PROGRESS WITH AIR SHIPS.
By Major B. Baden-Powell, Scots Guards.

 

The Lebaudy Airship


The advent of a really practical machine for accomplishing the navigation of the air is awaited with much interest, and the somewhat meager and unreliable information that one can pick tip from the daily press is apt only to increase our anxiety to know what is really being done in this line. In the Illustrated Scientific News of June, I gave a brief sketch of the history of mechanically propelled balloons, and what had been accomplished up to recent years. During this summer some dis­tinct progress has been achieved in this line.

Santos Dumont No. 9.

M. Santos Dumont has, of course, been well to the fore, and though he has only been using his little No. 9 balloon, which may be likened to a motor bicycle as compared to a late motor car, yet he has been able to steer this apparatus and drive it about so easily that the accounts of his trips read as if practical aerial navigation had been achieved. But, so far as his particular performances go, we are still some way from this. It has only been during the calmest of weather that he has dared to venture forth, for his little 3-horsepower engine is incapable of propelling the vessel at any great speed. This machine is of a pointed ovoid shape, the length being 19 feet and the g diam­eter 18 feet. This compact form gives better stability than the more usual cigar shape, if it detracts from speed. The volume of the main gas vessel is 9,200 cubic feet; but this does not imply that so much gas is available for levitation, for of this 1,566 cubic feet is occupied by the "ballonet," which is kept partially full of air by a ventilating fan so as to keep the whole balloon tightly distended. Along each side of the balloon a strip of canvas is sewn, in which is enclosed a number of short battens of wood, and from slings attached to these some 46 steel wires depend to support the, frame. The latter, which is 29 feet long, is composed of pine rods of triangular section, braced with steel wires and kept apart by wooden triangles of varying size. Toward the front of this frame is the little basket car in which the aeronaut stands, and to the after side of this is fixed the motor is a Clement double-cylinder, air-cooled petrol engine, weighing but 26.4 pounds and developing 3 horsepower, or less than 9 pounds per horsepower. The fly wheel is formed of a bicycle wheel, which weighs under 2 pounds and slakes 1,600 revolutions. The steel shaft runs back front the motor to tire propeller in rear. This is two-bladed, formed of steel tubes, covered with tightly stretched oiled silk.. The propeller is 10 feet its diameter and 15 inches in greatest width. It weighs 24 pounds and makes 200 revolutions per minute, giving a thrust of 50 to 60 pounds. The balloon itself weighs only 30 pounds, and the whole apparatus, with framework, car, motor, etc., is under 200 pounds. A tapering trail rope, 100 feet long, hangs from the front of the balloon and is supported by a pulley under the rear end of the frame, so that the balance can be regulated. A large rudder, of 85 square feet, is placed under the after end of the balloon.

Santos Dumont No. 10

The large Santos Dumont No. 10, the "Omnibus," of which a good deal has been heard, has not yet left its shed. Though it has been practically ready for some weeks, there seems to be some doubt as to how it may behave, and with so large a machine it does not do to run any risks. This new machine is far bigger than any of this aeronaut's former balloons, being nearly 200 feet long, and having a capacity of about 70,000

cubic feet. It is supposed to take 14 passengers, who are carried in three baskets hung below the long frame. The vessel is to be propelled by two screws, one at each end of the frame, and these are driven by a motor of 60 horsepower. A number of horizontal aeroplanes are arranged between the frame and the balloon, to aid in rais­ing and lowering the apparatus.

Spencer’s Balloon.

In England the have also had an experiment with an air ship. Mr. Stanley Spencer constructed a new balloon, 93 feet long and 24 feet maximum diameter, containing 30,000 cubic feet. Below this was suspended a framework, similar to that used in the Santos Dumont balloons, 50 feet in length and stayed 4 feet apart by triangles of bamboo. The engine was a Simms motor of 24 horsepower. A screw propeller, 12 feet in diameter, was placed in front and a large rudder behind. On it first trial, however, the machine did not prove a suc­cess, failing to lift. We may look forward to a better result in future experiments.

