A stream of gasoline burst forth as Gustav Hamel flew over the Thames River on September 20, 1913. The last thing any aviator needed in a wood and cloth monoplane with a barely-covered, hot, sparking, rotary engine a few feet away was gasoline in the cockpit. It was a mortal danger for any pilot, and surely the end of the race for Gustav Hamel, competing in the Daily Mail’s Aerial Derby around London.
Hamel had been the last to start and had just overtaken H. Barnwell in a Martynside monoplane. As a crowd of 50,000 spectators watched, the two airplanes roared along, at speeds over 70 miles per hour. It was a 94 mile course. Now, with 40 miles to go, having just taken the lead, Hamel was rapidly getting drenched with gasoline. In the manner of the Dutch boy at the dike, he managed to put his finger over the leak and stanch the flow of fuel. With the situation more-or-less under control, he kept flying, maintained his lead, and managed to win the race half an hour later. A tremendous victory for Hamel and his Morane-Saulnier H.
[ad#ad-1]Three days later, on September 23, 1913, in another little Morane-Saulnier, equipped with an 80 h. p. Gnome engine and Chauviere propeller, Roland Garros flew across the Mediterranean. Flying from France to North Africa, he left St. Raphael at 5:45 a. m.. and, steering straight across the Mediterranean, over Sardinia, he made a safe landing in Bizerta, near Tunis, at 1:45 p. m. The distance between the two points is about 560 miles, and after his eight hours’ flight there still remained in the tank five litres of petrol. He maintained an average speed of 70 miles an hour.
So confident was Garros in his Morane-Saulnier monoplane that he did not deem it necessary to accept the government’s offer to be escorted by navy ships. He was on his own, mostly over water, unlikely to be rescued if he went down. He was sighted as he passed over Ajaccio, Corsica, and a wireless message reporting the sighting went out.
The Morane-Saulnier Type H was such a successful airplane that it flew with the French air force early in World War One. A captured example even served as a model for Anthony Fokker’s famed E.III (although the interrupter gear to permit a machine gun to fire through the propeller was of his own devising.)
Top Speed: 85 m.p.h.
Engine: 80 h.p. Gnome rotary
Wingspan: 30 feet
Weight: 1,034 lb.