address delivered by Max Stupar
At the meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers
and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
Wednesday evening, March 11th
expresses their enjoyment of one of his sallies.
Collection of LaVerne Erhardt
I want to speak of the early days of Aviation --by that I mean the time between 1905 and 1915,
although intelligent experimentation in aeronautics was conducted as early as 1859. Even as far back as the 16th century, we have the
case of a man attempting to fly from Scotland to France. This young man climbed to the top of a castle wall in Scotland for his take-off.
He landed in a manure pile at the base of the wall and explained his failure by saying that he had used chicken feathers in the
construction of his wings which were attracted to the manure pile, whereas had he used eagle feathers they would have been attracted
to the air and his flight would have been successful. This is the first recorded alibi as to why a flying machine didn't work.
I became interested in the possibility of mechanical flight in 1905. I had been playing around with kites for about four years and as a result developed a peculiar type of kite. This kite had a forward surface about one foot cord by three feet span and after an interval, another surface about 30 inches span and about 15 inches cord and of more or less triangular shape. Along the top there was a vertical fin running the full length. With this kite I was able to lift weights of ten pounds, while the string by which guided it was only good for four pounds. All early experiments were made on the ornithopter principle, -that is flight by means of flapping wings. About 1905, the helicopter principle was developed, -that is the principle by which the lift is secured by vertically acting propellers. In both of these principles it is necessary to lift the whole dead weight of the machine and cargo. From my kite experiments I could see the possibility of carrying weights considerable in excess of the propulsive forces, so I started from there. I made all kinds of models with various means of propulsion. I used whale bone bows pulling on a string wrapped around the propeller shaft. I used spring motors and later I used rubber bands for power. I made all kinds of propellers. I used feathers from chicken wings for propeller blades in one case. In others I tried to copy bird's wings and in another case I modeled my propeller blades after dragon flies' wings. In some models I used two propeller, in others I used on very large one. I also used various means of launching. One way was to suspend the model by springs from a trolley running on a tightly stretched piano wire. By suitable calibration I was able to determine what proportion to the dead weight of the model was being lifted. I used this method in the case of spring-driven motors since the power plant was too heavy for the model to actually fly. The rubber band driven models I tested in free flight. By this time I decided that I had arrived at a point where I was ready to build a full-scale machine. This was the time when dirigible flying was so popular. Every dirigible required a power plant. Glenn Curtiss was one of the manufacturers of power plants for dirigibles. At that time I only knew Glenn Curtiss as a motorcycle racer and builder of motorcycles. The power plant I speak of consisted of a 2-cylinder 12 H.P. motorcycle engine equipped with a power shaft geared down to 450 R.P.M. One end of this shaft was arranged for connection to the propeller shaft of the dirigible and the other carried a fly wheel built up like a bicycle wheel except that the rim was a one quarter inch by one inch steel ring. Tin vanes were also soldered to the spokes to direct a current of cooling air on the cylinders. I secured one of these power plants for my contraption. Unfortunately, or should I say fortunately, this machine was wrecked by a wind storm before I could give it a proper trial. That wind storm probably saved my life because this machine did not have any provision for lateral control and I am sure would have been very unstable fore and aft.
I had noticed for a long time that many birds were able to soar for considerable distances without any apparent movement of their wings. I reasoned that there was something in the peculiar shape or cross section of the wing which enabled them to do this. I knew from my previous experiments that a flat plane of the same area could never suppoort that weight. So, I proceeded to collect all sorts of birds' wings,-anything from sparrows' wings to ducks' wings, gulls and buzzards' wings . I would prepare a shallow box of sujitable size for each wing. I would spread and fasten the wing in this box in as nearly a flying attitude as possiber. Then I would pour melted paraffin around it so as to cast it into a block. By cutting through this block I could study the cross section of the wing. Whatever the size of the birds wing I would cut into ten equal parts so as to give me the cross section at each 10% of the semi-span. Then I would plot these all to the same size so I cold directly compare them with each other. As a result I found that there was a distinct difference between the wings of birds which flew by flapping and those that did a lot of soaring. The flapping bird's had a wing cross section of a curvature more nearly approximating the arc of a circle, whereas the soaring birds had a cross section more nearly approaching a parabola.
