Yuri Gagarin: The First Man In Space

History Behind The Card: Yuri Gagarin

Card #48 of 48, Lyons Maid, Famous People series 1966

  • Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, March 9, 1934 in Klushino, Russia, U.S.S.R – March 27, 1968 in Novosyolovo, Russia, U.S.S.R.;
  • Gherman Stepanovich Titov, September 11, 1935, Verkh-Zhilino, Russia, U.S.S.R. – September 20, 2000, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.;
  • Valentin Vasiliyevich Bondarenko, February 16, 1937, Kharkiv, Ukraine – March 23, 1961, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.;
  • Vladamir Mikhaylovich Komarov, March 16, 1927 in Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R. – April 24, 1967 in Orenburg, Russia, U.S.S.R.

After learning about the recent death of astronaut John Glenn’s widow, and recalling that John was the first American man to fly in space, I thought it prudent to write up about the first man in space, a Russian/Soviet cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin. I could just copy and past the report my son did on him in Grade 5 a few years ago, but… 

Like the travels of Gagarin, I’m going to use this platform to take you on a wild ride all over the space place… rushing, rushing, Russian.

Yuri Gagarin was a Soviet cosmonaut who became the first man in space on April 12, 1961 when his Vostok 1 spacecraft orbited the Earth.

The card, upon which this article is based, is card 48 of 48 of the Famous People series put out in 1966 by J.Lyons & Co. Ltd., who issued cards on multiple topics in their tea and ice cream products.

I admit that I do not have the card pictured above… and I saw one for sale on Amazon for US $1.99 (plus $9.99 shipping – which shows you that people are greedy and try to suck you in with a low cost for the card, but nail you with exaggerated shipping costs – seriously… an envelope and stamps, with the card enclosed in some thing corrugated).

The reverse of the 1966 Gagarin card, it describes his life… because it’s only two years later in 1968 that he dies.

In The Beginning

Anyhow… Gagarin was born in Klushino – a village near the town of Gzhatsk (wow… just one vowel) which would one day be renamed after him (Gagarin).

His mother was a milkmaid and father was a carpenter on a kolkhoz – a collective farm on Soviet state-owned land run by peasants/general people from households who belonged to the collective. They were paid as salaried employees on the basis of quality and quantity of labor they contributed.

Yuri attended a local school for six years in Klushino.

It was while Gagarin was still very young, that Nazi Germany attempted its near six-month invasion and occupation of Russia (in the U.S.S.R.). The family (and others) were forced from their home, and had to live in a very small mud hut nearby. Gagarin’s older brother, Valentin, and sister Zoya, were moved to “labor” camps in Poland. 

With the war over, in 1947 (we won!!!) the family moved to Gzhatsk (which is why, I suppose, the town was later renamed Gagarin after Yuri’s Earth orbit). A waste not – want not sort of guy, and a true carpenter, Gagarin’s father took apart the Klushino house (repatriated from the Nazis) and moved it to Gzhatsk and rebuilt it.

Apparently Gagarin was a typical boy growing up, fond of pranks and having fun, but he was also interested in his school work. According to a former teacher (Yelena Kozlova) who taught him botany, his favorite subjects were physics and math.

She also commented that he had a wonderful smile, and that the girls seemed to like him.

[Editor Note: My point in showing all this stuff, is that despite the whole Cold War thing that our respective governments fed us, the people… people… they were essentially the same regardless of their country’s political alliance. I think we all saw THAT, during the Apollo-Soyuz mission in the 1970s. That was when I realized the people are people, and politics is just that – politics. Beats me why I went out and got a degree in political science. Probably because I couldn’t get into the business program, and didn’t want to go into astronomy (my best subject) because I didn’t want to work nights. That, is a joke… except it’s not.]

He furthered his education at vocational and technical/trade schools, graduating in 1951 to become a foundryman/molder at a steel factory in Lyubertsy.

While working, he continued to attend an industrial/technical college at Saratov, and decided to also take a course on flying, which took many years, finally completing it and gaining passage into the Soviet Air Force Academy school at Orenburg in 1955, graduating with honors in 1957.

It was at the Orenburg pilot school, that he met Valentina Goryacheva, who graduated from the Orenburg medical school. The couple married after graduation in 1957.

Yuri Gagarin and wife

Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Goryacheva in Orenburg, prior to their wedding in 1957. A good-looking couple!

Soon after the couple married, Gagarin began a tour of duty as a fighter pilot.

Joining the full-on military Soviet Air Forces as a Lieutenant, he became a fighter pilot, posted at Luostari Air Base near the border with Norway. 

Space… The Final Frontier

In 1960, 20 men, including Gagarin were selected from various services into the U.S.S.R. space programme.

Below is an alphabetical list of the 20. The men listed in BLUE, would all eventually fly in space. All names are clickable to a Wikipedia biography page. And yes… the chart was also taken from Wikipedia – not my own compilation.

Air Force rank*CosmonautAge*
Senior LieutenantIvan Anikeyev27
MajorPavel Belyayev34
Senior LieutenantValentin Bondarenko23
Senior LieutenantValery Bykovsky25
Senior LieutenantValentin Filatyev30
Senior LieutenantYuri Gagarin25
Senior LieutenantViktor Gorbatko25
CaptainAnatoli Kartashov27
Senior LieutenantYevgeny Khrunov26
Captain EngineerVladimir Komarov32
LieutenantAlexei Leonov25
Senior LieutenantGrigori Nelyubov25
Senior LieutenantAndrian Nikolayev30
CaptainPavel Popovich29
Senior LieutenantMars Rafikov26
Senior LieutenantGeorgi Shonin24
Senior LieutenantGherman Titov24
Senior LieutenantValentin Varlamov25
Senior LieutenantBoris Volynov25
Senior LieutenantDmitri Zaikin27
* At time of selection

Wait… there was a guy named Mars… and he never got to go into space?! Mars Rafikov  was dismissed from the space program in 1962… supposedly for womanizing and “gallivanting” in restaurants.

Eventually, the 20 became just two – Gagarin and Gherman Titov – for the honor of being the first man in space. But, for whatever reason, Gagarin was the one chosen by the administration to become the first man in space. Titov was actually the second man to orbit the Earth aboard Vostok 2 – fourth, if we include the sub-orbital flights of American’s Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom.

Titov is also famous for being the very first person to suffer from space sickness, and also as the first person to sleep in space.


There’s no denying that Gherman Titov was also a good-looking dude, here in this photo taken in 1961. Photo Credit: Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs

Some say it was Gagarin’s easy-going personality, or maybe his good looks to help play the role of national hero (Titov was also pretty good-looking, though), or maybe he was simply just the best candidate.

But really, it was up to Nikolai Kamanin, the head of cosmonaut training.

Still undecided on April 5, 1961 (the orbital flight was on April 12, 1961!!!), Kamanin noted in his diary that he would have chosen Titov, but needed to have a stronger person for the one-day flight. 

On April 9 (again… the flight was on the 12th!!!), 1961, Gagarin and Titov learned of Kamanin’s decision. Obviously Gagarin was happy and Titov was not. 

And because a good party (communist) needs a crowd, the Vostok cosmonaut reveal was done in front of television cameras on April 10, 1961. Now, the cameras did not mean it was broadcast out to all of the peoples of the U.S.S.R. – rather it was done only to have an official record. The whole project was still hush-hush.

In fact, cosmonaut candidate Alexi Leonov said he didn’t even know who was chosen until the Vostok 1 had taken off! Leonov, by the way, is credited as being the first person (human) to do a spacewalk on March 18, 1965, beating Michael Jackson by almost 30 years. 

Now, for those too young to have lived through it, there was a space race going between the U.S. and the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) – to see who could: launch the first object into space (Sputnik-1 by the U.S.S.R.); launch the first human into space (our man Gagarin by the U.S.S.R.); and who could land a man on our moon, Luna (still only ever the U.S.).

Of course, both sides owe quite a bit of their technology to 1) Nazi Germany and their not-quite-ready-for-prime-time rocket program; 2) Canada and Great Britain, and the demise of the Avro Canada CF105 Arrow interceptor jet (I wasn’t even born yet – but don’t get me started on this sad tale of Canadian malfeasance).

The rocket technology was supplied by Nazi Germany, with the idea that the Canadian brain drain from the Arrow’s demise supplied many top scientists – both British and Canadian – to the young NASA program. NASA also had a bunch of ex-Nazi rocket scientists in their employ.  The Soviets… they only had the Nazi tech, ideas and probably a lot of former Nazi scientists. Hey… forgive and forget, right? Forgive, anyway.

This space race was born out of the so-called Cold War between the two nations… geopolitical tensions without an actual shot being fired at each other. But after the Soviets launched Sputnik-1, an artificial satellite in 1957, the space race was born.

While the U.S. via NASA undertook its Project Mercury missions, the Soviets participated in their Vostok program – and, as mentioned, a hush-hush rocket program.

Via the Vostok program, the Soviets launched several unmanned missions between May 1960 and March of 1961 – basically to see how the Vostok rocketry handled, and to see how their Vostok space capsule handled the rigors of launch and space flight. 

Now… not all of the Vostok rocket flights could be deemed a success prior to our boy Gagarin taking off.

By April 1960, the OKB-1 (PAO S. P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia) had completed a draft plan for the first Vostok spacecraft they called Vostok 1K.

The Vostok 1K was just for testing, however. They also created Vostok 2K, a spy satellite (later known as Zenit 2), and the Vostok 3K, which would be used for all six manned Vostok missions.

Let’s start at the beginning:

1) The first Vostok spacecraft was a variant not designed to be recovered from orbit – it was called Vostok 1KP, though to keep the Vostok code name secret, it was allowed that the media should refer to it as the spacecraft Korabl-Sputnik, (literally “satellite-ship”). The “P” part of the name was the variant, and stands for “prosteishiy” (translates to: simplest).

Vostok 1KP (aka Korbal-Sputnik) flew into Earth’s orbit on May 15, 1960. But, on the spacecraft’s 64th orbit, a system malfunction had the thrusters ignite, sending it to a higher orbit. After years of continued orbiting (and decaying orbit), it re-entered the atmosphere several years later and burned up. So… successful, but not successful.

2) On July 28, 1960, two dogs – Chayka and Lisichka – were placed aboard spacecraft Vostok 1K-1 – but the rocket exploded shortly after launch (about 20 seconds) killing the dogs. Because of the failure, no mission name was given.

3) August 19, 1960 was another mission, Korabal-Sputnik-2,  with two more dogs – named Belka and Strelka, and a host of other critters, including mice and insects, and I swear, strips of human skin. By the way, female dogs were the animal sex of choice, mostly because the doggies wore their own version of space suits, and the evacuation tube (for pee et al, was easier to use on female dogs than male ones. If you are wondering what type of dogs were used by the Soviets, the answer is mutts… smallish street dogs that were taken in and trained.


Korabal-Sputnik-2. Image from: http://spacepioneers.weebly.com/1957-60.html

In this mission, Belka and Strelka became the first living beings to be recovered after being in orbit!

No word on whether the mice, insects or human skin survived, but let’s assume so!


Belka (left) and Strelka – possibly the cutest mammals to ever go into space – and survive!

Laika, if you will recall, was the very first dog to go into space – and orbit – all the way back in November 3, 1957 in Sputnik 2. Officially – until 2002 – the story was that she died six days later while in space (there was no plan to bring her or the capsule back), when her oxygen ran out. However, the Soviets said she was euthanized prior to the oxygen running out.

But that was all B.S. Laika apparently died within five or six hours of her launch from overheating – the cause of which may have been a failure of the central R-7 sustainer used to separate from the payload. OR… she died a four days later via the same reason… it depends on the source. 

Sputnik 2 continued to orbit the Earth until April 14, 1958, when, with all systems dead, and having completed 2,570 (or 2,370 according to other sources) orbits… and burned up when it re-entered the atmosphere. 


Laika, seen here pre-lift-off in Sputnik 2. Aviation pioneer. She probably didn’t know it was a one-way mission.

By the way… you’ll notice that I didn’t claim that Laika was the first animal in space. That distinction goes to some unnamed fruit flies that the U.S, launched in a suborbital space mission 10 years earlier in February 20, 1947. You’ll be happy to learn that the fruit flies survived.

They were shot up in a U.S.-captured Nazi Germany V-2 rocket, reached 108 kilometers (68 miles) in altitude, and landed safely after the parachute deployed. 

4) On December 1, 1960, the Soviets sent up 1K-3, Korabal-Sputnik 3, again with two dogs: Pchyolka and Mushka. The Vostok capsule was placed atop a Vostok-L carrier rocket and made it successfully into orbit. However… re-entry issues.

The flight was only for one day – I believe it was cut short – and the spacecraft began to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. But, the engine failed to shut-off at the end of the burn causing all of the fuel to be used. This meant the Soviets were unable to control the spacecraft’s angle of descent. What it really meant, was that the craft could come down in non-Soviet territory, allowing those foreign devils (specifically the Americans) a chance to exam the capsule.

Not willing to allow for that possibility, an explosive charge was remote detonated during re-entry, killing the two dogs instantly. This, by the way, was the last time dogs died during a Soviet space mission.

Explosives in the capsule to prevent foreign powers from having a looky-look? Kindda makes you wonder if they had something similar in other space missions… Yuri Gagarin, I’m looking at you…  

5) The U.S.S.R. launched its 1K-4 rocket on December 22, 1960 (this is five months before Gagarin’s flight) – again carrying two dogs: Kometa and Shutka. Guess what… no name for this mission… so we can assume it was a failure.

During the launch… specifically the third-stage of the launch (while it was shooting upwards), a malfunction occurred, causing the emergency escape system to be activated. Landing 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) from the launch site, it took several days in -40C (strangely, it’s also -40F) weather for the rescue team to get to the spacecraft… but both dogs were alive. 

6) Taking things slowly (for the era), it wasn’t until March 9, 1961 that Korabal-Sputnik 4 (3KA-1) lifted off. It’s got a mission name, so you know it either went well, or mostly well-enough. At least no more dogs were killed.

This flight only had one dog – named Chernushka… oh and Ivan Ivanovich.

Wait… what? The Soviets sent a man up in space before Yuri Gagarin… and this was a successful flight?

Relax… the Soviets were just having some scientific fun. Ivan Ivanovitch was a dummy… as in a mannequin. But he got a real SK-1 spacesuit.

Ivan was a life-sized mannequin, and was strapped into the main ejector seat.

Even though the Vostok programme had its fair share of failures, the Soviets decided to try and go ahead with an automated version of the Vostok 3KA, that the referenced as Vostok 3KA-1.

The plan was for the Soviets to have success with this flight and the one after it before they went ahead with an actual manned spaceflight (aka that Gagarin fellow).

Just like what they had planned for the first human flight, this one was only going to be for a single Earth orbit.

Along with Chernushka the dog, other critters such as Guinea pigs, mice, and more went along for the ride… except that aside from the dog, these critters were placed INSIDE Ivan the mannequin.

Well, the Vostok capsule entered orbit, did its one rotation, and then the module re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere… successfully.

Ivan the mannequin… he was ejected, as part of the plan.. while the capsule and dog were carried downward assisted by gravity and a parachute. We know that the dog survived (because I previously said no other Soviet dogs were killed) the 106-minute trip (up and down)… but no word on the mice, Guinea pigs, insects or Ivan. For the Soviet space program – this was a success.

SI 97-16252-3h

Ivan Ivanovitch in space suit. Photo credit: Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

7) And now the last Vostok flight before the big one… no… let’s not do that yet.

Let’s look at the plight of cosmonaut-in-training Valentin Bondarenko.


Valentin Bondarenko. Photo: Source (WP:NFCC#4)

Born February 16, 1937 in Kharkiv, Ukraine he was, on March 23, 1961 engaged in a 15-day endurance test involving a low pressure altitude chamber at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow.

On day 10, the chamber’s atmosphere was at least 50 per cent oxygen, when Bondarenko was finished work for the day. Still within the chamber (the purpose was to test the human body for long periods in a low pressure environment.) After removing the biosensors, Bondarenko used a cotton ball soaked with alcohol to clean himself.

When he finished, he discarded the alcohol-soaked cotton ball… right on top of an electric hot plate that just so happened to be on because he was brewing a cup of tea.

Let’s see… alcohol + heat = OMG!

When the alcohol-soaked cotton ball (it may not even have been wet… but the alcohol fumes were still upon it) ignited, Bondarenko tried to tap out the flames using his coveralls (and not his alcohol-swabbed hands)… but, his coveralls were made of cotton.

Let’s see… fire + cotton – OMG!!

Bondarenko’s coveralls caught fire.

Let’s see… clothing on fire + 50 per cent oxygen-rich atmosphere = OMG!!!

Because he was locked in a pressure chamber, despite their being a doctor present, they were unable to open the door for some 30 minutes.

The details are pretty gruesome, as you can imagine for just about anyone involved in burns. He suffered third-degree burns over most of his body (that’s the bad degree).

Yuri Gagarin… lucky bugger… he spent several hours at the hospital where Bondarenko was… but Valentin died of shock about 16 hours after the accident.

Valentin Bondarenko’s carelessness with the cotton swab made him the first astronaut or cosmonaut to die in training.

The Soviets… in typical fashion for the era… hid his death. The West… they never even heard of the poor fellow until 1986.

Now… this death of Soviet Valentin Bondarenko had nothing to do with an actual space mission failure, but it, and the possibility of a rocket exploding after lift-off were all things that Yuri Gagarin had on his mind (or at least in the back of his mind), as the Soviet space programme continued to push ahead.

Heck… at this time, none of the cosmonauts knew who was going to be manning the first human crewed flight into space.

7) Okay, this time for sure. On March 25, 1961, Korabal-Sputnik 5 (3KA-2) was launched… again carrying a mannequin named Ivan Ivanovitch, and Zvezdochka the dog.


Korabal-Sputnik 5. Photo from: https://abydot.wordpress.com/korabl-sputnik-5/

It went up, completed a single orbit of the planet Earth, and successfully landed. Ivan the mannequin, was ejected from the capsule during the landing, and also landed safely with a separate parachute.

Hey… at least they were trying to provide for an escape plan.

