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


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:

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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 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. []

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: 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

Wills’s Aviation Card #81–Farman Hydro-Aeroplane.

Wills Aviation 81F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: Farman Hydro Aeroplane.

Card #81 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1912, Vice Regal Mixture – Black-back issue

  • Henri (Henry) Farman, May 26, 1874 in Paris, France — July 17, 1958, Paris, France;
  • Maurice (Morris) Alain Farman, March 21, 1877 in Paris, France — February 25, 1964 in Paris, France;
  • Richard (Dick) Farman, XX, 1872 (Can’t confirm specific date – HELP?), in Paris, France — January 31, 1940, Paris, France.

Just look at  the death dates for all three Farman brothers… they all seemed to have have lived beyond the danger zone of early pioneer flight!

The brothers Richard, Henri, and Maurice Farman were involved in the design and constructed of aeroplanes and engines, and at the beginning of the pioneer age were one of the biggest names in the fledgling industry.

Richard Farman was more involved in the business-side of the company, while younger brothers Henri and Maurice were the real hands at the design and manufacture of the aircraft.

Henri Farman, circa 1907.jpg

Henri Farman, circa 1907.

The Avions Farman (Farman Aviation Works) were in operation from 1908 until 1936 when France decided to nationalize its aeronautical industry, taking the Farman company and renaming it the Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Centre (SNCAC).

In 1941 the Farman brothers reestablished a company as Société Anonyme des Usines Farman (SAUF), but only three years later it was absorbed by Sud-Ouest. Maurice’s son, Marcel Farman, reestablished the SAUF in 1952, but his effort proved unsuccessful and the firm was dissolved in 1956.

Operating during their initial phase, the Farman brothers designed and built over 200 types of aircraft. They also built automobiles until 1931, but that’s for someone else to write about.

Maurice Farman, circa 1908

Maurice Farman in a car, circa 1908.

Because I have written extensively on the life of the Farman family—HERE and HERE, and if you search this blog, you will find the Farman name dotted in almost every aeroplane article I have written—let’s skip ahead and see just what is so special about the aeroplane depicted on this card—the Farman Hydro Aeroplane.

My problems arose in trying to determine just which aeroplane was the one on the card. The main problem was this, however: I do not have this card and, while I was able to find the front of the card, finding an image showing the reverse was very difficult… and I didn’t find it until many hours of me writing the original draft of this.

I’d finished it, in fact… and then after finding out I had to do more research, I pretty much had to rewrite this. Originally, the Wikipedia entries on this aeroplane, while correct, are incorrect when it comes to detailing the correct Farman biplane to be made into a hydro plane (sea plane).

Wills Aviation 81R.jpg

The trick was to find out more about this Monaco air meet in 1912 as it pertains to the Farman’s.

I could not find any information online regarding the Farman hydroplane, until I came across a French-language PDF written by Gérard Hartmann, who obviously put in a lot of work on his Farman Hydros creation. You can see his original French article HERE.

While I can understand a fair bit of the written French language, I decided I would copy and paste the French PDF into Google Translate, a few paragraphs at a time, to get something I could more easily understand.

I’m not going to reprint that here—that’s not my place to do such a thing, but I will extract notes from the document to better fill in the blanks.

Nice job, Gérard. I appreciate the work you put into this. Now it’s my turn…

By the way… photographic images of these aeroplanes suffer from a lack of hydro photos, and mislabeling… so I might have things wrong. Many a time, people just label the planes as a Farman hydro… without designation.

It’s 1912, and while the Farman brothers are busy building their flying machines, a new global challenge has been put forth to create a seaplane… one that can take off and land in the water.

These early aircraft are called hydroplanes, and there was, as of 1912, considerable interest in creating a feasible aircraft of this type. Being one of the most respected aircraft manufacturers of the day, the Farman brothers took up the challenge.

Back on March 28, 1910, French aviator Henri Fabre (November 29, 1882 – June 30, 1984) was the inventor of the first successful seaplane, the Fabre Hydravion. I really should do a write-up on him, too!

In August of 1910, a hydro plane built by the Dufaux brothers flew over Lake Geneva, and even the famous Glen Curtiss managed to fly his Curtis Canoe up and down safely in the water. And while the U.S. Navy shows interest in the Curtiss Canoe, he knew it still has a ways to go before he could confidently give it over to the military.

By November 14, 1910, a Curtiss hydro plane flown by a student of his takes off from an inclined platform aboard the deck of a US Navy cruiser, flies and lands off the coast. He does it again a couple of months later, proving the viability of the hydroplane (sea plane).

The Wright brothers add floats to their Flyer, Franck T. Coffyn flies around the East River in New York harbor, and around the station of Liberty .

Avro and the Short Brothers sell their prototype hydroplanes to the British Admiralty… in France Gabriel Voisin adds floats to his Canard (duck) aeroplane at the behest of the French Navy…

But, when Maurice Colliex is able to fly his aeroplane from the ground in Issy-les-Moulineaux, land on the Seine River, and then fly back, to land at Issy-les-Moulineaux, people begin to plan special meets for hydroplanes.

Monaco 1912
The first meet is held in March of 1912 in Monaco, with six events:
a) A departure in calm water from the port of Monaco is worth 1 point;
b) A landing in calm water after a buoy turn is worth 1 point;
c) To rest in rough water coming from the sea is worth 2 points;
d) A start in rough water is worth 3 points;
e) A start from the water and a flight between buoys with landing on the ground, is worth 4 points awarded only once during the competition, while the tests a, b, c and d can be tried several time, though only one result per day is recorded;
f) A take-off from the beach, overflight of the circuit and landing at the port brings 4 points.

All the planes entered are biplane floats, some also have wheels, such as the Henry  Farman designed hydroplane, the HF.11, piloted by Jules Fischer, wearing No. 8.

HF-11 hydro plane

The Henri Farman HF-11 hydro plane at Monaco. Photo from Flight magazine. This is the aeroplane in the Wills’s card.

Specifications of the HF-11 seen in Monaco 1912, hydro version of the type HF-11 vs the standard non-water version involved in 1911 competitions, are below:

 HF.11 Land Water
Width 13.15 meters 16 meters
Length 7.9 meters 8.3 meters
Surface Area 58 square meters 72 square meters
Height Between Wings 1.75 meters 1.75 meters
Height 3.43 meters 3.65 meters
Weight (No Motor) 245 kilograms 275 kilograms
Motor Gnome Gamma 70 HP Gnome Gamma 70 HP
Propeller Chauviere 2.5 meters Chauviere 2.5 meters
Motor Weight + Accessories 95 kilograms 95 kilograms
Weight of Floats 150 kilograms 150 kilograms
Take-off Weight 360 kilograms 680 kilograms
Consumables Weight 100 kilograms 100 kilograms

Other pilots in the event are Louis Paulhan with two Curtiss Triad mono floats made in the U.S. and assembled in France in 1911: the No. 1 using a Curtiss 75 hp motor flown by Paulhan; the No. 2 with a Curtiss 50 hp motor flown by the American Hugh Robinson.

Gabriel and Charles Voisin have two 1910 canard biplanes with Fabre-type triple floats, with the the No. 3 driven by Colliex using a Salmson fixed-star prototype motor (Canton-Unné license) with 110 horsepower; and the No. 4 aeroplane piloted by Rugère, using an older 1911 Anzani 60 horsepower motor.

Maurice Farman MF.3 hydro.jpg

Maurice Farman MF.3 in Monaco, 1912. From Flight magazine. Notice that along with the floats, it also has wheels.

There’s also a MF-3 (Maurice Farman) flown by Eugène Renaux, with a 70 horsepower Renault V8, featuring three squat floats, made by the Farman’s. He’s wearing No. 5.

