Aeromarine Origins

H.King - Aeromarine Origins /Putnam/

The first powered marine flying machine (and incidentally the first full-size aircraft to have a petrol engine) to be brought to the point of testing was Wilhelm Kress' flying boat (Chanute's term). It had two aluminium floats or hulls to which three wings were attached in tandem.
   Alas for the persevering Kress, who had been experimenting with aerial devices since 1877 and had waited something like two years to test his flying boat, as the craft was beginning to lift from the water on a trial during 1901 he saw an obstruction ahead. He slackened speed and attempted to turn; but the machine capsized.
   Still he worked on, and in a letter from Vienna, dated March 13, 1903, we find Chanute advising Wilbur Wright:
   'Today I spent with Wm. Kress, who experimented with a flying boat last year. You may remember that pictures of it were published at the time, and that it came to grief; turned over and sunk [sic] upon the first trial. It has since been rebuilt.... It seems to me to possess some excellent points in construction, and that it may actually fly if a motor lighter than the present one can be obtained. The latter is a Daimler weighing some 30 lbs. per H.P... .'
   Poor Kress....
The world's first powered marine aircraft: Wilhelm Kress' twin-hulled tandem triplane, of which Chanute told Wilbur Wright: '... it seems to me that it may actually fly if a motor lighter than the present one can be obtained.'
The first British powered floatplane to rise from the water was an Avro biplane owned by Cdr Oliver Schwann and tried at Cavendish Dock, Barrowill-Furness, during 191I. Like Fabre, Cdr Schwann had never previously flown. The engine was a Green, the power of which was increased by fitting additional exhaust ports.
   I find - to my continuing astonishment - that both air lubrication and hydrofoils were involved in these experiments.
   In one installation' ... an ample air supply was led through the floats to the after side of the steps'; and with this set of floats the first take-off was accomplished - on November 18, 1911.
   Of the hydrofoil installation I am able to give the following authentic description. The floats were 'fitted with two planes under the water... These were made of duralumin plate. Their span was 40 in., chord 4 in., and the distance apart 4 in. The plates were mounted one above the other at a depth of 20 in. below the water level and at an angle of 3° to the horizontal. Each plane was slightly curved to a depth of 5/16 in.'
   Apparently this British Avro was the first marine aircraft to use the 'stepped' form of planing bottom. For some years to follow most 'seaplanes' were built to the twin-float-plus-tail-float formula, and the floats in consequence were too short to exploit the principle to advantage. There were, however, notable exceptions.
Seen at Barrow-in-Furness, where it first left the water on November 18, 1911, Commander Oliver Schwann's Avro was tried with several different sets of floats. Hydrofoils and air lubrication were both employed.
During 1904 Major B. Baden-Powell, assisted by Mr J. T. C. Moore Brabazon, was making over-water glides at the Crystal Palace. Concerning these experiments he wrote:
   'It is ... manifest that before we can build a proper airship we must make a series of trials with some apparatus progressing through the air and carrying an aeronaut to direct its course. Several experimenters have tried gliding machines, which have been designed either to soar down the face of a hill in the teeth of a wind, or to be drawn along by a string. But in addition to other drawbacks, these systems have the serious objection of being very dangerous to the operator. Already two of the principal experimenters in the line have lost their lives through some small deficiency in their apparatus, and if tried over land there is always the danger that any small mishap may result in the machine losing its balance and precipitating its operator to the ground. Such machines, at all events as hitherto designed, cannot well be tried over water for obvious reasons....
   'One of the simplest means of giving an initial speed to any body is to cause it to run down an inclined track and to shoot off into the air at the bottom. If means are adopted to prevent the machine from leaving the track before it gets to the bottom, and if it is then projected over a sheet of water, there can be but little chance of a serious accident.
   'I therefore decided to erect such a track, and conduct a series of experiments. Existing "water-chutes" at once suggested themselves as ready-made tracks, but, after examining several, and even making experiments with aeroplanes on them, I came to the conclusion that such were not suitable for the purpose....
   'By the courtesy of the Management of the Crystal Palace, the magnificent grounds of that institution have been placed at my disposal. ... Here I have had a large staging erected.'
Major B. Baden-Powell making an over-water glide at the Crystal Palace during 1904. Existing water chutes were found to be unsuitable, and a special staging was erected.
