Cairo, 5 January 1896
Louis-Pierre Mouillard to Octave Chanute
I have just spent about a week in the desert and am now back in Cairo by reason of damages and repairs to the aero plane. I sent the machine into the desert and tested the action of the wind upon those surfaces which at first sight appeared enormous. I released this great monster down a slope of 5% and, despite a wind from the south with a speed which I estimate at least 10 meters per second, no significant rise was obtained. From time to time the marks of the wheels would disappear and I would feel that they were no longer turning, but these moments were so minimal as to be despaired of. I scoffed at myself and at the precautions I was taking in order that the aeroplane might not be borne away at night by some sudden gust of wind, precautions which went as far as burying the undercarriage and covering the wings with stones and sand, and I told myself that all this was very silly.
Thus, excited by these continual failures, I reached such a state of exasperation that I no longer had faith in the correctness of my observations or in the figures in the tables of the studies of birds in my book. However, as I had been accurate, I well recalled having taken the greatest care in working them up. Mr. Drzewiecki on his trip to Cairo looked over and recalculated several which he found absolutely accurate; and still no serious flight!
Absolutely furious, I tried it without the weight of my person; it performed in just about the same way. On 3 January there was a wind, still the Medare, from the south, cold, with a speed of at least 21 meters. I decided to risk losing the machine and launch it in this fearful stream of air. It took six men to move it. At one moment all six of us were knocked over and caught under the machine. As it is not heavy, 100 odd kilos, no one was hurt. We righted it, joking about its flying whims, and set out carrying it again to try it on a selected slope, the outline of which is given below:
Fig. pg.240 5-Jan-96
We arrived at X. When we came to A, I had a strong cord, about as thick as a stalk of wheat, added to the front and held by my aide at C for the purpose of steadying it and keeping it headed in the right direction into the wind. Then, with two men holding the tips of the wings and 5 or 6 others pushing from behind, it was launched down the slope. At B, the front, raised by this little earthwork, was caught by the wind. The aeroplane rose, ascended to a height of 8 to 10 meters (a second stage), became motionless in spite of the cord (my aide, completely hypnotized by the sight, forgot to pull). The aeroplane began to move slightly sidewise to the right, came down again very slowly, and sat down on the ground so gently that nothing was broken. Later it was learned that one of the springs of the front wheel had broken at a point where a large bolt passes through it to hold it in place, which prevented continuing the experiment. I had wanted to make it pass point D and to see it enter the void DE, which extended indefinitely. This experiment does not demonstrate very much. However, it was so pretty that the spectators - there were about twenty persons present - could not keep from uttering cries at the slowness and majesty of the movement. You may judge of the slowness. The machine covered a forward course of no more than exactly 28 meters and stayed in the air for more than l minute. I repeat, this is only of interest as a lesson, but it proves: (l) That the wind supports. We knew that already. (2) That it is madness to dream of submitting oneself to a wind of such velocity; and that, above all, for the first experiments, it is necessary to proceed in an almost absolute calm; and that a still greater surface is required. The machine suffered in no respect (the strength of the bamboo is remarkable), the tips of the wings, their edges, bore the machine and my person twenty different times; they are still as new as before the experimentation. I am going by additions to enlarge this surface greatly, adding to it simply very thin resilient bamboos, 0.015 in diameter, and light linen coverings. The weight will be increased by only 5 kg and the surface extended by from 5 to lO square meters. I will change the location of experimenting, and will try out a much more abrupt slope that I know of, and will begin by falling to accustom myself to the void, and will only pass to rising from the flat, using the current of the air, when I shall be absolutely sure of myself and of the good functioning of my aeroplane.
I have not been satisfied, among other things, with the controlling action of my moving planes (annularies) at the tips of the wings. I must greatly increase their importance. This device is indispensable. It was their absence which prevented Lilienthal from going farther; it is this which permits going to left and right.
I am leaving this evening to look for the machine in the desert. It will take about two weeks to make the repairs. The new experiment will therefore be at about the end of January.
I am writing of this experiment with a wealth of detail, not because I attach the least importance to it, but only because there were quite a few witnesses. False rumors will spring up and exaggerate a great deal the course of events.
There still remains at least one defect in this machine that prevents its being practical. It is that of having to remain in repose with its wings opened, and the consequent necessity of watching it constantly so as not to see it blown away at the first gust of wind. It should be changed so that, at rest, the covering would be capable of folding, disappearing, of offering no, or almost no, resistance to the wind. I have this system in my head, but it would take long to make and would be expensive. Finally, if the present aeroplane, modified, should happen to produce something of which one might boast, I am hoping that by means of a group of the friends of aviation it would be possible to build it.
You have already spoken of this combination; it therefore seems feasible to me. It is a question first of producing a serious flight.
