By Hiram S. Maxim.

NOTE.­This article is made up of extracts from an unpublished work and contains the results of Mr. Maxim's latest thought. The author proposes soon to publish the work in full. The whole forms a thesis which was recently sent to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in competition for the Hodgkins prizes. The committee in charge of the Hodgkins Fund awarded to Mr. Maxim honorable mention and a medal for the thesis.

It is speaking quite within bounds to say that this is the most important work which has yet come from this author's pen.­Ed.



At the time I commenced my experiments in aeronautics it was not generally believed that it would ever be possible to make a large machine heavier than the air that would lift itself from the earth by dynamic energy generated by the machine itself. It is true that a great number of experiments had been made with balloons, but these are in no sense true flying machines. Every one who attempted a solution of the question by machines heavier than the air, was looked upon in very much the same light as the man is now who attempts to construct a perpetual motion machine. Up to within a few years, nearly all experiments in aerial navigation by flying machines have been made by men not versed in science, and who for the most part have been ignorant of the most rudimentary laws of dynamics. It is only quite recently that scientific engineers have taken up the question and removed it from the hands of charlatans and mountebanks. A few years ago many engineers would not have dared to face the ridicule which they would be liable to receive if they had asserted that it would be possible to make a machine that would lift itself by mechanical means into the air. However, thanks to the admirable work of Professor Langley, Professor Thurston, Mr. Chanute and others, one may now express his opinion freely on this subject and speculate as to the possibilities of making flying machines, without being relegated to the realm of cranks and fanatics.

Plate VIII

During the last five years I have had occasion to write a large number of articles for the public press on this subject, and I have always attempted, as far as it is in my power, to discuss the subject in such a manner as to be easily understood by the unscientific, and I believe that my efforts have done something in the direction of popularizing the idea that it is possible to construct practical flying machines.

In preparing my present work, I have aimed as far as possible to discuss the question in plain and simple language, and to abstain from the use of any formulæ which may not be understood by every one. It has been my experience that if a work abounds in formulæ and tables, even only a few of the scientific will take the trouble to read or understand it. I have therefore confined myself to a plain statement of the actual facts, describing the character of my observations and experiments, and giving the results of the same. All experiments made by others in the same direction have been on a very small scale, and, as a rule, the apparatus employed has been made to travel around a circle, the size of which has not been great enough to prevent the apparatus continually encountering air which had been influenced in some way by the previous revolution.

The first experiments which I conducted were with an apparatus which travelled around a circle 200 feet in circumference, and by mounting some delicate anemometers directly under the path of the apparatus I ascertained that after it had been travelling at a high velocity for a few seconds, there was a well defined air current blowing downward around the whole circle, so that my planes in passing forward must have been influenced and their lifting effect reduced to some extent by this downward current. My late experiments are the first which have ever been made with an apparatus on a large scale moving in a straight line. In discussing the question of aerial flight with Professor Langley before my large experiments had been made, the Professor suggested that there might be some unknown factor relating to size only which might defeat my experiments, and that none of our experiments had at that time been on a sufficiently large scale to demonstrate what the lifting effect of very large planes would be. A flying machine to be of any value must of necessity be large enough to carry at least one man, and the larger the machine the smaller the factor of the man's weight. Moreover, it is possible to make engines of say from 200 to 400 horse-power, lighter per unit of power than very small engines of from one to two horse-power. On the other hand, it is not advisable to construct a machine on too large a scale, because as the machine becomes larger the relative strength of the material becomes less. In first designing my large machine I intended that it should weigh about 5,000 pounds without men, water, or fuel, that the screw thrust should be 1,500 pounds, and that the total area of the planes should be 5,000 square feet. I expected to lift this machine and drive it through the air at a velocity of 35 miles an hour with an expenditure of about 250 horse-power. However, upon completing the machine I found that many parts were too weak, and these had to be supplanted by thicker and stronger material. This increased the weight of the machine about 2,000 pounds. Upon trying my engines I found that if required they would develop 360 horse-power, and that a screw thrust of over 2,000 pounds could be easily attained, but as an offset against this, the amount of power required for driving the machine through the air was a good deal more than I had anticipated.



During the last 50 years a great deal has been said and written in regard to the flight of birds. Perhaps no other natural phenomenon has excited so much interest and has been so little understood. Learned treatises have been written to prove that a bird is able to develop from 10 to 100 times as much power for its weight as other animals, while other equally learned treatises have shown most conclusively that no greater amount of energy is exerted by a bird in flying than by land animals in running or jumping.

There is no question but what a bird has a higher physical development, as far as the generation of power is concerned, than any other animal we know of. Nevertheless, I think that every one who has made a study of the question will agree that some animals, such as rabbits, exert quite as much power in running in proportion to their weight as a sea-gull or an eagle exerts in flying.

The amount of power which a land animal has to exert is always a fixed and definite quantity. If an animal weighing 100 pounds has to ascend a hill 100 feet high, it always means the development of 10,000 foot-pounds. With a bird, however, there is no such thing as a fixed quantity, because the medium in which the bird is moving is never stationary. If a bird weighing 100 pounds should raise itself into the air 100 feet during a perfect calm, the amount of energy developed would be 10,000 foot-pounds plus the slip of the wings. But, as a matter of fact, the air in which a bird flies is never stationary, as I propose to show; it is always moving either up or down, and soaring birds, by a very delicate sense of feeling, always take advantage of a rising column of air. If a bird finds itself in a column of air which is descending, it is necessary for it to work its wings very rapidly in order to prevent a descent to the earth.

