flying wings 1870 to 1920
flying wings in Europe
tailless aircraft in the USA
German flying wings
British flying wings
Japanese flying wings
American flying wings in WW2
the first Northrop flying wing
Northrop flying wings in WW2
Northrop: towards the bombers
Northrop flying wing bombers
flying wings 1950s and beyond
secret Soviet flying wings

Early Flying Wings (1870 - 1920)
by E.T. Wooldridge

For more than a century, there have been countless patents, projects, and concepts relating to tailless airplanes. Many models and prototypes were constructed; most enjoyed only a brief period of development and public interest, and then quickly disappeared. From an engineering viewpoint, a high percentage of these short-lived projects were possibly well founded and deserving of serious consideration and further development. The lack of adequate financial backing, lack of government or public interest, and politics often contributed to the premature end of a worthwhile project. For the most part, these projects were pursued by independent promoters who made little attempt to coordinate their investigations. Gradually, however, a large body of technical data on tailless aircraft was accumulated. Although no organized data-exchange program appeared to have existed during the 1920s and 1930s, articles on tailless projects could be read frequently in aviation journals, both in the United States and abroad. Whether these articles inspired or assisted the competition is conjectural.

Engineers and enthusiasts who developed versions of the tailless airplane had very different conceptions of what it should be. Some found their inspiration in the flight of birds. Surely the earliest example of tailless flight would be the Quetzalcoatlus northropi, a giant flying reptile that roamed the skies over North America some 70 million years ago. The winged seeds of the maple and the Zanonia plant served as the basis for designs of experimental models and gliders for others.

Whatever the source of inspiration, most designers persevered with their experiments and research despite the lack of experimental facilities and financial backing. The critical period was when experiments passed from the model and glider stages to powered flight. For the reasons previously cited, projects were often terminated altogether at this stage. In other cases, the problems of stability and control associated with the absence of the tail and addition of an engine proved insurmountable, so a conventional tail was added.

The history of tailless aircraft is replete with frustrated, brilliant men to whom the description "neglected genius" could have applied. Perhaps none would better qualify than Alphonse Penaud, an imaginative young Frenchman who, for one brief decade, astounded his contemporaries with concepts too advanced for his time.

Penaud was born in Paris in 1850, the son of a French admiral and seemingly bound for a Navy career himself. When a childhood illness precluded that option, Penaud turned to a brief but brilliant career in aeronautics, developing many theories concerning airfoils and the problems of stability and control in flight. He applied his theories to a succession of creative models of helicopters, ornithopters, and airplanes powered by rubber-band motors. In 1871, Penaud demonstrated the possibility of sustained flight by an airplane by flying a rubber-band powered monoplane a distance of 131 feet. His Planophore had lateral and longitudinal stability; the tail assembly, located some distance behind the wings, became known as the "Penaud tail."

In 1876, assisted by mechanic Paul Gauchot, Penaud synthesized several years of intensive research and experimentation with aerodynamics, materials, and engines in the design of a revolutionary airplane. By strict definition, the machine was not tailless, though at first glance it appeared to be almost a flying wing. But it incorporated many advanced concepts that were used by engineers and enthusiasts in flying wing designs for the next 100 years.

The drawings that accompanied Penaud's Patent No. 111574 show a high-wing, twin-tractor, monoplane amphibian with a retractable four wheel undercarriage. The rudder and elevators were moved by means of a single control column in a cockpit with a glass canopy. The engine was buried in elliptical wings covered with varnished silk. The wings had dihedral, high aspect ratio, reverse camber at the trailing edge, washout, taper, and bent-up wing tips. Although the wings were braced by upper and lower stays, the inventor planned to eliminate these wires eventually, which would result in a cantilever construction. Elevators were balanced by counterweights or springs.

Some of the unusual features of the radical 1876 design of Alphonse Penaud and Paul Gauchot (above) are apparent in this 1940s model (right) by Paul K. Guillow. The two castoring nose wheels and two main wheels were fully retractable, folding backward and upward. The Penaud wing was equipped with horizontal brake rudders at the wing tips


Since the airplane was an amphibian, the nacelle was watertight, with portholes in the cabin for passengers. Propellers were entirely metal and had variable pitch; they were connected by crankshafts to the engine in the wings, where the flight crew could have direct access for repairs. The list of innovations even extended to aircraft instruments, including angle-of-attack indicators, airspeed indicators, and aneroid altimeters.

