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Title: Flying the Atlantic in Sixteen Hours - With a Discussion of Aircraft in Commerce and Transportation
Author: Brown, Arthur Whitten
Language: English
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                            THE ATLANTIC IN
                             SIXTEEN HOURS


                   SIR ARTHUR WHITTEN BROWN, K.B.E.

                              ASSISTED BY
                       CAPTAIN ALAN BOTT, R.F.C.



                               NEW YORK
                      FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY

                         _Copyright, 1920, by_
                      FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY

          _All rights reserved, including that of translation
                       into foreign languages._


       CHAPTER                                           PAGE

          I SOME PRELIMINARY EVENTS                        1

         II ST. JOHN'S                                    15

        III THE START                                     32

         IV EVENING                                       47

          V NIGHT                                         55

         VI MORNING                                       65

        VII THE ARRIVAL                                   75

       VIII AFTERMATH OF ARRIVAL                          84

         IX THE NAVIGATION OF AIRCRAFT                    93


         XI THE AIR AGE                                  136


  Capt. Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, K.B.E.       _Frontispiece_


  The Late Capt. Sir John Alcock, K.B.E., D.S.C.          14

  Feathering the Wings--Setting Up the Flier at
      St. John's, N.F.                                    30

  The Last Touches--Adjusting the Bracing Wires           30

  It Was Hard to Find an Aërodrome with Sufficient
      "Take Off"                                          44

  Sightseers, If Left to Themselves, Would Have
      Wrecked the Machine                                 44

  The Transatlantic Machine--A Vickers-Vimy
      With Rolls-Royce Engines                            56

  A Special Kind of Gasoline Had to Be Used               70

  All Aboard for the First Trial Flight                   70

  The Vickers-Vimy Transatlantic Machine in the
      Air                                                 84

  The Last Square Meal in America Was Eaten
      Near the Wings of the Machine                       84

  The Late Capt. Sir John Alcock Just Before
      Starting                                            98

  Shipping the First Direct Transatlantic Air Mail        98

  Hot Coffee Was Taken Aboard                            104

  Slow Rising Nearly Caused Disaster at the Start
      of the Great Flight                                104

  Lucky Jim and Twinkletoe, the Mascots                  120

  The Transatlantic Flight Ended With a Crash in
      an Irish Bog                                       120

  Chart of the North Atlantic Showing Course of
      the Flight                                         136

  The Men Who Worked Without Glory to Make
      the Flight Possible                                136

  The Vickers Aeroplane Works at Weybridge, England      154

  Comfort Can Be Enjoyed in Air Travel To-day            154


                               CHAPTER I

                        SOME PRELIMINARY EVENTS

     "After me cometh a builder. Tell him I, too, have known."


It is an awful thing to be told that one has made history, or done
something historic. Such an accusation implies the duty of living up to
other people's expectations; and merely an ordinary person who has been
lucky, like myself, cannot fulfil such expectations.

Sir John Alcock and I have been informed so often, by the printed
and spoken word, that our achievement in making the first non-stop
transatlantic flight is an important event in the history of aviation
that almost--but not quite--I have come to believe it. And this
half-belief makes me very humble, when I consider the splendid
company of pioneers who, without due recognition, gave life,
money or precious years, often all three, to further the future of
aëronautics--Lilienthal, Pilcher, Langley, Eiffel, Lanchester, Maxim,
the Wrights, Bleriot, Cody, Roe, Rolls and the many daring men who
piloted the weird, experimental craft which were among the first to fly.

I believe that ever since Man, but recently conscious of his own
existence, saw the birds, he has desired to emulate them. Among the
myths and fables of every race are tales of human flight. The paradise
of most religions is reached through the air, and through the air gods
and prophets have passed from earth to their respective heavens. And
all authentic angels are endowed with wings.

The present generation is lucky in that, despite this instinctive
longing since the beginning of human history for the means of flight,
it is the first to see dreams and theories translated into fact by the
startling development of practical aviation, within the past fifteen
years. The aëronautical wonders of the next fifteen years are likely to
be yet more startling.

Five years ago, before the offensive and defensive needs of war
provided a supreme _raison d'être_, flying was but a costly and
dangerous pastime. As such it attracted the first-class adventurers
of every race, many of whom lost their lives on weird, Jabberwock-like
aircraft, built and tested before experimental data and more accurate
methods of calculation became available.

But even these men could not realize the wonderful possibilities of
the coming air age, of which they were the pioneers. Nearly all the
early aëroplanes were born of private enterprise, for capitalists had
no faith in the commercial future of flight. Very few firms applied
themselves solely to the manufacture of aircraft or aëro engines, and
only two or three of the great engineering companies had the vision to
maintain aëronautical departments.

Among the few important companies that, in those days, regarded
aëronautics seriously was Messrs. Vickers, Ltd. They established an
experimental department, and as a result of its work began to produce
military types of aircraft which were in advance of their period.
Later, when the whirlwind of war provided the impetus which swept
pioneer aviation into headlong progress, the Vickers productions
moved with the times, and helped largely to make the British
aircraft industry the greatest in the world. Now that aviation has
entered into the third phase of its advance--that of a peace-time
commercial proposition--they are again in the forefront of production.
Incidentally they provided me with the greatest chance of my life--that
of taking part in the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. Since
then a Vickers aëroplane has won yet another great distinction--the
prize for the first flight from England to Australia.

At this point I desire to pay a very well-deserved tribute to the man
who from the beginning has backed with money his faith in the future of
aviation. The development of aëronautics has been helped enormously by
the generous prizes of Lord Northcliffe and the _Daily Mail_ for the
first flights across the English Channel, from London to Manchester,
around the circuit of Britain, and finally across the Atlantic.

In each case the competitions seemed impossible of fulfilment at the
time when they were inaugurated; and in each case the unimaginative
began with scoffing doubts and ended with wondering praise. Naturally,
the prizes were offered before they could be won, for they were
intended to stimulate effort and development. This object was achieved.

But for the stimulus of these competitions, Great Britain, at the
beginning of the war, might well have been in an even worse position
as regards aviation than she was. And all who flew on active service
during the first three years of the war realize what they owe to Lord
Northcliffe's crusades for more and better machines, and for a more
extensive use of aircraft.

Having helped to win one of the _Daily Mail_ prizes, I am not going
to quarrel with the principle of flying competitions. Certainly, the
promise of reward brings to the surface ideas and potential powers
which might otherwise lie fallow; but I do not believe the system of
money prizes for spectacular flights to be altogether an economically
sound proposition. It is not generally realized that as a rule the
amount spent by each of the firms that enter a machine for such a
contest as the transatlantic flight vastly exceeds the amount of the
prize, although the money reward more than covers the expenses of the
aviators who gain it.

Would it not be more practical to pay directly for research work?
Anybody with vision can see some of the infinite possibilities
which the future of aviation may hold, and which can only be found
by painstaking and properly applied research. There are plenty of
men able and anxious to devote themselves competently to seeking
for yet-hidden solutions whereby flying will be made cheaper, safer
and more reliable. What is especially wanted for the moment is the
financial endowment of research into the several problems that must be
solved before the air age makes the world a better place to live in,
and, by eliminating long and uncomfortable journeys, brings the nations
into closer bonds of friendship, understanding and commerce.

Apart from the honor of taking part in the first non-stop flight
between America and Great Britain, I am especially pleased to have
helped in a small way in the construction of a new link between the two
continents to which I belong. My family is deeply rooted in the United
States; but generations ago my ancestors were English, and I myself
happened to be born in Glasgow.

This was in 1886, when my parents were visiting that city. I was an
only child, and I was so well looked after that I caught neither
a Scotch nor an American nor even a Lancashire accent; for later,
between visits to the United States, we lived in Manchester. There,
after leaving school, I served an apprenticeship in the works of the
Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. I inherited in some
degree a love of and an instinct for engineering from my father, one
of the best mechanical engineers I have ever met. He helped to develop
this instinct by encouraging me in everything I undertook, and by
making me profit by the results of his experience.

In the works I was for a time a workman among workmen--a condition of
life which is the best possible beginning for an embryo engineer. I
found my associates of the workshop good companions, useful instructors
and incorrigible jokers. My father's warnings, however, saved me from
hours of waiting in the forge, at their direction, while a "straight
hook" or a "putting-on tool" was made, and from hunting the shops for
the "spare short-circuit."

I was congratulating myself on making good headway and, in articles
accepted by various technical journals, was even telling my elders all
about engineering, when the outbreak of war changed all my plans and
hopes, and interfered with the career I had mapped out for myself. In
fact, I was in exactly the same position as many thousands of other
young men at the beginning of their careers.

Although, of American parentage and possessing American citizenship, I
had not the patience to wait for the entry into the war of the United
States. With an English friend I enlisted in the British University
and Public Schools battalion, when it was formed in September, 1914.
And, although at the time I had no more notion of it than of becoming
President of the League of Nations, that was my first step towards the
transatlantic flight.

Those were wonderful days for all concerned in the early training of
our battalion at Epsom. In knowledge of drill our officers started
level with us. Several times I saw a private step from the ranks,
produce from his pocket the Infantry Training Manual, and show a
lieutenant where he had gone wrong. Doubtful discipline, perhaps--but
excellent practice, for most of the original privates of the U.P.S.
soon became officers of the New Army.

I was gazetted a second lieutenant of the Manchester Regiment in
January, 1915, and with it saw service in the trenches before Ypres
and on the Somme. Then came the second step towards the transatlantic
flight. I had always longed to be in the air, and I obtained a transfer
to the Royal Flying Corps as an observer.

I had the good fortune to be posted to No. 2 Squadron, under Major
(now General) Becke. While in this unit I first experienced the mixed
sensations of being shot down. One day my pilot and I were carrying
out artillery observation over Vendin la Vielle when, at a height of
8,000 feet, two anti-aircraft shells set our machine on fire. Somehow,
the pilot managed to bring down his craft in the British lines; but in
landing it tripped over some telephone wires and turned a somersault,
still blazing at various points. We were thrown out, but escaped with a
few burns and bruises.

After a short rest in England I returned to the squadron. I soon left
it for good, however. One dull, snowy day a bullet perforated the
petrol tank of the machine in which, with Lieut. Medlicott, I was
reconnoitering behind the enemy lines. As a result we were unable to
reach the British zone. We landed in occupied territory; and I knew the
deadly heart-sickness which comes to all prisoners of war during the
first few days of their captivity.

I was repatriated after being a prisoner of war in Germany for fourteen
months, followed by nine months in Switzerland. Medlicott, meanwhile,
made thirteen determined but unsuccessful bids for escape before being
murdered by the Germans in 1918, while indulging in a fourteenth

My two years of captivity constituted, strange to say, the third step
towards the transatlantic flight; for it was as a prisoner of war that
I first found time to begin a careful study of the possibilities of
aërial navigation. This I continued after returning to London, where,
at the Ministry of Munitions, I was employed in the production of the
larger aëro-engines.

When, soon after the armistice, the ban on attempts to fly the Atlantic
was lifted, I hoped that my studies of aërial navigation might be
useful to one of the firms who were preparing for such a flight. Each
one I approached, however, refused my proposals, and for the moment I
gave up the idea.

It was entirely by chance that I became involved in the transatlantic
competition. One day I visited the works at Weybridge of Messrs.
Vickers. While I was talking with the superintendent, Captain Alcock
walked into the office. We were introduced, and in the course of
conversation the competition was mentioned. I then learned, for the
first time, that Messrs. Vickers were considering an entry, although
not courting publicity until they should have attempted it.

I sat up and began to take notice, and ventured to put forward my views
on the navigation of aircraft for long flights over the sea. These were
received favorably, and the outcome of the fortunate meeting was that
Messrs. Vickers retained me to act as aërial navigator.

I soon learned to have every confidence in the man who was to be my
pilot. He flew for years before the war, and he had a magnificent
record for long-distance flying when engaged in bombing Constantinople
and other parts of Turkey, with the detachments of the Royal Naval Air
Service in the Eastern Mediterranean. His recent death in a flying
accident took from aviation one of its most able, experienced and
courageous pilots, and robbed his many friends of a splendid man.

We set to work, and, with every assistance from the Air Ministry,
and the Admiralty, we soon had our apparatus and instruments ready
for shipment to Newfoundland. Besides our two selves the Vickers
transatlantic party consisted of ten other men from the works, and a
specialist on Rolls-Royce aëro-engines.

Alcock and I sailed from Southampton on the _Mauretania_, on board
of which its commander--Captain Rostron--made me free of his bridge,
and, as a widely experienced navigator, gave me much good advice. The
Vickers-Vimy machine, with all stores, left later by a freight boat.

From Halifax, Nova Scotia, we proceeded to Port aux Basques, and thence
by way of the Reid Newfoundland Railway to St. John's. There, we joined
the merry and hopeful company of British aviators who, long before we
arrived, had been preparing for an attempt to win Lord Northcliffe's

That four of them did not forestall us was due in part to very bad
luck, and in part to their whole-hearted patriotism. They wanted for
their country the honor of the first transatlantic flight, whether
non-stop or otherwise; and, being unable to continue the wearisome wait
for good weather in face of the news that the American flying boat _N.
C. 4_ had reached the Azores, they made their attempt under conditions
that were definitely unfavorable. Fate tripped up Raynham and Morgan
at the start, when they tried to take their heavily-laden machine into
the air while running over a too short space of uneven ground, with the
wind crossways to it. Fate allowed Hawker and Grieve a rather longer
run, but brought about their fall when they were half-way to success,
owing to a mishap which, though trifling, had the same effect as a
vital breakage.

It is superfluous, at this time of day, to offer public sympathy to
such gallant competitors; but I seize the opportunity of expressing
admiration for their splendid effort, and for the spirit that prompted
it. To Hawker and Grieve we owed particular thanks in that we profited
to a certain extent by what we learned from the cabled reports of their
experiences. For Grieve, as an expert on aërial navigation, I have the
deepest respect, and I am in full accord with his views and theories on
this, my own subject.

The same sort of odds against accident that sent them into the sea
might well have befallen Alcock and me. But it did not; and our freedom
from it was an important factor in our good fortune. Others were the
excellence of the Vickers-Vimy machine and the Rolls-Royce engine.
Whatever credit is ours should be shared with them, and with Mr. R. E.
Pierson, E.Sc., M.I.C.E., the designer of the Vickers-Vimy.

We have realized that our flight was but a solitary fingerpost to
the air-traffic--safe, comfortable and voluminous--that in a few
years will pass above the Atlantic Ocean; and even had the winning of
the competition brought us no other benefits, each of us would have
remained well content to be pioneers of this aërial entente which is
destined to play such an important part in the political and commercial
friendship between Great Britain and America.

[Illustration: THE LATE CAPT. SIR JOHN ALCOCK, K.B.E., D.S.C.]

                              CHAPTER II

                              ST. JOHN'S

"Hawker left this afternoon."

This message was shouted by a chance-met motorist, who held up our own
car as we were driving back to St. John's from Ferryland on the evening
of May the eighteenth, after an unsuccessful search for an aërodrome

"And Raynham?" I asked.

"Machine smashed before he could get it off the ground."

We thanked the stranger for his news, and passed on to hear further
details at the Cochrane Hotel, which was the headquarters of the
several transatlantic flight contingents at St. John's. We had rather
expected the Sopwith and Martinsyde parties to make an attempt on the
eighteenth, although the conditions were definitely unfavorable. The
news of the American _N. C. 4's_ arrival at the Azores had spurred them
to the great adventure, despite the weather. The United States flying
boats were not competing for the _Daily Mail_ prize; but Hawker and
Grieve wanted to gain for Great Britain the honor of being the first to
cross the Atlantic by air. The outcome of this ambition was the gallant
effort that ended in the sea, half-way to Ireland.

While exceedingly sorry for Raynham, we were glad that Hawker had
started, after his weeks of weary waiting, and we wished him all
success; for with one exception there was the best possible feeling
among the small colony of British aviators who had congregated at
St. John's for the transatlantic competition. In any case, if Hawker
succeeded and we no longer had a chance of winning the prize, we meant
to demonstrate the high qualities of the Vickers-Vimy machine by flying
from Newfoundland to Ireland.

We had arrived at St. John's early on the morning of May the
thirteenth, being only twelve hours late on a scheduled time of
twenty-seven hours for the journey from Port aux Basques. Thirteen,
by the way, we regarded as our lucky number. The construction of our
transatlantic machine was begun on February thirteenth, it was number
thirteen of its class, and it reached Newfoundland on May twenty-sixth
(twice thirteen). Our party, with the mechanics, totaled thirteen, and
we arrived at St. John's on May thirteenth. Later we were disappointed
at having to postpone the getaway until June fourteenth, instead of
leaving on June thirteenth.

We hired a car, and, driving to Mount Pearl, began what was to be
a long and difficult hunt for any kind of a field that could be
improvised into an aërodrome. The uneven countryside through which we
passed held out no hopes; and the company we met that evening at the
Cochrane Hotel (Hawker, Grieve, Raynham, Morgan, and various officials
and newspaper correspondents) were unanimous in declaring that the only
suitable patches of ground had been appropriated, and that we should
find no others near St. John's.

The American flying boats were at Trepassey, ready to start for the
Azores, and most of the American correspondents had left St. John's to
visit them. The United States airship _N. C. 5_ had flown to St. John's
some days before our arrival. She came in a fog, after wandering over
the neighborhood of Newfoundland for some hours, having lost herself,
it was reported, owing to an error of 180° in the directional wireless
bearings given her. She attracted large crowds, ourselves among them,
to the bay. Later, we saw the airship steering an erratic course
through the Gap, and mentally wished her commander good luck in his
transatlantic ambitions. Soon afterwards we heard of her unfortunate
break-away and total loss.

The departure of the N. C. flying boats sent great excitement into the
small company of Britishers at the Cochrane Hotel. Hawker, Grieve,
Raynham and Morgan discarded caution, and on hearing of the _N. C. 4's_
arrival at the Azores risked exceedingly their chances of success by
agreeing to start immediately, in a whole-hearted and plucky effort
to gain for Great Britain the honor of the first flight across the
Atlantic. The result was immediate disaster for Raynham and Morgan,
whose small aërodrome was altogether unsuitable for a "take off" into
the then wind, and magnificent failure for Hawker and Grieve, owing to
a minor mishap to their engine.

Soon after the flight of the American craft, I met Commander Byrd, U.
S. N., designer of the bubble sextant for aërial navigation that bears
his name. We had an interesting talk on the problems and difficulties
of aërial navigation, and I tried to secure from Washington a Byrd
sextant. The United States Naval authorities promised to forward one
from Washington; but unfortunately, owing to transport difficulties,
it reached St. John's after our departure. Nevertheless I am deeply
grateful to the United States Navy Department for its courtesy and
its offer of help in an enterprise that was foreign to them and

Newfoundland is a hospitable place, but its best friends cannot claim
that it is ideal for aviation. The whole of the island has no ground
that might be made into a first-class aërodrome. The district around
St. John's is especially difficult. Some of the country is wooded, but
for the most part it shows a rolling, switchback surface, across which
aëroplanes cannot taxi with any degree of smoothness. The soil is soft
and dotted with bowlders, for only a light layer of it covers the rock
stratum. Another handicap is the prevalence of thick fogs, which roll
westward from the sea.

For about a week we continued the quest for a landing-ground, and we
must have driven over hundreds of miles of very bad road. Growing
tired of hiring cars, we bought a second-hand Buick which registered
a total mileage of four hundred miles at the time of purchase. Before
long we were convinced that the speedometer must have been disconnected
previous to the final forty thousand miles.

The best possibilities for an aërodrome that we could find were several
level strips of meadowland, about a hundred yards wide by three hundred
long; whereas the Vickers-Vimy, fully loaded, might need five hundred
yards of clear run into the wind. Meanwhile, although disappointment
accompanied us all over Newfoundland, the pacing out of fields provided
good exercise.

The evenings were mostly spent in playing cards with the other
competitors at the Cochrane Hotel, or in visits to the neighboring film
theaters. St. John's itself showed us every kindness. We explored the
town pretty thoroughly, and were soon able to recognize parts of it
with eyes closed and nostrils open; for its chief occupation appeared
to be the drying of very dead cod.

