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Wonders of World Aviation

Part 1

Part 1 of Wonders of World Aviation was published on Tuesday 8th March 1938, price 7d.

It was a normal issue of 32, not 36 pages, unlike the other series. This part included a superb folding colour plate showing a cutaway drawing of the Short-Mayo Composite Aircraft which accompanied an article on the Short-Mayo Aircraft. There was also a central photogravure supplement illustrating the article on Parachute Landings. All these are illustrated below.

The Cover

The cover shows an unidentified aircraft propeller and engine.

Part 1 of Wonders of World Aviation

Contents of Part 1


“Filling the World With Amazement”

How an Aeroplane Flies

Parachute Landings

Parachute Landings (photogravure supplement)

Moving Wing Flight

The Short-Mayo Aircraft

The Short-Mayo Composite Aircraft (colour plate)

Into the Stratosphere (Part 1)


By the Editor

FLIGHT is, perhaps, man’s greatest audacity. The dream of it, born as soon as the human eye looked upward with aspiration, was audacious. The pioneers of balloons and heavier-than-air machines were gifted with enviable impertinence. The completion of the conquest, as far as the conquest of the air may be thought of as complete, has given birth to bolder and bolder enterprise.

Because of these things the present work is brought into being. It is an attempt to deal faithfully and sincerely with a vast and more than ordinarily interesting subject. It is an attempt to present without bias or favour a complete survey of aeronautical endeavour.

That the subject is a controversial one is common knowledge, but I have tried, I think successfully, to represent all the various schools of thought which are to be found in the world of aeronautics.

IN PLANNING these volumes, I have been mindful of the worldwide nature of the subject. Its scope, both in time and place; is extraordinarily broad, and the variety of its aspects too obvious to need any stressing here. Hence, much time and labour have been spent in collecting all the material essential to a work as comprehensive as Wonders of World Aviation.

That the effort will fulfil its purpose of satisfying and pleasing those who share an interest in this great and fascinating subject is a hope which I carry with some confidence. The sincerity of the effort at least cannot be questioned, and I venture to believe that the work itself will take an important place in the annals of aviation.

Early Flying Machines

GLIDER, built in America by Octave Chanute in collaboration with A M Herring, one of Lilienthal’s pupils. This glider, built between 1895 and 1900, was a simple biplane, but was developed from a mulitplane with wing tips which could warp when struck by gusts of wind.

CONTROLLED CHIEFLY BY THE MOVEMENTS OF THE PILOT’S BODY, the Hawk, a glider (left), was built by Pilcher in 1896 at Eynsford, Kent. Two wheels, suspended on springs, were fitted to the undercarriage. The supporting area was 170 square feet for a weight of about 50 lb.

LANGLEY’S EXPERIMENTAL FLYING MACHINE (left) was built about 1903. It was a tubular structure carrying planes arranged in pairs as a tandem monoplane, the propelling plant being mounted between the planes.

(Page 5)

How an Aeroplane Flies

An outline of the principles governing modern aviation design. This chapter is by J Laurence Pritchard and describes, with reference to diagrams and photographs, how an aeroplane flies.

(Pages 7-10)

Parachute Landings

How emergency equipment has increased safety in flying. The parachute is now the standard equipment for the flying personnel of the air forces of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the United States of America and other countries, and is in regular use by civilian aviators in many parts of the world. This chapter is by Sidney Howard.

(Pages 11-19)

The First Stage of a Parachute Descent

THE FIRST STAGE of a parachute descent is to clear the aircraft after having jumped or dived from it. The standard parachute for general service is 24 feet in diameter. It has two main parts, the harness and the pack. Complete with harness and pack, it weighs about 22 lb and has a rated descent of 16 feet a second. When the parachute is descending, a miniature parachute known as the auxiliary, or pilot, is at the top above the vent in the canopy of the main parachute. Rigging lines or shrouds from this canopy are led to four rings. These rings are connected to the harness, which is made of heavy webbing.

(Page 11)

Parachute Landings

Photogravure Supplement

HOW THE EARTH LOOKS to the parachutist after the canopy has opened. This remarkable photograph was taken with an automatic camera fixed inside the parachute. At one time it was thought that a man falling or diving from a great height was incapable of thought or action after he had fallen several hundred feet. This was disproved, however, by Leslie Irvin, an experienced high diver. He maintained that if a diver could control his body during a dive of less than 100 feet, it should be possible for a parachutist to control mind and muscle while jumping or diving from a height of several thousand feet. Irvin put his theories into practice in an experimental dive in 1919, when he became the first man to open a parachute while falling.

(Page 15)

Parachute Landings: Photogravure Supplement

AFTER THE PARACHUTE HAS OPENED. The process of opening is so rapid that it is impossible to see it with the eye. It has been filmed with a slow-motion camera, and the film showed that the air in the upper part causes the canopy to open from the apex to the periphery. A parachute lands with the wind, and therefore the parachutist must face the wind so that he can watch his descent. If he is drifting backwards he turns the parachute. To do this he tugs the shrouds to pull down the edge of the canopy in the direction in which he wants to turn. He then grasps the shrouds on the opposite side and, without pulling down, gives the parachute a twist in the desired direction, turning it at the same time.

(Pages 16-17)

Parachute Landings:

Photogravure Supplement

PARACHUTE DRILL in the Russian Army. This photograph shows some 100 parachute jumpers in the air at the same time. Others who have landed have unbuckled their harnesses and folded the parachutes. In many parts of the USSR parachute jumping is a popular sport, and the public is provided with parachute towers for training purposes.

(Page 18)

Moving Wing Flight

Ingenious solutions of the landing-speed problem. This article is by Major Oliver Stewart and is the first article in the series on Unorthodox Aircraft.