Cairo, January 25, 1896
Louis-Pierre Mouillard to Octave Chanute
I received your kind letter of December 31 and good wishes of success that it enclosed, for which I thank you heartily. You must have a new letter from me telling you about an experiment of the taking off of the pilotless airplane, which is rather interesting. Since then, because of repairs, the airplane has been taken down to Cairo, and fate willed it that I haven't had time to work on it. I am a struggling herborist now for a fortnight, in spite of myself. I was obliged to substitute for the lady who keeps the shop that we own, but she will soon be back and I will begin with these repairs and this enlargement of surface, which is indispensable in order to get carried by a medium air current, meaning 10 m to the second, or in falling down to fall slowly enough so that I wouldn't get broken up. Ten kg of load to the square meter of surface are too much for the first studies, certainly it is double what is necessary for with this load there must be a frightening speed that would scare you. The tests must be made in a weak wind and not with a wind of 40 meters which would even have been insufficient to carry me. As you see, we do not agree with Lilienthal; which of the two will be right? The test will tell, but already one can explain this disagreement. He proceeds by falls; it is the animated parachute that he studies. For me it is different, it is from the first the direct takeoff and the penetration that has been perfectly indicated in the experiment of which I spoke in my last letter.
Allow me to change the subject for a moment, for in aviation at the point where we are now, we need facts and not speeches. You wrote me at the time when I submitted to you my two torpedoes that the United States was in peace with everybody and that by this fact my ideas were not suited to the situation. Today the conditions are not the same anymore; don't you think like I do? This reasoning that was perfect two years ago is no longer so at this hour, where you are up against a naval force of the first order, especially formidable through the number of its regular units, eager for combat. (England is so far ahead of us that it would be hard for us to catch up, not on account of the money but the time needed to be able to produce a navy).
Don't you think that it would be feasible to present at this time these engines of a fighting quality different from the ordinary battleship? They are engines that do not cost as. much and can be produced in great numbers in very little time. I stopped talking to you about them at the time, because it was not the moment to produce them, not on account of the objections that were made against them - that of the destruction of the carrying conveyance by the repercussion of the shock in the water. This destruction will be avoided very simply by the elasticity of the outer coating. The objection to the lack in direction in both torpedoes is answered by the action of the rudders, which give a precise wake, stop, and heading in the right direction, and made in such a way as not to miss a boat 100 meters long when they are launched a distance of 100 meters from the goal; this distance is sufficient to lessen the commotion however terrible it may be.
So I beg you to choose an instant when you are not too preoccupied and to read over with attention my communication on this subject and to judge if it should be possible to conduct some experiments that would prove their worth.
I was often obliged to think on the fate of the carrying conveyance, especially for a case much worse than the one of pulverization (pardon this expression) of a common battleship; it is that of the destruction of a naval base by the simple action of vibration. I think that even in these extreme cases the carrying conveyance would not be in much danger.
It is in order to talk to you about these things that I would have liked so much to see you. In a few hours of conversation one says much more than in volumes of correspondence.
In spite of the enormity that one would notice at first sight in the above paragraph, I think certainly you are already persuaded that I do not wish the death of anybody. Still I think that the economy or time, money, work, etc. are things to be considered, and the more destructive the war weapons will be, the fewer men will be killed. It will be, if you want it like that, forced, but as I have been able to analyze to you from afar it will certainly not displease you.
Mobile, January 28, 1896
Octave Chanute to Louis-Pierre Mouillard
I have just received your letter of the 5th, and I am afraid an accident might happen to you with your enlarged surfaces. They have already the proportions that Lilienthal indicates as a prudent limit, and if a gust of wind happens to come you will be thrown over with your enlarged surfaces. It is preferable to turn your wings over on the wrong side.
When I received your photos I thought that you had turned your wings wrong side out in order to mislead the indiscrete, and that you would explain that to me in your next letter. If that isn't so, and if you have exposed the convex side to the wind, it is not to be wondered that the effect was minimal. In offering the concave side, you would double the effect. The experiments prove that the upper surface must be launched, and that the body must be beneath.
I received your letter of December 16 with the cards of introduction that you were so kind to send. My brother-in-law has left Nice, but as it is possible that he may go to Egypt, I will give him in that case a letter for you. His health makes very slow progress and he believes it necessary to have a doctor constantly with him. If he goes to Cairo, he will write to you by mail, and I would beg you to call on him. Neither he nor his wife speak French, but they will have an interpreter with them.
I wish you good luck in your next experiment and I will be anxious to know the results.
Cairo, March 24, 1896
Louis-Pierre Mouillard to Octave Chanute
I have received your kind letter from Mobile. You have a talent of going from one place to another that always confounds me, you change from Chicago to California, from California to Florida, as we go from one part of the town to another. You survive the railway fever as I survive that of the boat. Maybe your railways are more comfortable than ours, for ours, and by that I say those of old Europe, are so enervating that, as for me, I prefer to have an eight day sea voyage rather than 24 hours railroad. After all, you have perhaps only steadier nerves than we have.