No. 6 is flown by José Sanchez-Besa, a metal-structure craft piloted by Jean Benoist. It is powered by a 110 horsepower Salmson prototype engine.

No. 7 is a René Caudron aeroplane, using a 70 horsepower rotary Gnome Gamma motor.

Anyhow… the Farman hydroplane actually does pretty well at the events.

On the evening of March 24, three hydros managed to pass the tests a-d: Fischer, Paulhan and Robinson.

Fischer, as noted, was flying in the HF.11, allowing him to fly and carry two passengers. While the Maurice Farman MF-3 flown by Renaux was simply a heavier machine, and while it performed tests a-c, it could not perform test d.

At the end of the first day, the ranking is as follows:
1. Fischer – 9.1 points (Henri Farman)
2. Paulhan – 7 points
3. Robinson – 7 points
4. Renaux – 5.1 points (Maurice Farman)
5. Caudron – 4 points

On March 25, the hunt for points in the races continues until the e and f races begin. The weather is perfect and the sea is calm. After two days, the score becomes:

1. Fischer – 35.2 points (Henri Farman)
2. Paulhan – 31.7 points
3. Robinson – 26 points
4. Caudron – 23 points
5. Renaux – 5.2 points (Maurice Farman)
6. Colliex – 1.5 points

Third day results – with multiple flights carrying passengers, the totals are:

1. Fischer – 46.6 points (Henri Farman)
2. Paulhan – 40.8 points
3. Robinson – 33.9 points
4. Renaux – 33.7 (Maurice Farman)
5. Caudron – 30.3 points

On March 27, planes take off from the ground or from the water. The best is Renaux in his MF-3, flying three then four passengers: the aviator Alfred Leblanc, Emile Dubonnet (pilot at Tellier), Lieutenant Lucca and a mechanic for Maurice Farman, with a total take-off weight of 1,234 kg, breaking down into 681 kg (aircraft and its floats), 352 kg load (the pilot and his four passengers) plus 101 kg of fuel, water and oil.

1. Fischer – 57.7 points (Henri Farman)
2. Paulhan – 49.9 points
3. Renaux – 46.7 points (Maurice Farman)
4. Robinson – 43 points
5. Rugère – 41.75 points
6. Caudron – 37 points
7. Benedict – 12.5 points
8. Colliex – 1.5 points

On the HF-11, Fischer can carry only three passengers, two of whom must stand on the floats at the front, with the third sitting on the wing behind the pilot

On the evening of March 28th, the Farman brother aeroplanes are 1-2:

1. Fischer – 87.6 points (Henri Farman)
2. Renaux – 74.2 points (Maurice Farman)
3. Paulhan – 68.1 points
4. Robinson – 57.9 points
5. Caudron – 51 points
6. Benoît – 42.4 points

On March 30, Renaux managed to fly with six people aboard the nacelle of his hydro – flying and turning. Fischer flies with four passengers hanging on to the floats. Benoît’s Sanchez-Besa hits a floating stump capsizing his plane.

1. Fischer – 99.85 points (Henri Farman)
2. Renaux – 88.2 points (Maurice Farman)
3. Paulhan – 77.2 points
4. Robinson – 64.9 points
5. Caudron – 58 points
6. Benoît – 50.3 points

The meeting in Monaco ends with the double victory for the Farman brothers and their two aeroplanes.

The flat floats (Fabre 1910 type) of the MF-3 work just as well as the long Tellier floats under the HF-11.

With 112 points, Fischer won the event; Renaux earned 98 points.

One thing the manufacturers and pilots learned was that by the end of the event, their propellers became damaged by the water and spray splashed up by their floats–all except for the Curtiss aeroplanes, as those planes had propellers protected by metal sheathing, a brilliant idea that was copied by competitors in the next contest at St. Malo.

Another problem manufacturers saw, was the carburetor getting wet from the spray of water lifted up by the floats, which caused the motors to burp and sometimes cause the old heart to come up into the mouth.

For all Gnome motors, the carburetor is placed within the protective cockpit, while Renault mounts it in the back and covers the carburetor with aluminum covers.

Specifications of the MF-3‘s hydro plane vs the MF-2 military plane of 1911:

Land (MF-2)
Water (MF-3)
Width 12.75 meters 15.52 meters
Length 12 meters 12 meters
Surface Area 50 square meters 60 square meters
Height 3.35 meters 3.5 meters
Weight (No Motor) 675 kilograms 675 kilograms
Motor V8 Renault 8B 70 HP V8 Renault 8B 70 HP
Propeller Chauviere 2.9 meters Chauviere 2.9 meters
Weight of Floats 180 kilograms 180 kilograms
Take-off Weight 825 kilograms 1125 kilograms

St-Malo August 1912
Organized from August 24-26, 1912 by the Aviation Committee of the Automobile-Club de France, it offers total prizes of 38,000 francs.

In this one, whomever has the lowest score, wins.

Henri Farman and his team do not participate… but Maurice Farman does, facing the problem of whether or not he should stick with the Renault V8 and its 70 horsepower, or go to a V12 pushing 100 horsepower… but because engine mounts and alter the fuselage, they decide to keep the atatus quo.

For the first time, a hydroplane with hull makes its appearance – but does not compete, because it’s not ready in time. It’s a Donnet-Lévêque monplane (also a first) using a Gnome Rototo 50 horsepower motor.

Competitors (except for Maurice Farman, have opted for stronger (and heavier motors), such as: the Gnome Lamda 7-cylinder, 80-horsepower motor; the Gnome 14-cylinder 100 horsepower rotary motor (on the Nieuport’s); and a Renault V12 air-cooled engine pushing 100 horsepower.

An Astra biplane piloted by René Labouret uses the Renault motor, with a carburetor that has filters to prevent water from entering the cylinders – a trick that everyone will eventually copy.

Anyhow, thanks to the weak motor, our man Renaux finishes last in the Maurice Farman MF-3.

It’s bad luck, as the French Navy placed orders for each type of hydro that won events within the St. Malo competition. Farman was shut out.

However, Belgium (in September) organizes an international hydro competition on the Thames River.

Still using the same hydroplane as at St. Malo, Renaux and the MF-3 are the only ones to complete the 300 kilometer circuit, because of the way the contest rules were structured, only manged to come in third.

Thanks to these hydro contests, and the successes of the pilots and manufacturers, governments around the world are thinking about the viability of having such craft as part of the military.

On March 20, 1912, France creates the Marine Aeronautical Service, whereby it needs to get pilots, planes, buildings – everything built from the ground up, with centers at Toulon and Saint-Raphaël.

It’s led by Lieutenant Hautefeuille, who sets up temporary headquarters at Montpellier, taking the service’s only plane–his own Farman HF-11 hydro–with him.

By 1913, the service has created five centers for naval aviation, with 40 pilots, and 30 aeroplanes.

As such, with France very much interested in hydro planes, the service takes particular interest in the second Monaco meet in 1913.