September of the same year (1905) saw similar experiments in progress at St Helens, Isle of Wight, by Dr F. A. Barton and F. L. Rawson. I quote some observations made in later years by Dr Barton himself concerning the photograph (which is reproduced) showing 'one of the hydro-aeroplanes which I, in conjunction with Mr F. L. Rawson, made and experimented with at the Isle of Wight'. Dr Barton described the craft as having a 'triangular duct' between 'dihedral planes', adding:
   'The machine rested on the water on light pontoons 26 ft. long, and weighing only 20 lb. each, and in addition to the dihedral wings, had on each side two main horizontal planes in front and two at the rear, all moveable...
   'Two vertical fixed planes and a small flying jib were placed in the bows to assist the action of the rudder in the stern.'
   How vividly that 'flying jib' epitomizes 'air and water'.
   'The engine and 7 ft. propeller,' he went on, 'was arranged for on the steering deck, which was low down on the pontoons just behind the main planes.
   'The photo shows the machine just being lifted out of the water after a trial on the open sea on September 26th, 1905.'
   Towing tests behind a launch were unsuccessful, and the intended 35-h.p. engine was never installed.
A little-known British experiment of 1915: the water-borne aircraft built by Dr F. A. Barton and Mr F. L. Rawson at St Helens, Isle of Wight. It was fitted with a 'flying jib'.
Some truly remarkable experiments were conducted jointly by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Co (later the Bristol Aeroplane Co) and Lt C. D. Burney, R.N. Stimulated by work in Italy - especially that of Guidoni - Burney persuaded the company to undertake a secret design and development programme. The first design, the X.1, was for a biplane; but this was abandoned. The X.2 was a monoplane with a boat hull which, after various trials and modifications, succeeded in becoming airborne. Unhappily it crashed almost immediately, owing to the premature slipping of the tow from a Naval torpedo boat. The X.3 was larger and more refined, but never became airborne. In June 1914 it was taxied into a hidden sandbank and, following WIthdrawal of Admiralty support, the experiments were discontinued.
   The essential features proposed by Burney are set out in a patent of 1911. A monoplane layout is shown and the craft is described as an 'aeronautical apparatus furnished with laterally extended wings and having a body of boat-like form provided with inclined hydropeds upon which are disposed hydroplanes...' Mention is made of propellers and rudders for use in water, situated at the lower ends of the hydropeds, the rudders being connected to the wing-warping controls and to the aerial rudder so as to operate simultaneously and in sympathy therewith. It is further stated: 'The propeller for propulsion in the air is situated at the forward end of the apparatus and is put into operation as soon as the lift produced by the combined action of the water propellers and the hydroplanes is sufficient to enable the aerial propeller to be used.'
The X.3 hoisted almost clear of the water.
A remarkable British aeromarine contrivance of 1908/9 was the Humphreys Waterplane, built at Wivenhoe, Essex. A contemporary description ran:
   'Amidships and incorporated in the lower plane is fitted the most original feature of this machine in the shape of a kind of coracle hull of very thin wood, in which the navigator sits. The reason for this is that Mr Humphreys has elected to start his aeroplane from the surface of the water, thereby eliminating practially all the danger attendant upon experimental flights from land in an untried machine. For a fall from a considerable height need have no terrors with water below, and none of the fears of hedges, ditches, telegraph wires and disturbing air currents due to inequalities in the ground. Further, it is possible to skid on water, whereas land running gear would break or, at least, prove unresponsive to side influences.'
   This could, in fact, have been the first amphibian, for it was intended to be 'capable of arising from and alighting on both water and land'.
Among the earliest and most fervent of British 'water fliers' was Mr E. W. Wakefield, who, in 1911, formed the Lakes Flying Company at Cockshott, Windermere, Westmorland. A letter he sent to Flight early in 1912 has its own story to tell:
   'Canon Rawnsley has written to The Times and several other papers a poetic appeal calling on all lovers of the English Lakes to rise and protest against this new invasion of the charms of Windermere.... He does not tell you of the country's need for more trained flying men, and of better and more diverse machines; or how the United States Navy have adopted hydroaeroplanes, or how Germany and Holland are inquiring all about the new machine which he is so anxious to wipe off Windermere. He does not tell you that almost everyone who has seen it flying agrees that it adds to the great natural beauty, like a fine bird, between water and sky in the changing lights.'
   The aircraft which inspired this impassioned protest was the Waterbird, a Curtiss-type floatplane built by A. V. Roe. It was initially flown from Windermere on November 25, 1911 - only one week after the first British take-off from water by Cdr Oliver Schwann.
Capt. E. W. Wakefield's Avro-Curtiss seaplane flying over Windermere, January 1912. '... this new invasion of the charms of Windermere ...' (Canon Rawnsley in a letter to The Times) - the Waterbird of Mr E. Wakefield, who stoutly rebuffed the Canon.