I have often observed the flight of hawks and eagles. They seem to glide through the air with hardly any movement of their wings. Sometimes, however, they stop and hold themselves in a stationary position directly over a certain spot, carefully watching something on the earth immediately below. In such cases they often work their wings with great rapidity, evidently expending an enormous amount of energy. When, however, they cease to hover and commence to move again through the air, they appear to keep themselves at the same height with an almost imperceptible expenditure of force.

Many unscientific observers of the flight of birds have imagined that a wind or a horizontal movement of the air is all that is necessary in order to sustain the weight of a bird in the air after the manner of a kite. If, however, the wind, which is only air in motion, should be blowing everywhere at exactly the same speed and in the same direction (horizontally), it would offer no more sustaining power to a bird than a dead calm, because there is nothing to prevent the body of the bird being blown along with the air, and whenever it had attained the same velocity as the air, no possible arrangement of the wings would prevent it from falling to the earth.

The wind, however, seldom or never blows in a horizontal direction. Some experimenters have lately asserted that if it were possible for us to ascend far enough, we should find the temperature constantly falling until at about 20 or 25 miles above the earth's surface the absolute zero might be reached. Now, as the air near the earth never falls in temperature to anything like the absolute zero, it follows that there is a constant change going on, the relatively warm air near the surface of the earth always ascending, and, in some cases, doing sufficient work in expanding to render a portion of the water it contains visible, forming clouds, rain, or snow, while the very cold air is constantly descending to take the place of the rising column of warm air.

On one occasion while crossing the Atlantic in fine weather, I noticed, some miles directly ahead of the ship, a long line of glassy water. Small waves indicated that the wind was blowing in the exact direction in which the ship was moving, and I observed as we approached the glassy line that the waves became smaller and smaller until they completely disappeared in a mirror-like surface which was about 300 or 400 feet wide and extended both to the port and starboard in approximately a straight line as far as the eye could reach. After passing the centre of this zone, I noticed that small waves began to show themselves, but in the exact opposite direction to those through which we had already passed. I observed that these waves became larger and larger for nearly an hour. Then they began to get gradually smaller, when I observed another glassy line directly ahead of the ship. As we approached it the waves completely disappeared, but after passing through it I noticed that the wind was blowing in the opposite direction and that the waves increased in size exactly in the same manner that they had diminished on the opposite side of the glassy zone.

This would seem to indicate that directly over the centre of the first glassy zone, the air was meeting from both sides and ascending, and that at the other glassy zone the air was descending in practically a straight line to the surface of the water where it spread out and set up a light wind in both directions.

I spent the winter of 1890-91 on the Riviera, between Hyères les Palmiers and Monte Carlo. The weather for the most part was very fine, and I often had opportunities of observing the peculiar phenomena which I had already noticed in the Atlantic, only on a much smaller scale. Whereas, in the Atlantic, the glassy zones were from 5 to 20 miles apart, I often found them not more than 500 feet apart in the bays of the Mediterranean.

At Nice and Monte Carlo this phenomenon was also very marked. On one occasion, while making observations from the highest part of the promontory of Monaco on a perfectly calm day, I noticed that the whole of the sea presented this peculiar effect as far as the eye could reach, and that the lines which marked the descending air were never more than a thousand feet from those which marked the centre of the ascending column. At about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, a large black steamer passed along the coast in a perfectly straight line, and I noticed that its wake was at once marked by a glassy line which indicated the centre of an ascending column. This line remained almost straight for two hours, when finally it became crooked and broken. The heat of the steamer had been sufficient to determine this upward current of air.

In 1893, I spent two weeks in the Mediterranean, going by a slow steamer from Marseilles to Constantinople and returning, and I had many opportunities of observing the peculiar phenomenon which I have before referred to. The steamer passed over thousands of square miles of calm sea, the surface being only disturbed by large batches of small ripples separated from each other by glassy streaks, and I found that in no case was the wind blowing in the same direction on both sides of these streaks, every one of them either indicating the centre of an ascending or a descending column of air.

If we should investigate this phenomenon in what might be called a dead calm, we should probably find that the air was rising straight up over the centres of some of these streaks, and descending in a vertical line over the centres of the others. But, as a matter of fact, there is no such thing as a dead calm. The movement of the air is the resultant of more than one force. The air is not only rising in some places and descending in others, but at the same time the whole mass is moving forward with more or less rapidity from one part of the earth to another. So we might consider that, instead of the air ascending directly from the relatively hot surface of the earth and descending vertically in other places, in reality it is moving on an incline.

Suppose that the local influence which causes the up and down motion of the air should be sufficiently great to cause it to rise at the rate of 2 miles an hour, and that the wind at the same time should be blowing at the rate of 10 miles an hour; the motion of the air would then be the resultant of these two velocities. In other words, it would be blowing up an incline of 1 in 5. Suppose now, that a bird should be able to so adjust its wings that it advanced 5 miles in falling 1 mile through a perfectly calm atmosphere; it would be able to sustain itself in an inclined wind, such as I have described, without any movement at all of its wings. If it was able to adjust its wings in such a manner that it could advance 6 miles by falling through 1 mile of air, it would then be able to rise as relates to the earth while in reality falling as relates to the surrounding air.

In conducting a series of experiments with artillery and small guns in a very large and level field just out of Madrid, I often observed the same phenomena as relates to the wind, that I have already spoken of as having observed at sea, except that the lines marking the centre of an ascending or a descending column of air were not so stationary as they were over the water. It was not an uncommon thing when adjusting the sights of a gun to fire at a target at very long range, making due allowances for the wind, to have the wind change and blow in the opposite direction before the word of command was given to fire. While conducting these experiments, I often noticed the flight of eagles. On one occasion a pair of eagles came into sight on one side of the plain, passed directly over our heads and disappeared on the opposite side. They were apparently always at the same height from the earth and soared completely across the plain without once moving their wings. This phenomenon, I think, can only be accounted for on the hypothesis that they were able to feel out with their wings an ascending column of air, that the centre of this column of air was approximately a straight line running completely across the plain, that they found the ascending column to be more than necessary to sustain their weight in the air, and that whereas, as relates to the earth, they were not falling at all, they were really falling some 2 or 3 miles an hour in the air which supported them.