Monaco 1913

Number Pilot Plane Motor
1 Renaux Maurice Farman I Renault 120 hp
2 Fischer Henri Farman I Gnome 160 hp
3 Chevillard Henri Farman II Gnome 80 hp
4 Gaubert Maurice Farman II Renault 120 hp
5  X Nieuport I Gnome 100 hp
6  X Nieuport II Gnome 100 hp
7 Gaudart D’Artois I Gnome 100 hp
8 Beaumont D’Artois II Gnome 100 hp
9 Chemet Borel I Gnome 160 hp
10 Daucourt Borel II Gnome 100 hp
11 X Borel III Gnome 100 hp
12 Giraud Blériot Gnome 80 hp
13 Gilbert Morane-Saulnier Le Rhône 80 hp
14 De Montalent Breguet I Salmson 160 hp
15 X Breguet II Salmson 120 hp
16 X Breguet III Salmson 120 ch
17 X Bossi Gnome
18 X De Marçay Anzani 100 hp
19 Védrines Deperdussin I Gnome 160 hp
20 Janoir Deperdussin II Gnome 100 hp
21 Prévost Deperdussin III Gnome 100 hp
22 Laurens Deperdussin IV Gnome 100 hp
23 Vivienne Deperdussin V Gnome 100 hp
24 X Astra I Renault 120 hp
25 X Astra II Renault 120 ch
26 Fokker Fokker X

Source: L’Aérophile

The Farman brothers, for the most part seem confident in the new regulations imposed for the 2013 event, but are concerned that their heavy floats will severally constrain their efforts on one of the races, a 500km race without refueling, as they also have bigger fuel tanks, but that just makes the planes heavier and thus quicker at consuming fuel, not to mention the strain on the motor.

The event is a prestigious one for the manufacturing companies, and yet some are notably absent.

While Englishman Claude Grahame-White was simply too late with his entry of a Short Brothers plane, Paulhan-Curtiss, Caudron, Hanriot do not enter a plane.

For this year’s event, the Farman brothers have two new aircraft, the Henri Farman HF-19, and the Maurice Farman MF-7 hydro.

Henry Farman HF-19.jpg

I think this is the Henri Farman HF-19.


HF-19  MF-7 hydro (aka MF-8 ?)
Wing Span 19.7 meters 19 meters
Length 9.85 meters 9.75 meters
Surface Area 66 sq. m 288 sq. m
Steering Ailerons Ailerons
Empty Weight 650 kg 960 kg
Motor 14-clinder 160hp V12 120 hp
Propeller Chauvière 2.70 m Chauvière 2.90 m
Motor weight and accessories 200 kg 235 kg
Weight of Floats 190 kg 230 kg
Take-off Weight 1,250 kg 1,365 kg

For Maurice Farman, two MF-7 hydros are flown by Eugène Renaux and Louis Gaubert.

The span of the wing on the upper plane was raised from 19 to 20 meters; two 3.65 m long Tellier floats made at Farman in Billancourt and damped (springs in the landing gear leg) are mounted on each aircraft.

Five engines arrive from Billancourt: three Renault V12s of 120 hp and two Salmson 110 hp.

For Henri Farman, two new HF-19 two-seater machines are flown by veteran Jules Fischer, and relatively new Maurice Chevillard.

The span of the upper plane is increased to 19.70 meters, for load reasons. For the first time, a Henri Farman hydro uses a nacelle forming fuselage, which protects the rear-placed engine from water spray, with the carburetor at the end of crankshaft in the cockpit.

Five Gnome rotary engines are on the road, two new 1913 14-cyl 160 hp, two 1912 14-cylinder motors, and a new 7-cylinder 80 hp. The machines are mounted on two damped 5.20 m long floats (rubber bungee cord in the floats).

While other pilots have, by April 8 attempted to qualify, the Farman brothers wait until April 10 before Gaubert (Maurice Farman) and Fischer (Henri Farman) pass. Of the 23 pilots allowed to qualify, only seven actually do, as both Chevillard (Henri Farman) and Renaux (Maurice Farman) are eliminated.

The following list is published on the 11th:
1. Fischer (H Farman-Gnome 160 hp),
2. Gaubert (Farman-Salmson M 110 hp),
3. Weymann (Nieuport-Gnome 100 hp),
4. Espanet (Nieuport-Gnome 100 hp),
5. Brégi (Breguet-Salmson 200 hp),
6. Moineau (Breguet-Salmson 110 hp),
7. Prévost (Deperdussin-Gnome 100 hp).

When the start of the Monaco – Beaulieu – San-Remo – Monaco race on April 12, 1913 at 10 am, the winds cause three meter high waves.

But proving that they are all crazy buggers, they decide to try and fly anyways.

Fischer flies away; Gaubert has difficulties; Weymann who follows him tries to take support with his floats on the top of the waves; Espanet, who turns too short on a blade, bends the leg of his left float; Bregi helped by the 200 hp of his engine manages to take off; Moineau struggles; Prévost damages a propeller blade and returns.

With the winds still fierce in the air, Fischer lands his Farman on the water after 88 kilometers, but the wind catches the plane and throws the plane onto its wing while dumping the pilot… the plane sinks.

Weymann, Bregi and Gaubert seek shelter from the wind and stop flying. Moineau flies an astounding 176 kilometers per hour (probably helped by the winds) over a 44 kilometer span, but he lands and is unable to restart the motor thanks to a wet motor. Towed to the coast, his aircraft is capsized and tossed aground.

No competitor finishes the cruising race.

General Hirschauer, who is in charge of acquiring hydro planes for the new French military service, takes heart in the fact that despite being unable to complete the race, the planes (and the pilots) showed guts… and perhaps the real lesson is to not fly suicide missions when the weather is this bad.

Despite not having a winner for the Monaco event, organizers award 50,000 francs to Moineau, Fischer, Gaubert, Weymann and Bregi, with the remaining 25,000 francs offered for the 500km race that is scheduled to be flown on April 15.

However, Fischer, Weymann and Moineau could not get their hydro planes ready in time, meaning that the race is between four competitors: Gaubert (in the Maurice Farman); Bregi (in a Breguet): Espanet (in a Nieuport); and Prévost (in a Deperdussin).

No one is able to complete the race’s full 500 kilometer race.

Still, there are stories:

  • Prévost has engine failure after 30 kilometers;
  • Espanet stops after 190 kilometers in 3 hours and 11 minutes, after a tensioner breaks;
  • Bregi flies 250 kilometers in three hours and 33 minutes, but is forced out after a magneto stops working;
  • Gaubert, in the MF-7 hydro flies 270 kilometers in seven hours and 40 minutes – twice as long as Bregi, but only 10 kilometers farther. His plane suffers a seagull strike in the rear-mounted motor causing the fuel hose to break, and then the oil inlet hose. Setting down on the water, both Gaubert and his mechanic Aach work on the plane, with Aaach forced to use his mouth to suck the oil from the hose to get it where it needs to go. But, they land at 270 kilometers only when they are sure they have beaten Bregi, before giving up.

The same day sees pilot Louis Gaudart in his D’Artois aeroplane tragically hit the masts of boats at anchor in Monaco, dying in the accident.

The French military decides, however to postpone its decision of which hydro aeroplanes it should buy until later, in August of 1913 – but it is impressed.

Shortly after Monaco, the British Admiralty ordered several dozen Farman hydro planes, which are built by the Short Brothers in Great Britain, and are designated as the Short S26.

These planes are for training schools of marine pilots for future regiments of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

As strange as it seems, allowing the Short brothers to build their planes was a negative for the Farman brothers.

By the end of 1913, the Short Brothers created their S80 and S81 aeroplanes that were considered by the British as even better than what the Farman brothers had offered.

Deauville, August 1913
Hunh… apparently the Paris to Deauville air meet for sea planes from August 25-29, 1913 came under criticism from the press and locals as they were aghast that flying machines filled with gas could be allowed to fly over their expensive properties.

Was this a sign that the romantic age of flying was coming to an end?

Fifteen pilots fly in the competition, including Renaux in his Maurice Farman built aeroplane with a Renault motor spewing 120hp and Gaubert in another Maurice Farman with a 110 hp Salmson. These planes are MF-8’s.

Maurice Farman MF.8.jpg

Maurice Farman MF.8… I think.

Two types of hydro planes take part, the standard ones we have seen previously, and ones with folding wings.

The machines are identical to those of Monaco, except for the pontoons, which are now much lighter, with each weighing 50kg apiece.