By the way… the re-entry module of Vostok 3KA-2  (that was also the name of the capsule), was auctioned on April 12, 2011 – the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight. The Sotheby’s auction saw US$2,882,500 for the capsule, purchased by Russian investment banker Evegeny Yurchenko. That’s so cool. I’d love to be able to lie inside ANY spacecraft. Preferably from our planet.

8) This is it. April 12, 1961.

But, first… there’s something called the FAI: the Fédération aéronautique internationale aka the World Aeronautical Federation. It is Earth’s governing body for all air sports, and stewards definitions regarding human spaceflight. That last phrase is important for this story.

Founded on October 14, 1905 and headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, the FAI is the organization that maintains world records for aeronautical activities including: ballooning; aeromodeling, unmanned aerial vehicles (such as drones); and flights into space.

Back in 1961, when the Soviets filled out the official FAI paperwork to register the flight of Vostok 1 (Yuri Gagarin’s spacecraft), they stated that the launch site was: Baykonur at latitude 47°22′00″N longitude 65°29′00″E.

The actual launch site was at latitude 45°55′12.72″N longitude 63°20′32.32″E near Tyuratam – which is only about 250 kilometers (~155 miles) south west of the stated site.

Why? Obviously to keep the launch site, and telemetry a secret from possible spying eyes. To rectify this little white lie, in 1995, Russian and Kazakhstan renamed Tyuratam to Baikonur – just a slight change in spelling.

White that bit of subterfuge out of the way, and with cosmonauts Gherman Titov and Grigori Nelyubov named as official back-ups to Yuri Gagarin, the launch process got under way.

Vostok 1 Data


Model of the Vostok spacecraft with its upper stage, on display in Frankfurt Airport’s “Russia in Space” exhibition. Photo taken and edited by de:Benutzer:HPH on “Russia in Space” exhibition (Airport of Frankfurt, Germany, 2002)

The spacecraft consisted of a nearly spherical cabin covered with ablative material.

There were three small portholes and external radio antennas.

Other doo-dads, included: radios, a life support system, instrumentation, and an ejection seat all in the manned cabin.

This cabin was attached to a service module that carried chemical batteries, orientation rockets, the main retro system, and added support equipment for the total system. This service module would be separated from the manned cabin on reentry.


The Vostok 1 capsule on display at the RKK Energiya museum. The main capsule, seen in the center of this picture, is now on display at the Space Pavilion at the VDNKh. Photo by: SiefkinDR – Own work

I have always loved the Soviet’s spacecraft design. To me, as a kid, and now many decades later as an adult, it still looks like an insect.I first saw what it looked like by constructing an Apollo-Soyuz model as a kid. I did a horrible job painting it and it is long gone to a landfill.

The Pre-launch

Gagarin was obviously nervous before the launch, with one of the doctors examining him noting that he was more quiet than usual, and either nodded or said “da” (yes) to her questions. She said he sometimes began to hum.

After dressing him in his space suit et al, the team of doctors gave him a hug, telling him all would be fine. Gagarin merely nodded in response.

I can’t even imagine what he must have felt like. Sure the dummy, Ivan Ivanovitch, survived, but who knows about this time. I mean, most of us would jump at the chance to go up in space now… I even said as much minutes after I watch the space shuttle Challenger explode… there’s a trust that such accidents are flukes… but in Gagarin’s case… successes and failures in the Soviet space programme were exactly 50 per cent  – 12 of 24 were a success.

For Gagarin to go up into space with those odds… cojones of stainless steel.

The U.S.S.R. did not have – at that time – tracking ships to receive signals from the spacecraft, using a ground stations around the U.S.S.R. instead.

The Vostok 1 (Vostok 3KA) did not have a back-up retrorocket engine – because they were trying to keep the weight down to assure (?!) or better-enable the rocket to lift off successfully. 

Contained within the capsule, were 10day’s worth of provisions (it was only supposed to be a single Earth orbit, 105-minute total flight), The extra provisions were there in case something happened to the retrorockets and he was forced to stay up longer – until a solution could be found.

The standard plain white space helmet had a hand-painted CCCP (USSR) upon it, done ably by engineer Gherman Lebedev before it arrived at the launch site Baykonur near Tyuratam. His reasoning was that just in case Gagarin didn’t land where he was supposed… and landed in “enemy” territory… the country identification might help avoid him being shot as a spy.

It sounds right… but it also sounds like the perfect excuse to kill a commie.

Because no one on the ground really knew how the human body (Gagarin’s) would react to being weightless, ground control locked his pilot manual controls. But… just in case he would need it, and contact could not be made, an envelope was placed in the capsule with the code to unlock the controls. Just in case (again), a few members of ground control each secretly told Gagarin the code. It was 1-2-5. 

The day before the launch – April 11, 1961, the Vostok-K rocket with the attached Vostok 3KA space capsule were horizontally moved several kilometers within the Baikonur Cosmodrome to the launch pad. After a quick check of the booster engine to ensure all was well, it was added to the assembly.

At 10AM (Moscow time), both Gagarin and Titov reviewed the flight plan and told the launch would occur on April 12, 1961 at 9:07AM.

If that sounds like a strange time… why not 9AM? Well, when the capsule would fly over Africa, and was when the retrorockets would need to fire for reentry, the solar illumination after a 9:07AM lift-off would be best for the orientation system’s sensors.

Later that evening, after bodily readings were taken on both Gagarin and Titov, they were told to not talk about the mission (to alleviate the nerves) – so they just sat around playing pool, listening to music and talking about their respective childhoods.

At 9:50PM, both were offered a sedative to ensure a good night’s sleep, but both declined – which was okay, as they both apparently slept well. How the heck they did that without someone spiking their water, I have no idea.

Up at 5:30AM on April 12, 1961, they (Gagarin and Titov) had breakfast and were dressed into their spacesuits and then transported to the launch pad.

After entering the spacecraft and strapped in, he proceeded through various tests and checks, and after 40 minutes inside, the hatch was closed. Sort of.

Inside, a sensor flashed indicating to Gagarin that the hatch wasn’t sealed properly. OMG!!!! Technicians spent an hour removing the screws on the hatch, and then resealing it. To this day, however, there is some doubt as to whether the hatch was sealed improperly or not. It could have simply been a faulty sensor. But since no one replaced the sensor in the capsule… and it didn’t indicate a faulty seal again… well… maybe the hatch was improperly sealed.

Although not previously mentioned here, one Sergei Pavlovich Korolev was the U.S.S.R.’s Chief Rocket Engineer, and the designer of the Soviet space programme. Regarded as the father of practical aeronautics, he was involved in the development of the R-7 Rocket (the world’s first ICBM – intercontinental ballistic missile), Sputnik 1, as well as launching Laika the dog into space, and this… the Vostok 1 with Yuri Gagarin.

Korolev was sick with anxiety and chest pains (probably anxiety… been there, done that). He was worried because of the 50 per cent success rate of the Soviet space launches… he got a pill to calm down.

As for Gagarin… if he was not his usual self before the flight, he was downright calm, cool and collected strapped into the capsule. Just 30 minutes before launch, his pulse was only 64 beats per minute.

Launch Time


Yuri Gagrin strapped in and aboard Vostok 1. Photo by via the Soviet space program.

At 9:17AM – just 10 minutes after lift-off, the final rocket stage shut down as it reached Earth’s orbit… and 10 seconds after shut-down, the rocket separated from the capsule, leaving just the capsule and Gagarin alone in Earth’s orbit.

t 9:17AM – just 10 minutes after lift-off, the final rocket stage shut down as it reached Earth’s orbit… and 10 seconds after shut-down, the rocket separated from the capsule, leaving just the capsule and Gagarin alone in Earth’s orbit.

Launch of Vostok 1, continued after the delay to the resolve the hatch issue, and was now about two hours behind schedule.

At 9:07AM, with Korolev radioing: “Preliminary stage… intermediate… main… lift-off! We wish you a good flight. Everything is all right.” Gagarin said back, “Let’s roll!”… or the Russian equivalent “Poyekhali!“One hundred and 19 seconds later, the four booster engines used up the fuel and fell away from the spacecraft.At 156 seconds after lift off, the payload shroud covering Vostok 1 was released, uncovering a window at Gagarin’s feet, with an optical orientation device called a Vzor.At 300 seconds, the rocket core stage used up its propellant and fell away from the capsule, as the final rocket stage fired. Wikipedia details all of the above launch by time, and continues… but for some reason in the next section, they have Gagarin speaking in clipped English, as though someone did a direct translation but had him speaking in Russian-English. See below:

  • 06:13 UT Gagarin reported, “…the flight is continuing well. I can see the Earth. The visibility is good…. I almost see everything. There’s a certain amount of space under cumulus cloud cover. I continue the flight, everything is good.”

That’s pretty funny to me. Do your best Russian-English accent and say “I continue the flight. Everything is good.” I’m pretty sure that in Russian, Gagrin use of grammar would have been more spot-on.

The UTC time, is three hours behind Moscow time, so the above sequence takes place at 9:13AM.

At 9:17AM – just 10 minutes after lift-off, the final rocket stage shut down as it reached Earth’s orbit… and 10 seconds after shut-down, the rocket separated from the capsule, leaving just the capsule and Gagarin alone in Earth’s orbit.

Vostok 1 continued its crossing from east to west, over Siberia, then the Kamchatka peninsula, over the North Pacific Ocean, and then altered course diagonally as it passed over the tip of South America.

It was around this time – at 9:25AM – that Gagarin requested data about his orbital parameters, wanting to know how they thought everything was going down on the ground. But the ground station at Khabarovsk (near the China border) didn’t have the information, but noted that the flight was proceeding normally.

In fact, Ground Control did not know until 25 minutes after launch (at 9:32AM), that Vostok 1 and Gagarin had even achieved a stable orbit.

At 6:31AM, Gagarin again requested from Khabarovsk ground control information on how his flight was going. He said he was feeling good and all was well (by his reckoning)… and then the spacecraft passed out of VHF range of the Khabarovsk ground station.

With no one telling him anything of scientific importance, one can only imagine what was going through Gagarin’s mind at the time.

As Vostok 1 continued over the North Pacific, Gagarin crossed into the night just northwest of the Hawaiian Islands at 9:37AM… and definitely out of VHF range with the ground stations… but High Frequency (HF) radio did continue.

At 9:46AM (again – Moscow time), Khabarovsk used HF radio to send the telegraph message of “KK”… a pre-determined code that Gagarin knew was a request for a “report the monitoring of commands.” Gagarin knew it would be requested when the spacecraft automated descent system had received its instructions from ground control.

Crossing the equator and the South Pacific Ocean, Gagarin replied back two minutes later via HF radio: “I am transmitting the regular report message: 9 hours 48 minutes, the flight is proceeding successfully. Spusk-1 is operating normally. The mobile index of the descent mode monitor is moving. Pressure in the cockpit is 1; humidity 65; temperature 20; pressure in the compartment 1.2 … Manual 150; First automatic 155; second automatic 155; retro rocket system tanks 320 atmospheres. I feel fine…”

At 9:51AM, Gagarin reported to ground control that the sun-seeking attitude control system was switched on. This control system was used to orient the Vostok 1 for retrofire. The automatic/solar system was backed up by a manual/visual system; either one could operate the two redundant cold nitrogen gas thruster systems, each with 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of gas.

By 9:57AM, Vostok 1 was between Chile and New Zealand in the South Pacfic Ocean .

By 10AM, the spacecraft had just crossed the Strait of Magellan at the tip of South America – and news of the successful Vostok 1 space mission mission was broadcast on Radio Moscow.

At 10:04AM, Gagarin sent out a status message saying all was well, listing everything again as he had at 9:48AM… but ground control did not receive it.

He did so again at 10:09AM… but ground control did not receive it.

One minute later at 10:10AM, Vostok 1 passed over the South Atlantic and into daylight again.

At 10:13AM, Gagarin sent out his fourth status message… this time ground control received only a partial message from him: “I read you well. The flight is going….”

At 10:18AM and 10:23AM, two more status messages were sent – but not received.

At 10:25AM, Vostok 1‘s automatic systems re-orientated the spacecraft to the proper attitude to commence the retrorocket firing. 

The retrorockets fired for ~42 seconds while it was over West Africa (near Angola), which placed it about 8,000 kilometers (4,300 nautical miles) up range of the landing point.

The orbit’s perigee and apogee (apogee is the farthest point from the Earth. Perigee is the closest point to the Earth) had been selected to cause reentry due to orbital decay within 10 days (the limit of the Vostok 1‘s life support system) in the event of retrorocket malfunction.

Luckily for Gagarin, the retrorocket did not malfunction… because the orbit decay planned and the orbit decay achieved would NOT have allowed Vostok 1 to break free until Day 20.

But that doesn’t mean things went smoothly.

Ten seconds after the retrorockets began to fire, commands were sent to separate the Vostok service module from the reentry module – but the separation didn’t happen, as the joining wires did not release.

So, at 10:35AM, both parts of the spacecraft (there should only have been one) began reentry, with very strong gyrations afflicting the spacecraft as it passed Egypt.

At this time, the strong gyrations of the spacecraft caused the wires to break and the modules to separate. However the gyrations continued, even as he communicated that everything was still okay.

During the descent, Gagarin experienced about 8 g’s (g-force… weight per unit mass)… which is a helluva lot… and yet he remained conscious.

At 10:55AM, while seven kilometers (4.3miles) from touchdown, the spacecraft’s hatch was released, and Gagarin was ejected. 

It was all part of the plan.

The Vostok 1 spacecraft was designed to eject the cosmonaut at this altitude, and allow him to return to earth by parachute. Gagarin’s parachute opened up almost immediately after ejection.

The parachute on the capsule was deployed at 2.5 kilometers (8,200 feet) altitude that hit the ground, bounced, and landed.

At 11:05AM, Gagarin landed… both he and the capsule near enough to each other. Gagarin then found a telephone and called home base looking for a ride home.


Ground trace of Gagarin’s complete orbit; the landing point is west of the takeoff point because of the Earth’s eastward rotation. So, beacuse the Earth was spinning, Gagarin did indeed make a complete Earth orbit. Credit: World Map from CIA World Fact Book. Reubenbarton added the orbital path info.

The entire flight… from the Earth to space and back again… took 108 minutes. Or, to put it simplistic terms, a shorter amount of time it takes me to get home from work in non-pandemic times.

The End Result

Well… what would you expect. Forget about Gagarin being awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union for a second… the U.S.S.R. just proved to the world (but really pointedly to the U.S.A.), that it was superior… and hopefully that being a Communist was the best.

The entire Soviet Union celebrated.

In the U.S., this Soviet success worried people. Sure, the U.S. government sent out its congratulations to their comrades, but people in the west feared that success in space was a harbinger of  bad tidings… that the West would soon fall to those “commie bastards.”

I’m glad I didn’t live through that era.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy sent congratulations to the Soviet Union for their “outstanding technical achievement.”

In the U.S.S.R., April 12 was declared to be Cosmonautics Day, and is still celebrated in Russia. As of 2011, the United Nations declared April 12 as the International Day of Human Space Flight.

But Was He Really The First Man In Space?

Yes… Gagarin was the first man in space.

But does it count?

WTF are you talking about, Andrew… why wouldn’t it count?!

Well… if you’ll note that earlier on in this blog, I mentioned the FAI… that governing body of all thing aviation-related.

Even back in 1961, FAI rules stipulated that a pilot must land with the spacecraft to be considered an official spaceflight for the FAI record books.

Gagarin was ejected from the capsule and parachuted to Earth separately from the capsule. So… according to FAI rules, this was NOT an official space flight for the FAI record books. 

Aware of this rule, the U.S.S.R. officially said that Gagarin did in fact land with the Vostok 1.

That’s a lie… and one it continued in press conferences  – and so unaware of anything untoward, the FAI certified the space flight.

The lies continued until 1971, when the U.S.S.R finally admitted that Gagarin was not inside the capsule when it landed.

Why it took so long for the Soviet Union to reveal the truth is due to the fact that after Gherman Titov went up in space a few months later on August 6, 1961 and orbited the Earth 17 times, he actually admitted aloud that he ejected from the capsule during reentry and parachuted to safety.

This caused the FAI to re-examine its aviation rules which were put in place back in 1906 and subsequently re-used when it became apparent that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were attempting manned spaceflight.

The old and current aeroplane/airplane rule about a pilot having to land with his plane was a good one. It just wasn’t a good enough one when it came to space flight.

While many of us can picture U.S. Apollo flights where the capsule splashed down with a parachute into the water, the Soviets had not quite figured out how to do a manned landing back in 1961.


NASA’s Mercury-Redstone 3 Friendship 7  – this is where a capsule should land – in the water, here shown being lifted up by a helicopter.

The Soviets knew that they had the wherewithal to launch a man into space and to bring him back (probably)… they just hadn’t figured out how to do a proper braking system yet.

I’m sure they could have waited until they had one in place, where the cosmonaut could land with the capsule, but by that time the Americans would have beaten them to the punch.

Because of Titov spilling the beans, the FAI looked at its rule, and reworked it to note that a successful spaceflight includes: launch, orbiting and safe return of the crew, and NOT how they land.

As such, Gagarin and Titov are in the FAI record book.

There’s even a FAI Gagarin Medal given out annually to the greatest aviation or space achievement of the year. 


Because of the national and international superstar status afforded Gagarin, the U.S.S.R. was determined to not lose him in a space mission accident, and essentially grounded him from all such future flights.

As such, he was “promoted” to deputy training director of the Cosmonaut Training Centre (Tsentr Podgotovki Kosmonavtov (TsPK)), which was home to approximately 250 personnel divided into various departments who were responsible for the development of all aspects of the space program including equipment. It also featured specialists in heat exchange and hygiene, survival clothing, surgery and training staff.

Call it what you want, for Gagarin, it was NOT what he wanted to do… but it was the Soviet Union in the 1960s, so he had no choice.

In 1962, he was also presented with the honor of being “elected” a deputy of the Soviet of the Union in 1962 and then to the Soviet of Nationalities, respectively the lower and upper chambers of the Supreme Soviet – the most authoritative legislative body of the country, and the only one with the power to approve constitutional amendments.

