If a lake steamer had cruised by the beach opposite Miller's, Ind.
yesterday, the passengers would have had a good opportunity to see men flying through
the air, borne not exclusively on the wings of the wind but apparently sustained
by twelve gigantic white swans. Octave Chanute, No. 413 Huron Street, ex President
of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and three companions were practicing
aerial navigation with a Lilienthal aeroplane. Mr. Chanute, who is regarded as an
authority in aerodynamics, has closely followed the experiments of Otto Lilienthal
of Berlin, Germany, and he recently determined to duplicate them and go ahead on
the same lines, in the hope of evolving a machine which would be able to sustain
a man safely in the air and which would be under perfect control. Temporarily the
question of the motive power is out of consideration. Monday morning, Mr. Chanute,
A. M. Herring, William Paul and William Avery, all of Chicago, took an early Lake
Shore train for Miller's, thirty miles south of the city. The natives had their
curiosity highly excited by the enormous amount and queer shape of luggage of the
party. Mr. Chanute and his friends went to a little hotel and left their personal
belongings, but had their other things conveyed over to the beach, about one mile
east of the station.
Curiosity of Natives
Some of the natives could not resist the temptation to follow
and saw a tent erected under the protection of the highest of the hills near the
lake shore. Soon the other bundles were unwrapped and what looked for the world
like a three-mast schooner's rigging was erected with sails set, on the sand. The
natives waited patiently for the boat to be brought out, thinking a sail on the
lake was in prospect. A panic struck them when they saw Mr. Herring mount the odd
shaped affair and sail through the air. "Jess watch," tittered one of the natives,
"I'll be bound it won't be long afore he'll come down from the that 'ar high hoss."
Mr. Herring disappointed this prophet, and fulfilled every expectation of himself
and Mr. Chanute. He succeeded in floating quite a distance in the air. The wind
was not favorable, and the experiments were resumed yesterday. This time a number
of comparatively long rides were made by all the younger members of the party. Mr.
Herring sailed over eighty feet, measured horizontally, while falling only twenty
feet. This was in the face of the wind, as none of the experimenters are yet willing
to turn themselves loose before a breeze as stiff as that blowing yesterday in the
neighborhood of the lake.
Two Devices Are Used
Mr. Chanute has two machines, one very nearly like the Lilienthal
machine and another designed on different lines by himself. The Lilienthal machine
is in appearance like six pairs of birds superposed. It consists of twelve wings
of oiled nainsook silk stretched tightly over a spruce and willow frame. Each upper
pair of wings is connected with a lower pair by a . . . of the same material about
three feet long and a foot wide. The wings are a little less than seven feet long
and are in a measure diamond- shaped. The machine is about 15 feet long and 14 feet
wide, and weighs 32 pounds and has a spread of 180 square feet. It is curved about
as much as a birch canoe. Mr. Chanute's own machine which has not yet been fully
tested, is formed of two large wings stretched on curved spruce sticks eight feet
each way, with a fin nine feet long and four feet high. In the rear, and a kite
shaped tail hinged on. Its weight is also thirty-two pounds. It has a spread of
107 square feet, and is spoon shaped, being nineteen feet from the tip to tip. It
will be tried today if the wind is not too unfavorable.
Lilienthal Machine's Test
The Lilienthal machine is apparently easy to operate. It was carried
yesterday to the brow of the smooth, sandy hill and Mr. Herring, who had the most
experience of any of Mr. Chanute's assistants in work of this kind, placed his arms
over the two parallel bars made for the purpose, and while the others balanced it
in the air started on a run down the steep slope. Within ten yards Mr. Herring's
feet were lifted off the ground and he went sailing over the valley. With every
gust of the wind, he would have to shift his weight to keep the machine going straight.
The greatest difficulty is right there. The wind shifts so suddenly at times that
no one can move fast enough to keep up with it. On this account both Mr. Herring
and the others who essayed the wings of Pegasus came to grief. However, they met
with no harm, as the machine always fulls right side up and descends quite gradually.
On the Plan of a Kite
A small model with a spread of 7.2 square feet was also operated.
It was sailed as a kite without a tail. There isn't a small boy in the country that
would not be proud to own a kite like this, for it can be made to rise from a valley
while the operator stands on a hill. Mr. Chanute was desirous of making the experiment
without the knowledge of the press and sought Miller's on that account. "The trouble
with most men that have experimented on this subject is that they have bitten off
too much at once," he said. "This is only one phase of the subject. After a man
is able to guide and control a machine in the air, it may, perhaps be found less
difficult than has been feared to secure a motor that will not consume too much
fuel for its lifting power." Lilienthal's experiments began in 1888 and have been
continued ever since. Some of his machines have found their way to almost every
country in Europe and to the United States, but few except the inventor have been
able to master the problems of their manipulation.