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Blackpool — Mecca of the Lancaster holiday-maker — waked this morning to a great day, doubtless the most remarkable it has known. To be associated with pioneering a new sport is a feather in the cap of any town, but when the game is flight the honours are removed from the ordinary by a degree which can be measured only in the future, when the full significance of this new movement, which has so taken the world by storm, is capable of being a little understood.
To say merely that the day has been a success is to overlook the importance of such good fortune in respect to its influence on the future. Thousands of people, hesitating on a decision to "come and see for themselves," will be influenced favourably by the accounts of to-days proceedings, and will make that journey which is to bring them in personal touch with something they have hitherto only known at second-hand. There is nothing equal to its educational value to ocular demonstration, and so as the result of a happy combination of circumstances attending this, the first day's meeting, very many people indeed will be led to feel a real interest in the future of aviation when under less favourable auspices they might still remain among the millions to whom its reported progress is about as inanimate as they find so many another item of their retailed daily news.
That is one, and possibly the most important, aspect of a good opening day. In the present embryonic stage of the art, and more particularly in the still less developed state of the industry, the value of directly interesting the greatest possible number of people is incalculable.
At present the utilitarian side of flight—setting aside its possible military purposes—is not quite apparent to the million. Its limitations as a sport are for the moment all those which a fertile mind, already happy in other pursuits, cares to take the trouble to adduce and to attribute to a machine weighing half a ton, and spreading forty feet. Yet notwithstanding all this, what sportsman, or sportswoman for that matter, of the vast crowd of spectators, but was "crazy" to go up in one of those same devices from the moment they had seen, and for the first time realised, the "conquest of the air," as demonstrated by the splendid performances of Farman, Paulhan, or Rougier.
The impression which the sight of a flyer en plein vol makes on the receptive mind is indescribable; the desire to be up and forging thus grandly through space just enters into the soul, and therewith an adherent has been won to the cause. There is an exhilaration about the start, a fascination about the caressing separation of wheels and soil, as the machine almost imperceptibly takes wing, a grandeur about its stately progress through the open air which is well-nigh irresistible. Well may the public cheer as the flyer sails majestically aloft, for it is a great sight, and one moreover which is still impressive, even when it is no longer novel.
And visitors to the Blackpool meeting to-day had a splendid opportunity for appreciating these phases of flight. After a period of rain the day dawned fair, later developing into conditions which were as near ideal as it is reasonable to expect in an English climate. During the forenoon two black cones swinging from a boom proclaimed by signal that the wind was blowing from 5 to 10 m.p.h.
It was quite a perceptible breeze, stronger probably than many of the pilots cared for, but Henry Farman came out soon after midday, and in a minute was speeding away into the distance. He rose after a short run, and keeping low was soon lost to sight behind the pavilion of the Golf Club — a building occupying the centre of the aerodrome, and proving somewhat of an obstruction to the view.
It was A. V. Roe, a British competitor with a home-made machine, who had the honour of making the first attempt to fly, although without result. His small triplane, which he, together with a few other enterprising young enthusiasts, have built by their own labours, was ready at an early hour, but he and his associates were busily at work upon another model not yet completed. Seizing the opportunity pointed out to them by well-wishing compatriots, however, they temporarily transferred their attentions to the machine in waiting, and having spent some fruitless moments trying to persuade the motor to start with its wiring reversed, were eventually able to secure a few minutes lead on the pilot, who immediately afterwards became the hero of the hour.
Roe's effort to achieve flight with a small twin-cyl. J.A.P. engine — in which endeavour, it must be remembered, he has in a measure actually been successful in the past—resulted in no more than a wheel to ground canter as far as the Golf Club, whence he returned to work upon his new machine. With this, in view of its large motor, he hopes for greater things, and assuming that the new 4-cyl. air-cooled J.A.P. comes up to his expectations, he should have a chance to realise this, for his efforts hitherto have obviously been frustrated by inadequate engine-power.
Farman's first flight, a mere preliminary trial run, terminated about half way round the course, but after a brief delay, and a very successful restart, the circuit was completed, to the great delight, naturally, of the thousands of onlookers, who had been very patiently contemplating the greensward since 10 a.m. or earlier.