Again, at Cadiz in Spain, when the wind was blowing in very strongly from the sea, I noticed that the sea-gulls always took advantage of an ascending column of air. As the wind blew in from the sea and rose to pass over the fortifications, the seagulls selected a place where they could slide down on the ascending current of air, keeping themselves always approximately in the same place without any apparent exertion. When, however, they left this ascending column, I observed that it was necessary for them to work their wings with great vigor until they again found the proper place to encounter the favorable current.

I have often noticed sea-gulls following a ship. I have observed that they are able to follow the ship without any apparent exertion; they simply balance themselves on an ascending column of air and seem to be quite as much at ease as they would be if they were roosting on a solid support. If, however, they are driven out of this position, I find that they generally have to commence at once to work their passage. If anything is thrown overboard which is too heavy for them to lift, the ship soon leaves them, and in order to catch up with it again, they move their wings very much as other birds do; but when once established in the ascending column of air, they manage to keep up with the ship by doing little or no work. In a head wind we find them directly aft of the ship; if the wind is from the port side, they may always be found on the starboard quarter, and vice versa.

Every one who has passed a winter on the northern shores of the Mediterranean must have observed the cold wind which is generally called the mistral. One may be out driving, the sun may be shining brightly, and the air be warm and balmy, when, suddenly, without any apparent cause, one finds himself in a cold descending wind. This is the much-dreaded mistral, and if at sea, it would be marked by a glassy line on the surface of the water. On land, however, there is nothing to render its presence visible. I have found that the ascending column of air is always very much warmer than the descending column, and that this action is constantly taking place in a greater or less degree.

From the foregoing deductions I think we may draw the following conclusions:

First, that there is a constant interchange of air taking place, the cold air descending, spreading itself out over the surface of the earth, becoming warm, and ascending in other places.

Second, that the centres of the two columns are generally separated from each other by a distance which may be from 500 feet to 20 miles.

Third, that the centres of greatest action are not in spots, but in lines which may be approximately straight but generally abound in many sinuosities.

Fourth, that this action is constantly taking place over both the sea and the land, that the soaring of birds, a phenomenon which has heretofore been so little understood, may be accounted for on the hypothesis that the bird seeks out an ascending column of air, and that, while sustaining itself at the same height in the air without any muscular exertion, it is in reality falling at a considerable speed through the air that surrounds it.

It has been supposed by some scientists that the birds may take advantage of some vibratory or rolling action of the air. I find, however, from careful observation and experiment, that the motion of the wind is comparatively steady, and that the short vibratory or rolling action is always very near to the earth and is produced by the air flowing over the tops of hills, high buildings, or trees. If a kite is flown only a few feet above the ground, it will be found that the current of air is very unsteady. If it is allowed to mount to 500 feet, the unsteadiness nearly all disappears, while if it is further allowed to mount to a height of 1,500 or 2,000 feet, the pull on the cord is almost constant, and, if the kite is well made, it remains practically stationary in the air.

I have often noticed in high winds, that light and fleecy clouds come into view, say, about 2,000 feet above the surface of the earth, and that they pass rapidly and steadily by, preserving their shape completely. This would certainly indicate that there is no rapid local disturbance in the air in their immediate vicinity, but that the whole mass of air in which these clouds are formed is practically travelling in the same direction and at the same velocity. Numerous aeronauts have also testified that, no matter how hard the wind may be blowing, the balloon is always practically in a dead calm, and if a piece of gold-leaf is thrown overboard even in a gale, the gold-leaf and the balloon never part company in a horizontal direction, though they may in a vertical direction.

Birds may be divided into two classes: first, the soaring birds, which practically live upon the wing, and which, by some very delicate sense of touch, are able to feel the exact condition of the air. Many fish which live near the top of the water are greatly distressed by sinking too deeply, while others which live at great depths are almost instantly killed by being raised to the surface. The swim bladder of a fish is in reality a delicate barometer provided with sensitive nerves which enable the fish to feel whether it is sinking or rising in the water. With the surface fish, if the pressure becomes too great, the fish involuntarily exerts itself to rise nearer the surface and so diminish the pressure, and I have no doubt that the air-cells, which are known to be very numerous and to abound throughout the bodies of birds, are so sensitive as to enable soaring birds to know at once whether they are in an ascending or a descending column of air.

The other class of birds consists of those which only employ their wings for the purpose of taking them rapidly from one place to another. Such birds may be considered not to expend their power so economically as the soaring birds. They do not spend a very large portion of their time in the air, but what time they are on the wing they exert an immense amount of power and fly very rapidly, generally in a straight line, taking no advantage of air currents. Partridges, pheasants, wild ducks, geese, and some birds of passage may be taken as types of this kind. This class of birds has relatively small wings, and carries about 2 and a half times as much weight per square foot of surface as soaring birds do.



