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AVIATION ENTERED World War I as almost a curiosity, balloons and fledgling aeroplanes used for observation and little more. Within five years, 1914-1918, aircraft became deadly weapons bringing warfare to the sky. A recent publication gives superb details of this evolution.
The British magazine Aeroplane occasionally offers Special Archives, softcover editions that are beyond mere magazines.
This large-format 98-page collection has rare photographs, color profiles and fascinating cutaways of 24 aircraft seeing action in WWI.
The expected aeroplanes are here, for example, the Fokker Dr.I Triplane, SPAD XIII and Sopwith Camel. But also detailed are less familiar craft such as the Bristol M.1 Monoplane Scout, the Caudron G.3 and Hanriot HD.1.
The French Caudron G.3 is exemplary of early observation aircraft. As war progressed and even afterward, it was also widely used as a trainer.
I appreciate the Caudron’s minimalist approach to aeronautical engineering; only the essentials are here, and then sparingly. Long-time readers of SimanaitisSays may recall an artful rendering of this aeroplane at http://wp.me/p2ETap-Ki.
The Fokker D.VII fighter came late in the war, its first flight in January 1918. An important asset was the D.VII’s structural integrity sufficient to withstand its high maneuverability. (Early craft were known to disintegrate in extreme maneuvers.)
Also discussed in Aviation Archive is a WWI engineering competition between the water-cooled inline powerplant versus the air-cooled rotary variety. The latter’s crankshaft was fixed to the airframe, its cylinders rotating with the propeller.
Rotary advantages included good ratios of power-to-weight and size-to-power. A tradeoff was the spinning engine’s gyroscopic effect on the aircraft’s behavior. (See http://wp.me/p2ETap-1H9.)
Last, should you ever find yourself needing to fieldstrip a Lewis machine gun, a two-page spread in this Aeroplane Special offers a start. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014