At that time I heard of Octave Chanute's experments at Dune Park. Dune Park is a sand hill region
between the present city of Gary and Michigan City, Indiana. It is at the south end of Lake Michigan. This as long before there was any
city of Gary. That area at that time consised of low sand hills covered with oak scrub and willows. Octave Chanute experimented with all
kinds of gliders but his bi-plane glider was the most satisfactory and was the one which the Wright Bothers later on developed into the
first Wright airplane. I could recognize the value of the bi-plane principle in inherent rigidity so I started building gliders on the bi-plane
principle. However, I still believed that there was someting inherent in the plan form and cross section or a bird's wing which was
important. So on my gliders I had wings of the plan form of a bird. The upper and lower wings were spaced four feet apart. In the middle
of the lower wing there wa as space into which I could crawl. There were two parallel rails, 12 inches apart. These would fit up into my
arm pits. There was also a rope stirrup around the back of my neck and down in front over the shoulders to these rails to keep the rails
anchored tightly under my arm pits. I could grip the rails with my hands and by holding on to the front beam with my hands I could slide my
body back and forth so as to change the center of gravity and thus cause an upward or downward attitude. There was a vertical and
horizontal tail but they were fixed.
After the early preliminary experiments I found that some sort of lateral control was necessary. I also noticed that all birds had flexible wing tips and that they use them frequently to correct any lateral unbalance. So, I made my wing tips flexible. This lateral control was operated form what might be called an inverted control stkick. Wire came from the tips to this control stick. I would fasten a belt around my waist which had a ring in the back and I would slip this ring over the free end of the control stick . Then my hody hanging from my army pits as a pendulum would operate the lateral control and warp the wing tips as necessary
My first attempts were from low elevations such as barns but this was not satisfactory at all, and I decided that I would have to start from a higher altitude. I selected a house owned by my parents which favced the prevailing winds and in front of which there was considerable open space. I would climb to the top of this house with my glider and perch on the dridge. *I would adjust the angle of incidence to the air currents as necessary and wait until the wind steadied down to a satisfactory condition. Then I wold run down the slope of the roof and out into space. In some of these flights I gained a distance of about 100 to 200 feet from an altitude of 40 feet. Others, however, were not so successful. Whenever I made any of these, what you might call, forced landings, either one side or the other of the glider would come down first and the structure was just stiff enough to cushion my fall. I would get up out of the mess of wires, cloth and broken sticks, spit the sand out of my mouth and I was all right. Although I suffered scratches and other bruises, I never really got hurt. After a while I found that this was no good either. The turbulent currents at the eaves of a roof wold not permit any consistent analysis of the results. I could not depend on duplicating any flight so I decided to try Dune Park. The conditions there were ...but my hopes of going the first man to invent a flying machine were dashed because by this time the Wright Brothers, Curtiss and others had already made successful flights. Santos Dumont in his second plane which he called the "Demoiselle" had made a flight of 13 miles from St. Cyr to Paris. This flight was very much publicized and Santos Dumont very generously offered his invention to the world.
I decided at that stage that I could not be the first one to invent a flying machine, I could at least outdo them. So I started the Stupar Aero Works in South Chicago. I advertised in "Popular Mechanics" that I was in a position to furnish drawings or parts of a Demoiselle and that I could supply the complete airplane. I sold seven complete Demoisselles besides many parts and drawings. I also started a line of various special aircraft material, - turn buckles, steering wheels, landing wheels, fitting, cloth, etc. I put on the mkrket a line of my propellers that I advertised under the trademark of "Craftsman" One of these is now at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. I also sold all kinds of model supplies, rubber bands, small propellers, etc. Mr. Hathorne was one of my early customers. He came in one day from Mason City, Iowa to buy some supplies.