To resume our pursuit of marine aircraft 'firsts', whether regarded as a twin-hulled flying boat or as a twin-float seaplane the Radley-England waterplane of 1913 was of such remarkably original layout that I must give it a place. The accompanying photograph tells its own story: I feel it only necessary to add that the engines were three 50-h.P. Gnomes, coupled to a single shaft, and that the craft made several flights before an alighting accident. It was rebuilt with several modifications, and a 150-h.p. Sunbeam engine.
'Whether regarded as a twin-hulled flying boat or as a twin-float seaplane the Radley-England waterplane of 1913 was of remarkably original layout...' The engines were three Gnomes, coupled to a single shaft.
This was over two years before Curtiss finally succeeded in taking off from water. His Loon was primitive, but the basic features of flying boats that were to follow many years later were discernible in the monoplane built by Major August von Parseval, 'for approval of the German War Office' and subjected to 'preliminary trials' during September 1909. It was intended to carry a crew of three and had a body of tubular steel. The engine was a Daimler of 100 h.p.
Major August von Parseval was responsible for this flying boat of 1909, amazingly far ahead of its time, with its monoplane wing and tractor propellers.
In the application of hydrofoils to aircraft the pre-eminent name is that of the Italian Guidoni, who began his experiments in 1910. As General A. Guidoni he told the story many years later.
   'Having witnessed some of the trials of the Forlanini boat,' he said, 'I was impressed with the ingeniousness and the possibilities of this system. So when in 1910 I designed my first seaplane, I put on it the Forlanini type of floats, but soon realised that they were no good for a seaplane. The change from one vane to the other gave severe bumps to the machine and produced changes impossible to control.
   'The Crocco system gave a too small area owing to the size of the floats and, astonishing though it may appear, I did not know at that time of his work. In my first test, using a two floats seaplane, I placed the hydroplanes between the floats; this proved unsatisfactory, because the floats would never get out of water, the drag at the getting-off speed being too high. Then I tried the Forlanini vanes under the floats, but without success.
   'My idea was then to have the hydro area divided in a multiplane with two or three legs; the vanes would be parallel and with a side inclination, the low end of each one being lower than the high end of the following vane.
   'This design had the advantage of the Crocco vane, because it gave a gradual variation of hydro area when emerging from water, and it had at the same time the advantage of the Forlanini's, in giving a sufficient hydro area with a considerable depth and a reduced width.
   '"Provando e riprovando" was my motto, but at the same time I tried to evolve the theory of the jumping due to the vanes...
   'The first set of vanes was built of steel plate and were very heavy. I tried wood with success and aluminium, which proved the best. In order to be able to move the vanes along the float, they were mounted on rings of steel plate or aluminium. The planes I used in this first stage of research were an old Farman 1909, F.1, and similar improved machines F.2 and F.3, built at the Navy Yard. Two monoplanes were also tested.
   'Increasing the power and speed of machines, I found the wood vanes inadequate. I tried aluminium sheet vanes and then I standardised a set of steel vanes, which proved to be the right sort for any kind of machine, provided the size, thickness and shape were designed according to the power, speed and weight. I used ordinary steel plates, reducing them at the grinding wheel and welding the legs to the surfaces.'
   Yet one may search in vain the aeronautical history books of the past half century for any recognition of Guidoni's work. May his own utterances, which I have quoted, save his name from oblivion.
For several years after 1910 the Italian Guidoni was developing schemes for hydrofoil aircraft. Glimpsed here, beneath the floats of one of his Farmans, is a very early installation of foils.
By late 1908 Glenn Curtiss, in America, was himself at work upon the water. Experiments were reported in the first issue of Flight, dated January 2, 1909, as follows:
   'The "June Bug" has now been slightly remodelled and mounted on pontoons... During some recent tests upon Lake Keuka at Hammondsport, N.Y., the machine, now known as the "Loon", covered 2 miles (1 mile with and one against a wind of 5 or 6 miles an hour) at an average speed of 27'06 miles per hour, but this was not sufficient to enable the apparatus to completely rise from the water. Further experiments are now being conducted with hydroplane hulls of various types.'
   This was over two years before Curtiss finally succeeded in taking off from water. His Loon was primitive, but the basic features of flying boats that were to follow many years later were discernible in the monoplane built by Major August von Parseval, 'for approval of the German War Office' and subjected to 'preliminary trials' during September 1909. It was intended to carry a crew of three and had a body of tubular steel. The engine was a Daimler of 100 h.p.
