By H.F. King
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Additional resources for Aeromarine Origins
Santos Dumont's new hydroplane some quite novel features are displayed. The "hull" is cigar-shaped, with very long points fore and aft, and is made in wood and aluminium with stiffening rings about every 2 ft; of fore and aft members there are only four, the whole framework being about 33 ft in length. Around the framework will be fitted an envelope of rubbered canvas, which will be firmly distended with compressed air. Forward, a plane 4 metres long will hold her trim, while aft another similar plane I t metres long will steady her.
Sir John himself called them skimmers, and considered the original to have been the surf-board. 'A single slab of wood, rounded at the edges,' he explained, 'is employed, and supports a man where huge waves form a sufficient slope to enable him, assisted by gravity, to attain the necessary start. ' Clearly here before us is the aquatic precursor of the 'gliders' of Lilienthal, Pilcher and the Wrights. Lacking propulsive power, man comrived to be 'assisted by gravity'. Other early commentators instanced the flat, richocheting stone, or the ability of a schoolboy to cross a stream of water on small, broken pieces of ice - if he stepped lively.
The original drawings (1877) of Sir John Thornycroft's air-cushion hulls. The craft of near-circular plan form is shown with a semi-immersed propeller. 80 The foregoing is a description of what is called today a plenum-chamber air-cushion vehicle. Two distinct forms of hull were shown in the patent drawings. One was 'practically a two-wedged ship, the after wedge being made in such a way as to retain the air'. S. Lightning, delivered in the year of the patent specification. Sir John described how he 'tried models intended to carry air under them in a hollow', continuing: 'This construction is favourable to high speed, for the angle of the surface rubbing on the water can be considerably reduced by the adoption of this plan, so reducing the resistance due to gravity on the incline.