Paulhan, using the same machine, which is his own property — Farman's flyer is lost somewhere along the French railway — made an uninterrupted lap, and on its completion both pilots departed for lunch.
At no affair of this sort is the satisfying of the inner man an expeditious procedure, and it was well after 3 o'clock before Farman was again in the air. This flight was made in competition for the Daily Sketch speed prize of £400, in which the award is to go to the fastest time over three consecutive laps. The regulations do not limit an attempt to the first three laps; Farman made seven right off, and his speeds for each are given below. The wind at this time was under 5 m.p.h.
Rougier, on his Voisin biplane, rose while Farman was in the air and ascended to a far greater altitude — Farman's flight being on the whole very low-pitched. Rougier's attempt was for the Blackpool Grand Prize of £2,000 fov long distance, and he accomplished nine laps.
Paulhan followed Farman, always on the same flyer, and contested Rougier's performance with a flight which terminated, however, after seven laps. Like Rougier, he also was incidentally putting up times for the Daily Sketch Prize.
Leblanc "crossed the line" on his Bleriot monoplane during the afternoon — a daily proceeding which is expected of all competitors — and the day closed with a short but interesting passenger flight by Farman and Paulhan, with the former in command. There was not much flying in point of numbers, but the quality oi that which took place made up for absentees. It was not to be expected that all those who have turned up would be ready, it was more than fortunate that those in time should be of the best.
"Daily Sketch" Prize, £400. Speed, 3 laps.
Blackpool Grand Prize, £2,000.
Slowest lap — Rougier: time, 4 m. 0.6s.; speed, 29.72 m.p.h.
A breeze, signalled at 10-15 miles per hour, spiced with a keen autumn chilliness, is not, at the present stage of the art, conducive to flying, even by the experts, and Blackpool has some of the world's leading exponents in the art taking part in its meeting.
Latham, who turned up last night from France, averred it was not too much, but he was by no means eager to make an early attempt. He thought he would take a look at the course, en automobile, first — a wise precaution, which gave him a preliminary acquaintance with a certain bad patch which he afterwards renewed under less favourable circumstances.
Farman and Paulhan were frankly at work fitting more capacious fuel tanks, and therefore by no means likely to fly ere the afternoon.
Rougier's flyer was apparently in readiness, but no one made any attempt to bring it out of its shed. Some newcomers, whose machines had turned up overnight, were working on them behind drawn curtains, it being a feature of the very excellent sheds that have been erected that they are closed by curtains instead of doors.
On the whole conditions were not auspicious, but later the wind dropped a point, or rather a signal, and Latham's beautifully - built Antoinette monoplane was led out on to the course. Some delay ensued, but in due time it faced the starting-line, and at a quarter past twelve the first flight of the day commenced. The starting run was fairly long and fast before the wheels left the ground, and even when aloft the nature of the machine's progress was not such as to suggest perfect happiness. Keeping low, Latham rounded the first mark tower with a wide sweep, and so passed over that particularly uneven piece of ground which he had noticed during his tour of the course. Here he touched soil, and a few yards further came to grief through the skid under the bows of his machine catching in the turf. This accident for the moment looked serious, for the tail lipped up high in the air, so that it seemed as if the pilot must certainly be pitched out. Happily, Latham retained his seat, and the damage sustained was limited to the machine, the skid being ripped off and one of the wheels crumpled out of shape.
It is a coincidence that a discussion was going on in Latham's shed during the morning as to the possible danger of this skid, for it is rather short and projects forwards in a manner which suggests trouble; no one supposed, naturally, that the point at issue was to have a practical demonstration so soon. It would be interesting to know how far the arrangement of ski, used on the Farman flyer, would have been equal to the emergency of a descent on this difficult spot.
Roe brought his small triplane out about lunch time, and succeeded in making a short jump; afterwards there was an interval until nearly three o'clock, when Rougier put in an appearance, but failed to make an ascent - Paulhan, however, brought out his Farman, and nothing daunted by the rising wind, now once more signalled at 10-15 m.p.h., was soon aloft.
Then followed a performance which repayed all waiting. Calmly, but with infinite skill, Paulhan piloted his machine through the gusty air. It pitched and it swayed but he kept on, and not until he had completed seven laps did he descend. It was quite the most daring flight which has yet been attempted, either here or abroad, and the other competitors were among the loudest in their praises of his remarkable mastery of the air.