But… he did eventually get his wish to be part of the real space program again…

Soyuz 1

Although the Vostok 1 flight to space was Gagarin’s only spaceflight, he did serve as part of the back-up crew to Soyuz 1. But to be honest, there was no way he was going to be the first person to act as back-up. He was just too valuable a commodity to the communist regime.

The Soyuz 1 crew consisted of just one man, cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, and he died on this mission.


An illustration of Soyuz 1 from: https://www.thespacereview.com/article/3226/1

The Soyuz 1 mission on April 23, 1967, was the first Soviet crewed flight following the death of chief designer Sergei Korolev, who died of cancer and a weak heart after surgery on a bleeding polyp in his large intestine on January 14, 1966. It had also been two years since the U.S.S.R. had done a manned space flight.

The Soyuz 1 was the first crewed flight of the first-generation Soyuz 7K-OK spacecraft and Soyuz rocket, designed as part of the Soviet lunar program.

The original mission plan was for Soyuz 1 to go into space orbit, and then await the soon-to-be-launched Soyuz 2 spacecraft one day later on April 24, 1967.

The plane was for the two spacecraft to rendezvous, exchange crews and then return to Earth. Mother Nature got in the way, however, and Soyuz 2 was unable to lift of due to thunderstorms.

Complexity aside, the forerunners to the Soyuz 1 mission had all been abject failures.

The unmanned tests of the 7K-OK spacecraft and the mission involving Kosmoss 133 and Kosmos 140 were a failure – both were expected to link-up with each other in space. This was in November-December of 1966.

But, Kosmos 133 had attitude control issues that resulted in rapid consumption of orientation fuel, which left it spinning at two revolutions per minute up in orbit.

Kosmos 140 fared even worse. A failure of the strap-on rockets to ignite after the booster ignited caused the Soviets to have to abort the launch.

As crews were draining the propellant  – having done so for the core stage and the strap-ons – the launch escape system (LES) fired, with its exhaust causing the Blok I third stage propellant tanks to overheat and explode, killing one person on the ground and damaging the Soyuz and core stage/strap-ons beyond repair.

So… with all that on the go… the U.S.S.R. decided to push forward with a manned flight – Soyuz 1 and cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov and withe Soyuz 2.

Both Gagarin and Komarov knew about the problems with this mission, and the earlier unmanned tests.

Apparently Gagarin pleaded with the big wigs in the space program to let him be the pilot rather than his friend Komarov. It wasn’t ego, rather he feared for the life of his friend, and felt it better to sacrifice himself.

But… Gagarin was the hero of the U.S.S.R. There was no way they were going to ever let Gagarin go up in space again – to protect him.

Prior to launch, Soyuz 1 engineers are said to have reported 203 design faults to party leaders, but it is believed that their concerns were overruled by political pressure to have a “space feat” to mark the of Lenin’s birthday (April 22, 1870).

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was a revolutionary, politician and political theorist. He served as head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1924 and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia and then the wider Soviet Union became a one-party communist state governed by the Russian Communist Party. Ideologically a communist, he developed a variant of Marxism known as Leninism. Leninism proposes the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, led by a revolutionary vanguard party, as the political prelude to the establishment of socialism.

[My political science university professors here in Toronto all had a bit of a Marxist bent to them. I thought university was where one could argue ideas and concepts – but no, apparently that sort of thought process gets one very low marx (sp)].

Komarov, on the other hand, was fully aware of the problems with the Soyuz mission, and was never going to relinquish his place in the spacecraft in order to protect Gagarin.

So, Komarov went up in Soyuz 1

Now, as mentioned, the Soyuz 2 mission was cancelled the next day owing to bad weather, which resulted in the Soviets deciding to cut-short Komarov’s Soyuz 1 flight after 18 orbits.

Even with most of the automatic controls not working, Komarov managed to manually re-orient the space capsule for what he hoped would be a safe descent… but then…

Upon re-entry, a drogue parachute was opened, and then the main parachute… except that the main parachute did not unfold when deployed. Who the hell packed this thing?!

Komarov then activated the manually-deployed reserve chute… but it became tangled with the drogue chute.

The drogue chute was supposed to disengage when the reserve chute was deployed. Oh come on!!!!

Komarov and the Soyuz 1 capsule fell to Earth, killing him. 

It has been reported that Komarov, as his capsule fell to Earth, screamed in rage at those who had “killed” him.

Below, is a pretty damn gruesome image of the charred remains of Komarov being viewed in an open coffin for some reason.


I have no words for this.

What a stupid, senseless death. In this case, the Soviets knew the Soyuz mission was NOT a safe one, and still, for the need to placate the upper echelon, they decided to give it a try anyway.

Not the U.S.S.R.’s finest moment.

The End Result

Beside the death of Komarov, the U.S.S.R. absolutely banned Gagarin from any more space flights – including acting as back-up to other cosmonauts.

However, on February 17, 1968, Gagarin completed training at the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy, a higher military educational institution for training and retraining of engineers for the Soviet Air Force. Formed on November 23, 1920, it is the largest and oldest scientific school of aeronautics on the planet.

But despite the training, on March 27, 1968, the Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG-15 fighter jet he was piloting with instructor Vladamir Seryogin crashed near the town of Kirzhach, close to Moscow.


A MiG-15 fighter jet. Image credit: wallycacsabremig1

Officially, the Soviet report concluded that the aircraft had tried to avoid a collision with a bird or some other object, which resulted in the MiG going into a tailspin and crashing into the ground.

But that explanation didn’t sit right with a lot of people in the U.S.S.R.

“That conclusion is believable to a civilian — [but] not to a professional,” Alexi Arkhipovich Leonov said in a June 14, 2013 television interview. Full story HERE.

Leonov (born May 30, 1934, Listvyanka, U.S.S.R. – died October 11, 2019, Moscow, Russia) was, on March 18, 1965, the first person to conduct a spacewalk (as noted previously in this extremely long article), exiting the Voskhod 2 capsule mission for a total of 12 minutes and 9 seconds.

Regarding Gagarin’s death, Leonov said: “We knew that a Su-15 [fighter jet] was scheduled to be tested that day, but it was supposed to be flying at the altitude of 10,000 meters [33,000 feet] or higher, not 450-500 meters [1,480-1,640 feet]. It was a violation of the flight procedure.”

Leonov spoke of a then-newly classified report that confirmed than an unauthorized JSC Sukhoi Company Sukhoi Su-15 jet flew close to Gagarin’s Mig-15.

“While after-burning, the aircraft reduced its echelon at a distance of 10-15 meters [30-50 feet] in the clouds, passing close to Gagarin, turning his plane and thus sending it into a tailspin — a deep spiral, to be precise — at a speed of 750 kilometers per hour (470 miles per hour),” noted Leonov in the interview. 

On April 12, 2011 – the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s epic space flight, U.S. astronaut Colonel Catherine Coleman aboard the ISS (International Space Station) teamed up via video with lead singer and flutist Ian Anderson of the rock group Jethro Tull back on Earth for a flute duet in Gagarin’s honor. Jethro Tull was playing live at that time in Russia. I mention this only because Jethro Tull was the first group I ever saw live in concert. And because it’s kindda cool. Apparently the video of the event can be found at NASA’s website, but I couldn’t spot it. https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html

Anyhow, below is a video of Yuri Gagarin and Vladamir Seryogin funeral: 

Gagarin is interned at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis, Moscow, incidentally where his friend and fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov is, as well.

As a side note, the Soviets/Russians still have not made a manned landing on the moon, Of course, NASA and the Americans haven’t put a man on the moon since 1972 after six of seven successful missions (the failed mission was Apollo 13). Both countries have made a combined 12 uncrewed landings since then. I believe, that China is the only other country to have made an uncrewed landing on the moon. Others have tried, but have crashed. 



Posted in Airfields, Failures, Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, Jets, Parachute, Pilots, Rockets, Space, Tea Card | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: To Caress the Air

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get around to providing my review of the book: To Caress the Air – Augustus Herring and the Dawn of Flight; Books One & Two.

All I can say to the author, C. David Gierke, is “I’m sorry.”

Back in 2019, he sent me books one and two of his biographical novel, a writing endeavor that took him decades to complete.

After reading the 1,500 page tomes (total pages, including the vast reservoir of footnotes), I can truly state that the novel is worthy of his efforts.

For those of you who are unaware, Augustus Herring (Augustus Moore Herring, born in Covington, Georgia, United States of America, August 3, 1867 – died July 17, 1926, New York City, New York) is an American aviation pioneer – hence his inclusion in this blog:


Herring’s life story and his place in aviation has long been one of misunderstanding and controversial, but author Gierke via his long and detailed research attempts to set the record straight.

The story takes place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but rather merely inundating the reader with dull facts, Gierke has turned the life of Augustus Herring into an interesting and very readable story.

A true story, but with a caveat.

As with any good book, the story of Augustus Herring is rife with conversations between Herring and other real people. But how does anyone really know what conversations took place over 100 years ago?

Heck, most people have difficulty in repeating a conversation they had (word-for-word) a week ago or a day ago – or even several hours ago.

I asked author Gierke that question – and he candidly explained that yes, the words in the conversations that occur in his novel are made-up, but they are actually based on real facts – and Gierke provides substantial footnotes (or end notes) at the end of each volume of the story.

So, yes, the actual words are made up, but the facts remain true. This is key.

What I got out of it, besides a fascinating account of the trials and tribulations of Augustus Herring (and there are so many trials – litigious – and so many tribulations – oy vey), is that Gierke is one heck of a story-teller.

We’re talking about 1,500 pages over two books – and yet, despite the length, it was a very difficult story to put down. I read them both over a two-week period in 2019, and began re-reading it again a few days ago… and the fact remains – the story of August Herring… the book(s): To Caress the Air, is entertaining reading.

Now, entertainment is fine (I love to watch the show Supernatural, for example), but I like to learn things along the way. And I sure learned a thing or two about the men and women involved in the early days of pioneer aviation. Some of it good, some of it bad – all of it riveting.

Here… you want something from the book that will make you go, WTF?: “Most people believe that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Not so,” said Augustus Herring.

Well, that’s true. The Wright Brothers may (or may not) have been the first to successfully launch, fly and land an aeroplane… but there is ample enough proof to show that others before them were attempting to create their own successful aeroplane.

Herring, was one of them. But, did he actually succeed BEFORE the Wright Brothers?

Author Gierke says Herring successfully flew an aeroplane five years before the Wright Brothers. Say wha – ?

Gierke’s tour de force To Caress the Air takes place in the New York State Supreme Court in 1921, where the Herring-Curtiss Company v. Glenn H. Curtiss takes place. The civil trial’s evidence is explained via flashback scenes and takes those present in the court (or those of us reading) back to the days before the first successful Wright Brothers flight – back… back… back to when folks were trying to resolve how to get something heavier than air into the air.

Gierke’s novel mentions many of the well-known and respected names involved in aviation, and via his novel wonders aloud just why Augustus Herring’s name isn’t part of that pantheon.

Learn about Herring’s place in the aerial pantheon of the demi-gods, and just what the heck happened to cause his fall from grace. Was it his own doing, was it the smear tactics of others? Sure.

While Gierke has littered the book(s) with factual accounts based on court documents, as well as a personal collection of letters and notes from and to Herring, himself, unlike a real court setting (not the ones on day-time TV) where everything is dry, the story is a highly entertaining, and factual read.

Holy crap – I learned something! A lotta somethings! You should too!

I have a couple of complaints, however… one: the cover art for both books is too similar. Book one shows a drawing of a man beginning to fly; and book two shows the man leaping into the air with his aircraft. I get it… but I didn’t get it until I looked at it about five times. It didn’t stand out. Also, the phrases “Book One” and “Book Two” need to be larger, or at least in bold.

Yeah… those are my biggest complaints.

There are a number of photos and diagrams in the book – and maybe I wish there were more… and larger… but how many pages are there now? 1,500?

Well… we are talking about a man’s life story here.

So… how do you buy a copy of the books, published by Write Associates, LLC?

Well, I got mine on Amazon (David Gierke fronted me the money to buy my copies – so he wouldn’t have to pay mail costs from his home to mine – across the U.S. – Canada border).

I just did a title search: To Caress the Air – and presto! A paperback version of both books can cost: US$74.68.

Yes, it may seem like a lot, but its a great book(s) of pioneer aviation history.

Now, according to author Gierke, who contacted me after the initial posting of this article, he is dismayed at the wide pricing of his books: “They are intended to retail for $21.95 (per volume) in softcover, and $32.95 in hardcover. Both versions can be obtained at these prices at Barnes & Noble and other reputable sellers.”

There… Barnes & Noble has the books at a more affordable rate! https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Caress+The+Air?_requestid=9596594

So… two thumbs up to Gierke and his wonderful To Caress the Air books on aviation pioneer Augustus Herring. Buy the books.

And to David Gierke… I’m sorry I didn’t do the write-up sooner. I lost my job after getting the books – and to be honest, I didn’t feel like doing ANY personal writing on my blogs. But I’m starting to get my groove back.


Andrew Joseph

Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Books, Firsts, Gliders, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, People, Pilots, Research | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Manfred von Richthofen – The Red Baron


Card #53, Cigarettenfabrik Basma, German Men: A Collection of Famous Germans series 1934, German-language only issue.

  • Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, born May 2, 1892, Breslau, Province of Silesia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire (present-day Wrocław, Poland) – April 21, 1918, Vaux-sur-Somme, France.

The above sketch of Manfred von Richthofen aka the Red Baron was issued by the Germany cigarette company Cigarettenfabrik Basma, out of Dresden. Issued in 1934, this card – #53 – is from the series German Men: A Collection of Famous Germans.

Despite being a great looking card, the main problem collectors have with German cards is that despite the popularity of the German cigarette cards prior to WWII, there hasn’t been much success in cataloging exactly what was produced and when. For example, I can’t tell you with any certainty just how many cards there were in this particular series.

The cards are about as tall as a standard tobacco/cigarette card, but are about 25mm (1-inch) wider. Under his name, “Freiherr von Richthofen” on the reverse of the card, it says (translated to English): “airman in the war”.


Reverse of the Manfred von Richthofen card.

Regardless, this particular blog entry is about Manfred von Richthofen himself, and his equally famous aircraft, the red Fokker Dr.1 triplane.

However… while the famous red Fokker was responsible for the last 17 of his confirmed kills, the Red Baron used other aircraft for the majority of his combat victories. Yes, he did.

The odds are pretty good that you have at least heard of the Red Baron, and know that he was the greatest fighter pilot of WWI because of the number of confirmed kills – 80 over a 19-month combat career. You need five combat flight kills to be called an “Ace”.

But was he just a superior pilot, or the legendary gentleman of the airways as the legend/myth dictates, or was he a savage predator who earned most of his kills by chasing and putting down already damaged aeroplanes – first shot by other German pilots.

And, is there anything actually wrong with that in war… a kill or be killed scenario? Aerial combat was in its infancy, and there was no rule book on how one should act… though by mid-1916, one German flier – Captain Oswald Boelcke – did compile the first eight (8) rules for aviation warfare, his Dicta Boelcke – read about him HERE. However, note that these were his bits of advice on how to win an aerial dogfight, not how to treat the enemy.

Note that #1 is: Secure the upper hand before attacking.


Manfred von Richthofen in a Fokker Dr.1 triplane. (Credit: Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Let’s start with a song from 1966 by The Royal GuardsmenSnoopy vs the Red Baron, a goofy great song I loved as a kid, and where I first learned about the Red Baron’s prowess in the air (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oxzg_iM-T4E):

So… beyond the song, what do we know about the Manfred himself?

He wasn’t actually a Baron. He wasn’t even German – he was Prussian. About the only thing most people know about Prussia is that it has it’s own brand of blue – Prussian Blue. But briefly, many of the Germanic countries joined together to form the German Empire – under Prussian leadership. Austria and Switzerland deigned NOT to join. In 1918, the Kingdom of Prussia became the Free State of Prussia – a state under Germany. It remained as such until 1933, when the Nazi regime essentially took it over.

Note that this cigarette card is from 1934, and calls Manfred von Richthofen a “German”, not a “Prussian”. After the defeat of the Nazis, Germany territories were divided up and separated and added to Poland and the Soviet Union, meaning Prussia no longer existed… which is why I noted the Red Baron’s birthplace as such, up above.

Although not a Baron – that was just a nickname given to him by the WWI Allies – he was born into a fairly prominent Prussian aristocratic family. His father was Major Albrecht Philipp Karl Julius Freiherr von Richthofen and his mother was Kunigunde von Schickfuss und Neudorff, and he had an elder sister, Ilse, and two younger brothers, Karl Bolko (1903–1971) and Lothar – the latter of whom had 40 confirmed aerial combat kills in WWI.

As a rich kid, Manfred rode horses, hunted boar, elk, deer and various birds, performed well in gymnastics – particularly the parallel bars, and was a very good student, though he was home-schooled for a while, as well as a student at a school in Schweidnitz.

When he was 11, he attended military school completing training in 1911. He then joined a light cavalry unit – the Ulanen-Regiment Kaiser Alexander der III. von Russland (1. Westpreußisches) Nr. 1 (“1st Emperor Alexander III of Russia Uhlan Regiment (1st West Prussian)”) and was assigned to the regiment’s 3. Eskadron (“No. 3 Squadron”).

What? The greatest flying ace was a guy on a horse? Surely things changed when WWI began?

Actually, no. At the onset, he was a cavalry reconnaissance officer in Russia, France and Belgium. But when trench warfare became a thing, standard cavalry usage became … old… so out-dated that our boy’s unit was turned into a non-cavalry regiment where the men were used as telephone operators and message runners.

Now, as mentioned earlier, Manfred was competitive… he liked to hunt… and just relaying messages wasn’t good enough for him. He longed for combat. After being transferred to the army’s supply branch, he applied for a transfer to Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches (Imperial German Army Air Service) after seeing his country’s aircraft behind the lines.

In his written transfer application, he is said to have added the following commentary: “I have not gone to war in order to collect cheese and eggs, but for another purpose.”