Having heard rumors that suitable ground might be found at Ferryland,
we motored there on May the eighteenth, and it was while returning
from yet another disappointment that we learned of Hawker's
disappearance into the Atlantic mists. Excitement and anxiety about
the possible fate of Hawker and Grieve spread all the world over; but
nowhere was it more intense than among us at the Cochrane Hotel, who
had shared their hopes and discussed their plans. We were a gloomy
crowd indeed until St. John's heard the sensational story of their

Raynham, meanwhile, although very disappointed after the setback that
damaged his machine, kept alight the candle of hope and the torch of
determination. Before it was possible to know whether or not Hawker
had succeeded, he made arrangements for repair and decided to try
again. He also invited Alcock and me to use his ground for erecting the
Vickers-Vimy. A similar invitation was given by Captain Fenn, now in
charge of the Sopwith party.

Neither aërodrome would be suitable for our final "take off"; but we
accepted Raynham's very sporting offer, and arranged to build up the
Vickers-Vimy, which was expected to arrive any day, on his aërodrome at
Quidi Vidi, while continuing the search for a more suitable field.

Our mechanics arrived with machine and engines on May the twenty-sixth,
and we set to work at once on its erection. This was carried out in the
open air, amid many obstacles and with much improvization, sheerlegs
for example, being constructed out of scaffolding poles. Raynham let us
use his hangar as a store.

All the Vickers party worked hard and cheerfully from early dawn until
dark, each man being on strenuous duty from twelve to fourteen hours a
day. Two mechanics remained on guard each night, while the remainder
drove about three miles to their billets.

During the whole of this period of a thousand and one difficulties,
each mechanic gave of his best, and I cannot pay too high a tribute
to those men who labored for us so competently and painstakingly, and
yet received none of the glory. Even those who were but indirectly
concerned in the venture searched for opportunities of helping us. The
reporters representing the _Daily Mail_, the New York _Times_, and the
New York _World_ were often of assistance when extra man-power was
required. But for one of the American reporters--Mr. Klauber--we should
have been obliged to start without an electric torch when our own
failed at the last moment.

It was, indeed, a nerve-edging time until the machine approached
completion. Each day produced some new difficulty. Alcock kept his head
and his temper admirably, however, and his intelligent supervision of
the mechanics' work was an effective insurance against loss of time.

As the parts of the Vickers-Vimy grew into the semblance of a complete
aëroplane it attracted more and more visitors. Many rubbernecks, who
seemed to have no other occupation, spent hours in leaning on the
nearest fence and watching us. Soon we found it necessary to build
a temporary enclosure round the machine. Even that did not keep the
curious at a distance. We remained unworried so long as the crowd
contented itself with just watching; but the visitors forced us to
take special precautions against damage. The testing of the fabric's
firmness with the point of an umbrella was a favorite pastime of
theirs, and more than once we dispersed small parties whom we found
leaning against the trailing-edges, much as Australian soldiers on
leave from France used to lean against the lamp-posts of the Strand.
One man held his lighted cigar against a wing, and was quite annoyed
when asked to keep at a distance.

We were still unsuccessful in our search for an aërodrome. One day a
telegram arrived from a landowner in Harbor Grace, offering what he
called an ideal field. Alcock raced off to inspect and secure it; but
when he returned in the evening his one-sided grin told me that we
were still out of luck. "The ideal aërodrome" was a meadow about one
hundred and fifty by three hundred yards--and the price demanded for
its hire was twenty-five thousand dollars plus the cost of getting it
ready and an indemnity for all damage. Land _sells_ in Newfoundland at
thirty-five cents an acre.

Soon afterwards a local inhabitant--Mr. Lester, who had done all our
carting--offered us a field under more reasonable conditions, at a
place called Monday's Pool. We found it to be a large meadow, half on
a hill and with a swamp at the bottom. It possessed, nevertheless, a
level surface of about three hundred yards, running east and west.

We examined and paced out four other fields on the hilltop, and found
that by taking them in we could obtain a full run of five hundred
yards. The owners of this additional ground wanted extortionate prices
for its use, but after much haggling we closed a deal with them.

Thirty laborers, with pick and shovel, set to work to prepare the
aërodrome by removing hillocks, blasting bowlders and leveling walls
and fences. Finally it was completed, well within the time for the
trial flight.

During the first few days spent on the erecting of the machine
there was little for me to do. I unpacked and verified wireless and
navigation equipment, and having rigged up a receiving station on the
roof of the Cochrane Hotel, with the consent and help of Lieut. Clare,
of the Mount Pearl Naval Wireless Station, I practiced the sending and
receiving of wireless messages, and tuning in on various wave-lengths.

Rain and high wind caused a delay of three days, during which the
machine necessarily remained in the open, with tarpaulins over the
engines and only a small windscreen to break the force of the gales.
When better conditions arrived the body of the Vickers-Vimy grew slowly
into the semblance of a complete aëroplane, spurred thereto by our
impatience and the willing work of the mechanics. The wings being in
place, the Rolls-Royce experts became busy, examining and checking
every little detail of their motors, so that there should be no
avoidable trouble on that account. Water for the radiator was filtered,
and then boiled in a steel barrel.

Our day-to-day watchers from St. John's showed much interest in this
boiling process, and asked many questions. They seemed content with
our explanation that we were boiling the gasoline so as to remove all
water. Several asked whether we filled the planes with gas to make them
lighter. Others were disappointed because we did not intend to drop our
undercarriage over the sea, as Hawker had done, and prophesied that
such neglect would lead to failure.

The machine was ready to take the air on the morning of Monday, June
the ninth, and we decided to make the first flight that same afternoon.
We had meant to keep the news of the forthcoming trial as secret as
possible, so as to avoid a crowd. It leaked out, however, and long
before the engines were warmed up and tested a large gathering had
collected at Quidi Vidi.

The weather was on its best behavior, and our "take off" from the
ground was perfect in every way. Under Alcock's skillful hands the
big Vimy became almost as nippy as a single-seater scout. We headed
directly westward, passing over the sea for some fifteen minutes. It
was a clear day, and the sea reflected the sky's vivid blue. Near the
coast it was streaked and spotted by the glistening white of icebergs
and the evanescent appearances and disappearances of white-caps.

Trial observation with my navigation instruments proved them to be O.
K.; but not a spark could be conjured from the wireless apparatus. The
machine and motors seemed in perfect condition.

Alcock turned the Vickers-Vimy, and brought us back over St. John's at
a height of four thousand feet. Newfoundland from above looked even
more bleak and rugged than it did from the ground; and we saw that
landing grounds would be impossible on the eastern side of it.

We were to descend on the new aërodrome, which we picked out by means
of a smudge-fire, lighted as a signal. Alcock made a perfect landing,
in an uphill direction. The Vimy ran on, topped the brow, and was
heading straight for a fence on the roadside; but the pilot saved a
collision by opening up the starboard engine, which swung the craft
round before she came to a standstill.

We pushed the machine down the hill to the most sheltered part of
the field, pegged it down, and roped off a space round it, to keep
spectators at a safe distance. The proposed hangar was unfinished, so
that the Vickers-Vimy still remained in the open.

I dismounted the wireless generator for examination, and next day took
it to Mount Pearl Wireless Station, where Lieut. Clare helped me to
locate the fault and to remedy it.

A far more serious worry now confronted us. The fuel we had intended
to carry was a mixture of gasoline and benzol, sent from England. On
examination we found in it a peculiar precipitate, like a very soft
resin. It was sticky, and had the consistency of India rubber wetted
with gasoline; but when dry it reduced to a powder. Naturally we could
not afford the risk of letting such a deposit clog our filters and
perhaps, owing to stoppage of fuel supply, cause motor failure--that
bugbear of every aviator who flies over long distances.

It was not definitely proved that the precipitate resulted from the
mixture of gasoline and benzol; but so much depended on satisfactory
fuel that we dared use none that was doubtful, and we decided to
substitute pure gasoline for the mixture. The problem was how to
find enough of the quality required--Shell B. Raynham, as much of a
sportsman as ever, put his spare stock at our disposal; but fortunately
a newly arrived ship brought enough for our needs.

Mr. P. Maxwell Muller, who had organized our transatlantic party, also
came on this boat. He is a rabid optimist, with the power of infecting
others with his hopefulness; and we were glad indeed to see him, and
especially to turn over to him such things as unpaid bills.

The second trial flight took place on June the twelfth. Once again
everything except the wireless apparatus was satisfactory. The
transmitter worked well for a short time, but afterwards the insulation
on a small transformer in the transmitter failed, giving me a violent
shock. After a short time in the air, Alcock made another satisfactory

By now we were besieging Lieutenant Clements, the meteorological
officer, for weather reports. Besides his own work he had now
undertaken the duties of Major Partridge, official starter for the
Royal Aëro Club of London. As such he had to place the club's official
seal on the Vickers-Vimy. This he did without any superfluous ceremony,
his seal insuring that we should not cheat by flying from Newfoundland
in one aëroplane and landing on Ireland in another.

At that period the weather reports, such as they were, indicated fairly
favorable conditions for the flight, and we prepared to make the
attempt immediately. At no time were the reports complete, however,
owing to the delays in transmission; although Clements made the very
best of the meager data at his disposal.

We saw the Handley-Page carrying out its initial flights; but we hoped
to leave on Friday, June the thirteenth, and thus show it the way
across the Atlantic. We worked at high speed on several last-minute
jobs. The compasses were swung, the wireless apparatus repaired, more
elastic shock-absorbers were wrapped round the axles, the navigating
instruments were taken on board, with food and emergency supplies.

But with all the hurry and bustle we found that everything could not be
ready by Friday the thirteenth, and that a postponement until 4 A. M.
on the Saturday was essential.

JOHN'S, N. F.]


By Friday evening the last coat of dope was dry, and nothing had been
overlooked. The only articles missing were some life-saving suits,
which we were expecting from the United States. Long afterwards we
discovered that these had been delivered to the Bank of Montreal, where
the officials, believing that the case contained typewriters, stored it
in their cellars.

Alcock and I went to bed at 7 P. M. on Friday while the mechanics
remained all night with the machine, completing the filling of the
tanks and moving it to the position chosen for the start. We were
called before dawn, and joined them on the aërodrome at 3:30 A. M. on
June the fourteenth.

                              CHAPTER III

                               THE START

A large black cat, its tail held high in a comical curve, sauntered by
the transatlantic machine as we stood by it, early in the morning; and
such a cheerful omen made me more than ever anxious to start.

Two other black cats--more intimate if less alive--waited in the
Vickers-Vimy. They were Lucky Jim and Twinkletoe, our mascots, destined
to be the first air passengers across the Atlantic. Lucky Jim wore
an enormous head, an untidy ribbon and a hopeful expression; whereas
Twinkletoe was daintily diminutive, and, from the tip of her upright
tail to the tip of her stuffed nose, expressed surprise and anxiety.
Other gifts that we carried as evidence of our friends' best wishes
were bunches of white heather.

"Strong westerly wind. Conditions otherwise fairly favorable."

Such was the brief summary of the weather conditions given us at 4 A.
M. by the meteorological officer. We had definitely decided to leave on
the fourteenth, if given half a chance; for at all costs we wanted to
avoid a long period of hope deferred while awaiting ideal conditions.

At early dawn we were on the aërodrome, searching the sky for a
sign and asking information of Lieutenant Clements, the Royal Air
Force weather expert. His reports were fairly favorable; but a hefty
cross-wind was blowing from the west in uneven gusts, and everybody
opined that we had better wait a few hours, in the expectation that it
would die down.

Meanwhile, Alcock ran the engines and found them to be in perfect
condition. Neither could any fault be found with the gray-winged
machine, inert but fully loaded, and complete to the last split-pin.

It was of the Standard type of Vickers-Vimy bomber; although, of
course, bombs and bombing gear were not carried, their weight being
usefully replaced by extra storage tanks for gasoline. One of these,
shaped like a boat, could be used as a life-saving raft if some
accident brought about a descent into the sea. This tank was so placed
that it would be the first to be emptied of gasoline. The fittings
allowed of its detachment, ready for floating, while the machine lost
height in a glide. We hoped for and expected the best; but it was as
well to be prepared for the worst.

To make communication and coöperation more easy, the seats for both
pilot and navigator were side by side in what is usually the pilot's
cockpit, the observer's cockpit at the fore-end of the fuselage being
hidden under a stream-lined covering and occupied by a tank.

The tanks had been filled during the night, so that the Vickers-Vimy
contained its full complement of eight hundred and seventy gallons of
gasoline and forty gallons of oil. We now packed our personal luggage,
which consisted only of toilet kit and food--sandwiches, Caley's
chocolate, Horlick's Malted Milk, and two thermos flasks filled with
coffee. A small cupboard, fitted into the tail, contained emergency
rations. These were for use in case of disaster, as the tail of the
aëroplane would remain clear of the waves for a long while after the
nose had submerged. Our mascots, also, were in this cupboard.

The mail-bag had been taken on board a day earlier. It contained three
hundred private letters, for each of which the postal officials at St.
John's had provided a special stamp. For one of these stamps, by the
way, eight hundred and seventy-five dollars was offered and refused on
the Manchester Exchange within two days of the letter's delivery. They
are now sold at about one hundred and twenty-five dollars apiece, I

We breakfasted, and throughout the morning waited for a weakening of
the wind. As, however, it remained at about the same strength and
showed no signs of better behavior, we made up our minds to leave at

We had planned to get away in an easterly direction, for although we
should thus be moving with the wind instead of into it, the machine
would face down-hill, and owing to the shape of the aërodrome we should
have a better run than if we taxied towards the west. The Vickers-Vimy
was therefore placed in position to suit these arrangements.

But soon we found that the gale was too strong for such a plan, and
that we should have to "take off" into it. The mechanics dragged
the machine to the far end of the aërodrome, so as to prepare for a
westerly run.

This change was responsible for a minor setback. A sudden gust
carried a drag-rope round the undercarriage, tightened one of the
wheels against a petrol supply pipe, and crushed it. The consequent
replacement wasted about an hour.

Still with hopes that the gale would drop during the early afternoon,
we sat under the wing-tips at two o'clock and lunched, while conscious
of an earnest hope that the next square meal would be eaten in Ireland.

The wind remaining obstinately strong during the early afternoon, we
agreed to take things as they were and to lose no more precious time.
At about four o'clock we wriggled into our flying-kit, and climbed into
the machine. We wore electrically heated clothing, Burberry overalls,
and the usual fur gloves and fur-lined helmets.

While Alcock attended to his engines I made certain that my navigation
instruments were in place. The sextant was clipped to the dashboard
facing the pilot, the course and distance calculator was clasped to the
side of the fuselage, the drift-indicator fitted under my seat, and the
Baker navigation machine, with my charts inside it, lay on the floor of
the cockpit. I also carried an electric torch, and kept within easy
reach a Very pistol, with red and white flares, so that if the worst
should happen we could attract the attention of passing ships. The
battery for heating our electric suits was between the two seats.

The meteorological officer gave me a chart showing the approximate
strength and direction of the Atlantic air currents. It indicated that
the high westerly wind would drop before we were a hundred miles out
to sea, and that the wind velocities for the rest of the journey would
not exceed twenty knots, with clear weather over the greater part of
the ocean. This was responsible for satisfactory hopes at the time
of departure; but later, when we were over mid-Atlantic, the hopes
dissolved in disappointment when the promised "clear weather" never

The departure was quiet and undramatic. Apart from the mechanics and
a few reporters, few people were present, for the strong wind had
persuaded our day-to-day sightseers from St. John's that we must
postpone a start. When all was ready I shook hands with Lieutenant
Clements, Mr. Maxwell Muller and other friends, accepted their best
wishes for success, and composed myself in the rather crowded cockpit.

The customary signal-word "Contact!" exchanged between pilot and
mechanics, seemed, perhaps, to have a special momentary significance;
but my impatience to take the plunge and be rid of anxiety about the
start shut out all other impressions that might have been different
from those experienced at the beginning of each of the thousand and one
flights I had made before the transatlantic venture.

First one and then the other motors came to life, swelled into a
roar when Alcock ran them up and softened into a subdued murmur when
he throttled back and warmed them up. Finally, everything being
satisfactory, he disconnected the starting magneto and engine switches,
to avoid stoppage due to possible short-circuits, and signaled for the
chocks to be pulled clear. With throttles open and engines "all out,"
the Vickers-Vimy advanced into the westerly wind.

The "take off," up a slight gradient, was very difficult. Gusts up to
forty-five knots were registered, and there was insufficient room to
begin the run dead into the wind. What I feared in particular was that
a sudden eddy might lift the planes on one side and cause the machine
to heel over. Another danger was the rough surface of the aërodrome.

Owing to its heavy load, the machine did not leave the ground until it
had lurched and lumbered, at an ever-increasing speed, over 300 yards.
We were then almost at the end of the ground-tether allowed us.

A line of hills straight ahead was responsible for much "bumpiness" in
the atmosphere, and made climbing very difficult. At times the strong
wind dropped almost to zero, then rose in eddying blasts. Once or twice
our wheels nearly touched the ground again.

Under these conditions we could climb but slowly, allowing for the
danger of sudden upward gusts. Several times I held my breath, from
fear that our undercarriage would hit a roof or a tree-top.

I am convinced that only Alcock's clever piloting saved us from such
an early disaster. When, after a period that seemed far longer than it
actually was, we were well above the buildings and trees, I noticed
that the perspiration of acute anxiety was running down his face.

We wasted no time and fuel in circling round the aërodrome while
attaining a preliminary height, but headed straight into the wind until
we were at about eight hundred feet. Then we turned towards the sea and
continued to rise leisurely, with engines throttled down. As we passed
our aërodrome I leaned over the side of the machine and waved farewell
to the small groups of mechanics and sightseers.

The Vickers-Vimy, although loaded to the extent of about eleven pounds
per square foot, climbed satisfactorily, if slowly. Eight minutes
passed before we had reached the thousand feet level.

As we passed over St. John's and Cabot's Hill towards Concepcion Bay
the air was very bumpy, and not until we reached the coast and were
away from the uneven contours of Newfoundland did it become calmer.
The eddying wind, which was blowing behind us from almost due west,
with a strength of thirty-five knots, made it harder than ever to keep
the machine on a straight course. The twin-engine Vickers-Vimy is not
especially sensitive to atmospheric instability; but under the then
atmospheric conditions it lurched, swayed, and did its best to deviate,
much as if it had been a little single-seater scout.

We crossed the coast at 4:28 P. M. (Greenwich time), our aneroid then
registering about twelve hundred feet. Just before we left the land I
let out the wireless aërial, and tapped out on the transmitter key a
message to Mount Pearl Naval Station: "All well and started."

My mind merely recorded the fact that we were leaving Newfoundland
behind us. Otherwise it was too tense with concentration on the task
ahead to find room for any emotions or thoughts on seeing the last of
the square-patterned roof-mosaic of St. John's, and of the tangled
intricacy of Newfoundland's fields, woods and hills. Behind and below
was America, far ahead and below was Europe, between the two were
nearly two thousand miles of ocean. But at the time I made no such
stirring, if obvious, reflections; for my navigation instruments and
charts, as applied to sun, horizon, sea-surface and time of day,
demanded close and undivided attention.

Withal, I felt a queer but quite definite confidence in our safe
arrival over the Irish coast, based, I suppose, on an assured knowledge
that the machine, the motors, the navigating instruments and the pilot
were all first-class.

The Vickers-Vimy shook itself free from the atmospheric disturbances
over the land, and settled into an even stride through the calmer
spaces above the ocean. The westerly wind behind us, added to the power
developed by the motors, gave us a speed along our course (as opposed
to "air-speed") of nearly one hundred and forty knots.

Visibility was fairly good during the first hour of the flight. Above,
at a height of something between two and three thousand feet, a wide
ceiling of clouds was made jagged at fairly frequent intervals by
holes through which the blue sky could be glimpsed. Below, the sea was
blue-gray, dull for the most part but bright in occasional patches,
where the sunlight streamed on it through some cloud-gap. Icebergs
stood out prominently from the surface, in splashes of glaring white.