During 1907 Dr Alexander Graham Bell's immense 'tetrahedral kite' the Cygnet (it had 3,393 cells), was positioned in the middle of a lake and raised against the wind by towing behind a boat.
   There are very strong links here with Glenn Curtiss, the greatest name in the development of marine aircraft; for Dr Bell was founder of the Aerial Experiment Association, of which Curtiss became 'director of experiments'; and the Red Wing, the first powered aircraft produced by the Association was initially flown (March 12, 1908) from the frozen surface of Lake Keuka. It had a sleigh undercarriage - of a type proposed by Wilhelm Kress in the early 1890s. Lake Keuka was to become the scene of much of Curtiss' early work on floatplanes and flying boats.
The Aerial Experiment Association's Red Wing, with its ski-runner undercarriage. It was first flown, from the frozen surface of Lake Keuka, on March 12, 1908. The pilot's semi·enclosed nacelle is the crude triangular structure on the left.
Having failed in 1908 to coax his Loon from the water, Glenn Curtiss was obliged to proceed with his landplanes; but when he made his famous Albany - New York flight in one of these on May 31, 1910, he fitted it with two cylindrical under-wing floats (removed during the stop at Spuyten Duyvil), an airtight canvas bag, running the length of the strut that connected the front and rear wheels, and a small hydrofoil. With this equipment he made some flights over Lake Keuka and landed successfully upon the water.
   By the end of 1910 Curtiss had become so confident of his ability to get free of the water that he invited officers of the U.S. Army and Navy to his camp at North Island, San Diego. Success came on January 26, 1911, using two floats set in tandem and a forward-mounted six-foot hydrofoil. In February a single 12-foot scow-shaped pontoon was fitted (before the paint was dry), and thereafter the machine was frequently and extensively altered, even, at one stage, becoming a triplane. In another phase it had retractable wheels.
Mr. Glenn Curtiss getting up speed before rising from the water with his biplane at San Diego, California, as recently reported, this being the first time this feat has been accomplished.
Glenn Curtiss first succeeded in leaving the water on January 26, 1911, using this biplane. It had tandem-mounted floats and a six-foot hydrofoil. It was later extensively altered.
Meanwhile, in America towards the end of 1911, Curtiss, whose 'hydros' were achieving international renown, was building what was called a 'family hydro', and which emerged as the first of his flying boats. The maiden flight was on January 10, 1912. A 60-h.p. engine drove twin tractor propellers through a clutch and chain transmissions, and the tail was carried on outriggers from the long and capacious hull.
   To the bedevilment of history, this machine has been repeatedly and prominently confused with a later type, first flown in the summer of 1912 and distinguished primarily in having the tail attached directly to a full-length hull. This formula was later to become the most common for craft of this class; but to contend that this was 'the first real flying boat' is wholly incorrect. The earlier type mentioned not only appears to have been called a flying boat by Curtiss himself, but the means of carrying the tail was perpetuated in the transatlantic NC-4. And that was certainly so termed by Curtiss and his colleagues.
Glenn Curtiss' first flying boat - the 'family hydro', with its tail carried on outriggers and twin propellers driven through chain transmission from the hull-mounted engine, was not a success but proved that the concept of a hull-borne seaplane was practical.
As early as 1897, it appears, Gallaudet (whose company later constructed seaplanes for the U.S. Navy) was experimenting with twin-float gliders, and three other schemes seem to have been the proposals, or actual productions, of Lawrence Hargrave. We must note (I cite an article in the January 1964 issue of the Australian journal Aircraft) that Hargrave was formerly working with the Australian Steam Navigation Company, 'where, in the drawing office and workshops, he learnt much that was to be useful to him in his future career'.
A twin-float glider constructed by the American Gallaudet in 1897. Gllllaudet's company was eventually to build seaplanes for the U.S. NavY.
It is significant also that the tests of Professor Samuel Pierpont Langley's historic and successful models (1896) and likewise his heartbreaking full-scale attempts with the Aerodrome of 1903 were made over water - from a houseboat on the River Potomac. And when in 1914, Glenn Curtiss eventually succeeded in flying the reconstructed and much modified 1903 machine, he fitted floats.
When launched in 1903 from a houseboat on the River Potomac, Samuel Pierpont Langley's Aerodrome came to grief. Extensively modified, Curtiss powerplant and single propeller were installed and fitted with floats, it was made to fly by Glenn Curtiss in 1914, as seen here.