What beautiful things have you seen in Florida? I hope you will be kind enough to tell me. I know that there are pelicans and especially frigates, two beautiful sailing masters that an aviator must study, especially the latter bird that I don't know and that must be of great interest for the flying procedure. In the last issue of the "Aeronaute" there are a few words on his account that I don't believe: the night or nights spent in the air. This tale is a little tall for me to believe.
I hope that you will put this right. You will probably have the opportunity to give precise information on this.
As for me, I am resting at the moment. I am at a deadlock as they say in mechanics; half of a failure on one side, slight sickness on the other, worries of all kinds, in the end forced necessity to go back to the office to make the pot boil, for alas, I am at the end of my rope; all that holds me down. Still, I haven't burned my airplane yet; on the contrary, it is nearly finished to 4/5. The surface is now, I hope, large enough. Each square meter has now only to carry 4 kg. I am furious with myself that I have not more life in me to be childishly stopped by details, for after all, it was very beautiful in the air at the height of a house and especially well balanced. The majesty of its bearing was nameless; to get to that effect to make the Arabs cry out loud; frankly this bearing must have been astonishing, for this race is not more easily astonished than snails. In fact I think, and this is the worst, that I can do infinitely better than what I have done and this is what discourages me so much. I have not made an error in theory, even by putting the body of the wing above (I could not convince myself that I was mistaken there, for small airplanes function as well with the body above as with below). Nature hasn't decided this case once and for all, but it has frankly skirted it in the bats where the skeleton of the wings, the bones, are neither below nor above, but in the carrying membrane.
I believe that in order to arrive safely one must not think of producing at first sight a marvel. One should be able to produce different models, be able to improve, be able in a word to progress. Not in theory, no, for that is correct, but in practice. One should be supported by a group, the more impersonal and powerful one possible, rather than by one individual, no matter how good and charming. This individual, like you my dear sir, who precisely through your kindness makes one afraid to DARE. It causes one to hesitate and be held back by discretion so as not to make the same mistake as he did about the aluminum and even not to start over again.
You, who are in a position to form a group, create one please! You would get me out of the worry to think that I play with your money, you would allow me to dare, as I have said before, for I have the absolute conviction that I am only two steps from the kilometer covered in the air, that the details are at fault and not the idea, that silk is needed instead of cotton, steel wire instead of soft iron, an under carriage and a mounting in steel tube instead of his tabernacle in wood and my wooden cart, wheels, in fact, that one can save half of the weight only in doing better all over again. Then one should be able to go ahead much quicker in the construction than I am going in construction, speeding up the stages, make the airplane in three months, all finished and tried out besides.
Don't you believe that the torpedoes could help the airplane? You are, I believe, nearing more and more a naval war, and not precisely with England, but with Spain. This idea of the torpedoes is a harbor where I can not enter. Still it is as right as that of the aviation, the shock. Surely I never had the opportunity to try it out, but it is something so easily done without risking anything, and done practically without risking even the shadow of a wound for the experimenter if he stands at a little distance to the point where the explosion is produced. It is evident that at a distance of one kilometer it will not be felt. At 500 meters one may have an idea, by the noise, but not by the shock received, that at 400, 300, 200, one will feel it progressively. That at 100 meters distance that I indicate, it will not be fatal, and that closer one will endure the more easily, the less one is in contact with water. It is clear that if the torpedo jumps naked into the water, the force of the shock received will be in proportion to the proximity, but if instead of being naked, it is clothed with a series of horsehair vestments wrapped with rubber, it is allowed to believe that the shock will be bearable even from very near. Then one must not speak any longer about 100 m of distance, but perhaps of less than 50 meters. Certainly the experimentation will prove what I am saying or else it is no longer permitted to sew two ideas together. When it will have been tested, and it does not cost much, 200 or 300 kg of dynamite will be enough for these practical experiments, one will think then that at a l/20th of time and 1/100 of capital, all the navies will be equal.
These ideas are so simple, that I see against them, as an obstacle, only the opposition made by those who have acquired positions. Certainly the Staffs of the Navy will not be in favor of this order of ideas, no more than for any other novelty, the Staff in every Navy is still with the sailing ship; however, they did get accustomed, one must acknowledge, forcibly to the battleship, but as soon as one speaks about pulverizing to the battleship, nothing goes anymore. In your country as everywhere there will be opposition, but I count on the war of the minds in the U.S.A. to force the hand of these retarded Naval officers.
April 15, 1896
Octave Chanute to Louis-Pierre Mouillard
I have just received your kind letter of March 24. I have attentively reviewed these last days your project of a torpedo. It seems to me more difficult to place than that of the airplane. The first idea has already been presented to the officers of our Navy in 1892 by Mr. Vogt of Copenhagen, and had been dismissed. The only chance that I see of getting money out of it is to wait for the war and to make a contract with the state to destroy the enemy battleships at the rate of 50 frs a ton, paying all the expenses and keeping one's secret. For that, there has to be a war, and the American, English and Spanish boasters haven't got that far yet.
