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to deduce logically a few of the stages of evolu-
tion which should affect aeronautics after the
War.

It is quite clear that military aeronautics
and civilian flying will entirely part company.
This is more or less inevitable, because of
the essential difference between the object to
be attained in each case. In the past, it is
true, officialdom and private enterprise have
never been bound very strongly together, but
the separation will be in a different sense.
There are, incidentally, sure signs that the
certain lack of sympathy which existed prior to
the War between state and civilian, in the field
of aviation, is vanishing.

This division is the separation which will
take place between the design of military
aeroplanes and those constructed for various
civilian uses. In the future, military machines
of nearly all types will be just as essentially
distinct from civilian aeroplanes as naval ships
are distinct from mercantile or pleasure vessels.



152 AIRCRAFT w.m

It may be true that, in spite of their functions
being totally different, the same attributes will
be necessary in both classes as regards climb
and speed ; but the equality of speed of a
Dreadnought and an ocean liner does not affect
their distinction. Although the two kinds of
aircraft may meet on common ground on such
points as these, it will not affect the great
difference which must inevitably arise between
aeroplanes designed for military purposes and
those made for civil uses.

An endeavour will be made to outline a few of
the chief future characteristics of military and
civilian aeronautics, dealing with the former
first.

There is one outstanding need regarding
military aeronautics which is already being
developed. This is the necessity for having
several different types of aeroplanes for the
various functions of aircraft in war. When war
broke out there only existed, roughly, fast and
slow machines, one - seaters and two - seaters.
Those which were fast, or from which the pilot
had a good view of the ground, were termed
military aeroplanes, but that was about the limit
to their distinction. New types designed for



CH.XI AERONAUTICS IN THE FUTURE 153

specific purposes certainly made their appearance
on both sides some months after the outbreak of
war, but even to-day, on the whole, it can be
said that one or two classes of our machines have
to perform almost every kind of work, from
flying for hours over a battery directing artillery
fire tq out - manosuvring and bringing down
German machines or carrying out raids a hundred
miles or so away from the base.

In the future a special aeroplane will be
evolved for every separate function. There will
be very fast -flying and quick - climbing light
scouts for reconnaissance work ; two - seater
heavily-armoured machines for hovering slowly
over the enemy's lines directing gunfire ; big,
well-armed and well-protected biplanes, seating
several men, to defend their own lines from
raiders, and prevent the enemy's scouts from
reconnoitring successfully ; and fast aeroplanes,
capable of carrying considerable weights, for
raiding purposes. Those are just a few of the
chief types the coming of which is assured. In
addition, there will be special military aeroplanes
fbr attacking airships, for fighting hostile aero-
planes, for transporting men, and for many other
specialised functions. Apart from these there



154 AIRCRAFT PT.III

will be the naval craft of different descriptions,
such as the big seaplanes capable of keeping the
seas of their own accord, when at rest ; the
smaller ones for hoisting on seaplane-carrying
ships ; and perhaps amphibians for work at
coastal air- stations.

It must be understood that these indications
are of the roughest nature, for it would be im-
possible to detail accurately every kind of aero-
plane which will come into military use during
the next few years. But those enumerated above
will almost certainly be numbered amongst the
most important of them. Indeed, some of the
various types mentioned already exist to-day
in the R.F.C. and the R.N.A.S. and the French
air service, but, owing to the relative scarcity
of aeroplanes compared to the enormous and dis-
proportionate demands made on their services,
it is frequently impossible to reserve each
machine for its intended task.

However, we now know just the types of
aeroplanes which are needed for each purpose,
which is a very material help towards their future
production. Perhaps this has been the greatest
lesson which the War has taught to those closely
connected with Aviation.



CH. xi AERONAUTICS IN THE FUTURE 155

Unfortunately, from the aviator's point of
view at least, this improvement in military air-
craft as an offensive weapon will not proceed
without a correlative improvement in the only
artificial means of protection which the inhabit-
ants of the earth, as such, can use against the
riders of the air when they are attacked : the anti-
aircraft gun. Here, once again, in yet another
form, we see worked out the old tragedy of make
and break, and make and break again. And
never, perhaps not even in the annals of naval
history, has this merciless conflict of all ages
between arm and armour, construction and
destruction, this unnatural yet inevitable law,
seemed so terribly cruel as in its latest applica-
tion to the sphere of aircraft.