The non-appearance of the Wrights at Jamestown must rank as one of the bigger disappointments of history. Yet an aeromarine craft was present nevertheless. A multiplane affair on floats, shown in a photograph, this was constructed in the Aeronautical Building at Jamestown by ten soldiers placed at the disposal of Mr Israel Ludlow, its originator, by the U.S. Government. Mr Ludlow had previously built a series of gliders, and by 1904 was towing them behind cars, with Charles Keeney Hamilton, later to become one of America's best-known airmen, as pilot. At Jamestown Mr Ludlow's remarkable creation was towed by a torpedo boat, but the intended two petrol engines Were apparently never installed and the craft was eventually wrecked.
Although the Wrights were unable to appear at the Jamestown Exposition of 1907, Mr Israel Ludlow was there with this strange device. It was towed by a torpedo boat.
By no means indubitable in character (though a very real creation) was a craft of 1911 which one may regard either as a flying boat which flew with the tip of its tail in the water or as a boat which, by means of wings, lifted everything clear except its tail.
   A product of the Michigan Steel Boat Co., this singular craft was displayed at the New York Boat Exhibition of 1911, and it travelled from Detroit to Cleveland (some 100 miles) in two hours.
   Discussing the longitudinal stability of 'skimming and hydro-aeroplanes' in 1913, J. E. Steele, B.Sc., observed that she was in the transition stage between the skimmer and the all-air machine, only leaving the water for an occasional bound into the air, 'which bound is involuntary, and not one of her natural functions'.
   The hull was an aluminium tank 7 ft 2 in. long, 5 ft 7 in. wide and 2 ft deep, with rounded-up bow. The vertical sides were carried aft past the hull for another 10 ft, where they were connected by a cross-piece which formed the horizontal tail. The hydrofoil was fitted under the hull to assist in lifting it from the surface. At a moderate speed, with the hull lifted out of the water, the craft planed along on its hydrofoil and tail; but at high speeds she lifted completely clear, except for her tail.
   A speed of between 65 and 70 m.p.h. was reported for this 'winged hull' or what might be termed today ram-wing air-cushion vehicle or dynamic interface vehicle.
The Flying Fish, built by the Michigan Steel Boat Co. in 1911, flew with its tail in the water. A hydrofoil was mounted under the metal hull.
Reverting to the development of 'conventional' marine aircraft, we are confronted with some remarkably unconventional engineering, and in illustrious company, for during 1907 the Wright brothers were themselves occupied with the problem of flying an aeroplane off the water, using not only floats but hydrofoils also. The story was later told in a letter from Orville to Commander Holden C. Richardson. Thus:
   'In 1906 after our Government and some of the European governments had shown little inclination to take our invention seriously we thought a way to impress them of its importance would be to make a flight over the parade of battleships to be held at the Jamestown Exhibition in 1907. At that time we contemplated assembling a new machine at our old camp at Kitty Hawk, flying it from there to Jamestown, and after taking an unexpected part in the parade, flying it back... As such a project could not be carried out safely in a single flight we decided to put hydroplanes and floats on the machine so that starts and landings could be made from the water.
   'As soon as the weather permitted in 1907 we began experiments with the hydroplane on the Miami River at Dayton... The cambered steel hydroplanes, located a few inches beneath the forward and rear ends of the floats, and extending between them, do not show in the picture [in the Dayton Herald of March 21, 1907] as they are under water... In these tests on the river we used the motor, transmission and propellers from our 1905 aeroplane... That motor when functioning properly developed a little over 20 horsepower. But the experiments ... terminated before we succeeded in getting more than two thirds of that power.
   'With 14 horsepower the apparatus quickly raised until only the bottom of the floats dragged on the water. But we failed with this power to get the front edges of the planes entirely out of water and thus let the planes skim on their rear edges as we had expected. Just as the front edges reached the surface the planes seemed to lose a part of their lift with a consequent sinking back into the water. This was due to the loss of the lift on the upper side when the water ceased to flow over the top, but we did not understand the cause of it at the time...
   'Immediately following these experiments negotiations with a foreign syndicate called us to Europe, so that the project of flying at Jamestown had to be given up.'
   I present with particular relish a contemporary report of the trials which appeared in the Dayton Daily News:
   'The balustrades of the Third Street Bridge were lined Thursday morning with curious spectators... The object of interest was the hydroplane which Wilbur and Orville Wright, inventors of the airship, were tampering with in preparation for its initial experimental run.
   'Although the inventors, who are being branded as geniuses, would not state the exact purpose of the hydroplane it was intimated that it is to be used in connection with their airship...