Whether the airplane was capable of flight or not, given the fact that contemporary power plants were inadequate, is obviously pure conjecture. Penaud was unable to raise the necessary funds to continue his research, and his radical concepts were met with scepticism and ridicule by officials and fellow aeronautical enthusiasts. Discouraged and depressed, Alphonse Penaud committed suicide in October 1880, at the age of 30, leaving many of his ideas to be "rediscovered" years later.

Clement Ader

Ten years after Penaud's tragic death, another Frenchman, Clement Ader, established his niche in aviation history. Ader succeeded in taking off in an aircraft of his own design under its own power on October 9, 1890, at Armainvilliers, France. The aircraft, named Eole, was once described as "a chaos of mechanisms."' Penaud's practical genius, combined with just a small amount of Ader's imagination, probably would have produced a practical contribution to aeronautical science. Unfortunately, in the Eole, and his only other completed machine, the Avion III, Ader allowed his imagination to run rampant.

The Eole was described as a single engine (steam) tractor monoplane, with a four-bladed bamboo propeller made in the form of bird feathers. The wings were bat-like, with extreme canopied curvature. There were no elevator, no rudder, and no conventional flight controls. Each wing could be swung forward and aft separately by a hand-operated crank, thus changing the position of the centre of pressure and consequently the pitch of the airplane. Wings could be flexed up and down by foot pedal; wing area and camber could also be changed by crank action. In all, six hand-operated cranks, two foot pedals, and engine controls had to be operated by the pilot in flight!

Despite the Herculean efforts that must have been required to become airborne and remain in that state for any period of time, Ader did accomplish his takeoff; the subsequent flight of about 165 feet was not considered controlled or sustained, however. Encouraged by his craft's performance, and subsidized by the French government, Ader started but never completed a second machine.

A third aircraft was completed in 1897, the Avion III. It was generally similar in concept and appearance to Eole, but significant changes had been effected. The airplane now had two engines; wing structure had been simplified, as had the swing-wing arrangement, although the latter remained a dangerous and virtually unworkable system. Ader would have been well advised to study the Penaud tail, details of which had been published in contemporary aeronautical journals. The only additional flight control was a small rudder connected to the tail wheel, and operated by pedals. A mechanism was also provided to effect differential speed of the two propellers, giving some additional control in yaw.

Two tests of the Avion III were conducted on a circular track. These trials were witnessed by the proper officials, who prepared a written report stating that the Avion III did not fly. The report was kept secret until 1910, at which time it was made public. In the interim, however, in the absence of official statements to the contrary, Ader claimed to have flown a distance of 300 meters at the 1897 trials. The publication of the official report in 1910 did little to settle a controversy that has persisted to the present day.

Avion III marked the end of Ader's practical work in aeronautics, although he did considerable research on the principle of the air-cushion hydrofoil, applying for a British patent on such a machine in 1904.

The credit for designing and flying the first tailless aircraft in Europe goes to the distinguished Danish inventor, Jacob Christian Ellehammer. Born in 1871, Ellehammer experimented during his youth with large kites capable of lifting heavy loads. As a young man, he developed an interest in electricity during his early days as an apprentice, journeyman, and later employee in an electro-mechanical shop. He became a tinkerer, experimenter, and soon, a serious inventor with an extraordinary understanding of mechanical devices.

Clement Ader's controversial 1897 Avion III is still preserved in the Musee du Conservatoire des Arts et MEtiers in Paris. Two steam engines, generating 20 hp each, drove two, four-bladed, bamboo propellers resembling eight gigantic quill pens.

Perched precariously in the pendulum-like seat of his homebuilt flying machine, Jacob Christian Ellehammer became the first flying Dane. This photograph was taken by Ellehammer's cousin, Lars, as the aircraft skimmed over a circular, concrete runway a distance of 140 feet

It was quite logical that Ellehammer's attention would eventually turn to the design and construction of a practical reciprocating engine. At the turn of the century he produced a successful motor scooter and built his first airplane engine in 1904. It was a three-cylinder, air-cooled radial engine of 9 hp, the forerunner of the same type of engine that was to become so popular in the 1930s and beyond.

In 1906, after unsuccessful attempts to fly with his own underpowered monoplane, Ellehammer paired an 18 hp engine with a tailless biplane, both of his own design. The craft appeared as two enormous kites, one mounted above the other, with pilot, engine, and a reverse tricycle landing gear suspended underneath. The lower wing was fixed, with a movable elevator attached to the trailing edge center section. The upper wing was a smaller, non-rigid wing, much like a sail to be held in shape by the slipstream of the tractor propeller. The elevator was connected by wire to the pilot's seat at the forward part of the airplane. The seat was hinged, so that the pendulum action resulting from the pilot's movement forward and aft caused a corresponding vertical movement of the elevator. There was no vertical fin and no rudder, but some directional stability and control may have been afforded by the large steerable tail wheel.

