Simanaitis Says

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YESTERDAY IN PART 1, Major Victor W. Pagé, Air Corps Reserve, U.S.A., started bringing us up to date on aeronautics in 1928. Today in Part 2, he continues with details of construction, power, control, and instrumentation.

Everybody’s Aviation Guide, by Major Victor W. Pagé, Norman W. Henley Publishing, 1928. This and other images from Everybody’s Aviation Guide.

Why is wood still used in airplanes? “Wood … is a cheap, strong, and easily obtainable structural material that is ideal for experimental and development work, because it is so easily worked with simple tools…. When types and designs change rapidly, wood is a good material for airplane framing. When aeroplanes can be produced in quantities as are motor cars, then metal machines will be justified on the cost basis alone.”

The Curtiss J.N. 4 “Jenny” was the iconic biplane of the 1920s.

What are the principal parts of an aërial engine? “The cylinders in which the explosions take place carry valves at the head end to admit the gas before ignition and expel it after burning, and a piston provided with packing rings works up and down in the smoothly bored cylinder. The pistons are joined to a crankshaft which converts reciprocating motion to rotary motion by connecting rods hinged at both ends.… The aërial screw or propeller is driven from the crankshaft, either by direct mounting or by gearing.”

The Liberty L-12 was a water-cooled 45-degree V-12 aircraft engine displacing 27 liters and producing 400 hp.

Why is an airplane “banked” in turning? “To prevent side slip or ‘skidding’ when making a turn at speed, an airplane is banked so its position corresponds to that of a racing automobile on a curve of a banked speedway. This banking is necessary to counteract centrifugal force, which would tend to throw off the plane on a tangent to the circumference of the curve it was making.”

Pagé borrowed this control schematic from The Curtiss Standard JN4-D Military Tractor Hand Book, 1918.

What is the earth inductor compass? “This is one of the most important aids to airplane navigation yet invented and is much superior to the magnetic compass, which has an erratic action in airplanes. The earth inductor compass comprises a generator driven by a windmill or anemometer, the field of the generator being the earth’s magnetic lines of force. A controller is provided by which the pilot sets his course. Any deviation to the right or left is shown by a swinging needle in the indicator mounted ahead of the pilot.”

Major Pagé notes that “these instruments contributed materially to Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight by aiding navigation.”

Is flying safe? “Yes, ordinary flying is safer than any other means of transportation in proportion to mileage covered…. To what are most aviation accidents attributed? To stunt and test flying, not to structural defects of planes or motors.”

Thanks, Major Pagé. I’ll keep this in mind in my virtual Microsoft Flight Simulator adventures. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

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