Back in those days, just as now, the military would have told him to shut-up and report for duty as ordered, but for whatever reason – his family, perhaps – he was allowed to join the Air Service at the end of May 1915, serving as an observer on reconnaissance missions over the Eastern Front with Feldflieger Abteilung 69 (“No. 69 Flying Squadron”) until August, 1915.

As an observer, sitting in the back seat behind the pilot (some British planes had the unarmed pilot sitting ahead of the pilot), he had his own machine gun to protect his pilot’s aeroplane. On one mission, we think he shot down a French aircraft – a Farman – but since it fell behind Allied lines, the kill could not be confirmed. So… number of kills – zero.

After meeting ace fighter pilot Oswald Boelcke, he began training as a pilot in October of 1915. A few months later in February of 1916, Manfred convinced his brother Lothar to give up training troops to join the German Fliegertruppe (Air Force).

In March of 1916, Manfred was posted to the No. 2 Bomber Squadron, and actually crashed the first time he flew, prompting others to feel he was a below-average pilot. But Manfred being Manfred, he quickly familiarized himself with the controls and got better.

On April 26, 1916, it is reported, that he shot down a France-built Nieuport – but he did not gain an official kill. Number of kills – zero.

Manfred met Boelcke again in August of 1916, who was searching for possible pilots for his newly-formed Jasta 2 division, and was selected.

Still looking for his first confirmed kill, after being a pilot for a year (11 months, actually), Manfred achieved his goal on September 17, 1916. Flying his Albatross D.II aeroplane, he shot down a Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b (Farman Experimental 2) piloted by Second Lieutenant Lionel Morris and observer Captain Tom Rees. The plane was was combination fighter/reconnaissance/night bomber. Ironically for Captain Rees, he had just earned promotion to Captain earlier that day.

Morris and Rees in their F.E.2b, were part of a 14-plane group (eight Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c‘s and six F.E.2b‘s) from the Royal Flying Corps 3rd Brigade. Rees was killed during the dogfight with Manfred, but the mortally wounded Morris still managed to land the aeroplane. By knocking the aircraft out of the sky or rather out of the fight, this was called Manfred’s first official “victory”.

Manfred’s autobiography says: “I honored the fallen enemy by placing a stone on his beautiful grave.”

He also had a jeweler engrave a silver cup he bought with the date and the type of enemy aircraft. This was something he did until he had acquired 60 cups/victories, only stopping as the war created a silver shortage. He was offered the opportunity to have cups made of a less precious metal, but declined. Arrogance? Sure. I mean really, who the hell has trophies made for killing people? A serial killer?

Then again, according to his notes, he “placed a stone upon the grave”… though I’m unsure if he did that for Rees or Morris.

Under the command of Boelcke, Manfred followed the Dicta Boeclke… eight simple rules for aviation warfare created by Boelcke.

While the rules appear to be self-evident, Boelcke was the first to have compiled it and written it down. You can read about Boelcke HERE.

The Dicta Boelcke was published as a pamphlet and given to all German pilots as a training manual on fighting tactics… the first of its kind.

Dicta Boelcke

  1. Secure the benefits of aerial combat (speed, altitude, numerical superiority, position) before attacking. Always attack from the sun;
  2. If you start the attack, bring it to an end;
  3. Fire the machine gun up close and only if you are sure to target your opponent;
  4. Do not lose sight of the enemy;
  5. In any form of attack, an approach to the opponent from behind is required;
  6. If the enemy attacks you in a dive, do not try to dodge the attack, but turn to the attacker;
  7. If you are above the enemy lines, always keep your own retreat in mind;
  8. For squadrons: In principle attack only in groups of four to six. If the fight breaks up in noisy single battles, make sure that not many comrades pounce on an opponent.

The rules stressed a team effort rather than how to win in single contact… rules that would allow the pilot to achieve single combat.

Boelcke ended up with 40 victories when he died after being shot down on October 28, 1916.

The final tally for Manfred’s brother Lothar was also 40 victories, but he survived WWI, only to die on July 4, 1922 at the age of 27, when the aircraft he was piloting suffered engine failure.

Manfred, it should be noted, was not considered to be an aerobatic pilot, nor an aggressive one like his brother Lothar. Rather, by using the Dicta Boelcke, he became WW1’s most accomplished tactical fighter pilot.

Despite the incredibly high number of victories achieved by Manfred, those victories were all accomplished with help. His usual form of attack was to dive at a single enemy plane from above, attacking with the sun directly behind him, so that any defensive pilot looking up, would only see the fiery orb. As well, while performing this dive attack from the rear, he would have other pilots cover his tail and flanks – an effective means of attack.

Manfred’s first 18 confirmed victories were achieved in an Albatros D.II (D.2). Victories 19-24 were done via a Halberstadt D.II (D.2); No. 25 in an Albatross D.II; 26-31 in the Halberstadt; 32-52 in an Albatros D.III (D.3); 53-59 in an Albatros D.V (D.5); 60-61 in a Fokker F.I (F1); 62-63 in the Albatros D.V; 64-80 in the Fokker DR.I (DR. 1).

As you can see, only 17 victories were achieved in the classic Fokker DR.I... while the Albatros D. II had 19 victories. So… which aeroplane should be considered the definitive Red Baron aircraft?

Also… there’s a reason why Manfred went back to the Albatros D.II after using the Halberstadt D.II… check out the answer under the Albatros D.III section below.

And!!!! why did Manfred revert to the Albatros D.V after flying the Fokker F.I? You can find this answer out in the Albatros D.V section (also why he never flew the D.IV).

Let’s take a look at the five different types of fighter aeroplanes (Albatros D.II; Albatross D.III; Albatross D.V; Fokker F.I; and the Fokker DR.I) used by Manfred von Richtofen, aka the Red Baron:

Albatros D.II


Upon first look above… you’ll notice that the Red Baron’s first fighter aircraft is a biplane. All of his Albatros aircraft were biplanes. Only the Fokker aircraft flown by him were triplanes.

Built by the Albatros-Flugzeugwerke GmbH in Berlin, the company was founded by Enno Walther Huth and Otto Wiener on December 20, 1909. The first planes built under license in 1909, was the France-designed Antoinette monoplane.

They also built several versions of the Etrich Taube monoplane (see HERE), as well the Doppeltaube biplane. The company continued its operation until 1931, when it was merged (because of Germany government “pressure” into Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau AG.

Designed by Robert Thelen, the Albatros D.II was first flown in 1916, with a final tally of 291 such aircraft built.

As mentioned, Manfred von Richtofen flew this aircraft early in his career. For victory Number 11 on November 23, 1916, he was in a long dogfight with Major Lanoe George Hawker of Great Britain who was flying  a single-seat Airco DH.2 pusher aeroplane (designed by Geoffrey de Havilland). While Hawker’s plane had a tighter turning circle, Manfred’s Albatros D.II was faster, had twin guns, and could maintain its height while executing a turn.

It took approximately 900 rounds of ammunition, but eventually Manfred was able to shoot Hawker in the head causing pilot and plane to crash.

Remember what I said about Manfred and his trophies? Along with having another silver cup made, after shooting down Hawker, he landed his plane nearby and took the Lewis machine gun from the DH.2 as a memento.

I understand that many a fighting person has taken a souvenir from a battlefield… and since I’ve never been in any such war, I will refrain from judging anyone, let alone Manfred von Richtofen. I’m a curious person and a collector of multiple things, so who knows what I would have done.

Albatross D.II Specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 7.35 meters (24 feet 1 inch);
  • Upper wingspan: 8.5 meters (27 feet 11 inch);
  • Lower wingspan: 8 meters (26 feet 3 inches);
  • Height: 2.71 meters (8 feet 11 inches);
  • Wing area: 24 square meters (260 square feet);
  • Gross weight: 898 kilograms (1,980 pounds);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Austro-Daimler 6-cylinder water-cooled in-line piston engine creating 185 horsepower;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller;
  • Maximum speed: 170 or 175 kilometers per hour (110/105.6 miles per hour);
  • Cruise Speed: 142 kilometers per hour (88.2 miles per hour);
  • Range: 263 kilometers (163.4 miles);
  • Guns: 2 × 8 mm (0.315 in) Schwarzlose belt-fed machine guns;
  • Time to altitude:
  • 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) in 4 minutes 30 seconds;
  • 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) in 7 minutes;
  • 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 12 minutes 30 seconds.

Halberstadt D.II


Designed and built by the Halberstädter Flugzeugwerke of Halberstadt, Germany, the Halberstadt D.II was created by Karl Theis, first flying in late 1915, and was introduced in early 1916 and became the first biplane configuration fighter aircraft to serve in combat for the German Empire.

This aeroplane featured staggered wings, and used a wing-mounted radiator, similar to the arrangement that was later used by the Albatros D.III and D.V. The plane also featured a lower wing trailing edge “droop”, and because the pilot sat high to see over the top wings, a dorsal turtleback fairing was incorporated over the rear fuselage to improve aerodynamics.

A total of 65 of this aircraft were built. You’ll notice in the specifications, that the D.II was a good 20/25 kilometers per hour (17/12.6 miles per hour) slower than the Albatros II, and was far less powerful (horsepower). Its climb rate, however, was decidedly quicker, likely aided by the almost 170 kilogram/400 pound difference in gross weight.

Halberstadt D.II Specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 7.3 meters (23 feet 11 inches);
  • Wingspan: 8.8 meters (28 feet 10 inches) for the upper and lower wings, individually;
  • Height: 2.66 meters (8 feet 9 inches);
  • Wing area: 23.6 square meters (254 square feet);
  • Empty weight: 519 kilograms (1,144 pounds);
  • Gross weight: 728.5 kilograms (1,606 pounds);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Mercedes D.II 6-cylinder water-cooled in-line piston engine producing 120 horsepower;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed fixed-pitch propeller;
  • Maximum speed: 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour);
  • Range: 250 kilometers (160 miles);
  • Service ceiling: 4,000 meters (13,000 feet);
  • Guns: 1 × forward-firing 7.92 millimeter (.312 inches) lMG 08 Spandau Arsenal machine gun;
  • Time to altitude:
    • 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) in 3 minutes 30 seconds;
    • 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) in 8 minutes 30 seconds;
    • 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 14 minutes 30 seconds;
    • 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) in 22 minutes 30 seconds;
    • 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) in 38 minutes 30 seconds.

Albatros D.III


Taken by an official German photographer, this is photograph Q 50328 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums. German Albatros D.IIIs of Jagdstaffel 11 and Jagdstaffel 4 parked in a line at La Brayelle near Douai, France. Manfred von Richthofen’s red-painted aircraft is second closest in line (with boarding step ladder in place).

Because both the D.I and D.II aircraft were successful, Albatros-Flugzeugwerke GmbH continued to build the D.III with the semi-monocoque (monocoque is a structural skin aka a structural system where loads are supported through an object’s external skin, similar to an egg shell), plywood-skinned fuselage.

The Idflieg (Inspectorate of Flying Troops), asked that the D.III use a sesquiplane wing arrangement broadly similar to France’s Nieuport 11. This sesquiplane set-up has one wing (usually the lower) smaller than the other. Sesquiplane means “one-and-a-half wings.” The set-up is to reduce drag and weight – but still keeping a biplane’s structural advantages.

So, Albatros-Flugzeuwerke extended the upper wing, and redesigned the lower with reduced chord and a single main spar. V-shaped interplane struts (see photo above) replaced the parallel struts between the upper and lower wings used in the D.II.

Approximately 1,866 D.III aircraft were built.

When the D.III entered squadron service in December of 1916, pilots loved its  maneuverability and rate of climb. However…

Two faults with the D.III were found: 1) Because it featured a Teves und Braun airfoil-shaped radiator in the middle of the upper wing as was used on the D.II, it could scald the pilot if punctured.

So… from the 290th built D.III aircraft onward, the radiator was offset to the right on production machines while others were soon moved to the right as an in-the-field modification by the crews.

2) The bigger problem, however, was the failure of the lower wing ribs and leading edge – this was also a problem with the Nieuport 17.

Amongst others, on January 24, 1917, Manfred von Richthofen suffered a crack in the lower wing of his brand new D.III. It occurred after he secured his 18th victory, and his first in the D.III, shooting down the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b flown by Lt. John MacLennan and Captain Oscar Greig – who were both taken in as POWs.

A few days later on January 27, 1917, all D.IIIs were grounded until such time as the wing problem could be rectified.

On February 19, after Albatros introduced a reinforced lower wing, the grounding was removed. New production D.IIIs were completed with the strengthened wing while all operational D.IIIs were withdrawn to Armee-Flugparks for modifications, forcing Jastas (and Manfred) to use the Albatros D.II and Halberstadt D.II.

As such, Manfred used the Halberstadt D.II through March 6, 1917 when he got his 24th victory, shooting down a B.E.2e, killing British 2nd Lt. Gerald Maurice Gosset-Bibby, and Canadian Lt. Geoffrey Joseph Ogilvy Brichta.

He switched back to the Albatros D.III in time for his 25th victory on March 9, 1917, shooting down a D.H.2, killing pilot Lt. Arthur John Pearson MC.

Just after this, it was found that the D.III‘s main spar was too far aft, which caused the wings to twist when in a steep or prolonged dive.

While pilots were told NOT to perform such maneuvers, sometimes you need to do them to survive.As such, Manfred, and other pilots, switched aircraft again, with his choice being the Halberstadt D.II.

Even with these issues, the D.III was still considered to be a pretty good aircraft amongst the pilots, as it had improved climb, maneuverability, and downward visibility compared to the D.II.

Here… in case you wish to build your own, here’s the of drawing:


Note that in 1916, a license to manufacture the aircraft was sold to Austro-Hungary. Rather than use the Mercedes D.IIIa powerplant, they utilized Austro-Daimler built motors: the series 53.2, 153, 253, producing 185, 200, or 225 horsepower, respectively.

It’s quite a difference in horsepower, as the German Mercedes version only produced 175 horsepower. Now… as most people are aware, simply putting in a larger motor into a vehicle can improve performance and speed. But, it can also be heavier, use more fuel, may not climb as fast because of the additional weight, and it could also place greater stress on the overall structure. For the Austro-Hungary aircraft, there were a number of wing failures, which required engineers to provide modifications to the lower wing by using thicker ribs and spar flanges.

Anyhow… below, where possible, I have attempted to supply just the GERMAN-made aircraft specifications… some, however, are from the Austro-Hungary versions of the aircraft.

Albatross D.III Specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 7.33 meters (24 feet and one half inch);
  • Width: 9.05 meters (29 feet, 8.3 inches);
  • Upper wingspan: 9 meters (29 feet 6 inches) – from Austro-Hungary version;
  • Lower wingspan: 8.73 meters (28 feet 8 inches) – from Austro-Hungary version;
  • Height: 2.98 meters (9 feet 9.3 inches);
  • Wing area: 20.56 square meters (221.3 square feet) – from Austro-Hungary version;
  • Empty Weight: 710 kilograms (1,565 pounds);
  • Gross weight: 886 kilograms 1,953 pounds);
  • Powerplant: 1 x Mercedes D.IIIa water-cooled 6-cylinder in-line engine developing 175 horsepower;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller;
  • Maximum speed: 175 kilometers per hour (109 miles per hour);
  • Ceiling: 5,500 meters (18,045 feet);
  • Range: 350 kilometers (217 miles);
  • Guns: 2 × 7.92 mm (0.315 in) Spandau LMG 08/15 fixed, forward-firing synchronized machine guns;
  • Time to altitude:
  • 270 meters/minute (886 feet/minute);
  •  OR… using Austro-Hungary data:
    • 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) in 2 minutes 35 seconds;
    • 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) in 6 minutes 35 seconds;
    • 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 11 minutes 20 seconds;
    • 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) in 18 minutes 50 seconds;
    • 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) in 33 minutes.

Albatros D.V

DVa2.jpgBuilt by Albatros Flugzeugwerke GmbH, the Albatros D.V was the last of the Albatros D.I series, with approximately 2,500 built, first entering service in May of 1917. The photo above says that one was used by Manfred von Richtofen.

You may be wondering why German pilots didn’t fly an Albatros D.IV (Four) before flying the Albatros D.V (Five)… well, the D.IV was designed to test a geared version of the 160 horsepower Mercedes D.III engine. Three were built, with only one known to have flown.


The experimental Albatros D.IV fighter, one of three built in 1916.

The one D.IV that flew, was tested with several types of propeller, but engineers found them to have excessive vibration problems, and compounded by only a minor increase in performance, the project was scrapped.

As for the Albatros D.V, it looked a lot like the D.III – even using the same 170 horsepower Mercedes D.IIIa engine.

The D.V, however, used a  new, fully elliptical cross-section fuselage that was 32 kilograms (71 pounds) lighter than the partially flat-sided fuselage of the earlier models. The new fuselage required the placement of an additional longeron on each side of the fuselage and the fin.

It also used the enlarged rudder featured on D.IIIs built by the Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW), and had a larger spinner and ventral fin. The upper wing was 121 millimeters (4.75 inches) closer to the fuselage, while the lower wings were attached to the fuselage without a fairing.

The D.V wings were almost identical to those of the standard D.III, which had adopted a sesquiplane wing arrangement. The only significant difference between wings of the D.III and D.V was a revised routing of the aileron cables that placed them entirely within the upper wing.

When the D.V first came out, it had a large headrest for the pilot… nothing like comfort, right? Wrong… it was so large that it blocked the rear view of the pilot when they turned their head to look for the enemy behind them! Flight crews removed the headrest, and soon enough, it was removed all together from production.

As mentioned, the D.V continued to have the same lower wing failure when the plane was in a steep dive as the D.III – apparently no one had done stress testing on the new plane’s wings until one month AFTER it had been found to have issues.

What’s worse, is that on the D.V, the sesquiplane wing layout was even more vulnerable than the D.III.

The outboard sections of the D.V upper wing also suffered failures – but flight crews could get around that if they added additional wire bracing. Oh, and on the occasional time there was a rough landing, the fuselage sometimes cracked.

All these issues with the D.V, and performance wasn’t enough for the pilots to say it was a better aeroplane than the D.III. The British tested one of these captured D.V‘s and described it as: slow to man oeuvre, heavy on the controls and tiring to fly.

