ONLY a few. years ago, Prof. Simon Newcomb. an authority who was quoted the world over. branded the heavier-than-air flying machine as a mechanical absurdity. I consider the demonstration that no possible combination of known substances, known forms of machines, and known forms of force, can ;Je united fn a practicable machine by which men can fly long distances through the air, as complete as it is possible for the demonstration of any physical fact to be was one of his dicta. He followed it up with the statement: Let us discover a substance a hundred times as strong as steel, and with that some form of force hitherto unsuslected, which will enable us to utilize this strength, or let us discover some way of reversing the law of gravitation, so that matter may be repelled from the earth instead of being attract2d to it, and then, and not till then, we may have a flying machine To drive home his conviction as far as possible, he concluded: There is every reason to believe that mere ingenious advances with our present means and forms of force will be as vain in the fuie as they have been in the past." What would Prof. Newcomb say if he were now alive? What comment would he make on the flight of a young man from St. Louis to Chicago and from Chicago to New York in a machine that did not involve the discovery of new forces or material, in a machine which was as subject to gravitation as a thing of metal and wood and canvas can be? It may be said that Atwood's performance unquestionably proves that the flying machine has a future for swift transportation, when speed is more to l,e considered than cost. Atwood assures us that his <xpenses were $900 a day. Even if they were but a tenth of that, only a Wall Street banker who must travel from his office to Chicago swifter than a railway train can now carry him, and then because millions are perhaps at stake, can afford to pay such an fX-orbitant price for the transportation of his brains to the spot where they are needed. On the other hand, there is every reason to believe that so long as men like Atwood, Beaumont, Vedrines, and other present day champions of the air, race for purses that hold thousands of dollars, no attention will be paid t6 reduction of operating costs. When the public has wearied of aviation meets (and there is evidence th:t in Europe at least the cross-country flight has completely displaced performances in an inclosure for the benefit of thousands in the grandstand and on the feld), when newspapers have extracted • all the notoriety they can by offering huge sums for successful fights between cities remote from one another, the engineer will step in and provide us with machines and engines that will transport us through the air at a cost no greater than that of a p:-esent-day automobile tour. So long as $qOO a day is the cost of : fight from Chicago to New York, so long will the aeroplane be the exclusive property of aerial performers with itching palms. In last week's SCIEXTIFIC AMERICAN, we commented motor. Think of the spots where I landed. At Lyons, N. Y., it was on top of a hill; at Amboy, west of Syracuse, it was in a marsh; at Fort Plain it was in 3, rocky meadOW, upon the top of a mountain; at Castle- editorially with such fullness on Atwood's historic flight that we can do little more here than to cal] attention to its more salient features. In the first place, it must not be forgotten that Atwood started from Chicago after a 286-mile flight from St. Louis, made in one day at a speed of 46' miles per hour. That he should have flown day after day with but one mishap, speaks well for the aeroplane, although we suspect that inasmuch as the type of machine with which his victory is identified has been in existence for over a year, a large part of his success must be attributed to personal skill. To him belongs the distinction of having made the longest contintlDus flight on record, covering, as it did, 1,265 miles in a total Hying time of 29 hour3 and 35 minutes, corresponding to an average speed of 42.76 miles an hour. Of his experiences in this remarkable jaunt he says: “My only trouble in all the 1,265 miles was a stalled ton it was on a steep slope along the bank of the Hudson; at Glen, where I stopped to make repairs, it was on the top of a mountain 1,250 feet high. At Cold Spring, across from West Point, I had to climb the side of another mountain, and landed right plump on the top ledge with only a ten minutes supply of fuel." Atwood accomplished his journey in 20 flights or an average of 63' miles each, with but a single forced descent at Nyack. A less steady hand, and poorer judgment might have wrecked the machine at th:lt particular time; for Atwood alighted on a piece of ground so small in area that it was impossible to start from it after the necessary repairs had been made to his motor. As it was, a few trees had to he removed and his machine had to be carried bodily to a position more favorable for starting. His Nyack mishap drives home the inevitable truth that the motor is the most vital part of the aeroplane. Unt:l engires are absolutely reliable the. aeroplane can hardly become the popular pleasnre vehicle excent when fitted with floats and flown above water courses where it can alight safely in case of accident. A Competitor for the Trans-continental Flight O NE of the recent graduates of the, Wright school at Dayton, Mr. Robert G. Fowler, of Los Ange]s, Cal., has entered the trans-continental race for the $50,000 prize offered by a New York newspaper. The rules require that notice of the entry be giv8n two weeks before the start, that the journey must be made in 30 consecutive days, and that the start must take place before the 10lth of October next. The fight may be made in either direction. lr. Fowler has decided to follow the northern route of the Southern Pacific railroad, since by so doing he wi . II not be obliged to fly over such long desert stretches and will at no time be over 50 or 75 miles from a town or village. The total distance over the desel't amounts to 335 miles. It is planned to have a special train accompany him carrying three extra motors and complete machines. The most dangerous part of the trip is the 75 miles across the Sierra Nevada mountains from Colfax, Cal., to Re., Nev., and the 57 miles across the Rockies from Laramie to Cheyenne., .the elevations reached in these two places being, 7,014 and 8,010 feet. The railroad runs along the mountain side many miles through snow sheds, and a. labding without disaster would be an impos3ibility throughout these stretches. Nevertheless, lr. Fowler hopes to have as good luck as did Vedrines in flying over equally dangerous country in the Paris-Madrid race, and the route he has chosen gives him a saving In distance of 1,800 miles over the southern route, the total distance by rail being but 3,210 miles.
This article was originally published with the title "Atwood and his St. Louis-New York Flight"