   'The present machine which is uniquely constructed from water boilers, an old gasoline engine and numerous strips of wood and sheet iron, with the water planes of copper, made its sail down the Miami River amid the encouraging cheers of the assembled spectators.'
Almost unbelievable - although this photograph bear testimony - is the fact that the Wright brothers were trying out hydrofoils for their aircraft as early as 1907. The scene is the Miami River, Dayton, Ohio.
Nevertheless, that same year - 1905 - saw the first manned (though unpowered) flight from water, by Gabriel Voisin on June 6. His craft was a float-mounted glider, towed behind the racing motor boat La Rapiere, and the trial was conducted over the Seine.
   Gabriel tells the story in his book Mes dix mille cerfs volants (1961 ), translated by Oliver Stewart and published by Putnam in England in 1963 with the title Men, Women and 10,000 Kites. Thus Gabriel:
   'Now, fifty-five years later, as I write these lines, I hear once more the lapping of the water against the sides of the floats.... I had the controls ready. I waited for a time and then I applied elevator. My lovely glider instantly left the water.
   'In a few seconds I was as high as the tops of the poplars along the quay. I went along without oscillation either in pitch or roll. We were approaching the Sevres bridge. La Rapiere slowed and I alighted on the water without incident...
   'I had flown from the Billancourt bridge to the Sevres bridge at an altitude of fifty to sixty-six feet.'
   Gabriel made three flights above the Seine that day. One was of 600 metres; the others of 100 metres and 30 metres. His historic float-glider was of Hargrave box-kite type (poetic justice, for Hargrave came near to being the first man to achieve flight from water) and was mounted on two floats constructed to his own designs.
The first manned flight from water (June 6, 1905) was made from the Seine by Gabriel Voisin in this float-mounted box-kite glider, towed by a racing motor launch.
Three days after the float-glider trials over the Seine, Gabriel Voisin and Louis Bleriot met by chance and Bleriot suggested going into partnership.
   This was agreed; and so largely to Bleriot's ideas (and much to Gabriel's alarm) a powered aircraft was built, the essential features of which were two ellipsoidal wing cellules arranged in tandem. Gabriel relates a tale of doubt and woe, the last indignity being the necessity of giving up the floats, which he knew so well, and of replacing them 'with "skids" equipped with buoyancy bags'.
   The initial test took place in 1906, on Lake Enghien. 'It was disastrous,' says Gabriel; so after further trials and errors, and by common consent, the idea of trials from water was given up.
The first 'classic' type of flying boat, with the tail mounted directly on the hull, cannot, in fact, be credited to Curtiss at all, but to Denhaut, who constructed the Donnet-Leveque machine of this type in 1912.
The French Donnet-Leveque flying boat of 1912 was the first 'classic' machine of its type - that is, having the tail mounted directly on the hull. Curtiss has been extensively and wrongly credited with this arrangement.
Gabriel Voisin provides yet another link in this chapter through his friendship with Henri Fabre, the first man to leave the water in a powered 'seaplane' (a term coined by Winston Churchill).
   'Fabre,' Gabriel recollected, 'who was living in Marseilles, was our friend. He often came to Paris and our discussions were always about flying machines. He was building a hydro-aeroplane - a seaplane, as the type was later called close to the Berre lake. It can be seen in the French Musee de l'Air at Chalais-Meudon. It is an admirable machine, designed with the greatest care and made like a masterpiece.'
   Another distinction for a predecessor of this astonishing machine is that it appears to have been, or to have been intended as, the world's first four-engined heavier-than-air craft. An October 1909 report (which also alludes to two floats) bears witness:
   'M. Henri Fabre has completed at Marseilles, and hopes to try shortly, a new combination hydro-aeroplane. The machine is of the tandem monoplane type, and mounted on two air chambers, so that it can start from and, if necessary, skim along the surface of the water. It is fitted with four 12-h.p. two-cylinder Anzani motors.'
   Having, it seems, tried hydrofoils and abandoned them because they picked up weeds and other floating debris, Fabre invented a type of float - flat-bottomed, and having a curved upper surface - with which his name was thereafter to be associated. He arranged three of these under a tail-first apparatus, one at the forward end and two aft, under the wing. The same disposition of planing surfaces had been tank-tested by Britain's great naval architect William Froude during the early 1870s.