To-day, anti-aircraft guns seem at times
almost harmless to aircraft, and yet again, at
other times, deadly to the utmost extreme. It
is true that the percentage of misses is enormous,
but it must be remembered that experience is
being gained about these guns as great as is
the case of the aircraft which is their mark.
When the guns are fully developed they will be
as dangerous to aeroplanes (even armoured
ones) as a modern siege gun is to a fort, or



156 AIRCRAFT

the biggest naval gun to the most heavily
armoured ship ; for it must be recalled that the
forces of offence, or rather destruction, are always
just superior to the forces of protection or con-
struction. Is not the offensive nearly always
regarded as an advantage over the defensive ?

But to-day, anti-aircraft guns often appear
quite futile against aircraft ; and yet, when
some graceful aeroplane does happen to be
badly hit and is brought hurtling to earth, a
poor battered broken thing, it is impossible not
to feel how tragic is the necessity, even compared
with the other inevitable tragedies of warfare,
to smash the contrivance by means of which,
after centuries of endeavour, man has at last
struggled into the air.

However, the future shows a very different
outlook. For just consider what war will be like
when aeroplanes are fully developed. The best
that one can imagine about it is that it may be
too terrible for nations to wage. The horrors of
the present campaign, it may be said, are as bad
as any that could possibly arise. That is so ;
but what aircraft will do is to break the bonds of
space that more or less confine these horrors
within certain limits. Aeroplane pilots will



OH. xi AEEONAUTICS IN THE FUTURE 157

surely bombard every single town and spot of an
enemy country that could possibly and even
this restriction only if they are scrupulous be
termed of military value in any sense of the
word, and this, of course, would include almost
every district in a civilised country. However,
with the realities and dangers of war immediately
brought to their own doorsteps, the class which
has it in its power generally to commit a nation
to war will think very carefully before making
a decision.

So if we glance into the future, it can be seen
that anti-aircraft guns will be very essential to
protect the inhabitants of the earth. Indeed,
even these guns will probably be so inadequate
that it will be necessary heavily to armour all
important official buildings in large cities.

However, there is one fact which brings over-
whelming comfort to counterbalance these de-
pressing prophecies of a world ever at war. And
that is the great use to which aircraft will be put
in civilian life. It is a profound pleasure to reflect
that a great deal of the advantage derived from
the increased knowledge and experience of air-
craft gained in the campaign will chiefly benefit
the nation at large after peace is proclaimed.



158 AIRCRAFT

It is obvious that constructors will be able
to make a really fine aeroplane purely for the
purpose of flying, and for that alone, better
than any specialised naval or military machine
the flying capabilities of which must always
be influenced by military functional qualities.
One that will combine speed, climb, stability,
and comfort more perfectly than any machine
which exists to-day. Stability in the case of
such a flying machine would be a most important
item, for it would spell not only safety, but the
minimum amount of fatigue for the pilot.

This class of aeroplane will, without doubt,
take the place in aviation which the private
motor car does in the motor world to-day. It
will be constructed in various grades and powers,
corresponding in range from the small two-seater
runabout to the Rolls-Royce limousine. There
will be quite as great a demand for pleasure
aeroplanes as there is for pleasure automobiles
to-day, especially as the cost of the former will
in time be brought within the means of as big a
class as that which can afford a cheap-priced car
at the present time. Even to-day an ordinary
two-seater 80 or 100 h.p. biplane only costs as
much as a first-class car ; and a small single-



OH. xi AERONAUTICS IN THE FUTURE 159

seater 50 h.p. machine costs but a few hundred
pounds. Increased production will bring even
these comparatively low prices down con-
siderably.