I was using all my faculties in setting and keeping to the prescribed
course. The Baker navigating machine, with the chart, was on my knees.
Not knowing what kind of weather was before us, I knelt on my seat and
made haste to take observations on the sea, the horizon, and the sun,
through intervals in the covering of clouds.

The navigation of aircraft, in its present stage, is distinctly more
difficult than the navigation of seacraft. The speed at which they
travel and the influence of the wind introduce problems which are not
easily solved.

A ship's navigator knows to a small fraction of a mile the set of any
ocean current, and from the known speed of his vessel he can keep
"dead reckoning" with an accuracy that is nearly absolute. In fact,
navigators have taken their craft across the Atlantic without once
having seen the sun or stars, and yet, at the end of the journey,
been within five miles of the desired destination. But in the air the
currents either cannot be, or have not yet been, charted, and his
allowance for the drift resulting from them must be obtained by direct
observation on the surface of the ocean.

By the same means his actual speed over the ocean may be calculated. He
finds the position of his craft by measuring the angle which either the
sun or a selected star makes with the horizon, and noting the Greenwich
mean time at which the observation is made. If the bearings of two
distinct wireless stations can be taken, it is also possible to find
his definite position by means of directional wireless telegraphy.

When making my plans for the transatlantic flight I considered very
carefully all the possibilities, and decided to rely solely upon
observations of the sun and stars and upon "dead reckoning," in
preference to using directional wireless, as I was uncertain at that
time whether or not the directional wireless system was sufficiently

My sextant was of the ordinary marine type, but it had a more heavily
engraved scale than is usual, so as to make easier the reading of it
amid the vibration of the aëroplane. My main chart was on the Mercator
projection, and I had a special transparent chart which could be moved
above it, and upon which were drawn the Sumner circles for all times
of the day. I carried a similar special chart for use at night, giving
the Sumner circles for six chosen stars. To measure the drift I had
a six-inch Drift-Bearing plate, which also permitted me to measure
the ground speed, with the help of a stopwatch. In addition, I had an
Appleyard Course and Distance Calculator, and Traverse tables for the
calculation of "dead reckoning."



As the horizon is often obscured by clouds or mist, making impossible
the measurement of its angle with the heavenly bodies, I had a special
type of spirit level, on which the horizon was replaced by a bubble.
This, of course, was less reliable than a true horizon since the bubble
was affected by variations of speed; but it was at least a safeguard.
Taking into account the general obscurity of the atmosphere during most
of the flight, it was fortunate that I took such a precaution, for I
seldom caught sight of a clearly defined horizon.

I could legitimately congratulate myself on having collected as many
early observations as possible while the conditions were good; for
soon we ran into an immense bank of fog, which shut off completely the
surface of the ocean. The blue of the sea merged into a hazy purple,
and then into the dullest kind of gray.

The cloud screen above us, also, grew much thicker, and there were no
more gaps in it. The occasional sun-glints on wing-tips and struts no
longer appeared.

Thus I could obtain neither observations on the sun, nor calculations
of drift from the seas. Assuming that my first observations were
satisfactory, I therefore carried on by "dead reckoning," and hoped
for the best. From time to time I varied the course slightly, so as to
allow for the different variations of the compass.

Meantime, while we flew through the wide layer of air sandwiched
between fog and cloud, I began to jot down remarks for the log of the
journey. At 5:20 I noted that we were at fifteen hundred feet and still
climbing slowly, while the haze was becoming ever thicker and heavier.

I leaned towards the wireless transmitter, and began to send a message;
but the small propeller on it snapped, and broke away from the
generator. Careful examination, both at the time and after we landed,
showed no defect; and I am still unable to account for the fracture.
Although I was too occupied with calculations to pay much attention to
moods or passing thoughts, I remember feeling that this cutting off of
all means of communication with the life below and behind us gave a
certain sense of finality to the adventure.

We continued eastward, with the rhythmic drone of the motors unnoted in
supreme concentration on the tense hours that were to come.

                              CHAPTER IV


For a time Alcock and I attempted short conversations through the
telephone. Its earpieces were under our fur caps, and round our necks
were sensitive receivers for transmitting the throat vibrations that
accompany speech. At about six o'clock Alcock discarded his earpieces
because they were too painful; and for the rest of the flight we
communicated in gestures and by scribbled notes.

I continued to keep the course by "dead reckoning," taking into
account height, compass bearing, strength of wind, and my previous
observations. The wind varied quite a lot, and several times the nose
of the Vickers-Vimy swayed from the right direction, so that I had to
make rapid mental allowances for deviation.

The results I made known to Alcock by passing over slips of paper torn
from my notebook. The first of these was the direction: "_Keep her
nearer 120 than 140._"

The second supplied the news that the transmitter was useless:
"_Wireless generator smashed. The propeller has gone._"

Throughout the evening we flew between a covering of unbroken cloud and
a screen of thick fog, which shut off the sea completely. My scribbled
comment to the pilot at 5:45 was: "_I can't get an obs. in this fog.
Will estimate that same wind holds and work by dead reckoning._"

Despite the lack of external guidance, the early evening was by no
means dull. Just after six the starboard engine startled us with a
loud, rhythmic chattering, rather like the noise of machine-gun fire at
close quarters. With a momentary thought of the engine trouble which
had caused Hawker and Grieve to descend in mid-Atlantic, we both looked
anxiously for the defect.

This was not hard to find. A chunk of exhaust pipe had split away, and
was quivering before the rush of air like a reed in an organ pipe.
It became first red, then white-hot; and, softened by the heat, it
gradually crumpled up. Finally it was blown away, with the result
that three cylinders were exhausting straight into the air, without
guidance through the usual outlet.

The chattering swelled into a loud, jerky thrum, much more prominent
than the normal noise of a Rolls-Royce aëro-engine. This settled down
to a steady and continuous roar.

Until we landed nothing could be done to the broken exhaust pipe, and
we had to accept it as a minor disaster, unpleasant but irremediable.
Very soon my ears had become so accustomed to the added clamor that it
passed unnoticed.

I must admit, however, that although my mind contained no room for
impressions dealing with incidents not of vital importance, I was far
from comfortable when I first observed that a little flame, licking
outward from the open exhaust, was playing on one of the cross-bracing
wires and had made it red-hot. This trouble could not be lessened by
throttling down the starboard engine, as in that case we should have
lost valuable height.

The insistent hum of the engines, in fact, made the solitude seem
more normal. The long flight would have been dreadful had we made
it in silence; for, shut off as we were from sea and sky, it was a
very lonely affair. At this stage the spreading fog enveloped the
Vickers-Vimy so closely that our sheltered cockpit suggested an
isolated but by no means cheerless room.

Moisture condensed on goggles, dial glasses and wires when, at about
seven, we rose through a layer of clouds on the two thousand foot
level. Alcock wore no goggles, by the way, and I made use of mine only
when leaning over the side of the fuselage to take observations.

Emerging into the air above the clouds, I looked upward, and found
another stretch of cloud-bank still higher, at five thousand feet.
We thus remained cut off from the sun. Still guided only by "dead
reckoning," the Vickers-Vimy continued along the airway between a white
cloud-ceiling and a white cloud-carpet.

I was very anxious for an opportunity to take further observations
either of the sun or of the stars, so as to check the direction by
finding our correct position. At 7:40 I handed Alcock the following
note: "_If you get above clouds we will get a good fix[1] to-night, and
hope for clear weather to-morrow. Not at any risky expense to engines
though. We have four hours yet to climb._"

The altimeter was then registering three thousand feet.

All this while I had listened occasionally for wireless messages,
as the receiver was still in working order. No message came for us,
however, and the only sign of life was when, at 7:40, I heard somebody
calling "B. M. K." Even that small sign of contact with life below
cheered me mightily.

Throughout the journey we had no regular meals, but ate and drank in
snatches, whenever we felt so inclined. It was curious that neither
of us felt hungry at any time during the sixteen hours of the flight,
although now and then I felt the need of something to drink.

The food was packed into a little cupboard behind my head, on the
left-hand side of the fuselage. I reached for it at about 7:30, and,
deciding that Alcock must need nourishment, I passed him two sandwiches
and some chocolate, and uncorked the thermos flask. He made use of only
one hand for eating and drinking, keeping the other on the control

We happened upon a large gap in the upper layer of clouds at 8:30.
Through it the sun shone pleasantly, projecting the shadow of the
Vickers-Vimy on to the lower layer, over which it darted and
twisted, contracting or expanding according to the distortions on the

I was able to maintain observation on the sun for some ten minutes. The
calculations thus obtained showed that if we were still on the right
course the machine must be farther east than was indicated by "dead
reckoning." From this I deduced that the strength of the wind must
have increased rather than fallen off, as had been prophesied in the
report of the meteorological expert at St. John's. This supposition
was borne out by the buffetings which, from time to time, swayed the
Vickers-Vimy. Up till then our average speed had been one hundred and
forty-three knots.

I got my observations of the sun while kneeling on the seat and looking
between the port wings. I made use of the spirit level, as the horizon
was invisible and the sextant could therefore not be used.

Later, I caught sight of the sea for a few brief moments, and at 9:15 I
wrote the following note to Alcock: "_Through a rather bad patch I have
just made our ground speed 140 knots, and from the sun's altitude we
must be much further east and south than I calculated._"

I continued to keep a log of our movements and observations, and
at 9:20 P. M. made the following entry: "_Height 4,000 feet. Dense
clouds below and above. Got one sun observation, which shows that
dead reckoning is badly out. Shall wait for stars and climb. At 8:31
position about 49 deg. 31 minutes north, 38 deg. 35 minutes west._"

The clouds above remained constant, at a height of about five thousand
feet. I was eager to pass through them before the stars appeared; and
at nine-thirty, when the light was fading, I scribbled the inquiry:
"_Can you get above these clouds at, say, 60°? We must get stars as
soon as poss._"

Alcock nodded, and proceeded to climb as steeply as he dared. Twilight
was now setting in, gradually but noticeably. Between the layers of
cloud the daylight, although never very good, had until then been
strong enough to let me read the instruments and chart. At ten o'clock
this was impossible without artificial light.

For my chart I now used an electric lamp. I switched on a tiny bulb
which was placed so as to make the face of the compass clear in the
dark, all the other fixed instruments being luminous in themselves.
For my intermittent inspection of the engines I had to flash the
electric torch over either side of the cockpit.

The clouds, both above and below, grew denser and darker. One could
see them only as indefinite masses of nebulousness, and it became more
and more difficult to judge how near to or how far from them we were.
An entry in my log, made at 10:20, says, "_No observations, and dead
reckoning apparently out. Could not get above clouds for sunset. Will
wait check by stars._"

An hour later we had climbed to five thousand two hundred feet. But
still we found clouds above us; and we continued to rise, so as to be
above them in time for some early observations on the stars.

It was now quite dark; and as we droned our isolated way eastward
and upward, nothing could be seen outside the cockpit, except the
inner struts, the engines, the red-glowing vapor ejected through the
exhaust pipes, and portions of the wings, which glistened in the dim

I waited impatiently for the first sight of the moon, the Pole Star,
and other night-time friends of every navigator.

[Footnote 1: Position.]

                               CHAPTER V


Midnight came and went amid sullen darkness, modified only by dim
moonlight and the red radiance that spurted from the motors' exhaust

By then we must have climbed to about six thousand feet, although my
log shows no record of our height at this stage. Meanwhile, we were
still between upper and lower ranges of cloud banks.

At a quarter past twelve Alcock took the Vickers-Vimy through the upper
range, only to find a third layer of clouds, several thousand feet
higher. This, however, was patchy and without continuity, so that I was
able to glimpse the stars from time to time.

At 12:25 I identified through a gap to north-eastward Vega, which shone
very brightly high in the heavens, and the Pole Star. With their help,
and that of a cloud horizon that was clearly defined in the moonlight,
not far below our level, I used the sextant to fix our position.

This I found was latitude 50° 7´ N. and longitude 31° W., showing that
we had flown 850 nautical miles, at an average speed of 106 knots. We
were slightly to the south of the correct course, which fact I made
known to Alcock in a note, with penciled corrections for remedying the

Most of my "dead reckoning" calculations were short of our actual
position because, influenced by meteorological predictions based on
the weather reports at St. John's, I had allowed for a falling off in
the strength of the wind, and this had not occurred. Having found the
stars and checked our position and direction, the urgent necessity
to continue climbing no longer existed. Alcock had been nursing his
engines very carefully, and to reduce the strain on them he let the
machine lose height slowly. At 1:20 A. M. we were down to four thousand
feet, and an hour later we had dropped yet four hundred feet lower.


The clouds overhead were still patchy, clusters of stars lightening the
intervals between them. But the Vickers-Vimy, at its then height, was
moving through a sea of fog, which prevented effective observation.
This I made known to the pilot in a message: "_Can get no good
readings. Observation too indefinite._"

The moon was in evidence for about an hour and a half, radiating a
misty glow over the semi-darkness and tinging the cloud-tips with
variations of silver, gold and soft red. Whenever directly visible it
threw the moving shadows of the Vickers-Vimy on to the clouds below.

Mostly I could see the moon by looking over the machine's starboard
planes. I tried to sight on it for latitude, but the horizon was still
too indefinite.

An aura of unreality seemed to surround us as we flew onward towards
the dawn and Ireland. The fantastic surroundings impinged on my alert
consciousness as something extravagantly abnormal--the distorted ball
of a moon, the weird half-light, the monstrous cloud-shapes, the fog
below and around us, the misty indefiniteness of space, the changeless
drone, drone, drone of the motors.

To take my mind from the strangeness of it all, I turned to the small
food-cupboard at the back of the cockpit. Twice during the night we
drank and ate in snatches, Alcock keeping a hand on the joystick while
using his other to take the sandwiches, chocolate and thermos flask,
which I passed to him one at a time.

Outside the cockpit was bitter cold, but inside was well-sheltered
warmth, due to the protective windscreen, the nearness of the radiator,
and our thick clothing. Almost our only physical discomfort resulted
from the impossibility of any but cramped movements. It was a relief
even to turn from one motor to the other, when examining them by the
light of my electric torch.

After several hours in the confined quarters, I wanted to kick out, to
walk, to stretch myself. For Alcock, who never removed his feet from
the rudder-bars, the feeling of restiveness must have been painfully

It was extraordinary that during the sixteen hours of the flight
neither Alcock nor I felt the least desire for sleep. During the war,
pilots and observers of night-bombing craft, their job completed, often
suffered intensely on the homeward journey, from the effort of will
necessary to fight the drowsiness induced by relaxed tension and the
monotonous, never-varying hum of the motor--and this after only four to
six hours of continuous flying.

Probably, however, such tiredness was mostly reaction and mental
slackening after the object of their journeys--the bombing of a
target--had been achieved. Our own object would not be achieved until
we saw Ireland beneath us; and it could not be achieved unless we kept
our every faculty concentrated on it all the time. There was therefore
no mental reaction during our long period of wakeful flying over the

We began to think about sunrise and the new day. We had been flying for
over ten hours; and the next ten would bring success or failure. We
had more than enough petrol to complete the long journey, for Alcock
had treated the engines very gently, never running them all out, but
varying the power from half to three-quarter throttle. Our course
seemed satisfactory, and the idea of failure was concerned only with
the chance of engine mishap, such as had befallen Hawker and Grieve, or
of something entirely unforeseen.

Something entirely unforeseen did happen. At about sunrise--3:10 A. M.
to be exact--when we were between thirty-five hundred and four thousand
feet, we ran into a thick bank that projected above the lower layer of
cloud. All around was dense, drifting vapor, which cut off from our
range of vision even the machine's wing tips and the fore end of the

This was entirely unexpected; and, separated suddenly from external
guidance, we lost our instinct of balance. The machine, left to its own
devices, swung, flew amok, and began to perform circus tricks.

Until we should see either the horizon or the sky or the sea, and
thus restore our sense of the horizontal, we could tell only by the
instruments what was happening to the Vickers-Vimy. Unless there be
outside guidance, the effect on the Augean canal in one's ears of the
centrifugal force developed by a turn in a cloud causes a complete loss
of dimensional equilibrium, so that one is inclined to think that an
aëroplane is level even when it is at a big angle with the horizontal.
The horizontal, in fact, seems to be inside the machine.

A glance at the instruments on the dashboard facing us made it obvious
that we were not flying level. The air speed crept up to ninety knots,
while Alcock was trying to restore equilibrium. He pulled back the
control lever; but apparently the air speed meter was jammed, for
although the Vickers-Vimy must have nosed upwards, the reading remained
at ninety.

And then we stalled--that is to say our speed dropped below the minimum
necessary for heavier-than-air flight. The machine hung motionless for
a second, after which it heeled over and fell into what was either a
spinning nosedive, or a very steep spiral.

The compass needle continued to revolve rapidly, showing that the
machine was swinging as it dropped; but, still hemmed in as we were by
the thick vapor, we could not tell how, or in which direction we were

Before the pilot could reduce the throttle, the roar of the motors
had almost doubled in volume, and instead of the usual 1650 to 1700
revolutions per minute, they were running at about 2200 revolutions per
minute. Alcock shut off the throttles, and the vibration ceased.

Apart from the changing levels marked by the aneroid, only the fact
that our bodies were pressed tightly against the seats indicated that
the machine was falling. How and at what angle it was falling, we knew
not. Alcock tried to centralize the controls, but failed because we had
lost all sense of what was central. I searched in every direction for
an external sign, and saw nothing but opaque nebulousness.

The aneroid, meantime, continued to register a height that dropped
ever lower and alarmingly lower--three thousand, two thousand, one
thousand, five hundred feet. I realized the possibility that we might
hit the ocean at any moment, if the aneroid's exactitude had been
affected by differences between the barometric conditions of our
present position and those of St. John's, where the instrument was set.

A more likely danger was that our cloud might stretch down to the
surface of the ocean; in which case Alcock, having obtained no sight of
the horizon, would be unable to counteract the spin in time.

I made ready for the worst, loosening my safety belt and preparing to
salve my notes of the flight. All precautions would probably have been
unavailing, however, for had we fallen into the sea, there would have
been small hope of survival. We were on a steep slant, and even had we
escaped drowning when first submerged, the dice would be heavily loaded
against the chance of rescue by a passing ship.

And then while these thoughts were chasing each other across my mind,
we left the cloud as suddenly as we had entered it. We were now less
than a hundred feet from the ocean. The sea-surface did not appear
below the machine, but, owing to the wide angle at which we were
tilted against the horizontal, seemed to stand up level, sideways to us.

Alcock looked at the ocean and the horizon, and almost instantaneously
regained his mental equilibrium in relation to external balance.
Fortunately the Vickers-Vimy maneuvers quickly, and it responded
rapidly to Alcock's action in centralizing the control lever and rudder
bar. He opened up the throttles. The motors came back to life, and the
danger was past. Once again disaster had been averted by the pilot's
level-headedness and skill.

When at last the machine swung back to the level and flew parallel with
the Atlantic, our height was fifty feet. It appeared as if we could
stretch downward and almost touch the great white-caps that crested the
surface. With the motors shut off we could actually _hear_ the voice of
the cheated ocean as its waves swelled, broke, and swelled again.

The compass needle, which had continued to swing, now stabilized itself
and quivered toward the west, showing that the end of the spin left
us facing America. As we did not want to return to St. John's, and
earnestly wanted to reach Ireland, Alcock turned the machine in a wide
semi-circle and headed eastward, while climbing away from the ocean and
towards the lowest clouds.

                              CHAPTER VI


Sunrise made itself known to us merely as a gradual lightening that
showed nothing but clouds, above and below. The sun itself was nowhere

We seemed to be flying in and out of dense patches of cloud; for every
now and then we would pass through a white mountain, emerge into a
small area of clear atmosphere, and then be confronted with another
enormous barrier of nebulousness.

The indefiniteness of dawn disappointed my hopes of taking
observations. Already at three o'clock I had scribbled a note to the
pilot: "_Immediately you see sun rising, point machine straight towards
it, and we'll get compass bearings._" I had already worked out a table
of hours, angles and azimuths of the sun at its rising, to serve as a
check upon our position; but, as things happened, I was obliged to
resume navigation by means of "dead reckoning."