The double plywood is replaced by plywood panels glued to wall forming pairs so water will not destabilize the plane. Also, new water-based glues (casein) and varnishes (cellulosic) make this lighter construction possible.

But, the aircraft are still heavy at around 1,400 kg, as they have added shock absorbers (rubber bungees on the outside of the float) at the front and rear.Other competitors only use rear shock absorbers.

The Deauville event includes: a 180-mile (360-km) offshore course to be completed in less than eight hours; a series of jumping and splashing in rough seas; a 250-mile sailing race; a speed race of 100 miles, and; an endurance event where the winner must go as far as possible without refueling.

On-board devices must prove that they can be launched in less than half an hour, including full, unfolding wings.

Results of the 100 mile race:

1. Moineau (Breguet) – 1 h 54 min (100 km / h);
2. Chemet (Borel) – 2 h 4 min;
3. Molla (Lévêque) – 5 h 24 min;

The result of the 250 mile race:
1. Molla (Lévêque) 5 h 24 min;
2. Renaux (Farman) 5 h 25 min (83 km / h);
3. Gaubert (Farman) 5 h 34 min.

In the takeoff test, Renaux finishes first tie with Gaubert:
1. Renaux, 7,500 francs;
1 ex Gaubert, 7,500 francs.

In the endurance race, the two Farmans travel more than 500 km and win:
1. Renaux, 27,000 francs;
1 ex Gaubert, 27,000 francs.

The French Navy ends up purchasing two Breguet (added to a squadron of five Nieuport ordered in May), and two Farman, two Nieuport, and others.

In September, the Spanish Ministry of War and Public Works organizes a water competition in San Sebastian. The Maurice Farman plan flown by Renaux wins a duration event (9,000 francs, one for total the number of flights (9,000 francs) and finishes second in a launch competition (1,000 francs). The effort has Spain purchasing  six Maurice Farman biplanes for its land and naval schools.

In October, the Italian Navy looks for hydros, and organizes a competition around its lakes. Henry Farman sends Fischer in a HF-19, and does well enough that the Navy purchases one.

In Germany and Russia, the national builders are asked to present their aeroplanes in competitions that are less about aviation and more about how they can be used in case of war, as each has already begun running its weapons factories at full speed.

By December of 1913, Henry Farman concludes that the hydro market is not for him and his brother, as other manufacturers are pulling ahead in development.

Maurice Farman MF.11

Maurice Farman MF.11

Instead, the company concentrates on its “land” aircraft, as they sell plenty: RFC regiments and R.N.A.S. in England (HF-11 and HF-20); Denmark buys MF-6 biplanes; Australia buys MF-7 and MF-11’s; Sweden (HF-26); Italy; Spain (MF-7); Serbia (HF-11),  Japan (MF-7); China ( HF-11);  and Norway (MF-22).

The HF-26, which debuts in January of 1914 has some 3,300 produced during the Great War (WWI) through 1916.

As for the non-seaplane version… it’s famous in its own right.

The HF.14 was used as a trainer during WWI, but mostly it was a recreational racing plane, with French pilot Maurice R. Chevillard actually becoming the first person to ever loop-de-loop a biplane on November 6, 1913.

Boston Herald, November 10, 1913
Several Loops In Aeroplane
Maurice Chevillard Gives an Astonishing Performance at Juvisy
JUVISY, France. Nov. 9—Maurice Chevillard, the aviator, made several complete aerial loops in a biplane this afternoon before 10,000 spectators. After giving a wonderful aerial acrobatic performance, he flew head downward and made five loops at a height of 3,500 feet, three of the consecutively.

Bismark Daily Tribune (North Dakota, November 19, 1913:
Record Air Acrobatics
Buc, France, Nov. 18—Maurice Chevillard, French aviator, established a new record for turning somersaults in the air carrying a passenger in his machine. He accomplished the aerial loop twice in brilliant fashion, going through the performance apparently with as much ease as if he was alone.

The Sun (New York), November 20, 1913 , a couple of weeks after his feat:
More that 1,000 women pleaded with the aviator Chevillard at Buc on Tuesday to be allowed to loop the loop when he performed that daring feat in his monoplane. Probably no woman would venture to try the trick herself; but to be at a man’s side when he does it, and to trust his skill and courage, that is another thing. It is a theme for psychologists and the “militants.”

That’s about all I could find on the hydro/sea planes manufactured by the Farman brothers Maurice and Henri.

I added in this last segment on the loops just because it was a first, not because it had anything to do with the hydro aircraft.

I tossed The Sun article in just so we could see just how sexist the newspapers were 100 years ago.


Posted in Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, Pilots, Races, Races & Contests, Seaplanes, Tobacco Card, WWI | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Capt. Oswald Boelcke

Lieutenant Oswald Boelckes.jpgHistory Behind The Card: Capt. Oswald Boelcke

Card #46, 1934 series, National Chicle Co., Sky Bird series

  • Captain Oswald Boelcke (originally Bölcke), May 19, 1891, Giebichenstein; near Halle (Saale), Germany – October 28, 1916, near Douai, France.

Oswald Boelcke was a German flying ace of the Great War (aka WWI), with 40 confirmed victories (you don’t have to kill the enemy pilot to get a “victory”).

While he is also considered to be the father of the German fighter air force, as well as the “Father of Air Fighting Tactics” by formalizing rules of air combat, he was also the combat teacher of the famous Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen (who I will be writing a feature piece on here shortly. No, really.)

The Cards Know Everything
A brief introduction to the National Chicle Co. first.

While tobacco cards were amongst the first product to utilize “trading” cards beginning in the 1880s, it ran out of steam in the 1920s. Just before that, chocolate candy companies had begun to insert collector cards.

The gum card collectable was only something that first came into being in 1933 when the American gum company Goudey Gum Company issued a set of baseball cards, with one card inserted into each package of gum. That company was begun by a Nova Scotia, Canadian businessman Enos Gordon Goudey who had worked for Beemans before starting up his company in 1919.

The 1933 Big League Chewing Gum bubble gum packs from Goudey were the first chewing gum company to issue baseball cards (a 240-card set) – something most of us grew up collecting, I’d bet… with Topps (in the U.S.), or, if you were in Canada, O-Pee-Chee. Us canuckleheads knew it was best to collect Topps baseball cards and O-Pee-Chee hockey cards… though my earliest baseball cards are all O-Pee-Chee… which I bet are a much rarer variant card (it comes with a bilingual English/French reverse) than the Topps version.

In 1933, the National Chicle Company began to issue baseball cards in its packs of gum, and also that year, began to offer a small set of 24 Sky Birds cards of famous aviators of the past and present (1933).

They re-issued the 24 cards in 1934, and then continued the series calling it a 108-card set.

According to, here’s what the series looks like:

  • Number of Cards: 108 images;
  • Series 1a – 24 cards marked “1933” cards;
  • Series 1b – 24 cards marked “1934” cards;
  • Series 2a – 108 cards with green ink text;
  • Series 2b – 108 (unconfirmed) cards with ”black or dark green” ink text;
  • Card Dimensions: 2-5/16 × 2-7/8 inches

Who Da Man?
Enough about that (for now), let’s take a look at the relatively short life of Germany’s WWI flying ace Oswald Boelcke.

Speaking of short, despite him being remembered as being somewhat larger-than-life, Boelcke stood only 5’7″. I know… who the heck cares.

The first thing we should know is that Boelcke appears to have been, by all accounts, a brave and honorable man… taking no pleasure in killing the enemy, but realized that in war, it was just part of the job.

It seems like quite the odd thing to say, when many people today still harbor a grudge against Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan of WWII, but during WWI, but the men flying the skies for both sides of WWI had a bit more gallantry about them.