No. One thing at a time. Let us stay with the airplane. The idea of forming a group doesn't appeal to me. I'd prefer spending my money rather than that of the others, for a machine that has given a half failure and that I do not understand well; for the photos that you sent me, instead of drawings, give only a vague idea of the construction. Moreover, I see that you didn't understand me. I really believe that the body must be put below but it is especially the concavity that I believe must be put underneath. That will quadruple the carrying force.
In the present circumstances, this is what I believe must be done: Go to the English officers who are taking part in the expedition to the Soudan. Tell them that you have a draft of an airplane that could be useful in the campaign and ask them to obtain for you a paid leave of absence at the ministère and a discrete platoon of men to make the first tests. Ask them for secrecy so as not to compromise your interests in the case of a partial success.
I received a few days ago a letter from the Pittsburgh Aluminum Co. saying that they had sent you their bill a year ago, leaving a balance of 250 frs for the aluminum, and that it wasn't paid. I sent the sum, having offered to you some time ago to pay it, but having received no answer from you. If you have already sent the money, let me know.
My wife was sick in Florida and I hardly saw anything of the gliding birds.
Cairo, May 8, 1896
Louis-Pierre Mouillard to Octave Chanute
I read over your kind letter of April 15 and find there a passage that makes me go through all the colors of the rainbow; it's the last one. I must have made a curious impression on you. What must you think of me? The Aluminum Co. has been paid by me of his bill of 250 frs. After receiving your letter I went to the bank Credit Lyonnais and asked them to look up at what date I sent a letter of credit of 250 frs drawn up to themselves, office of Paris. They told me that I had the sum deposited September 21, 1894. It is not to the order of the Pittsburgh Co. but on sight to themselves and I remember that they told me that it was the best way to proceed, that the negotiation of this letter of credit could be made easily everywhere. I remember perfectly that I wrote to the Co. in Pittsburgh at that time and that I paid them. Besides, I had nothing else to write about to them. As that was not enough for me, I asked them to write to Paris and to see in the General Bookkeeping if this letter of credit to themselves had been paid and to whom. I wait for the answer from Paris, and as soon as I get it, I'll transmit it to you; it will be in a fortnight, I believe.
For now, let's change the subject. My poor torpedoes are not to your taste; still I believe that without the surfaces they have some merit. It is certainly daring to embark on a jet but is it more so than a number of exercises that are practised daily, the bicycle, the trapeze, the rope dance? I should explain it to you myself. There is here a radical reform of all that has been established in the Navy, and the sailors do not want to go through with it. They will only submit when they will have to fight against these gadgets. But it seems in my conscience that it is up to them to do it and not me. I do not wish at all to kill the enemies of the U.S. If they were those of France, I could think it over and be tempted to do it; but except this special case I must not do it in person. Certainly the art of aviation is more seemly. I do not think of stealing anything from anybody nor do damage to anyone; there would only be the case of self-defense that would make me use these means. After all, the older I get, the softer I get. Is it bad? Surely not. I subscribe as much as you want to, to put the body or the wings below, that is not so important. As to the question of concavity more or less accentuated, that is another matter. The concavity (below) in my airplane will not be greater than that of the large vulture, my model. I can have faith in him. My airplane is still at the convent. I hope to be able to live there. It would already be better than what I have now; but what I dream of is better yet. It is to go and live on the testing grounds, be able to experiment every moment and not be obliged to walk 4 km to go and as much to return, and at the same time to hold my job at the ministère.
I am thinking this project over and as soon as I have found a solution I will tell you again. Still this special habitation will not be sufficient. More and more I am convinced that another airplane should be constructed, better and especially lighter. I shall keep the old one but do not dare to rely on it absolutely. This large weight will cause some mishaps.
I hope that Mrs. Chanute has recovered from her indisposition and I wish her good health. In order to see the glider flight, dear Sir, there is decidedly only Cairo. My crows and my kites are swearing at me and certainly at you too, at this moment because I am writing my letter too close to their drinking place. I am 1.50 m from their plate. Still they are making up their mind.
Cairo, June 5, 1896
Louis-Pierre Mouillard to Octave Chanute
Here is the information that the Credit Lyonnais transmits to me on the peregrinations of the credit letter of 250 frs. that was to pay for the aluminum from the Pittsburgh factory that furnished me this metal.
Order 0. Chanute - Endorsed by 0. Chanute in Pittsburgh Reduction and Co. Passed to Toulon Anson, to Abraham Chipley who cashed it himself in Paris. (Mr. Chipley is the correspondent of the Credit Lyonnais.)
Out of all these endorsements it comes out that I paid to you; I had forgotten that entirely, and you also, it seems. So you have certainly paid the Aluminum Co., the details furnished by the Credit Lyonnais are proof of it.