Fernandez brought his small biplane out during Paulhan's flight, but did not rise.
"Daily Sketch" Prize, £400. Speed, 3 laps.
Heavy rain throughout the night converted the enclosures in front of the competitors' sheds into miniature lakes, but a few quickly-dug trenches, assisted by a sandy subsoil, quickly disposed of the bulk of the water.
Fernandez brought his machine out into the open about 10 o'clock and proceeded to diligently polish the tie-wires with emery paper; whether he considered it more interesting than trying to fly he refused to say, but there is no doubt about the spectators' opinion.
At noon he was still in the same place, but at a quarter past the hour he suddenly dashed out into the open and made off over the ground. This seemed to be a signal for other appearances in the field.
Singer brought out his Voisin and proceeded to the starting line, while Parkinson's Bleriot monoplane made signs of moving. At this time the wind was signalled under 5 miles per hour, in fact, all the morning the conditions had been far superior to expectations, and why no one took the opportunity to make an earlier start it is difficult to say. No wonder the public in the grand stands grows less daily.
Parkinson's monoplane at one end of the ground, and Singer's biplane at the other, made simultaneous attempts to fly in opposite directions; the biplane got bunkered in a hole, and the monoplane took a little trot in the direction of its shed. Re-starting, Singer made a further run, but was unable to keep the huge box-kite tail from tipping right up in the air and driving his elevator-outrigger on to the ground. This happened repeatedly in spite of a fully tilted elevator, and having been once more caught in a hole, he retired from action. Parkinson's machine was also put back in its shed after another little run. The trouble with Singer's machine was obviously a too great angle of incidence on the decks of the tail, and work was immediately put in progress to rectify this matter.
Then came Henry Farman's great flight. No delay ensued before he makes a start, and lifting after a short run continued the flight at a low altitude. Lap after lap followed with uninterrupted precision, what time the spectators found themselves on the horns of a dilemma formed by the desire to have lunch and the disinclination to miss what was going on. After a quarter of an hour, Paulhan, having taken up his stand by a mark tower, proceeded to spread out a handkerchief as a signal to the pilot of the time elapsed. Fifteen minutes later two handkerchiefs were thus displayed, then three, and on the hour, four. It is a simple code, but likely to become confusing when the handkerchiefs get numerous. Farman signified he was getting hungry — the same might have been said of others. Each round was as like the other as it could be, the Gnome engine running like the proverbial clockwork, while giving out a distinctly unpleasant odour. This is caused by the use of Huile de Ricin, which is being used as a lubricant.
Fournier appeared with his "Imperial Crown" (Voisin) at a quarter past two, and ten minutes laler Rougier's machine was taken out. Farman descended, after completing twenty-four laps, complaining of cramp, and almost instantly Rougier ascended on the other side of the course. After completing three laps at slow speed but fairly high altitude, he, too, descended, and Paulhan having taken Farman's place as pilot, flew off round the track, but only to make one lap. A spare balancing flap was then fitted in place of one which became damaged and another start was made. By this time the wind had risen to a degree which made even the intrepid Paulhan see discretion as the better part of valour, and after doing half a lap he descended.
In the hour between 2.45 and 3.45 the wind, as recorded by a pressure-tube, changed from 10 m.p.h. to 26 m.p.h. maximum, the gustiness making the pen of the instrument fluctuate erratically through a range of about 5 m.p.h.
The red flag, signifying flying in progress, continued at the masthead, but it was generally supposed that proceedings were over for the day. Thousands of visitors left the course, when Latham suddenly decided to make an attempt in spite of the wind. His machine had been repaired with a new skid, new wheel, and new propeller, and was apparently in good running order. He succeeded in flying over the line, but descended without attempting the first turning.
Roe also made an attempt at the last moment, but without effect.
Fernandez, who made a relatively early start at noon, had failed to return from his journey up to closing time.
No day could have been less auspicious than this was in the morning, yet in the end it provided a thoroughly interesting set of flights, including the setting up of some worthy British records by Farman.
Competitors entered for all events eligible for competition this day, the times made during the flight standing good for each.
