Berget, 1909, Conquest of the Air

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Alphonse Berget. The Conquest of the Air; Aeronautics, Aviation; History: Theory: Practice. With Explanatory Diagrams and Photographs. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. London: William Heinemann. 1909.

Online at Internet Archive.

Dedicated to Professor Silvanus P. Thompson, D.Sc., F.R.S., principal of the City and Guilds Technical College, Past President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

Part I deals with aeronautics, Part II with aviation.

Part I

In Part I, Berget lays out some basic relationships relating to length, volume, speed, power, etc.

Since speed increases in proportion to the cube of power expended, he suggests that dirigibles have the largest radius of action when their speed can be kept to the minimum necessary for navigation. For this reason he suggests equipping them with two motors.

One thing should be clearly understood: speed is costly on an airship as on a transatlantic liner; to double it, the motor power must be multiplied by 8; the balloon must therefore carry eight times more fuel; whereas, by diminishing the motor-power by one-half, the speed is only reduced by one-fifth. When, therefore, airships attempt to perform long aerial voyages, the problem that confronts them will be, how to reconcile the minimum speed which will enable them to make way effectually against the prevailing winds, with a reduction of the motor power, which, by diminishing the amount of fuel consumed, will enable the store of petrol to hold out sufficiently to reach the most distant points! The wisest solution would obviously be to furnish the dirigible balloon with two independent motors; when a "special effort" was required, the two engines could be used; but in favourable atmospheric conditions, the travellers would be content with the propulsion furnished by a single motor. Though the speed would be somewhat diminished, it would be possible to travel a good deal farther.
All we have just said of the "radius of action" of a dirigible applies of course to aeroplanes, for which this consideration is also of the greatest importance.

[c.f. Langley's Law]

Part II

Part II includes descriptions of contemporary airplanes followed by a history of aviation giving credit to "the forerunner" George Cayley and then some later experimenters.

Zeitgeist comment

From Preface to English edition, dated 31 August 1909.

The year 1908 was one of experiments in aerial navigation; 1909 is the year of the most brilliant achievements.

In 1908 the magnificent experiments of the Wright Brothers excited the admiration of all to a supreme degree; and in the month of October of the same year two audacious aviators, Farman and Blériot, leaving their experimenting grounds, boldly set out into the realm of practice. On October 30 Farman accomplished the first "aerial voyage," by traveling from Châlons to Rheims, passing over villages, forests, and hills; and the next day Blériot achieved the first "cross-country" journey in a closed circle between Toury and Artenay, making two descents en route, and restarting under his own effort, without any launching apparatus, finally returning to his starting point.

The "Conquest of the Air," commenced in 1885 by the first dirigible, La France, built by Colonel Renard, is to-day asserted in the new development—aviation.

But now, in 1909, our human birds have excelled. By a remarkable flight, Blériot, more fortunate than his rival, Latham, who came to grief off his destination, succeeded in crossing the Channel on July 25, thus realising through the atmosphere that entente cordiale made between the two nations; and in the month of August, on the plain of Bethany, near Rheims, in the first "aviation meeting" that has been held, all previous records were beaten. Paulhan, upon a biplane built by Voisin, covered 131 kilometres; Latham, on an Antoinette monoplane, traversed 154.500 kilometres without a stop; and Henri Farman, in a triumphant continuous flight, ultimately completed 180 kilometres in 3 hours 4 minutes 56 seconds. In addition to these marvellous exploits, Hubert Latham, striving to secure the victory for height, rose to 156 meters; and Curtis, the American, won the speed trophy by travelling 30 kilometres in 21 minutes 15 seconds—that is to say, flew at 75 kilometres per hour.

If one also recalls the fact that it was in the course of this same year, 1909, that the two most remarkable voyages were accomplished by dirigible balloons, which have definitely asserted the possibility of their practical application, one will understand that the highway of the atmosphere is now open and that the "Conquest of the Air" has become an accomplished fact.

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