ladies, at the forefront of aviation, one can easily observe that, far from degrading her feminine charms, the aviatrix has enhanced her appeal through the addition of certain items to her wardrobe.

Young Miss Katherine Stinson of the United States is an acknowledged leader in the field of aeronautics, being the first woman to loop the loop. She has successfully completed the maneuver in excess of five-hundred times, and she has done so with a sense of style that many of the fashionable set in London would do well to imitate.

Here, we see Miss Stinson posing for the camera in front of her machine. The reader will notice that her attire is not so different from that of any lady taking a motoring trip through the countryside. Observe her sensible, yet stylish, headwear, her kid leather gloves, and her warm, knit jumper. It is Miss Stinson's habit to wear her hair long, and to keep it arranged in accordance with the dictates of fashion. Indeed, one could scarcely hope to find a more attractive young lady at any of the country estates around London.

Here again we see Miss Stinson posing in front of one of her machines. Note her characteristic long tresses, and her beautiful overcoat. One can also see the tasteful string of pearls that she always wears around her neck. They were a gift to her from the emperor of Japan himself. Let any fashionable lady in London make a similar claim.

"This is all well and good," my opponents will say, "but what of Miss Stinson's attire whilst she is actually engaged in the business of flying?" Well, let us examine that in detail, shall we? In the first place, Miss Stinson has made it her habit to retain her string of pearls, even whilst flying her aeroplanes. They can just be glimpsed in this candid daguerreotype, taken of her as she readied her aeroplane for flight.

Furthermore, whilst it has been thoroughly acknowledged that the presence of a leather flying coat enhances a man's virility and appearance, the same has not yet been acknowledged for young aviatrices. However, one has only to glimpse Miss Stinson, here greeting the Marquis Okuma in the country of Japan, for that oversight to be corrected.

But as attractive a young lady as Miss Stinson is, no discussion of the fashionable aviatrix would be complete without acknowledging the primacy of Miss Harriet Quimby in the matter. Seen here, in a favorite white sailor frock and tasteful hat, Miss Quimby highlights the beauty gained through travel in the upper aether of the atmosphere.

Miss Quimby, the first lady in America to receive her pilot's license, and the first woman to cross the English channel alone in an aeroplane, extends her beauty and her sense of fashion to the cockpit. In the following daguerreotype, Miss Quimby shows off her knickerbocker uniform, constructed of fine violet satin.

And here, posing with her good friend Miss Matilde Moisant, the gentle reader can see that far from being the exception, Miss Harriet Quimby is rather representative of the wholesome and feminine styles which have been adopted by aviatrices the world over.

Even whilst engaged in that most difficult and arduous feat of aviation, the crossing of the English Channel, Miss Quimby's sense of style remained intact. To her stunning violet flying uniform, Miss Quimby has added a pair of highly attractive goggles with unusual teardrop lenses, lending her face a most pleasing shape.

It is clear then, that far from being ridiculed in the society papers for their costume, the aviatrices making their respective marks on the world today should be lauded for their collective good taste in their wardrobe selections.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Changeless Book Review

Touching Ms. Gail Carriger's new novel Changeless, where does one begin? It starts promisingly enough. One is re-introduced to the cavalcade of characters which made her previous endeavor, Soulless, such an unmitigated success. However, certain of these characters might offend those of more delicate sensibilities.

I am, of course, referring primarily to the character of Lady Maccon, formerly Miss Alexia Tarabotti, the young lady whose preternatural condition lends its name to the first novel. Lady Maccon is rather in the way of being an outspoken woman, and were it not for her publicly-expressed disapprobation of the methods of Mrs. Pankhurst and her ilk, one might mistake her for a liberated woman, concerned with rational dress and votes for women.

As if her personality alone were not enough to make polite ladies avert their eyes, her husband, Lord Maccon, is a scandal himself. He is a werewolf, and given their propensities for overindulgence in meat and for running about starkers, it isn't any wonder that such a condition should be viewed with skepticism by members of polite society. That he is also a Scotsman, will no doubt inform members of the reading public as to the nature of both his character and his temperament. However, this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that he only resorts to speaking in that hideous northern dialect in moments of extreme stress. Unfortunately, such moments seem rather in the way of being commonplace, owing to his position within BUR.

In addition to the happy couple, one is likely to encounter several other characters, close associates of the two in question. Of these, one need not know much, save that the most scrupulous and polite of the lot is himself a werewolf, giving one a thorough indication as to the nature of the company Lady Maccon keeps.

