A.Jackson Avro Aircraft since 1908 (Putnam)
Roe I Biplane
A. V. Roe's first man-carrying aircraft was a canard biplane of wire braced, wooden construction, similar to the Wright-type model with which he won ?75 at Alexandra Palace in April 1907. The aircraft was built round a large white wood, three bay, triangular structure mounted on four home-made pneumatic tyred wheels, the front pair being steerable. The pilot sat in the forward part of the machine and a 9 h.p. J.A.P. aircooled motorcycle engine was situated amidships, driving a two bladed paddle-like pusher airscrew through five feet of extension shafting which formed the apex of the central structure. Wing construction was primitive, the main spars being external and therefore thin to reduce drag. For rigidity it was necessary to employ a large number of bracing wires and kingposts with the result that the cotton covering could only be applied to the underside of each wing. The covering was then tightened with a coat of size and the whole wing structure braced from three much taller kingposts. There were no ailerons and no rudder but a car-type steering column warped and pivoted the large front elevator and so gave both lateral and fore-and-aft control. A. V. Roe was the true inventor of the single-lever type of control and had patented such a system as early as 1906, ante-dating the claims of Continental inventors by several years.
The Roe I biplane was built in the stables behind the surgery of A. V. Roe's brother Dr. S. Verdon Roe at 47 West Hill, Putney, London, and on completion in September 1907 was taken to Brooklands, where Roe hoped to make an attempt to win the ?2,500 prize offered by the owners for the first flight round the track before the end of that year. Although a great deal of taxying was done along the concrete track, the 9 h.p. engine was not powerful enough and the biplane flew only when towed by friendly racing motorists. Such flights were successful on straight tows, but turns resulted in sideslips and damage until Roe designed a quick-release which enabled him to cast off at will and make controlled landings. In this way he learned the feel of the controls but the end of the year came without the prize being awarded.
'A.V.' then negotiated the loan of a 24 h.p. Antoinette eight cylinder, water cooled engine designed and built in France by Levasseur. It had copper water jackets and direct petrol injection and on its arrival in May 1908, gave Roe the extra power he so badly needed. To carry the increased weight, extra wing area was provided by inserting short stub wings at mid gap in the inner wing bays. Unfortunately the extra power was more than his airscrews could absorb and many blade failures occurred, but the trouble was eventually cured and in the early morning of June 8, 1908, he succeeded in taking the biplane off under its own power and in making several hops at a height of 2 to 3 ft. above the track. A. V. Roe did not publicise his achievement and two years passed before he let it be known that he had left the ground in 1908. In 1928-29 the Gorrell Committee of the Royal Aero Club disallowed his claim to have been the first to fly in Britain on the grounds that he had not been airborne for a sufficient distance, ruling that the first Briton to do so had been J. T. C. Moore-Brabazon in a Voisin biplane at Eastchurch nearly a year later.
During his long stay at Brooklands Roe received no encouragement from his landlords. The Clerk of the Course, E. de Rodakowsky, put every possible obstacle in his way and was openly hostile to aeroplanes, so that when the 1908 motor racing season opened, Roe's shed was pressed into use as a refreshment room and the biplane banished to a field behind the track. Track attendants stumbled under the load while lifting it over the fence and dropped the machine into a dried-up dyke where it was damaged beyond repair. Roe was heartbroken but received no compensation and was forced to send the engine back to France as he could not afford to buy it. He dismantled the remains of the aircraft, keeping only a wheel and a few other selected parts to remind him of some of the ingenious constructional methods he had used. In later years these items were preserved in a glass case at his home as a part of the Roe private aeronautical collection.
SPECIFICATION AND DATA
Construction: By A. V. Roe at 47 West Hill, Putney, London, S.W.15
One 9 h.p. J.A.P.
One 24 h.p. Antoinette
Dimensions: Span 30 ft. 0 in. Length 23 ft. 0 in.
Tare weight 350 lb. All-up weight 650 lb.
Weight of Antoinette engine (without radiator) 98 lb.
M.Goodall, A.Tagg British Aircraft before the Great War (Schiffer)
Deleted by request of (c)Schiffer Publishing
P.Lewis British Aircraft 1809-1914 (Putnam)
Avro Biplane 1
A. V. Roe's first full-size aeroplane was a canard pusher biplane which was built with the ?75 prize money won by his 8 ft. span model at the Alexandra Palace Daily Mail model contest held during March, 1907. A scaled-up version of the model, it was constructed during the summer of 1907 at Putney to compete for the ?2,500 prize offered for the first flight around the Brooklands track before the end of the year. The machine was fitted with a 9 h.p. J.A.P. engine and originally had a four-bladed propeller which was not used and which was replaced by a two-bladed shovel type built up with sheet aluminium. No rudder was fitted, but the front elevator could be inclined as a whole or warped differentially by the control wheel. Six wheels were fitted first of all for the undercarriage, together with skids, but the number was reduced later to four.
The aeroplane was underpowered, and by May, 1908, a 24 h.p. Antoinette engine with a two-bladed propeller had been substituted for the original J.A.P., and small horizontal surfaces were installed at mid-gap in the inner bays of the two-bay single-surfaced wings. Tests were made at Brooklands in June, 1908, by towing behind a car, and the machine also made short hops under its own power along the finishing straight. Span, 30 ft. Length, 23 ft. Loaded weight, 600 lb.