Manfred von Richthofen complained that the D.V was “so obsolete and so ridiculously inferior to the English that one can’t do anything with this aircraft.” Ouch.


This beautiful artwork was done by B. Huber, and shows Manfred von Richtofen’s Albatros D.V aeroplane. Huber has more artwork: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:B._Huber

Its reputation on the line, Albatros midstream attempted to rectify the the D.V by modifying the design and calling it the D.Va. The new D.Va had stronger wing spars, heavier wing ribs and a reinforced fuselage – all of which made the aircraft 23 kilograms (51 pounds) heavier than the D.III.

Despite being heavier, performance was recaptured by the aeroplane now incorporating a Mercedes D.IIIaü engine outputting 180 horsepower.

The Mercedes D.IIIaü, was an unofficial designation, (ü for über), for D.IIIa engines that used domed pistons that operated “over-compressed” (at a higher compression ratio).

The D.Va also reverted to the D.III aileron cable linkage, running outwards through the lower wing, then upwards to the ailerons to provide a more positive control response. The wings of the D.III and D.Va were interchangeable.

Manfred did achieve victories 53-59 in the D.V – but did you know, that on July 6, 1917, a few days after shooting down a Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 flown by Sgt. Hubert Arthur Whatley and 2nd Lt. Frank Guy Buckingham Pascoe (both died), the Red Baron was, himself, shot down?


The Red Baron was shot down on July 6, 1917 – but only suffered serious injuries (as opposed to death).

In the photo above, note that the aircraft is painted red only on the tail, wings, spinner and the nose.

In a dogfight with a British aeroplane, Manfred was hit by a grazing bullet to the skull, suffering a fracture… and was enough for him to be taken out of action for a few weeks.

During the air battle against a formation of Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2d two-seat fighters of No. 20 Squadron RFC, Manfred was hit in the head by a bullet, causing him to partially lose his vision. He regained it quickly enough to bring his aeroplane out of a spin and to land it in friendly territory.

The head injury required multiple operations to remove skull splinters from his cranium.

Manfred returned to active service against his doctor’s orders on July 25, but was forced to remain grounded from September 5 to October 23, 1917.

Despite the quick return from the fractured skull, Manfred later complained about having headaches, and would continue to suffer post-flight nausea.

Manfred had become a hero to the German people, and it was feared that his death would be a demoralizing blow, and so the military attempted to squeeze him into a desk job after his wounding.

Manfred refused, however, believing that “every poor fellow in the trenches must do his duty” and so should he in the air.

By the way… with apologies to Monty Python, a few weeks earlier, Manfred was promoted as a leader of his very own four squadron fighter wing called the Jagdgeschwader I – but because of the its brightly painted aeroplanes, it was nicknamed “the Flying Circus.”

Albatross D.V Specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 7.33 meters (24 feet 1 inch);
  • Wingspan: 9.05 meters (29 feet 8 inches);
  • Height: 2.7 meters (8 feet 10 inches);
  • Wing area: 21.2 square meters (228 square feet);
  • Empty weight: 687 kilograms (1,515 pounds);
  • Gross weight: 937 kilograms (2,066 pounds);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Mercedes D.IIIaü piston engine, creating 200 horsepower;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed wooden propeller;
  • Maximum speed: 186 kilometers per hour (116 miles per hour);
  • Ceiling: 5,700 meters (18,700 feet);
  • Range: 350 kilometers;
  • Guns: 2 × 7.92 mm (0.312 in) LMG 08/15 machine guns;
  • Rate of climb: 4.17 meters per second (821 feet per minute);
  • Time to altitude: 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) in 4 minutes.

Fokker F.I


This, is just a test. There were only three F.I triplanes ever built by Fokker-Flugzeuwerke GmbH – and yes, Manfred von Richtofen was one of the three men to pilot one, along with Werner Voss and Kurt Wolff.

Manfred actually flew Fokker F.I, serial number 102/17, one of two prototypes that actually flew. Wolff was shot down and killed in this same aeroplane on September 15, 1917.

Werner Voss was shot down while flying F.I 103/17 on September 23, 1917.

The F.I 101/17 was tested to destruction in August of 1918, failing at a load factor of 7.75.

Manfred achieved his victory number 60 in the Fokker F.I on September 1, and Number 61 on September 3, 1917… and then decided he preferred the Albatros D.V… for awhile.

The film below may show why he went back to the Albatros D.V (for a while). Now… since this film is purported to have been shot on September 7, 1917, and we know Manfred was still flying the Fokker F.I, as late as four days earlier when he got victory 64, we can assume that the YouTube video is misnamed… that it’s NOT the Red Baron in a Fokker Dr.I, but actually him in his Fokker F.I.

In the movie, you can see what Manfred actually wore when flying, as we get to see him getting dressed!

There is no sound, of course, because “talkies” weren’t a thing until 10 years later with 1927’s The Jazz Singer.

The film shows him taking off, and upon returning, we see him inspecting the F.I‘s cowl where it appears to have suffered gunfire damage. Anyhow… no kills/victories on this flight… but the bullet holes may be why Manfred had to switch to the Albatros D.V. … or maybe he did so because he was awaiting delivery of a new Fokker Dr.I aeroplane? I don’t know why he switched planes…

Anyhow… here’s the film of Manfred von Richtofen in his Fokker F.I on September 3, 1917 (I’m adding the url, in case the movie fails in this blog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIiuyijwKRs):

In the video, Manfred can be seen telling a joke to his Flying Circus:

Manfred: “Mein dog has no nose!”
Flying Circus: “How does he smell?”
Manfred: “Awful!”

Uh… sorry… wrong Flying Circus (and the wrong war). But damn, that’s funny.

The F.I was actually designated by Fokker as V.5 by Fokker, and was, of course, a so-called improvement over the Fokker V.4 prototype triplane.

The F.I aircraft was very much similar to the follow-up aircraft the Fokker Dr.I because, it was essentially the same aeroplane.

After the first three Fokker V.5, aka the F.I, were built, all of the other such planes to follow were then officially called the Fokker Dr.I.

The ONLY difference between the F.I and later-production model Fokker Dr.I aircraft was that the Dr.I aircraft had a subtle convex curve on the outlines of the tailplane’s otherwise diagonal leading edge planform – to provide for a more aerodynamic balancing surface at each elevator tip.

So… aside from the aerodynamic re-balancing, all the F.I planes created after these three F.I’s were known as the Fokker Dr.I. Got it? I think I got it.

Fokker Dr.I

Fokker_Dr1_on_the_groundLater that summer, the Flying Circus got their hands on the Fokker Dr.I triplane, the distinctive, three-winged machine that would become Richthofen’s most famous aircraft.

The Dr.I was actually first off the production line on August 28, 1917, but it took a few days before Manfred got his hands on one. Eventually, a total of 320 Fokker Dr.I were manufactured.

A very maneuverable aircraft, it could climb quickly, and though it did not have the speed of the other planes in the sky, it more than made up for it with its agility, and its ability to almost stop on a dime, and turn.


The main problem it had, however, was that the canvas had a habit of tearing away from the upper wing when the plane was in a long dive, which caused the Dr.I to crash. That doesn’t sound good.

The because planes and pilots were lost, the Dr.I was pulled from active service. It was found that poor construction and a lack of waterproofing (varnishing) by Fokker allowed moisture to damage the wing’s structure causing the wing ribs to disintegrate and the ailerons to break away when in flight.

Although production did begin again in December of 1917 – with more strict demands placed on quality control – it wasn’t until January of 1918 that the aircraft began to re-roll out of the factory and onto the war airfields.

But… despite the efforts of quality control at Fokker, the Dr.I aircraft still suffered from wing issues.

One such pilot was Manfred’s brother Lothar, who on March 18, 1918 saw his Dr.I suffer an upper wing failure during combat, causing him to suffer severe injury upon the crash landing.

This led to the demise of the Dr.I at Fokker with production ending in May of 1918 after only 320 manufactured aircraft.

But Manfred liked the Dr.I. And so, Fokker-Flugzeugwerke (Dutch company) president Anthony Fokker gave Manfred a personalized Dr.I that featured improvements and strengthening.


Adding to the caption above, Manfred achieved three of his 17 Dr.I victories in plane 152/17. Shown here in the Zeughaus Museum in Berlin, this aeroplane was destroyed by an Allied bombing raid during WWII. Now… is it just me, or does the cowl cover look like it is painted red?!

Unfortunately, no color images of the actual Red Baron’s Dr.I exist, but here’s a cool technical blueprint that shows the color scheme – note the white tail and cowl cover! Maybe different Dr.I‘s belonging to the Red Baron had differing paint schemes?

The Dr.I is infamous for it being the aircraft in which the Red Baron achieved his last 17 victories. Which is two less than the Albatros D.II (19)… but if the Fokker F.I is essentially the same aeroplane, and he had two victories with that, does that mean Manfred also had 19 victories in the Dr.I?

No. The Dr.I and the F.I are different aircraft. Especially when you consider that Manfred’s Dr.I aeroplanes were “special”.

All 17 of his victories in the Dr.I were achieved during a six-week period between March 12 thru April 20, 1918 during Operation Michael, which was Germany’s last great offensive on the Western Front during what we now call WWI. As mentioned, his final tally was 80 victories… though the victories were only counted, it seems, if the downed aircraft was seen going down in the attacker’s “country”. As such, the Red Baron could actually have over 100 victories, with many such downed aircraft being called “unconfirmed”.

I wish I could provide you with data on what made the Red Baron’s Dr.I so special over other such aeroplanes, but I can’t. I can only provide the standard specs.

Fokker Dr.I Specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 5.77 meters (18 feet 11 inches);
  • Upper wingspan: 7.19 meters (23 feet 7 inches);
  • Height: 2.95 meters (9 feet 8 inches);
  • Wing area: 18.7 square meters (201 square feet);
  • Empty weight: 406 kilograms (895 pounds);
  • Gross weight: 586 kilograms (1,291 pounds);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Motorenfabrik Oberursel A.G Ur.II 9-cylinder air-cooled rotary piston engine creating 110 horsepower;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller;
  • Maximum speed: 160 kilometers per hour (99 miles per hour) at 2,600 meters;
  • Stall speed: 72 kilometers per hour (45 miles per hour);
  • Range: 300 kilometers (190 miles);
  • Guns: 2 × 7.92 mm (0.312 in) Maschinengewehr 08 Spandau machine guns;
  • Service ceiling: 6,100 meters (20,000 feet);
  • Rate of climb: 5.7 meters per second (1,120 feet per minute).

Kaputt: Death Of A Killing Machine


The wreckage of Manfred Von Richthofen’s Fokker Dr.I triplane after being shot down  – near Vaux-sur-Somme, France, on April 21, 1918. Photographed at the aerodrome of No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps at Bertangles. Photo taken from: https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/fokker-dri-triplane-fi-richthofen-manfred-von-red-baron-photograph

April 21, 1918 was the date of Wolfram “Ulf” Karl Ludwig Moritz Hermann Freiherr von Richthofen’s (October 10, 1895 – July 12, 1945) first flight along side his cousin Manfred.

Wolfram would eventually grab eight victories before the war ended in November of 1918. He ended his military career as a Field Marshall in the Luftwaffe (Air Force) of Nazi Germany in WWII.

April 21, 1918 – just after 11AM – was also the day Manfred von Richtofen was shot down and killed.

Flying over Morlancourt Ridge in France near the Somme River, Manfred von Richtofen was flying his Fokker Dr.I aeroplane at low-altitude chasing a Sopwith Camel aircraft.

The Sopwith was piloted by Canadian Lt. Wilfrid Reid “Wop” May of the No. 209 Squadron, RAF. I checked… “Wop”, in this case was just what his little sister used to call him when they were very young, as “Wilfrid” was too difficult for her. For whatever reason, he kept the nickname, even while flying for Great Britain many years later during The Great War.

Now, having just seen Lt. May fire upon cousin Wolfram, Manfred flew in to rescue him, firing on May – which caused May to pull away.

Manfred decided to pursue May as he crossed the Somme River.

May’s flight commander, Captain Arthur Roy Brown (also of Canada) saw the chase and dove his Sopwith Camel at very high speed to fire at Manfred von Richtofen, who turned to avoid the attack, but then continued chasing May as Brown had to pull up and climb steeply to avoid crashing into the ground.

Now… did Manfred get hit at this time from one of the bullets fired by Captain Brown or did ground fire from a nearby Aussie barrage hit him?

What we do know, is that while Manfred was chasing May, a single .303 bullet hit him, damaging his heart and lungs to cause death…. eventually.

Apparently, Manfred still had enough in him to regain control of his aircraft to make a rough landing, behind enemy lines in a field north of Vaux-sur-Somme village in France.

The sector just happened to have been defended by the Australian Imperial Force, and the landing was witnessed by many, including Gunners Ernest Twycross and George Ridway, and Sgt. Ted Smout of the Australian Medical Corps.

Each of these three Aussies said that they were the first to reach the Red Baron’s Fokker Dr.I aeroplane, and each said that Manfred’s last words were: “Kaputt” or something similar. He may have said more, but perhaps the witnesses were unfamiliar with the German language. We also have to contend with the “fact”, that each of the three men said he was the first to reach the aircraft and Manfred.

Were they there within seconds of each other, or did they arrive within 10s of seconds of each other? In other words, perhaps only one of them heard the last words of the Red Baron, or two of them did, or they all did. Or maybe no one did. Conjecture. It doesn’t matter, except that the German word  “kaputt” translates to “broken” in English. “Sterben” is the German for “dying”.

After the crash, the actual bullet was found in Manfred von Richtofen’s clothing – recovered but lost – all accounts state that the .303 was a standard ball round, fired by all British rifle-caliber arms, including the Sopwith Camel.

Manfred’s Fokker Dr.I 425/17 was fairly intact when he landed it, but after his death, the aeroplane was taken apart by Aussie souvenir hunters who knew of the Red Baron and his aerial victories.

Because No. 3 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps was the nearest Allied air unit, it assumed official responsibility for the body of Manfred von Richtofen, with Major Blake in charge. His duty here, was to ensure that Manfred’s body was treated with respect, and to organize a full military funeral to be conducted by the personnel of No. 3 Squadron Australian Flying Corps. And so he did.

Here’s a video of the funeral (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJUzIKeJJdY):

Manfred von Richtofen – the Red Baron – was buried in the cemetery at the village of Bertangles, near Amiens, on April 22, 1918. Six of No. 3 Squadron’s officers served as pallbearers, and a guard of honor from the squadron’s other ranks fired a salute.

Allied squadrons stationed nearby presented memorial wreaths, one of which was inscribed with the words, “To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe”.

What a crazy effin’ war.

Who Shot MvR?

Originally, Captain Brown of Canada became famous after being credited with shooting down the Red Baron.

Wikipedia says that it is: now generally agreed that the bullet which hit Richthofen was fired from the ground.

Proof of that claim comes with medical examiner evidence that shows that the bullet that hit Manfred penetrating from the right armpit and resurfacing next to the left nipple, near his shirt.

Captain Brown’s aerial attack was from behind and above and from Richthofen’s left.

That sounds conclusive.

Even more conclusively, Richthofen could not have continued his pursuit of May for as long as he did (up to two minutes) had this severe wound come from Brown’s guns. That… that is conjecture.

Captain Brown did not talk about the event, only claiming, “There is no point in me commenting, as the evidence is already out there.” Whatever the heck that means.

Wikipedia says that many sources suggest that Australian Sergeant Cedric Popkin was the person most likely to have killed Richthofen, including a 1998 article by Geoffrey Miller, a physician and historian of military medicine, and a 2002 edition of the British Channel 4Secret History” television series.

Sgt. Popkin was an anti-aircraft machine gunner with the Australian 24th Machine Gun Company, and he was using a Vickersgun. He said he fired at Richthofen’s aircraft on two occasions: first as the Baron headed straight at his position, and then again at long range from the plane’s right. Because of Richtofen’s wounds (yes, plural), Popkin may indeed have been in position to fire and kill Manfred as he passed over him a second time.

However, confusion was later caused by a letter that Popkin wrote in 1935 to an Australian official historian that said it was his belief that he had fired the fatal shot as Richthofen flew straight at his position.

If that’s the case, the statement in the letter is wrong, because the bullet which struck Manfred, came from the side.

To be fair, Popkin may have just been speaking “generally” – that when he said the Red Baron flew straight at him, he may really have meant he flew near him. Or maybe his memory was cloudy after 17 years… though he was then only 45 years-old when he wrote the letter.

Wikipedia notes that a 2002 Discovery Channel documentary suggests that Gunner W. J. “Snowy” Evans, a Lewis machine gunner with the 53rd Battery, 14th Field Artillery Brigade with the Royal Australian Artillery was the one who killed Manfred. However, Miller and the Secret History documentary dismiss this theory because of the angle from which Evans claimed to have fired at Manfred.

Other sources, according to Wikipedia, say that Gunner Robert Buie (also of the 53rd Battery) may have fired the fatal shot, but there is little to support this claim. However, in 2007, a municipality in Sydney, Australia, recognized Buie as the man who shot down the Red Baron, and placed a plaque near his former home. Buie died in 1964, and has never been officially recognised in any other way.

Is it more romantic to think that a pilot shot him down? That someone was actually better than him for once? Heck, he was shot down a few times and survived… so maybe it really did take anti-aircraft fire to take him out.

Maybe the Red Baron was shot and hurt by the enemy pilot, and then maybe ground fire took him out. Or maybe it was the other way.

The point, however, is that no one knows for certain who shot down the Red Baron. Canadians, like myself, like to think it was Captain Brown. Australians like to think it was Sergeant Popkin… or Evans… or Buie.

Not knowing exactly who did it, just adds to the story and mystique of the Red Baron, doesn’t it?

Bragging rights aside 102 years later, who gives a flying you-know-what? Everyone involved, who could say with any accuracy is long since passed this mortal coil.


There were also unconfirmed victories that would put his actual total as high as 100 or more.

For comparison, the highest-scoring Allied ace, the Frenchman René Fonck, achieved 75 confirmed victories and a further 52 unconfirmed behind enemy lines. So maybe Fonck was the greatest aerial ace ever!