A remark written in my log at twenty minutes past four was that the
Vickers-Vimy had climbed to six thousand five hundred feet, and
was above the lower range of clouds. For the rest, the three hours
that followed sunrise I remember chiefly as a period of envelopment
by clouds, and ever more clouds. Soon, as we continued to climb,
the machine was traveling through a mist of uniform thickness that
completely shut off from our range of vision everything outside a
radius of a few yards from the wing-tips.

And then came a spell of bad weather, beginning with heavy rain,
and continuing with snow. The downpour seemed to meet us almost
horizontally, owing to the high speed of the machine, as compared with
the rate of only a few feet per second at which the rain and snow fell.

The snow gave place to hail, mingled with sleet. The sheltered position
of the cockpit, and the stream-lining of the machine, kept us free from
the downfall so long as we remained seated; but if we exposed a hand
or a face above the windscreen's protection, it would meet scores of
tingling stabs from the hailstones.

When we had reached a height of eight thousand eight hundred feet, I
discovered that the glass face of the gasoline overflow gauge, which
showed whether or not the supply of fuel for the motors was correct,
had become obscured by clotted snow. To guard against carburetor
trouble, it was essential that the pilot should be able to read the
gauge at any moment. It was up to me, therefore, to clear away the snow
from the glass.

The gauge was fixed on one of the center section struts. The only way
to reach it was by climbing out of the cockpit and kneeling on top of
the fuselage, while holding on to a strut for balance. This I did;
and the unpleasant change from the comparative warmth of the cockpit
to the biting, icy cold outside was very unpleasant. The violent rush
of displaced air, which tended to sweep me backward, was another

I had no difficulty, however, in reaching upward and rubbing the snow
from the face of the gauge. Until the storm ended, a repetition of this
performance at fairly frequent intervals continued to be necessary.
There was, however, scarcely any danger in kneeling on the fuselage as
long as Alcock kept the machine level.

Every now and then we examined the motors; for on them depended whether
the next four hours would bring success or failure. Meantime, we were
still living for the moment; and although I was intensely glad that
four-fifths of the ocean had been crossed, I could afford to spare
no time for speculation on what a safe arrival would mean to us. As
yet, neither of us was aware of the least sign of weariness, mental or

When I had nothing more urgent on hand, I listened at the wireless
receiver but I heard no message for us from beginning to end of the
flight. Any kind of communication with ship or shore would have been
welcome, as a reminder that we were not altogether out of touch with
the world below. The complete absence of such contact made it seem that
nobody cared a darn about us.

The entry that I scribbled in my log at 6:20 A. M. was that we had
reached a height of nine thousand four hundred feet, and were still in
drifting cloud, which was sometimes so thick that it cut off from view
parts of the Vickers-Vimy. Snow was still falling, and the top sides of
the plane were covered completely by a crusting of frozen sleet.

The sleet imbedded itself in the hinges of the ailerons and jammed
them, so that for about an hour the machine had scarcely any lateral
control. Fortunately the Vickers-Vimy has plenty of inherent lateral
stability; and, as the rudder controls were never clogged by sleet, we
were able to carry on with caution.

Alcock continued to climb steadily, so as to get above the seemingly
interminable clouds and let me have a clear sky for purposes of
navigation. At five o'clock, when we were in the levels round about
eleven thousand feet, I caught the sun for a moment--just a pin-point
glimmer through a cloud-gap. There was no horizon; but I was able to
obtain a reading with the help of my Abney spirit level.

This observation gave us a position close to the Irish coast. Yet I
could not be sure of just where we were on the line indicated by it. We
therefore remained at eleven thousand feet until, at 7:20 A. M., I had
definitely fixed the position line. This accomplished, I scribbled the
following message and handed it across to the pilot:

"_We had better go lower down, where the air is warmer, and where we
might pick up a steamer._"

Just as we had started to nose downward, the starboard motor began to
pop ominously, as if it were backfiring through one of its carburetors.
Alcock throttled back while keeping the machine on a slow glide. The
popping thereupon ceased.

By eight o'clock we had descended from eleven thousand to one thousand
feet, where the machine was still surrounded by cloudy vapor. Here,
however, the atmosphere was much warmer, and the ailerons were again

Alcock was feeling his way down gently and alertly, not knowing whether
the cloud extended to the ocean, nor at what moment the machine's
undercarriage might touch the waves. He had loosened his safety belt,
and was ready to abandon ship if we hit the water. I myself felt
uncomfortable about the danger of sudden immersion, for it was very
possible that a change in barometric conditions could have made the
aneroid show a false reading.



But once again we were lucky. At a height of five hundred feet the
Vickers-Vimy emerged from the pall of cloud, and we saw the ocean--a
restless surface of dull gray. Alcock at once opened up the
throttles, and both motors responded. Evidently a short rest had been
all that the starboard motor needed when it began to pop, for it now
gave no further signs of trouble.

I reached for the Drift Bearing Plate, and after observation on the
ocean, found that we were moving on a course seventy-five degrees true,
at one hundred and ten knots ground speed with a wind of thirty knots
from the direction of two hundred and fifteen degrees true. I had been
reckoning on a course of seventy-seven degrees true, with calculations
based on our midnight position; so that evidently we were north of the
prescribed track. Still, we were not so far north as to miss Ireland,
which fact was all that mattered to any extent.

In my correction of the compass bearing, I could only guess at the
time when the wind had veered from its earlier direction. I made the
assumption that the northerly drift had existed ever since my sighting
on the Pole Star and Vega during the night, and I reckoned that our
position at eight o'clock would consequently be about fifty-four
degrees N. latitude, ten degrees thirty min. W. longitude. Taking these
figures, and with the help of the navigation machine, which rested
on my knees, I calculated that our course to Galway was about one
hundred and twenty-five degrees true. Allowing for variation and wind I
therefore set a compass course of one hundred and seventy degrees, and
indicated to the pilot the necessary change in direction by means of
the following note and diagram:

[Illustration: "_Make course_
"_Don't be afraid of going S. We have had too much N. already._"]

Alcock nodded and ruddered the Vickers-Vimy around gently, until its
compass showed a reading of 170 degrees.

My calculations, if correct, proved that we were quite close to Ireland
and journey's end. As we flew eastward, just below the lowest clouds
and from two hundred to three hundred feet above the sea, we strained
our eyes for a break in the monotonous vista of gray waves; but we
could find not even a ship.

Although neither of us felt hungry, we decided to breakfast at eight
o'clock, partly to kill time and partly to take our minds from the
rising excitement induced by the hope that we might sight land at any
instant. I placed a sandwich, followed by some chocolate, in Alcock's
left hand. His right hand remained always on the control lever and his
feet on the rudder bar.

At no time during the past sixteen hours had the pilot's hands and
feet left the controls. This was a difficult achievement for such a
long period, especially as a rubber device, fitted to ease the strain,
proved to be valueless. Elastic, linked to a turnbuckle, had been
attached to the control lever and rudder bar; but in the hurry that
preceded our departure from St. John's, the elastic was cut too short.
All the weight of the controls, therefore, bore directly on the pilot.

The machine now tended to sag downward, being nose-heavy because its
incidence had changed, owing to the gradual alteration in the center
of gravity as the rear gasoline tanks emptied. Alcock was thus obliged
to exert continuous backward pressure on the control lever.

I had screwed on the lids of the thermos flask, and was placing the
remains of the food in the tiny cupboard behind my seat, when Alcock
grabbed my shoulder, twisted me round, beamed excitedly, and pointed
ahead and below. His lips were moving, but whatever he said was
inaudible above the roar of the motors.

I followed the direction indicated by his outstretched fore-finger;
and, barely visible through the mist, it showed me two tiny specks
of--_land_. This happened at 8:15 A. M. on June 15th.

With a light heart, I put away charts and tables of calculation, and
disregarded the compass needle. My work as navigator of the flight was
at an end.

                              CHAPTER VII

                              THE ARRIVAL

Alcock flew straight for the specks of land, which revealed themselves
as two tiny islands--Ecshal and Turbot, as we afterwards discovered. In
his log of the return flight, from New York to Norfolk, of the British
airship _R-34_, Brigadier-General Maitland, C. M. G., D. S. O., notes
the curious coincidence that his first sight of land was when these
same two islands appeared on the starboard bow of the dirigible.

From above the islands the mainland was visible, and we steered for the
nearest point on it. The machine was still just underneath the clouds,
and flying at two hundred and fifty feet; from which low height I saw
plainly the white breakers foaming on to the shore. We crossed the
coast of Ireland at 8:25 A. M.

I was then uncertain of our exact location, and suggested to Alcock
that the best plan would be to find a railway line and follow it
south. A few minutes later, however, the wireless masts at Clifden gave
the key to our position. To attract attention, I fired two red flares
from the Very pistol; but as they seemed to be unnoticed from the
ground, we circled over the village of Clifden, about two miles from
the wireless station.

Although slightly off our course when we reached the coast, we were in
the direct line of flight for Galway, at which place I had calculated
to hit Ireland. Not far ahead we could see a cluster of hills, with
their tops lost in low-lying clouds.

Here and elsewhere the danger of running into high ground hidden from
sight by the mist would have been great, had we continued to fly across
Ireland. Alcock, therefore, decided to land.

If the atmosphere had been clearer, we could easily have reached
London before touching earth, for the tanks of the Vickers-Vimy still
contained enough gasoline to keep the machine in the air for ten hours
longer. Thus, had we lost our way over the ocean, there would have been
a useful margin of time for cruising about in search of ships.

Having made up our minds to land at once, we searched below for
a smooth stretch of ground. The most likely looking place in the
neighborhood of Clifden was a field near the wireless station. With
engines shut off, we glided towards it, heading into the wind.

Alcock flattened out at exactly the right moment. The machine sank
gently, the wheels touched earth and began to run smoothly over the
surface. Already I was indulging in the comforting reflection that
the anxious flight had ended with a perfect landing. Then, so softly
as not to be noticed at first, the front of the Vickers-Vimy tilted
inexplicably, while the tail rose. Suddenly the craft stopped with an
unpleasant squelch, tipped forward, shook itself, and remained poised
on a slant, with its fore-end buried in the ground, as if trying to
stand on its head.

I reached out a hand and arm just in time to save a nasty bump when the
shock threw me forward. As it was, I only stopped a jarring collision
with the help of my nose. Alcock had braced himself against the rudder
control bar. The pressure he exerted against it to save himself from
falling actually bent the straight bar, which was of hollow steel,
almost into the shape of a horse-shoe.

Deceived by its smooth appearance, we had landed on top of a bog;
which misfortune made the first non-stop transatlantic flight finish
in a crash. It was pitiful to see the distorted shape of the aëroplane
that had brought us from America, as it sprawled in ungainly manner
over the sucking surface. The machine's nose and its lower wings were
deep in the bog. The empty cockpit in front, used in a Vickers-Vimy
bomber by the observer, was badly bent; but, being of steel, it did not
collapse. Quite possibly we owe our lives to this fact. In passing,
and while gripping firmly my wooden penholder (for the year is not yet
over), I consider it extraordinary that no lives have been lost in the
transatlantic flights of 1919.

The leading edge of the lower plane was bent in some places and smashed
in others, the gasoline connections had snapped, and four of the
propeller blades were buried in the ground, although none were broken.
That about completed the record of preliminary damage.

We had landed at 8:40 A. M., after being in the air for sixteen
hours and twenty-eight minutes. The flight from coast to coast, on
a straight course of one thousand six hundred and eighty nautical
miles, lasted only fifteen hours and fifty-seven minutes, our average
speed being one hundred and five to one hundred and six knots. For
this relatively rapid performance, a strong following wind was largely

As a result of the burst connections from tank to carburetor, gasoline
began to swill into the rear cockpit while we were still inside it.
Very fortunately the liquid did not ignite. Alcock had taken care to
switch off the current on the magnetos, as soon as he realized that
a crash was imminent, so that the sparks should have no chance of
starting a fire.

We scrambled out as best we could, and lost no time in salving the
mailbag and our instruments. The gasoline rose rapidly, and it was
impossible to withdraw my chart and the Baker navigating machine before
they had been damaged.

I then fired two white Very flares, as a signal for help. Almost
immediately a small party, composed of officers and men belonging
to the military detachment at Clifden, approached from the wireless

"Anybody hurt?"--the usual inquiry when an aëroplane is crashed--was
the first remark when they arrived within shouting distance.


"Where you from?"--this when they had helped us to clear the cockpit.


Somebody laughed politely, as if in answer to an attempt at
facetiousness that did not amount to much, but that ought to be taken
notice of, anyhow, for the sake of courtesy. Quite evidently nobody
received the statement seriously at first. Even a mention of our names
meant nothing to them, and they remained unconvinced until Alcock
showed them the mail-bag from St. John's. Then they relieved their
surprised feelings by spontaneous cheers and painful hand-shakes, and
led us to the officers' mess for congratulations and hospitality.

Burdened as we were with flying kit and heavy boots, the walk over the
bog was a dragging discomfort. In addition, I suddenly discovered an
intense sleepiness, and could easily have let myself lose consciousness
while standing upright.

Arrived at the station, our first act was to send telegrams to the firm
of Messrs. Vickers, Ltd., which built the Vickers-Vimy, to the London
_Daily Mail_, which promoted the transatlantic competition, and to the
Royal Aëro Club, which controlled it.

My memories of that day are dim and incomplete. I felt a keen sense
of relief at being on land again; but this was coupled with a certain
amount of dragging reaction from the tense mental concentration
during the flight, so that my mind sagged. I was very sleepy, but not
physically tired.

We lurched as we walked, owing to the stiffness that resulted from
our having sat in the tiny cockpit for seventeen hours. Alcock, who
during the whole period had kept his feet on the rudder bar and one
hand on the control lever, would not confess to anything worse than
a desire to stand up for the rest of his life--or at least until he
could sit down painlessly. My hands were very unsteady. My mind was
quite clear on matters pertaining to the flight, but hazy on extraneous
subjects. After having listened so long to the loud-voiced hum of the
Rolls-Royce motors, made louder than ever by the broken exhaust pipe on
the starboard side, we were both very deaf, and our ears would not stop

Later in the day we motored to Galway with a representative of the
London _Daily Mail_. It was a strange but very welcome change to see
solid objects flashing past us, instead of miles upon monotonous miles
of drifting, cloudy vapor.

Several times during that drive I lost the thread of connection with
tangible surroundings, and lived again in near retrospect the fantastic
happenings of the day, night and morning that had just passed.
Subconsciously I still missed the rhythmic, relentless drone of the
Rolls-Royce aëro-engines. My eyes had not yet become accustomed to the
absence of clouds around and below, and my mind felt somehow lost,
now that it was no longer preoccupied with heavenly bodies, horizon,
time, direction, charts, drift, tables of calculations, sextant,
spirit level, compass, aneroid, altimeter, wireless receiver and the

For a while, in fact, the immediate past seemed more prominent than
the immediate present. Lassitude of mind, coupled with reaction from
the long strain of tense and unbroken concentration on one supreme
objective, made me lose my grip of normal continuity, so that I
answered questions mechanically and wanted to avoid the effort of
talk. The outstanding events and impressions of the flight--for example
the long spin from four thousand to fifty feet, and the sudden sight of
the white-capped ocean at the end of it--passed and repassed across my
consciousness. I do not know whether Alcock underwent the same mental
processes, but he remained very silent. Above all I felt the need of
reëstablishing normal balance by means of sleep.

The wayside gatherings seemed especially unreal--almost as if they
had been scenes on the film. By some extraordinary method of news
transmission the report of our arrival had spread all over the
district, and in many districts between Clifden and Galway curious
crowds had gathered. Near Galway we were stopped by another automobile,
in which was Major Mays of the Royal Aëro Club, whose duty it was to
examine the seals on the Vickers-Vimy, thus making sure that we had
not landed in Ireland in a machine other than that in which we left
Newfoundland. A reception had been prepared at Galway; but our hosts,
realizing how tired we must be, considerately made it a short and
informal affair. Afterwards we slept--for the first time in over forty

                             CHAPTER VIII

                         AFTERMATH OF ARRIVAL

Alcock and I awoke to find ourselves in a wonderland of seeming
unreality--the product of violent change from utter isolation during
the long flight to unexpected contact with crowds of people interested
in us.

To begin with, getting up in the morning, after a satisfactory sleep
of nine hours, was strange. In our eastward flight of two thousand
miles we had overtaken time, in less than the period between one
sunset and another, to the extent of three and a half hours. Our
physical systems having accustomed themselves to habits regulated by
the clocks of Newfoundland, we were reluctant to rise at 7 A. M.; for
subconsciousness suggested that it was but 3:30 A. M.

[Illustration: © Underwood & Underwood, N. Y.


This difficulty of adjustment to the sudden change in time lasted
for several days. Probably it will be experienced by all passengers
traveling on the rapid trans-ocean air services of the future--those
who complete a westward journey becoming early risers without effort,
those who land after an eastward flight becoming unconsciously lazy in
the mornings, until the jolting effect of the dislocation wears off,
and habit has accustomed itself to the new conditions.

Then, after breakfast--eaten in an atmosphere of the deepest
content--there began a succession of congratulatory ovations. For these
we were totally unprepared; and with our relaxed minds, we could not
easily adapt ourselves to the conditions attendant upon being magnets
of the world's attentive curiosity.

First came a reception from the town of Galway, involving many
addresses and the presentation of a memento in the form of a Claddagh
ring, which had historical connections with a landing on the coast of
Ireland thereabouts by vessels of the Spanish Armada.

The warm-hearted crowd that we found waiting at Galway Station both
amazed and daunted us. We were grateful for their loud appreciation,
but scarcely able to respond to it adequately. Flowers were offered,
and we met the vanguard of the autograph hunters. We must have signed
our names hundreds of times during the journey to Dublin--on books,
cards, old envelopes and scraps of paper of every shape and every state
of cleanliness. This we did wonderingly, not yet understanding why so
many people should ask for our signatures, when three days earlier few
people had heard of our names.

The men, women and children that thronged every station on the way to
Dublin seemed to place a far higher value on our success than we did
ourselves. Until now, perhaps, we had been too self-centered to realize
that other people might be particularly interested in a flight from
America to England. We had finished the job we wanted to do, and could
not comprehend why it should lead to fuss.

Now, however, I know that the crowds saw more clearly than I did,
and that their cheers were not for us personally, but for what they
regarded as a manifestation of the spirit of adventure, the True
Romance--call it what you will. For the moment this elusive ideal was
suggested to them by the first non-stop journey by air across the
Atlantic, which we had been fortunate enough to make.

At one station, where a military band played our train in and out
again, a wooden model of an aëroplane was presented to Alcock by a
schoolboy. At Dublin, reached on the morning of Trinity Sunday, Alcock
and I passed with difficulty through the welcoming crowds, and drove
towards the Automobile Club in separate cars. In due course, I reached
sanctuary; but where was Alcock? We waited and waited, and finally sent
out scouts to search for him. They came back with the news that he had
been kidnapped, and taken to Commons in Trinity College.

Landing at Holyhead next morning, we were welcomed back to the shores
of England by Mr. R. K. Pierson, designer of our Vickers-Vimy machine,
by Captain Vickers, of the famous firm that built it, and by Mr. C.
Johnson, of the Rolls-Royce Company that supplied our motors. Scenes
all along the line to London were a magnified repetition of those from
Galway to Dublin. Chester, Crewe, Rugby and other towns each sent its
Mayor or another representative to the station. Aëroplanes escorted the
train all the way to London. Again we could only play our part in a
more or less dazed state of grateful wonder.

Of the warm-hearted welcome of the people of London, I have confused
recollections that include more receptions, more and larger crowds,
more stormy greetings, and an exciting, pleasant drive to the Royal
Aëro Club. Alcock delivered to the postal authorities the mail-bag from
St. John's, with regrets that it had not been possible to fly direct to
London with the letters. In the evening we separated, Alcock to see a
big prize fight, I to visit my fiancée.

Perhaps the welcome that we appreciated most was that given us next day
when, at the Weybridge works of the Vickers Company, we were cheered
and cheered by the men and girls who had built our transatlantic craft.
We were glad indeed to be able to tell them and the designer of the
machine that their handiwork had stood a difficult test magnificently,
as had the Rolls-Royce engines. One of my most sincere reasons for
satisfaction was that the late Mr. Albert Vickers, one of the founders
of the great firm, regarded the flights as having maintained the
Vickers tradition of efficiency, originality and good workmanship.