At the present time, it is true, such a pursuit
as touring by air (not, of course, permissible in
war time) would be an expensive luxury, chiefly
because there is not a sufficient demand to make
the facilities for such a form of travelling cheap.
But this pleasurable occupation will be extremely
popular, especially when there are numerous
civilian aerodromes, repair and supply depots,
and when, in particular, there springs up the
class of pilot -owners who will fly their own
machines and be able to attend to minor repairs
themselves. There are many items which will
make flying even cheaper than motoring, such
as the comparatively trifling wear on tyres, which
on a motor-car is a serious charge.

Apart from pleasure purposes, there are many
other civilian uses for aeroplanes. For instance,
there will be express mail services by air, and
ordinary light-transport aeroplanes will be used
extensively ; while many business men will find
flying indispensable as a means of locomotion.
There will, of course, be proper passenger, services



160 AIRCRAFT p T .m

over prescribed routes, and there is no reason
why these journeys should not become quite as
cheap and popular as motor-bus facilities are at
present. However, the machines for all these
uses must, like military aeroplanes, be specially
designed for their specific tasks, and not, as in
the case of the pleasure machine, be made solely
with the intention of producing the most perfect
flying machine possible.

Then, again, air-racing will certainly become
the recognised and popular sport it deserves, for
it is most exhilarating and exciting. It may not
have the totally unknown factor of horse-racing,
but it is certainly far more interesting to watch
than motor-racing, and calls for the exercise of
more skill in the competitors. Owing to good
handicapping, some of the most thrilling finishes
have resulted at the Hendon Aerodrome, and
dead heats have actually occurred on several
occasions. As well as course-racing, many long-
distance races between various countries will
probably become popular.

For air-racing there will naturally be aero-
planes built solely for speed, without thought of
any other consideration, except in the case of
machines entered for special events, such as



CH.XI AERONAUTICS IN THE FUTURE 161

altitude contests, quick-starting and alighting
tests, etc. But, it is clear, none of the different
machines made for these specialised purposes,
military or civilian, will compare with the best
pleasure aeroplane, the Rolls-Royce of the air.
For this flying machine will embody the best
combination of merits : fast and slow speeds
one might almost say flexibility climb,
stability, comfort, safety, reliability, durability,
efficiency, strength, and good workmanship. The
embodiment of all these is essential in the machine
which shall signify the successful achievement
of the only truly perfect form of mechanical
travelling ever conceived flight ! And when
we remember that already we have standard
biplanes flying at over a hundred miles an hour
and climbing at a thousand feet a minute, 1 it can
be imagined what a marvellous aeroplane it will
be possible for us to have with but a little more
knowledge and after a little further development.
When we examine the future of civilian aero-
nautics, we can see that, at any rate in this sphere,
airships will prove extremely useful, no matter
how unsuited they may be to war.

1 This rate of climbing can only, of course, be maintained for the
first few thousand feet, owing to the atmospheric conditions decreas-
ing the power of the engine the higher the altitude,

M



162 AIRCEAFT p T .m

Take, for instance, the favourable record of
privately-owned Zeppelins before the campaign.
There were three of them carrying passengers in
fine weather between certain towns, and, although
they made many trips and carried some several
thousands of passengers, not a single life was
lost. During the war almost as much is being
learnt of airships as of aeroplanes, so that there
will be an improvement in them also. When it
comes to peaceful purposes, such as transport or
passenger carrying, it can be seen that in some
ways lighter-than-air craft may perhaps be able
to excel the aeroplane.

An interesting accessory to the civilian use
of aircraft on a large scale will be the further
development of air laws. Before the War these
were of the crudest nature, and there was, indeed,
no need for them to be anything else. But,
although every one connected with the world of
aviation will instinctively resent any restrictions
or hemming-in of the highways of the sky, yet
the framing of certain rules, enforced for the
ultimate safety of airmen, must be recognised as
inevitable. There are already regulations as to
which side aircraft have to pass each other, if
approaching within certain distance ; and what



on. xi AERONAUTICS IN THE FUTURE 163

approximate relative altitudes must be main-
tained for, obviously, it would be unwise not
to fix some regulation in order to prevent
accidents through the " backwash " of one aero-
plane upsetting the equilibrium of another.
But perhaps prescribed routes will be fixed,
and other similar regulations, especially in the
vicinities of towns. Last and not least, there
will possibly come into being an Air Police to
regulate the traffic of the great skyway ; for
there will surely arise the necessity for Authority
to place a restraining arm on the enhanced good
spirits and joie de vivre of the world, once it
escapes into the glorious freedom of the upper air.