To these characters, are introduced two others, of which special mention might be required. To begin with, there is Major Channing Channing of the Chesterfield Channings, the Gamma of Woolsey pack. Major Channing Channing makes his presence felt almost from the very first. His role, while small, is nonetheless of some import throughout the proceedings, and I am certain that readers will look favorably on his continued presence in future works, owing to his pleasing features and noble upbringing. Indeed, one wonders if perhaps he is not distantly related to the noted actor, Mr. Cyril Bassington-Bassington, who is himself considering the possibility of service as a claviger, owing to the excess of soul which has heretofore caused his poor mother such public embarrassment.

The second of these newcomers to the stories is a Madame Lefoux, a fascinating creature, whose extraction is, regrettably, quite French. But one must forgive her the lamentable circumstances of her birth, as she really is quite keen on all matters mechanical, and a deft hand in the service and repair of practically any modern scientific device. As an ardent supporter of all matters aeronautical, one cannot help but laud a woman like Madame Lefoux for her expertise in the realm of the scientific. However, she is possessed of one character flaw which prevents her travel in the upper echelons of English society - the lady has taken to the wearing of gentlemen's attire.

But what I say is - why not? After all, much of the action takes place in the aether, aboard a dirigible, and ladies' attire is at best unseemly, and at worst suicidal, aboard such contraptions (regardless of Giffard's protestations to the contrary). One only has to listen to the words of the late, but ever-fashionable Miss Harriet Quimby, who once commented, "If a woman wants to fly, first of all, she must, of course, abandon skirts and don a knickerbocker uniform." Naturally then, while her attire might appear scandalous to most observers, Madame Lefoux's manner of dress is in fact wholesome, sanitary, rational, and dare I say it - comfortable. Indeed, it is this correspondent's opinion that such styles should be encouraged, as much as possible, and coupled with Burberry flying coats, which are known for their sound construction and ability to deflect castor oil and water with equal aplomb.

At any rate, the plot of the novel proceeds rather quickly, introducing the reader to the danger which gives the book its title. Namely, the supernaturals in London are, for a time, returned to human form, and the werewolves are completely unable to effect their oft-noted transformation. As the muhjah, an agent in Her Majesty's service, it falls to Lady Maccon, and her husband to a lesser extent, to discover the nature of this strange occurrence. The investigations into the matter take Lady Maccon and her husband from London to the wilds of Scotland, which really is quite a morose place. And anyway, the food is terrible, though I suppose any food is better than the food served on dirigibles nowadays. But back to the point of the thing, Lady Maccon's life is placed in peril on several occasions, and the plot takes not a few convincing twists and turns, leading to a satisfying conclusion - or so one might be led to believe.

Much ink has been spilled on the issue of the book's ending, and I must say that it is an absolute travesty. I mean, honestly, I fairly devoured the book, and then I got to the end (or a chapter before the end anyway) and I was feeling really braced with things. It had all worked out all-right and things had sorted themselves out nicely, and the heroes were where they needed to be, and the villains were where they needed to be (namely lying in a sort of breathless state on the lawn, never to rise again). And it all seemed pretty bally all right as far as I was concerned. But then the ending! It gave me the deuce of a shock!

Ahem. I must apologize for my outburst, but such is the state of your humble correspondent's emotions so soon after having read the ending of the story, that she was quite incapable of controlling herself. The old nerves simply can't abide such suspense without recourse to speech more befitting young gentlemen at drones clubs. At any rate, the novel ends in what is commonly referred to in the penny dreadful trade as a 'cliffhanger.' That is to say, there is a major development of immense import, one which tugs effectively at the old heartstrings, and then the book jolly well ends, leaving one to wonder at the outcome.

And to that, I have but one thing to say to Ms. Gail Carriger, the author - Bravo. I shall be purchasing the next installment of the series, which is due to be released on my birthday.

Sporting Dirigible

Given the rise in popularity of dirigibles in both civilian and military applications, one wonders why sporting dirigibles have not yet become commonplace. After all, most of today's generation recall with fondness the preceding decades, in which intrepid men, and headstrong ladies took to the skies following the first great trend in aeronautics - ballooning.