There is no question but what birds­and, for that matter, all animals­when considered as thermo-dynamic machines, are very perfect motors; they develop the full theoretical amount of energy in the carbon consumed. This we are quite unable to do with any artificial machine, but birds for the most part have to content themselves with food which is not very rich in carbon. It is quite true that a bird may develop from 10 to 15 times as much power from the carbon consumed as may be developed by the best steam-engine, but as an offset against this, a steam-engine is able to consume petroleum, which has at least 20 times as many thermal units per pound as the ordinary food of birds. The movement of a bird's wings, from long years of development, has without doubt attained a great degree of perfection. Birds are able to scull themselves through the air with very little loss of energy. To imitate by mechanical means the exact and delicate motion of their wings would certainly be a very difficult task, and I do not believe that we should attempt it in constructing an artificial flying machine. In Nature it is necessary that an animal should be made all in one piece. It is therefore quite out of the question that any part or parts should revolve. For land animals there is no question but what legs are the most perfect system possible, but in terrestrial locomotion by machinery­not necessarily in one piece­the wheel is found to be much more effective and efficient. The swiftest animal can only travel for a minute of time at half the speed of a locomotive, while the locomotive is able to maintain its much greater speed for many hours at a time. The largest land animals only weigh about 5 tons, while the largest locomotives weigh from 60 to 80 tons. In the sea, the largest animal weighs about 75 tons, while the ordinary Atlantic liner weighs from 4,000 to 14,000 tons. The whale no doubt is able to maintain a high speed for several hours at a time, but the modern steamer is able to maintain a still higher speed for many consecutive days.

As artificial machines for terrestrial and aquatic locomotion have been made immensely stronger and larger than land or water animals, so, in a flying machine, it will be necessary to construct it much heavier and stronger than the largest bird. If one should attempt to propel such a machine with wings, it would be quite as difficult a problem to solve as it would be to make a locomotive that would walk on legs. What is required in a flying machine is something to which a very large amount of power can be directly and continuously applied without any intervening levers or joints, and this we find in the screw propeller.

It was about 20 years ago that I first commenced to think of the question of artificial flight. My first idea was to construct a machine with two large screws on vertical shafts. I proposed to run these screws in reverse directions by the use of a caloric or hot-air engine, but after considering the subject for some time, I came to the conclusion that this class of engine would not do. When the Brayton gas engine first made its appearance, I commenced drawings of a machine, using a modification of the Brayton motor which I designed expressly for the purpose; but even this was found to be too heavy, and it was not until after I abandoned the vertical screw system that it was possible for me to design a machine which in theory ought to fly.

The next machine which I considered was on the kite or aeroplane system. This was also to be driven by an oil engine. Oil engines at that time were not so simple as now, and moreover the system of ignition was very heavy, cumbersome, and uncertain. Since that time, however, gas and oil engines have been very much improved, and the ignition tube, which is almost universally used, has greatly simplified the ignition, so that at the present time I am of the opinion that an oil engine might be designed which would be suitable for the purpose.



My experiments have demonstrated that relatively narrow aeroplanes lift more per square foot than very wide ones, but as an aeroplane, no matter how narrow it may be, must of necessity have some thickness, it is not advantageous to place them too near together. Suppose that aeroplanes should be made one-fourth in. thick and be superposed 3 inches apart, that is, at a pitch of 3 inches. One-twelfth part of the whole space through which these planes would have to be driven would be occupied by the planes themselves, and eleven-twelfths would be air space (Fig. 1). If a group of planes thus mounted should be driven through the air at the rate of 36 miles an hour,1 the air would have to be driven forward at the rate of 3 miles an hour, or else it would have to be compressed, or spun out, and pass between the spaces at a speed of 39 miles an hour. As a matter of fact, however, the difference in pressure is so very small, that practically no atmospheric compression takes place. The air, therefore, is driven forward at the rate of 3 miles an hour, and this consumes a great deal of power, in fact, so much that there is a decided disadvantage in using narrow planes thus arranged.

Fig. 1.

In regard to the curvature of narrow aeroplanes, I have found that if one only desires to lift a large load in proportion to the area, the planes may be made very hollow on the underneath side; but when one considers the lift in terms of screw thrust, I find it advisable that the planes should be as thin as possible and the underneath side nearly flat. I have also found that it is a great advantage to arrange the planes after the manner shown in Fig. 2. In this manner, the sum of all the spaces between the planes is equal to the whole area occupied by the planes; consequently, the air neither has to be compressed, spun out, or driven forward. I am therefore by this arrangement able to produce a large lifting effect per square foot, and, at the same time, to keep the screw thrust within reasonable limits.

Fig. 2.

A large number of experiments with very narrow aeroplanes have been conducted by Mr. Horatio Phillips at Harrow, in England. Fig. 3 shows a cross section of one of Mr. Phillips' planes. Mr. Phillips is of the opinion that the air in striking the top side of the plane is thrown upward in the manner shown and a partial vacuum is thereby formed over the central part of the plane, and that the lifting effect of planes made in this form is therefore very much greater than with ordinary narrow planes. I have experimented with these "sustainers" (as Mr. Phillips calls them) myself, and I find it is quite true that they lift in some cases as much as 8 lb. per sq. ft.,2 but the lifting effect is not produced in the exact manner that Mr. Phillips seems to suppose. The air does not glance off in the manner shown. As the "sustainer" strikes the air, two currents are formed, one following the exact contour of the top and the other the bottom. These two currents join and are thrown downward as relates to the "sustainer" at an angle which is the resultant of the angles at which the two currents meet. (Fig. 4.) These "sustainers" may be made to lift when the front edge is lower than the rear edge because they encounter still with a downward motion.

Fig. 3.

Fig. 4.

In my experiments with narrow superposed planes, I have always found that with strips of thin metal made sharp at both edges and only slightly curved, the lifting effect, when considered in terms of screw thrust, was always greater than with any arrangement of the wooden aeroplanes used in Phillips' experiments. It would therefore appear that there is no advantage in the peculiar form of "sustainer" employed by this inventor.