With a wind registering 30 miles an hour, prospects of early flight this morning were of the remotest. Local prophets forecasted the possibility of relative calm after two o'clock in the afternoon, more especially if rain intervened. Obviously the only thing to do was to sit down and wait patiently. Most of the spectators thought it time to go home, but those who elected to stay were entertained by free admission to the field in the vicinity of the sheds, so that they could at least get a glimpse of the machines they had come forth to see. In the face of the black flag and half a gale it was, perhaps, foolish of them to have been so speculative as to pay for admission. The public are hardly yet educated to flight meetings, naturally, and the Committee were well advised to extend some special privileges to those who had supported the meeting, in spite of the bad flying prospects, especially in view of the fact that so few of the aviators had managed to fly up to date.
It was at least interesting for the public to have the chance of seeing the machines on exhibition. Some of the competitors ran their engines in honour of the occasion, and Latham made a dynamometer test of his propeller by hitching on a rope to his machine and anchoring it to a post of his shed. This enabled the pull or tractive effort to be measured direct by means of a spring-balance inserted in the rope. Only one test was made, and the reading on the balance was 120 kilogs., or 265 lbs. Assuming that the engine developed 50-h.p., this would be equivalent to 5-3 lbs. pull per h.p.
Two o'clock came and passed without rain, beyond just a spot or two, but the wind, so far from abating, persisted with increased vigour, some of the gusts forcing the gauge momentarily up to nearly fifty miles an hour. A patient public continued to parade the field in a forlorn hope of the calm which came not.
Seaside resorts are notably places of exceptionally changeable weather, with a penchant towards wind; they are not, therefore, fundamentally suited to flight in the present state of the art. Blackpool is no exception to the rule; indeed, there are those who say it is worse than most, and the breezes which have freshened the air there during the flying week lend some colour to the suggestion.
From a flying dies non on Thursday, a patient and enduring British public waked to an even worse kind of a morning on Friday. There was less wind, it is true, but there was more rain and the atmosphere was so grey and laden with moisture that the conditions reached the high-water mark of unpleasantness. On the ground not a soul had faith in any prospect of excitement other than that provided by the necessary exercise of skill in negotiating swamps and quagmires without getting completely embedded in slime. Local boot shops did a roaring trade in the sale of "goloshes." Thus equipped against the evil of wet feet they sallied forth prepared for the worst.
Presently the rain stopped, which made life more endurable, but the wind continued to be represented on the official signalling "hanger" by a black pyramid and a black square, which, being interpreted, signified "more than 15 miles per hour." This was the limit provided for by the code, but, as a matter of fact, the actual velocity as registered by the gauge was often in the order of 30 miles an hour. Flying seemed impossible in such conditions; it remained for Latham to prove the contrary.
To everyone's complete surprise and satisfaction the red flag was hoisted on the mast at half-past twelve, and shortly afterwards the Antoinette monoplane, dragged by a horse, proceeded slowly across the ground from the sheds to the starting line. Even then no one believed Latham could fly, although it was obvious that he would make an attempt.
At one o'clock the wind registered 28 miles an hour, and was proportionately gusty. Latham embarked on his machine, and the Antoinette engine was started. The flyer ran along the ground and came to rest a few yards from the start with its tail in the air. Evidently the expected had happened, the machine was uncontrollable in such weather.
It was quickly realised, however, that such was not the case; it was merely a false start. Once more the propeller whizzed in the air, and again did the mechanics run alongside, steadying the tail as the machine gathered way in a second attempt. Letting go, they left the machine to Latham, and in a few yards those watching the proceedings in breathless excitement saw the wheels quit contact with the ground.
A flight had commenced. Would it continue? Latham was heading in the teeth of the wind; painfully it seemed did the flyer make progress. Grasping the two control wheels, Latham could be seen working them quickly to and fro as he battled against the gusts. Warping the wings, dipping the elevator, turning the rudder, all these manoeuvres did he bring into play with infinite skill as he was swayed from side to side.
Sometimes the machine would heave bodily beneath a specially severe gust and for a moment would seem about to be blown backwards, yet after a pause it continued to forge ahead. Not an eye but watched its every move, as, slowly, it circled the course twice in succession and then settled gracefully down by the Judges' box. It was a superb exhibition of skill, pluck, and daring, as unexpected as it was completely successful.
