How Governments and Private Enterprises Co-operate with Aircraft
FLYING BOATS AND AMPHIBIANS are used by the United States as an aid to effective seaboard control. The pilots patrol the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and check smuggling, help disabled ships and give hurricane warnings to small craft lying in the path of an approaching storm.
MANY and varied are the fields of enterprise into which the aeroplane has found its way in recent years. Its advent has revolutionized old-established industries hitherto content with methods so long unaltered as to have become almost traditional. All over the world aircraft have been used for purposes scarcely contemplated by the pioneers of flight.
In undeveloped regions where surface transport involves slow and arduous journeying by primitive methods the aeroplane has achieved perhaps its greatest triumphs. With its unchallengeable speed and disregard of natural barriers of land and sea, it has altered all previous conceptions of time in relation to distance. Nowhere has this been more true than in the Arctic and subarctic regions of north-west Canada, the conquest of whose vast and desolate spaces will always rank as one of the major achievements of the aerial age.
In many parts of the North-West Territories of Canada aeroplanes are today the only practical means of transport. They make, in a few hours, regular and safe journeys that by any other means would take weeks or months. The effect of this acceleration of transport on the local industries of mining and fur-trapping has been amazing.
In 1898 a British peer trekked into the Yukon and, with the discovery of a nugget of gold, began the “Gold Rush” of that year. He spent two years travelling through country where none but the hardiest of campaigners could hope to survive the climate. Now such a journey, covering all the territory explored by the early pioneers, can be made by air in less than a week. Moreover, the modern prospector has the choice of more than thirty different air routes operating to mining areas within and adjacent to the Arctic Circle.
Having brought the miners to the mining areas, the aeroplane was next applied to the problem of transporting the necessary mining equipment. How this was done is described in the chapter “Air Transport in Canada”.
The fur trade of the North-West Territories has seen a similar development, because the speed of air transport has largely removed the necessity for seasonal trading. No longer do traders have to accumulate large stocks which are sent away in bulk every six months. Instead, air consignments are made at frequent intervals, so that the traders save long delays in trade turnover.
The trappers and hunters, too, are saved many weary weeks of travelling by dog sled to and from their hunting-grounds. At the various Canadian Airways’ bases dogs and trapping equipment are often loaded into aircraft. The aeroplane taxies out on to the frozen lake and takes off. The dogs sit docilely in the cabin as the machine flies over lakes and forests to the hunting grounds of the Far North.
The trappers, having reached the end of their air journey, will not come back until the pilot calls for them in the spring. From time to time, however, fresh supplies will be brought out to them and landed at prearranged caches. The aeroplane returns with a load of furs, sometimes carrying in a single journey as much as £10,000 worth of pelts, collected from various points.
In addition to mining and fur collecting, other activities in the North-West Territories owe much to the aeroplane (see the chapter “Air Transport in Canada”). The work has produced a body of pilots noted for their resource and for their ability to cope with the peculiar hazards of flying in the Arctic regions.
Constantly operating at long distances from their main base, the pilots must know how to carry out major repairs, often with the most primitive materials and equipment. They have to block up landing skis to prevent freezing during the night. In addition, they are obliged to drain oil, remove batteries and protect wings and engines from the intense cold. Before an aeroplane takes off, the engines must be warmed up with a blow-lamp. A pilot forced down in bad weather may often have to turn his hand to cooking and to use his skill in hunting and woodcraft for the security of his passengers.
Operating in the opposite extreme of climatic conditions are the pilots who made possible the establishment of gold mining in the interior of New Guinea. Their activities are dealt with in the chapter “New Guinea Gold”.
Another unusual activity is that of the aviators who accompany the Newfoundland sealing fleet on their annual hunt among the ice-floes north of the 50th parallel of latitude. Every spring for more than 160 years the sealing fleet has sailed or steamed out of St. John’s, Newfoundland, to search for fur seals. Until the recent intrusion of the aeroplane, the method of search had remained almost entirely unchanged.