That Lieutenant-Commander Read, U.S.N., who commanded the American
flying boat _N. C. 4_ in its flight from America to England, had left
London before our arrival was a cause of real regret. Both Alcock and
I were anxious to meet him and his crew, so that we might compare our
respective experiences of aërial navigation and of weather conditions
over the Atlantic. The United States aviators who flew to Europe, and
those that were so unlucky in coming to grief at the Azores, showed
themselves to be real sportsmen; and without any exception, there was
the best possible feeling between them and all the British aviators who
made, or attempted to make, a non-stop journey from Newfoundland to

Although I am supremely glad to have had the opportunity of flying the
Atlantic by aëroplane, afterthoughts on the risks and chances taken
have convinced me that, while our own effort may have been useful as a
pioneer demonstration, single or twin engine aircraft are altogether
unsuitable for trans-ocean voyages. We were successful--yes. But a
temporary failure of either of our motors (although this is unlikely
when dealing with Rolls-Royce or other first-class aëro motors) would
have meant certain disaster and likely death.

Another vital drawback of the smaller machines is that so much space,
and so much disposable lift, is needed for fuel that the number of
persons on board must be limited to two, or in some cases three, and
no freight can be taken. Yet another is that should the navigator of
an aëroplane make an important error in calculation while flying over
the ocean in fog or mist, an enforced descent into the water, after the
limited quantity of fuel has been expended over a wrong course, is more
than possible.

In the present condition of practical aëronautics, the only
heavier-than-air craft likely to be suitable for flying the Atlantic
are the large flying boats now being built by various aircraft
companies; and even they are limited as to size by certain definite
formulæ. The development in the near future of long flights over the
ocean would seem, therefore, to be confined to lighter-than-air craft.

In this connection the two voyages across the Atlantic of the British
government airship R-34, not long after Alcock and I had returned to
London, was a big step towards the age of regular air service between
Britain and America. With five motors the _R-34_ could carry on if one,
or even two of them were out of action. In fact, on its return flight,
one motor broke down beyond the possibility of immediate repair;
although there were ample facilities and an ample crew for effecting
immediate repairs in the air. Yet she completed her journey without
difficulty. With a disposable lift of twenty-nine tons, the airship
carried plenty of fuel for all contingencies, an adequate crew, and
heavy wireless apparatus that could not have been fitted on the larger

Despite all this preliminary weight, a large collection of parcels,
letters and newspapers were taken from America to England in record
time. Had the weather conditions been at all suitable she could easily
have brought the mail direct from New York to London by air. All honor
to General Maitland, Major Scott and the other men who carried out this
astonishing demonstration so early as July, 1919.

Even vessels of the _R-34_ type, however, are quite unsuitable for
regular traffic across the Atlantic. Much bigger craft will be needed
if the available space and the disposable lift are to be sufficient for
the carrying of freight or passengers on a commercial basis. Already
the construction of airships two and a half and five times the size
of the _R-34_, with approximate disposable lifts of one hundred and
two hundred tons respectively, is projected. When such craft are
accomplished facts, and when further progress has been made in solving
weather and navigation problems, we may look for transatlantic flights
on a commercial basis.

                              CHAPTER IX

                      THE NAVIGATION OF AIRCRAFT

I do not claim to be an especial authority on the theory of
navigation--indeed, it was as a prisoner of war that I first took up
seriously the study of that science. But I believe that sustained
and sufficient concentration can give a man what he wants; and on
this assumption I decided to learn whatever might be learned about
navigation as applied to aircraft. As yet, like most aspects of
aëronautics, this is rather indefinite, although research and specially
adapted instruments will probably make it as exact as marine navigation.

Navigation is the means whereby the mariner or aviator ascertains
his position on the surface of the earth, and determines the exact
direction in which he must head his craft in order to reach its

The methods of navigation employed by mariners are the result of
centuries of research and invention, but have not yet reached
finality--witness the introduction within the last few years of the
Gyroscopic Compass and the Directional Wireless Telegraph Apparatus, as
well as of improved methods of calculation.

In short journeys over land by aëroplane or airship the duties of a
navigator are light, so long as he can see the ground and check his
progress towards the objective by observation and a suitable map.

But for long distance flights, especially over the ocean and under
circumstances whereby the ground cannot be seen, the navigator of the
air borrows much from the navigator of the sea. He makes modifications
and additions, necessitated by the different conditions of keeping to
a set course through the atmosphere and of keeping to a set course
through the ocean but the principles underlying the two forms of
navigation are identical.

It is impossible to explain aërial navigation without seeming
to paraphrase other writers on the subject. One of the simplest
explanations of the science is that of Lieutenant Commander K.
Mackenzie Grieve in "Our Atlantic Attempt," which he wrote in
collaboration with Mr. Harry Hawker, his pilot, after their glorious
attempt to win the London _Daily Mail's_ transatlantic competition.

The chief differences between the navigation of aircraft and the
navigation of seacraft are occasioned by:

(a) The vastly greater speed of aircraft, necessitating more frequent
observations and quicker methods of calculation.

(b) The serious drift caused by the wind. This may take aircraft
anything up to forty or more miles off the course in each hour's
flying, according to the direction and strength of the wind. In cloudy
weather, or at night, a change in the wind can alter the drift without
the knowledge of the navigator. Hence, special precautions must be
taken to observe the drift at all possible times.

(c) The absence of need for extreme accuracy of navigation in the air,
since a ten or even twenty mile error from the destination in a long
journey is permissible. Another favorable point is that rocks, reefs
and shoals need not be avoided. This permits the aërial navigator
to use short cuts and approximations in calculation, which would be
criminal in marine navigation.

There are three methods of aërial navigation--"Dead Reckoning,"
Astronomical Observation, and Directional Wireless Telegraphy. None
should be used alone; for although accuracy may be obtained with any
single method, it is highly advisable to check each by means of the

As in the case of marine navigation, a reliable compass, either of
the magnetic or gyroscopic type, is essential for aërial navigation,
as well as an accurate and reliable chronometer. Suitable charts must
be provided, showing all parts of the route to be covered. When the
magnetic compass is used, such charts should show the variation between
True and Magnetic North at different points on the route.

                    NAVIGATION BY "DEAD RECKONING"

"Dead Reckoning" is the simplest method of navigation; and, under
favorable conditions, it gives a high degree of accuracy. A minimum of
observation is required, but careful calculation is essential.

The "Dead Reckoning" position of an aëroplane or airship at any time is
calculated from its known speed and direction over the surface of the
earth or ocean, and its known course as indicated by the magnetic or
gyroscopic compass.

To determine the direction of movement of an aëroplane or airship, as
apart from the direction in which it is headed, an instrument known as
a Drift Indicator, or Drift Bearing Plate, is used.

One form of Drift Indicator consists of a simple dial, with the center
cut away and a wire stretched diametrically across it. The outer edge
of the dial is divided into degrees, in a similar manner to that
of the compass. It is mounted in such a way that an observer can,
by looking through the center of the disc, see the ground or ocean
below him. The disc is then turned until objects on the ground--or
white-caps, icebergs, ships, or other objects visible on the surface
of the ocean--are seen to move parallel with the wire, without in any
way deviating from it. The angle which the wire then makes with the
direction in which the nose of the aëroplane or airship is pointing
gives the angle of drift.

The ground speed (or speed over the surface of the earth) of aircraft
can be measured by observing the time taken in passing over any fixed
or very slowly moving object, while a certain angular distance is
described--this being found by suitable sights, attached to the Drift
Bearing Plate. From the result, considered in conjunction with the
height of the aëroplane or airship, the actual speed over the surface
is calculated. This speed will be in the direction shown by the wire of
the Drift Bearing Plate.

The ground speed so found will differ nearly always from the air speed,
as shown by the air speed meter, because of the effect of the wind. The
difference is greater or less according to the wind's relation to the
direction in which the aëroplane or airship is headed.

Having found by observation the drift, the ground speed and the air
speed, a simple instrument such as the Appleyard Course and Distance
Calculator then permits the aërial navigator to discover without
difficulty, as on a slide rule, the strength and direction of the
wind. Should the actual track of aircraft over the earth's surface not
coincide with the desired course, the Course and Distance Calculator,
or a similar instrument, can thus be used to calculate, in connection
with the wind velocity and direction already found, the direction in
which the nose of the craft must be pointed in order to correct the
deviation due to drift.



Knowing the latitude and longitude of the point of departure,
and noting carefully the time that elapses between each separate
observation of the ground speed and of the course, the air navigator,
with the aid of a specially prepared set of "traverse tables" (as used
by mariners), can easily plot on his chart the distance covered and
the direction in which it has been covered. Hence the position of the
aircraft at any time is either known definitely, or can be forecast
with a fair degree of accuracy.

For aërial navigation by means of "Dead Reckoning," frequent
observations of ground speed and drift are necessary. If aircraft are
cut off by clouds or fog from all possibility of sighting the surface
of the earth, grave errors may occur, since in long distance flights
the wind's velocity and direction often change without the pilot's


In navigation by astronomical observation, the position of the
aëroplane or airship is found by observing the height above the horizon
of either the sun or another heavenly body, such as a star that is
easy of recognition. The method depends upon the known fact that at
any given instant the sun is vertically above some definite point on
the earth's surface. This point can be calculated from the time of the
observation and the declination and equation of time, as tabulated in
the nautical almanac.

In the case of stars, the right ascension of the sun and of the star
also enter into the calculation. The method of carrying out such
calculations is too involved for the scope of this volume, and the
reader is referred to many of the excellent text books published on the
subject of navigation.

Since the navigator knows, from the time of his observation, the point
on the earth's surface over which is the heavenly body in question, it
is clear that around this point circles on the surface of the earth
may be described. From any point in any one circle the heavenly body
will appear to have the same altitude or elevation above the horizon.
A single observation of the altitude of any one heavenly body shows,
therefore, only that the observer may be at any point on such a circle
of equal altitude--otherwise known as a Sumner circle. But it does not
fix that point.

A second simultaneous observation, of a different heavenly body, will
give a different circle, corresponding to the position of the second
body. The intersection of these two circles determines the point of

This fact constitutes a reliable basis for fixing one's position during
a clear night, when many stars are visible and choice of suitable
heavenly bodies may be made. During the day, however, the light of the
sun prevents other heavenly bodies from being seen, so that only a
single observation is possible.

If the aëroplane or airship were not moving, then two successive
observations of the sun, with an interval of an hour or more between
them, would give the intersecting circles and fix the position. But
the aircraft being in motion, it is necessary to combine the method
of "Dead Reckoning" with the use of the Sumner circles, as found by
observation of the sun's altitude.

In order to avoid drawing the entire circle, a small portion only of it
is shown on the chart--so small that it may be regarded as a straight
line. Such a small section of the Sumner circle is known as a "position

The desired track is laid out on the chart, and the "Dead Reckoning"
position for the time of the solar observation is indicated on it. The
track should be intersected at this point by the position line, the
observation thus forming a check upon the "Dead Reckoning."

The altitude of the sun or of a star is measured by the sextant. For
such an observation to be exact, it is necessary that not only should
the sun or stars be viewed clearly, but that a clear horizon, formed
either by the ocean or by suitable clouds, should be visible.

Corrections must be applied to the observed altitude for the aircraft's
height above the horizon, for refraction, and for the diameter of the
body under observation--the latter two corrections being given in the
nautical almanac. There may be, also, an error inherent in the sextant
itself. For extremely refined navigation, corrections are applied in
accordance with the direction and velocity of the aëroplane or airship;
but these are not really necessary, since navigation of aircraft does
not require such close calculation.

When the sun or star observed is directly south of the aërial navigator
in the northern hemisphere, or north of him in the southern hemisphere,
the altitude, corrected for declination of the body under observation,
gives the aircraft's latitude. When the navigator is directly east or
west, the altitude, corrected for the time of observation, gives its

If the horizon is invisible, owing to fogs or unsuitable clouds, it may
be replaced by means of a spirit level; but great care should be taken
in making such observations, since a spirit level on an aëroplane or
airship is not wholly reliable, unless the craft is proceeding in an
absolutely straight direction, and without sway of any kind.

All methods of navigation by Astronomical Observation fail when the
sky is obscured by clouds and the heavenly bodies cannot be seen. As
a general rule this drawback does not hamper air navigation to any
great extent, since aircraft should be able to climb above most of
the obscuring clouds. Yet it may happen, as it did in the case of our
transatlantic flight, that the clouds are too high for such a maneuver.

If it were possible to measure accurately the true bearing of the
sun or star at the moment of observation, then a single observation
of a single heavenly body would fix the position of the craft at the
intersection of the line of bearing with the position line. At the time
of writing, however, there are no satisfactory means of making such a
measurement with the required degree of accuracy. Apparatus which will
enable this to be done is now in course of development. Navigation by
means of astronomical observation will thereby be simplified greatly.


With the great improvements that have been made in the year 1919, the
guiding of aircraft by directional wireless telegraphy is rapidly
becoming a reliable and accurate means of aërial navigation. Although
complicated in design and construction, the complete receiving
equipment for aircraft is now light, compact, and simple of operation.



The receiving equipment on aëroplanes and airships is arranged so as to
indicate, with a comparatively high degree of accuracy, the direction
from which wireless signals are received. The position of the sending,
or beacon, station being known, the bearing of the aircraft from that
station may be plotted on a suitable chart, in which small segments of
great circles are represented by straight lines. Simultaneous bearings
on two known beacon stations are sufficient to fix the observer's
position with tolerable accuracy at the intersection of the lines of
bearing, provided that they intersect at a reasonable angle--45 degrees
or more, where possible.

With the very close tuning rendered possible by the use of continuous
waves, beacon stations of the future will probably be provided with
automatic means whereby directional signals can be sent out at
intervals of one hour or less. Such signals will be coded, so that
the crews of aircraft can identify the wireless station. The wave
lengths must be chosen so as not to interfere with messages sent from
commercial stations.

If there be a beacon station at the air navigator's destination, it
is possible for him to direct his course so that the craft is always
headed for the beacon; and in due time he will reach his objective.

This simple but lazy method, however, is not to be recommended; for,
owing to the action of the wind, the route covered is longer than the
straight course. To counteract drift and proceed in a direct line
towards his destination, the air navigator frequently has to direct his
course so that the craft is not headed straight for the objective.
Hence, with a single beacon station, frequent observations of drift are
necessary, if the shortest route is to be followed. Thus:

[Illustration: Approximate path taken by aircraft headed always towards
beacon station.]

[Illustration: Path taken by aircraft headed so as to counteract drift.]

When two or more beacon stations are available, and positions can be
ascertained at least once an hour, observation on the surface of the
ocean for drift, although desirable, is not absolutely necessary. The
drift may be calculated with accuracy enough from the craft's position
as found by the lines of bearing indicated in messages from the various
beacon stations.

Another method of employing the Wireless Direction Finder is for
aircraft to send out signals to two or more beacon stations, which
reply by advising the air navigator of his bearing in relation
to themselves. This is, perhaps, the most accurate method. Its
disadvantage lies in the fact that whereas the heavier and more robust
apparatus needed for it can easily be employed in the stationary
beacon stations, few aircraft will be able to support wireless sending
apparatus of sufficient weight to carry over the long distances they
must cover in trans-oceanic aërial travel.

The greatest advantage of air navigation by means of wireless
telegraphy is that it can be employed in any weather. Fogs and
clouds do not make it inoperative, nor even less accurate. Another
recommendation is that its use does not entail a knowledge of advanced
mathematics, as required for navigation by astronomical observation.

I believe firmly that the air navigator of the future will rely upon
the Wireless Direction Finder as his mainstay, while using astronomical
observation and the system of "Dead Reckoning" as checks upon the
wireless bearings given him, and as second and third strings to his
bow, in case the wireless receiving apparatus breaks down.

                               CHAPTER X


Although three pioneer flights were made across the Atlantic during the
summer of 1919, the year passed without bringing to light any immediate
prospect of an air service between Europe and America. Nor does 1920
seem likely to produce such a development on a regular basis.

Before a transatlantic airway is possible, much remains to be
done--organization, capitalization, government support, the charting
of air currents, the establishment of directional wireless stations,
research after improvements in the available material. All this
requires the spending of money; and for the moment neither governments
nor private interests are enamored of investments with a large element
of speculation.

But, sooner or later, a London-New York service of aircraft must be
established. Its advantages are too tremendous to be ignored for long.
Prediction is ever dangerous; and, meantime, I am confining myself
to a discussion of what can be done with the means and the knowledge
already at the disposal of experts, provided their brains are allied to
sufficient capital.

Notwithstanding that the first two flights across the Atlantic were
made respectively by a flying-boat and an aëroplane, it is very evident
that the future of transatlantic flight belongs to the airship. That
the apparatus in which Sir John Alcock and I made the first non-stop
air journey over the Atlantic was an aëroplane only emphasizes my
belief that for long flights above the ocean the dirigible is the
only useful vehicle. If science discovers some startlingly new motive
power--for example, intermolecular energy--that will revolutionize
mechanical propulsion, heavier-than-air craft may be as valuable
for long flights as for air traffic over shorter distances. Until
then trans-ocean flying on a commercial basis must be monopolized by
lighter-than-air craft.

The aëroplane--and in this general term I include the flying boat and
the seaplane--is impracticable as a means of transport for distances
over one thousand miles, because it has definite and scientific
limitations of size, and consequently of lift. The ratio of weight to
power would prevent a forty-ton aëroplane--which is approximately the
largest heavier-than-air craft that at present might be constructed
and effectively handled--from remaining aloft in still air for longer
than twenty-five hours, carrying a load of passengers and mails of
about five tons at an air speed of, say, eighty-five miles an hour. Its
maximum air distance, without landing to replenish the fuel supply,
would thus be two thousand, one hundred and twenty-five miles. For a
flight of twenty-five hundred miles all the disposable lift (gross
lift minus weight of structure) would be needed for crew and fuel, and
neither passengers nor freight could be taken aboard.

There is not in existence an aëroplane capable of flying, without
alighting on the way, the three thousand miles between London and New
York, even when loaded only with the necessary crew. With the very
smallest margin of safety no transatlantic route of over two thousand
miles is admissible for aëroplanes. This limitation would necessitate
time-losing and wearisome journeys between London and Ireland,
Newfoundland and New York, to and from the nearest points on either
side of the ocean. Even under these conditions only important mail or
valuable articles of little weight might be carried profitably.

As against these drawbacks, the larger types of airships have a radius
far wider than the Atlantic. Their only limit of size is concerned with
landing grounds and sheds; for the percentage of useful lift increases
with the bulk of the vessel, while the weight to power ratio decreases.
A voyage by dirigible can therefore be made directly from London to New
York, and far beyond it, without a halt.

Another advantage of lighter-than-air craft is that whereas the
restricted space on board an aëroplane leaves little for comfort and
convenience, a large rigid airship can easily provide first-rate
living, sleeping and dining quarters, besides room for the passengers
to take exercise by walking along the length of the inside keel, or on
the shelter deck. In a saloon at the top of the vessel no noise from
the engines would be heard, as must be the case in whatever quarters
could be provided on a passenger aëroplane.

Yet another point in favor of the airship as a medium for trans-ocean
flight is its greater safety. An aëroplane is entirely dependent for
sustentation in the air on the proper working of all its motors. Should
two motors--in some cases even one--break down, the result would be a
forced descent into the water, with the possibility of total loss on a
rough sea, even though the craft be a solid flying boat. In the case
of an airship the only result of the failure of any of the motors is
reduction of speed. Moreover, a speed of four-fifths of the maximum
can still be maintained with half the motors of an airship out of
action, so that there is no possibility of a forced descent owing to
engine breakdown. The sole result of such a mishap would be to delay
the vessel's arrival. Further, it may be noted that an airship's
machinery can be so arranged as to be readily accessible for repairs
and replacement while on a voyage.