Assisted by his brother Vilhelm and cousin Lars, Christian set up facilities on the small, barren Danish island of Lindholm in 1905 to test the monoplane and then the biplane. After many changes in configuration, and tethered, unmanned flights around a circular track, Ellehammer confounded the skeptics on September 12,1906, when he personally flew the airplane a distance of 140 feet at an altitude of about one and a half feet.

Many people gave Ellehammer credit for the first flight ever made in Europe, discounting the officially recognized flight of the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont, near Paris, France, on November 12 of that same year. The latter flight, however, was officially sanctioned by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale; a diary entry by Lars Ellehammer duly noting the particulars of Christian's flight was not considered sufficient evidence of the historic event. Detractors of Ellehammer's accomplishment also criticized his use of a circular runway with a pole at its centre, to which the aircraft was tethered by a fine wire. The eminent aviation historian, Charles H. Gibbs-Smith, commented:

Tentative as Santos' flights were, Ellehammer-in his second machine-did not even achieve the free flight which his admirers have so often claimed for him ... the pilot was only a passive passenger, the machine having a fixed rudder and automatic (pendulum) longitudinal control, to say nothing of the advantage of centrifugal control. If Ellehammer had concentrated on his excellent engines, he might have played a major role in history.'

Notwithstanding Gibbs-Smith's rather brusque dismissal of Ellehammer's flight, the importance of the event should be recognized. The marvel is not that Ellehammer flew before or after anyone else of that era; it is that he and others like him ever flew at all.

Ellehammer continued his aeronautical experiments for a number of years, developing an improved biplane, which became the first heavier-than-air craft to fly in Germany, in 1908. He later experimented with a flying boat, a wheeled monoplane that flew repeatedly in 1909, and a successful helicopter that was completed in 1912-the last of his aeronautical developments. He eventually took out more than 400 patents on a variety of electromechanical devices.

Early aviation pioneers studied the flight characteristics of every conceivable type of flying animal-birds, insects, bats, flying fish, even flying foxes. Elsewhere in nature, flying seeds also provided the inspiration for serious investigations into the theory of flight; one of these was the Zanonia macrocarpa seed. This kidney-shaped seed came from a vine native to Java, and was a member of the family that included such familiar plants as ground watermelon, cucumber, and cantaloupe. The Zanonia seed could perform amazingly long glides, during which it demonstrated basic inherent stability. The seed was flat and about six inches long, with a central seed kernel surrounded by light, tough tissue stiffened by fibers. A number of the early experimenters with tailless aircraft were inspired by the Zanonia's flying qualities. Igo Etrich adapted the principles he gleaned from his observation of the Znnofzia seed to the hard realities of powered, sustained flight in heavier-than-air machines.

Igo and his father, Ignaz Etrich, became aware of the qualities of this seed through the theoretical papers of German naturalist Dr. Frederick Ahlborn, published at the turn of the century. The Etriches were amateur flyers and industrialists from Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia). The younger Etrich had begun his practical investigations of unpowered flight with the purchase of a Lilienthal glider in 1898. Igo Etrich soon became a serious student of aeronautics, and, with the advice and assistance of Dr. Ahlborn and in collaboration with Austrian aviation enthusiast Franz Wels, built a tailless glider in the shape of the Zanonia seed in 1904. An unwieldy contraption of bamboo, canvas, and wire, the craft still had a graceful quality about it that eventually justified Igo Etrich's faith in the Zanonia concept.

By 1906, practice glides with sandbags for passengers had been successfully conducted, and the first Etrich-Wels manned glider was ready for test flights. Several sandbag flights were conducted with the glider being launched from a trolley after a run down an inclined track. After the successful unmanned flights, one of which continued for over 900 feet, pilot Fran-r Wels flew the glider on its first manned flight in October 1906. Because of the craft's unique Zanonia design, this was perhaps the first successful flight of an inherently stable, manned aircraft.

Impressed with his glider's performance, Igo Etrich decided to add power. In 1907, a small 24-hp engine with pusher propeller was added to the 1906 Etrich-Wels glider, now heavily modified with a rectangular stabilizing surface in front, cutaway wing to provide visibility for a seated pilot, and provisions for wing warping for roll control. The airplane would not fly because it was underpowered.