CHAPTER XII

A NEW EEA

SURVEYING from a broad standpoint the sub-
stantial changes, retrogressions, and advances
wrought by the War, the progress made in
various other directions does not appear nearly
so important or of such fundamental value as
the development which has taken place in
aeronautics.

The reasons why this may not yet be fully
realised are clear. The immediate improve-
ment being purely in regard to military aircraft,
the details of which are naturally kept secret,
most people are more or less ignorant of its
true significance or even mere existence except
what they have learned from statements in the
papers. They have not, as it were, come into
personal contact with any signs of progress,
although every one is enormously impressed with

164



CH.XH A NEW ERA 165

aircraft as an instrument of war, and thoroughly
convinced of its indispensability as such. Even
those people who may be vaguely aware of the
great expansion and improvement in the flying
services are so occupied with thoughts of the
War that they do not stop to think of the
effect which this evolution will have on civilian
aeronautics when peace comes.

A moment's reflection will show the true
importance of aviation compared to nearly all
the other sciences used in the campaign. After
all, great armies and navies and their appurten-
ances, necessary as they are, do not increase the
total sum of human happiness by one jot except ,
inasmuch as they sometimes preserve peace ; for '
but few of the appliances which are perfected to
serve the purposes of warfare have any use outside
those purposes, so that aviation is a rare exception
in this respect. Indispensable though they be,
of what real value in times of peace are the sub-
marine, the high-explosive shell, or the sixteen-
inch howitzer ? But consider the perfection of
flying. Will not the happiness of the world be
infinitely increased when every man can indeed
vie with the birds for the mastery of the air ?
Does not that spell happiness and freedom ?



166 AIRCRAFT

And the day of at least a partial realisation of
that dream is but a very short way off. If
proof were needed of this, glance at the recent
history of flying. Only four or five years have
passed since the " dark ages " of aviation, when
flying was an utter uncertainty when it was
impossible to predict whether or no a man
would even manage to coax his machine off the
ground. What an extraordinary contrast we
witness to-day !

No matter how much flying they may have
witnessed, those who have never flown cannot
appreciate just what the experience itself is
like. They may be able in a measure to imagine
the wonderful panorama spread beneath and
all round, the exhilarating rush of air in the
face, the consciousness of speed ; but it is quite
impossible to realise the extraordinary sensation
of buoyancy, of support, faintly resembling that
on board a ship in very smooth water.

Man is in some ways a transformed creature
when he ascends in an aeroplane, for he leaves
many of his frailties behind him. Once he is
rushing through the air he loses any sense of
giddiness, of vertigo, of danger, which may have
assailed him on earth. Indeed, a sudden access



cn.xn A NEW ERA 167

of overmuch courage must be the solution to
many of the fatalities which aviation, like every
other science, has demanded of her servants.
The explanation of this intangible strengthening
of a human being can be found by examining
how superbly natural is the action of flying,
even by mechanical means ; there is no friction,
no continual jarring against a concrete sub-
stance, nothing, in fact, to recall the dangers of
contact with the hard earth. In turning, the
aeroplane is canted to a correct angle, instead
of being forced to remain horizontal, in spite
of the contrary impulse, as on land vehicles.

Let it suffice to say that a man, when he is
flying, feels more than merely the physical
sensation alone. Far away from the dust, the
commotion, the inevitable restrictions of the
overcrowded surface of the earth, and filled with
the indescribable impression of spaciousness,
grandeur, dignity, even the most material indi-
vidual must needs feel, perhaps subconsciously,
uplifted in mind and in body.