The highest-scoring British Empire fighter pilots were Canadian Billy Bishop (we named the island airport in Toronto after him), who was officially credited with 72 victories (and whop knows how many unconfirmed victories); Edward Mannock of Great Britain with 61 confirmed victories; Raymond Collishaw of Canada with 60, and Great Britain’s James McCudden with 57 confirmed victories.

Germany’s Ernst Udet was credited with 62 victories, and has the country’s second-highest victory total.

But… 80 victories? Aside from WWI buffs, does anyone today really know how many victories the Red Baron had? Could they even tell you that the pilot’s name was Manfred von Richtofen?

But mention the Red Baron moniker, and people “know” all about the red triplane.

Thanks for reading… I recently purchased a series of aviation tobacco cards, and I’m sure I will begin to delve into the history of each card and provide (hopefully) fascinating write-ups on the aeroplanes… as soon as it arrives via air mail.

Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Fighters, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Pilots, Tobacco Card, WWI | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ruth Law & Pioneer Aviator

Ruth Law.jpg

  • Ruth Bancroft Law aka Ruth Law Oliver aka Ruth Law: born March 21, 1887 at Lynn, Massachusetts, United States of America – died December 1, 1970 in San Francisco, California, United States of America.

Who gave the proverbial middle finger to Orville Wright and inspired Amelia Earhart? Ruth Law, that’s who.

Ruth Law was a female aviation pioneer, seen here above in a 1915 photograph seated in a Curtiss Pusher Model D biplane with Wright Brothers controls. In an era when women were still seen as being inferior to men, she proved that women were equals in the air, earning as much as US$9,000 a week performing exhibition flights – a fortune then as now (it’s about US$113,000/week) – as well as providing record-setting flights while acting as her own business manager (though some sources suggest she was managed by her husband, Charles Augustus Oliver, whom she married in 1907). [Can anyone confirm which is which re: manager?]

Her brother, Rodman (1885-1919), was her inspiration – a parachutist and pioneer movie stuntman who on February 2 of 1912 parachuted from the top of the Statue of Liberty’s flaming torch. As for his movie work, Rodman took part in several silent movies, including the 1914 flick Daredevil Rodman Law, which was based on his daredevil deeds.

As a youth, Ruth always felt the need to keep up with and challenge the physical boundaries set by her brother.

In 1912, she sought out Orville Wright to receive pilot training, but he refused. She said that Wright did not think that women were mechanically inclined. No need to vilify Orville here – that was what the majority of men on the planet believed in that era, right or wrong. It’s wrong, of course, but that’s beside the point.

The Orville – 1905.

According to Ruth, Orville Wright’s dismissal of her as a woman only made her want to become a pilot even more. “The surest way to make me do a thing is to tell me I can’t do it,” she said (McGraw, Eliza. “This Ace Aviatrix Learned to Fly Even Though Orville Wright Refused to Teach Her”. Smithsonian.)

Instead, Ruth learned to fly via Harry Nelson Atwood who was the chief instructor of the General Aviation Corporation of Saugus, Mass., and assistant instructor Archibald A. Freeman who either did not agree with Orville Wright, or felt the weight of her money said otherwise.

Harry Nelson Atwood circa 1913… my doesn’t he look sharp!

Below is a newspaper article from The Boston Herald, August 17, 1912 which details the daring-do of Ruth Law even as she was learning how to be a pilot! I got the article from READEX, a division of NewsBank.


At the time of her accent, the altitude record for a female pilot was 8,100 feet by Mademoiselle Helene Detriue of France. Or at least I believe she was the record holder… she certainly was as of November 8, 1912… the point is, Law came close while still learning to fly – flying higher than her male instructor ever had before.

Attaining her pilot’s license in November of 1912, and showing that she harbored few ill feelings, purchased her first aircraft from Orville Wright and soon became the first woman to fly an aeroplane at night.

Ruth and her brother Rodman atop their Wright Model B aeroplane.

While I originally said here that I could not NOT find any solid data on what Ruth Law did in the years 1913-1914, I was wrong. Thanks to READEX I was shown many articles depicting what Ruth did during that time period.

The March 24, 1913 edition of The Miami Herald wrote that while she was in town performing exhibition flights, she offered the famous oil man John D. Rockefeller a flight in her plane. He politely declined, laughing: “I’ll wait till my wings grow.” Image below is from THAT article.


The July 26, 1913 edition of The Pawtuckett Times of Pawtuckett, Rhode Island noted that Law would fly at Newport Beach on Sunday, July 27.

The Springfield Daily Republican reported on September 10, 1913 that Ruth Law was in Springfield, Massachusetts (thanks READEX). Note that the altitude aviation record is far different from what was written in the first article above – a not so surprising occurrence in the world of aviation history, I’m finding. While the altitude record noted in the article below may be in doubt, I’m sure the rest of the information is likely correct. I do like that it notes that Law had visited a woman’s suffrage meeting earlier:

Law 4.jpg

The Philadelphia Inquirer published the advertisement below on October 4, 1913 for The Great Mt. Holly Fair taking place October 7-10. Ruth got second billing after the horse races, but was well up on the funny donkey act. Actually, I point this out to let you know just what exhibition aviators (of all persuasion) had to do to make money in the early days.

Law 5.jpg

The December 7, 1913 edition of The Trenton Evening Times (of Trenton, New Jersey), denoted a “funny” incident involving Ruth Law and the law the day before:


We also know that Ruth Law was back again in Daytona, Florida on February 6, 1914 giving rides to the public, per an article in The Grand Rapids Press of Grand Rapids, Michigan:


What’s odd about the news above are two things… that the passenger was identified as Mrs Robert Goelet – which was the unfortunate style of the day – and that it was reported in the Michigan press rather than the Florida press… I’m unsure if Mr. Goelet was a person of enough importance to denote the flight of his wife with Ruth Law… but what the article does show is the public’s appetite for aviation in 1914. Heck… I’d go up for a ride if I had been around in that era!

By the way… here’s a photo of Law and Mrs Robert Goelet from https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/31008:


We also know that in 1915 she performed at an aviation exhibition in Daytona Beach, Florida.

In front of the large crowd, she announced she would perform a Loop-The-Loop for the first time, and went out and did it. Twice. Which apparently angered her husband. Whatever.

In early 1916, Ruth participated in an altitude competition, twice narrowly coming in second (to male fliers). I’m unsure if coming in second was the reason or if coming in second to men was her force majeure (compulsion), but not winning only managed to drive her more.

She realized (unlike Orville Wright et al), that aviation records need not be the domain of men. She sought to set a record that would stand out against all comers.

On November 19, 1916, Ruth achieved her goal as she broke the existing cross-America flight air speed record of 452 miles (728 kilometers) previously set by pilot Victor Carlstrom when she flew her Curtiss Pusher Model D biplane nonstop from Chicago to Hornell in New York State, a distance of 590 miles (950 km), averaging 100 miles an hour – according to a Boston Journal, November 20, 1916 article.

The article says: “Miss Law left Chicago at 8:25 A.M., Eastern time. A strong wind blew toward the east. Aided by this, she kept up an average speed of 100 miles an hour, at an altitude of about 6000 feet. During the last 200 miles, before the stop at Hornell, a sharp crosswind blew, with the result that her gasoline tank was soon emptied. She glided two miles into Hornell at 2:07.

After replenishing her gasoline supply, she flew the remaining 117 miles to Binghamton without mishap. Darkness overtook her, and she was forced to descend. She will continue on to New York tomorrow morning.

It was however, one day later on November 20, 1916, that Ruth was flying over a foggy Manhattan, NY, when a fuel-line issue caused her to glide down to attempt a landing.

As she approached Governors Island for a landing, she noticed a brass band playing below, but managed to miss them in her safe landing.

Ruth Law arriving at Governor’s Island, New York after her flight from Chicago, November 20, 1916.

She was met by US Army Captain Henry “Hap” Arnold who changed her spark plugs – a gentlemanly thing to do (and not an euphemism), as Ruth was an accomplished mechanic (and probably short of a set of plugs). Arnold would, in the future, become Commanding General of the US Air Forces. He was trained to fly by the Wright Brothers in Dayton, OH.

In honor of her long-distance record-setting achievement, a dinner was held in her honor on December 2, 1916, with President Woodrow Wilson attending.

When Ruth Law enlisted in the US Army on June 30, 1917 (the US had only entered into WWI on April 6, 1917), she became the very first woman to wear a military uniform.

Despite the honor and her dinner with the President, Ruth was denied permission to fly in combat.

She had enlisted to be a pilot, but was instead assigned to the US Army Accessions Command, where she assisted with recruiting and instruction. They did the same to Steve Rogers aka Captain America (in the first movie), so at least she in good company if not historically inaccurate. Sorry, I’m being snippy. I hate injustice.

Law trained with the 38th Infantry Division at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, and did get to serve in Europe where she maintained the rank of Sergeant. Heck, even Steve Rogers was granted the rank of Captain.

Despite not being able to achieve combat mission status, Ruth did participate in exhibition flying, raising money with her daring-do for both the Red Cross and Liberty Loan drives.

Immediately after WWI (aka The Great War or the tragically misnamed “war to end all wars”), she formed Ruth Law’s Flying Circus, an exhibition troupe of three planes that visited State and county fairs racing cars and attempting (and setting) altitude and distance records (of minor renown nowadays).

Ruth Law’s Flying Circus – photo via: http://theoldmotor.com/?p=130926

Still, it must have been some shock when, in 1922, Ruth cracked open a newspaper and read of her retirement from flying at the age of 35.

Apparently her husband, Orville Wright Charles was fed up with all of her daredevil antics, and made the announcement of her retiring. Despite what she had accomplished, it appears that Ruth complied, and did not divorce her husband, as might be the norm of 2020.

Did you know that in that early 20th century era, Ruth Law, had she NOT been a famous pioneer aviator, would probably have just been known as Mrs. Charles Oliver. It was that way through the 1950s and into the ’60s for most women.

Despite acquiescing to her husband’s demands, Ruth was obviously quite proud of her aviation accomplishments, as she had maintained her own detailed scrapbook. Now situated in the archives of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, it is available to visitors on pre-visit request.

Within, you can find hundreds of articles and mementos, back when Ruth was known as Angel Ruth and Queen of the Aces.

Unfortunately, while in the early days of aviation where female pilots were seen as a curiosity and as equal to men in daring-do and skill, sexual inequality once again reared its ugly head, with women not allowed to be pilots. In fact, it wasn’t until 1973 when a woman was allowed to be a commercial pilot for a major airline (American Airlines).

While husband died in 1947, Ruth Law lived until December 1, 1970, when she died at the age of 83 at Notre Dame Hospital in San Francisco. She was buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn, Mass. If you click on the link, you can see her gravestone et al.

Ruth’s Aeroplane: The Curtiss Pusher Model D (Type IV)

The 1911 Curtiss Model D (aka the Curtiss Pusher) was, as its name suggests a pusher-type biplane, with the engine and propeller situated behind the pilot.Considered to be one of the first “mass-produced” aeroplanes in the world, all were manufactured by Glenn Hammond Curtiss.

This type of aircraft was the first aeroplane to take-off from the deck of a ship (flown by Eugene B. Ely) – the USS Birmingham on November 14, 1910. It was also the first to land on a ship, the USS Pennsylvania on January 18, 1911.

To avoid copyright infringement on the Wright Brothers (ha-ha) wing-warping technology, this and all Curtiss aircraft used ailerons to control rolling during flight.

General Characteristics

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 29 feet 3 inches (8.92 meters);
  • Wingspan: 38 feet 3 inches (11.66 meters);
  • Height: 7 feet 10 inches (2.39 meters);
  • Empty weight: 700 pounds (318 kilograms);
  • Gross weight: 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss E-4 4-cylinder water-cooled in-line piston engine provided 40 horsepower;

  • Propellers: 2-bladed fixed-pitch pusher propeller;
  • Maximum speed: 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour);
  • Endurance: 3 hours 30 minutes.
Posted in Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Pilots | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Wills’s Aviation Card #85 – “Coventry Ordnance” Military Bipane.

Wills Aviation 85F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Coventry Ordnance” Military Biplane.

Card #85 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1912, Vice Regal Mixture – Black-back issue

  • W.O. (William Oke) Manning, October 20, 1879 in Staines, Middelesex, England, Great Britain – March 2, 1958, in Farnham, Surrey, England, Great Britain;
  • Howard Theophilus Wright, circa 1867 in Dudley, England, Great Britain – died circa 1945;
  • Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith on January 18, 1888 in Kensington, London, England, Great Britain – January 27, 1989 in Hampshire, England, Great Britain.

Although this is the last of the Wills’s aviation cards I will be writing about (because I will have done them all), I will continue this blog with write-ups on other aircraft – much as I have been doing these past years. I do have some other aviation cards, and certainly I could do write-ups on famous pilots – see, plenty to do.

So… Card #85… the “Coventry Ordnance” Military Biplane.

Although more famous for the weapons it built leading up to and through WWI, the Coventry Ordnance Works Limited also built the Coventry Ordnance Military Biplane – unfortunately, a rather unsuccessful aeroplane.

Better known as the Coventry Ordnance Works Biplane (aka the COW Biplane), only two of the tractor aeroplane (engine and propeller at the front) were built – slightly different from one another, but COWs, none the less. It had an upper and lower wing of very different spans. In fact, that huge difference in wingspans was duly noted on the Wills’s write-up on the aircraft on the reverse of the card.

Wills Aviation 85R.jpg

The fact that Wilbur Wright’s calculations regarding biplane wing span differences was not followed on the COW Biplane, might be a reason why the plane failed to achieve success.

The Coventry Ordnance Works Limited was formed in July 1905 by a consortium of British shipbuilding firms John Brown & Company of Clydebank and Sheffield (50 per cent), Cammell Laird & Co. of Sheffield and Birkenhead (25 per cent) and Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Govan, Glasgow (25 per cent) with the encouragement of the British government, which wanted a third major arms consortium to compete with the duopoly of Vickers Sons & Maxim and Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co. to drive down prices.

Hinging its success on the 1912 British Military Aeroplane Competition whereby companies built aircraft to demonstrate to the military why they should purchase large swathes of their aeroplanes, at this time, it was to create aircraft for the newly formed Royal Flying Corps.

As mentioned, the Coventry Ordnance Works had until this time only been manufacturers of heavy naval guns, and itself was made up of shipbuilding firms.

Coventry Ordnance Works designed and built:

  • the QF 4.5 inch howitzer which entered service in 1910;
  • the 5.5 inch Naval gun in 1913;
  • the 15-inch siege howitzer in 1914 for the British Army;
  • C.O.W. 37mm gun in 1917 was the first modern autocannon – a fully-automatic, rapid-fire projectile weapon that fires armor-piercing or explosive shells – not bullets.

You’ll notice from the dates above that the main construct built prior to the move into aviation was the QF 4.5 inch howitzer, called a very successful artillery weapon in its day.

So… how hard could it be to design and manufacture an aeroplane that the British “airforce”could use? And hey, what the heck… let’s build and enter two aeroplanes into the competition.

To be fair, the shipbuilding consortium had recently purchased the Howard T. Wright aeroplane business.

The main thing you need to know, is that despite all his best intentions, Howard T. Wright was not a successful aeroplane manufacturer, even though he did design and build a few aeroplanes that DID successfully fly.

Apparently Mr. Wright and fellow employee William Oke Manning were part of the purchase of Wright’s Scottish Aeroplane Syndicate company, and were asked by COW to build them an aircraft that could win the competition and get them the military contract. You can read about Mr. Wright and Oke Manning HERE.

Manny was the chief designer of both aeroplanes  – Trial No. 10 and Trial No. 11… similar in all regards, except for a few things. While COW had only differentiated the aircraft by its engine model (Gnome and Chenlu), the War Department who ran the British Military Competition called them Trial No. 10 and Trial No. 11, respectively. Afterwards, each was simply referred to as Biplane 10 and Biplane 11.

(Aeroplane) Trial No. 10:

  • two crew seated side-by-side;
  • Gnome Omega Omega rotary 100 horsepower motor;
  • two blades on the propeller;
  • wider wingspan than No. 11;
  • longer fuselage than No. 11;
  • No wheel covers.


Coventry Ordnance Works Biplane – two-seater (beside each other) version, known as Trial No. 10 aka Biplane No. 10, had two blades on its propeller.

(Aeroplane) Trial No. 11:

  • two crew seated in tandem (one behind the other);
  • Chenlu inline 110 horsepower six-cylinder motor.
  • four blades on the propeller – made by joining two two-bladed propellers, one atop the other;
  • smaller wingspan than No. 10;
  • shorter fuselage than No. 10;
  • Wheelcovers and a skid under the fuselage.

COW Biplane  No. 11.jpg

COW Biplane Trial No. 11 aka Biplane No. 11 with its four-bladed propeller system.

The first aircraft to be worked on was, unsurprisingly, No. 10 with the Gnome motor, starting early in 1912 and completed by the end of April that year.

Test-piloted by Thomas Sopwith (yes, that Sopwith… the guy who would build such famous WWI aircraft as the Sopwith Camel, the preferred aeroplane of none other than Snoopy as he hunted the cursed Red Baron in the comic strip Peanuts. Of course, animated beagles aside, the Camel was considered to be one of the top aircraft of the Great War, aka WWI), and immediately after its first test flight No. 10 was entered into a competition and race at Brooklands. It flew with Sopwith as the pilot, and three other passengers, one sitting beside the pilot, and the other two balanced outside the cockpit on the lower wing.You can read more about the amazing Sopwith HERE.

While I can only hope the wing passengers were strapped in, I doubt it… probably holding on to a strut and the side of the cockpit for the thrill ride of their life.

COW began to work on No. 11 and its Chenu motor immediately, finishing it in July of 1912.

The 1912 British Military Competition was held at Larkhill Aerodrome in Wiltshire, England near Stonehenge, beginning on August 2, 1912, though all aircraft had to be on site by July 15.

At this time, Great Britain only had 19 aeroplanes in its arsenal, while global leader France had some 200.