Hostile Altitude to Aircraft
Each captain had his own ideas as to where the seals might be and headed in that direction. A lookout man was stationed at the masthead ready to give warning of any indication of the presence of seal herds. Sometimes the vessels would make only a few miles a day through the icefields; often they would sail or steam for weeks without encountering the seal patches or pass, unseeing, within a few miles of crowded ice-floes.
The possibility of using the aeroplane for sealing was first suggested to the sealer operators of Newfoundland when an Avro Baby light aeroplane, which had been specially modified for an Arctic Expedition, was left behind at St. John’s. The owners of the sealing fleet combined to buy the aeroplane and, in 1923, sent for a pilot from England to fly it on that year’s seal hunt. Unfortunately, the scepticism of the old sealer captains was so great that, when the fleet returned from the hunt, the aeroplane was found still securely fastened down on deck, never having been flown.
The following year the machine was sent out again in another vessel. This time the pilot was Capt. B. Grandy. Grandy, who had been a pilot in the war of 1914-18, was a Newfoundlander and a former sealer commander. The fleet’s attitude at first was as hostile to him as it had been to his predecessor. It was only after the vessels had spent many days without seeing a seal that the captain consented to stop long enough to land the aeroplane on the ice and give Grandy the opportunity for a flight. Only one flight was made, but it was responsible for the immediate location of several large patches of seals, and for putting the rest of the sealing fleet in touch with them.
This initial success was generally attributed to luck by the tradition-bound fishermen. During the next year’s hunt, however, the same pilot, in only two flights, first saved the fleet from heading in the wrong direction and then located the seal herds after only ten minutes in the air. At this even the most conservative of captains began to look with less hostility on their aerial assistant. On later expeditions, the vessel which carried the aeroplane regularly brought back the largest number of pelts, so that the sealer captains who had formerly shunned the aircraft were soon competing for the privilege of carrying it.
POISONOUS POWDER was distributed from an aeroplane over a forest near Wittstock, Germany, when the forest was threatened with destruction by a plague of caterpillars. Men are here seen loading an aeroplane with the powder, which, although not poisonous to human beings, is likely to cause inflammation of the nose and throat. For this reason the men who handle the powder are obliged to wear gas masks.
Flying with the sealing fleet is an unusual experience. The aeroplane, generally some type of light open two-seater biplane with folding wings for easy stowage, carries with it wheels, floats and skis, so that it may quickly be adapted for use on land, water, snow or ice. It is mounted upon a specially-built afterdeck. When a flight is planned, the sealer ties up to an icefloe and lowers the machine overboard by its winch and derrick. Whenever possible, those concerned choose a floe with a level surface and providing a clear run of at least a quarter of a mile into wind. Should the only available ice prove hummocky, all hands set to work smoothing off a large enough runway for the take-off.
Sufficient experience has now been gained of the aeroplane’s value in this field to confirm the highest hopes of its sponsors. Most Newfoundland sealers today agree that the aeroplane has completely revolutionized their traditional industry, both by greatly facilitating operations and by considerably reducing the attendant hazards.
Iceland has used the aeroplane in one of its most important industries - cod fishing, with shark shooting as an important sideline. Instead of spending long and unprofitable days at sea searching for the elusive shoals of fish upon which their livelihood depends, the Icelandic fishermen now carry short-wave radio sets and await reports from their shore bases of fish having been sighted by the pilot of a seaplane patrolling off the coast.
The comparatively shallow banks off the coast of Iceland are the favourite feeding grounds for cod. Detection of large shoals is thus possible from the air even when the fish are too deep for any surface indications of their presence. Large concentrations of cod or herrings can be spotted with equal facility by the aerial “eye” in favourable weather conditions. On discovery of a shoal the watching pilot notifies its position to the shore base and continues to circle above the moving fish until the first trawler, advised by its nearest base, has arrived on the spot.
