Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 91.djvu/712

This page needs to be proofread.


Catapulting Seaplanes from U-Boats

Solving the difficult problem of launch- ing a flying machine over rough water

���A little elevated railway is built on the after-deck of the ship. On the track runs a little car which carries the seaplane, projecting it into the air when the end of the track is reached

��10 N G before the engagements of the German and British fleets in the North Sea focused the eyes of the world upon the possibilities of scouting in the air, the officers of our Navy had foreseen the part that the flying machine would play in battle. But they were prevented from carrying their vision into reality by the difficulties of launching a seaplane. When the water is rough a flying boat is so bat- tered about by the waves that it is unable to make that preliminary run without which it cannot fly. In the earliest experi- ments a platform was built over the decks of one of our warships, and a flying ma- chine actually succeeded not only in launch- ing itself from that platform, but even in alighting upon it. But, a platform is ob- viously an encumbrance. When a ship is to be cleared for action it is in the way.

For some years Capt. Washington I. Chambers of our Navy has been working on this launching problem. He has at last de- vised an ingenious catapult with which some of our ships are provided and which seems to meet the technical requirements of those who must fight on the seas.

Capt. Chambers' launching device is in reality a little elevated railway built on the after-deck. On the track runs a little car

��which carries the seaplane. The car shoots forward, carrying with it the seaplane. When the end of the track is reached, the seaplane is projected into the air, its motor having been started before the run. The car re- turns automatically to the starting position after having struck a buffer.

What propels the car ? Not the screw of the flying machine, as might be supposed at first blush, but a simple piece of machinery consisting of cable, tackle, and a com- pressed-air cylinder. One end of the wire cable is attached to the cox and the other to the piston of the cylinder. The tackle in between serves to magnify to 60 feet the push of the piston, which is about 4^ feet. The function of the tackle is not unlike that performed by the pulleys that hoist a safe from the sidewalk to a fourth or fifth story window. By the time the seaplane has reached the end of the track, it will have a speed of at least forty miles an hour, which, in normal conditions, keeps it aloft if the propellers are in motion. Of course, the seaplane must be automatically unlatched from the car.

The elevated structure upon which the track is carried, is so designed that it can be removed very quickly when the ship is to be cleared for action.

�� �