If Israel Ludlow, a graduate of Ann Arbor in the class of '95 and a lawyer in this city for the last ten years does not have in operation within the next two weeks a flying machine which really flies, he will be a much disappointed man. He has been building the machine for several months in the vacant lot at West End Avenue and Seventy-eighth Street.
Since his college days Mr. Ludlow has been interested in aeronautics. He knows a lot about air currents, the supporting power of the atmosphere, the resistance to a forward movement therein, and other matters pertaining to the steering, starting, maintenance of equilibrium, and safe alighting of flying machines.
Using a tetrahedral kite of his own construction, he has been interesting residents of Riverside Avenue, at the corner of Ninetieth Street, for some weeks, and has achieved flights of 25 yards under conditions not always favorable.
The complex machine on the wings of which he expects to fly is now almost complete. A. S. Littlejohn, carpenter and builder, has been constructing it under his direction. There remains only the installation of the motor which is to furnish power for its propellers, and the conclusion of experiments designed to establish its structural strength. Safely moored behind the stone walls of the lot where it has been put together, its great wings show from the street, and many conjectures as to the character of the contrivance have been made by passers-by.
In his experiments Mr. Ludlow has had the united support of west side boydom. There is not a youngster who has laid eyes on either tetrahedral kite or flying machine who is not his willing slave. To the volunteer aid derived from juvenile sources, Mr. Ludlow admits a deep debt of gratitude. His kite is some 25 feet wide and 10 feet from front to back. The boys, as many of them as can catch hold, carry it from one point to another as he directs.
"If they don't behave themselves I don't let them work," he said yesterday afternoon.
"There is no reason in the world why man shouldn't fly," continued Mr. Ludlow. "It is probable that his first flights will be short and crude, as the jumps and hops of a young bird are. In time, though, he will spurn the earth, and his movements in the air, like those of a full-grown bird, will be free and untrammeled. When it is, a new world will be opened. The jungles of Africa will be explored. The pole may be gained. War will be a back number.
"The problem is not unsolvable. Prof. Langley of the Smithsonian Institution has proved that, under favorable circumstances, a maximum weight of 200 pounds per horse power expended may be sustained. Hiram Maxim and other inventors have constructed engines which weigh less than ten pounds for each horse power developed. Care must now be devoted to the general form of the flying machine with the object of obtaining automatic equilibrium and safe support.
"I am on the verge of completing a full-size flying machine. I have built it on the aeroplane principle, with no gas bag or balloon to support it. The framework is of light bamboo, 1 1/4 inches in diameter, and the wings are covered with light canvas, treated with a preparation of boiled linseed oil. The joints are bolted with 3-16-inch bolts and bound with light yacht marlin. There are two groups of superimposed aeroplanes placed by pairs in tandem fashion.
"The two halves of each of the two middle aeroplanes are set at a diedral angle with each other. The upper forward aeroplane is a trapezoid in shape. Its forward edge is 13 feet and its rear edge 18. Its sides are 7 feet 3 inches in length and it has a depth of 6 1/2 feet. The middle front aeroplane forms a diedral angle with the top of its sides reaching the upper aeroplane. Its two halves are 7 1/2 feet long. The lower front aeroplane, rectangular, has a width of 10 feet, and the upper rear aeroplane, also rectangular, is 21 feet wide. The two halves of the diedral rear aeroplane are each 11 feet wide by 6 1/2 feet in depth. The lower rear aeroplane is 9 feet wide.
"There is a total of 556 1/4 square feet of surface, the diedral angle aeroplanes giving direction to the line of flight and preventing oscillation. They also give lateral stability, for when the machine tilts the halves of the diedral angle of the aeroplanes which are down are more horizontal than those which are on the other side and receive consequently greater air pressure, the equilibrium being thus restored. Longitudinal equilibrium is gained by dividing the air current that passes under the surface of the aeroplanes.
"The motor is below the aeroplanes, bringing the centre of gravity below the centre of pressure. By a simple arrangement of levers connected with the lower front aeroplane automatic equilibrium is imparted. The machine is mounted on four bicycle wheels, the two front wheels being capable of guidance. This arrangement permits alighting at an acute angle and rolling upon the ground or gaining headway for flight.
"I weigh 167 pounds. The flying machine weighs 165 pounds, without the motor, and the motor weighs 75 pounds. This gives a total weight of 307 pounds, or one and six-tenths square feet of surface for each pound of weight to be lifted. That this proportion is desirable I have verified by many experiments with models and man-lifting kites.
"There are two propellers of four blades each, 8 feet in diameter and varying in width from 5 inches to 18 inches at the extreme edge. The blades are in pairs, one behind the other.
"I have applied for patents on some parts of my machine, but I wish that those who are interesting themselves along the same lines would keep on. I believe in the general advancement of the science and when I make my public trial I shall be glad to communicate with those who are working along the same lines with me. It will be glad to score a success at the first trial, but progress in the science of flying has been built on failures. If the machine should not fly, I shall not abandon my experiments, but will keep on until I build one that does."
Reprinted from The New York Times July 6, 1905. Article rescued from oblivion by Tyler Simpson. Manual conversion by GB.