A tractor version followed in 1908, using the same 24-hp engine without the horizontal stabilizer. Called Etrich I, this machine too was a failure, due to directional instability. After dissolution of the Etrich-Wels partnership because of differences of opinion on aircraft design, Etrich further modified the 1907 Etrich I, installing a 40-hp engine. Finally, on November 29, 1909, Etrich flew his first sustained powered flight.


At this juncture in his early career as an aircraft designer, Igo Etrich made a radical departure from the design path that he had pursued thus far. It became obvious to Etrich that simply adding a power plant to the Zanonia wing was not the solution to his problems. In fact, the problems that resulted from this mismatch necessitated severe modifications to his basic design. Again, Etrich turned to nature for the solution. To the wing of the Zanonia seed he added the tail of a bird. The aircraft that evolved was the Tai be (dove), a class of aircraft that was produced in a bewildering number of versions for both civil and military use. Between 1910 and 1914, 54 manufacturers produced over 500 of these aircraft, including 137 different configurations. All were easily recognized by their distinctive Zanonia-shaped wings and dove-like tail, and all possessed the inherent stability that had originally attracted Etrich to the Zanonia design. The Taube was so stable that it could literally fly itself.'

The Taube marked the end of Igo Etrich's experimentations with tailless aircraft. Etrich's aviation activities continued in the post-World War I years, although he eventually turned his considerable talents as an inventor to other industrial fields, particularly textiles. Although Etrich's involvement with tailless craft was relatively short, he proved the effectiveness of the stable characteristics of the Zanonia seed, and he must rank with his contemporaries, Jose Weiss and J.W. Dunne of England, as a serious investigator of stability problems.

These problems were also being investigated on the other side of the English Channel; for Jose Weiss, however, the soaring flight of birds provided the inspiration. A Frenchman by birth, but a long-time resident of Great Britain, Weiss was a keen student of birds since childhood, and for years had speculated on their remarkable ability to soar on seemingly motionless wings. Weiss devoted much of his time to studies of the theory of flight. Between 1902 and 1907 he designed, constructed, and flew hundreds of models, gradually developing his own theory of inherent stability based on bird forms.

Finally satisfied that his theories were fundamentally sound, A\kiss constructed his first full-sized, man-carrying glider in 1909. Weiss's answer to the problem of inherent stability was in the curvature of the wings, which were thick at the roots but tapered outward until the tips were flexible. Positive incidence at the fuselage decreased gradually along the span until negative incidence, or washout, was produced at the tips, and the trailing edge was turned upward. Hinged elevators extended along part of the trailing edge. Christened Olive after one of Weiss's five daughters the tailless craft was flown quite successfully by test pilot Gordon England. Subsequent attempt to fly the aircraft with power, however, were unsuccessful.

Later in the same year, Weiss built a powered, single-seat tailless monoplane (Madge) on the same general lines as his 1909 glider. Powered only b\ - a 12-hp Anzani engine driving two pusher propellers through chains, the frail cloth-covered bamboo craft was incapable of flight.

Elsie, Weiss's first tractor monoplane, still tailless, appeared in 1910, but apparently enjoyed little success. A second monoplane, Sylvia, was also tested in 1910, but by now Weiss had abandoned the tailless configuration. The airplane was fitted with a Penaud tail, but still retained the distinctive curved, twisted wings designed by Weiss. The craft had a few successful flights, but a structural failure in flight resulted in a crash in late 1910.

One of the hundreds of models and gliders designed and constructed by Jose Weiss between 1902 and 1907. Although this model had some semblance of 'a tail, many o f Weiss's successful flights were made with tailless gliders.

Although Weiss's attempts at powered flight did not meet with notable success, his theories on wing design for inherent stability were recognised and respected in aviation circles of the day. In describing Jose Weiss's contributions to aeronautical lore, one aviation historian compared his universal genius to that of Leonardo da Vinci.

'In this type the mind and the eye of the artist are conjoined with the scientific mind. They think with the eye and the soul as well as with the brain. Such men have the joy of great vision, of peering into the mysteries; but often others, inspired by them, accomplish the practical work'

John William Dunne was a soldier, author, pilot, and designer. This thoughtful Englishman was totally dedicated to the principle of inherent stability. Inspired by a Jules Verne story at the age of 13, Dunne dreamed of a flying machine that needed no steering, that would right itself regardless of wind or weather. Like Igo Etrich of France, Dunne had studied the Zanortia seed, and was well aware of its amazing flying qualities. Like his countryman Jose Weiss, he had closely observed birds in flight. But both of those early pioneers had encountered problems when they attempted to add an engine to their successful tailless gliders. Dunne persisted, and produced a design which, though controversial, was the first successful tailless aircraft with swept back wings.