All too frequently, the first indication of herring shoals is the presence of large numbers of train sharks, voracious deep-sea scavengers which take heavy toll of the herrings in northern waters. An aviator, having observed these destroyers at work, must take immediate action if the herring shoal is to be kept within reach of the fishing fleet. For this purpose the patrol aeroplane mounts a machine-gun and carries an experienced gunner. A well-aimed burst from the air, or while the seaplane taxies on the
water, is generally enough to divert the attention of the cannibal sharks from the herrings to their dying companion. Several sharks may be shot in this manner to save the herrings from further attack and to keep them within range until the trawlers appear. The trawlers are closely followed by the “shark boat”, suitably armed and equipped for the work of destroying sharks.
The seaplane used for the fish patrol is also the island’s mail aircraft, as it combines its fish-scouting and letter-delivering duties in the same coastal flight. Fortunately the proximity of the fishing banks to the coast and the small amount of mail carried by the service make the dual task practicable. The operators of the seaplane receive a certain percentage of the proceeds of the sale of all catches made with its aid.
Fish are concerned in another novel use of the aeroplane. In British Columbia the object is not to facilitate the harvesting but to prevent the fish from being caught. Some years ago the great salmon canning industry of British Columbia was almost facing extinction because of the activities of poachers. Working in defiance of all laws as to the size of net, closed season and prohibited areas, these raiders were diminishing the supply to an alarming extent. Even the presence of a large fleet of patrol boats did not suffice to check their activities or even to arrest the steady growth of their numbers. The heavily-indented coastline and the numerous rivers and lakes among the mountains were well suited to this illegal fishing. It was an easy matter for the poachers to post look-outs at selected points to give warning of the approach of the patrols.
TREES BEING “DUSTED” with insecticide chemicals in California. The speed of the aeroplane enables wide areas to be covered in a short period and ensures proper dispersion of the chemicals. Aeroplanes are used in a similar manner to sow seeds over a wide area. The seeds are dropped from “hoppers” fitted to the undersides of the aircraft.
The authorities appealed for help to the Royal Canadian Air Force. There was instituted an aerial patrol system of flying boats manned by Service pilots and carrying fishery inspectors. Success was immediate. Distance presented no difficulties to the flying boats, which crossed mountains to go from one river to another and from lake to lake. In a few minutes they covered distances which a boat would have taken hours to steam.
From their lofty vantage-points, the fishery inspectors could now see great distances, even over mountain tops, and could pick out a fishing vessel before the roar of the aeroplane’s engine warned the fishermen. Gliding down with engine cut off, the patrol aeroplane could silently approach a suspected poacher. The distance of the nets from ship or shore could be more accurately estimated from the air than from the water and, if necessary, the exact position of the offending ship could be photographed from the air, to serve as irrefutable evidence in the prosecution which followed.
In the face of the attentions of these aerial patrols, the salmon poachers soon began to find their illegal fishing too dangerous to be profitable. When, after several years of successful operation, the Canadian Air Force patrols ceased, the authorities arranged with Canadian Airways, Ltd., for the future aerial supervision of their fishing grounds.
Pilots Arrest Poachers
The contract calls for the use of two aircraft, each to have accommodation for three persons, an endurance of at least six hours, a top speed of 100 miles an hour and a ceiling of 14,000 feet. The pilots are required to be well acquainted with the fishing laws and regulations and may be called upon at any time to act as fishery guardians, to arrest poachers and detain their vessels.
With the flying boats now in use, it is possible for the pilots to use even small lakes and to alight and take off in heavy seas. Flying conditions are often bad and fog is frequently encountered towards the end of the season. But in all kinds of weather the aerial fishery patrol makes its daily round from June to October every year. Details of the constantly changing times of their patrol operations are never divulged. Today salmon poachers in British Columbian waters are scarce, for the poachers can never be certain of escaping the eye of the aerial patrol.
