By the time the general populous heard of the Wright Brother’s and their fabulous new aeroplane, they had actually had five successful years to improve upon their original flight, and put in numerous years previous working out aerodynamics, power-to-weight ratios, how gliders worked and much, much more.
The fact that two brothers who owned a successful bicycle repair shop never thought to utilize wheels on their invention is a fascinating topic of discussion for another day… but the point is, they worked at their craft before success came their way.
In the field of aviation, the truly success pioneers had put in years and even decades thinking about the principles of flight and physics, though I suppose sometimes some guy sitting in his living room reading the newspaper exploits of these daring young men in their flying machines, and wondered “why not me?”
Unlike most of us, these brave thinkers went out and tried to build an aeroplane… sometimes they figured that if it looks like a bird, it should fly like a bird, realizing only afterwards that they should have used eagle feathers rather than feathers from the near-flightless chicken. I kid, but you know what I mean.
Others still figured that if the Wright Brothers Wright Flyer had two wings, then adding more should make it even more flyable. Uh… no.
Others… well… sometimes you just have to get the crazy ideas out of the way so you can concentrate on the good ones.
How else can we explain how monoplanes first flown in the very early days of heavier-than-air aviation, soon fell out of favor, but led the charge for air dominance in the late 1930s through nowadays.
Heck… back in the mid-1970s, delta-wing jets were the “it” thing, until someone realized that the wide triangle wing pattern made it easier to hit with bullets or missiles… and yet… as of the 2010s, stealth technology has made the delta wing an attractive look again.
Anyhow… sometimes a dud is a dud. Let’s take a look at a newspaper article published on December 5, 1909 of The Sunday News (Charleston, South Carolina), on Page 28.
As of this writing, I haven’t even read the article yet – just the headline – so let’s see if this article is a dud or a flying success (though I did notice alternate spellings for Whitehead/Whithead):
AIRSHIPS THAT DIDN’T FLY.
Wrecks At Morris Park Tell Of Disappointed Hopes
Flying Machine Business Precarious. Only One Inventor Out of Thirty Near Success—Two Return to Arkansas By Rail Instead of Airship.
“This airship and flying machine business is a precarious proposition,” declared an inventor at the old Morris Park race course, New York, as he viewed the remains of several wrecked fliers scattered about the lawn where members of the Aeronautic Society have workshops.
The most discouraging part of it all is that not one of these graveyard specimens have ever flown. Many a dream has gone astray in their construction, and it has been mostly sacrificed without gain.
Some of the inventors have risked the small fortunes on their flying machines, but the failure has not brought discouragement. There is hardly one to be found among them who would not be willing to try again. He is sure it would come out all right the next time. Every Wright or Bleriot success acts like a stimulant, and when one of those aerial dreamers hears of the formation of a $1,000,000 corporation he immediately gets busy with a new scheme.
Out of thirty or more inventors, only one has met with any degree of success. Dr. William Greene recently made a few short flights with a biplane. This success is said to have brought him capital and it is understood that he will be at the head of a factory for the production of aeroplanes.
The inventors are as varied in character as in ideas. On the colony of workers are two dentists, Dr. William Green and Dr. Henry Walden; a lawyer, R.F. Raiche; and actor, Charles Lawrence; a plumber, Pineus Brauner; and editor, Stanley Y. Beach; a patent medicine man, John A. Riggs; a consulting engineer, Wilbur R. Kimball; an Arkansas farmer, Joel T. Rice; a mechanician and young college graduate, C.J. Hendrickson.
When the workshops opened a year ago Mr. Kimball was the sole inventor on the ground. He had built a helicopter which gave great promise, but never made good. After several attempts to get into the air it went to smash.
Then Mr. Kimball constructed a biplane that eventually met the same fate. He is at present engaged in a third machine.
Stanley Y. Beach and Gustav Whitehead built an aeroplane with which they hoped to win the $500 prize offered by promotors of the aeronautic exhibition held at Arlington, N.J. It proved a perfectly good aeroplane with the exception that it failed to fly. Thereupon the inventors fell out.
Aeronaut Beach was convinced that the mistake was on making the machine a biplane. He insisted it should have been a monoplane. Aeronaut Whithead was satisfied that the whole trouble was that they had not built a triplane.