Dunne became seriously involved in the problems of flight in 1901, as an army lieutenant home on sick-leave from the Boer War. He began to plan, sketch, and make models, and he was encouraged in these endeavours by the science fiction writer H.G. Wells, who urged Dunne to concentrate on the problems of control and balance. Dunne's model-building efforts were temporarily interrupted by another tour to South Africa, from which he returned in 1903, now suffering from heart disease that would force his early retirement from aeronautical activities 10 years later.

Despite poor health, however, John Dunne resumed his aeronautical investigations, and by 1904 was ready to progress from the model phase to experiments with gliders and later, powered aircraft. Dunne sought an experienced engineer to assist him in the difficult job of putting theory into practice. His problem was solved when he was assigned in 1905 to the Army Balloon Factory at South Farnborough, England, then under the able leadership of Colonel John Capper. With Capper's guidance and support, Dunne began the design and construction of the the first British military airplane.

Months of tests with model gliders were followed in the spring of 1907 by the first passenger-carrying glider. It was the first of many craft with the distinctive V-shaped wing designed by Dunne, frequently described as an arrowhead minus a shaft.

Construction and flight testing of the first Dunne aircraft, the D.1-A, were conducted under great secrecy. The flimsy craft was shipped by rail in July 1907, to the village of Blair Atholl in the Scottish Highlands. In the hills north of the village, the D.1-A flew one successful eight-second flight, with Colonel Capper along for the ride. Although Colonel Capper was slightly injured in the crash that terminated the flight, the experimental glider had demonstrated the stability Dunne considered so essential.

Dunne's design experiments during 1907 and 1908 can be summarized as follows: the D.1-A glider, built in 1907, had limited success in its one flight; the D.1-B powered airplane (modified D.1-A), also of 1907, crashed in its first flight; the D.2 training glider, designed in 1907, was not constructed; the Dunne-Huntington powered triplane, designed in 1907-1908, was flown successfully in 1911; the D.3 man-carrying glider was flown successfully in 1908; the D.4 powered airplane, flown in 1908, had partial success (in Dunne's words, "more a hopper than a flyer").

By 1908, the British Army Council could no longer tolerate the limited potential demonstrated by Dunne's machines. Dunne left the Balloon Factory, and friends formed a small company, the Blair Atholl Aeroplane Syndicate, to finance his experiments. By 1910, a new aircraft was ready to be tested. The Dunne D.5 was a vast improvement over previous designs and one that would bring international acclaim to its designer.

Like previous models, the D.5 was a tailless biplane, with sharply swept back wings. A boat-like nacelle housed the pilot, with additional room for a passenger. An engine located at the rear of the nacelle drove two pusher propellers. The keys to the inherent stability demonstrated by the D.5, and the rest of Dunne's designs, were the twist and the camber designed into his swept wings. The angle of incidence changed gradually from root to tip so that the angle at the tip was less than that at the root. The camber (curvature of the top surface of the wing) also varied, so that near the wing root there was little curvature, while at the tips the wings were curved for the greater part of the chord. The British aviation historian Percy B. Walker, in his accounts of early aviation at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, explained Dunne's unusual swept wing design.

For stability in pitch, which is the primary consideration, the same basic principles apply to the Dunne design as for the more usual tailplane at the rear end of a fuselage. Although the Dunne aeroplane is rightly regarded as tailless in the ordinary sense, there are in effect two tails, corresponding to the wing tips on either side. The essential characteristic of the wings in these tip regions is the presence of washout or reduction in the angle of incidence relative to the main portions inboard. Thus when an aeroplane of this design is flying steadily on a level course there is only a small vertical force acting on the outer portion of each wing, and this small force is usually, and preferably, acting downwards. The combination of reduced or slightly negative incidence at the tips, and the backward inclination of the wings as a whole, ensures stability in pitch and acts as a substitute for the tailplane of the more conventional types.