In the second lap Latham flew quite outside the course, beyond the spectators in the lower priced enclosures, and owing to this fact, only his first lap-time counted for the slow speed test. His times were as follows: —
Latham's flight concluded the day's proceedings, for the wind having increased still more in violence, although Saunderson gave notice of an attempt, he did not leave his shed.
More rain falling on Friday night and continuing on Saturday morning, completed the conversion of the ground round the sheds into a lake. It was impossible to enter Farman's hangar except by the use of a bridge of planks, and even that was little enough protection.
Quite early in the morning there was a negligible wind, but the chances of keeping the engines running properly in such exposed positions as one and all of them have on flying machines, gave little hope of any flying unless the weather cleared up. The local prophets once more put forward the mystic two o'clock as the hour when the day should brighten, but once more also the "clearing shower" continued to repeat itself. To make matters worse, moreover, the wind freshened, so that even if the rain had ceased the conditions would not have greatly improved.
It was an inglorious ending to a meeting which opened under such auspicious circumstances. Many of the competitors have never so much as put their machines outside their sheds during the week, but that on the whole was their own fault, for they ought to have been ready at the beginning of the week for practical work in the field instead of turning up at such a lime that they needed two or three days' tinkering to get their flyers into condition.
It was for their benefit that the Committee decided to extend the meeting over the Monday and Tuesday of this week, but the prolonged meeting was bound to lose much of its interest, for all the important aviators had engagements which necessitated their departure.
On Monday, there was no improvement in the weather, and so at ten o'clock the Aviation Committee met and decided that it would be useless to continue. The meeting was therefore declared at an end. Very shortly afterwards the wind moderated, but even so the conditions were hardly ideal for flying, inasmuch as the ground was dotted overmuch with pools of water.
A large crowd of spectators visited the ground, and during the aftermon watched the attempts of British experimenters to fly. The only one to meet with any Success was A. V. Roe, who induced his triplane, which now has a 24-h.p. engine fitted, to leave the ground for 40 or 50 yards.
Creese tried his monoplane, but apparently the rain had affected his planes, and he could not get the machine to rise.
Saunderson and Neale, who also had their monoplanes out, did not succeed in achieving free flight.
During the day the Antoinette machine which Latham had used was packed, and rumour had it that it had been purchased by Delagrange for £2,000.
The final results of the flying competitions at Blackpool were announced at a dinner given by the Mayor, Mr. Councillor Fleming, at the Hotel Metropole, on Saturday evening, when cheques were handed to the successful pilots, Mr. Henry Farman receiving £2,400, M. Rougier £820, M. Paulhan £530, and M. Hubert Latham £400, in addition to the £100 Manchester Guardian Cup.
Four competitions fell through. They were the Daily Mail Prize for the greatest altitude above 200 ft., the Passenger Carrying Prize, the All-British Prize, and the Ashley Competition, the last two being for British aviators. It was unfortunate that on the dates set down for attempts for the altitude and passenger carrying prizes the weather should have rendered it impossible for any such trials to be made.
Mr. Roger Wallace, K.C., announced that the Aero Club would present their gold medal to Mr. Henry Farman for his world's record flight at Rheims, and to Mr H. Latham for his flight in a gale of wind at Blackpool, which demonstrated that aeroplanes are not mere toys.
The summarised results were:—
Lancashire Aero Club's Grand Prix of £2,000, £720 and £ 280, for the longest distance flown.
"Daily Sketch" Prize of £400, for speed; second £100, over three laps (about 6 miles).
"Manchester Guardian" Prize, for the slowest circuit (about 2 miles). A cup, value £100, with £100 in specie added money.
Prize for General Merit of £300, £150, and £50, for the three competitors who in the opinion of the stewards of the meeting shall have performed the most meritoriously during the meeting.
Prize for Competitors' Assistants. £50 to be distributed among the assistants of the competitor who shall have completed the greatest number of circuits, not reckoning the long distance event.
Among the minor flights which took place may be summarised that of Leblanc, who completed a lap on a Bleriot monoplane but failed to commence his circuit from the starting-line, while Fernandez succeeded in flying a short distance on the long side of the course, and A. V. Roe made one or two short jumps.
The total value of the prizes awarded was £4,150, exclusive of the £100 cup. The total distance flown was roughly 116 miles.