One day a Mr. Frey came into my place. He was employed as an engineer by the Stromberg Carburetor Co. of Chicago. He said that he and his wife were building a balloon. He said they could do all the sewing and make the net, etc. but they were unable to make the basket, the gas valve and the other various gadgets required around the ballon and wanted to know if I could make them. Of course, that was what I was in business for and after he explained what he wanted I proceeded to make the parts. I don't know whether any of you people knon what a balloon gas valve is like. A balloon gas valve consists of a wooden ring 15" to 18" in diameter with a cross bar across the center. To this bar are hung two semi-circular flaps covered with felt which are held up by means of rubber bands to close up the two openings, ropes are attached to the ends of the two flaps so that the aeronaut by pulling on the rope can hold the valve open and let the gas escape. After the rope is released, the rubber bands again tightly close the openings. The balloon was taken to Cicero Field, west of Chicago. When the balloon was ready he invited me to come along with him. I had never been up in a ballon before so I was very elated at the opportunity to get a free ride. I climbed in and after the preliminaries of weighing off, we started to rise. For the benefit fo those in the audience who are not familiar with the procedured of weighing off, it is as follows; Contrary to the general conception, you dont throw bags full of sand out of a balloon . If you did , you would go up like a skyrocket. You very carefully unload enough sand by the handsful and dribble it over the side of the basket until the balloon starts leaving the ground. The balloon first rises very slowly but quickly gathers speed. Very soon we were up to an altitude of 6000 feet. It was a beautiful day in June and the sight was really glorious. We drifted in a northeasterly direction toward Lake Michigan. I mentioned to Mr. Frey, "you know, this is the first time I have ever been up in a ballon." He said, "It is my first time, too." I certainly was surprised. He had talked so learnedly about every phase of ballooning that I thought he was an old aeronaut. He got all his information by reading books. Although , as it turned out, he learned his lesson very well, I must confess that I did feel a little bit nervous when we were getting very close to Lake Michigan. It looked like it was almost under our feet but he valved gas cautiously and soon we made a normal landing. There was no particular incident about this flight and even though the man had never handled a balloon before, he handled it like a veteran.
All you people are using technical aeronautical terms every day but I wonder how many stop to think that 40 years ago none of these terms were in existence; the word "hangar," for instance. In the early days most exhibition flying was done at county fairs. There was no proper place to house an airplane. It was necessary at that time to have some portable housing means such as a tent, but the ordinary type of tent had too small openings So finally, a type of tent was put on the market patterned after the main tent used by Arabs for centuries as a general meeting place for the tribe. These tents were called "hangars" and were well adapted to hoouse an airplane. Later on when more permanent structures were built to house airplanes they also were called "hangars" and they are called that to this day.
And then there is the word "dope" In the early days, airplane wings were most commonly covered with muslin treated with a solution of glue and alum. Some builders used rubberized cloth which was designed as balloon cloth. Others used a prepared cloth developed for use as a dress shield for ladies' garments. All of these had their serious objections The glue and alum dope cloth absorbed moisture on damp days and sagged. In rainy weather it would absorb so much water that it swelled and from time to tjme you couldn't get the airplane off on account of the heavy weight. The rubberized cloth would loosen up when heated by the sun. Then a man in France put on the market a material he called "Emailite." It was the color of orange shellac and smelled very strongly of horse radish. That was the forerunner of our present cellous base dopes. Nobody could remember the word "Emailite" so they smiply called it dope and dope it stayed to the present day.
Most of you, no doubt, will be surprised to hear that the word "haywire" really originated in the aviation business. Farnham Fish was an early Wright exhibition flier. He lived in Milwaukee. Those of you familiar with the early Wright airplane will remember that the airplane rests on two long skids and is supported by a multitude of sticks. The struts also seem very unsubstantial. In those days a large proportion of all landings were not in the place intended and they resulted in the breaking of many of these supporting sticks. Farnham Fish learned that back of every farmer's barn was a pile of haywire. Whenever he had one of these bad landings he would make for the nearest farmer's barn and get a supply of haywire and on the way back split pieces off of fence posts or small tree branches to use as splints. With these he would make the repairs to his airplane and wrap them tightly with the haywire. Every time he came back from an exhibition tour his airplane was full of these haywire repairs . They nicknamed him "Haywire Fish" and later on everybody started calling any kind of a makeshift repair, "haywire" and to this day when we want to talk about something that is not as it should be, we say it is haywire.
My throat is getting pretty raw and I would beg the audience to excuse me at this time, but one thing I would still like to say. many persons have asked me what kind of people these early fliers wre. They said that they must have had a lot of nerve to go up in the flimsy crates which were bad at that time. Well, I can't really agree that they were nervy fellows. They were no different than the pople I know now, but there was something about the flying game at that time which when a man once got into it, he was powerless to leave. It was just like feeding a tiger raw meat the first time.-he was never the same after that. Some of these men didn't live very long but I am sure that they all lived more in their short span of life than many persons who live to a ripe old age.
|Editor's Note: "The preceeding is a complete text of the address delivered by Max Stupar, Bell's Production Coordinator, before a joint dinner meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, held in the Trap & Field Club, Wednesday evening, March 11th. We print it in full because we feel that it is an historical document on the progress of American aviation. Its sparkling humor and human interest, will, we believe, strike a responsive chord with Bellringer readers."|