An Article by Capt. Neville Stack, A.F.C.
Chief Pilot of National Flying Services.
FROM the earliest days of history, whether of Eastern or Western civilisations, man has looked into the sky and aspired to join, the birds in, annihilatin time and distance.
Western, legends tell of Bladud, King of Britain, who is supposed to have achieved gliding flight at Bath : of that Scottish monk who leaped from. Stirling Castle with his arm-supported wings and broke his thigh in a manure-heap ; more exact records lead one through the lighter-than-air flights of the Montgolfier balloons (which were actually used for observation purposes at the Battle of Fleurus in 1794), to the experiments of Caley, Lilienthal and Pilcher, until the internal combustion engine was made sufficiently light to put the first historic Wright machine into the air.
A man, self-taught, could fly ! Limited in his evolutions, cramped by the unknown, he yet had one foot upon the ladder of mastery.
Through the years that followed men with belief in, the future laboured without hope of reward to bring their craft nearer perfection, and there is something almost mediaeval in the trust of those first pupils who sat at the feet of the pioneers who knew so little more than the learners. In, Great Britain the first schools were in the Isle of
Sheppey and upon Salisbury Plain ; a complete course of instruction was a matter of mouths, perhaps of years, for only upon. the days when a cigarette’s smoke rose straight into a cloudless air did instructor and pupil venture off the ground. The usual type of those days placed pupil and instructor side by side in the crazy structure, and” dual” was a matter of the shouted word and example : finally,
when he was sufficiently proficient, the learner took his life in his hands and flew alone, bearing in, mind the parting injunction to avoid the. “fatal sideslip “—today’s normal method of losing surplus height on landing an aeroplane. So affairs went on until 1913: some learnt to fly, others met their death, but in, the year preceding the war came the first machine which was a great advance on previous ones and seemed to fill the bill as an instruc
tional machin,e on account of its great controllability and stability—the Type 504 Avro.
This machine merits more space than can here be given to it, for upon it more men have learned to fly than upon any other type, and its lineal descendant, the 504 L, is the standard initial training machine for our own and other Air Forces.
It was designed by a pioneer in. British aviation, Mr. A. V. Roe, and en,gined with the Gnome-Rhone Monosoupape, which at that period gave it a phenomenal performance ; its low landing speed and comparatively reliable engine (even though its fuel and oil consumption were tremendous), made it for those days safe and a giver of confidence to the learner.
At the commencement of the War 1914-1918 it was in, use as a bomber and fighter, but after a few months it was replaced by machines with a higher performance : but it was not to disappear from the Service flying schools until 1927.
With the advent of this first machine that was really adapted for training purposes came the first systemized syllabus : the war cut it down, for the need for pilots was urgent. Day after day brought its tale of pilotwastage and in a ceaseless stream the new personnel passed from the tried Avro to the fighter and bomber types.
Machines crashed were of no account in those days : the factories which worked day and night produced them in. thousands but pilot making was a slower affair. Somehow, anyhow, they were produced, and the wartime pilot was magnificent of his kind.
Two or three hours dual from resting’ veterans, and they “went solo ” : a couple of hours in the Avro and they flew Service types, often machines with all the vices which have been eliminated from the modern aeroplane. Many a pilot went to the Front with but five or six hours of solo flying to his credit and learnt his fighting tactics in a school which had the flaming gun of a Fokker as its Chief Instructor. Those who survived the methods of those crowded days became magnificent pilots : but the end of the war gave breathing space for the development of a system
which produced airmen of no less skill. The post-war S_A-vice airman not unseldom astonishes the war pilot who comes to see the Hendon Pageant.
Civil flying hung fire for a time : that it would develop was inevitable, but the war type machine was fabulously expensive to run except for the wealthy.
Great newspapers offered prizes for the economical aeroplane ; diligent research workers experimented with wing-sections and fuselage-forms to open, the road. Various small machines of excellent characteristics appeared, but none quite fulfilled the ideal : as in the early days, the power-unit was the barrier.
Then came the Cirrus-engined Moth : in it the sword was truly beaten into the ploughshare, for the Moth was &signed by one of the most famous British war-plane &signers, Captain Geoffrey de Havilland, and its Cirrus engine was designed and built from the great mass of surplus war-time engine parts, by the A.D.C. Aircraft Co., Ltd.