This, then, is a faint indication of the subtle
beauty of flight ; nor must it be imagined that
this frame of mind, this perception of its poignant
charm, is only experienced at the first ascent,



168 AIRCRAFT p T .m

and that afterwards all such thoughts are for-
gotten. For, familiar as one may become with
flying, its wonder never dies. Aviation exerts
a mysterious fascination on those who serve
it, for ever impelling an increased interest and
enthusiasm. It is hardly a known thing that a
worker in the realm of aeronautics should, at
any time, completely sever himself from its
service.

The greatly increased rapidity with which
flying will become widely accessible, and the
strengthened impetus which will be given to
its future evolution, are not the only compen-
sating benefits the War will bring in its wake.
There is yet another phase of aircraft's influence.

Consider, for a moment, the domain of air-
craft. Is there a single place in the whole
civilised world where aeroplanes, made somewhat
more reliable, will not be able to penetrate with
infinitely greater ease than any other convey-
ance ? But, besides the question of mere
facility, think of the enormous speed with which
they will travel. Apart from railways, which
are even to - day not really universal, and
motor cars, which, taken all round, have very
severe limitations as to roads, most travelling



CH.XII A NEW EEA 169

is comparatively slow : ships laboriously plough
through the waves ; camels track heavily through
the desert ; mules clamber slowly over mountains.
But an aeroplane, with its ubiquitous range,
speeds unfettered and untrammelled like a bird
through the heavens. And it can travel as
easily at its hundred miles an hour over the
Sahara, the Veldt, or the Himalayas, as over an
English country-side. In truth, the speed with
which flying will bring together the ends of the
earth will seem incredible to many of us at first.

What will be the result of this shortening of
distance for it amounts to nothing less ? Prim-
arily, without doubt, an infinitely increased
stream of communication from one hemisphere
to the other, from continent to continent, country
to country, town to town. This new means of
communication will be applied to every branch
of intercourse. Visitors, business men, com-
mercial salesmen, travellers, musicians, artists,
actors, all will use it ; postal mails, merchan-
dise, baggage, goods of almost every description
will be carried from Europe to America, from
Asia to Africa, from nowhere to everywhere, by
way of the air a magic carpet indeed !

The result of this improved inter-communica-



170 AIRCRAFT w. m

tion between the corners of the earth cannot fail
to be an extraordinarily good one. Just how
good, time alone will show. But, at least, we
know to-day that harmful illusions and pre-
judices, misunderstandings and quarrels, friction
and faction, between nations just as between
individuals, arise chiefly from one source :
ignorance.

As a striking example, take the case of this
country itself. It is not so very long ago that
Great Britain held herself in prejudiced isolation,
almost disdaining any intercourse with foreign
nations. It was solely ignorance that fostered
that absurd ideal, now fortunately obsolete, of
insularity and detachment ; and, unrelated as
it may seem, it was largely due to improved
train and boat travelling facilities that we gradu-
ally awoke to the realisation of the simple fact
that, as our friendship would be valuable to
other nations, the friendship of other nations
could also be valuable to us. It was in this way
that our sympathetic understanding with France
was promoted.

It will be admitted that a very large
proportion of the international trouble and
friction which, if not actually serious enough



oH.xn A NEW ERA 171

for an open breach or a great war, at least
creates injurious feelings of ill-will and dis-
turbance between nations, is often directly due
to ignorance. One nation is unfortunately not
infrequently ignorant of the political ideals of
its neighbour, ignorant of its national ambitions,
national character, national temperament. The
government of one country looks at another
country from the same point of view from
which it regards its own. Which is all in error.
Almost every nation in peace time if not in
war time can be appreciated, and the aspira-
tions of nearly every state sympathised with,
when regarded in the right perspective. And
the right perspective is certainly not obtained
from a back garden.

This is where aircraft will bring about a change.
It does not seem unreasonably optimistic to fore-
tell that in the near future, when flying really
comes to its own in the world's civilian life,
nations will understand each other better, will
have more interests in common. For aircraft will
certainly tend to make every country entirely
free of access to every other country which is
not the case to-day.

We ourselves will drop the few remaining


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Online LibraryWilliam Alexander RobsonAircraft in war and peace → online text (page 8 of 9)