If an aeroplane be made perfectly flat on the bottom side and convex on the too. as shown in Fig. 5, and be mounted in the air, and leave it air so that the bottom side is exactly horizontal, it produces a lifting effect no matter in which direction it is run, because as it advances it encounters stationary air which is divided into two streams. The top stream being unable to fly off at a tangent when turning over the top curve, flows down the incline and joins the current which is flowing over the lower horizontal surface. The angle at which the combined stream of air leaves the plane is the resultant of these two angles; consequently, as the plane finds the air in a stationary condition and leaves it with a downward motion, the plane itself must be lifted. It is true that small and narrow aeroplanes may be made to lift considerably more per square foot of surface than very large ones, but they do not offer the same safeguard against a rapid descent to the earth in case of a stoppage or breakdown of the machinery. With a large aeroplane properly adjusted, a rapid and destructive fall to the earth is quite impossible.

Fig. 5.

In the foregoing experiments with narrow aeroplanes, I employed an apparatus (Fig. 6) which enabled me to mount my planes at any angle in a powerful blast of air, and to weigh the exact lifting effect and also the tendency to drift with the wind. This apparatus also enables me to determine with a great degree of nicety the best form of an atmospheric condenser to employ.



Before I commenced my experiments at Baldwyn's Park, I attempted to obtain some information in regard to the action of screw propellers working in the air. I went to Paris and saw the apparatus which the French Government employed for testing the efficiency of screw propellers, but the propellers were so very badly made that the experiments were of no value. Upon consulting an English experimenter who had made a " lifelong study" of the question, he assured me that I should find the screw propeller very inefficient and very wasteful of power. He said that all screw propellers had a powerful fan­blower action, drawing in air at the centre and discharging it with great force at the periphery. I found that no two men were agreed as to the action of screw propellers. All the data or formulæ available were so confusing and contradictory as to be of no value whatsoever. Some experimenters were of the opinion that in computing the thrust of a screw we should only consider the projected area of the blades, and that the thrust would be equal to a wind blowing against a normal plane of equal area at a velocity equal to the slip. Others were of the opinion that the whole screw disk would have to be considered; that is, that the thrust would be equal to a wind blowing against a normal plane equal to the area of the whole disk at the velocity of the slip. The projected area of the two screw blades of my machine is 94 square feet, and the area of the 2 screw disks is 500 square feet. According to the first system of reasoning, therefore, the screw thrust of my large machine, when running at 40 miles an hour with a slip of 18 miles per hour, would have been, according to the well-known formula, V2 X .005 =P

182 X .005 X 94 = 152.28 pounds.
If, however, we should have considered the whole screw disk, it would have been­
182 X .005 X 500 = 810 pounds.
However, when the machine was run over the track at this rate, the thrust was found to be rather more than 2,000 lbs. When the machine was secured to the track and the screws revolved until the pitch in feet multiplied by the turns per minute was equal to 68 miles an hour, it was found that the screw thrust was 2,164 Ibs. In this case it was of course all slip, and when the screws had been making a few turns they had established a well-defined air-current, and the power exerted by the engines was simply to maintain this air-current, and it is interesting to note that if we compute the projected area of these blades by the foregoing formula, the thrust would be­
682 X .005 X 94 = 2173.28 pounds,
which is almost exactly the observed screw thrust. From this, it would appear when the machine is stationary, and all the power is consumed in slip, that only the projected area of the screw blades should be considered. But whenever the machine is allowed to advance, and to encounter new air, the inertia of which has not been disturbed, the efficiency increases in geometrical progression. The exact rate for all speeds I have not yet ascertained. My experiments have, however, shown that with a speed of 40 miles an hour and a screw slip of 18 miles an hour, a well-made screw propeller is 13.1 times as efficient as early experimenters had supposed and attempted to prove by elaborate formulæ.

Fig. 13.­A group, showing the various forms of screws which Mr. Maxim has tested. The screw J was found to be the most efficient. A similar screw K, with wider blades, did not do so well. The screw E, although very light and small, did very well. G, a screw made on the French plan, proved the worst screw experimented with. H, the same form as J, except that the blades are much thicker, also did remarkably well.

Fig. 14.

  1. ­ Plain screw with flat blades.
  2. ­ Screw with slightly curved blades with increasing pitch.
  3. ­ Screw with curved blades, compound increasing pitch.

Fig. 15.

This plate is especially interesting as showing the construction of the framing.­Ed.

When I first commenced my experiments with a large machine, I did not know exactly what form of boiler, gas generator, or burner I should finally adopt; I did not know the exact size that it would be necessary to make my engines; I did not know the size, the pitch, or the diameter of the screws which would be the most advantageous. Neither did I know the form of aeroplane which I should finally adopt. It was therefore necessary for me to make the foundation or platform of my machine of such a character that it would allow me to make the modifications necessary to arrive at the best results. The platform of the machine is therefore rather larger than is necessary, and I find if I were to design a completely new machine, that it would be possible to greatly reduce the weight of the framework, and, what is still more, to greatly reduce the force necessary to drive it through the air.

At the present time, the body of my machine3 is a large platform, about 8 ft. wide and 40 ft. Iong. Each side is formed of very strong trusses of steel tubes, braced in every direction by strong steel wires. The trusses which give stiffness to this superstructure are all below the platform. In designing a new machine, I should make the trusses much deeper and at the same time very much lighter, and, instead of having them below the platform on which the boiler is situated, I should have them constructed in such a manner as to completely enclose the boiler and the greater part of the machinery. I should make the cross-section of the framework rectangular, and pointed at each end. I should cover the outside very carefully with balloon material, giving it a perfectly smooth and even surface throughout, so that it might be easily driven through the air.

In regard to the screws, I am at the present time able to mount screws 17 ft. 10 in. in diameter. I find, however, that my machine would be much more efficient if the screws were 24 feet in diameter, and I believe with such very large screws, four blades would be much more efficient than two.