The one who is in the wrong in this mix-up is the factory which asks twice what has already been paid once. So it seems to me that this question is settled.
Dear Sir, I read in the French papers that Mr. Langley is supposed to have tried his airplane and succeeded in flying. What is true in that report? To what extent is it true? To figure out, to indicate the possibility of carrying oneself in the air doesn't mean flying. For myself, I have already several times produced this demonstration: 42 meters in Algeria, and in these days several small carryings of which I don't dare to speak because of their short duration, but in which the wheels of the chariot not leaving any traces in the sand seem to indicate by this lack of traces that the air sustained the plane and my person.
It is not that which is needed, nor the falls of Lilienthal, but the real run to the hundred kilometers, the real flight in one word. All that has been done for twenty years is simulated flight and nothing else. The meters run, in more or less great numbers, also simulated flight, magician's trick, unless that by their quantity they would really prove a flight: as for example, the hundred I just spoke about awhile ago from Cairo to Suez, for example, but all these little flights don't prove much; witness Lilienthal who stops on the way and sells parachutes. You are perfectly well placed to know what happened in Washington; please let me know.
The airplane is still at the convent. It needs a slight going-over, but it isn't that what worries me much. I am obliged to leave it there at rest until better times will allow me to do it over again, better made, lighter, more perfected and especially to find a place where I can try it out every day. I believe the last point to be very essential. When I make it over I shall have it remade in Paris, for I see that it is impossible to construct it in Cairo. It would even be convenient if I could spend some time in Paris to superintend the construction and only have to mount it on bamboos which cannot be found in Paris.
I have lacked all this time, for a year at least, the incentive that arouses the aviator, the exciting stimulant that always had the greatest effect upon me. I want to speak about the flight of the great vultures, these birds that show you that flying is possible, that one doesn't pursue an idle dream. I no longer see any. The kites make me go to sleep. I tell myself it is so difficult to reproduce this flight, that it is better to wait until "I become young again," and I wait; I think of the future, of finding a secure position for myself. I postulate some easy job where one lets oneself go and I forget the problem of my whole life. I believe I must take advantage of my last beautiful days. I feel fine. I must make use of it to make the supreme effort. After all, I don't believe much in the success of Mr. Langley. Success at the first trial seems to demand an explicit demonstration. For myself, that hasnlt been my fate. I am constructing the eighth airplane. I see that I am nearing the goal but I find also that I have to improve and that what I leave behind can be perfected.
This is simply, dear Sir, what I am thinking of. I do not hope less than at the time when I wrote L'Empire de L'Air and Le Vol sans Battement. There is a last great effort to be made and I really want to make it.
Chicago, June 8, 1896
Octave Chanute to Louis-Pierre Mouillard
I received your kind letter of May 8. Thinking that perhaps there had been made an error in Pittsburgh, I wrote to the company and I send you their answer. The credit letter of September 21, 1894 has been received through me, October 13, 1894, but it paid only for half of the aluminum. The company sent you their account January 5, 1895, showing a balance of $47.17, and I wrote from New York around January 10 offering to pay the rest if you could not do it. Getting no answer from you on this subject, I believed that you had paid, but I see that you mixed up the 250 frs sent with the order with the rest of the account of 250 frs still owing.
One passage of your letter surprised me. You say: "The concavity (from below) in my airplane will not exceed that of its model, the big vulture."
So it is an error in photography, for the three photographs gave me the idea that your airplane is convex from below, and concave from above, and I thought that you put it wrong side up on the body to mislead the indiscrete ones.
You must have seen in the Aeronautical Annual that I sent you that Lilienthal makes great progress. By superimposing his surfaces, he succeeds in maneuvering them much more easily, and having studied the gliding flight of the stork last summer, he hopes to imitate it entirely this summer. I sent you also a paper giving the description of the tests of Langley's airplane that has made a run of about 2 km by steam. You will see the details in French in the Comptes Rendus.
June 22, 1896
Octave Chanute to Louis-Pierre Mouillard
I received your letter of June 5. You must have seen, by mine of the 8th that you mixed up the remainder of the account of 250 frs from your second order of aluminum, with the 250 frs that you sent, approximately, at first. It is this sum that I had offered to you to pay and that I paid with interest of one year.
I sent you a paper with the reports of the tests of Langley. You'll see them in French in the Comptes Rendus. It was a machine with four wings of 4.27 meter of spread, weighing 11.8 kg with a steam engine and two propellers. He flew twice in calm weather, about 1 km in spirals, rising 30 m and coming down slowly, by gravity. As you say, it is not yet the flight, but this indicates the possibility of it with a steam engine. Mr. Langley is in bad health and cannot at present continue his experiments. So you still have the chance to be the first to make the flight of 100 km of which you speak.
