A Month of Memories.
NOVEMBER has been, during the last twelve years, a month of memories ; at least it has for the War-time generation. And so in the past week or two I have found myself involved in several reminiscent conversations about the flying days of 1914-1918.
How different is aviation now to what it was in that hectic period I It is not merely in the machines that the march of progress has wrought so much change—methods of instruction, flying kit, the sounds and odours (I am thinking of the pungent smell of castor oil, so dear to many of us still) flying terms, aerodromes ; all have changed, and taken on fresh aspects. No longer is the unfortunate pupil sent solo after an alleged I or 2 hours’ instruction (sans speaking tubes, instruments, and even windscreen) with a parting remark from his hard-boiled instructor, ” If you crash, you’re no damned good ! ” No longer are we awakened in the early morning by the “Buzz !—stop, buzz !—stop” of a Gnome-engined kite coming in to land. Gone are the fug-boots, and the leather coat, and in their place is the Sidcot. The Bessanau hangar, with creaking timber framework, flapping canvas, and clinker-strewn floor has given place to massive steam-heated, electrically-lighted, sliding-doored buildings—places fit for aircraft to live in.
And of all those many types of planes which populated the atmosphere, but few, very few remain. The veteran ” 504 ” Avro is still with us, and there are some S.E.5’s flying yet. But the B.E.’s, R.E.8’s (Harry Tate’s), Maurice-Farman (Rumpety), F.E.’s, D.H.2’s, D.H.5’s, ” Pups ” and ” Camels ‘ (save one) have gone for ever and ever. But our remembrance of these old friends (though many of them were death-traps) continues as vividly as before, even in the welter of new achievements and rapid developments.
If one compares the modern light plane with machines of twelve to thirteen years ago, no very great difference is discernible in general lines and outward appearance, save in the engine. Now the radial and the in-line type hold sway ; during the War the rotary was the predominant engine, at any rate for scouts. Maligned, dreaded and mistrusted, it was nevertheless a wonderfully ingenious piece of mechanism, and (as far as my experience went) not at all deserving of the epithets which were cast upon it. The 80 h.p. Le Rhone (as fitted to the” Pup “) which had nine cylinders, was a marvel of smoothness and, though reports went round very much to the contrary, it could be throttled down to give a tick-over equal to many stationary types. “Whirling incinerators” the rotaries were dubbed, and in the dimness of dawn and
dusk one could realise the appropriateness of this nickname, for as they roared round they traced a ring of fire beneath their cowlings.
Then there was the 100 h.p. Monosoupape, which emitted a drone like a gigantic bumble-bee. No other engine before or since, has ever possessed such a distinctive note. Just how this motor managed to create such a din, which however, was not unpleasant, mystified many who were not familiar with its working principle.
The explanation is that the single exhaust and only valve in each cylinder, performed the dual purpose of allowing the exhaust gases to escape, and remained open to permit air to be drawn in on the suction stroke, to make up the necessary explosive charge within the cylinder (a rich mixture from the crank case having entered via ports at the cylinder base). Thus, the rapidly alternating currents of burnt gases and fresh air past the valve created the characteristic noise.
N.F.S. Ltd., I understand, are now undertaking aircraft reconditioning work at reduced rates to recognised flying clubs, and private owners. Their workshops at Hanworth are now, as a result of steady development, extremely well equipped and their staff numbers over 50.
Apart from the new plant the Hanworth establishment also boasts of a resident A.I.D. inspector, so that machines can be passed through after reconditioning and overhaul with the minimum of delay. Incidentally, it is interesting to find that the N.F.S. Board of Directors has been re-formed. The new Chairman is Mr. J. G. Peel, while the co-directors are :—Mr. C. R. Anson, Mr. W. S. Stephenson, Col. the Master of Sempill, and Sir A. J. Cobham.
A ” Bibful.”
Some little time ago a news item came from America in which two schoolboys were the central figures. Apparently, imbued with a super-abundance of airmindedness, these two entered an aerodrome, stealthily approached a” ship,” started it up—and took off. Neither had had any previous experience of either flying or piloting, and as a consequence, their flip was all too brief. One lad was killed and the other, the “pilot,” injured severely. Interrogated by the police, he said that he’d studied books on how to fly, but he didn’t know what happened. What blissful self-confidence ! Perhaps, he had been influenced by this choice bit of advertising, which I have taken from an American journal :— ” Are you hungry for adventure, popularity, big pay ?are you a red-blooded, daring he-man ? Do you crave adventure, popularity, admiration, and the applause of great crowds ? Then why not get into the Aviation Industry—the greatest adventure since time began—the greatest thrill ever offered to man ? ” and so on and so forth. Comment, I
think, is needless. ” RUDDERBAR.”