Deutch’s Balloon.

Another large machine which is practically ready, and has been for some time, but which also seems to hesitate about starting on its maiden voyage, is the “Ville de Paris,” belonging to M. Deutsch and designed by M. Tatin. The general design of this vessel is very much the. sane as that of M. Santos Dumont, but it has one or two peculiarities worth noting. Instead of the ordinary net, the balloon is cov­ered with a “chemise” of unvarnished silk, to the lower edges of which a continuous boarding is attached. A square rudder is placed in rear, suspended from the end of a triangular framework. The screw, of the same form as the Santos Dumont, is 22 feet in diameter.

Lebaudy’s Balloon.

But of greater interest still is the air ship of Messrs. Lebaudy, which is kept ready inflated in as shed at Moisson. This is probably the most successful aerial machine ever made. It has now accomplished 29 voyages in all of which, with one, exception, it has suc­cessfully returned to as point of departure. As comparatively few details have been hitherto published about this machine, it may be interesting to give some. The gas vessel is long and finely pointed at the ends, and contains 80,000 cubic feet. It is composed of two thicknesses of cloth with a layer of india rubber in between, and the whole is painted bright yellow. The arrangement designed by M. Julliot, is quite different to that adopted by so many other inventors. There is no long framework suspended below the balloon. but the lower surface of the latter is made flat, and a frame of steel tubing surrounds this plane. From the front part of this six steel tubes run diagonally down to the car, set as to convey the thrust of the propel­lers to the balloon, the car being supported by a number of steel-wire ropes, below the plane is arranged a keel, consisting of a framework of steel tubing, covered along the after half of it with canvas. This keel is continued far away to the rear, where it ends with the rudder. Under the flat part of the balloon is a layer of uninflamable material, and all the portion above it is occupied b y the air-filled ballonet, so that there is very little danger of the gas becoming ignited from the engines. The two safety valves to ease the pressure of the gas are also placed well out of reach behind.
 

The Car of the Lebaudy Airship


The car consists of a boat-shaped frame of steel, partially covered in at the sides with canvas, the after part being left open, so as not to offer any resistance to the air. The engine, a Mercedes, of 40 horse­power, is placed in the center, the shaft running horizontally across and geared at right angles to the two propellers. The latter are 2.44 m. in diameter, and each consists of a, steel bar, to which is fixed a thin plate of steel of a width equal to one-sixteenth of the circumference. These comparatively small propellers rotate at a considerable speed—about 1,000 turns per minute.

In the front part of the car, where the aeronaut in charge stands, may be seen the steering wheel, similar to that of a motor car. This is connected by means of an endless chain and wires to the rudder. Above this are the pressure gauges to show the compression of the gas and of the air in the ballonet. To the aeronaut's left, (in the photograph he is turned about) is the ventilator fan, driven by a belt from the engine, which drives air through the pipe up into this ballonet. To his right is a metal funnel, continued below the car, in which to empty the sand ballast, so as not to allow any dust to get into the engine, The engineer sits in rear of the motor, and here is, to be seen another of the precautionary measures which are so abund­antly provided. The white square seen in the photograph in rear of the engines is a thin plate of metal to protect the engineer in case of anything going wrong with the screw, a detached portion of which, traveling at so great a speed, might do much damage. Below the back of the car is the exhaust from the engine, the opening of which is enclosed in a hall of wire, gauze. A store of oil to last fifteen hours is carried under the car. A small extincteur is carried in case of fire,

It is with some surprise that one notice, how very strongly and solidly all these parts, are constructed. Aluminum is conspicuous by its absence, everything is made of steel, and there seem, no attempt to make it specially light. The entire weight lifted by the balloon. including passengers, is given as 5,700 pounds.
 