My machine may be steered to the right or to the left by running one of the propellers faster than the other. Very convenient throttle valves have been provided to facilitate this system of steering. An ordinary vertical rudder placed just after the screws may, however, prove more convenient, if not more efficient.

The machine is provided with fore and aft horizontal rudders, both of which are connected with the same windlass. If the forward rudder is placed at an angle considerably greater than that of the main aeroplane, and the rear rudder placed flat so as not to lift at all (Fig. 7), and the machine run over the track at a high speed, the front wheels will be lifted from the steel rails, leaving the rear wheels on the rails. If the rudders are placed in the reverse position so that the front rudder is thrown out of action, and the rear rudder lifts to its full extent (Fig. 8), the hind wheels will be lifted from the steel rails, leaving only the forward wheels touching. If both rudders are placed at such an angle that they both lift (Fig. 9), and the machine is run at a very high velocity, all four of the wheels will be lifted from the steel rails. This would seem to show that these rudders are efficient as far as vertical steering is concerned. If the machine should break down in the air it would be necessary to tilt the rudders in the position shown in Fig. 10, when it would fall to the ground without pitching or diving.

Fig. 7.­ The forward wheels off the track.

Fig. 8.­ The rear wheels off the track.

Fig. 9. ­ All the wheels off the track.

Fig. 10.­ Showing the manner of placing the fore and aft rudders in case of a breakage of the machinery.

In regard to the stability of the machine, the centre of weight is much below the centre of lifting effect; moreover, the upper wings are set at such an angle that whenever the machine tilts to the right or to the left, the lifting effect is increased on the lower side and diminished on the higher side (Fig. 11). This simple arrangement makes the machine automatic as far as rolling is concerned. I am of the opinion that whenever flying machines come into use it will be necessary to steer them in a vertical direction by means of an automatic steering gear controlled by a gyroscope. It will certainly not be more difficult to man¦uvre and steer such machines than it is to control completely submerged torpedoes.

Fig. 11.

When the machine is once perfected, it will not require a railway track to enable it to get the necessary velocity to rise. A short run over a moderately level field will suffice. As far as landing is concerned, the aerial navigator will touch the ground while moving forward, and the machine will be brought to a state of rest by sliding on the ground for a short distance. In this manner very little shock will result, whereas if the machine is stopped in the air and allowed to fall directly to the earth without advancing, the shock, although not strong enough to be dangerous to life or limb, might be sufficient to disarrange or injure the machinery.



So far I have only discussed the navigation of the air by the use of propellers driven by a steam engine. The engines that I employ are what are known as compound engines, that is, they have a large and a small cylinder. Steam at a very high pressure enters the high pressure cylinder, expands and escapes at a lower pressure into a larger cylinder where it again expands and does more work. A compound engine is more economical in steam than a simple engine, and therefore requires a smaller boiler to develop the same horse-power, so that when we consider the weight of water and fuel for a given time, together with the weight of the boiler and the engine, the complete motor with a compound engine is lighter than a simple engine. However, if only the weight of the engine is to be considered, then the simple engine will develop more power per unit of weight than the compound engine. For instance, if instead of allowing the steam to enter the small cylinder, and the exhaust from this cylinder to enter the large or low-pressure cylinder, which necessitates that the high-pressure piston has to work against a back-pressure equal to the full pressure in the low-pressure cylinder, I should connect both cylinders direct with the live steam and allow both to discharge their exhaust directly into the air. I should then have a pair of simple engines, and instead of developing, 363 horse-power, they would develop fully 500 horse-power, or nearly 1 horse-power for every pound of their weight. I mention this fact to show that the engines are exceedingly light, and that when compared with simple engines their power should be computed on the same basis. It will therefore be seen that if we do not take into consideration the steam supply or the amount of fuel and water necessary, the simple steam engine is an exceedingly light motor.

But as before stated, great improvements have recently been made in oil engines. I have thought much on this subject, and am of the opinion that if one had an unlimited supply of money, a series of experiments could be very profitably conducted with a view of adapting the oil engine for use on flying machines. If we use a steam engine it is necessary to have a boiler, and at the best a boiler is rather a large and heavy object to drive through the air. If we use an oil engine no boiler is necessary and the amount of heat carried over in the cooling water will only be one-seventh part of what is carried over in the exhaust from a steam engine of the same power. Therefore the condenser need only be one-seventh part of the size, and consequently could be made lighter with the tubes placed at a greater distance apart, and thus reduce the amount of power necessary to drive the machine through the air. Moreover, the supply of water necessary will be greatly reduced and a cheaper and heavier oil may be employed which is not so liable to take fire in case of an accident. It is, then, only a question as to whether an oil engine can be made so light as to keep its weight within that of a steam motor; that is, an oil-engine in order to be available for the purpose must be as light, including its water supply, as a complete steam motor which includes not only the engine, but also the boiler, the feed-pumps, the water supply, the burner, the gas generator, and six-sevenths of the condenser. It requires a very perfect steam-engine and boiler, not using a vacuum, to develop a horse-power with a consumption of one and a half pounds of petroleum per hour; but there are many oil engines which develop a horse-power with rather less than one pound of oil per hour. It will therefore be seen that as far as fuel is concerned the oil engine has a decided advantage over the more complicated steam motor. Moreover, with an oil engine the cooling water is not under pressure, so that the waste of water would be much less than with a steam engine, where the pressure is so high as to cause a considerable amount of waste through joints, valves, and numerous stuffing boxes.

The great advances that have been made of late years in electrical science and engineering have led many to believe that almost any knotty scientific question could be solved by the employment of electrical agencies, and a great deal has been written and said in regard to navigating the air by flying machines driven by electric motors.

