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1908-02-22, “Award of the Army Aeroplane Contracts”, Scientific American, New York, Munn & Co., February 22, 1908, Vol. XCVIII, No. 8, p. 123.



By the award of three contracts for the construction of army aeroplanes, our government has suddenly leaped from the hindermost to the foremost place in aeronautics, and we may now reasonably consider ourselves several years in advance of other nations as regards mechanical flight. The proof of this is the now generally-admitted fact that the Wright brothers (whose bid of $25,000 for a two-man machine to be furnished within 200 days was one of the three accepted) flew over 24 miles in a circle at a speed of 38 miles an hour more than two years ago, while Henry Farman, the most successful foreign experimenter, was able to make a circular flight of barely a mile under favorable weather conditions just over a month ago. Moreover, Farman’s machine required over twice as much power to propel it as did the Wrights’ (38 as against 16 horse-power), and tests which he made showed that he could not carry more than 30 pounds extra weight, which is less than would be required to fit the machine with a radiator, and sufficient water to properly cool the engine. The Wright aeroplane, on the other hand, with an engine weighing 10 pounds per horse-power instead of 2˝, and fitted with suitable arrangements for keeping the temperature of the cooling water below the boiling point, in its early crude state remained in the air 38 minutes, and, no doubt, could have been made to fly one hour, the length of time which the trial flight is to last in the case of the machine ordered by the War Department. In view of the performance of their 1905 machine with its crude and heavy motor, the brothers should have no difficulty in now building a two-man machine with fuel capacity for a three-hour flight at 40 miles an hour, according to the requirements.

Another successful bidder for a government aeroplane — Mr. A. M. Herring — is a man long identified with heavier-than-air aeronautics in this country, and one who has probably done more experimenting and original research in this line than any other American. Mr. Herring, when working with Mr. Octave Chanute in 1896, originated the two-surface machine afterward adopted by the Wright brothers, and the following year an English patent on a triple-surface motor-driven aeroplane was secured upon information furnished by Messrs. Herring and Chanute. A United States patent was applied for at this time also, but the Patent Office refused to grant this, even though the inventor offered to furnish a working model. In 1897 Mr. Herring claims to have made two short flights of 52 and 72 feet against a 25 to 28-mile-an-hour wind with a two-surface machine fitted with a 7˝ to 9 horse-power compressed-air motor. These two short flights were accomplished after towing experiments with a glider had shown that the power required to fly a man-carrying aeroplane was much less than generally believed. After spending several years in the construction of light gasoline engines for motor bicycles, Mr. Herring in 1902 built a model aeroplane of from 7 to 10 pounds weight and fitted it with a single-cylinder, air-cooled gasoline motor, which weighed only 2 pounds and developed 0.47 horse-power. This model made over half a hundred flights of about a mile in length, its longest flight being 15 miles in a circle when attached to a pole with a string. The surfaces supported 10 or 11 ounces per square foot, and the pounds lifted per horse-power were about 125. This was not the only successful self-propelled model which Mr. Herring constructed, however, as in 1890 he built a monoplane having a tail and fitted with a 1-5 horse-power compound steam engine of 5 pounds weight, which flew 240 feet; while in 1897 another steam-propelled model made a flight of about a mile at Stevensville, Mich., and descended in the lake. From 1903 to 1906, while acting as editor of Gas Power, Mr. Herring continued his experiments with models and full-sized gliders during his spare time, while for the past year and a half he has devoted himself to the perfecting of an extremely light-weight gasoline motor of sufficient power, according to his tests, for a man-carrying aeroplane. He has also made an elaborate series of tests of air propellers, and has found it possible to construct propellers having an efficiency of as high as 94 per cent. From his more recent tests of full-sized aeroplanes, he has developed a new and more efficient type, which is in some respects a radical departure from the double-surface machine he has experimented with heretofore. The great point that he has been working for, and which he believes that he has attained, is automatic equilibrium. When once this is attained, and the surfaces are kept always at the proper angle, it will be possible to fly at the maximum speed with the minimum power. In the government aeroplane which he is building the proportion of useful load to the total weight carried per horse-power will be sixty per cent, while the machine will have a relatively high factor of safety as well. This machine is to be completed in 185 days. The price asked for it is $20,000.

A third contract was awarded to Mr. J. F. Scott, of Chicago, Ill., the price asked being only $1,000, and the time for delivery 180 days. Upon their completion, the machines will be tested at Fort Meyer, Va., and it is probable that, if they are successful, we shall soon have a complete aeroplane fleet.