   A contemporary description of the Fabre floats ran as follows:
   'These particular floats are so designed that when the machine is moving either through the air or on the surface of the water, or with the floats completely submerged, there is always a vertical lift on them due to the speed. When a hydroplane is travelling over a rough sea, if its speed is sufficiently high and the waves large enough, there will come a moment when the forward part will be submerged in a wave into which at that moment the main body is just entering; that is to say, in spite of the vertical lifting effect due to the buoyancy of the float, there is also a contrary vertical force acting on its upper surface, which tends to cause such portion to dip, and the whole of the hull to pass under water. When this vertical downward thrust is greater than the upward thrust, a wreck would almost inevitably result, and the aim of the present invention is to prevent this.' .
   It will have been gathered that Fabre's approach to the problem of getting clear of the water was as much marine as otherwise, and it was said of his machine that it was 'more hydroplane than aeroplane'. It might even be suggested, in our aeromarine context, that it was as much a sailing craft as a hydroplane, for the wings were covered with 'simili-silk', such as was used for light boats, and when the craft was on the water this covering could be clewed up to prevent damage by sudden gusts. The general effect was that of a boat under bare poles. And yet the airframe appeared so heavy, and the floats so small, that it seemed remarkable that it would float - far less fly.
   Mr E. Holt-Thomas sagaciously expressed himself in June 1912:
   'It has always seemed to me that too little attention has been paid to the flying part of the hydro-aeroplane machine, i.e., to the planes of the waterplane. What I mean is this; no matter how good the floats may be, an efficient waterplane can only be evolved by using an efficient aeroplane. The floats should be regarded as a landing chassis and a landing chassis only... I have known Monsieur Fabre for a very long time, and we have often discussed his early experiments at Marseilles ... he was quite convinced that he must evolve an extraordinary machine to get over the holding power of the water; whilst I was convinced, and I think events prove me right, that if he had taken a very efficient biplane and attached floats to it, he would have flown successfully two years ago.'
   'Successfully,' of course, was a relative word; but, while paying due attention to the views of Mr Holt-Thomas, I nevertheless affirm that Monsieur Fabre had indeed flown successfully two years earlier - that the world's first flight by a powered aircraft from water was, in fact, made by him at Martigues on March 28, 1910, and that he was airborne at a height of about six feet for a distance of some five hundred yards. This historic take-off was Monsieur Fabre's first aerial experience of any kind.
   Even during the following year, 1911, the Fabre machine continued to be regarded as a phenomenon. I quote from The Yachting World:
   April I2 - 'There was an alarming incident at Monaco this morning, M. Fabre, the owner of the aero-hydroplane Goeland, nearly losing his life. Goeland is a novel kind of machine.... It is driven by a Gnome engine, and the inventor's idea is that, after skimming for a certain distance on the surface of the water, the plane should gradually rise up into the air. It has caused one of the competitors to remark that he thought of carrying a punt-gun mounted vertically on his craft in case the long-legged monstrosity looked like hopping over him and securing the prize. [Previously it had been suggested that the craft would compete as a motor boat, rigged so that it could not fly.]
   'Since the weather conditions seemed perfect and the sea was quite smooth, M. Fabre determined on a trial run. The machine crossed the harbour in perfect style, skimming along the surface; nearing the harbour mouth, it rose up into the air to a height of about 30 yards, and soared along beautifully, greatly admired by thousands of spectators. As soon as it cleared the harbour, however, and encountered the full force of the wind outside, the machine became unmanageable and to the horror of the onlookers was swept along at a terrific pace towards the rocks and stone walls below the terraces. Fortunately, M. Fabre, with great presence of mind, managed to throw himself clear of the machine into the sea, and was promptly picked up, none the worse for his startling experience.'
   There is now evidence that the pilot on this occasion was Jean Becue.
Close-up of the first powered aircraft to take off from water - Henri Fabre's Gnome-engined creation which was said at the time (1910) to be 'more hydroplane than aeroplane'.
Action study of the Fabre machine, with the curious 'lifting' floats almost clear of the surface.
Nothing could epitomize the theme of this book to better advantage than the photograph above, showing the 1911 Monte Carlo Motor Boat Exhibition. Like some amoeba at the very centre is the amazing device which Henri Fabre persuaded to become the first marine aircraft to fly. It was regarded, for the purposes of the occasion depicted, both as a motor boat and as an aircraft.
As amazingly 'advanced' in design as was Fabre's glorious canard 'elementary' was a contemporary (early 1910) flying boat, having a catamaran hull, rear elevator, variable-incidence wing and a tractor propeller driven by a 50-h.p. three-cylinder Anzani. Designed by Monsieur Gabardini, it was constructed by MM. Seron and Lavagnau.