The Early Years
Born the son of a schoolmaster whose first teaching job was in Argentina, Oswald’s three eldest siblings were all born in Buenos Aires. Oswald was the first to be born in Germany… in Giebichenstein.

Why they did this, I couldn’t tell you… but the family name IS spelled “Bölcke” but Oswald and brother Wilhelm decided to spell their name with the Latin spelling rather than the German way, without the umlaut…

Still a young boy, Oswald caught pertussis, better known as whopping cough, which really devastated him, destroying his stamina.

To build it up he played lots of sports, but asthma would hit him from time to time. Still, he loved swimming, tennis, rowing, and gymnastics. While he was good at athletics, he was even better at math and physics.

When he was 13, Oswald wrote a letter to the Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany’s Emperor), asking to grant him entrance to a military school.

The Kaiser said sure – but when informed, Oswald’s parents thought otherwise. Instead of Cadet School, Boelcke went to Herzog Friedrichs-Gymnasium, graduating in spring of 1911.

After leaving school Boelcke joined Telegraphen-Bataillon Nr. 3 in Koblenz as a Fahnenjunker (cadet officer) on March 15, 1911.

Captain Oswald Boelckess reverse.jpg

Baby Steps
In January 1912, he began attending Kriegsschule (Military School) in Metz, and as soon as school was over for the day, he would race out to watch the aeroplanes fly at a nearby field.

Graduating, his grades were generally pretty average… probably because he didn’t study owing to his constant observation of aeroplanes after school. Still, his leadership skills were considered “excellent”.

In July 1912, he graduated and was commissioned as an ensign. But, while at that school he had also taken his lieutenant’s exam, and received an officer commission in the Prussian Army a year later.

Since Boelcke had abitur (a qualification granted by a university-preparatory school), his commission was back-dated to August 23, 1910, making him senior to the other new lieutenants in his battalion.

He settled into a daily routine of training recruit telegraphers.

During 1913, he took advantage of a temporary posting to Metz to catch some flights with the 3rd Air Battalion.

In February 1914, he competed in the officer’s pentathlon, taking third place and qualifying for the 1916 Olympics that were scheduled to be held in Berlin, Germany, but the Olympics were canceled after The Great War (aka WWI broke out).


Oswald Boelcke signed fan card. On Wikipedia, photographed by Willi Sanke (direct link)

This War Was Great
I’m unsure why some men (sexist, but in this case, true) used to be anxious to go to war to prove their manliness… always ready to volunteer, even lying about their age just for the opportunity to get away from the humdrum of normal human life, but Boelcke appears to have been one of those people.

Perhaps because he was adept at taking the world’s temperature—to be fair, most of the globe was aware that a large, European war was brewing—Boelcke applied for a transfer to the Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches (aka the Flying Troops of the German Empire).

On May 29, 1914, Boelcke was accepted for pilot’s training, and starting his actual training a few days later on June 2 at the Halberstädter Fliegerschule (Halberstadt Flying School) for a six-week course.

He passed with flying colors (ha-ha) on August 15, 1914, and was then assigned to train 50 new pilots on an Aviatik B.I, a German two-seat reconnaissance biplane designed and built by the Automobil und Aviatik AG company.

Teaching others to fly must have been killing Boelcke, what with the war having started two weeks earlier, but by August 31, he sweet-talked his way onto the Feldflieger Abteilung 13 (Field Flyer Detachment 13), joining his older brother, Wilhelm, who was already stationed there.

As such, the next day on—September 1, 1914, Boelcke and Boelcke flew the first of many missions together… an uneventful one, this time.

By the end of 1914, Oswald Boelcke—the last to join the Field Flyer Detachment 13—had flown 42 missions, brother Wilhelm had flown 61, and the next man had 27… quite the drop off, which did cause some resentment toward the brothers.

If you were a flier in the early parts of 1915, it was a boring time, as the troops on both sides hunkered down… not too much actual ground combat, little recon needed, and no air support, as things became mired.

Oswald Boelcke even spent some time in the hospital with asthma, and after that, he and his brother were even allowed to go home for a short spell.

During this time, because the Boelcke brothers were considered to be so good, a new commanding officer wanted to split them up in order to share the wealth of their experience, but both refused to fly separately, and complained to the officer’s superior officer.

It doesn’t pay to buck command, as April of 1915 saw the brothers separated: Wilhelm went to Germany, while Oswald was posted to Feldflieger Abteilung 62 (Field Flyer Detachment 62, or FA 62) in Douai, France.

He was then sent to Kampfeinsitzerkommando Douai (Combat Single-Seater Command Douai, or KEK Douai) for May 19, 1915, immediately becoming the most experienced pilot in the unit.

It is also where he met and befriended Max Immelmann, the ace with 15 victories and the one they named the flying tactic, the Immelmann turn, after.

Immelmann is cool enough that I will write an article on him later. And Manfred von Richthofen. Really… but considering THIS article took 30 hours, it’ll be a while.

Push It Real Good
While the U.S. military had banned the use of pusher aeroplanes (motor mounted behind the pilot, with the propeller behind the motor) in 1912 after six American pilots died in separate flights, France continued to embrace the concept, figuring the pilot skills also played into things. The Wright Brothers first and subsequent aeroplanes were all pusher aircraft.

French firms Voisin, Nieuport, Farman and Weymann continued to build pusher aircraft… even conceiving of the single-seat fighter… a curious thing that made the German pilots… wary.

French pilot Roland Georges Garros placed deflector wedges on his propeller in an attempt to successfully fire a machine gun as a pilot, and when he and fellow pilots Eugène Gilbert, and Adolphe Pégoud scored their first aerial victories,a new type of aerial combat was initiated. Prior to this, pilots could have shot the crap out of their own propellers.

The French public ate up the romance of the lone pilot on flights taking down the enemy, with Germany following suit with its propaganda machine supplying press releases to newspapers and magazines, and even encourage printing of postcards and filming of popular aviators.

Fokker E.I Eindecker.jpg

Max Immelmann in his Fokker E.I Eindecker.

He’s Got One, I’ve Got One, Shouldn’t You Have One?
Now that the French had figured out how (crudely) to create a machine gun that fired between the aircraft’s propellers, Germany countered with the Fokker E.I Eindecker, a monoplane that had a forward-firing, air-cooled Parabellum machine gun slaved to a synchronizer that prevented bullets from accidentally hitting the Fokker’s propeller.

It was much better than what the enemy had—a British Lewis machine gun that needed to be reloaded after a total of 47 shots.

On May 20, 1915, German pilot Otto Parschau received the original Eindecker from Fokker, demonstrating it, and then training the best pilots in its use, such as: Boelcke, Immelmann, and Kurt Wintgens.

Apparently the wing warping technique for turning made it a difficult plane to fly.

Every Germany flying unit was assigned two Fokker E.I aircraft… but their use was restricted meaning they could only be flown when pilots were not flying reconnaissance missions in their two-seaters.

Basically, these aircraft were ahead of the game, and the Germans wanted to make sure the enemy didn’t get their hands on the technology to copy them. As such, they were only used in defensive flights over their own lines. If they went down, they would go down over German territory.

And then there was Boelcke.

Air-To-Air Combat

LVG_C1_trainer.jpgOn June 15 and 16, 1915, Boelcke (and his observer) flew a LVG C.I two-seater (trainer pictured above) that only had the rear gun (for the observer) to battle against British and French fliers.

It wasn’t until one month later in July of 1915 that Boelcke, Immelmann, Parschau and Wintgens actually began to fly the Fokker Eindecker in combat.

Because actual combat with a machine gun on the front was all new, the attack strategy was lacking, meaning they would all just fly headlong into the enemy and begin shooting.

Wintgens apparently shot down an enemy aircraft on July 1 with his Fokker, but since it fell behind French lines, it wasn’t verified (until after the war). The same thing happened on July 4. But he did claim two victories by month’s end.