I have myself started preliminary experiments to dig at the bottom of the problem of equilibrium in the wind. I have had two machines constructed, one like Lilienthal's (15 kg) and the other my invention (17 kg). Mine has 12 wings that one can group in different ways, and I am looking for the arrangement that will give the greatest stability and the best support. Lilienthal's machine is not stable. At every moment one has to make gymnastics. We have experimented with it for 3 days and we have obtained runs of 30 m. in going down 6 to 8 m. We only obtained 9 m. from the other machine by going down 3 m. because we do not dare to launch ourselves before knowing if all the parts are strong enough. I know already that this machine is more stable than Lilienthal's, but I don't know if it will be able to fly. Later, if the experiments give an indication of the possibility, I will order the construction of a machine for running and I'd be happy to receive your advice on the way to go about it without breaking one's neck. I have with me a Mr. Herring who served Mr. Langley and a carpenter who worked at the construction of the machines. It is because, in fact, I intended to order the construction, as I wrote you, that I did not insist on finding out the details of your own machine, as you had promised at the beginning, and that I sent you the picture of the first model that I had made with multiple wings.
Cairo, September 14, 1896
Louis-Pierre Mouillard to Octave Chanute
At last this diabolical summer is nearly over. The centigrade thermometer rose up to 35-40° from noon to 5 o'clock in the evening, and that during long months. And it is not over yet because we have still all September that can have in store for us very ugly days.
I admired this summer the kites that from 9 o'clock in the morning, dinner over, hurried to rise as high as possible, in order to avoid the oven, and came down only when night and calm air were reestablished. I had nothing but worries this summer. I dismounted my airplane which I had enlarged. I hoped to be able to pass it through the neighbor's place, but it won't go through. So I have been forced, in order to avoid paying the rent, to partly dismount the wings and to bring it back to the house.
I made up my mind because, although this machine has many qualities, it is so heavy in all its parts, that frankly it is to be made over better than it is now, and it will be easy. It is to be gone over in all its parts. The wings can be solidly fastened with the given weight that they have. The landing gear is to be preserved in a museum as a specimen, as an ancestor. The mechanism of the screw, although it is right, must be made over in another manner. The directing planes are insufficient; one must make them more perfect, more active. There is too much iron and iron is heavy. In short, there are many good things, and even in great number, for it holds up marvellously in the air; it possesses a brash equilibrium, but it has to be remade more finely and at the same time more solidly.
In dismounting it, I learned a series of good lessons. I have seen the points where I put an excess of useless weight and strength, and they are numerous! There is much to be gained for lightness while making it more solid. In short, do better. I read in the newspapers that Lilienthal killed himself. How could he trust himself on a machine as unstable as his? I was never able to understand it completely in spite of the good enlarged photos that you had sent me. The forward position of the wings to produce vertical equilibrium I did not find satisfactory. The screw of my machine, although it is strong, is not entirely satisfactory to me. It is somewhat weak and its action is too slow. It has to be longer and stronger. It functions, but one could do better by means of levers activated by the total weight of the aviator. I have this device already in my head, but one must think it over a long time berore deciding to put it in the work-shop.
This death is certainly a great loss for aviation. How the ballooners will get swollen heads; nobody will be worth anything but them. They, and they alone, will have the right to speak. Still, there was so much good in this airplane of Lilienthal's that he flew. I'd have liked to know this man and especially the machine he used. Perhaps this flying machine lacked one little thing that he did not see and that somebody else would have found at once; and humanity would have had wings! This death will probably be a setback of a hundred years for the people of the world. Maybe more. Maybe less. Well, as far as I am concerned, I can't do anything right now for one has to try out a great deal in order to succeed in something, and to try to do it over, do better than has been done; one needs gold and for a long time I haven't had so little of it as now. It is probable that we may die without having tasted this gliding which is so sweet, of such strange voluptuousness that I have perceived during a few meters only and still could never forget.