(Pages 20-24)

The Hafner Gyroplane

THE HAFNER GYROPLANE has a device enabling the pilot to adjust the incidence of the rotor blades. This device and a practical  rudder enable the pilot to twist and turn with great ease and swiftness. Further, a lift-control lever is used which gives the pilot some control during the vertical ascent, and he is thus able to “feel” his way into the air.

(Page 20)

The Short-Mayo Aircraft

Launching a heavily loaded seaplane from the back of a flying boat. This chapter is by Arthur Clark and describes the Short-Mayo composite aircraft. In the editorial to this part, Clarence Winchester notes that the folding plate of the Short-Mayo composite aircraft was specially prepared with the cooperation of Major R. H Mayo, the inventor. This aircraft is included because the composite machine represents one of the forward steps in the work of the designer and constructor of today.

(Pages 25-29)

Click on the small icon to view a British Pathé newsreel of the Short-Mayo Composite in 1938.

You can read about the Short Empire Flying Boats in Wonders of World Engineering.

A colour picture of Mercury is shown on the cover of part 14.

Title page of Wonders of World Aviation

“Filling the World With Amazement”

The panorama of aeronautical achievement, which forms an introductory chapter to the series by the Editor, Clarence Winchester.

(Pages 3-6)

In his editorial for this part, Clarence Winchester writes, “It has long been my hope to bring within the compass of a single work a comprehensive survey of flight and its allied subjects. I have often wanted to issue a production that would appeal not only to those readers with much or little knowledge of the many branches of aeronautics, but also to those who are now finding themselves daily more interested in air matters. An ambitious task, I admit, and one not to be attempted lightly; but the time has now come to put my planning to the test. The encouragement 1 have received from various quarters leads me to believe that my somewhat bold ambition (for it may be so considered) will succeed. The preparation necessary for such a work calls for both time and care, as so much that is written on aeronautics is often necessarily restricted in scope; but in this publication I have planned to cover as wide a field as is humanly possible, so that on its completion, with a full index, we shall have a very interesting book that will also be an exhaustive reference work of inestimable value.”

Lilienthal’s Glider

Lilienthal’s Glider

THIS GLIDER, built by Otto Lilienthal in 1895, had a span of 18 feet and a total area of 200 square feet. An earlier glider, built by Lilienthal in 1891, first established the superiority of the cambered plane in flight. It weighed 40 lb, and had a supporting surface of about 107 square feet. Lilienthal made many successful glides from a hill at Gross Lichterfelde, near Berlin.

(Page 3)

Early flying machines The Main Controlling Factors of Flight

The Main Controlling Factors of Flight

THE MAIN CONTROLLING FACTORS OF FLIGHT are four in number. The engine controls the height at which the aeroplane flies. The elevators force the tail down or up, into the attitude for climbing or descent. The remaining controls - ailerons and rudder - enable the aeroplane to turn and bank correctly. The aeroplane in the illustration is a Westland Lysander monoplane.

(Page 7)

The First Stage of a Parachute DescentHOW THE EARTH LOOKS to the parachutist after the canopy has openedAFTER THE PARACHUTE HAS OPENEDAFTER THE PARACHUTE HAS OPENEDsome 100 parachute jumpers in the air at the same timeThe Hafner Gyroplane

Into the Stratosphere (Part 1)

The first ascent of over ten miles by Professor Auguste Piccard. This chapter is by L H Thomas and is concluded in part 2.

(Pages 30-32)

You can read about flights in the stratosphere in Wonders of World Engineering.

The Gondola of the Balloon used by Professor Piccard

THE GONDOLA OF THE BALLOON in which Professor Piccard ascended into the stratosphere was hermetically sealed. This was an innovation in the history of ballooning. Past experience had shown that oxygen masks and pressure suits had their possibilities, but Piccard wished to be bodily transported, with his normal supply of air and in his normal surroundings, into a region where life would ordinarily be impossible. All stratosphere ascents by balloon since Piccard’s first attempt have been made in hermetically sealed gondolas.

(Page 31)

The Short-Mayo Composite Aircraft

TWO SEPARATE UNITS comprise the Short-Mayo composite aircraft: the lower component Maia and the upper component Mercury. The machines take off as one unit, piloted from the Maia, and when sufficient height and speed have been reached they are separated. The upper machine may then proceed on its journey while the lower one returns to the base. When it is fully loaded the Mercury is unable to take off without assistance of the flying boat.

(Page 25)

The Short-Mayo Composite Aircraft

The Short-Mayo composite aircraft. During the take-off, the two pilots are in telephonic communication with one another.

The key to the numbering is: 1. Navigation lights; 2. Ailerons; 3. Petrol tank; 4. 340 hp Napier-Halford Rapier engines; 5. Oil coolers; 6. Wooden airscrews; 7. Radio operator; 8. Captains; 9. Landing lights; 10. Hull; 11. Floats; 12. Elevators; 13. Tail planes; 14. Rudders; 15. Fins; 16. Mail hold; 17. Trailing aerial winch; 18. Releasing lever (Mercury); 19. First officer; 20. Mail, freight and baggage hold; 21. Lavatory; registration markings; 23. Carburettor air intakes; 24. 915 hp Bristol Pegasus engines; 25. Float struts; 26. Locking and releasing gear; 27. Masthead lights and airspeed indicators; 28. Retracted direction-finding and homing aerial; 29. Ventilators; 30. Controllable pitch airscrews.

(Facing page 26)

The Short-Mayo Composite AircraftThe Short-Mayo composite aircraftThe Short-Mayo composite aircraftThe Gondola of the Balloon used by Professor Piccard