Before I commenced my experiments I made inquiries of all the prominent electrical engineering establishments where there was any likelihood of obtaining light and efficient electric motors, and I found that it was impossible to obtain one that would develop a horse-power for any considerable time that would weigh less than 150 lbs. Since that time, notwithstanding that a great deal has appeared in the public prints about the efficiency and lightness of electric motors, I am unable to learn of any concern that is ready to furnish a complete motor, including a primary or secondary battery which would supply the necessary current for two hours at a time, at a weight of less than 150 Ibs. per horse-power, and as far as I have been able to ascertain from what I have myself seen, I cannot learn that there are any motors in practical use which do not weigh, including their storage batteries, at least 300 Ibs. per horse-power. The last electric motor which I examined was in a boat; it was driven by a primary battery which weighed over 1,000 Ibs. to the horse-power. From this I am of the opinion that we can not at present look to electricity with any hope of finding a motor which is suitable for the purpose of aerial navigation.



My large machine, which was injured in my late experiments, has now been repaired and improved, and is quite ready to be used in any other experiments which I may wish to make on the limited area which I now have at my disposal. The railway track on which my experiments have been made is 1,800 feet long and the land on all sides is thickly studded with large trees. When making experiments about 500 feet of the track is used in getting up the necessary speed and 300 feet is utilized in bringing the machine again to a state of rest. My clear run is therefore limited to 1,000 feet, and the time which the machine takes to pass over this length of rail is at the most only a few seconds. It will therefore be seen that it is not an easy matter to conduct experiments in a satisfactory manner. In addition to these experiments with a large machine, I am also conducting a series of experiments in a blast of air issuing from a trunk 3 feet square. The air is set in motion by the action of screw propellers driven by a steam engine of 60 horse-power, and I am able to obtain any atmospheric velocity that I require, from 5 to 90 miles an hour. This apparatus is shown in Fig. 6, and is constructed in such a manner that it enables me to mount in this current of air any object that I wish to experiment with. For instance, a bar of wood 3 inches square is mounted in the blast of air so that one of its sides forms a normal plane perpendicular to the direction of the blast. The engine is then run until the air is passing through the trunk at a velocity of 50 miles an hour. The tendency of this bar of wood to travel in the direction of the air may then be accurately determined, and this is considered as unity. A cylinder exactly 3 inches in diameter may then be mounted and tested in the same manner. The cylinder will of course have less tendency to travel with the air than the square bar of wood, and whatever this tendency is, will be the coefficient of a cylinder. I have provided oval, eIliptical, and various other shaped objects to be experimented with, and when the experiments are finished I shall know the exact coefficient of all shapes that it may be practical to use in the framework of a flying machine, and also what effect is produced by placing two or more bodies in close proximity to each other.

In addition to these experiments, I am also able with the same air blast to ascertain the efficiency of various forms of aeroplanes, superposed or otherwise, and placed at all angles, the apparatus being provided with a scale beam which not only enables me to measure the drift, but also to accurately weigh the lifting effect. The aeroplane, or grouping of aeroplanes, in which the drift will go the greatest number of times into the lift will be considered the most satisfactory for the purpose.

Fig. 6.


Fig. 12.

This shows one of the wheels which pulled upward on the upper rail. The lifting power of the machine caused the axle to yield as here shown.

Experiments are also being made in the same air blast with a view of ascertaining the condensing and lifting power of various forms of tubes, steam in the condition of exhaust being passed through the tubes while the air is driven between them at any velocity required. The experiments are being made with pure steam and also with steam contaminated with oil, with a view of ascertaining to what extent the efficiency of the condenser is reduced by a film of oil such as may be expected from exhaust steam. These experiments will enable me to ascertain very exactly the weight and the efficiency of atmospheric condensers, the amount that their tubes may be made to lift at various speeds and atmospheric conditions, and will also enable me to select the form which I find most suitable for the purpose.

In navigating a boat, it is only necessary that one should be able to turn it to the right or to the left (port or starboard), but with a flying machine it is not only necessary to steer it to the right or left (horizontally), but also in a vertical direction to prevent it from rearing up forward or pitching, and this, if it is accomplished by hand, will require the constant vigilance of a man at the wheel who can make observations, think, and act instantly. In order to prevent a too rapid up and down deviation of the machine I have constructed it of great length, so that the man at the helm will have more time to think and act. As before stated, however, I am of the opinion that the steering in a vertical direction should be automatically controlled by a gyroscope, and I have made an apparatus which consists of a steam piston acting directly upon the fore and aft rudders, the steam valve being controlled by a gyroscope. As the rudders are moved by the steam, their movement shuts the steam off in exactly the same manner that the moving of a rudder shuts off the steam in the well-known steam-steering apparatus now universally in use on all large steamers.

Now that it is definitely known that it is possible to construct a large machine which is light enough and at the same time powerful enough to raise its own weight and that of its engineers into the air, the next question which presents itself for solution is to ascertain how to steer and control such a machine when actually free from the earth. When it is considered that the machine is of great size and that it is necessary that it should move through the air at a velocity of at least 35 miles an hour in order to leave the ground, it will be obvious that man¦uvring experiments cannot be conducted in a circumscribed place such as I now have. It is therefore necessary for me to obtain new and much larger premises where I shall have a very large and level field at my disposal. It is not an easy matter to obtain a field of this character in England, and it is almost impossible to find a suitable place near London. Moreover, experiments of this character, which are of little value unless conducted on a large scale, are exceedingly expensive, in fact, too expensive to be conducted by private individuals. Nevertheless, as my experiments have shown most conclusively that flying machines are not only possible but practicable, I think I am justified in continuing my experiments until a comparatively perfect flying machine has been evolved. When I have obtained possession of a suitable field, I propose to erect a large building which will contain the machine with all its wings in position. The building which I have at present, notwithstanding that it cost $15,000, is not large enough for the purpose, as the wings all have to be taken off before the machine can be housed.