In Canada and the United States, yet another novel use for the aeroplane has been found. An efficient service has been organized for fighting forest fires. In the United States, during the dry months of every year, fires devastate vast regions of forest land. This calamity has for long been the concern of a special Government force, known as the Forestry Service. The members of the Service were quick to realize the help that could be afforded by the aerial observer.
A Forestry Air Patrol Service was formed. With a small fleet of aircraft manned by specially trained pilots, it proved invaluable, as it quickly supplied the forest rangers with information vital to the success of their work.
When one of the many look-out stations of the Service telephoned to report the location of an outbreak, a pilot would take off, fly to the scene and carefully study the extent, speed and direction of the fire. On his contour maps he would mark the best trails and roads leading to the fire, and such other information as would be likely to assist the forest rangers in forming their plans.
AIR PATROLS assist the forest authorities of Canada and the United States of America to deal with outbreaks of fire in dry weather. With the help of radio the pilots are able to direct ground operations. Explosive and chemical bombs may also be dropped from the air to assist in the fighting of the fire. This photograph shows a seaplane above a fire at Clearwater Portage, to the south of Cormorant Lake, Manitoba, Canada.
As the Service developed, the aircraft were fitted with radio transmitting sets which enabled reports to be sent back while the aircraft were cruising above the site of the fire. To this scientific aid has recently been added another, in the form of bombs, so that the pilots now take an active part in fighting the fire beneath them.
The present fleet of the Forestry Air Patrol Service consists of a number of fast all-metal monoplanes. The cockpits and other vulnerable parts are protected by asbestos shields against the intense heat and flying sparks which are encountered even several thousand feet above a forest fire.
Two kinds of bombs are carried - explosive and chemical. Explosive bombs are demolition bombs, largely filled with dynamite. They are used to blast an open lane in a forest wide enough to arrest a fire if it should reach that point. The chemical bombs contain carbon-tetra-chloride, which smothers the flames by depriving the surrounding air of much of its oxygen content.
America claims to have the only flying coastguards. These men are organized into an up-to-date service that keeps constant watch along the Pacific and Atlantic seaboards. Introduced as an experiment in 1920, the aerial coast-watchers soon proved their worth in checking the activities of rum-runners who ventured into territorial waters to land their illicit cargoes. The flying coastguards’ ability to keep constant check on offshore vessels made them invaluable also in the prevention of the smuggling of contraband, drugs and aliens. By 1926 the aerial branch of the U.S. Coastguard Service was firmly established as an essential aid to effective seaboard control.
360 Illicit Stills Detected
The present fleet consists of some fifty aircraft of the latest types, chiefly fast amphibians and long-range open sea patrol flying boats. With their other duties they combine humanitarian services which have been the means of saving innumerable lives in danger at sea. The aircraft may drop hurricane warnings to all small craft in the path of an approaching storm, or they may search for lost boats and aid vessels disabled at sea.
Many an injured seaman has reason to be grateful to the flying coastguards. A trawler was fishing 120 miles off Cape Cod, Massachusetts coast, when one of the crew was critically injured. Having intercepted the trawler’s radio call for help while patrolling his area, Lieut. W. S. Anderson, of the Coastguards, flew to the vessel, landed his amphibian alongside and took the injured man on board. He then set off for Boston (Massachusetts), 150 miles distant and, having used his radio to summon a doctor to meet him on arrival, was able to save his passenger’s life.
Some idea of the scope of this service and of the importance of its work may be gained from some figures for 1937. Over 780,000 miles were flown by Coastguard aeroplanes in the course of searching an area exceeding 5,862,000 square miles. During these patrols, thirty-seven smuggling vessels were located and two smuggling aeroplanes were captured ; 360 illicit distilleries were detected; 154 disabled vessels were located and 1,133 persons were transported as medical casualties or for other reasons of emergency. This was a notable record for a single year’s work on the part of a fleet of only fifty aircraft.
