AFTER THE GLIDER WHAT?
That the very low-Powered ‘plane will soon be revived, after a lapse of seven years, is the contention made in the following article.
IF one looks back on aeronautical history made during the past eight years one can discern a distinct recurrence of phases of development. A complete cycle has been described, as it were. In 1922, as a result of the successful efforts at soaring flight made by German pilots in the Rhon, a wave of enthusiasm spread in connection with gliding, and ultimately at Itford the first international gliding contest in this country was held. Working more or less “in the dark,” with limited information and experience at their disposal regarding motorless flight—for the Germans were somewhat reluctant to reveal their methods and features of design–a number of enthusiasts participated in this competition, and by masterly flights, made all the more remarkable in the light of present day knowledge, laid the foundations of what promised to be a new class of popular aviation. Fascinating, not to say fantastic prophesies were made ; these new engineless ‘planes opened up enormous possibilities. And then the inevitable and logical development happened. Someone conceived the idea of powering these frail machines with small engines— and met with success. Then came the Lympne competitions in which the D.H.53, Parnall ” Pixie, ‘ Hawker “Cygnet,” A.N.E.C. “I “, Vickers ” Viget,” “Wren,” Avro monoplane and other little machines, all powered with motor cycle engines, took part. The performances of these ‘planes (dubbed at the time, “motor-gliders “), were truly remarkable, and naturally enough completely eclipsed the glider proper. At a time when sport flying was practically non-existent, owing to there being no machines of a size and power suitable for ordinary private ownership, these little craft appeared to have great potentialities. With their tiny motor-cycle engines, their running costs were ridiculously small, and their simplicity of construction made them easy to maintain. But there were two serious barriers to their immediate development ; being single-seaters they were only suitable for people who were already able to fly, and the market was, therefore, extremely limited, far too limited for manufacturers to think of serious production. Again, the engines used, being only hastily modi
fied make-shifts, were not too satisfactory for the job, and mechanical failures were not infrequent. And so, like its predecessor, the glider, the motor cycle-of-theair, motor-glider, aerial runabout or what you will, languished and died. But with its demise came a new era, the beginning of the real light ‘plane movement, ushered in by the D.H. “Moth.” Of the subsequent formation of subsidised flying clubs, the growth of popular flying, and the steady advance made in the twoseater light aeroplane everyone is now aware. The gliders and small single-seater machines of 1922 and 1923 have become relics of the past, but the revival of the former, which has been witnessed this year recalls them vividly to mind. Itford, once again has become the scene of gliding contests and demonstrations. The sailplane is holding the attention of hundreds of aspirants to aviation, and backed by enthusiastic support, its sponsors are endeavouring to popularise gliding as a new pastime. Clubs have been formed in large numbers, liberal monetary assistance has been forthcoming, and encouragement in the form of prizes for outstanding flights are being offered—all to the furtherance of the new sport. Thus has the cycle been completed.
On the face of it, it does appear that, at the second attempt after a lapse of years, gliding has “caught on.” But to the more astute it is clear that all is not well with this movement. Run through the records of the past few months, and one will find that in spite of all the propaganda, publicity and keen support ; in spite of greater knowledge of soaring flight, methods of launching and so forth, and machines of advanced design, less has been achieved in England in the way of noteworthy flights than was the case eight years ago. What, then, are the prospects ? Will there be progress so that Itford becomes a Wasserkuppe, or will time prove this revival to be a mere flash in the pan ? It must be born in mind that the ultimate aim of the glider ab initio is soaring. The aerial toboganning on elementary training machines, which one witnesses at every club meeting, thrilling as it may be at first to the tyro, will not hold his interest for long ; and from remaining aloft for a mere 30 seconds in a Zogling, to soaring
for even 10 minutes is a very big stage, interspersed with hours of pulling, perspiring and preparation and inevitable crashes, spread over a period (at a low estimate) of several months. It has already been shown that soaring is an art difficult to acquire, even for highly experienced powered-plane pilots, and when this is born in mind, and the fact that even in Germany with all their experience, thoroughness and organisation, the number of sailplane exponents is relatively small, one must assume that when the first flush of keenness has passed so will the movement dwindle. Already one finds indications of this, and one can foresee as an outcome a most interesting phase—the revival of the real light ‘plane. Even now the time is ripe for the re-introduction of such a machine. The obstacles which killed the 1923 machine no longer exist. Where there was an insignificant number of potential owners, there is now a large and definite market—engine design has improved so enormously that the difficulties met with formerly should be ruled out, and the valuable data accumulated by the development of the sailplane could be utilised in the production of a satisfactory and highly-efficient machine. Its function would be similar to that of the sailplane—to provide a form of economical aviation solely for sporting purposes, and it would be, in no sense, a utility machine, any more than is an outboard motorboat, a racing car or racing motor cycle. It has been argued that these low-powered ‘planes are highly dangerous, but it is difficult to see why, in the hands of a person of normal intelligence, they should be less safe than the glider ; with its greater manoeuvribility, more positive and more constant control it should, in fact, be safer. Viewed in true and impartial perspective it would seem that gliding, after being ushered in so well, will fall, as time goes on, in favour. The organisation and team work required, the small results obtained from so much arduous labour, and the fact that but very few
of the many followers can ever hope to emulate Kronfeld or Magersuppe, will inevitably turn popular attention once more towards the small powered ‘plane, and another phase in the circle of progress will have come about. We in this country do not possess the patient, plodding character which is traditional of the German. The young English sportsman who wants to fly is in haste to do so. He has seized on the glider as the only cheap and possible means of getting into the air. But he has found, or at any rate he will find that the process through this medium is too slow, too uncertain and too laborious, and ultimately he will turn, as his predecessors of 1922 turned, towards powered craft. The real light aeroplane must return.
ANOTHER AUSTRALIAN FLIGHT
yET another successful flight from England to Australia was concluded last month, when Mr. Oscar Garden reached Wyndham after covering the route in 18 days.
Mr. Garden is no old hand at aviation, in fact, he only learned to fly this year at Norwich. Having secured his ” A ” licence, he then proceeded to put in as much time as he could in the ‘air, and soon became confident enough and keen enough to attempt the long trip to the Antipodes. He left Lympne on 17th October on his ” Gipsy Moth,” and made Munich his first stop. The next day he set off again and landed safely at Belgrade. Thereafter his daily progress was as follows :-19th October—Constantinople (held up by Turkish authorities for one day) ; 22nd October—Aleppo ; 23rd October— Baghdad ; 24th October—Bushire ; 25th OctoberJask ; 26th October — Karachi ; 27th October — Allahabad ; 28th October—Calcutta (held up for minor repairs after a forced landing ) ; 30th October—Ran
goon; 31st October—Singora ; 1st November—Singapore; 2nd November—Batavia ; 3rd NovemberSourabaya-Bima ; 4th November—Kupang-Wyndham.