Aeronaut Beach took matters into his own hands, demolished the biplane and constructed a monoplane. When he had finished it, he looked about for the engine and found it missing. Then more trouble started.
His partner, disgusted, had seized the engine. The indignant Mr. Beach thereupon started legal proceedings to recover the engine. Mr. Whitehead vowed that he would never give it up until Mr. Beach consented to build a triplane. He kept his vow for a week, but then his resolution broke down. He sent for his former partner and told him he could have the engine and build a monoplane or any other kind of plane he wanted to.
The engine arrived, and Mr. Beach tried out his new scheme, and still his invention showed no birdlike tendency. It is housed at Morris Park, and occasionally, its inventor takes it out and runs it around the track on wheels.
Fred Schneider built a big white biplane which in appearance was much like the Wright machine, but in making a trial it was wrecked. The undamaged parts were kept, and the inventor is busy rebuilding it.
Morris Bokon constructed a triplane which never got off the ground, but with which he took the $500 prize at the Arlington aerial carnival for the best constructed aeroplane. Louis Adams, a manufacturer, took a hand at flying machine building. He turned out a contrivance that looked much like a butterfly, but it never exhibited flying qualities.
Mr. Henrickson, the college graduate, tried the bat scheme, but without success. A Mr. Rickman built a helicopter with thirty-two propellers, forming a sunflower shaped parachute. It’s skeleton hangs in the loft of the workshop.
Dr. Henry Walden made a double biplane in which he thought he had solved the problem of automatic equilibrium, but before he had demonstrated his theories a wind storm came along and demolished the machine.
Joel T. Rice and John A. Roggs spent the entire summer months working out the scheme of the largest dirigible ever built in this country. They had no more inflated the big 105-foot long envelope when a gust of wind blew over the tent and about $800 worth of gas went to waste. The inventors had planned to reach their Arkansas home by flight in their airship. After they had viewed the wreckage they decided that flying was a hazardous proposition and that the best way to get home was by rail.
In spite of the wreck heaps on the grounds a new crop of inventors has sprung up, and before spring the sheds will be filled with new flying apparatus.
– 30 –
A brief an amusing look at some of the trials and tribulations of the aviation pioneer.
What the heck is a “mechanician”? Never saw that term before, but I can work with it.
I would have been interested to learn whether or not Stanley Y. Beach gave the triplane idea a try to placate partner and engine-their Gustav Whitehead. He stole the engine! Brilliant!
I love that Morris Bokon won $500 for best-constructed aeroplane… even though the plane couldn’t fly. Remember, kiddies… it is better to look good than to feel good.
Say wha—a flying machine that looks like a butterfly? Yes… butterflies in nature certainly can fly… but if manufacturer Louis Adams had actually observed the flight of a butterfly, he would have seen that it floats like a drunk sailor atop the main deck during a typhoon – erratic and prone to being blown around by the wind.
I love that planes are being blown over by wind storms—I mean sad for them, but still… come one… tie those things down properly. How the heck did they loose all of that gas? What was it packaged in? Wicker baskets?
Of course… my favorite part of this article was the reason for me to have even found this article over at Readex, A Division of NewsBank – thanks!
Wills’s Card #49 shows an image of the Rickman Helicopter… as though this was going to be the next-best thing in aviation since someone thought it more prudent to place the motor in front of the pilot so the aviator scarf doesn’t get all tangled up in the rotors to cause that whole strangly-death thing.
I couldn’t find much information on just who this Rickman was, and whether or not he ever did anything else again.
I couldn’t find out where he was born, when he died… heck, I couldn’t even find out what his first name was!
When in doubt, old newspapers are an excellent source of vitamins and information.
The only newspaper article I was able to come across was the one presented above… meaning that unless some miracle occurs and some historical helicopter association I found on Facebook can help me over the next month, well… I’m afraid I’m going to present my shortest card biography on aviation ever. It’s Card #49, so we still have a ways to go… even though I have actually already written Cards #46, 47 and #48.
So… if anyone out there has some information on the man or woman who designed and built the Rickman Helicopter, lay it on me. Please and Thank-you.