On December 20, 1910, John Dunne, in the role of test pilot, demonstrated the extraordinary stability of the D.5 to an amazed audience that included Orville Wright. Taking off from Eastchurch, the site of many previous successful flights in the D.5, Dunne proved that an airplane could be flown for an extended period of time without handling any controls. Using both hands, Dunne scribbled a note on a flimsy piece of paper as he motored over the countryside, narrowly missing a windmill, and, despite a momentary failure to recognize the ground below, executing a successful landing for the appreciative audience.

Dunne continued his design efforts for another three years, until ill health finally forced his retirement from a life of total devotion to his stability experiments. Beginning with the 1911 D.6 monoplane, Dunne's designs progressed in sequence through the D.10. He reverted to the biplane format for the D.8 and D.10, and probably enjoyed the most publicity and some limited commercial success with the D.8. Following a successful D.8 cross-Channel flight and demonstration tour in France, the Nieuport Company ordered a biplane, and W. Starling Burgess of the United States was given the manufacturing rights in that country. Burgess produced a number of successful land and seaplane variations of the Dunne machines, continuing to demonstrate the remarkable stability of the original aircraft.

Although two aircraft were ordered by the Royal Flying Corps, it was becoming increasingly obvious to those concerned with designing, building, and testing military aircraft that the inherent stability so coveted by Dunne was incompatible with the handling characteristics desired by military pilots. Manoeuvrability, ease of handling, and superior performance determined an airplane's acceptability by the military. Dunne's craft were relatively inefficient compared to conventional aircraft of equal horsepower; excessive stability did not result in ease of control and manoeuvrability. A reasonable compromise between control and stability was required.

The 1910 Dunne D.6 monoplane was quite different from his well-known tailless biplanes. The monoplane's wing was set high in parasol fashion. The wing tips had pronounced washout, and the final few feet curved sharply downward outboard of the centre of the ailerons to provide side area in the absence of fins or rudders.

Assessing John Dunne's impact on aeronautical history is difficult. Many of his theories on stability are valid and many designers have benefited from his far-sighted experiments. England's G.T.R. Hill and America's John K. Northrop, two of the more renowned investigators of tailless aircraft, often referred to Dunne when discussing the basic problems of stability and control. He was a true pioneer-the first to create a practical tailless airplane.

The Dunne D.8 of 1911-1912 was representative of the tailless pusher biplanes that Lieutenant J.W.Dunne designed as inherently stable aircraft.

Dunne's tailless aircraft were successful because of his brilliant use of aerodynamic innovation in wing design. A totally different approach was taken in France by Rene Arnoux, who produced a series of tailless designs from 1909 to 1923 that included monoplanes, biplanes, pushers, tractors, low-wing, and mid-wing arrangements. A typical Arnoux wing resembled a straight board with no sweepback, dihedral, wing tip droop, or the like-a wing so simple it was called the Arnoux "flying plank."

The Stablavion monoplane of Rene Arnoux is shown on display at the Paris Aero Salon in October 1912. The secret of the success of the Arnoux "flving plank" aircraft was the upturned trailing edge of the wing, called reflex camber, which prevented instability caused by excessive aft travel of' the centre of pressure

Arnoux first applied his "no frills" approach to a tailless biplane in 1909, a design about which little has been written. Two monoplanes followed in 1912, one of which, named Le Stablavion, was placed on display at the Paris Aero Salon in October 1912. This two-seater pusher model attracted the attention of visiting technical experts, and at least one aviation writer, Alexander Dumas, gave the airplane extensive coverage in the well-known aviation journal L'Aerophi1e. The aircraft had not been flown before the exposition but was scheduled to begin tests in the near future.

Arnoux's experiments were interrupted by World War I. He resumed his investigations after the war, however, and his attempts to adapt the "flying plank" to racing aircraft in the 1920s will be discussed later.

Professor Hugo Junkers of Germany was frequently mentioned in aeronautical journals in connection with the evolution of the so-called all-wing airplane. Much of the publicity stems from a famous 1910 Junkers patent for an airplane with a thick, hollow wing in which non-lift-producing components such as engines, crew, and passengers could be housed. Junkers's preoccupation with this "thick wing" concept was evident in many of his aircraft designs that evolved over the next 30 years. The idea was even applied to a World War II design for a large military transport glider, the Ju Mammut (mammoth). This huge wooden aircraft, with a wingspan of 203 feet, carried most of its payload inside the wing. Although it flew successfully, it was not produced in quantity. Other than in some conceptual designs, such as his 1924 J 1000 giant airplane, or occasional wooden tailless models, there is little physical evidence that Junkers's ideas extended to the elimination of the tail section. Junkers applied his "all-wing" concepts only to the extent that they were economically feasible.