As regards comparative speed the heavy type of aëroplane necessary to
carry an economical load for long distances would not be capable of
much more than eighty-five to ninety miles an hour. The difference
between this and the present airship speed of sixty miles an
hour would be reduced by the fact that an aëroplane must land at
intermediate stations for fuel replenishment. Any slight advantage in
speed that such heavier-than-air craft possess will disappear with the
future production of larger types of dirigible, capable of cruising
speeds varying from seventy-five to ninety miles an hour. For the
airship service London-New York direct, the approximate time under
normal conditions should be fifty hours. For the aëroplane service
London-Ireland-Newfoundland-New York the time would be at least
forty-six hours.

Perhaps the most convincing argument in favor of airships as against
aëroplanes for trans-ocean aviation is that of comparative cost. All
air estimates under present conditions must be very approximate; but
I put faith in the carefully prepared calculations of experts of my
acquaintance. These go to show that, with the equipment likely to
be available during the next few years, a regular and effective air
service between London and New York will need (again emphasizing the
factor of approximation) the following capital and rates:

                               Airship Service[1]   Service[2]

  Capital required                $13,000,000      $19,300,000
  Passenger rate:
      London-New York                    $240             $575
  Rate per passenger:
      Mile                            8 cents         18 cents
  Mails per ounce:
      London-New York             6-1/4 cents     15-1/2 cents

These figures for an airship service are based on detailed
calculations, of which the more important are:

  _Capital Charges_:
    Four airships of 3,500,000 cu. ft.
      capacity, at $2,000,000 each                  $8,000,000
    Two double airship sheds at
      $1,500,000 each                                3,000,000
    Land for two sheds and aërodromes at
      $150,000 each                                    300,000
    Workshops, gas plants, and equipment               750,000
    Working capital, including spare parts,
      stores, etc.                                     850,000
    Wireless equipment                                  50,000
    Miscellaneous accessories                           50,000
      Total capital required                       $13,000,000
    Annual charge, interest at 10%                  $1,300,000

  _Depreciation and Insurance_:
      Useful life, about 3 years.
      Obsolete value, about $100,000 per ship.
      Total depreciation per ship, $1,900,000 in three years.
      Average total depreciation per annum for four ships
         for 3 years, $2,535,000.

    Airship sheds.
      Total annual charge                              $90,000
    Workshops and plant.
      Depreciation at 5% per annum                      17,500
    Total annual charge for depreciation             2,650,000
    Total annual insurance charges on airships
        and plant                                      617,500

  _Annual Establishment Expenses_:
    Salaries of Officers and Crews--
      4 airship commanders                  $20,000
      8 airship officers                     30,000
      Total number crew hands (64)           80,000   $130,000
    Salaries of Establishment--
      Management and Staff                  $25,000
      Workshop hands, storekeepers,
        etc. (50 at each shed--total 100)   100,000   $125,000
    Total annual establishment expenses               $255,000

  _Repairs and Maintenance_:
    Sheds and plant, annual charge, say,               $25,000

    Repairs and overhaul of airships                   100,000
      Total charge                                    $125,000
    Total annual charges on above basis             $4,947,500
      Say                                           $5,000,000

  _Cost Chargeable per Crossing_:
    Taking the total number of crossings per
          year as 200 (London-New York)--
      Proportion of annual charges per crossing        $25,000
      Petrol per trip, 30 tons at $125 per ton.          3,750
      Oil per trip, 2 tons at $200 per ton                 400
      Hydrogen used, 750,000 cu. ft. at $2.50
          per 1,000 cu. ft.                              1,875
      Cost of food per trip for crew of 19 and
          100 passengers                                 2,000
      Total charge per crossing (London-New York)      $33,025

The weight available for passengers and mails on each airship of the
type projected would be fifteen tons. This permits the carrying of one
hundred and forty passengers and effects, or ten tons of mails and
fifty passengers. To cover the working costs and interest, passengers
would have to be charged $240 per head and mails $2,025 per ton for the
voyage London-New York.

This charge for passengers is already less than that for the more
expensive berths on transatlantic liners. Without a doubt, with the
coming of cheaper fuel, lower insurance rates and larger airships,
it will be reduced eventually to the cheapest rate for first-class
passages on sea liners.

With a fleet of four airships, a service of two trips each way per week
is easily possible. For aëroplanes with a total load of forty tons the
weight available for passengers and mails is 2.1 tons. If such a craft
were to carry the same weekly load as the service of airships--thirty
tons each way--it would be necessary to have fourteen machines
continually in commission. Allowing for one hundred per cent. spare
craft as standby for repairs and overhaul, twenty-eight aëroplanes
would be required. The approximate cost of such a service is:

  _Capital Charges_:
    28 aëroplanes at $600,000 each                 $16,750,000
    28 aëroplane sheds at $50,000 each               1,400,000
    Land for 4 aërodromes                              500,000
    Workshops and equipments                           100,000
    Spare parts, etc.                                  500,000
    Wireless equipment                                  50,000
        Total capital required                     $19,300,000
    Annual charge at 10% interest                   $1,930,000

  _Depreciation and Insurance_:
      Useful life, say 3 years, as for airships.
          Obsolete value, say, $30,000 per
          machine. Average total depreciation
          per annum for 28 machines                 $5,250,000
    Aëroplane Sheds.
      Total annual charge                               60,000
    Workshops and Plant.
      Depreciation at 3% per annum                       3,000
    Total annual charge for depreciation             5,314,000
    Total annual insurance charges on machinery
        and plant                                    1,152,000

  _Annual Establishment Expenses_:
    Salaries of 36 pilots at $3,000 per annum         $108,000
    Salaries of 36 engineers at $2,000 per annum        72,000
    Salaries of 12 stewards at $1,500 per annum         18,000
    Salaries of establishment--
      Management and staff                              25,000
      Workshop hands and storekeepers, etc., 100 off   100,000
  Total annual establishment expenses                 $323,000

  _Repairs and Maintenance_:
    Sheds and plant, annual charge, say                $25,000
    Repairs and overhaul to machines                    50,000
      Total.                                           $75,000
      Total annual charges on above basis           $8,792,500

  _Cost chargeable per crossing_:
    Proportion of annual charges per crossing           $7,250
    Petrol used per trip, 28 tons at $125 per ton        3,500
    Oil per trip, 2 tons at $200 per ton                   400
    Cost of food per trip for 29 passengers and
        crew of seven                                      500

    It will be seen from the above that the direct running cost is 38%,
    and the overhead charges 62% of the total cost.

With a weight of 2.1 tons available on each machine for passengers and
mails twenty passengers might be carried. To cover the working costs
and interest they must be charged $575 per head. The rate for mails
would be $5,500 per ton.

Having made clear that the airship is the only means of transatlantic
flight on a paying basis, the next point to be considered is the
type of dirigible necessary. A discussion at present of the size of
the airships that will link Europe and America can be little more
substantial than guesswork. The British dirigible _R-34_, which last
year made the famous pioneer voyage between England and the United
States, is too small for commercial purposes, with its disposable lift
of twenty-nine tons and its gas capacity of less than two million cubic
feet. Experts have predicted the use of airships of five million and
ten million cubic feet capacity, with respective weights of thirty tons
and one hundred tons available for passengers and freight.

It is probable, however, that such colossi must await birth for many
years, and that a beginning will be made with moderate-sized craft of
about three million, five hundred thousand cubic feet capacity, similar
to those that serve as the basis of the estimates for a service between
London and New York. A combination of British interests is planning
to send ships of this type all over the world. These can be built
immediately, and there are already in existence suitable sheds to house
them. Details of their structure and capabilities may be of interest.



The projected airship of three million, five hundred thousand cubic
feet capacity is capable of carrying a useful load of fifteen tons
(passengers and mails) for a distance of forty-eight hundred miles in
eighty hours, at the normal cruising speed. The total lifting power is
one hundred and five tons, and the disposable lift (available for fuel,
oil, stores, crew, passengers and freight) is sixty-eight tons. The
maximum engine power is thirty-five hundred h. p., the maximum speed
seventy-five miles an hour. The normal flying speed, using a cruising
power of two thousand h. p., is sixty miles an hour. The overall length
is eight hundred feet, the maximum diameter and width one hundred feet,
and the overall height one hundred and five feet. These particulars and
performances are based on present design, and on the results attained
with ships of two million cubic feet capacity, now in service. The
figures are conservative, and it is probable that a disposable lift
greater than that of the specifications will be obtained as a result of
improved structural efficiency.

The passenger accommodation will be such that the air journey can
be made in comfort equal to that on a first-class liner of the sea.
Apart from their comparatively small disposable lift, a main objection
to vessels of the _R-34_ type for commercial purposes is that the
living quarters are in cars slung from under the middle envelope. In
this position they are necessarily rather cramped. In the proposed
craft of three million, five hundred thousand cubic feet capacity the
passengers' quarters are at the top of the vessel. There, they will be
roomy and entirely free from the vibration of the engines. They are
reached through an internal corridor across the length of the ship, or
by elevator, from the bottom of it.

The main room is a large saloon lounge fitted with tables and chairs
in the style of a Pullman car. Around it are windows, allowing
for daylight and for an outlook in every direction. Part of it is
fire-proofed, and serves as a smoking room.

Next to, and communicating with, the lounge is the dining saloon. This
leads to a serving hatch and electrical cooking apparatus. Electrical
power is provided by dynamos driven off the main engines. Current
for electric lighting and heating of the saloons, cars and sleeping
quarters is provided by the same method.

Sleeping accommodation is in four-berth and two-berth cabins on top of
the airship and forward of the living saloons. The cabins are of the
type and size fitted on ocean-going steamers. With them are the usual
bathrooms and offices. Other conveniences are an open shelter deck at
the vessel's aft end, to enable passengers to take the air, and an
observation car, fitted below the hull and also at the aft end, so that
they can observe the land or sea directly below them.

No danger from fire need be feared. The machinery installation is
carefully insulated from the gas bags, and the quarters are to be
rendered fire-proof and gas-proof. Moreover, the amount of weight
involved by the passengers' section is so small, compared with the
weight of the machinery, fuel, cargo and stores, carried in the lower
part of the craft, that the stability of the ship for rolling is
unaffected by the novel position of the living quarters.

The ship's officers will have on the hull, towards the forward end,
a control and navigation compartment, containing the main controls,
navigation instruments, charts, and a cabin for the wireless telegraphy
installation. The windows of this car give a clear view in every

Other general specifications are:

_Hull Structure._--The shape of the hull is of the most perfect
stream-line form within the limitations of constructional requirements.
An internal keel corridor, running along the bottom of the hull,
contains all petrol and oil tanks and the water ballast.

_Outer Covering._--The outer cover is made of special weather-proof
fabric, which gives the longest possible life. This fabric is
as efficient as possible in insulating the gas from change of
temperature, and thus avoids great variations in the lift.

_Gasbags._--The gas capacity is divided up into gasbags made of
suitable rubber-proofed cotton fabric, lined with gold-beaters' skins.
Gasbags will be fitted to automatic relief valves and hand control
maneuvering valves.

_Machinery Cars._--Six machinery cars are provided, each containing
one engine installation, with a direct-driven propeller fitted at the
aft end. These compartments give the mechanics easy access to each of
the six engines, and allow them to handle all parts of the machinery.
Engine room telegraphs of the electrical type communicate between the
forward compartment and each of the machinery cars.

Whereas the living quarters and the control compartment must be heated
by electric radiators, arrangements can be made to warm the machinery
cars by utilizing the exhaust heat. The transmission gear in two of the
wing cars is to be fitted with reversing gear, so that the craft may
be driven astern. So that passengers shall not be worried by the usual
roar of the exhaust, special silencers will be fitted. The transmission
gear is also so arranged that all unnecessary clamor from it may be

The engines run on gasoline fuel, but they have devices whereby they
can be run alternatively on hydrogen gas. They are designed to develop
their maximum power at a height of five thousand feet.

_Telephones._--Telephone communication links all stations on the

_Landing Gear._--Inflated buffer landing bags of a special type are to
be fitted underneath the Forward Control Compartment and underneath the
two Aft Machinery Cars. These enable the airship to alight either on
land or on the sea's surface.

_Wireless Telegraphy._--A powerful wireless telegraphy installation is
to be fitted in the wireless cabin in the forward control compartment.
It will have a range for sending and receiving of at least five
thousand miles.

_Crew._--Two watches would be required, taking duty in eight-hour
shifts. Both must be on duty when the craft leaves or lands. Each watch
consists of navigating officer, steersman, elevator man, four engineers
and a wireless operator. With the commanding officer and two stewards,
whose duties are not regulated by watches, the crew thus numbers
nineteen men.

Although the speed of the airship at maximum power is seventy miles
per hour, the crossing normally would be made at sixty miles per
hour, which only requires two thousand horse power, and is much more
economical in fuel. The full speed, however, can be used whenever
the ship is obliged to voyage through storm areas or against strong
head winds. By the Azores route, the time needed for the journey of
thirty-six hundred miles, at a speed of sixty miles per hour, is sixty
hours; but to allow for delays owing to adverse weather, the airship
would always carry eighty hours' fuel, allowing for a speed of sixty
miles per hour. The normal time for the journey from London to New
York, via Portugal and the Azores (thirty-six hundred miles) would be,
therefore, two and one half days. The normal time for the journey New
York to London by the direct route (three thousand miles) would be just
over two days.

The prevailing wind on the direct route is almost always from West to
East, which favors the Eastbound journey, but is unfavorable to the
Westbound journey. It is proposed that the crossing Eastward from New
York to London be made by the most direct route, advantage thus being
taken of the Westerly winds.

By making the Westbound journey on the Southerly route, via the
Coast of Portugal and the Azores, and on 35´ N. parallel of latitude
across the Atlantic, and then to New York, the voyage is made in a
region where the prevailing Westerly winds of the higher latitudes
are absent, and only light winds are encountered, generally of a
favorable direction. This route, however, adds about six hundred miles
to the distance. With a ship speed of sixty miles per hour, it would
be quicker to make the Westbound journey by the direct route if the
Westerly wind did not exceed ten miles per hour. If the wind were
greater, time would be saved by covering the extra six hundred miles of
the Southerly route and dodging the unfavorable air currents.

With four airships on the Cross-Atlantic airway, two only would be in
service at a time, so that each could lay up during alternate weeks for
overhaul and re-fit. As the time of journey between London and New York
will vary between fifty to sixty hours, each airship can easily make
two crossings or one double journey per week, thus giving a service,
with two dirigibles, of two "sailings" each way per week.

The average time table might therefore be as follows:

  Monday morning         Wednesday afternoon or evening
  Thursday morning       Saturday afternoon or evening

  Monday afternoon       Thursday morning
  Thursday afternoon     Sunday morning.

From available weather reports, it is considered that crossings are
practicable on at least three hundred days in the year. Probably a
total of two hundred crossings in the year could be maintained. Until
further study of weather conditions supplies a certain knowledge of
the best possible altitudes and latitudes, it is likely that a regular
service of two crossings each way per week will be maintained only in
the months of May to September, and that the crossings from October to
April will be irregular, the day of departure being dependent on the

Weather difficulties are likely to be much less severe than might
be imagined. Rain, hail and snow should have little influence on
the navigation of airships. An outer covering that is rainproof
and non-absorbent avoids the absorption of water and the consequent
increase of weight. Hail and snow cannot adhere to the surface of the
craft when in flight, owing to its high speed through the air; and, in
any case, the precipitation height being not more than eight thousand
feet, they can be avoided by flying above this altitude.

Fog may give trouble in landing, but during the journey an airship can
keep above it. If the terminal were enveloped by fog an arriving ship
could pass on to an emergency landing ground away from the fog-belt;
if the mistiness were slight, it could remain in the air until the
ground were visible, making use of its margin of fuel beyond the
amount necessary for the London-New York flight. Airships in fog may
be enabled to find their landing ground by means of captive balloons
or kites, and of strong searchlights from the ground. At night, the
balloons or kites could carry electric lights, with connections from
the aërodrome.

In any case, fog, rain, hail and snow are nearly always local in their
occurrence, and can be avoided by a short deviation from the usual
route. Atlantic records indicate that on the main steamship routes fog
sufficient to impede navigation does not occur on more than about
twelve days in the year.

Wind is a factor that needs more careful study in its relation to
transatlantic air navigation. In most cases, unduly strong winds can
be dodged by flying on a higher level, or by cruising on a different
course, so as to avoid the storm belt. Heavy storms, which are usually
of a cyclonic nature, rarely cover an area of more than two hundred
miles diameter. Moreover, the rate of progression of a cyclonic area
is much less than the speed of the air movement. An airship is able
to shake off a cyclonic area by a deviation from its course of not
more than two hundred miles. Once away from the storm belt, it has no
difficulty in keeping clear of it.

When higher levels of the air have been charted, there is every reason
to believe that the known movements of the Atlantic winds will be
used to shorten air journeys. There are at sea level, between certain
clearly defined latitudes, prevailing winds of constant direction. At
greater heights, also, there is in most latitudes a constant drift
which, if charted, might be useful even if winds at sea level were

Although precise information is available of the prevailing and
periodic winds at sea level in various latitudes, very little
coördinated work appears to have been done in charting the prevailing
and seasonal winds in higher levels of the atmosphere. Observations
of the air currents over various localities in the United States,
England and Germany have been taken, but very little is known of the
winds above the great ocean tracts. There is a great necessity for
international research to provide data for predictions of weather
conditions in the upper atmosphere and thus enable advantage to be
taken of these higher currents.

At high altitudes, constant winds of from thirty to forty miles per
hour are common. If the prevailing directions of those were known to
airship navigators, the duration of the journey could be considerably
shortened, even if this meant taking an indirect route. It is
undesirable to fly at great heights owing to the low temperature; but
with suitable provision for heating there is no reason why flying at
ten thousand feet should not be common.

Air currents cannot be charted as exactly as sea currents; but much
valuable work can and will be done by tabulating in detail, for the
guidance of air navigators, the tendencies of the Atlantic atmospheric
drifts. Reliable charts, used in conjunction with directional messages
from wireless stations and ships, may make it possible for vessels on
the London-New York air service always to avoid troublesome winds, as
well as storms and fogs, and to reduce the percentage of risk to a
figure not exceeding that relative to sea liners.

For the rest, the excellence of the most modern engines and the fact
that one or two, or even three of them can be temporarily out of action
without affecting the airship's stability during a flight, minimize the
danger of a breakdown from loss of power. The only remaining obstacle
to reasonable safety would seem to be in landing on and departing from
the terminal during rough weather. This can be overcome by the recently
patented Vickers Mooring Gear for Rigid Airships.

The gear, designed so as to permit an airship to land and remain moored
in the open for extended periods in any weather without the use of
sheds, consists principally of a tall steel mast or tower, about one
hundred and fifty feet in height, with a revolving head to which the
craft is rigidly attached by the nose, permitting it to ride clear of
the ground and to turn round in accordance with the direction of the
wind. It is provided with a hauling-in winch and rope to bring the ship
up to the mooring point.

An elevator, for passengers and goods, runs up the tower from the
ground to the platform adjoining the nose of the airship. The
passengers reach their quarters along a passage through the vessel, and
the goods are taken down a runway. An airship moored to this mast can
remain unharmed in even the worst weather, and need be taken into a
shed only when overhaul and repairs are necessary.

In discussing the future of transatlantic flight I have confined
myself to the projected service between London and New York. There
is likely to be another route over the Atlantic--London to Rio de
Janeiro, via Lisbon and Sierra Leone. Already in London tickets are on
sale at $5,000 apiece for the first flight from London to Rio. This,
of course, is a freak price, which covers the distinction of being
in the first airship to travel from England to Brazil. If and when a
regular London-Rio service is established, the ordinary passenger rate
should be little more than the $240 estimated as the air fare on the
London-New York route.

It may be that the London-New York air service will not arrive for
many years. Sooner or later, however, it must arrive; for science,
allied to human enterprise, never neglects a big idea. It may be that,
when it does arrive, the structure of the craft and the methods of
navigation applied to them will differ in important details from what I
have indicated. I make no pretense at prophecy, but have merely tried
to show how, with the means already at hand, moderately priced air
journeys from Europe to America can be made in two to two and a half
days, with comfort, safety and a high degree of reliability. Meanwhile,
much depends on the funds available for the erection of stations for
directional wireless messages, on research into the air currents at
various levels above the Atlantic Ocean, on the courage of capitalists
in promoting what seems to be a very speculative enterprise, and on new
adaptations of old mechanical inventions.