I hope that the magazine L'Aeronaute will give us the clue to this misfortune, that Lilienthal's brother, who assisted him in his experiments, will describe to us the maneuver which was badly performed and caused his death and that out of this failure of the maneuver will be derived a very useful lesson for those who wish to launch into the experiences of aviation. As for me, I should like to produce a machine whose motion and equilibrium in the air would be automatic in a medium air current. That is why the last experiment was made without the weight of the aviator. I succeeded with this translation against a wind of 10 meters to the second at least without the most perfect equilibrium with such a perfection that the Arab spectators who helped me with the maneuvers were positively overwhelmed. There were cries of "bravo" shouts to make you run. Then, when there was a lull, majestically and slowly, not even breaking one single thread, the view of this take-off and landing gave;to those people, who have only commonsense to take the place of knowledge, the certainty that this study, the possibility of aviation, was resolved once and for all. They wanted me to start again this experiment right then and there with my person in the airplane to direct it. Then I began to make a very thorough examination of the machine and I found that, in spite of the softness of this landing, the front wheel hadweakened in one of its springs, it had to be repaired; moreover that the air current necessary for this departure was very strong, that it was necessary to offer more surface to the action of the wind. So I decided to take this machine back to Cairo and to begin with the necessary repairs, which has been done. But there happened this grotesque situation that I couldn't get out anymore f'rom any side and that I was in a cage. So I have to do better there too. I must choose with greater care the place for the experiment, take a more practical point. I had thought about such a place. I even told you about it, and I did not take it. It is Helouan, the city of Bain, a town situated to the south of Cairo in the midst of the desert, one hour's train ride from here. I would have been so much better there to make my experiments than at Mokattam but I didn't dare, on account of the expense. There are all the desirable slopes and even all the perpendiculars one can wish for. Everything is there, a comfortable city, doctors, a railroad, buildings that seem to be constructed especially to house the airplane and that open directly into the endless desert and all that only one hour from Cairo, near enough so that I can go on with my government job. If I reconstruct, I intend to replace the undercarriage by a strong bicycle weighing 25 kg, strong enough to carry a man who weighs more than 100 kg, to replace the whole mechanism made of iron that fastened the wings by 4 strong wires, the steel frame of the wings by a similar lighter one. The other would be used as a model. If the lever that I imagine to speed up the transmission in front or in back of the wings doesn't satisfy me, I will make over the screw, better and just as light. There will be great changes in the wings: (1) silk everywhere and (2) an additional variation of surface. This surface is important when the points are put in the back, like the bird's wing. But that is fine mechanics that callsfor the mechanical hands in Paris. Therefore I must stay a few months in Paris with my friend Jobert who is a specialist in aviation mechanics. Then I have to carry back everything to Helouan ; there it has to be mounted, tried out, but above all not do it like Lilienthal. You see, what I propose to do is some kind of a wonder.
October 16, 1896
Octave Chanute to Louis-Pierre Mouillard
I am very much relieved by your letter of September 14, for having received no answer to my two letters of 8 and 29 June and having seen in the "France Aerienne" of August 1 that Mr. Mouillard talked about you as Mouillard, the regretted Mouillard, who had learned so much through observation in Egypt and in Algeria, etc. etc., I had made for myself the saddest suppositions. I am happy that it is not so.
But allow me to observe that you should have answered me inasmuch as my letters referred to a money question, and that I had a certain interest to know what had happened to a machine that cost me more than 3000 frs.
I regret that you have dismounted it without having made a serious experiment, for, be it ever so heavy and imperfect, it would have indicated if one could expect gliding flight from it. If it does not permit it, it would be of little use to make another lighter and finer machine.
I believe that I am justified in speaking about serious experiments, for this summer 1 have tested five gliders of natural size. First the Lilienthal (photo no.1) weighing 16 kg, that I found soon to be very unstable, and have abandoned after about 100 glides. Then my first machine (no.2) weighing 17 kg that made about 150 glides of 10-30 m. in June and July. Then I reconstructed it in two different ways, no.3, 14 kg, that made flights of about 60 m. and no.4, 11 kg that made 100 m. Not only one gliding flight, but hundreds of glides of 40-110 meters in the desert of sand dunes where we retired.
The newspaper discovered us finally and they published a number of articles more or less full of errors, especially on machine no.5, big airplane constructed by a Russian sailor and weighing 90 kg. This one needed an inclined plane in order to start off. You will see it in profile in the background of no.4, and more in detail in no.5. We launched the apparatus twice, loaded with 60 kg of sand, and although it was damaged, the aviator would not have been hurt at all if he had climbed into it. I am sending you a few newspapers. We had to stop on account of bad weather, but we will begin again next summer. We made hundreds of glides in the air, but no sailing flight, although we have been often lifted up from 10 to 17 meters by the wind.
Not the slightest accident has happened to anyone.
