Tony Royle does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence. Keith Lucas was killed instantly when his BE2 biplane collided with that of a colleague over Salisbury Plain on October 5, So what had enticed him from the relative safety of his laboratory in Cambridge into the air and, eventually, to his untimely end?
My attempt to fully understand the motivation and circumstances that conspired to put Lucas in that cockpit came as part of an ongoing study of an extraordinary set of aviation pioneers. Just over years ago, a group of mathematicians and scientists were drawn to the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough, Hampshire. There, they plied their trade at the very heart of British attempts to drive forward fixed-wing, powered aeronautics during its genesis. But they soon realised that if they were to complete their mission they would need to learn how to fly themselves.
Theirs is a tale of technical achievement, flexibility and ingenuity in the context of a new field of engineering, driven apace by the necessities and incentives of conflict. It is also a story punctuated by bravery, commitment, persistence and tragedy. In , using mathematics to predict the success or failure of an aircraft structure mostly involves tapping keys on a computer while sat in a comfortable office.
But years ago, things were very different. Lucas and his colleagues endured freezing cockpits and engaged in aerial versions of Russian roulette in order to significantly expand our understanding.
Flight World War II () - IMDb
Many of them paid the ultimate price. After six months on the trail of these adventurous innovators, I was finding information on Lucas to be particularly elusive. I knew he had been commandeered to work on compass design at Farnborough, but details of his exact involvement in the war effort were sketchy.
After I had exhausted all conventional lines of investigation, serendipity intervened. I happened to be watching a BBC weather forecast when I realised a potential lead was literally staring me in the face. The presenter was Sarah Keith-Lucas. So was there a connection? It also transpired that her aunt, Mary Benjamin, was the family archivist and held a stash of potentially interesting material that she was willing to share with me.
The trail was suddenly hot again. After a few hours of reading, note making, and delightful conversation, I had learned a huge amount about Lucas. But still much of his work at Farnborough remained a mystery and only one filing box remained unopened.
Mary thought it only contained material relating to physiology so would likely be of little interest to me, but we decided to have a quick look through anyway. At the very bottom, however, lay a thick, unmarked brown envelope. I quickly opened it expecting more of the same but, to my delight, it was the aeronautical mother lode: The experience was a unique illustration of how an unexpected archival resource can suddenly appear and help move research forward.
I have a number of similar books myself, each entry representing a short story in my own life as a pilot. It made me appreciate how lucky I had been. I am still absorbing this wonderful archive of material, but it is already clear that Lucas was instrumental in designing and testing a reliable aviation compass. He was also a key player in the evolution of more accurate bomb-aiming equipment. The first generation of crude bombsights had been rather unreliable if the aircraft happened to be pitching up and down due to some disturbance in the air.
To help develop a more accurate targeting device it was necessary to find a way to record the nature and duration of such pitch oscillations. Unlike those pioneering aviation industrialists of that era who became household names, such as Geoffrey de Havilland and Frederick Handley Page , few people have ever heard of Busk.
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The fundamental question was what determined the nature of the oscillations that an aircraft experienced after, for example, it was hit by a strong gust of wind. How could an aircraft be designed so that these oscillations always decayed naturally, without adjustments from the pilot to stabilise them? As fixed-wing aircraft at the time were primarily seen as reconnaissance tools, providing a stable platform for observations was considered an essential.
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How solid objects rotate in space and move through a fluid such as water or air were relatively well understood principles at that time. What was missing in relation to an aircraft was a comprehensive understanding of how the lift created by its aerofoil—shaped wings modified the motion. In particular, designers needed to know how the interrelationship between aircraft roll rotation about the longitudinal axis and aircraft yaw rotation about the vertical axis affected stability following a disturbance. The theory was laid down in by George Bryan, professor of mathematics at Bangor University in north Wales.
He was able to encapsulate in a pair of equations the design features and conditions necessary to keep an aircraft stable.
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Unfortunately, such data was only available via either rudimentary wind tunnel experiments with models, or by conducting the more dangerous but far more reliable and representative flight tests on full-scale aircraft. As a result, Busk was able to unravel the mysteries of stability, an endeavour that led in to the production of arguably the first inherently stable aircraft, the RE1. Sadly, Busk would not see the significant contribution his work made to the war effort.
During a test flight on November 5, , a stray spark from the engine ignited a pool of fuel that had leaked into his cockpit.
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This caused an explosion and fireball that engulfed and completely destroyed the aircraft. News of his death reverberated throughout the world of aviation. But it also threatened to halt the work of the Royal Aircraft Factory mathematicians before it had really begun. That could have been the end of the story had it not been for the continuing war. As the conflict dragged on, the demand for stronger, faster, more manoeuvrable and versatile aircraft grew rapidly.
Dodging bullets and bombs the flight will attempt to make it back to modern day, without changing history too much. This is the 3rd film from The Asylum that I have read positive reviews about.
Tracking down Lucas
What are they now paying people to write good reviews? Or are they logging in and writing them themselves? Either way, a film by The Asylum is always going to be awful. Always check the production company before buying, renting or downloading. If it's done by The Asylum, your wasting your time and money. They wouldn't know how to produce a good film if it fell in their lap. The only thing they know how to do is put out a cheap low budget movie.
We can thank the Syfy channel for them. If it wasn't for Syfy buying and airing their crap, they would have folded along time ago. Start your free trial.
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