But, in his LVG C.I, Boelcke and his observer shot down a similar reconnaissance aircraft… a prolonged shootout on July 4.

It was his only victory in a two-seater, as he flew the Eindecker from then on.

Immelmann had his first victory on August 1. He and Boelcke would often fly together.

On August 9, as Immelmann flew behind a French plane going for the kill, another French plane swooped in behind him, unaware that Boelcke was sweeping down behind him. Boelcke took care of that plane allowing Immelmann to battle his opponent mano-a-mano…. or is that planeo-a-pleano? I should learn Spanish.

After six victories, Pegoud was shot down and killed. Brit Lanoe Hawker also had six victories, but the press wasn’t playing it up. But Germany’s propaganda machine proudly noted that Wintgens = 5; Boelcke = 2; and Immelmann = 1.

Wer Ist Dein Papa? (Who’s Your Daddy?)
As the year progressed, the Fokker Eindecker was improved by its manufacturer, with an increase in horsepower, and even additional (second) machine gun mounted to the aircraft’s nose. Boelcke and Immelmann had two more victories each.

On September 22, 1915, Boelcke was transferred to Metz in northeast France where he joined the secretive Brieftauben-Abteilung-Metz (Pigeons department Metz) where it battled the French in an offensive strategy.

By November 1, after rolling up his sixth victory, Boelcke was the first German pilot to be awarded the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern (a dynastic order of knighthood of the House of Hohenzollern awarded to military commissioned officers and civilians of comparable status. Immelmann followed in his steps days later.

By mid-December, Boelcke was transferred back to FA 62 unit on December 12, where he was awarded the Prussian Lifesaving Medal for an act of heroism: in August he was watching some French locals fish from a high pier over a canal when he saw a teen boy fall into the water and sink Boelcke dove in and saved him.

When 1915 ended, Immelmann = 7 victories; Boelcke = 6; Wintgens = five, but this includes the two that would not be considered confirmed until after the war.
Hans-Joachim Buddecke = four (one unconfirmed).

On January 5, Boelcke shot down a British Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2 aeroplane… and after landing his own plane nearby, Boelcke went to check on the enemy pilot.

To his surprise, the pilot spoke some German, and both the pilot and his observer had heard of Boelcke.

After both were taken to a nearby hospital, Boelcke visited the observer bringing him some reading material… a simple thing that became a huge news item in Germany. Boelcke… to him, war didn’t mean having to hate your enemy.

After Boelcke and Immelman achieved their eight victories on January 12, 1916, they were awarded the Pour le Merit (aka the Blue Max), one of the highest honors in the Prussian state, now part of the German empire. See image below.

Blue Max medal.jpg

Winning this award got mention by American and British press, along with the German… they were famous nationally and internationally.

On March 11, Boelcke was given command of the newly formed Fliegerabteilung Sivry (Flying Detachment at Sivry, France), a squadron consisting of six fighters.

After placing a front line observation post to the Sivry airfield, Boelcke created the first-ever tactical air direction center.

On March 12, Boelcke became the first pilot to achieve 10 victories, and had another the next day… but Immelmann scored what might have been the first double-victory of the war, and tied up the count at 11.

When Boelcke shot down two enemy planes on May 21, 1918, the emperor disregarded army regulations prohibiting promotion to Hauptmann (Captain) until age 30, allowing Boelcke to be promoted as such a few days past his 26th birthday.

End Of The Battle
On June 18, 1916, after scoring his 17th victory, Immelmann was killed in battle by a British pilot… but because the German propaganda machine liked to believe that no enemy could kill their hero, they claimed Immelmann had been accidentally shot down by friendly fire.

After Immelmann’s funeral, and now at 18 victories, Kaiser Wilhelm II (the leader of the German Empire), grounded Boelcke to prevent anything bad from happening to him so soon after the country had just lost another icon.

Just before reporting the HQ on June 27, he shot down another enemy plane. 19.

While at HQ, Boelcke had nothing to do but talk… so he did… to the head of German military aviation, Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen, who was planning a reorganization of the German air service from the Fliegertruppe into the Luftstreitkräfte (Air Forces).

He, like Boelcke believed in having set military aviation tactics, and as such Boelcke wrote down his own tactics turning it into eight simple rules for aviation warfare… his Dicta Boelcke.

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

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.

I can think of a 9th rule that should be added: Do not lose sight of your own squadron’s aircraft. But we’ll come to that later.

If You Want Something Done Right…
Still on the Kaiser’s protection list, Boelcke was asked to tour the states friendly to Germany/Prussia, visiting the Balkans, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey… but in the 20 days since he began, by July 30 he discovered that Germany no longer had air superiority… it had been taken away by the French and British.

During his trip back to HQ, Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen sent him a telegram: “Return to west front as quickly as possible to organize and lead Jagdstaffel 2 on the Somme front.”

Creation of Jasta Boelcke
At this time, there were six squadrons of six pilots… but the planned seventh one was created by orders on August 10, 1916, to be built from the ground up.

This squadron, Jagdstaffel 2 (Fighter Squadron 2, or Jasta 2), was Oswald Boelcke’s to command and he was allowed to handpick any pilots he wanted for his new squadron, eventually having eight (including himself)

Among his new squad, he brought in Erwin Böhme and Otto Höhne, and Manfred von Richthofen, a young cavalry officer he had previously met.

There in Vélu Woods of France, they used four empty buildings vacated by a French group.

By August 27 had three officers and 64 other ranks on strength, but no aircraft.

Although the Jasta 2 had four aircraft by September 8, 1916, Böhme wanted to use his old castoff 1912 Halberstadt… just to get in the air.

While his squadron struggled into existence, Boelcke flew solo combat missions.

On September 2, 1916 when flying a Fokker D.III, Boelcke shot down British Captain R. E. Wilson for his 20th victory.

Wilson was unhurt, but was now a POW (prisoner of War), and yet on September 3, Boelcke had Wilson join him in the mess hall for a coffee… oh, and perhaps a photo-op:

Oswald Boelcke

Oswald Boelcke on the right shot down Robert Wilson (left), of the 32 Squadron Royal Flying Corps, and then invited him to sit down and have a coffee with him in September of 1916. Wilson was Boelckle’s 20th “kill”… it’s why they call them “victories”.

As new personnel continued to check in, facilities were built, and the squadron’s pilots trained, Boelcke drilled them in his tactics as they flew.

He taught the Jasta 2:

  • to pair as leader and wingman, spaced 60 meters (~197 feet) side-by-side to allow enough room for a safe  U-turn;
  • how to fly in formation to gain more power for attacks;
  • how to then split into pairs when attacking, even while his Dicta 8 differed;


On September 16, 1916 six new planes arrived for the Jasta 2: five Albatros D.I (Roman numeral I), and a prototype Albatros D.II (as in D.2), manufactured by German firm Albatros Flugzeugwerke.

Boelcke took the D.II, his squad shared the D.I.’s.

D.I or D.II, these Albatros aeroplanes were considered to be better fighter planes than anything anyone had ever flown, regardless of the side. Both were faster and climbed quicker to a higher ceiling.

D.I. Specifications

Fokker Albatross D.I.jpg

  • Crew: one pilot;
  • Length: 24 feet 3 inches (7.4 meters);
  • Wingspan: 27 feet 11 inches (8.5 meters);
  • Height: 9 feet 8 inches (2.95 meters);
  • Wing area: 246 square feet feet (22.9 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 1,426 pounds (647 kilograms);
  • Gross weight: 1,980 pounds (898 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Benz Bz.III six-cylinder water-cooled in-line piston engine, creating 150 horsepower;
  • Propellers: two-bladed wooden, fixed pitch;
  • Maximum speed: 109 miles per hour (175 kilometers per hour);
  • Endurance: 1.5 hours;
  • Service ceiling: 16,000 feet (5,000 meters;);
  • Rate of climb: 550 feet/minute (2.8 meters/second);
  • Guns: 1 × forward-firing synchronized 7.92 mm (0.312 in) lMG 08 machine gun.

