JUST SEVEN YEARS after the Wright Brothers demonstrated controlled, heavier-than-air, powered flight, British aviator John Dunne designed and piloted his flying wing: The 1910 D.5 was a tailless swept-wing craft and had such inherent stability that it could fly with the pilot’s hands off its controls.
What’s more, Dunne wasn’t just a pioneer aviator. He was a philosopher too, the author of An Experiment With Time, a treatise on precognition, consciousness, and the concept of time. Here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow are tidbits on Dunne’s varied achievements as well as my GMax rendering of the Dunne D.5 for Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Dunne’s Aeronautical Expertise. After two stints of service in the South African Boer War, Lieutenant John William Dunne worked as a kite designer at the British government’s Balloon Factory, Farnborough, where he was a contemporary of another aviation pioneer, Samuel F. Cody.
Dunne’s speciality in aeronautic stability was undertaken in secrecy with camoflaged models, including some full-size ones. These flying wings, single or biplane, were swept back on an arrowhead platform. In Pioneer Aircraft 1903–14, Kenneth Munson described an earlier effort: “Dunne himself regarded the D.4 as ‘more of a hopper than a flier,’ and its best effort was a mere 120 ft. on 10 December 1908.”
Note, this was only five years, almost to the day, after the Wright Brothers’ epic flight traveled that same distance at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
A New Employer. Munson wrote, “In the spring of 1909, War Office support for aeroplane development was withdrawn, and Dunne left the Balloon Factory, taking the D.4 with him. His work continued under the aegis of the Blair Atholl Aeroplane Syndicate Ltd., formed in 1910 by the Marquis of Tullibardine (heir to the Duke of Atholl), and his next aeroplane, the D.5, was built at Leysdown for the Syndicate by the Short brothers.”
The Shorts were the first in the world to build production aircraft. Now part of Spirit AeroSystems, Short Brothers is the largest manufacturing concern in Northern Ireland.
The Dunne D.5. The D.5 first flew on March 11, 1910. Within a couple of months, it was demonstrating flights of more than two miles, some of them with a passenger accompanying the pilot.
The D.5 flying-wing biplane had a wingspan of 46 ft. and takeoff weight of 1550 lb. Its top speed was approximately 45 mph.
Tomorrow in Part 2, we continue our examination of Dunne’s flying wing and also his flights of a different fancy, into precognition, consciousness, and time. Heady topics, these. ds