Cairo, December 10, 1896
Louis-Pierre Mouillard to Octave Chanute
I have to answer two of your kind letters. In the first one was one word that struck me. It is that of a publicist who said that I had killed myself. This poor Mouillard who is said to have lost his life in an aviation exercise. That brought me bad luck and it didn't take long. On October 22, several days after having received your letter, I got up after having spent a very good night, quiet as usual. I jumped out of bed, and instead of being on my feet, I fell down on the floor without understanding why and how that happened. I knocked down an easy chair and I could not get up again. I called for help; they had heard my fall. When they came I could not talk anymore. I understood what had happened to me. The left side did not function anymore, the arm, the left leg, the tongue. The whole left side was inert. They put me to bed again and I called my doctor. We talked a long time. He made me confess everything, gave his prescription, and I kept it strictly and knew what to do. The attack had been violent, but had not been complete. The eye and the brain were not hurt. The interior organs also, heart, lungs, etc. and finally I could get over it without a relapse. The other attack has not happened. I do not predict it and do not feel it coming, and at last, November 22, I have dinner at my table. I walk with the help of a person to whom I cling in this way. Last Sunday I had my first walk. There is a young person in whom I am very much interested, and who suffered from typhoid fever. I climbed down from the third floor. Oh Lord, how high it is! And I spent two hours with her father and mother. The little girl is doing well and will be cured. Then I climbed again to my third floor. I had never realized how high my roost is and how bad. Well, thanks to much help I reached my divan. And the next day it was all gone. The tiredness had left me and it doesn't show anymore. I expect "Little Mother" at noon who will make me take a good walk on the terrace and I hope that by the New Year I'll not need anybody anymore to move around; but how hard is it to need constantly the help of others, even to light a cigarette. My poor organs do not work anymore, especially on the left side. I have to be accompanied again. I have to start learning again, like a baby, learn again to walk, begin all over again. I have to have much patience. The right side isn't too bad. I can write as you see. In a month there will not be much left of the illness. Tonight I'll try to draw, to find out what I can do. I am very confident, for it is the brain that leads everything, and fortunately, it is not touched. I hope that it will be as before, But how sad not to be able to move, always need help. I just tried to draw and to make music. The drawing will soon be possible again. I am so awkward that it makes the others laugh, but in a month I'll be able to draw again. But music is a different matter. I am afraid that it will not be possible again. The left hand must be so often used and it is so awkward.
I don't doubt that my unhappy fate worries you, therefore I will keep you informed of my resurrection which I hope will come about next year.
In this unhappy letter I wish you and all your beloved ones a happy New Year, best remembrance and best wishes of good health and happiness.
A rather good symptom: Aviation has not died for me. I must have a tough life, don't you think. I believe it more and more. It is rather extraordinary, coming from a paralyzed person. But I have still these good eyes, and the models are many near me and tell me that it is possible. Three days ago, at noon, taking the air on my terrace, I showed my neighbors several flights of pelicans, one of which had a surface of 15 hectares. How many were there, thousands? None of us thought of counting them. They passed before us for a whole hour. They left the seaside and went south which indica~as a severe winter. It was always the simple locomotion, every five minutes they described several orbits, in order to gain a llttle height, and took advantage of this elevation to make a long gliding toward the south. I have loved with great attention at the five photos that you were so kind to send me. I'll talk to you about them in my next letter.
Au revoir, dear Sir, for it is to be hoped that we will see each other some day. I shake hands with you as a friend with my right hand, for the left only makes a pressure of 4 kg.
January 12, 1897
Octave Chanute to Louis-Pierre Mouillard
I was overcome by your letter telling me that you have been partly paralyzed, and I cannot tell you how much it affects me.
Fortunately the brain was not attacked, and you tell me that you are recovering the use of your limbs, but how you must have suffered by the fear of a permanent loss of power. I beg you to write to me as often as possible to reassure me on your behalf.
I am sending you a small sum that will pay for the mailing of some letters, and I would be glad to know your projects for the future and what dispositions you have made concerning our machine.
It was really by chance that your letter reached me at my home. My wife and two of my daughters have been very sick and the doctor told them to go to southern California. I should have gone with them, but my business kept me here, and I still don't know if I am going there to join them. I am doing nothing in aviation this winter, and I don't know if my funds will allow me to take up my experiments again next summer; still I will look forward to the observations that you announce about my experiments, and the advice that you will certainly give me to conclude them.
Au revoir, dear Sir, for like you, I have the hope that we will see each other some day.
Mouillard's letter of February 6, 1897 - Missing.
May 20, 1897
Octave Chanute to Louis-Pierre Mouillard
I received your letter of February 6 at the moment when I left for California to join my wife who had to spend the winter there for her health. Since I returned I was overloaded with work and I reproach myself that I did not neglect some of it in order to write to you.
I do it today to announce to you that your American patent for airplane has been published at the date of May 18. I asked Mr. Whittlesley to send you some printed matter about it. I would have preferred to delay this publication still, in the hope that you would be able to demonstrate the value of your invention, but we were at the end of the legal delays. Now we have to take advantage of the patent. Let me know what your ideas are on this subject. I thought of two methods. One is to try out your machine again by a careful and skillful aviator, under your guidance. And the other is to have it sent over here to me to have it reconstructed and tested. If we can obtain a few good flights we could sell the patent; otherwise the money is lost.
You will receive at nearly the same time as this letter the Aeronautical Annual in which I give a detailed description of my experiments and which will answer your questions better that I could do it in a letter. You will see that number five was the least successful.
You will also find in this publication the end of my work on the gliding flight. I am dissatisfied with it. I believed that I could calculate all the acts of gliding flight and demonstrate how the bird takes his energy from the wind, but I hit a blank wall against breezes of 2-3 meters a second; and still the hawks make perfect use of them.
I hope that your health returns and that you have wholly recovered the use of your right side.
On to appendix