One Mr. Samuel L. Collins has proposed an innovative solution to this problem - namely, a sporting dirigible designed for two or three passengers, to be powered by means of an engine not to exceed eighty horsepower. Such an engine would permit speeds in fair weather of up to fifty miles to the hour - a pace far in excess of those achieved by even the most ardent balloonists. Furthermore, the dirigible would be fully controllable, allowing the pilot to maneuver at his leisure. This method differs sharply from that of the balloonist, who is at the mercies of the wind. Many a balloonist has found this condition to be quite unsatisfactory, particularly whilst heading towards an inconvenient copse of trees, or a church spire, with no means at his disposal to alter his course.

Further, Mr. Collins promises that such a dirigible would be easier to pilot than the modern aeroplane. As my gentle readers may have heard, piloting an aeroplane can be a tricky business, requiring certain scientific knowledge, and an iron will. Such features are wholly unnecessary in the dirigible pilot, if Mr. Collins is to be believed. The lifting gas provides the machine with impeccable balance, and steering is accomplished by means of a rudder bar to control the machine's yaw, and a wheel or a column to control the elevators, which provide vertical maneuverability.

Mr. Collins has released the following sketch of his contraption for the consumption of the general public.

As one can see from the illustration, the passengers are meant to ride below the envelope of the dirigible (the balloon for those readers who are unfamiliar with aeronautical terminology). The gondola, or basket, of the airship, seats two or three passengers, and also houses the necessary mechanical equipment to power and control the machine.

Given the meteoric rise in interest amongst the general public in matters of aviation, particularly travel by dirigible, it is this correspondent's opinion that it will not be long before Mr. Collins' machines make their mark on the fashionable set of London.

Boland Jib Control

Frank E. Boland of the noted family of aeroplane manufacturers created a little-known and even less-studied method for controlling an aeroplane in 1908. The jib control system, as he referred to it, dispensed with the more usual methods established by Messrs. Wright and Curtiss. That is to say, the machine lacks wing-warping, ailerons, and a rudder. Such a system scarcely seems capable of providing a machine with the stability and ease of motion required for flight in the modern world, but upon closer examination, one sees that Mr. Boland's solution to the problem is quite elegant.

Ordinarily, an aeroplane uses ailerons or wing-warping control to bank either to the left or the right. This banking movement is coordinated by means of a rudder, which controls the horizontal movement of the aeroplane, referred to in aeronautical circles as 'yaw.' The really clever bit about the Boland system is that it dispenses with ailerons and rudders entirely, and instead relies on the innovative jib system to control both axes of motion.

The jibs are roughly pear-shaped, and are pivoted about an axis at a forty-five degree angle to the horizontal. They are placed between the main planes, eliminating the heavy empennage - heretofore considered to be a necessity amongst serious aeronautical enthusiasts. The diagram here, from Flight magazine in October 1916, illustrates their use.

In ordinary flight, the jibs form side-curtains between the main planes of the machine. However, when one wishes to turn, the jib is pulled in on that side, creating a downward force of pressure on the wing, causing it to drop. Mr. Boland claims that the jib also serves in the capacity of a rudder, and that therefore it is quite impossible for his machine to side-slip during a turn. This reduces control of the aeroplane to the simplest movements possible. Using this method, the aviator has only to turn a wheel or move a control column to the left or the right, and the machine will bank flawlessly in the given direction, eliminating the need for rudder bars on the floor of the machine.

It is conceivable that lady fliers will find Mr. Boland's solution especially elegant, owing to the difficulties engendered by feminine attire. Without the need for rudder control, perhaps we will see a resurgence of skirts in the cockpit, despite Miss Harriet Quimby's comments to the contrary.

The newest Boland machine uses an elevator placed some thirteen feet in front of the nacelle to control the craft's movement in the vertical. However, owing to the excess drag of such a configuration, and its rather antiquated appearance, one wonders if perhaps a more suitable canard control system might be found - one which takes full advantage of the reduction in weight offered by the Boland's tail-less configuration.

Conceivably, the Boland machine offers many qualities sought after in a potential fighting scout. Its weight-saving tail-less configuration could be propelled with a comparatively small motor, and still achieve a good rate of speed. The design is easy to fly, and even poorly-trained soldiers would be able to control the machine in a very short time. Furthermore, the pusher configuration is an elegant solution to the deucedly difficult problem of firing a machine gun through the propeller. Whether or not this machine will stand the test of time is anyone's guess, but it remains a model of innovation in the field of aviation.