A powered aircraft resembling Mr Ludlow's was entered, early in 1909, for both the aeroplane and motor-boat meetings at Monaco. Called an aeroscaphe, and piloted by Monsieur Ravaud, it had a seven-cylinder Gnome and was about 25 ft long. There were two concentric propellers aft. This craft never left the water and ultimately came to grief.
Seen here on a iand chassis, this 'aeroscaphe' was entered by Roger Ravaud for the aeroplane and motor-boat contests at Monaco in 1909. It came to grief.
More curious still was a craft built early in 1911 by S. E. Saunders Ltd of East Cowes, Isle of Wight. 'Sam' Saunders, of whom I shall have more to relate, had undertaken aeronautical work for Sir Hiram Maxim, and formally announced his entry into the aircraft business in 1909. A news item of November that year ran:
   'Messrs S. E. Saunders Ltd are opening a new department for building everything required for aero navigation. Mr Saunders, the head of the firm, is eminently qualified to do full justice to customers' requirements in this new branch of the business, as no man in the boat-building trade in this country has had so much experience in wood working in which the chief object has been lightness of construction combined with strength. For the past 35 years, Mr Saunders has been working in this direction, and this long experience has taught him invaluable lessons in regard to the selection of light woods for the particular purpose required. In addition, Mr Saunders has seen most of the aerial machines in flight and has also had an opportunity of examining them in their sheds. He is confident that in the choice of woods and methods of construction he can save weight without in any way sacrificing strength.'
   Then, after a little over a year, in the opening weeks of 1911:
   'Satisfactory floating tests were made on Monday with an aero motor boat which has been built to the design of M. Ravaud, the French airman, at Messrs S. E. Saunders and Co's works... The designer has personally superintended the building of the machine, which is about 20 ft long and consists of two flat floats carrying above them a boat-shaped hull capable of accommodating two or three persons. It is driven by an air propeller with a 50-h.p. Gnome engine. At the bow there is a rudder above water... Messrs Saunders, who are builders of the hydroplanes and motor boats for the Duke of Westminster and others, are proposing to develop at East Cowes a centre for marine aviation, and have built a shed up the river Medina, near Osborne Naval College engineering workshops.'
   When I resurrected this delightful specimen (Air-Cushion Vehicles of November 1963) I quoted no fewer than four different renderings of the 'designer's' name - 'Revaud', 'Ravaud', 'Pavaud' and 'Payaud'. To these I am now able to add 'Rivaud' and 'Rayaud'. But as I remarked at the time compared with contemporary descriptions of the craft itself, the rendering of Ravaud's name was almost unanimous. She was declared by various observers and authorities to be an 'aeroscaphe', 'motoscaphe', 'curious hybrid', 'aero motor boat', 'hydro-aeroplane', 'sea flier', 'aero-hydroplane', 'half an aeroplane and half a hydroplane', 'skimmer with aerial propeller' and 'aeroquat' .
   Launched in January 1911, this chimera was intended to appear at Monaco later in that year. It failed to arrive, although it may have operated in the Shoreham district. The intention was to install a Gnome engine of 100 h.p., and with this Ravaud was hoping for a speed of about 60 m.p.h.
   A dynamic interface vehicle if ever there was one. Or should she, after all, have been included in the chapter on hydrofoils; because I find that Ravaud declared that the bottoms of the floats were (or could be) 'constituted by blades', serving 'to raise the vessel clear of the water'.
   And in case the glorious photograph I reproduce should provide further bewilderment, I must explain that Ravaud is facing astern.
Monsieur Ravaud in the undeniably curious craft built for him in 1911 by S. E. Saunders Ltd of East Cowes, Isle of Wight.
Once again the name of Voisin presents itself, and in yet another tribute to it I record that the world's first successful amphibious heavier-than-air craft was a Voisin canard biplane. In addition to its wheels this was fitted with three Fabre floats, and during August 1911, piloted by Maurice Colliex, it took off from Issy on its wheels and alighted on the Seine, afterwards making the return journey. The take-off run from water was about 200 yards.
   Nor was this a 'one-off' freak, for Gabriel recalls that he delivered to the Russian Government 'eight to ten amphibious "canard" types'; and a Voisin canard 'hydro-aeroplane' was the first marine aircraft delivered to the French Navy (mid-1912). It was housed in a special hangar aboard the battleship Foudre.
The Voisin 'canard' in which Maurice Colliex, during August 1911, took off from Issy aerodrome and alighted on the Seine, afterwards making the return trip. This was the first successful amphibian.