The Lebaudy Shed


The shed in which this enormous vessel is found is also very well constructed. It is of wood, well stayed and trussed, with huge doors across one end. The floor is cemented, a well being made in the cen­ter for the ear to rest in. The arrangements for guiding the airship out of the shed are very neat. Along each side of the hall, and along the center, run double rails close together. Four guy ropes depend from the balloon, two on each side. These end with an iron ring and ball, which ball is gripped by the rails, a similar ball is attached to tire bottom of the car and is held by the third pair of rails. When the vessel is to be taken out, a man stands to each of the ring, and slides it along the rails. The rails are continued outside the building, so that even when the machine is well outside, it is still secured by the guys. When all is ready to start, the ropes are detached from the ring, and the balloon is free.
 

The Lebaudy Airship Inside the Shed


As regards the journeys actually made, the first proper ascent was effected on April 11, when the machine rose at 8:15 a.m. and remained up for half an hour, covering in that time 19 kilometers. Later in the same day it made a second ascent, and stayed up for an hour. On May 8 an important journey was made, the. air ship proceeding to the town of Mantes, 10 kilometers distant, where it went through various evolutions, went on to Rosny, and then returned to it shed at Moisson, completing altogether some 23 miles in an hour and a half. On a later occasion even this record was beaten, the machine going a journey lasting two and three-quarter hours, and traversing over 61 miles, These trips were not, apparently, made during the most favorable weather, for on the journey to Mantes it was said that rain, accom­panied by a considerable wind, prevailed.
 

The Lebaudy Airship—View from Below


The greatest speed recorded is 11. 80 meters per second (or over 25 mile, per hour). Ascents have been made at all times of day, from 4 o'clock in the morning to 8 o'clock at night, even in fog and in frost. The balloon has recently remained for one hundred and ninety-six days inflated. The ascents were all conducted by the aeronaut, M. Juchmes.

Barton’s Balloon.

Another large air ship, though it has not at the time of writing yet made an ascent, should be nearly ready for its initial trials. This machine is very different in design to those I have just described. The shape of the gas vessel is to be somewhat like that of a shell, that is to say, cylindrical, with an ogival head and a blunt stern. Schwarz's balloon was roughly of this shape. It is composed of well-varnished silk, and will have a “chemise” of similar fabric unvarnished to go over the top instead of a net. Portions of the envelope, especially at the head, are stiffened with bamboo ribs. The balloon is about 170 feet long and some 50 feet in diameter. Underneath this is suspended a huge framework of stout bamboos, lashed together and trussed with wire stays, This is 140 feet long, and supports a deck which can be walked along from end to end. There are three separate engines, each of 50 horsepower, There are to be three pairs of propellers, each having several superposed blades. One of the main features of the apparatus is a series of aeroplanes, which are to assist the horizontal stability and the raising and lowering of the machine. The whole air ship is very big and cumbersome, but it has very powerful engines, If anything should go wrong with the latter, however, it will be a difficult balloon to manage.

Other Air Ships.

An enormous machine is being constructed in San Francisco for  Mr. Stanley. It is to be made almost entirely of aluminum. The shape is cylindrical, with conical ends, and it is 228 feet long. Propellers are to be fixed at each end as well as on the top, the latter being to regulate the rise and fall. It is supposed to take “at least 30 passengers,” Another machine, but of more ordinary dimensions, is nearing completion in London. Mr. Beedle, the inventor, proposes to place a propeller at each end of the frame, but the front one is to be so arranged that the axis can be turned to one side to guide the vessel. It contains 24,000 cubic, feet, and has engines of 16 horsepower.

Reprinted, after revision by the author, from the Illustrated Scientific News, London, Vol. I, No. 13, September, 1903.


  Major Baden F. S. Baden-Powell was one of B-P's brothers.  He was a pioneer of military aviation, an officer in the Scot's Guards and a Fellow of both the Royal Aeronautical Society and Royal Geographical Society. He was also author of In Savage Isles and Settled Lands published in 1892.
  Baden Baden-Powell's Presidential Address, "Recent Aeronautical Progress," was published in the Aeronautical Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society in December, 1902. It reports progress to date prior to the first heavier-than-air flights.
Robert Baden-Powell, Founder of the World Scout Movement, Chief Scout of the World. A Home Page for the Founder. Links Relating to Baden-Powell on the Pine Tree Web and elsewhere.

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