Already hundreds of aëroplanes, as time-saving vehicles, are used
regularly in many countries for commercial traffic over comparatively
short distances--the carriage of mails, passengers, valuable freight
and urgent special journeys. When, but not until, the hundreds become
thousands, and the longer distances are as well served by airships as
are the shorter distances by aëroplanes, the world's air age will be in

[Footnote 1: For airships with gross gas capacity of 3,500,000 cubic
feet and total load of 105 tons.]

[Footnote 2: For machines with total load of 40 tons.]

                              CHAPTER XI

                              THE AIR AGE

Although facts disappointed many over-sanguine expectations that the
billions of dollars invested in aëronautics during the war would pay
direct dividends already in 1919, the year brought us a long step
nearer the age of universal flight. Meantime, commercial aviation
is still a long way from the stage at which bankers regard its
undertakings as good security for loans.



Air routes have been opened up in most parts of the world. Captain
Ross-Smith has shown, by his magnificent journey from England to
Australia in a Vickers-Vimy aëroplane, that long-distance flights
over the most out-of-the-way lands and ocean tracts can be made
even under the present unsatisfactory conditions, before terminals,
landing grounds and wireless stations are provided for air pilots
and navigators. The Atlantic has been crossed four times, twice by
a dirigible, once by an aëroplane and once by a flying boat.
Aëroplanes have flown from England to India. Aircraft have been used
for commercial purposes in every part of Western Europe, in most
countries of North and South America, in Australia, India, Egypt and
South Africa. Important exhibitions of modern aircraft, similar to
automobile shows, have been held in London, New York, Paris, Amsterdam
and elsewhere.

To-day all the Great Powers can show commercial air services in full
operation. Of these the most important are perhaps the triangular
airways around London, Paris and Brussels. One French and two British
companies operate daily between London and Paris; British craft travel
backwards and forwards between London and Brussels three times a week;
and French machines fly between Paris and Brussels every day.

The London-Paris services have established a magnificent record for
efficiency and regularity. Valuable and urgent freight of every kind,
including furs, dresses, jewelry, documents, a bunch of keys, perfume,
a grand piano and even a consignment of lobsters, have been delivered
in safety. Forty pounds of assorted London newspapers are taken each
morning to Paris, where they are sold in the streets on the day of
publication instead of next morning, as was the case when they were
forwarded by train and packet-boat. Leading London papers, such as the
_Times_, the _Telegraph_, the _Morning Post_, the _Daily Mail_, and the
_Daily Express_, have regular contracts with one of the companies.

As for passengers, men of every occupation take advantage of the
opportunity to travel comfortably from London to Paris in two and
one-quarter hours. There is seldom a vacant seat on the larger
machines; although the fare is at present rather high, ranging from $75
to $105 for the single journey.

Moreover, the accommodation on two of the types of aëroplane now
used--the Handley-Page _W-8_ and the Airco _DH-18_--is more attractive
than that of a Pullman car. The Handley-Page _W-8_ carries fifteen to
twenty passengers with personal luggage, or two tons of freight. The
Airco _DH-18_ takes eight passengers, with their personal luggage.

The past year saw no specially important developments of commercial
aviation inside Great Britain itself. A week-end service between
Southampton and Havre was inaugurated, and passengers and mails were
flown from London to Leeds. The most important undertaking was perhaps
the delivery by air of newspapers. For a time the Manchester edition
of the _Daily Mail_ was taken by air for distribution in Carlisle,
Dundee and Aberdeen, the last-named place being reached in three and
one-quarter hours instead of the thirteen hours of train journey.
Evening newspapers were carried daily during the summer from London to
various resorts on the South coast.

The London-Leeds undertaking is the only regular service between
English towns that has lasted for long. Elsewhere the air rates proved
to be too high, and although there were plenty of aërodromes, the
promoters of aërial transport companies could not compete with the
all-embracing network of railways. During the great railway strike of
October, however, valuable transport work was done by aircraft. For
the rest, aëroplanes in England are chartered as aërial taxicabs for
special trips, and last summer one or two companies reaped a moderate
harvest by organizing pleasure trips at the seaside resorts. An airship
or two have taken tours around the battlefields of France and Flanders.
A few wealthy amateurs have bought aëroplanes for their private use.

Other European countries--France, Italy, Holland, Belgium,
Scandinavia, Spain and Portugal--have made rather less progress in
the manufacture and development of aëroplanes or dirigibles; but
their use of aircraft for commercial purposes was about the same
as that of Britain--newspaper distribution, some special journeys,
and many joyrides. French aviators have opened tentative airways to
Morocco, Senegal and Tunis. For regular passenger or goods services
in continental Europe the high cost of fuel and accessories makes the
rates too high. Also aërodromes and landing grounds are too few; and
seldom can aëroplanes compete on a large scale with railways over
comparatively short distances. Exceptions are the Paris-Lyons and
Madrid-Lisbon airways.

Germany, throughout what was for her a terrible year, made further
progress with her Zeppelin dirigibles. A number of return voyages
were made over the route Berlin-Munich-Vienna-Constantinople. The
latest type of Zeppelin is so efficient that no weather conditions,
except a strong cross-hangar wind, prevents the airship _Bodensee_
from making its daily flight of three hundred and ninety miles between
Friedrichshafen and Staalsen, thirteen miles from Berlin. The
passenger carrying Zeppelins, which prior to the war provided the only
important example of commercial aircraft, claim a remarkable record.
They have carried more than one hundred and forty thousand people,
and yet not one of the passengers has been killed or injured in an
accident; although some members of the crews lost their lives in the
early days of the pioneer Zeppelins.

The vast distances of the United States offer better opportunities for
aëroplane traffic than the comparatively small and closely-railwayed
countries of Western Europe. There is no doubt that, had the United
States government supported its aircraft companies to the same extent
as did the British government, commercial aviation in America would
have traveled along a smooth road. Even without this support it has
made excellent progress. Successful regular services are established
between Los Angeles and San Diego, and elsewhere in the West, and
in the East many passengers have been carried between New York and
Atlantic City, and around the coast of Florida. Plans are being laid
for various other airways, including one between Key West and Havana.

While no continuous service for aërial goods traffic exist in the
United States, aëroplanes are often chartered for special deliveries.
This is particularly the case in the oil countries of Texas and
Oklahoma, where newly-grown and important centers are off the beaten
railroad track. One company in Oklahoma regularly sends its employees'
pay by aëroplane from town to oilfield camp, thus assuring a quick and
safe delivery, free from the necessity of armed guards and the danger
of hold-ups. Other items worth noting in the United States' aërial
history of the past twelve months are that aëroplanes have performed
survey work and located forest fires, that thirty-two cities have
applied for commercial aërodromes for postal, passenger and express
purposes, and that an advertising agency is soliciting aërial business
that will include display work on dirigibles, balloons and aëroplanes,
the dropping of pamphlets from the air, and aërial photography.

Where the United States undoubtedly leads the way is in the ownership
and use of privately owned aëroplanes--a circumstance partly explained
by the great quantities of new money being spent. For a time some of
the American manufacturers were months behind their post-war orders,
and were selling everything that could fly. One famous company
disposed of hundreds of pleasure craft at $7,500 apiece. Many buyers,
impatient of delay, accepted immediate delivery of training machines,
rather than wait for the pleasure craft. Reputable agencies dealing
in second-hand aëroplanes bought from the United States and Canadian
governments, disposed of thousands of machines and could not obtain
enough to satisfy all their clients. An interesting development was the
idea of community aëroplanes, purchased and maintained jointly by small
groups of people living in the same residential district.

The United States postal authorities have satisfactorily
maintained aërial mail services over the route New
York-Washington-Cleveland-Chicago. After some preliminary fiascos
these became reliable, besides being very speedy, as compared with
train schedules. For June the Washington-New York air mail achieved
ninety-nine per cent. efficiency, and the Cleveland-Chicago route one
hundred per cent. The latter never missed a day in May and June, and
not a single forced landing occurred during the first seventy days. At
the close of 1919 the air mails showed a surplus of $19,000 of revenue
over working costs, on a basis of two cents charge for each ounce of
mail matter carried. Better results are expected now that specially
constructed machines, with freight capacities of one thousand pounds
and upward, are ready for use.

The British dominions and dependencies take a great interest in
aëronautics, and last year saw satisfactory beginnings in some of
them. In Australia, for example, a passenger and freight service links
Sydney and Port Darwin, over a distance of twenty-five hundred miles,
with intervening stations. Plans are ready for regular flights from
North to South of the continent, and also from East to West, across the
difficult country between New South Wales and Victoria on the one hand,
and Western Australia on the other.

Canada has found a highly successful use for aëroplanes in prospecting
the Labrador timber country. A group of machines returned from an
exploration with valuable photographs and maps of hundreds of thousands
of dollars' worth of forest land. Aërial fire patrols, also, have been
sent out over the forests. While no important air route for passenger
carrying is yet utilized in Canada, there is a certain amount of
private flying, and air journeys for business purposes are common.
Plans have been prepared for a regular service between Newfoundland and
cities on the mainland, thus saving many hours over the time schedules
perpetrated by the little Newfoundland railway.

In the South African Union, where the railway system by no means
corresponds with the vast distances, many passengers and mails are
carried by air from Johannesburg to Pretoria, Maritzburg, Durban and
Cape Town. Later, when the services over these routes are better
organized, they will doubtless be extended to important centers in
Rhodesia, the East Africas and what was German South-West Africa.

Aëroplanes in India take passengers over the route Calcutta-Simla in
twelve to fourteen hours of cool roominess, as compared with forty-two
hours of stuffy oppressiveness on a train. Other Indian air routes in
preparation are Calcutta-Bombay, Calcutta-Darjeeling and Calcutta-Puri.
The air fare in India averages about 11 cents a mile.

Aërodromes and landing grounds are already prepared between Egypt and
India, and several machines have made the journey from Cairo to Delhi,
via Damascus, the Syrian Desert, Bagdad, Bandar Abbas and Karachi.
Elsewhere in the East--the Malay Peninsula, Singapore, Borneo, Java
and China--similar routes are planned. The whole of Eastern Africa,
from Cairo to Cape Town, has been mapped out for the use of aircraft,
with landing grounds at short intervals.

So much for accomplishment during the past year. What the future and
the near-future have in store for aëronautics is problematical, and any
detailed analysis must be conjecture. The general trend of development
during the next two years may be forecast, however, with a fair degree
of accuracy.

Anybody who blends sane imagination with some knowledge of the history
of aëronautics must realize that what has been achieved is very little
in comparison with what can be achieved. It is unnecessary to make
trite comparisons with the first stages of steam locomotives or motor

Yet, it is folly to expect an air age now. Its coming will be delayed
by the necessity of slow, painstaking research, and by the fact that in
the countries which are encouraging aviation to the greatest degree,
capital is no longer fluid and plentiful, and money in substantial sums
cannot be risked on magnificent experiments. The cost of building
fleets of dirigibles and hosts of air terminals, for example, must be
enormous; and until it has been demonstrated beyond question that they
will be paying propositions, financiers and investors are unlikely to
be interested in their concrete possibilities on a large scale.

Unless some startling innovation--a much cheaper fuel for example,
or a successful helicopter--revolutionizes commercial aviation, its
near-future is unlikely to stray beyond the extension of airways over
distances of about five hundred to two thousand miles. These are
likely to be covered mostly by heavier-than-air craft, although, as in
Germany, dirigibles will have their place.

Extension of air traffic is especially probable in industrial and
agricultural countries of large area, such as the United States,
Canada, Australia, India and the South American republics. Another
projected development with immediate possibilities is the linking of
regions that are separated by a comparatively narrow expanse of water.
Obvious examples, in addition to Britain and France, are England and
Ireland, the Mediterranean coast of France and the Mediterranean coast
of Africa, and Florida and Cuba.

Traffic across the ocean or a great lake offers to air travel the best
time-saving inducement. To connect two places separated by one hundred
and fifty miles of water, an average steamship needs ten hours. A
passenger on it must spend at least one night away from home, while
transacting his business. An air passenger covers the same distance in
one and one-half to two hours, and can return on the same day. For such
transport the seaplane and the flying boat will have their chance.

Besides the carriage of passengers, mails and valuable freight,
aviation will have many additional functions. Maps may be made and
checked with absolute accuracy by means of aërial photography. Another
important function of the aëroplane and the aërial camera is to explore
and prospect undeveloped districts. In places remote from the ordinary
facilities of civilization aircraft may be used for the discovery of
fire, flood and lawlessness. Already the Canadian Northwest Mounted
Police have captured wrongdoers by means of aëroplane patrols.

Aircraft offer particular advantages as carriers in regions where the
natural obstacles on the ground prohibit railway or road transport. In
Alaska valuable metals and furs are brought to civilization on sleds
drawn by dogs, over paths that are circuitous and dangerous. They could
be taken in safety, and with an immense saving of time, by aëroplanes
fitted with skids suitable for landing on ice and snow. Again, copper
is transported from mines in the Andes by llamas, which are slow
and must jog over devious tracks. Aëroplanes could make the journey
directly and speedily, from mine to coast, without regard to precipice,
marsh or forest.

South America is likely to be a happy hunting-ground for aëronautical
pioneers. The mountain-range of the Andes, which for hundreds of
miles sharply divides America into two parts, gives aviation an
incontestable opportunity. The eastern section of South America
could be brought days nearer the western section by high-climbing
aircraft, which would provide a pleasant alternative to the roundabout,
uncomfortable journeying now necessary. The air mails between the two
great commercial centers of South America--Rio de Janeiro and Buenos
Ayres--should also save many days of valuable time. Many owners of
ranches and plantations in the Argentine, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil
are buying aëroplanes to bring their isolated, up-country properties in
closer contact with the towns.

Asia and Africa have similar geographical problems, to which air
traffic might find a ready solution. Each of these continents has
enormous areas that, because of the absence of good railways, are
either unproductive or much less productive than their resources
warrant. A few of many such cases are Turkestan, Central Arabia, parts
of China, Siberia, Thibet, and the whole of Central Africa. Most of
these are rich in minerals. Meanwhile, aëroplanes have flown between
the desert marts of Damascus and Bagdad in eight to ten hours. These
cities are not yet linked by railroad and a camel caravan over the
Syrian desert covers the same route in two weeks to a month. The same
conditions apply to the Gobi desert.

So far I have dealt with the future of commercial aëronautics almost
entirely in terms of heavier-than-air machines. These--land planes,
seaplanes and flying boats--have at present a useful radius of
non-stop flight confined to distances of under one thousand miles.
The limitation must remain until changes in the basic principles
of aëroplane construction are so altered as to give a much greater
speed in proportion to fuel consumption. One such change may be the
introduction of wings with variable camber. This, by permitting
variations in the angle of incidence, would make possible a quick
ascent at a steep inclination, and a very fast forward speed once the
required height had been attained. The benefits from variable camber
could be increased by the introduction of a propeller with a variable
pitch. Going still further in the same direction, we may find any day
that one of the attempts in various countries to design and construct a
successful helicopter has matured, producing a machine which, by reason
of a very powerful propeller on a moveable shaft that can be inclined
in any direction, will not only rise and descend vertically, but also
may be made to travel forward at a great speed and to perform such
acrobatic tricks as sudden halts, retreats and jumps.

All this, however, is surmise; and we are faced with the fact that
until the design of aëroplanes differs radically from its present form,
heavier-than-air flying apparatuses are limited as to maximum size by
certain structural principles too complicated for explanation in this
non-technical analysis. A further limitation is imposed by the space
needed by the largest machines for leaving the ground or landing.

Within these bounds it has been found that the maximum capacity for
passengers and freight does not greatly exceed one and one-half to two
tons for a non-stop journey of five hundred miles in still air. Lesser
distances do not increase the useful load appreciably, but greater
distances decrease it; until for a radius of about twenty-five hundred
miles the whole of the disposable lift is needed for fuel, and nothing
else may be carried.

For long journeys over land, therefore, the aëroplane must come to
earth for replenishment of fuel every five hundred miles. Even for this
distance it cannot take more than one and one-half to two tons beyond
the weight of fuel and crew. If heavier loads are to be transported,
more machines must be used. Finally there comes a point at which a
single airship, carrying a heavy freight over five hundred miles, is
more economical than several aëroplanes. For non-stop flights of over
one thousand miles the same considerations make the airship always more
economical than the aëroplane.

Over the ocean the flying boat can beat the dirigible in time and
cost up to five hundred miles. Even at one thousand miles it is a
commercial proposition, but it must then have all in its favor. For
longer distances the airship has no competitor. It may be deduced that
in years to come, when the world's airways are in general operation,
heavier-than-air machines will bring freight to the great airports,
there to be transferred to dirigibles and by them carried to the
earth's uttermost ends.

The time for this seeming Utopia is not yet, however, although a group
of airship interests in England are now planning airship services that
may eventually set London within two and a half days of New York, one
and a half days of Cairo, four of Rio de Janeiro, five and a half of
Cape Town and seven of Australia. But first must come bold expenditure,
very careful organization, many-sided research and improved invention.

Although no claim is made that present-day airships can compete for
reliability with railroad trains and ocean liners, there is no doubt
that a sufficient number of passengers are prepared to pay relatively
higher rates for the great saving in time taken for long distance
journeys, particularly over the ocean.

The demand would be mainly for the carriage of express freight and
mail matter and for passenger traffic to serve people who wish to get
from center to center in the shortest possible time. Another use for
large airships would be the carrying of freight of high intrinsic
value, such as valuable ores, from places otherwise inaccessible, or
not provided with other means of direct transport.

To meet the requirements of various purposes for which airships may be
utilized, dirigibles of four kinds are projected:

First, the airship of moderate size and high speed for carrying
express, mails and passengers.

Secondly, the air liner solely for passenger traffic, of a large size
and speed.

Thirdly, the large airship of comparatively slow speed, and great
carrying capacity, for general transport.

Fourthly, the small non-rigid airship for private purchase and upkeep
as an aërial yacht.



The rigid airship is as yet only at the beginning of its development,
particularly as regards size and carrying capacity. The airship of
three million, five hundred thousand cubic feet capacity, for immediate
use on the fast passenger services, carrying a load of passengers of
fifteen tons for a distance of forty-eight hundred miles, might be
built immediately, and could be housed in sheds at present available.
As the lift and speed efficiency of a rigid airship increases rapidly
in proportion to the vessel's size, it will be advantageous to use
the largest airships that can be economically operated. A rigid
dirigible able to carry fifty tons of passengers and freight for ten
thousand miles at a speed of eighty miles an hour is quite feasible;
and the design and construction of such an airship could be undertaken
immediately if it were justified by the demand for air transport.

The ships of three million, five hundred thousand cubic feet capacity,
which can be housed and flown for commercial purposes as soon as
the required terminals and navigational facilities are ready, will
approximate to those described as being suitable for a transatlantic
service. If standardized for adaptation to all conditions and world
routes, they should be capable of a non-stop flight of about eighty
hours, at an average speed of sixty miles an hour.

To prevent wastage and reduce the running costs, several economical
devices for dealing with height equilibrium are needed. On long
flights the greatest problems are maintenance of the airship at a
constant height, and avoidance of the loss of gas consequent on
expansion when the ship rises as it loses weight by the consumption
of fuel. Owing to the great variation in temperature between day and
night, the ship becomes heavy at night owing to the lower temperature,
and light during the day, as a result of the higher temperature. A
discharge of ballast at nightfall, and of gas in the morning, is
needed to keep it in equilibrium. To obviate discharge of gas, and the
necessity of starting with a large weight of ballast, it is proposed to
run a proportion of the engines on hydrogen fuel, so that the hydrogen
can be consumed at such a rate that the loss of lift equals the loss of
weight of fuel consumed by the other engines, thus economically using
hydrogen which otherwise would be lost through the discharge of the gas

I make the supposition that hydrogen, and not helium, will be the
sustaining gas. For commercial aviation it has many advantages, for
helium is dearer and rarer, and has about twenty per cent. less
lift. Contrary to general belief, a flight in an airship filled with
hydrogen, subject to proper precautions, has no greater fire risk than
living near a gas factory. Helium is a necessity only for airships
used in war, as, unlike hydrogen, it is not ignited by incendiary
bullets from hostile aircraft. The United States has almost a monopoly
of the world's quantitative supply of helium, which fact should be a
tremendous asset in wartime.

