ALTHOUGH the United States was the first government to purchase an aeroplane for military use, the much more rapid development of the heavier-than-air machine in France led to a quick appreciation of its possibilities for scouting above both land and sea, and the government promptly offered generous prizes this year for the fastest military aeroplane which should fulfill certain conditions. These were that the aeroplanes should transport a total useful load of 660 pounds (made up of 3 men, supplies, etc.) at the rate of at least 371 miles an hour without a stop throughout a distance of 186 miles. Only machines which were not eliminated in the strenuous preliminary tests were eligible to compete in the final race. To the constructor of the winning machine was to 0 awarded a prize of $20,000 and an order for ten similar machines at a price of $8,000 each. The preliminary tests consisted of about a half-dozen flights from the aerodrome at Rheims to certain specified points where the machines were obliged to land upon meadows, stubble and plowed fields, and to start there from again, each time carrying a full load of 660 pounds. There was also a climbing test in which they were compelled to ascend to a height of 500 meters (1,640 feet) in 10 minutes, while carrying a full load. In addition to the successful carrying out of these various tests, the following hints were given as to what was desirable: That the observers field of vision should not be interfered with by any part of the machine. That double control should be fitted, or, at least that the pilot should be capable of being relieved by his assistant while in flight. That machines should be capable of starting without outside assistance. This competition has undoubtedly had a decided effect in stimulating invention and the perfecting of machines. For example, two triplanes made their debut in it, whereas both the Farman brothers brought out biplanes with offset upper planes-a system originated in France by Goupy about a year ago, and which has also been used by Mathew B. Sellers in this country with his multiple-surface, low-powered fliers. The planes have a better lifting effect when they are dffset in this way. Henry Farman also entered a biplane the upper surface of which extended beyond the lower one at each end, having a spread of 67 feet. Instead of obtaining the increased lift necessary by increasing the surface or offsetting the planes, most of the morioplanes effected this by increased power, although the wings were generally somewhat larger than usual. The Nieuport monoplane is shown in 'O,ne of our illustrations, while another gives a rear view of the novel “armored” Antoinette. This machine was described fully in our last issue. It is the first monoplane constructed and flown successfully with rfgid wings without guys, a construction indicated by us in the SCIENTH'1C AMERICAN of October 22nd, 1910. The Nieuport monoplane is noteworthy as being the fastest aeroplane in the world. Its wide blunt body, completely covered with cloth, slips through the air with a minimum of resistance. The machine is shown fitted with a four-bladed propeller, which seemed to be the vogue in this contest. Another aeroplane to use this type of propeller, which long ago was shown in Maxim's experiments to be not so efficient as a two-bladed one having the same blade area, was the Breguet biplane. The body. portion of one of tilese novel machines is shown being towed behind an automobile. They are far simpler in construction than any other biplane, and can be quickly., put together or taken apart. Complete details of. the chassis will be found in SUPPLEMENT No. 1873. ' A' photograph showing a Breguet biplane befng asembled was' published in SUPPLEMENT No.- 1867: . One of the latest inventions of M. Louis Breg.eF is .the, propeller with': pivoted blades shown he!ewith,; The advantage of this mounting lies in the fact thaC, the propelIer blades can adjust. tnemselves to “vary, the pitch. When starting, the normal pitch' is too flat, but by having the blades hinged they will swing forward automatically in proportion to the resistance offered by. the air, thereby altering the pitch and thus accommodating themselves to 'the: varying requirements. Thirty-three machines were entered in the contest altogether, but some of these failed to materialize, so that there were actually but 28. Of these (9 monoplanes and 19 biplanes) 3 monoplanes and 5 biplanes were selected for the final speed test on November 4th. The results of this test are not available at the present writing, but it is probable that the prize went to the Nieuport monoplane piloted by the American ·Weymann. -- This machine surprised everybody by the success with which it Janded and restarted from plowed fields and rough ground. Its central skid and flat leaf spring connecting the two wheels worked exceedingly well under these trying conditions. There were three fatal accidents incidental to the carrying out of these tests. One occurred on the ground, a mechanic ooing struck by a rapidly_ revolving propeller arid sustaining injuries from which he :died. Lieut. Conneau, the wimer of all the big circuit races last summer, also had a bad fall in his Bleriot and broke his legs. Rene Level, fell in his Savary biplane and was killed as a result of engine..: failure. He struck some wires in a forced descent of 500 feet and his spine was broken in two places. Jean Despar· met, pilot of a 140·horse-power BleriOt monoplane, v:as the third man to lose his life, and the thirteenth military aviator whom France has lost. He was flying splendidly in perfect weather, when his monoplane suddenly dived to the ground from a considerable height. When we consider that France has over 200 military aeroplanes, and that numerous flights are made daily by her military men, the num1er of fatal accidents is not so great as might be' expected, The military aviators take great risks to demonstrate the practicability of the aeroplane in all kihds, of weather, and many of these, for their daring and courage, have received the Cross of the Legion of Honor.
This article was originally published with the title "The French Competition for Military Aeroplanes"