The Pioneer Era Of Aircraft- 1903-1913
The graphs presented below are a condensation
of the data in the previous table. In all graphs the blue color signifies
American aircraft and the red color = French aircraft. I hope you like
red, there is a lot of it on these graphs! At Old Rhinebeck
Aerodrome it is possible to see examples of many of the aircraft
from this era.
The Graphs above illustrate many points.
Suggested reading list for this era.
1. The USA started first and ended behind France in all categories.
Reasons included our preoccupation with automobiles which cost $1000,
and a Bleriot cost $5000. The French looked upon flying with a feeling
of patriotism, and huge throngs showed up at any aircraft event. The European
governments and newspapers offered generous prize money in various flight
disciplines, i.e. the furthest flight, the fastest plane, etc. One
of the main reasons that Louis Bleriot crossed the English Channel in 1909
was to claim the prize money; he was broke.
2. Biplanes dominated early on, but the monoplane won out over time;
except in the "Duration" category.
3. The early planes went very quickly from 10 mph to 126 mph, and from
852 feet to 567 miles non stop.
4. Large bodies of water posed no special problems, with the exception
of the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.
5. By 1913 the pioneer aircraft were no longer playthings, but dependable
instruments ready to provide a necessary function in WWI.
Famous Aviators-- Their Accomplishments and Aircraft
Wilbur and Orville Wright--They
started it all with their first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
on December 18,1903. They made the first practical aircraft, the Wright
Flyer III a few years later and were able to demonstrate turns,
and generally maneuver the way planes do today, albeit slower and lower.
The Wright Brothers patented their wing warping design, which was their
secret to stabilizing these flimsy craft.
Louis Bleriot-- A talented
French industrialist that took up aviation with the tenacity of a bulldog.
He made several unsuccessful designs; crashed in most of them, and then
used all his money to keep redesigning new aircraft. When he designed the
Bleriot XI, he hit pay dirt, but did not know it. He designed
a model XII, but it too was a failure. When the chance came to cross
the English channel, the only plane ready to go was the Bleriot XI. Once
Bleriot was successful in crossing the Channel in 1909, he became
famous and had orders for many Bleriot XI's. The Bleriot was produced
until 1915 under license in plants all over the world, at which time it
finally became outdated. It was used as a trainer in WWI by the allies.
There is a ton of history behind the little Bleriot that anyone can see
fly on most weekends at Rhinebeck.
Glen Curtiss-- An American
that worked in early aviation with Alexander Graham Bell and produced
some early innovative aircraft before striking out on his own. He also
ran afoul of the Wright Brothers who thought that Curtiss infringed on
their wing warping patent with Curtiss' ailerons. Many years later the
Wright Brothers won, but at a terrible cost mainly to aviation in the USA.
Ironically, the aileron won out in time. The Europeans were not hamstrung
by the Wright Bros. insistence that every plane that flew in the
USA had to pay them a royalty as long as they stayed in Europe. One
European plane was confiscated by authorities, but this was rare. Generally
the Wright Bros. gave permission to foreigners to fly in sanctioned air
meets in the USA. However, I believe the furor over patents did have the
effect of further damping enthusiasm for flying in the USA in the very
early days of aviation. Curtiss won some awards in the early days with
his pusher biplane( Golden Flier aka Rheims Flyer) for speed,
but his greatest contribution to aviation was for the US Navy. It was his
Curtiss Pusher Biplane that took off from the deck of a cruiser
on November 14, 1910. In 1911, Curtiss went on to design a usable
hydroplane (seaplane) and very shortly thereafter designed an amphibian
called the Triad. Curtiss was able to sell the Triad to the
US Navy and to navies all over the world. In this one area, we were ahead
of the rest of the world. An example of Curtiss' work can be seen
at Old Rhinebeck in their 1911 Curtiss Pusher which really
flies very well, weather permitting.
To be continued.
To get to the next page: Click
Contact! The Story of the Early Birds by Henry Villard
The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft-Barnes and Noble
The First Aviators-Time-Life Books (Epic of Flight Series)
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