There are so many points that may be improved that I have determined to build a new machine on a somewhat smaller scale, using about 200 or 250 horse-power. I shall make the engines of a longer stroke in proportion to their diameter so as to get a greater piston speed.4 I shall construct my screw propellers with 4 long and narrow blades, very sharp and thin, and shall make them large enough so that the pressure on the projected area of the blades will be about 10 Ibs. per square foot instead of over 20 lbs. as now. This will greatly reduce the waste of power which is now lost in screw slip. As the present boiler has been found larger than is necessary, my next boiler will be made lighter and smaller, and instead of carrying a pressure of 320 lbs. to the square inch, I shall only carry 275 lbs. But the greatest improvement will be made in the framework of the machine, which will be constructed with a view of enabling everything to be driven through the air with the least possible resistance. The main aeroplane will be the same form as now, but placed at an angle of 1 in 13 instead of 1 in 8, and will be used principally for preventing the machine from accidentally falling to the earth. The principal lifting effect will be derived from a considerable number of relatively narrow aeroplanes placed on each side of the machine and mounted in such a position that the air can pass freely between them. The fore and aft rudders will be the same form as those now employed. The condenser will consist of a large number of small hollow aeroplanes about 2 inches wide, made of very thin and light metal and placed immediately behind the screw-propellers. They will be placed at such an angle as to lift about 1,000 pounds in addition to their weight and the weight of their contents. Instead of mounting my machine as now on 4 wheels, I propose to mount it on 3, the two hind wheels being about 40 feet apart and the forward wheel placed about 60 feet in front of these. I propose to lay down a track of 3 rails, the sleepers being embedded in the ground so as to produce a comparatively level surface. This railway track should be oval or circular in form so that the machine may be heavily weighed to keep it on the track and be run at a high speed. This will enable me to test the furnace draught, the burner, the steam, the boiler, the engines, the propelling effects of the screws, and the efficiency of the condenser while the machine is on the ground.

When all the machinery has been made to run smoothly I shall remove all the weight except that directly over the front wheel, and shall place a device between the wheel and the machine that will indicate the lift on the front end of the machine. I shall then run the machine over the track at a velocity which will just barely lift the hind wheels off the track, leaving the front wheel on the track. If the rear end of the machine lifts into the air it will change the angle of the planes and the lifting effect will be correspondingly diminished. This will prevent rising too high. Special wheels with a wide face suitable for running on either the rails or the earth will be provided for the purpose, and when I find that I can keep the hind wheels in the air and produce a varying lifting effect above and below the normal weight resting on the front wheel, I shall remove the weight from the forward wheel and attempt free flight by running the machine as near the ground as possible, making the first attempt by running against the wind, and it will only be after I find that I can steer my machine and manage it within a few feet of the earth, ascend and descend again at will, that I shall attempt high flight.

My experiments have certainly demonstrated that a steam engine and boiler may be made which will generate a horsepower for every six pounds of weight, and that the whole motor, including the gas generator, the water supply, the condenser, and the pumps may be all made to come inside of 11 Ibs. to the horse-power. They also show that well made screw propellers working in the air are fairly efficient, and that they obtain a sufficient grip upon the air to drive the machine forward at a high velocity; that very large aeroplanes, if well made and placed at a proper angle, will lift as much as 2 and a half Ibs. per square foot at a velocity not greater than 40 miles an hour; also that it is possible for a machine to be made so light and at the same time so powerful that it will lift not only its own weight but a considerable amount besides, with no other energy except that derived from its own engines. Therefore there can be no question but what a flying machine is now possible without the aid of a balloon in any form.

In order to obtain these results it has been necessary for me to make a great number of expensive experiments and to carefully study many of the properties of the air. Both Lord Kelvin and Lord Rayleigh, after witnessing a series of my experiments, expressed themselves as of the opinion that all the mathematical formulæ relating to planes driven through the air at an angle would have to be completely modified. Lord Kelvin himself has written that in some cases my experiments have proved that the conditions were from 20 to 50 times as favorable to the aerial navigator as had heretofore been shown by accepted formulæ, and that the whole mathematical question would require revision.

Experiments of this character unless conducted with great care are exceedingly dangerous. No makeshift or imperfect apparatus should be employed, but the experimenter should have the advantage of the most perfect appliances and apparatus that modern civilization can afford. The necessary plans for conducting experiments in a proper and safe manner is unfortunately much more expensive than the machine itself. If I find that my experiments require more money than I have at my disposal, I feel sure that some future experimenter more fortunate than myself will commence where I leave off, and with the advantages of the knowledge which has been gained by recent experiments will be able to construct a practical flying machine which cannot fail to be a great advantage to mankind.

The numerous and very expensive experiments, conducted on an unprecedented scale, which have made all this possible, and also brought to light new laws relating to the atmosphere, cannot fail to be of the greatest value to mankind, and it is on this basis that I submit the foregoing thesis.

NOTE.-For Mr. Maxim's description of this machine see "Century Magazine," N.Y., January, 1895.

1 The arrows in the accompanying drawings show the direction of the air currents, the experiments having been made with stationary planes and a moving current of air.

2 In my early experiments I lifted as much as 8 lb. per sq. ft. with aeroplanes which were only slightly curved, but very thin and sharp.

3 See A New Flying Machine, by H. S. Maxim. Century Magazine, N. Y., January 1895.­Ed.

4 The present piston speed does not exceed 800 feet per minute. The piston speed of express locomotives is often more than 1,000 feet per minute.