D.II Specifications


  • Crew: one pilot;
  • Length: 23 feet 3.5 inches (7.40 meters);
  • Wingspan: 27 feet 11 inches (8.50 meters);
  • Height: 8 feet s inches (2.59 meters);
  • Wing area: 264 square feet (24.5 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 1,404 pounds (37 kilograms);
  • Loaded weight: 1,958 pounds (888 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Mercedes D.III six-cylinder inline engine, pushing out 160 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 110 miles per hour (175 kilometers per hour);
  • Endurance: 1.5 hours;
  • Service ceiling: 16,990 feet (5,180 meters);
  • Rate of climb: 596 feet/minute (3 meters/second);
  • Guns: 2 × forward-firing synchronized 7.92 mm (0.312 in) lMG 08 (early) or LMG 08/15 (later) machine guns.

These aircraft flew their first mission with the Jasta 2 on September 17, shooting down a total of five enemy aircraft, including Boelcke gaining his 27th victory.

Boelcke continued to train his squadron, now talking about how they would fly upcoming missions, and like a great leader, listened to his team’s input. He would then issue the mission orders before the flight and debrief each post flight. It’s how they all learned to be better pilots.

Boelcke had asthma… and the weather seemed to affect him when it was rainy… he had asthma since he was a child… but on September 22, it hit him hard enough where he couldn’t fly, wouldn’t go to the hospital, and handed temporary command to Oberleutnant ( highest lieutenant officer rank) Gunther Viehweger. He remained earth-bound until September 27.

How good was the Jasta 2?

For the month of September alone, it flew 186 sorties; 69 saw combat. The squadron had 25 total victories, with Boelcke himself achieving 10… even sitting out six days with asthma. The Jasta 2 only suffered four casualties that month.

Boelcke got his 30th victory on October 1, but rainy weather prevented flying until October 7.

On October 8, 1916,Lieutenant General Ernst von Hoeppner as new Chief of Field Aviation, distributed the Dicta Boelcke to the Germany Air Force.

For the month of October, Boelcke scored 11 victories, achieving number 40 on October 26. The Jasta 2‘s total for the month, including Boelcke’s was 26, with six casualties.

But Boelcke’s hot streak did not last.

All Good Things…
October 28, 1916, it was misty with a cloud layer.

Jasta 2 flew four missions in the morning, and two more later that afternoon.

It was on the sixth mission that a squadron of six Jasta 2, including Boelcke, spotted and attacked two British aeroplanes from  as well as another later in the day. On the sixth mission of the day, Boelcke and five of his pilots attacked a pair of British airplanes from No. XXIV Squadron of the British Royal Air Force.

Both Boelcke and Erwin Böhme chased the Airco DH.2 aeroplane flown by Captain Arthur Gerald Knight, while von Richthofen chased the other DH.2, piloted by Captain Alfred Edwin McKay.

With Richthofen firing at him from behind, McKay tried to get out of the way by crossing behind Knight, which cut off Boelcke and Böhme.

To avoid colliding with McKay, Boelcke and Böhme had to quickly pull their aircraft up, and because neither was aware where their fellow pilot was, Boelcke’s upper left wing hit the underframe of Böhme’s Albatross, causing the fabric on Boelcke’s wing to tear.

This caused the wing to lost lift and to spiral downward to crash into a German artillery battery near Bapaume, Northern France.

No one wore parachutes back then, and Boelcke for whatever reason was not wearing a crash helmet or his seatbelt… with the resulting crash fracturing his skull, killing him.

Böhme, upon flying home crashed his plane, and could not recall what had happened… but an inquiry into the fatality says he was not at fault.

At his funeral on October 31, 1916, many of his fellow pilots and German citizens sent wreathes–including one from British Captain Wilson and three POWs.

The ribbon on the wreathe stated: “The opponent we admired and esteemed so highly”.

Another wreath of British origin had been air dropped at the authorization of the Royal Flying Corps–it said: “To the memory of Captain Boelcke, our brave and chivalrous opponent.”

Oswald Boelcke is buried in the Ehrenfriedhof (Cemetery of Honor) in Dessau, Germany.

By order of the Kaiser Wilhelm II, Jagdstaffel 2 (Jasta 2) was renamed as Jagdstaffel Boelcke (Jasta Boelcke) on December 17, 1916.

At the time of his death, he had 40 victories, a total eventual surpassed by others, including his protege, von Richthofen, who led the way with 80 victories but still considered Boelcke to be the best pilot.

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Wills’s Aviation Card #80–”Short” Biplane.

Wills Aviation 80F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Short” Biplane.

Card #80 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1912, Vice Regal Mixture – Black-back issue

  • Horace Leonard Short on July 2, 1872 in Chilton Colliery, Durham, England, Great Britain – April 6, 1917 at Parsonage Farm, Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey, Great Britain;
  • Albert Eustace Short on June XX, 1875 in Chilton Colliery, Durham, England, Great Britain – April 8, in 1932 at Medway, Rochester, Kent, England, Great Britain;
  • Hugh Oswald Short in January 16, 1883  in Stanton by Dale, England, Great Britain – in December 4, 1969 at Gillham’s Farm, Lynchmere, West Sussex, England, Great Britain;
  • John Theodore Cuthbert (J.T.C.) Moore-Brabazon, 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara, born February 8, 1884 in London, England, Great Britain – May 17, 1964 in Longcross, Surrey, Great Britain;
  • Honourable Charles Stewart Rolls, born August 27, 1877 in London, England, Great Britain – July 12, 1910 in Southbourne, Bournemouth, England, Great Britain;
  • Sir Frederick Henry Royce, 1st Baronet of Seaton in the County of Rutland, born March 27, 1863 in Alwalton, Huntingdonshire, England, Great Britain – April 22, 1933 in West Wittering, Sussex, England, Great Britain.

I’m not sure what to do here. I pretty much covered the entire career of the Short Brothers very recently HERE. I even went back and fixed all the errors… a bad habit I sometimes get into when I feel I have to meet a deadline rather than ensuring the material is correct. Sorry.

From what I can tell, this Short Biplane is actually Short No. 2., and therefore the material for this tobacco card may as well relate to pilot J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon… the guy who owned it and flew it.

Moore-Brabazon Short No. 2.jpg

I’ll provide more of a biography of Moore-Brabazon here, however… and  a bit on Henry Royce and Charles Rolls… names which sound familiar for good reason.

Called “Brabs” by his friends, Moore-Brabazon was born in London England on February 8, 1884 to dad Lieutenant-Colonel John Arthur Henry Moore-Brabazon (1828–1908) and mom Emma Sophia Richards (died 1937).

Wills Aviation 80R.jpg

From the Wikipedia notes that I used regarding his mother, not much is known about her… the implications are: she’s not worth a write-up, and the lack of information on her is due to the fact that women were a second-class citizen in that era.

How stupid. I get that it was a man’s world… but still, thank goodness some things have evolved.

Moore-Brabazon was a smart guy – he got into Trinity College at Cambridge, but did not feel the need to graduate at sometime around 1902-1906. I’m guessing he was bored, and wanted to see all of the new technologies being ushered into the world at this time of the early 20th century…. such as the automobile.

While at Cambridge, he enjoyed tinkering with car motors after acquiring a Panhard two-cylinder, seven horsepower motor… as automobiles were becoming the latest big thing.

