No. 38.—A Simple Aeroplane.
IT WAS NOT long ago by geological measurements that my friend Ned and I found ourselves drawn to a small lake in the upper part of the state of West Virginia. The hither shore was easily approached through an open woodland terminating in a verdant and gentle slope to the water; but the far side was lined with sheer rock cliffs, at the top of which we could see delightful green forests, which, we persuaded ourselves, must be inhabited by nymphs, and unicorns, and all the other delightful creatures of classical mythology with which a diligent attention to our education had filled our youthful fancies.
We could see no safe ascent from the shore up the stony faces of the cliffs, so that even a small homemade boat, which we had learned to construct as early as Section No. 23 from a few discarded soup cans and the dental floss which Ned’s mother always insisted that he carry in the pocket of his jodhpurs, would be of no avail in conveying us to that enchanted forest at the top of the cliffs.
How we longed for an aeroplane! But there was, alas, no aeroplane to be found, as a quick but thorough search of the hither shore of the lake revealed to us. Nevertheless, we swore a solemn juvenile oath that we should not allow another day to pass without seeing what was at the top of those rocky eminences which seemed to taunt us with their inaccessibility.
The sun had scarcely risen on a new day when we were already hard at work with axe and hatchet, felling the saplings with which we proposed to construct our simple aeroplane. To build the “fuselage,” which was what the central body of an aeroplane was called in those days, we simply tied a number of the straighter saplings together with some sturdy vines, which grew in great profusion among the woodlands bordering the lake. The wings presented more of a challenge, as we deemed a more or less flat surface desirable; but we soon found that sycamore bark, which could easily be peeled off the trees that grew almost up to the shore of the lake, made an excellent covering for a wing constructed of half a dozen light saplings lashed side by side after the manner of a small river raft. More sycamore bark was used to make the ailerons, which were controlled from the front seat by vine ropes arranged as simple pulleys; and a rudder of the same material was added, controlled by another vine pulley from the rear seat.
All that remained to be supplied was some means of motive power. Fortunately there was a boat ramp with a small parking lot nearby, and it was a simple matter to remove the engine from one of the parked cars and put it to better use. A stout board from the fishing pier made an admirable propeller, and so our aeroplane was finished while the sun was yet fairly low in the sky.
We launched our aircraft with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, and in no time we had ascended to the top of the cliffs beyond the lake and were seeing that mythical land beyond with our own eyes. The trees we had spied from the lower shore turned out to be the border of a scrap-metal dealer’s establishment; but, as the manager of the junkyard was a centaur, we did not feel disappointed in our adventure. Best of all, we knew now that we could build and fly an aeroplane, with no preparation and little expense, whenever the ordinary means of transportation were not sufficient for us.
NOTICE. All material in Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine is under copyright, except for a few illustrations in the public domain.