WW I aviation photos

Calling Johnny L.A.; calling Broomstick:

Just stumbled across this Atlantic Monthly post of some rather spectacular photos from a time when men were men and airplanes were, er, flimsy bits of sticks and fabric. Note: a few dead bodies make their appearance here and there.

Fascinating pictures. I wonder what the cylinders are in the ‘holster strap’ on the side of the plane in picture #2? I’m guessing some grenades or marking flares.
Picture 24 was startling just because of the sheer size of the airship and 34 especially poignant as horseback calverymen watch the high tech biplane soar by.

My favorite is number nine, with the man-carrying kite. If ever there was a more graphic illustration that life was cheaper in those days…

Also, on more careful examination, it turns out that this is part 5 of a ten-part series on the Great War, running through June 29. More impressive (and in some cases, depressing) photos here:

The guy in the tail tip observation seat on that airship must have had one hell of a view. It would have been a lot of fun if it weren’t for that darn war.

(You know these threads are to me, as catnip is to cats, don’t you? :stuck_out_tongue: )

Nice! :slight_smile:

An interesting thing about many WWI airplanes: They had rotary engines. In later radial engines, the engine block was (is) mounted to the firewall. The pistons go up and down, turning the crankshaft to which the propeller is attached. In rotary engines, the crankshaft is fixed to the firewall and the cylinders rotate around it. That is, the crankshaft makes the pistons go up and down instead of the pistons making the crankshaft go round and round. The prop was attached to the engine block. All of that rotating mass and torque made some planes (notably the Sopwith Camel) difficult to fly. You can see that the entire engine is rotating in photo #30, of the Pfalz E.1.

FWIW, I’ve always wanted a full-scale SE.5 replica.


Johnny L.A.,
How’d they get gas to the rotary engine?

I’m mistified by the headgear in 7, I have this picture in my head of a hangar full of rows of mustachioed gunners hanging from the loop at the top of their helmets, ready to be sent to the front.

Flares almost certainly, no radios on those kites.

Nevermind the Camel!, the rotary engine mounted directly behind the pilot on the Airco DH.2 always gave me the chills, one noseover and they’ll be sending pilot smoothie back home.

I’m not an expert, but the linked article talks about fuel in this section.

It kind of sounds like the Cox .020 and .049 engines I used to play with, where I couldn’t see how the fuel got from the tank to they cylinder. :stuck_out_tongue:

If I may answer for him, fuel came in through the crank case, then out to the cylinders.

Depending on the rotation of the engine, the plane could turn one way very tight, but not tight at all the other way. For this reason, crashing at takeoff was a concern (the plane could easily rotate into the ground).

I LOVE WWI aviation. Pretty amazing the technology advancements that happened in just 4 years.

The fuel/air mixture was introduced through the crankshaft, into the crankcase, and up into the cylinders through sleeve valves, IIRC. That also guaranteed an identical mixture at every cylinder, promoting smooth running. Lubricating castor oil went in the same path too, like a modern two-stroke.

But a rotary, with its high inertia, could not change speeds easily, so to “throttle back” for landing required blipping the ignition to cut power. A rotary-powered plane on final sounds like its engine is failing, but it isn’t.

I’ve seen articles by test pilots who’ve flown a modern Camel reproduction that the gyro effect is real but not that big a deal. For an experienced test pilot, that’s probably true, but for a WWI kid it might not have been.

Which I understand had some deleterious effects on the pilots who breathed a constant castor oil fog on their flights.

Apparently it was a powerful laxative, in addition to covering their goggles. That’s part of what the silk scarf was for, to wipe them off. The other part was to keep their necks from chafing as they looked all over the sky for somebody trying to kill them.

I seem to recall stories of pilots who cut a hole in the seat and the fuselage below, and would then fly over the enemy trenches and cut loose…

In view of the laxative properties of the planes, now I’m picturing a gallant knight of the air, scarf streaming in the air… that on closer inspection is not silk, but toilet paper. :smiley:

This one. A manned machine flying past horses and sabers.

Love the shot over the Pyramids.

would they really be just riding along with armes d’épaule like that? Seems staged.

Well, photographs and selfies back then carried much more importance than now. They posed for the shot.

I think ducati has at least three.