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Anecdotes from the Archive

Airborne Scouts, 1915

Aircraft scouts: Before two-way radio was developed, it was suggested that an Edison recording machine might be useful for airplane observers. Image: Scientific American, February 20, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: February 20, 1915 The usefulness of scouting from the air had been demonstrated in the early days of the Great War. But gathering information from an airplane is one thing; it is another thing to give that information to people on the ground who could [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Air Defenses Against Zeppelins, 1915

zeppelin

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: February 13, 1915 German Zeppelins (airships with rigid frames) bombed Liège, Belgium, on August 6, 1914, only a few days after the Great War broke out. Over the next few weeks, Zeppelins carried out raids throughout Europe on military and civilian targets. The actual damage [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

An American Pilot at War, 1915 (Part III)

1915-01-09-Hild3-image3MB

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: January 9, 1915 In this issue of Scientific American from 1915, we published the last installment of a three-part account: “War Experiences of an Air Scout: A Battle in the Clouds,” by Frederick C. Hild, an “American volunteer with the French Aviation Corps.” Hild joined [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

An American Pilot at War, 1915 (Part II)

An early aerial weapon: steel darts. Hild called them steel “pencils” or “arrows” and accurately stated “after a fall of say, 6,000 feet, they will penetrate almost anything.” However, they were not accurate when dropped from 6,000 feet and only occasionally effective. Aerial darts have been used occasionally as skyborne weapons since 1914. Image: Scientific American, January 2, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: January 2, 1915 In this issue of Scientific American from 1915, we published the second installment of a three-part first-hand account: “War Experiences of an Air Scout: Patrol of the Sky” by Frederick C. Hild, “American volunteer with the French Aviation Corps.” We were introduced [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

An American Pilot at War, 1914 (Part I)

Frederick C. Hild, an American volunteer in the French air forces, photographed in his issue leather coat, 1914. Image: Scientific American, December 26, 1914

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: December 26, 1914 In this issue of Scientific American from 1914, we published the first installment of a three-part first-hand account: “War Experiences of an Air Scout: The Diary of an American Volunteer With the Aviation Corps of the French Army,” by Frederick C. Hild. [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Safety Takes Flight: A Notable Aviatrix on Preventing Airplane Accidents

Gyro

Ever since the first passenger was taken up in the air in 1908 safety has been a major concern of those involved in flying, building and riding airplanes. There have already been seven airline crashes in the U.S. this year, most notably the accident involving Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport on [...]

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Food Matters

Variolation, Aviation, and Genetic Modification: Progress in the Face of Fear and Danger

The Wright Brothers' Plane (click for source)

In 1721, a small pox epidemic was ripping through the colonial city of Boston. Cotton Mather, a Reverend and Royal minister, convinced the physician Zebadiah Boylston to perform an arcane medical procedure on two slaves and Mather’s own son. The procedure, called “variolation,” involved piercing the skin of the patient with needle that was contaminated [...]

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Guest Blog

High-Altitude Surveillance Drones: Coming to a Sky Near You

Last week President Obama signed a sweeping aviation bill that, among other things, will open the skies to “unmanned aircraft systems,” more commonly known as drones. Much of the discussion regarding the coming era of domestic drones has been focused on the many important questions regarding their use at low altitudes. To what extent will [...]

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Observations

Why Lasers Won’t Protect Airliners

A mobile Buk surface-to-air missile launcher, similar to that believed to have been used to shoot down Flight 17. Image courtesy of .:Ajvol:. via Wikimedia Commons.

Questions over the best way to protect civilian aircraft from surface-launched missiles have reemerged in light of the recent Malaysia Airlines tragedy over the Ukraine. On July 17, a medium-range Buk surface-to-air missile fired from the territory controlled by pro-Russia separatists reportedly struck Flight 17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Boeing [...]

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Observations

Plane from Newark Crash Lands in Poland [Video]

Earlier today, LOT Polish airlines flight 16 traveling from Newark, N.J., to Warsaw, Poland, crash landed after its landing gear failed to deploy. According to The Aviation Herald, the Boeing 767-300 was at 3,000 feet when the pilots reported an unsafe gear indication. Ground control confirmed that none of the three sets of landing gear [...]

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Observations

Flying Orb Built by Japan’s Ministry of Defense [Video]

About the size of a beach ball, this flying sphere takes off vertically and hovers in place, but can zip along horizontally at speeds of up to 60 km/h (about 37 mph). It has gyroscopic control that keeps it stable even when the presenter smacks it on the side: Perhaps the most amazing aspect of [...]

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