The competition began with 32 aeroplanes slated to be in the trials, but not every manufacturer was able to deliver their aircraft by the July 15 date, and so were excluded from actual participation.

No. 10 was delivered on time, but No. 11, which was being shipped by road, and met with some delays and so was unable to actually meet the deadline. For whatever reason, however, No. 11 was allowed to participate in the trials, but failed to actually fly owing to engine issues, as the magneto drive failed numerous times, along with the reduction gear housing failing – a similar fate befell another manufacturer’s entry – Martin and Handasyde which also utilized a Chenu motor.

As an aside, the Martin & Handasyde business was formed by partners H.P. Martin and George Handasyde in 1908, and although its No.1 monoplane of 1908 did manage to get off the ground, it was wrecked in a windstorm while in a shed. While it did go on to build a number of of successful monoplanes, its 1914 S.2 biplane was the company’s big success, helping it eventually become Britain’s third-largest manufacturer of aeroplanes during WWI.


The Martinsyde (an amalgamation of Martin and Handasyde) S.1 scout aeroplane used an 80 horsepower Gnome motor to power its success, rather than continue its failure with the Chenu.

To be fair to Chenu and its motors, it was adept at building large horsepower motors, used in many a dirigible in this era.

As for No. 10, it developed propeller issues and because it could not be fixed in time, was withdrawn from the competition.

Back at Brooklands, Manning took apart No. 10 and rebuilt it, using new wings and landing gear, eventually getting it up into the air successfully on January 13, 1913.

Since no one knows of the fate of No. 11, one could assume that some of its components were retrofitted or cut-down and reused in the modified No. 10 – but that again, is just MY guess.

Coventry Ordnance Military Biplane (No. 10) specifications

  • Crew: Two (2): one pilot and one passenger;
  • Length: 33 feet 3 inches (10.13 meters);
  • Wingspan: 40 feet (12.2 meters);
  • Height: (?) A guess using the photo puts it under 12 feet (3.66 meters);
  • Wing area: 336.7 square feet (31.3 meters squared);
  • Empty weight: 1,200 pounds (544 kilograms);
  • Loaded weight: 1,950 pounds (885 kilograms);
  • Fuel capacity: 40 gallons (151.42 liters) plus 10 gallon (37.85 liters) gravity feed auxiliary;
  • Powerplant: 1 × Gnome Omega-Omega two-row 14-cylinder air-cooled rotary engine using Omega cylinders, with a 2:1 chain reduction, pushing out 100 horsepower;
  • Propellers: two-bladed propeller;
    • Propeller diameter: 11 feet 6 inches (3.51 meters);
  • Maximum speed: 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour).
Posted in Failures, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Wills’s Aviation Card #84 – “Avro” Aerial Taxicab.

Wills Aviation 84F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Avro” Aerial Taxicab.

Card #84 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1912 – Black-back issue

  • Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe OBE, Hon. FRAeS, FIAS, April 26, 1877 in Patricroft, Eccles, England, Great Britain – January 4, in Portsmouth, Great Britain.

There is, admittedly, some guesswork by my self on his one simply because I do not own a copy of this card yet.

As such, I have no idea if the reverse of the card notes exactly just what type of aircraft this is… but it looks like the Avro Type F, an experimental aircraft of which just one was built by the A.V. Roe Company.

Built in 1912, it made its first flight on May 1, 1912, which means that Wills’s took a chance on this aircraft being a feasible working aircraft when it went to print for its run of overseas (Australia and New Zealand) 85-card series of aviation cards.

Here’s what the Avro Type F looked like – bearing a striking similarity to the Wills’s card.


A pretty cool-looking aircraft, the single-seat aircraft was the first aircraft in the world to successfully fly with a completely enclosed cabin for the pilot as an integral part of the design.

Although… there was the Vedovelli Multiplane – but it crashed soon after takeoff in January of 1911… and while there were later versions of the Multiplane, it appears as though none were successful in flight. As such, the Avro Type F is credited with being the first enclosed cabin aircraft to successfully take off and land.

As a single-seat aircraft, it seems difficult to imagine it being a “taxicab” as envisioned by the Wills’s tobacco card. Perhaps that was the plan eventually… which is why the aircraft featured an enclosed cabin – you can’t have the passengers subjected to elements of the weather.

However… perhaps the word taxicab is being considered to literally by modern-day me. Perhaps it simply meant the taxiing around of goods and materials.

Room for a pilot and cargo. Could the Avro Type F have been meant to fly as the first cargo plane?

I really wish I had the card so I could see what the Wills’s editors had in mind for a write-up on this aircraft.

It’s actually a pretty sweet-looking aircraft, and for all intents and purposes looks quite similar to modern day personal aircraft – just not as streamlined, of course.

This monoplane had a wire-braced mid-wing, and used a tail skid undercarriage. It’s fuselage was tear-shaped but flat-sided. It’s windows were made of cellophane – so lightweight, but not necessarily strong.

Because aeroplanes of this era suffered from the engines and motors spewing oil – usually up into the pilot, the engineers anticipated that it would be difficult for the pilot of the Avro Type F to lean around and wipe it off… what with the enclosed cabin and all… so the cabin windows were all coated so the oil would easily slide away mostly… but provided the side windows for the pilot (at head level) the ability to be opened up so the pilot could stick his head out to see – if necessary.

It kind of defeats the purpose of enclosed cabin if the pilot has to open a window to stick his head out, but we are still in the pioneer age of aviation – so baby steps.

There were no doors, per se on the aircraft. To enter and exit, one used an aluminum sheet trapdoor in the fuselage top.

Limited by the strength of the engines then being built, the aeroplane was still small and cramped, and if Wills’s every truly saw this as an aerial taxi, anyone riding in it was going to have a scrunched up ride, as the Avro Type F was only 60-centimetres (two-feet) across at its widest.

My chest is that wide (just the front… obviously)… and that would mean I could only ride in it if I help my arms over my head. I know I’m no shrinking violet, and that this model was just that… a model… but shouldn’t Avro have at least tried to make the aircraft wide enough to provide some passenger comfort if you are going to conceptually call it an aerial taxi. Though perhaps that was the eventual goal, and Wills’s merely jumped the gun with its description of the aircraft.

During 1912, the Avro Type F made a few test flights, but on September 13, 1912 – it landed so hard it was not worth repairing, and the project was shelved.

Avro Type F general characteristics

  • Crew: one pilot;
  • Length: 23 feet (7.01 meters);
  • Wingspan: 28 ft 0 in (8.53 meters);
  • Height: Seven feet six inches (2.29 meters);
  • Wing area: 158 square feet (14.7 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 550 pounds (250 kilograms);
  • Gross weight: 800 pounds (360 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Viale 35 hp five-cylinder radial, pushing out 35 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour);
  • Rate of climb: 300 feet/min (1.5 meters/second).


Manufactured by Frencman Spirito Mario Viale, the Viale 35 hp engine (see image above), was a five-cylinder, air-cooled, radial engine, though Viale also built three- and seven cylinder variations of the same motor.

With just 35 horsepower for lifting plane and pilot, it would have been hard-pressed to carry passengers – even if it could owing to its cramped quarters.

As evidenced by the above photo, the Vial 35 hp motor still exists, on display at the Science Museum in London, UK. The Avro Type F‘s rudder was also preserved by the UK’s Royal Aero Club.

We will just have to chalk up this card’s drawing as a flight of fancy… something Avro wished to could build and implement. I propose that the Type F was merely a test aircraft to determine the practicality of utilizing an enclosed cabin.

While the plane was not deemed worthy enough to continue constructing, obviously the enclosed cabin would eventually become a standard feature on modern day airplanes.

And cargo planes the norm.

I will update this article when I purchase my own card #84.


Posted in Failures, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #83 – “Avro” Hydro-Aeroplane.

Wills Aviation 83F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Avro” Hydro-Aeroplane.

Card #83 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1912, Vice Regal Mixture – Black-back issue.

  • Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe OBE, Hon. FRAeS, FIAS, April 26, 1877 in Patricroft, Eccles, England, Great Britain – January 4, in Portsmouth, Great Britain;
  • Captain Edward Wakefield: I have zero information. HELP!
  • Commander (later Air Vice-Marshal Sir) Oliver Schwann KCB, CBE, November 18, 1878, in Wimbledon, Great Britain – March 7, 1948, in Littleton, Guildford, Surrey, Great Britain;
  • Major Sydney Vincent Sippe DSO OBE FRAeS, April 24, 1889. London, Great Britain – November 17, 1968 in Leatherhead, Surrey, Great Britain.

The reverse of this card offers undeniable proof that the Wills’s Aviation 85-card series was issued in 1912, as it clearly states within the year 1912, and describes an event for this aircraft having already taken place.

1912… I knew it. I’m going back and altering the dates on all the applicable blogs.

As usual, calling this card simply an Avro Hydro Aeroplane is blatantly misleading.

By the time of this card’s publication in 1912, Avro already had success with one water aircraft known as The Water-Bird. The aircraft depicted in the card No. 83 is not The Water-Bird. A simple look at the aircraft’s design, is proof of that.


Photo via AVRO Heritage Museum, depicting The Water-Bird, Avro’s first successful hydro aeroplane, first flying on November 11, 1911. It is based upon the Avro 501 aircraft. It was destroyed in March 29-30 of 1912, when its hangar collapsed during a storm.

What the Wills’s card No. 83 is depicting, is an Avro Type D equipped as a floatplane. This particular aircraft made its first flight on November 18, 1911.


Avro Type D Floatplane. The Type D was Avro’s first biplane, seen here converted into a floatplane.

What exactly is a floatplane? Afterall, the Wills’s card calls it a Hydro-Aeroplane”?

The term “hydro aeroplane” is archaic… much like the spelling of aeroplane.

A floatplane (aka float plane or pontoon plane) is a type of seaplane, that has one or more slender pontoons (floats) mounted under the fuselage to provide buoyancy. For reference, a flying boat uses its fuselage for buoyancy. Either type of seaplane may also have landing gear suitable for land, making the vehicle an amphibious aircraft.

Wills Aviation 83R.jpg

Let’s take a look at the Avro Type D biplane first – before anyone thought to convert it into a floatplane, with a brief look at Roe’s aviation company.

The A.V. Roe and Company was established on January 1, 1910 in Manchester, Great Britain by (Alliott Verdon) A.V. Roe and his brother Humphrey Verdon (they both had the middle name of “Verdon”), and is considered to be one of the earliest aeroplane manufacturing companies in the world.

While Humphrey was the money man, A.V. was already a successful aircraft builder, having built the Roe I Triplane known as The Bullseye (after a brand of braces manufactured by his brother), that first flew on June 5, 1909 – doing short flights of 50 feet (15 meters).

Roe then built the two-seater pusher (engine at rear) biplane seaplane known as The Water Bird based on the Avro Curtiss-type, featuring a 50 horsepower rotary Gnome engine. Built in 1911, and first flying successfully on November 25, 1911 with pilot Herbert Stanley Adams on and over Lake Windermere, England’s largest natural lake. The plane was built at the behest of E.W. Wakefield of the Lakes Flying Company.

Flight Magazine January 27, 1912-A4-latest.jpgIt was Wakefield who wanted Roe to built the plane on the Curtiss design. In fact, the aeroplane was never given a Roe Company designation… hence we just know it as The Water-Bird.

Even though the January 27, 1912 edition of Flight magazine’s cover doesn’t note it as such, the January 25, 1912 cover The Aeroplane magazine does. Note the spelling of the plane. I have tried to maintain The Aeroplane’s spelling.


It was built as a landplane using the main components designed by Glenn Curtiss, with the intention of converting it to a seaplane once testing was complete. The plane was built by the A.V. Roe Company, however, with pontoons (float and balances) constructed by boatbuilders Berwick and Son of Bowness-on-Windermere.

The pontoons were constructed using mahogany, reinforced with metal strips and canvas covered by local.

Here’s a curious aside. Beatrix Potter, who wrote amongst other children’s books, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, petitioned prior to November 25, 1911 then-First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to stop the testing of The Water-Bird over and on Lake Windemere, writing: “Those who want noise go to Blackpool.” Ouch. Poor Blackpool.

Churchill ignored her pleas, and the testing and flight went off as planned.

But… in 2011, with plans to honor the centenary of The Water-Bird‘s historic flight as the first seaplane, with a flight of a 1949-built Hawker Sea Fury naval aircraft, Potter finally won her battle – albeit 100 years later.

Town council refused to lift the 10 mile per hour speed (16.1 kilometer per hour) limit on the waters – put there in 2005 for boats, mind you, but apparently equally applicable for seaplanes, such as the Hawker Sea Fury that needs a speed of 35 miles per hour (56.3 kilometers per hour) to achieve flight from the waters.

With regards to the Lakes Flying Company, after The Water-Bird, it built in 1912 the Water Hen and the Sea Bird, with work begun on a Hydro-monoplane. In November of 1914, the company was bought by the Northern Aircraft Company and the lakeside facility was expanded and pilot training (advertised as The Seaplane School) as well as the pleasure flights were undertaken.


In this advertising poster, A.V. Roe is showing off its D-Type seaplane, but hyping up the fact that it (the company) was the first to produce a British sea plane. It can be confusing, because the image implies that aeroplane there was the first British seaplane. It wasn’t. That was the Avro/Lakes The Water-Bird. As noted i the article (here), Avro never called The Water-Bird an Avro aircraft, seeing as how it was built using Curtiss’ design.

Seeing as how Wakefield and his Lakes Flying Company had success with The Water-bird, Roe set his sights on constructing another hydro (sea) aeroplane, using his own newly-designed biplane landplane – the Type D.

Maybe. Either this was his idea, or it was Oliver Schwann’s. The Roe

The Avro Type D was first flown as a landplane on April 1, 1911 at Brooklands, over a 4.43 kilometer (2.75-mile) motor racing circuit and aerodrome built near Weybridge in Surrey, England. It opened in 1907, and was the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, closing in 1939.

Pilot C.H. Pixton was the first to fly the Type D landplane, saying it was “easy and pleasant to fly.” Pilot Lt. Wilfred Parke took his first ever flight a few days later in the same Type D, flying it the length of Brooklands.

On May 12, 1911, Pixton flew the Type D landplane to Hendon in London, to give a demonstration of the aircraft in front of the British Parliamentary Aerial Defence Committee.

In attendance was Charles Rumney Samson (later Air Commodore Samson, CMG, DSO & Bar, AFC), who later became one of the first four officers selected for pilot training by the Royal Navy, and was the first person to fly an aircraft from a moving ship.

Also at that demonstration, Roe made his first solo flight ever in the Type D.

In June of 1911, the aircraft was sold to Commander Oliver Schwann of the Naval Airship Tender Hermione. It was sent by train to Barrow-in-Furness, where Schwann converted it to a floatplane (seaplane/ hydro aeroplane – per the Wills’s card).

Now… did he do this on his own, or under instruction from Roe? I think it may have been Schwann on his own, simply using the fabulous Avro Type D as the base from which to convert into a hydro plane.

The Avro people seem to think that Roe did this, selling Schwann the finalized seaplane. Other accounts say Schwann converted it on his own….

In my words, but per author: Jackson, A.J., Avro Aircraft Since 1908. London, Putnam, 1965: (Schwann) covered the rear section of the fuselage, modified the tailplane, moved the radiator to a position lying flat over the wing center section, and placed a series of experimental floats to the skids.

That implies that Schwann did all of the work in making a landplane into a seaplane.

Taxiing trials were carried out in the Cavendish Dock at Barrow using narrow flat-bottomed floats. On November 18, 1911, Schwann piloted the aircraft it became the first seaplane to take off from British waters.

Alternatively, in Wikipedia per Sydney Vincent Sippe, citing the November 30, 1914 Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, it says that pilot Major Sydney Vincent Sippe was the first man to ever take-off from the sea in Britain, on April 2, 1912.

This Type D was reconstructed in 1912 as the Royal Aircraft Factory H.R.E.3 (Hydroplane Reconnaissance Experimental) – though there is no record of its success, and was later flown as a landplane in 1913, obviously deconstructed as such.

Avro Type-D general characteristics:

  • Crew: one pilot;
  • Capacity: one passenger;
  • Length: 28 feet (8.53 meters);
  • Wingspan: 31 feet (9.45 meters);
  • Height: 9 ft 2 in (2.79 meters);
  • Wing area: 310 square feet (28.8 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 500 pounds (227 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × 4-cylinder Green Engine Co. C.4 water-cooled inline piston engine, making 35 horsepower. It was designed by Gustavus Green;
  • Maximum speed: 49 miles per hour (78 kilometers per hour).

And… for the hell of it:

The Water-Bird general characteristics:

  • Crew: one pilot;
  • Length: 36 feet 5 inches (11.1 meter);
  • Wingspan (upper): 41 feet (12.50 meters);
  • Wingspan (lower) 32 feet (9.75 meters);
  • Wing area: 365 square feet (33.9 square feet);
  • Gross weight: 1,130 pounds (513 kilograms);
  • Empty weight: 780 pounds (354 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 x Gnome Rhône 7-cylinder rotary, making 50 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour);
  • Service ceiling: 800 feet (244 meters).

Dammit. This one was a confusing story to make heads or tails out of. It seems that conflicting parties each have their own version, with different people being involved, or evening claiming that the Avro Type D was the first seaplane. I’m pretty sure that distinction belongs to The Water-Bird.

So… it beggars the question… why was there no Wills’s card for The Water-Bird, and why create a card for the Type-D?

Posted in Airfields, Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, People, Pilots, Seaplanes, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #82 – French Military Aeroplane.

Wills Card 82F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: French Military Aeroplane.

Card #82 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1912, Capstan Navy Cut – Black-back issue

  • Pierre Jean Pascal Morel, February 8, 1886, Nogent, France — August 27, 1914, in Reims, France.

I finally was able to get this card, and others, from the collection of Peter Robert Fulton who sadly passed away October 31,  2018, via his brother and my new friend, Barry, down-under in Australia. Thank-you both.

This card is a shout-out by the British tobacco company, Wills’s, toward the French military and their foresight in creating an air force… though that was certainly not the term used by the French… more of an Armée de l’Air Française (French army of the air).