The ballast difficulty can be met by apparatus to condense the water
of combustion from the exhaust gases of the engines. Experiments have
shown that it is practicable to recover water of slightly greater
weight than the gasoline fuel consumed, thus avoiding any variation
in lift due to gasoline consumption. Further, water ballast could be
picked up periodically from the sea by descending and taking in water
through a pump suspended from a flexible hose, or direct into tanks in
the gondolas through sea-valves.

Still further reduction of running costs may be effected by fuel
economy. This would be difficult with internal combustion engines of
the type in use at present, for greater thermal efficiency (the ratio
between the amount of heat contained in the fuel consumed and the
amount of useful work delivered by the engine) necessitates heavier
machinery. The reduction in gasoline consumption is thus offset by a
decrease in the disposable lift. It is probable that a saving on large
dirigibles might result from substituting for the internal combustion
method of generating power engines that burn cheap oils. Although such
engines are much heavier, and although the crude oils weigh a good
deal more than gasoline, the difference would be more than covered on
long flights, for gasoline is nearly four times dearer than crude oil.
Moreover, the weight of oil actually consumed would be about twenty
per cent. less than that of the gasoline burned by internal combustion
engines over the same distance.

The solution may be in the employment of steam. For the rather low
standards of horsepower on which dirigibles are driven, heavy steam
engines of the ordinary type, although much more reliable, would be
less economical than internal combustion engines, owing to the latter's
better thermal efficiency. Engineers are attempting to evolve a light
type of steam turbine that will overcome this drawback.

Of equal importance to fuel economy is a better system of airship
navigation. This is similar in principle to steamship navigation, but
it is made more complicated by the much greater drift of atmospheric
currents. Moreover, air currents can never be charted as exactly as
sea currents. An excellent meteorological organization, for reporting
motions of the air at given times, is therefore essential.

When flying over land a navigator can determine the drift of his vessel
by taking observation on a suitable fixed point on the earth's surface,
and adjusting his compass course accordingly. It is probable that a
gyroscopic compass will be the standard type for dirigibles. Many
aviators have experienced difficulties with the magnetic compass on
long flights; although it has served me well always, especially on my
transatlantic flight as Captain Alcock's navigator.

Over the sea no fixed point is available, so that the motion of the
wind must be checked periodically. One method is for the navigator to
make astronomical observations, and from them deduce his position on
the chart. Another may be the use of bombs which ignite on the water
and give out a dense smoke or a bright light, lasting for several
minutes. During the day the navigator sights on the smoke, and during
the night on the light, and thus discovers the wind's velocity and
direction. An invention that could simplify navigation would be some
form of ground-speed meter, showing at a glance the rate of progress
over the earth (as distinct from air speed), with either a following or
a contrary wind.

The most valuable means of airship navigation will be that of
directional wireless. Communication from two separate stations, which
could be either land terminals or stationary ships in the ocean, gives
the direction of the transmitted wireless waves and signals to the
dirigible its bearings. The position is then laid off on the chart, and
the course regulated accordingly. This method was used by the German
Zeppelins during the war.

Of equal importance to the structural and navigational equipment of
airships is the provision of suitable terminals for each route. These
would require, among other necessities, an aërodrome of about one
mile square; a double airship shed capable of housing two vessels;
a mooring-out tower; mechanical gear for transferring an airship
from the mooring tower to the shed; hydrogen generating and storage
plant; repair workshops and stores; meteorological offices; wireless
telegraphy installation; electrical night signaling and landing
arrangements; a station on the local railway from the main part of the
city; a hotel; a garage; and customs and booking offices.

The aërodrome must be a short distance from the city served by the
airship service. If possible it should be near a chemical works where
hydrogen could be produced as a by-product. The ground would be
preferably on a site remote from hills and other topographical features
likely to cause air disturbances.

The double sheds for housing vessels of the size specified, three
million, five hundred thousand cubic feet capacity, would have
two berths, the minimum dimensions of each of which must be eight
hundred and fifty feet long, one hundred and fifty feet wide, and one
hundred and fifteen feet high. Their contents should include hydrogen
filling mains and gear for slinging the airships from the roof when
deflated for overhaul. Special arrangements would be made for rapid
replenishment of the ships with gas, fuel, and water ballast.

If no industrial supply of hydrogen were provided by a nearby factory,
the aërodrome should have a generating plant capable of producing fifty
thousand cubic feet of hydrogen per hour. Gasometer storage, with a
capacity of about five hundred thousand cubic feet, is also a necessity.

The meteorological office would issue weather reports for the guidance
of airship navigators, and issue navigating instructions to them by
means of the wireless installation. The latter should have a range of
at least five thousand miles.

Each aërodrome would be provided with suitable electric light signals
to indicate the position of the landing ground to incoming ships at
night, as well as landing lights to point the way to the mooring tower.
Trolleys running on guide rails, with electrically driven gear, could
move a dirigible from the tower to the shed with a minimum of man power.

A suitable mooring tower constitutes an enormous saving of time
and labor. The Vickers Patent Mooring Gear, which has been tested
satisfactorily, can be worked by half a dozen men; whereas the old
method of rope pulling and dragging needs two to four hundred men for
landing an airship of three million, five hundred thousand cubic feet

With existing methods, a rigid airship must be housed in a suitable
shed when not in flight. The danger and difficulty of removing the
ship from its shed, and returning it safely thereto after a journey,
restricts the number of actual flying days in the year to those on
which such operations can be performed without risk of damage, although
a modern rigid airship may be in the air with efficiency and perfect
safety in practically any state of the weather. The Patent Mooring Gear
renders the landing independent of the weather, while calling for the
attendance of only six men to actuate the various mechanical devices

In principle, the gear consists of a tall steel mast, of such a height
that when the ship is attached by the nose it rides on an even keel
at a height of upwards of one hundred feet. The mast has at the top
a platform or deck. The head of the tower is entirely enclosed and
contains the necessary apparatus for bringing a vessel to rest. This
top portion is designed to rotate, so that a ship, when moored, may
always lie directly head to wind.

Access to the upper deck of the masthead is obtained by means of an
elevator, which allows passengers to enter the ship in comfort. Behind
the deck is a compartment containing the landing gear. This consists of
an electrically driven winding engine, fitted with about one thousand
feet of the highest quality flexible steel wire rope, together with any
automatic coupling. In the compartment are also pipes for the supply to
the ship of hydrogen, gasoline, oil and water from the main reservoirs,
situated on the ground at the foot of the mast. The vessel itself is
fitted with apparatus complementary to that housed in the masthead.
From the nose projects the attachment which is gripped by the automatic
coupling, while in the bow is situated a storage drum and winch for six
hundred feet of wire rope.

On approaching the aërodrome, the ship wirelesses its intention to
land. The masthead mooring rope is then threaded through the automatic
coupling, and paid out until the free end reaches the ground below.
This end of the rope is attached by a shackle to the rear of a light
car, which is driven away from the mast in the direction from which the
ship is approaching, while the rope uncoils from the drum above. When
at a distance of seven hundred or eight hundred feet from the foot of
the mast the men in charge of the gear unshackle the rope, and spread
landing signs that indicate to the airship pilot their position on the

On arrival over the landing party, the ship's bow mooring rope is
released, and runs out from the bow attachment under the influence of
a weight of several hundred pounds in the form of sandbags. Two men of
the party on the ground below take charge of the rope, unshackle the
sandbags, and effect a junction with the mooring mast rope, which is in
the hands of the remaining men of the landing party. The rope ends are
coupled together by means of a self-locking coupling, which enables the
junction to be made within five seconds.

The dirigible is now connected with the head of the mooring mast by a
long length of steel wire rope. On receiving a signal from the ground
party, the men in charge of the winding gear in the masthead haul in.
As the rope tautens, ballast is discharged from the ship, which is
slowly hauled into connection with the automatic coupling already set
in the open position to receive the attachment on the nose. When once
this coupling is closed, the mooring ropes can be dispensed with, the
ship's rope being re-wound on to the storage drum in the bows.

After landing at the masthead, connection is made with the hydrogen,
gasoline, oil, and water mains, and fresh gas, fuel and water ballast
are placed on board, so that the ship may be kept in trim during the
discharge of cargo, and so the embarkation of passengers and stores be

When all is ready to leave the masthead for flight, the pulling of a
lever in the automatic coupling releases the ship. The latter then
draws astern and upward, under the influence of the prevailing wind,
until it is well clear of the landing station and can proceed on its

The design of this apparatus is such that the landing of an airship
is as easy in a wind as in complete calm. With its help an airship
can land in any speed of wind in which it is safe to fly. Should the
wind be so high (over 60 or 70 miles per hour) that the vessel cannot
reach a given mast, it will always be possible to learn by wireless the
nearest station at which favorable conditions allow it to come down.

The release of the ship from the mast can take place in any wind-speed.
Owing to the comparatively local nature of a big storm (storms
are known not to cover districts greater than two hundred miles
in diameter) the vessel, after slipping its moorings, is able to
circumnavigate the disturbed area by making a small initial deviation
from the true course.

A part of the aërodrome should be given over to aëroplanes, used for
the bringing of mails and urgent freight from places distant from
the terminal. Heavier-than-air machines, in fact, will be the veins
leading to the great arteries of the world's air routes, operated by
dirigibles. A strong searchlight, for the guidance of aëroplane pilots
flying in fog, might be necessary. Given improved landing facilities,
means might be found for them to coast down the searchlight, if the
ground away from it were invisible. Another method of delivering mails,
before leaving for a landing ground away from the fog belt, is to drop
them, attached to a parachute. When the package reaches earth it can
be located by an electric bell, which rings on impact and continues

The mail services of to-day, by railway and boat, can in many cases be
greatly speeded up if part of a long journey be covered by aëroplane. A
good instance is the route between Great Britain and South America. If
a merchant in London posts three letters to correspondents in New York,
Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Ayres respectively, he may have a reply from
New York before the Brazil man has had time to read his communication,
and four or five days before the man in the Argentine has received his.
An aërial short cut to Dakar--already several machines have flown there
from Paris--would lessen by six or seven days the transit time for
mailbags sent from England to Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Ayres.

As long as the internal combustion engine is used in aëronautics, and
mechanical failure is always a possibility to be reckoned with, the
cost of maintaining aëroplane routes, even if they be only auxiliary
to dirigible or steamship services, will be greatly swollen by the
need of maintaining frequent landing grounds. Every ten miles would
be an ideal interval for them; every twenty miles is a minimum for
first-rate insurance against risk. From a height of five thousand feet,
the probable average minimum elevation for commercial air navigation,
a pilot can without difficulty cover a distance of five miles while
planing down without the aid of motors. From ten thousand feet he can
cover ten miles under the same conditions; so that at this height he
would never be outside gliding distance of landing grounds prepared
every twenty miles.

Given these safeguards, the element of risk in present day aviation is
no greater than it was in the early days of railways and steamboats;
and little, if any, greater than in modern motoring. Many people,
possessing only a newspaper acquaintance with aërial affairs, still
believe mechanical flight to be perilous. In exactly the same manner
men shunned the infant steamboat, railway train, bicycle and motor-car.
Yet, proportionately, the aëroplane and the dirigible are responsible
for no more deaths than the train or the automobile. The seeming
discrepancy is because so much attention is paid to air fatalities.
Every week-end motor-car accidents cause scores of fatalities. Yet the
death in harness of a single aviator produces more comment than all of
these. Partly, no doubt, the intense horror with which humanity regards
death by falling from a great height is due to its novelty among human

The airways of the world offer some pretty problems of international
politics, involving commerce, rights of landing, customs duties, air
smuggling, air traffic regulations and air laws. All these were dealt
with in the International Aërial Commission at the Peace Conference,
which agreed upon the following principles:

1. Recognition of the greatest possible freedom of aërial navigation,
as far as that freedom of navigation is reconcilable with the principle
of the sovereignty of each state in the air above its territory, with
the security of the state affected, and in conformity with a strict
enforcement of safety regulations.

2. Regulation under obligatory permits for pilots and other
aëronautical personnel to be recognized mutually by the signatory

3. The establishment of international air rules, including signals,
lights, methods of avoiding collisions and regulations for landing.

4. The recognition of the special treatment of army, navy and state
machines when on duty for the state.

5. Recognition of the right to utilize all public aërodromes in other
states, under a charge to be uniform for the aircraft of all nations,
including the home nation.

6. Recognition of the right of crossing one country to another, with
the privilege of landing, but under the reservation of the right of the
state crossed to apply its local rules, and if necessary to force the
landing of the visiting machines on signal.

7. Recognition of the principle of mutual indemnity to cover damages
to persons or property due to aircraft--the state of the offending
machine to make reparation and then to recoup itself in any way it sees

8. Recognition of the necessity of a permanent international
aëronautical commission, in order to keep the development of the legal
side of aviation abreast of the development of the science itself.

9. Recognition of the obligation of each state to regulate its internal
legislation along the lines of the clauses of the international

The main airways of the world are still hypothetical, but some of their
main terminals, in relation to the centers of industry and population
and the trade routes, will certainly be London, New York, San
Francisco, Tokio, Delhi, Colombo, Cairo, Cape Town, and Rio de Janeiro.
In particular London, New York, Cairo and Rio de Janeiro are fitted to
be great junctions for air traffic. London is the logical distribution
center for passengers and freight from North and South America bound
for Continental Europe or the East. The New York terminal should link
the transatlantic airways from Europe with the airways of North
America. Rio de Janeiro should perform the same function for South
America, and also be the center of seaplane traffic up the Amazon.
Cairo is destined to be the junction for the air routes between Europe,
Asia, Africa and Australia. From it dirigibles or aëroplanes may pass
to India (via Damascus and Bagdad), to Cape Town (via Nairobi), to
Australia (via Aden and Colombo, or Delhi and Singapore), and to London
(via Algiers or some point in Southern Italy). Cairo is also likely to
be an important base for seaplanes and flying boats plying up and down
the tremendous waterways of the Nile and the Great Lakes.

The British Empire is especially bound up with the airways of the
future. The geographical position of the Briton forces him to think in
Imperial terms. In 1776 Great Britain lost her most valuable colonies
largely because the Atlantic Ocean made adequate representation of
the colonial interest physically impossible. Since that day cables,
steamships and the wireless have helped to overcome the distances that
separate the overseas dominions from the British Isles. Aircraft and
well-organized British air routes should be the greatest step in the
consolidation of the far-flung Empire.

To this end British official experts mapped out the stages of the
aërial route to Australia from Egypt, via Damascus, Bagdad, Karachi,
Delhi, Calcutta, Singapore and Sumatra. Although the successive landing
grounds were not ready in time for Captain Ross-Smith's magnificent
flight from England to Australia, the information and advice collected
by the official surveyors were of inestimable value to him. It is
noteworthy that nearly the whole of the proposed airway from Egypt to
Australia is over British territory or the sea.

The same is true of the proposed route from Cairo to Cape Town. This
was planned out very carefully by three parties of military aviators,
who covered the whole length of civilized and uncivilized Africa in
their search for landing grounds. The absorption of German East Africa
by the South African Union makes an all British corridor for aircraft
from Cairo to Cape Town, by way of Egypt, the Sudan, British East
Africa, British Central Africa, German East Africa, Rhodesia, the
Transvaal and Cape Colony. There is an alternative water route over
the Nile, the Great Lakes, the Zambezi River and along the coast to
Cape Town. Being the junction of the airways to India, Australia and
South Africa, Egypt is destined to be the nerve center of an air-linked
British Empire, just as the Suez Canal has been its jugular vein.

But the laying out of great air routes to the East and South does not
complete Britain's plans. She must connect them up with London--a task
which is much more complicated from the standpoint of high politics,
because it involves routes over the territory of other nations. An
aëroplane can fly from London to Cairo via Gibraltar without passing
over foreign territory or foreign territorial waters. But the air
route would be long and the aërodrome bases great distances apart,
in comparison with the proposed land route of two thousand miles
across France, down the length of Italy and Greece and across the
Mediterranean to Cairo. Such a route necessitates an entente cordiale
with the nations of Western Europe, and is one of the reasons why Great
Britain can never contemplate easily a loosening of the bonds that now
hold together the Allies of Western Europe.

The French, for their part, are also thinking of air routes in terms
of their colonial possessions. For them the international situation
is much the same as for the London-Cairo airway. French pilots need
not fly over foreign territory to Algiers or Morocco. A long flight
across the Mediterranean, or skirting the west coast of Spain, is a
possibility. But Spanish territory is the logical corridor from France
to Africa. It was over Spain that a trip was made from Toulouse to
Casablanca, the eighteen hundred miles being covered in eleven hours of
actual flying. The ordinary postal service takes six days. For direct
aërial communication with Syria, also, France must have an entente with
several intervening countries.

Not only will the aëroplane connect France more closely with Africa; it
will likewise bind together the various sections of France's colonial
territory in Africa, The Sahara Desert will become a less formidable
obstacle to intercommunication. French pilots have made experimental
flights over parts of the Sahara in a search for the best routes and
landing places, as links in communication between Morocco and the Ivory

When technical progress and perfected organization place the world's
main airways in operation, there will be enormous saving of time on
the longer routes. The estimated time for transatlantic flights from
London to New York by the three million, five hundred thousand cubic
feet dirigibles is two to two and one-half days, Other likely figures
for various services are as follows:

  _London to India and Australia_:
      London to Cairo                                    2,050 miles
      Cairo to Colombo (via Aden)                        3,400 miles
      Colombo to Perth (Australia)                       3,150 miles

At an average speed of sixty miles per hour, and with a stop of twelve
hours at each station for re-fueling, the times taken would be

  London to Cairo                            34 hours, or 1-1/2 days
  London to Colombo    34 + 12 + 58 hours = 104 hours, or 4-1/2 days

By train and mail steamer, the journey to Ceylon at present takes
fifteen days, and to Australia over thirty days.

  _Cairo to Cape Town_:
      Cairo to British East Africa (Nairobi)   2,100 miles--35 hours
      Nairobi to Cape Town                     2,200 miles--37 hours
  Total time from Cairo to Cape Town, allowing
          for a break of twelve hours at Nairobi            84 hours

Owing to variation in the weather conditions, latitude in estimating
the time of arrival must be permitted in each case. Where, however,
there is a saving of several days in comparison with steamship travel,
the difference of a few hours matters little.

In years to come, with the development of airship transport to the
most distant centers of the world, it is conceivable that no important
city will be further from London than ten days' journey. The following
table, as applied to a London terminal, is by no means fantastic:

      To New York               2--2-1/2 days
      "  San Francisco          4-1/2 days
      "  Cairo                  1-1/2 days
      "  Colombo                4-1/2 days
      "  Perth                  7 days
      "  Nairobi                3-1/2 days
      "  Cape Town              5-1/2 days
      "  Rio de Janeiro         4 days

As the maximum distance of direct flight between intermediate stations
is not more than three thousand, five hundred miles, it would be
practicable to run these services with the size of airship described
three million, five hundred thousand cubic feet capacity. The cost
of operation for regular services would be approximately as for the
Atlantic service--passengers at the rate of eight cents per mile,
and mails at the rate of six cents per ounce. With the development
of larger airships, carrying greater loads, the cost should be more

I admit that such a near-Utopia of an air age may not be seen by the
present decade, and that its attainment demands great results from
science, statesmanship and business organization. Yet even to come
within sight of world intercommunication as rapid as is indicated by
the signposts of present-day aëronautics would make possible an era of
greater prosperity, peace and friendliness. If people, their written
communications and their goods can be taken from continent to continent
as quickly, or nearly as quickly, as a cablegram, the twin evils of
state parochialism and international misunderstanding will less often
be dragged from the cupboard in which the world's racial skeletons are
kept. The airship and the aëroplane may well become a greater influence
towards internationalization than the signed covenant of the league of

Transcriber's Note:

Small capitals have been rendered in full capitals.
Italics are indicated by _underscores_.
Footnotes are placed at the end of chapters.
Apparent typographical errors have been corrected.

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