The simple chassis contains two pairs of little rubber-tyred wheels, and between each pair, strapped to their axles by broad elastic bands, is a long curving sledge-runner or skid, suggestive of an alpine sportsman's 'ski,' on which the machine rests should the shock of a rough landing force the wheels upwards. An elevator plane, 15 feet span, is carried out well ahead of the main planes on long slender outriggers. Behind, four long spars or 'tail booms,' well braced together and gradually converging, carry a 'lifting' tail shaped like a square box without sides, at the rear of which project a pair of upright movable planes which are the rudder. The pilot's seat, which is not protected or built-in in any way, is right at the front of the lower main plane, and behind the pilot's back is the engine and propeller (really a ' propeller ' in this case).
This old Farman machine is the father of one huge family of aeroplanes now spoken of collectively and slightly contemptuously as 'box-kites,' At one time they had the field almost to themselves; now, at length, their day is passing. Never more will they win the great races as in the past, for, by modern standards, they are heavy, clumsy and slow. Nevertheless their sphere of usefulness is still vast, for they are the favourite school machines on which the great majority of would-be aviators learn to find their wings. Slow, not over-sensitive in steering, and affording the pilot a most admirable view in front for landing, they are excellent for teaching purposes. A too adventurous pupil finds his overweening ambition effectually curbed by the school box-kite, fitted with a low-powered engine. It is simply impossible for him to rise to great heights or to indulge in fancy ' stunts,' and he is fairly compelled to stick to sober flying until he has thoroughly mastered its ABC.
Practically every famous firm of biplane constructors have built box-kites in their time, founded on the Henry Farman design, and from them they have evolved all manner of successful variations. Very different from the originals are the aeroplanes which the Farman Brothers themselves now build, for Maurice Farman took up aeroplane construction very soon after his brother Henry, and produced a scarcely less famous machine; and though the two are now one firm, their biplanes are still quite sepa-sunk down in the 'nacelle '—a sort of covered-in prow, cosily sheltered by its walls and a wind-screen in front. There are extensions to the upper plane which make it much longer than the lower one, and the famous Farman skids are cut down very short or done away with altogether. In the old Maurice rate and distinct. In the modern Henry Farman the front elevator has gone altogether, replaced by a flap in the tail. The pilot is no longer perched defenceless on the lower plane, exposed to every breeze that blows, but he sits right forward, ahead of his machine, Farman machine the skids are yet there, and are produced upwards to carry an elevator in front, working in conjunction with another elevator in the tail, so that they look, as we see them outlined against the sky, like the rockers of a safe nursery rocking-horse. The Maurice Farman has long been a most popular machine, known in the Service in affectionate derision as the 'mechanical cow' (with a ' short-horn' variety in which the front elevator is done away with). So safe and easy to fly is it, even in the worst weather, that it used to be said, with something like justice, that he who flew it was' not an aviator but merely a Maurice Farman pilot.' At the end of 1913 the Farman Brothers could proudly boast that 1500 aviators had taken their certificate on Farman machines. By this time the number must be vastly larger. We may here note that the Voisin firm, who provided Henry Farman with his original 'mount' before ever he produced his own first machine, now build a splendid military biplane that the French pilots claim as one of the best in the War.
Maurice Farman School Machine At Buc, The Mechanical Cow.
The Farman machines are the most famous examples of the propeller, or in school language the 1 pusher 9 biplanes, where the engine and propeller are at the back of the main planes. More recently have appeared the 'tractor' biplanes, where, even as in the monoplanes, the 'power unit' is in the front and the aeroplane is drawn forwards in the air instead of being urged from behind. The relative merits and drawbacks of these two forms of craft, as upheld by their supporters, might be discussed to the end of the chapter. Undoubtedly the pilot and passenger of a 'pusher' have a better view ahead ; and where guns are carried in aeroplanes it stands to reason they must be placed in the front and the engine behind, unless, indeed, the machines are to turn their tails and fight with stern-chasers.
On the other hand, in an accident the pilot of a tractor need not fear the engine crashing on the top of him, and for several reasons he is able to attain to greater speed and efficiency. For one thing, his tractor screw being right ahead of everything has fresh, undisturbed air to work in, instead of that which is all churned up by the front of the machine. For another point, as long as the propeller is at the back it has to be given room to revolve in, which means that the tail must be carried on wide, open framework, offering much head resistance ; but with tractor in front the body of the machine may be made of stream-line form like a monoplane. The tractor biplanes, therefore, at first glance suggest a cross between biplane and monoplane, and have an air of strength, compactness and speed which their performances well bear out.