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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 90.djvu/201

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Dangling 'Twixt Earth and Sky from a Zeppelin

���The real pilot of a Zep- pelin is often a man suspended from the air- ship by a light steel cable nearly a mile long

��ALMOST simul- J-\ taneously with the first news of the part played by Zeppelin airships in the great war came rumors that the Germans were using suspended cages or baskets to act as observa- tion or steering cars. Later, when a damaged Zeppelin cast off its obser\-ation car, windlass and cable, the rumors became undisputed facts and the military authorities ceased to wonder how the big ships of the air could maneuver with such unerring precision.

It was discovered that the real pilot was not the man behind the steering apparatus of the Zeppelin itself but a man lying prone on a mattress at the bottom of the ob- servation car, with a telephone strapped to his head, and with clock, compass, light and other instruments 'conveniently near at hand to enable him to inform his comrades above of the exact location of the dirigible at any given time.

By means of five thousand feet of steel cable and a windlass the

bser\ation car was lowered trom the Zeppelin. The ob- sfirver entered the car through a sliding trap A

��door in the top, and kept in constant communication with the men above. The telephone wire ran through the steel cable. The streamlike form of the car and its large fins at the rear enabled it to maintain a head-on course, making it possible for the obser\er to get a near view of the country below through celluloid windows, even though the Zeppelin was hidden in clouds and mists. On a stormy night it is thought that the observation car sersed as a great help in determining landing positions. On the other hand, there are those who surmise that the man in the car dropped bombs. The main argument against this, however, is that the combined weight of the car and the bombs would prove too much of a strain for a light steel cable, if, indeed, it might not seriously interfere with the maneuvering of the Zeppelin. The dut>' intrusted to him is im- portant and dangerous enough without the added responsibility of dropping bombs.



The streamlike form of the car and its large fins at the rear enable it to maintain a head-on course, and make it possible for the observer to get a near view of the country below through celluloid windows


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