Safe and cheap flying was born with the first Moth : almost at once light areoplaue clubs came into being and to all was open the opportunity of learning to fly— made possible by the remarkable reliability, low running and maintenance costs of the little Cirrus engine. This combin,ation of the Cirrus and Moth marked a great step forward in the advancement of Civil Aviation.
Today the vast majority learn, to fly through the m -2dium of a flying club : schools, quite apart from clubs, exist, but they do not receive the State grants which lower the cost in. the latter. A young man of good education may get all the flying
he wants on Service type machines if he is lucky enough to obtain a commission in the Auxiliary Air Force. He is certain to get some of the best tuition available without being at all out of pocket.
The el( Havilland Moth was the forerunner of many machines of a similar weight and performance, differing only in fairly minor respects. Most of them have the same characteristics and differ little in their flying.
It should take an average learner about eight hours of dual instruction before he is fit to fly alone.
The first hour should be devoted to ” joy-riding” pure and simple, and the pupil becomes accustomed to the unfamiliar element and has no distractions when he comes to take control.
As a preliminary to actual instruction in the air he or she is shown, the movement of controls on the ground : then follows the demonstration of their effect in the air. Straight and level flying is not as a rule a difficulty : usually that arises with the turns.
Learning to fly may be best compared with learning to ride a bicycle. In an aeroplane the tendency to skid outward on, a turn is minimised by a leaning towards the centre of the curve, just as with a bicycle : the turn is, flying parlance, banked. Should the angle of tilt be exaggerated, gravity causes both the bicycle and the aeroplane to fall : if the angle of tilt is insufficient, both the bicycle and the aeroplane skid outwards. All these difficulties disappear when a sense of balance is acquired. It is the aim of every instructor to induce this sense of balance in the air—air sense—in his pupil. Some get it quickly, ethers seem almost hopeless : but
the slow learner is not infrequently the best pilot in the end. One of the chief assets to the instructor is that the very n,ature of the controls of an aeroplane adapt them
selves to natural movement. The rudder-bar and the control column pushed to the left produce a turn banked to that side : the column pulled back raises the nose, and pushed forward, depresses it. Consequently, the teacher in, the newest school of flying thought says to his pupil in the air” Push down
your nose” or “Pull up that right wing’ instead of using the old formulae of “Push the stick forward to lower the nose” or ” More left stick to raise the right wing.”
Natural movement, once soundly instilled, is the best foundation for that co-ordination of brain and hand which pulls one out of tight corners. So the pupil goes through all the phases—climbing, stalling, gliding, sideslipping an,d the rest : landings seem to present almost insuperable difficulties that
evaporate with the first ideal “three-pointer.” Spins, the cause of most crashes, are explained and the pupil learns to extricate himself : and the first solo follows a test by a pilot other than the instructor.
Some five hours solo flying, and the pupil is fit to pass his or her tests for the ‘ A’ licence which confers a virtual freedom of the air. The joining of a club, tuition and the rest should cost a maximum of 95—not an excessive sum when the
amounts spent in learning tennis, golf or bridge from professionals are con,sidered.
Thereafter the fledged pilot can aspire to ownership— rather an expensive hobby as yet, or hire—which is cheap enough when one considers that it is possible to hire a machine through National Flying Service at is. per hour, fuel, oil and insurance included—a rate equivalent to 3fd. per mile for two persons. At the moment the owner-pilot needs to be a man of some means, for he is in the position of a motorist who finds the market surfeited with Bentleys, expensive to buy and maintain, whereas his income calls for an Austin Seven.
The Bentleys of the air will always have their place for school-work and the like, but next year, I venture to prophesy, will see the Austin Seven of the air within the reach of all. (There are many amateurs who are now building or contemplating building machines, which correspond to Captain Stacks idea of the Austin Seven of the air, and as the result of their efforts will be of the greatest interest to our readers, we shall publish from time to time details of such craft, for which we are convinced there is a great future. We therefore invite any of our readers who are engaged on any work of this sort to send us any details, which they consider likely to be of interest to others interested in the really light plane.)