It can’t have been easy for Wills’s, having to praise the efforts of French government, but praise them it did. Wills Card 82R.jpg

Here’s what the reverse of the card says, in case you can’t read it.

“French Military Aeroplane.
The rapid progress which France has made in the science of aviation, is due to a great extent to the encouragement given by the French War office, The substantial prizes offered by the Government and by such firms as Michelin Ltd., has led to the invention of such new types of machines as that illustrated, the framework of this biplane is of aluminium, which is stronger than wood, and at the same time light in weight.”

Look at that… 76 words squeezed in, not including the headline. In this case, succinct and to the point.

Except… just what the heck is that plane the card mentions? It’s just called a French Military Aeroplane, of which France had plenty. Sometimes there’s too succinct.

Great… another mystery to solve. I say that with both a sigh and with excitement. Getting to the bottom of these 118-year-old cards is rarely a simple task. But I love a challenge.

First. This card series has always purported to be a 1911 Overseas series, implying overseas from Great Britain. The fact that these cards seem to have found a home in Australia, supports that. My research shows that it is a late 1911 issue.

Since there is not a lot of information on this aeroplane, we can correctly assume that it was not purchased by the French military, nor was it ever put into service. So the card’s title of French Military Aeroplane is not quite true.

What we have here, is Wills’s hearing about this aircraft as something new and exciting, and trying to jump aboard with it… and the fact that it is NOT listed in Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft 1913 edition is proof that it was not manufactured beyond a prototype.

I found a postcard online of what looks exactly like the aeroplane drawing in the Wills’s card. It’s also the only photo I found of the plane’s designer, and pilot, Captain Morel.


According to that postcard (found HERE, on Flicker), with a write up by Kees Kort, the all-aluminum biplane is a canard (an aeronautical arrangement wherein a small forewing or foreplane is placed forward of the main wing of a fixed-wing aircraft). At least that’s what designer Captain Morel describes it as. What it is, is an aeroplane that flies “backwards”… more of that below… but if you can’t wait, look at where the pilot is, and the steering wheel, and then look at the propeller.

And Captain Morel… who the heck is he? Kees Kort, above, says there was no first name given – obvious per the postcard.

He does state that Morel was a captain in France’s Infanterie Colonial.

The www.theaerodrome.com website lists within its discussion boards, the name Pierre Morel, but calls him a Lieutenant. They note that within the awesome Flight magazine (of the 1912 era), Morel is listed three times as Lieutenant, and once as Captain. [www.flightglobal.com]

A Captain is certainly one step up from a Lieutenant, so we can assume that at some point in his career, he was promoted.

Here’s what we know about his aviation history, if this Lt. Pierre Morel is the same as our Captain Morel…

The key, is noting that Pierre Morel received his pilots license (brevet) via the Aero Club de France – certificate No. 262 on Oct. 19, 1910 flying a Sommer biplane.

I saw it noted on the Aerodrome website that it was certificate #62, but that is just a typo. #262 is correct.

We can assume that after gaining his pilot’s license, Morel flew and flew, and flew some more. I can not find any record of him having entered any competition, but that may have had more to his being in the military at that time.

While other military men have flown in aeroplane competitions of the day, Morel does not appear in any of the records.

Now… since the Wills’s card is published in late 1911 or 1912 (I suggest 1912 for reasons explained shortly), we can also assume that if Kees Kort’s data is correct, Morel designed the aircraft pictured, and may have had a hand in the manufacture of it, providing thoughts to the manufacturers during the build.

According to L’Aerophile (a French aviation magazine published from 1893 to 1947), the aircraft was entered in the 1911 Grand Concours Militaire de Reims – it was listed as such in the Official List of Competitors of the Military Contest January 1, 1911 (translated from Liste officielle des concurrents du concours militaire 1er janvier 1911).

The aeroplane was listed as the Pons / Morel Canard.

Pierre Pons was an aeroplane manufacturer who had formed SAFA (Société Anonyme Français d’Aviation).

But, since no further records exist of the Pons / Morel Canard, one can only assume it was not built in time for the event.

However, the Pons / Morel Canard did get a look-see by the French military in 1912. So we know that the aeroplane was built. That and the postcard are proof of that.

It was mentioned via one source (sorry, no longer sure where I saw it), that by the end of 1911, the Pons / Morel Canard biplane was just being called the Morel biplane.

In a report dated March 2, 1912 entitled “Un aéroplane militaire en aluminium’ – les avantages d’un aéroplane entièrement mètallique construit d’après les plans du capitaine Morel de l’infanterie coloniale” [source: abstract in Engineering abstracts: journal of the international institute of Technical Bibliography, Volume 3 (1912) page 142].

Translated, the report’s title is: “An Aluminum Military Airplane – The Advantages of a All-Metal Airplane Built to the Plans of Captain Morel of the Colonial Infantry“.

Here he is a Captain. Of the Colonial Infantry.

And… his plane is still, at least up until March 2, 1912, considered to be a possible French Military Aeroplane – per the Wills’s card.

Consider, if you will, that the artwork on the Wills’s card is pretty damn close to exact as the photo in the postcard. Why is that important? Well, we have no record of the aircraft flying in 1911. This implies that work was being done on it through 1911 and into 1912.

Also… since the artwork essentially matched the photo, we must assume that the artist drew the aeroplane (whimsically in flight) as complete… which MIGHT have happened at the end of 1911, but is more likely to have occurred in 1912, closer to the test flights in front of the military.

BUT… when did the testing in front of the French military actually take place. I assume it was March of 1912… but that was the report on the plane… surely it must have taken weeks if not months for the information to have been compiled and written… ahhhh, there’s the rub.

Anyhow, we know the Morel biplane was never built en masse – so it was never a French Military Aeroplane. Sorry Wills’s… nice try.

According to the 1999 book by Leonard E. Opdycke: “French Aeroplanes Before The Great War” page 209, the aircraft did fly in April of 1912 at Issy-les-Moulineux, southwest Paris, France.

Heck… I haven’t even talked about the aircraft yet!

Morel Canard Biplane.jpg

You can get a feeling of the plane’s height, if you use the man standing behind the plane near the tail as a reference point.

According to the Morel postcard’s French information, the all-metal biplane featuring aluminum, is a canard (an aeronautical arrangement wherein a small forewing or foreplane is placed forward of the main wing of a fixed-wing aircraft).

Yes, this is a tail-first aircraft, in which the motor and propeller are at the rear of the plane, with the pilot and controls facing the tail.

The cigarette card drawing implies a standard front-face flying machine—the real photography used in the postcard shows that the fuselage isn’t as exaggerated… isn’t as long as it appears on the Wills’s card.

As such, when you look at the postcard, you can see that the wheel placement beneath the fuselage actually looks stable.

Aluminum is, of course, very lightweight, and some might wonder why all aircraft didn’t simply use it more often in the 1900s up. Truth is, the process to create aluminum foil wasn’t an inexpensive process, as such, it cost too much money.

The Morel biplane was built using steel tubing, with the wings and fuselage covered by sheets of aluminum.

While this aeroplane was not picked up by the French military as an aircraft, and was subsequently ignore, France did manufacture the first successful all-metal aircraft the Tubavion monoplane – see HERE for my article on it – built by Ponche and Maurice Primard.

The postcard—not sure of its exact printing debut, though it must have been prior to March of 1912 when the military report quelled thoughts of the Morel biplane becoming a military plane of France—does list the particulars of the aircraft:

Morel Canard Biplane Specs:

  • Length: Seven meters (23 feet);
  • Wingspan: Nine meters (29.5 feet);
  • Surface area = 22 square meters (236.8 square feet);
  • Weight: 380 kilograms (837.8 pounds);
  • Powerplant: Anzani 60 horsepower, six-cylinder radial motor;
  • Crew: One pilot and two passengers.

We can assume that Morel gave up his work on the metal aircraft, as a Flight magazine dated April 6, 1912 describes him flying a Sommer Monoplane.

Hour and a Half on a Sommer Monoplane.
At the Sommer military school at Mourmelon, on Saturday, Lieut. Morel was flying a monoplane for the first time, and made a flight of an hour and a half at a height of 300 metres.

As for the man himself, I visited this website: http://memorial14-18.paris.fr/memorial/jsp/site/Portal.jsp?page=memorial&page_index=690 to see a list of French people who died during WWI.

Originally, the data I saw on Morel said he died in September of 1914, and did not provide a date or a place of death.

Provided I have found the correct Morel (and added his middle names to the top of the article), he died on August 27, 1914 (a few days shy of September), and died at Reims, France. There is no notification of how he died. Again… if this Pierre Jean Pascal Morel is the same Captain Morel I have just written about.

Of all the other Morel’s listed on that website ( believe there are 84 total Morel surnames listed), there was only one other who had the name Pierre (any where in the name), and his death was listed as 1915. Supposing the 1914 death date given is correct, Pierre Jean Pascal Morel appears to be our man.

Anyhow… a lot of guesswork by myself, using single sources as verifiable data. It doesn’t surprise me re: the sources, as who would write up a lot of information about an aeroplane that never made it into production? Besides myself, of course.

Posted in Failures, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Pilots, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future Of Aviation – From 1900

Future of Travel.jpgI suppose we’ve all wondered what life will be like in the future.

I myself am upset that we never got those personal jet packs we were promised back in the 1960s.

What we have above is a postcard from 1900 Germany, that postulates what the world of aviation will be like in the year 2000.

Keep in mind that aside from gliders, balloons, dirigibles and zeppelins, there was not yet one successful flight of a heavier-than-air machine.

I can only see one “motor” in the picture above, so perhaps the other two are flying via solar power…

Sadly, the fashion of 1900s Germany did not seem to progress in the imagination of the artist’s view of 2000.

Happy 2019! I will be back to more regularly scheduled articles shortly.

Posted in Aviation Art | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Checklist For Wills’s Cigarettes Aviation 1912 – 85-Card Series

Checklist 3

The Checklist For Wills’s Cigarettes Aviation 1912 – 85-Card Series, is like the 75-card series that features 79 different cards, only this actually has 89 cards – four extra depictions due to variances between the two tobacco brands publishing this series.

Only two cigarette brands are involved in the 85-card series, so you would think it would be easy for a person collecting to day to be able to get  their hands on the cards.

While other records state that this series was published in 1911, the reverse of card No. 83, for example, clearly mentions a past event taking place in 1912.

So this is actually a 1912 set, and not a 1911 set as other reference material claims. Then again, some reference materials have stated the date may only be an approximation. I’m not. The date of 1912 for this 85-card series is correct.

The 85 (89)-card series available in this set vary per the tobacco company advertised on the reverse: Capstan Black; and Vice Regal Black.

There are no green-back cards, nor is there a Havelock brand issue (green or black).

The cards appear to have been prepared as early as January of 1912, and were printed and inserted as stiffeners/giveaways in the Capstan and Vice Regal brands of cigarettes… and only for the Australian and perhaps New Zealand markets.

Which is why they are difficult to find. A smaller press run…

The cards appear to be difficult to find via various on-line auctions in any condition. My own collection is small. I only consider a set to be a set, if all the cards are from the same tobacco brand.

Below is the list of the 85-card series – all 89 cards.

Under the “Title of Card”, is a click-thru link to a full feature article written by yours truly, researched heavily, featuring as much information on the subject I dared investigate. There are errors on the cards, errors in many of the sites proclaiming to have information, and there are cards where little to no information is provided. I have done my best to clarify the truth to present historical accuracy… yeah, I’m blowing my own air horn, but I am proud of the work I have put into the Pioneers Of Aviation blog. You, are welcome to point out any errors to me, and I will correct them with attribution. The proof, however, will set us free.

As a former newspaper reporter with the Toronto Star, and a personal curiosity of all things, every article tries to answer every question THIS curious mind could ask… ensuring every story is as complete as a blog can bring, without having to write a book.

1912 Wills’s Aviation 85-Card Series – see HERE for more details on each possible type of series

Card # Company Brands Title of Card Back Color
1.1.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Flying Ship” of Francesco de Lana. Black version
2.2.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Montgolfier, 1783. Black version
3.3.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal First Balloon Flight in England, 1784. Black version
4.4.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal First Successful Crossing the Channel, 1785. Black version
5.5.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal First Parachute Display, 1837. Black version
6.6.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal First “dirigible,” 1852. Black version
7.7.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal First Successful Dirigible, 1883. Black version
8.8.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Rounding the Eiffel Tower, Santos Dumont. Black version
9.9.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal First British War Balloon, “Nulli Secondus,” 1905. Black version
10.10.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal United States Military Dirigible No. 1. Black version
11.111.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal The Wellman Airship “America,” 1907. Black version
12.12.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal French Dirigibles Lebaudy Type. Black version
13.13.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Modern British Army Dirigible “Baby.” Black version
14.14.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Ville de Paris” (French.) Black version
15.15.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal German Parseval Type. Black version
16.16.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Italian Dirigible “Italia.” Black version
17.willss-tobacco-card-1910-aviation-card-17.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Spanish “Torres Quevedo.” Black version
18.18.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal German Military Dirigibles Gross Type. Black version
19.19.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal French Zodiac type. Black version
20.reverse-of-1910-wills-card-20-italian-military-dirigible-no-1.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Italian Military Dirigible No. 1. Black version
21.21.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal German Dirigible “Clouth.” Black version
22.22.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal French Military Dirigible “Colonel Renard.” Black version
23.23.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal German Zeppelin Type. Black version
24.24.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal French Dirigible “Capazza.” Black version
25.25.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal British Dirigible “Clement Bayard.” Black version
26.26.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal An Early Idea of Aviation. Black version
27.27.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Besnier. Black version
28.28.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Henson’s Idea. Black version
29.29.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Lilenthal Gliding Machine. Black version
30.30.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Maxim, 1890. Black version
31.31.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal The “Ader” Flying Machine. Black version
32.32.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Chanute, 1895. Black version
33.33.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Santos Dumont’s First Monoplane. Black version
34.34.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Gastamabide & Mengin” Monoplane, 1908. Black version
35.35.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Wright Bros.’ Biplane. Black version
36.361.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Professor Langley’s Aerodrome. Black version
37.willss1910_37.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Voisin” Type Biplane. Black version
38.willss1910_38.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Bleriot XI.” Black version
39.39f.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal The “Antoniette” Monoplane, 1909. Black version
40.40f.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal The “Windham” Monoplane. Black version
41.41f-32.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Farman” Biplane. Black version
42.42f-001-2.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal The R.E.P. Monoplane. Black version
43.43-001.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Silver Dart.” Black version
44.44.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Cody” Biplane. Black version
45.card-45.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Santos Dumont’s Monoplane, No. XIX. Black version
46.card-46.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Herring-Curtiss.” Black version
47.card-47.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Jerme” Biplane. Black version
48.card-48.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Kimball.” Black version
49.card-49.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Rickman” Helicopter. Black version
50.card-50.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal The First Lady Aviator. Black version
51.card-51.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Bristol” Military Biplane. Black version
52.card-52.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Maxim” Biplane, 1910. Black version
53.card-53.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Vedovelli” Multiplane. Black version
54.card-54.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Piquerez” Biplane. Black version
55.card-55.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Paulhan’s New Aeroplane. Black version
56.card-56.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Howard-Wright” Biplane. Black version
57.card-571.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Givaudin II.” Triplane. Black version
58.card-58.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal New “Voisin” Biplane, 1911. Black version
59.card-59.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Vanniman” Triplane. Black version
60.60f-001.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Dunne V.” Biplane. Black version
61.61f-001.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Roe II.” Triplane. Black version
62.44f-001.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Goupy III.” Biplane. Black version
63.63f.jpg Capstan “Tellier” Monoplane. Black version
63b.etrich-f-001.jpg Vice Regal – I can not confirm if this card is in the 85-card series The Etrich Monoplane Black version
64.claude-grahame-white-f.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Mr. Claude Grahame-White. Black version
65.65f-001.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal M. Henri Farman. Black version
66.66f-001.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal M. Louis Paulhan. Black version
67.louis-bleriot-1911-wills-aviation-f.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal M. Louis Bleriot. Black version
68.captain-bertram-dickson-1911-wills-aviation-f.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Capt. Bertram Dickson. Black version
69.morning-post-dirigible-1911-capstan-navy-cut-69-of-75-series.jpg Capstan “Morning Post” Airship, 1910. Black version
69b.69f.jpg Vice Regal – I can not confirm if this card is in the 85-card series The Morane-Borel Monoplane. Black version
70.70f-001.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Mr. J. Armstrong Drexel Black version
71.71f-001.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal The late Mr. John B. Moisant. Black version
72.72f-001.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal M. Hubert Latham. Black version
73.73f-001.jpg Vice Regal “Willows II.” Dirigible. Black version
73a.73gf 001 Capstan – I can not confirm if this card is in the 85-card series Lieut. Jean Conneau (Beaumont) Black version
74.74f 001 Capstan Army Dirigible “Beta.” Black version
74b.74gf 001 Vice Regal – I can not confirm if this card is in the 85-card series M. Jules Vedrines Black version
75.75f 001 Capstan, Vice Regal Mr. Tom Sopwith. Black version
 76.Wills Aviation 76F.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal Italian War Monoplane. Black version
77.Wills Aviation 77F.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Curtiss” Hydro-Aeroplane. Black version
 78.Wills Aviation 78F.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Short” Hydro-Aeroplane. Black version
 79.Wills Aviation 79F.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Ponche and Primard” Monoplane. Black version
 80.Wills Aviation 80F.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Short” Biplane. Black version
 81.Wills Aviation 81F.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Farman” Hydro-Aeroplane. Black version
 82.Wills Card 82F.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal French Military Aeroplane. Black version
 83.Wills Aviation 83F.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Avro” Hydro-Aeroplane. Black version
 84.Wills Aviation 84F.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Avro” Aerial Taxicab.” Black version
 85.Wills Aviation 85F.jpg Capstan, Vice Regal “Coventry Ordnance” Military Biplane. Black version


Posted in Aviation Art, Balloons, Concepts, Failures, Gliders, Heavier-Than-Air, Lighter-Than-Air, Myth, Pilots, Seaplanes, Tobacco Card, Zeppelins & Dirigibles | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment