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YESTERDAY, LT. COL. Victor W. Pagé’s ABC of Aviation: A Simplified Guide to Modern Aircraft touched on transoceanic airliners and flying fish. Today, Part 2 is equally deep and broadening.
Robot Flying. “Heretofore,” the Lt. Col. wrote, “the pilot has been obliged to remain at the controls, never able to leave his seat to manipulate satisfactorily his navigation instruments, maps or radio, or to relieve cramped and aching muscles. After many hours of flying under such circumstances, a landing even under good conditions may become extremely hazardous, for mental and physical reactions have been made sluggish from fatigue at the time when they should be at the highest pitch.”
Pagé continued, “With an automatic pilot, however, except for take-off and landing, the pilot is relieved of most of the physical labor of flying and this ‘robot’ is very good to supplement blind flying equipment on airliners and long distance bombing planes.”
He continued with a description of the Sperry Gyro-Hydraulic System, patented in 1939. “As with the mechanically operated automatic pilot,” Pagé noted, “the hydraulic arrangements may, if necessary, be overpowered by the human pilot in emergencies.”
I wonder what Pagé would have thought of current revelations concerning Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Both of these Boeing 737 MAX aircraft crashed shortly after take-off, with suspicion now pointing to a pitch sensor’s faulty reading evoking an automatic system’s non-overridable dive.
A Design Leads to Opera, Sort Of. Pagé devotes nine pages to Engineering and Research Corporation’s Ercoupe monoplane, first flown in 1937 and envisioned for awhile as the “Model T of airplanes.”
“Aim of the design,” Pagé wrote, “was a light-weight, low-cost plane particularly suitable for private flying, having good stability, ease in handing, and definite no-spin characteristics.”
“Control wheel in the cockpit,” Pagé described, “not only moves the ailerons but steers the nose wheel as well…. The linkage system is free of pulleys, making use of bell crank levers, push-pull tubes, straight cables, and Fafnir ball bearings at pins as shown in Fig. 280.”
A Fafnir bearing? The name likely honors Norse mythology’s Fáfnir, aka Fafner, one of the two giants in Wagner’s Ring Cycle. The Fafnir Company originated in 1911 in New Britain, Connecticut. It was founded by Howard S. Hart, who strove to produce U.S. bearings rivaling the reputation of those manufactured in Germany. Today, Fafnir is a division of Timken Company.
The operatic Fafner is also still alive and well, as described by Anna Russell.
It’s entertaining where 1943 aero books can lead. Thanks, Joe. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019