Hugo Junkers's 1924 design for a giant airplane closely approximated a true flying wing in concept. The wing was lo accommodate 26 cabins for 100 passengers, carry a crew of 10, and have enough fuel for 10 hours of  flight.

Although Junkers never received the necessary support to develop his ideal airplane, he did provide the aeronautical community with the perception that parasite drag could be substantially reduced by placing most components and loads inside a thick cantilever wing.

When the prototype G 38a D-2000 made its maiden flight on November 6, 1929, it was billed as the largest landplane in the world, featuring a mammoth wing with a chord of almost 33 feet and 6 feet thick at the root. Although by no means a true flying wing, it incorporated some of the desirable characteristics of such a design by locating the payload compartments and engines in an unbraced cantilever wing.

Before World War I the majority of design work on tailless aircraft took place in Europe. There were, however, two series of designs by Americans during those early years that deserve mention-one a modest commercial success based on John Dunne's developments in England, the other a "home-grown" product developed by three brothers from New Jersey with nothing to build on but intuition, common sense, and natural ability.

Operating his own boat yard at Marblehead, Massachusetts, prepared W. Starling Burgess for an equally successful career as aircraft builder. In an age when aircraft construction techniques and materials were rudimentary at best, Burgess found the high standards of workmanship and construction that helped him build fast racing yachts were in high demand by sportsmen and military aviators alike. By the time he acquired the license to build and continue to develop Dunne-style aircraft in 1913, he had become involved in the design and construction of aircraft for four years, primarily in partnership with his close friend Greely S. Curtis (not related to Glenn H. Curtiss). They built Wright airplanes under license for sport and for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Flying schools were operated by the Burgess Company and Curtis, as the organization was named, and Burgess himself gradually became a pilot of considerable skill. By 1913, Burgess and Curtis had had considerable success developing seaplanes for both civil and military use. They also had become disenchanted with their arrangement with the Wright brothers, and consequently dissolved their firm and reorganized as the Burgess Company in early 1914.

Burgess had also acquired the exclusive American manufacturing rights for the Dunne aircraft in 1913. He refined the Dunne design, simplifying construction, cutting weight, and increasing engine horsepower. Not surprisingly for a yachtsman turned flyer, Burgess immediately undertook the task of modifying the Dunne design for operations hardly envisioned by the English designer. During 1914, Burgess and Curtis produced the first Burgess Dunne Hydro, equipped with a single float underneath the centre nacelle and a small pontoon under each wing tip. Test pilot Clifford L. Webster flew a successful first flight from Marblehead Harbour, Massachusetts, in March 1914. Subsequent flight tests and demonstrations elicited ecstatic reviews in the press and considerable interest by the U.S. Army and Navy, and later, by several wealthy sportsmen.

Despite favourable publicity accorded the Burgess-Dunne types, the fact of the matter is that virtually only a handful of the models were ever bought. The Army's only Burgess-Dunne, S.C. No. 36, was accepted in December 1914. Capable of operation from land or, with minor modification, from water, the airplane was used mostly for experimental work with the Coast Artillery rather than in its intended role as tactical reconnaissance scout. It was condemned on October 18, 1916, ending a rather brief and unglamorous service life.

The Navy acquired two Burgess-Dunnes, the AH-7 and AH-70. Both were hydroplanes. The AH-7 was an open, side-by-side cockpit craft that was distinguished not only by its unusual Dunne design but by a beautiful camouflage of lavender and green. In its sister ship, the AH-10, which had a 100-hp Curtiss engine, Lieutenant Patrick Bellinger established a new American altitude record for seaplanes by flying to 10,000 feet on April 23,1915. Three similar aircraft were ordered by the Navy, and designated A-54, A-55, and A-56, but these aircraft never went into active service.

Burgess enjoyed some success in the civil aviation market, receiving considerable publicity with sales of hydroplanes to financiers Vincent Astor and Harold Payne Whitney. The enterprising Burgess also included a floating hangar of his own design in his aviation package for the millionaire flyer interested in "water plane sports." The media had a field day with the whole idea:

"It does not confine the activity of the machine to one particular locality, but enables moves to be made to suit the desires of the owner. If he so wishes, the summer months may be spent in the North, either on the Atlantic Coast or on one of the many inland lakes, whilst when winter makes climactic conditions uncomfortable for flying, the machine and its hangar may be sent down to the smiling Florida waters. What infinite possibilities for the future of the sport of aviation are here foreshadowed! "

There were other orders for the Dunne derivative: a warplane for Canada was delivered but then abandoned after it was damaged in shipment; and allegedly, a military aircraft for Russia. The Burgess catalogue listed an attractive flying boat with a Curtiss hull, designed "primarily for sportsmen who do not wish to lose the sensations of the speed boat." There was a BD Sportsman's Seaplane, as well as a Model BDH Reconnaissance Type which, because of its inherent stability, enabled the pilot "to fly long distances without fatigue and make observations at his leisure." Prototypes for all of these were built, but the market was limited.

