Skin and Bones
Who invented the monocoque fuselage, and when?
- Dr. Adolph Rohrbach, 1924
- Glenn Hammond Curtiss, 1918
- Igor Ivan Sikorsky, 1913
- Louis Béchereau, 1911
Answer: D. During the early years of aeronautics, when flight made the transition from being an art, then to an industry, and finally to a science, airplane construction took many forms. From the awkward kites of the earliest years, to trussed structures of a more streamlined design, form slowly evolved towards function as engineering principles from other disciplines were adapted to the construction of airplanes. In this type of construction, the fuselage of the plane consisted of a structure strong enough to bear the stresses of flight, reducing the need for external bracing. The monocoque design produced a streamlined aircraft that was lighter and created less drag. Glenn Curtiss did use a plywood monocoque construction in his 1918 Model CB, and Igor Sikorsky’s 1913 S-9 had a shell-like structure, also. The stressed metal skin stretched over a rib and spar framework, as in the DC-3, was popular in the 1930s. John Northrup’s Vega series of airplanes in the 1920’s were noted for their streamlined design. But the man who started it all was the young designer for Deperdussin, Louis Bechereau. My guess is that he simply did what many an inventor does: he saw a potential application of parallel knowledge from another discipline, in this case perhaps, structural engineering.
For starters, two things contribute to a structure’s strength: its material, and its shape. A given material can be be strong in compression, but weak in tension, yet due to its shape it can still offer protective value. In two dimensions, an outstanding example of this is the arch. In three dimensions, bird eggs and igloos are two examples. The beak of a feeble chick can easily break its tension-weak shell (mostly calcium carbonate, with a proteinaceous cuticle ) from the inside, yet if you tried to crush an egg by pushing in on opposite ends, you would need a force hundreds of times greater in order to do it. The trick to making a structure strong with a tension-weak material is to shape the structure so forces create compression and avoid tension. Concrete is comparatively tension-weak, yet as we can see anywhere we look, strong in compression. Metal, even a thin layer of it, offers the same properties. Bechereau’s 1911design helped usher in aviation’s Belle Epoque, won the Gordon Bennett Trophy in 1912, and became the first airplane to exceed 100 mph. (It also won again, in 1913).
This Is No Tale
Who invented the Flying Wing type aircraft?
- Howard Robard Hughes, Jr.
- no one individual can claim full credit
- Hugo Junkers
- John Knudsen Northrop
Answer: B. In a way, mother nature herself came up with the idea first. A number of plant seeds take this form in order to expedite a wider dispersal throughout their environment. The two papery, translucent membranous wings of the tropical liana seed, or the seeds of the tropical Asian climbing gourd (below) and others may have impressed early aviation pioneers. Although it is believed that Jack Northrup was the “father of the flying wing” (the XB-35 or its predecessor, the N-1M) in reality, he really wasn’t. Over three decades earlier, other designers had the same idea. One example of this was Hugo Junkers, in about 1910. Other examples of that era who are less familiar, such as René Arnoux and John William Dunne, also designed and flew flying wing airplanes. Even somewhat earlier were Igo Etrich and Franz Wels. More strikingly familiar were the 1930s designs of the brothers Walter and Reimar Horten.
The First In-flight Movie
The first regular in-flight motion pictures made their appearance in
Answer: A. Various airlines claim to have offered the first in-flight films. The first regularly scheduled in-flight movie made its debut on TWA’s Flight 40 from New York to San Francisco flight on July 19, 1961; it featured a sultry Lana Turner with Efram Zimbalist Jr. in “By Love Posessed”. (Incidentally, up to the early 1960s, most airlines used 8mm and 16mm films for their in-flight movies.) Before that, as early as 1948, Pan American World Airways advertised their movies “7000 feet above the Atlantic”. And back in the 1930’s, the in-flight entertainment was sometimes live, such as singers and musicians. But the “We Did It First” award goes to Deutsche Luft Hansa, which began showing single-reel (due to weight considerations) short films on April 6, 1925. They were silent films of course, which was just perfect for the noisy cabins of the day. Choice D, 1970, has no special significance (other than perhaps the year in which the terror-in-the-skies genre movie “Airport” was released…)
Also, on April 24, 1908, the first motion picture ever taken from an airplane occurred when Wilbur Wright brought a cinematographer aboard the Wright Flyer while he was in Italy. It shows what it was like to fly on the Flyer, starting with the launching, a climb, then leveling off and flying over the aerodrome. (Various sources also give the year as having been 1907, and also 1909.)