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1

Dunne Tailless Aeroplane

In the early years of the 20th century British army officer Lieutenant John William Dunne developed a theoretical interest in aircraft stability, which led him to design the first practical tailless aeroplane. His machines achieved stability through the shaping of their wings. These were sharply swept hack and incorporated “washout” a change, from root to tip. of the angle at which the wings […]

2

Maxim Multiplane

In the 1890s English-domiciled American millionaire Hiram Maxim was in the forefront of inventors convinced that the key to flighl was engine power. He spent £20,000 a substantial part of the fortune he had made out of the Maxim machine-gan-buildings a massive 8,000lb aircraft. With its welded steel – tube airefraime and biplane wings spanning over 100ft, this behemoth was powered […]

3

Sopwith Camel

The famous Sopwith F.1 Camel destroyed more German aircraft than any other World War I fighter, although it also had an unfortunate reputation for killing its own pilots. It was named for the “hump” over the two Vickers machine guns mounted in front of the cockpit. The aircraft was powered hy a rotary engine, and engine, armament, and pilot were all concentrated at the […]

4

Airco D.H.9A

The Airco D.H.9 was designed as an improvement upon the same company’s successfuI day bomber,  the D.H.4. In particular, the pilot’s and observer’s cockpits were moved closer together, improving in- fligh communication between the  two crew members. Unfortunately when first introduced in 1917, the D.H.9’s performance proved inferior to the earlier machine. This was rectified by replacing its problematic Siddeley engine with the American […]

5

Bristol F.2B Fighter

The Bristol Fighter was one of a new generation of British aircraft deployed on the Western Front in 1917, Designed by Captain Frank Barnwell, it was a solid, versatile, two-seater fighter-reconnaissance aeroplane with excellent all-round performance. The first version, the F.2A, made its maiden flight on 9 September 1916; the faster F.2B followed shortly after. When the Bristol Fighter first entered service with the […]

6

Chanute biplane glider

In the summer of 1896 French-born  American Octave Chanute, a wealthy railroad engineer who had published a history of flight experiments, camped out on the windswept shore of Lake Michigan, determined to turn his theory into practice. In his mid-60s, Chanute was too old to fly himself, but he was accompanied by young engineer August Moore Herring, who served as his assistant […]

7

Pilcher Triplane

Fllight pioneer Percy Pilcher is one of Britain’s unsung heroes. But for a fatal accident it is possible that he, rather than the celebrated Wright brothers, might have solved the riddle of powered, controlled, heavier-than -air flight. Inspired by Lilienthal, Pilcher built four gliders in 1895, the last of which, the Hawk, was the most successful. In 1897, working with engineer Walter Wilson, he […]

8

Ader avion III

Whenever a sceptic wants to cast doubt on the Wright brothers’ claim to be “firsl to fly”. he is likely to cite the experiments of French engineer Clément Ader. Where most aviation pioneers studied the flight of birds, Ader perversely, modelled his flying machines on bats. His weirdly gothic steam-powered monoplanes were sufficiently impressive to attract financial hacking from the French army, but whether they […]

9

Curtiss Reims Racer

In August 1909 most of the adventurous pioneers then flying aeroplanes gathered at Reims in  France for the world’s first air show. The sole American present was Glenn Curtiss. His Reims Racer, the second aeroplane he had built  was a small,  light pusher biplane built for speed. Its pilot sat over the leading edge of the lower wing, using a wheellopped […]

10

Fabre Hydravion

Looking at aeroplanes from the pioneering era of flight, it sometimes seems almost incredible that such machines actually flew. The freakish Hydravion is certainly a case in point. Yet this odd-looking aircrafl enjoys the distinction of being; the first seaplane to make a successful flight – and it did so with a pilot who had never flown before. Frenchman Henri Fabre, […]