THE TRANSPORT OF INJURED SEAMEN TO HOSPITAL is among the duties performed by pilots of the United States Coastguard. During 1937, 1,133 people were transported as medical casualties or for other reasons of emergency. During the same year 154 disabled vessels were located by Coastguard aeroplanes. This photograph shows an injured seaman being wheeled to the ambulance from an amphibian in little more than an hour after a radio call had been received from his ship.
It is not generally known that, in Great Britain, R.A.F. pilots make daily ascents to high altitudes to obtain accurate data of upper-air conditions for the guidance of the Meteorological Office. For this purpose the Royal Air Force maintains a special Meteorological Flight at an aerodrome in the Home Counties. The aircraft used are single-seater fighters stripped of their military load and provided, instead, with special meteorological instruments. The most important of these are an aneroid barometer indicating pressure in millibars and a strut psychrometer (wet-and-dry bulb thermometer).
Observation flights are made twice daily, generally at dawn and noon. As heights of some 30,000 feet are frequently attained it is necessary for the pilots to carry oxygen-breathing equipment and to wear electrically-heated clothing as a protection against the extreme cold of the high altitudes.
Aerial observation is begun at a height of 1,000 feet. First the strut thermometers are noted for information as to humidity. Then visibility downwards and horizontally is estimated, and the height, thickness and type of clouds are recorded on a pad strapped to the pilot’s knee. The next series of readings is taken at a pressure of 950 millibars, corresponding roughly to a height of 1,500 feet. After that the observations are repeated at intervals of 50 millibars.
The observations are generally continued up to heights of approximately 25,000 feet. At this altitude in winter it is no uncommon experience for the R.A.F.’s “weather pilots” to find their thermometers recording as much as 80 degrees of frost.
The pilot’s face is heavily coated with a mixture of petroleum jelly and whale grease as a prevention against frostbite, but any moisture inside his oxygen mask is converted into a solid block of ice. The electrical heating of his gloves has the curious effect of making the back of his hands uncomfortably hot while the palms and fingers are so numb that it is almost impossible to grasp the pencil.
Each flight lasts about an hour and a half. During the course of the gradual descent the readings have all to be taken again as a check against the previous observations. As soon as the pilot has landed, the information that has been obtained is wirelessed to the Meteorological Office at the Air Ministry in London. Thence it is sent, again by radio, to all European countries.
The “dusting” of crops with insecticides sprayed from low-flying machines, and the sowing of seeds over large areas by “hoppers” fitted to the undersides of aircraft are new agricultural uses to which the aeroplane is now being successfully put. In Australia a cattle-rancher who is also a pilot uses his own light aeroplane to supervise the periodical “round-ups” and to direct his stockmen to cattle which have strayed away from the main herds. Another Australian farmer has built up a country-wide poultry business by sending day-old chicks by air. In Belgium there are aircraft continually engaged in transferring homing pigeons from one point to another for release.
The chartering of aircraft to serve as flying hearses, or the hire of aircraft for the display of aerial advertisements, are now so common as to be regarded as everyday jobs by an air-taxi company. A less usual experience was that of an American taxi pilot who was recently engaged to take part in a novel medical experiment. A workman had been gassed while at his job beneath a motor car and had lost his power of speech. Every known treatment for restoring speech had been tried without success when a Chicago specialist had an idea.
The patient, who had never before flown, was sent up in an aeroplane. At a height of 15,000 feet the pilot, in accordance with the doctor’s instructions, put the machine into a fast spin for 3,000 feet and then made a 6,000-feet high-speed power dive. The moment he had pulled out of the dive the patient spoke, demanding to be landed immediately.
The specialist had based his treatment on his confidence that the change of pressure induced by an abrupt plunge from a rarefied to a denser atmosphere would relieve any congestion that existed.
FISHING GROUNDS are supervised in British Columbia by specially chartered aircraft. These aircraft are used to prevent illegal fishing. Fish poaching has been almost eliminated since the introduction of air patrols. The fishery-protection flying boat in this illustration is on the Fraser River, British Columbia.