During the summer vacations while at Cambridge, he gleaned plenty  of knowledge by working as an unpaid mechanic for Charles Rolls.

When he finally dropped out (sorry, rich kids don’t drop out, they leave school to pursue other options), Moore-Brabazon became an apprentice mechanic the Darracq and Company Limited in Paris, a high-class automobile manufacturer at that time.

However, thanks to his summer employment with Charles Rolls, our boy eventually came back to London and worked with him as both mechanic and driver… but Moore-Brabazon soon became a hired driver thanks to his skills.

Rolls, of course, is one half of Rolls-Royce, the famed luxury automobile builder of the day, and today, I suppose.

In 1907 Moore-Brabazon won the Circuit des Ardennes in a Minerva, winning by 27 seconds. The Minerva was a classy Belgian automobile manufactured by Société Anonyme Minerva Motors.

As for the race itself, the Circuit des Ardennes was an auto race held annually at the Circuit de Bastogne, Bastogne, Belgium from 1902 to 1907. It was the first major auto race to run on a closed course instead of from one city to another. The race is basically the precursor to German Grand Prix.

It was around this time… late 1908, actually, that Moore-Brabazon took up flying, learning to do so while in France. He flew solo for the first time in a French Voisin biplane at Issy-les-Montineaux, Paris, France, in November, 1908.

At this time, the Voisin biplane he used was supposed to have been made and sold to Henri Farman… which got Farman ticked off at the Voisin brothers.

That snub caused Farman to go it alone, if you will, now designing and constructing his own planes… something he turned out to be quite good at… better than everyone else mentioned in this article… .

Anyhow, because Moore-Brabazon loved that Voisin, he brought it back with him to England. He named it The Bird of Passage.


The Bird of Passage Voisin biplane in 1909 as flown by Moore-Brabazon.

Moore-Brabazon, he became the first resident Englishman to make an officially recognized aeroplane flight in England on May 2, 1909, at Shellbeach on the Isle of Sheppey with flights of 450 feet, 600 feet, and 1,500 feet.

The key phrase there was “resident” Englishman.

Later in 1909, Moore-Brabazon sold his Bird of Passage Voisin biplane to Arthur Edward George, who had learned to fly in it at the Royal Aero Club‘s flying-ground at Shellbeach.

Needing a plane, Moore-Brabazon purchased a Short Brothers-built biplane based on a design by the Wright Brothers… this was the Short Biplane No. 2.

On October 30, 1909, he flew that biplane in a circular mile, and being the first ever to do so, won a 1,000 pound prize offered by the British Daily Mail newspaper.

A few days later on November 4, 1909, Moore-Brabazon in a joke, decided to prove that pigs could indeed fly.

He placed a piglet in a wasterpaper basket, and then tied the basket to a wing strut of the Short biplane No. 2, and then took it up for a flight.

This, it is believed to have been the very first heavier-than-air live cargo flight.


It seems to me that Moore-Brabazon should have a grin on his face for makin’ bacon fly. I have no idea what happened to the piglet after the flight, but surely it should have a name… gone on tour and made some farmer a very rich man.

On March 8, 1910, Moore-Brabazon became the first person to qualify as a pilot in the United Kingdom and was awarded Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate No. 1.


Wanna guess who was No. 2? Why his buddy Charles Rolls, who did it the same day as Morre-Brabzon.

Moore-Brabazon may have had the first vanity license plate, FLY 1.

As for Rolls… I can hardly say that his fame at being No. 2 was fleeting.

In 1903, Rolls helped create the (British) Royal Aero Club, and that same year he won the Gordon Bennett Gold Medal for carrying out the longest single flight in a balloon.

In May of 1904 Rolls met Henry Royce. Rolls was importing and selling Peugeot and Minerva cars via his C. S. Rolls & Co.

Royce and his company Royce Ltd. was making two-cylinder vehicles… and while Rolls preferred the bigger three- and four-cylinder cars, he really liked Royce’s car, and by December of 1904 the two agreed to a partnership called Rolls-Royce.

However, before the production of Rolls-Royce auto was even properly started, Rolls became increasingly interested in aviation and tried to persuade Royce to develop a design for an aeroplane engine – but Royce refused.

Rolls purchased a Wright Flyer in 1909, making over 200 flights.

In 1910, Rolls became the first person to make a non-stop double flight across the English Channel (and back again) for which he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club.

Unfortunately, Rolls died in an air crash at Bornemouth’s Hengistbury Airfield on July 12, 1912 – just four months after becoming certified.

The accident occurred during a flying display when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off in flight – he died on impact.

He was the first Briton to die in an aircraft accident.

After the death of his friend Rolls, Moore-Brabazon’s wife persuaded him to give up flying.

However, when the Great War broke out in 1914, Moore-Brabazon returned to flying, joining the Royal Flying Corps receiving a special-reserve commission as a second lieutenant (on probation) in the RFC.

Promoted to lieutenant on February 19, 191, he was appointed equipment officer on March 31, with the temporary rank of captain. On September 1, 1915 he was promoted to captain and then given a special temporary promotion to major on May 18, 1916.

Moore-Brabazon served on the Western Front (Belgium/France/Germany) where he played a key role in the development of aerial photography and reconnaissance.

On April 1, 1918, when the Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force, Moore-Brabazon was appointed as a staff officer (first class) and made a temporary lieutenant-colonel, promoted to the rank on January 1, 1919 in recognition of his wartime services, relinquishing his commission that year.

Moore-Brabazon finished the war with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

He was decorated with the Military Cross on January 1, 1917, and decorated as a Knight of the Légion d’honneur (National Order of the Legion of Honor) from France in February 1916. It is the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits.

No more flying for Moore-Brabazon, so… he became a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Chatham (1918–1929) and Wallasey (1931–1942) and served as a junior minister in the 1920s. In 1931 and 1932 he served as a member of the London County Council.

Since he couldn’t aviate any longer, and one can only politic for so long, Moore-Brabazon took up yachting. I had no idea that was a verb.

He was strongly opposed to war with Nazi Germany… and wanted Britain to avoid war.

Still, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew a smart man when he saw one, and appointed Moore-Brabzaon as Minister of Transport in October 1940. He then joined the Privy Council, becoming Minister of Aircraft Production in May 1941.

As the Minister of Transport he proposed the use of Airgraphs to reduce the weight and bulk of mails travelling between troops fighting in the Middle East and their families in the UK. The airgraph was invented in the 1930s by the Eastman Kodak Company in conjunction with Imperial Airways (now British Airways) and Pan-American Airways as a means of reducing the weight and bulk of mail carried by air. The airgraph forms, upon which the letter was written, were photographed and then sent as negatives on rolls of microfilm.

Moore-Brabzaon was forced to resign his wartime positions in early 1942 after stating he hoped that Germany and British ally USSR would destroy each other during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Now out of a job, Moore-Brabazon was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Brabazon of Tara, of Sandwich in the County of Kent, in April 1942.

In 1943 he chaired the Brabazon Committee which planned to develop the post-war British aircraft industry.

NPG x165436; John Moore-Brabazon, 1st Baron Brabazon of Tara by Walter Stoneman

Lord Brabazon of Tara in 1944.

He was involved in the production of the Bristol Brabazon, a giant airliner that first flew on September 4, 1949. It was then and still is the largest aeroplane built entirely in Britain.

A keen golfer, Moore-Brabazon was captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the governing body of golf, from 1952 to 1953.

Moore-Brabazon was president of the Royal Aero Club, president of the Royal Institution, chairman of the Air Registration Board, as well as the president of the Middlesex County Automobile Club from 1946 until his death in 1964. He was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1953.

Despite his limited aviation career as a pilot, Moore-Brabazon had quite the aviation career.

Moore-Brabazon is buried in Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire.


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