How do you fire a machine gun through the arc of a spinning propeller? Early in 1915, aviators engaged in the First World War wanted to solve that problem. Obviously, the bullets of the machine gun would smash a propeller to bits. So far in the war, German, French, and British airmen had fired at each other with limited efficiency, the best results having been obtained in two-seaters, with the observer shooting while the pilot flew the plane. Pusher airplanes, with the propeller in back, also provided a clear field of forward fire.
[ad#ad-1]But clearly the best solution would be for the pilot, in a fast, single-seat airplane, to have a machine gun right in front of him, enabling him to aim the entire craft at the enemy, directly in front of him, and shoot, without needing any coordination with a second person.
Then, the flier Roland Garros (a famous pre-war aviator who had been the first to cross the Mediterranean) had a realization. A very simple and powerful one. Most of the bullets would miss the propeller blades anyway. A relatively small fraction would hit the blades. Why not just let them? A small steel deflector plate could protect the wooden propeller, fixed at the spot in line with the trajectory of the bullets. Garros mounted a Hotchkiss 8mm machine gun in his Morane-Saulnier “Parasol” Type L, fitted the prop with deflectors, and tested the arrangement on the ground. It seemed to work.
He took his machine up and promptly shot down a German Aviatic reconnaissance plane. He was the hero of France, and for a few weeks, his newly deadly airplane swept the skies, shooting down five aircraft in April, 1915. But it was not to last. He was forced down over German lines with engine trouble, and the Germans discovered his secret, and with the Fokker Eindekker, improved on Garros’ technique with a synchronized machine gun. It should be noted that the steel deflector plates, while workable, reduced the efficiency of the propeller more than thirty percent.
Top Speed: 71 m.p.h.