In 1913, W. Starling Burgess secured American patent rights to build aircraft in the United States under the Dunne patents covering inherent stability. The U.S. Army's BurgessDunne S.C. No. 36 shown here was delivered in 1914 and was one of a number of Dunne
aircraft produced front 1914 to 1917. The airplane was initially equipped with a single square, flat-bottomed pontoon that was alternated with conventional landing gear during test flights.

Perhaps the high point of Starling Burgess's romance with the Dunne design was his winning of the 1915 Collier Trophy for development of the Burgess-Dunne hydro-aeroplane. With the outbreak of World War I, however, the market for purely civilian aircraft disappeared, and there was no military requirement for the Dunne machine."

Starling Burgess accepted a commission in the U.S. Navy in 1917, and in the process severed all ties with the company that bore his name. The Burgess Company continued to produce conventional trainers, flying boat hulls, and airship cars for the Navy during the war, but a disastrous fire on November 7, 1918, destroyed one Burgess plant. The fire, and the end of the war a few days later, spelled the end of the Burgess Company. Burgess returned to the boat business, in which he worked with considerable success until his death in 1947.

Shortly before Burgess shifted his interest from boats to airplanes, the Boland brothers of Rahway, New Jersey, began their investigations into tailless designs in a manner which, on the surface, appeared to be something less than scientific. In 1904, Frank and Joseph, the more mechanically inclined of the three brothers, established a service garage for bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles in Rahway, with brother James running the business and taking care of the finances. In 1907, Frank tried unsuccessfully to build his own airplane without drawings, knowledge, or advice.

In 1908, Frank was joined by his brothers, with Joseph applying his considerable talent to designing and building a suitable eight-cylinder water-cooled engine for their next venture. A series of designs for tailless aircraft evolved in a process which one aviation writer of the day described as "flying, smashing, altering, with the one object in view of proving that rudders as generally used are unnecessary, that ailerons and warping wings are only two methods of keeping right side up." Frank Boland acted as test pilot and, through trial and error, ingenuity, and no little courage, finally did prove to the aviation world that the fledgling Boland Airplane and Motor Company could produce aircraft that could fly.

The key to the Boland airplane's ease of handling and manoeuvrability was a patented system of lateral control long known to sailors, called a jib. Rudders, ailerons, and wing warping were not part of this design. Lateral control was provided by elliptically shaped surfaces, or jibs, mounted between the outer ends of the top and bottom wings. Each jib was pivoted on an oblique axis from the lower front strut to the upper rear strut and was movable inward, in one direction only. The operation was similar to steering an automobile: a control wheel was turned in the desired direction, the jib on that side was pulled in, and the aircraft banked and turned. Control in elevation was provided by a curved control surface located 14 feet in front of the wings. Moving the control column forward caused the craft to go downward, and vice versa.

As the Bolands continued to test and improve their designs, word of their success spread. Orders for aircraft and engines began to arrive, as did the curiosity seekers and the serious investigators. In 1911, Wilbur Wright paid a visit to the Rahway shop to determine if the jib control infringed on Wright patents. It did not, and apparently Wilbur Wright praised the Bolands for their original work.

After two years of experimenting, the Boland brothers produced this tailless biplane, which flew quite successfully in 1910. Jibs used for turning  the airplane can be seen at the wing tips. Since the pilot's feet were not used for any purpose during flight, they were inserted in "stirrups" on the outrigger, so that the pilot sat with knees high, like the driver of a racing automobile.

Frank Boland was killed in 1913 during an exhibition flight in Trinidad, a crushing blow to the Boland Company. Joseph took over control of the venture, concentrating on development and manufacturing, while using other available talent for test flights and demonstrations. A tailless flying boat appeared in 1913, and in 1914 the newly formed Aeromarine Plane and Motor Company of Avondale, New Jersey, took over the exclusive manufacturing rights of Boland airplanes and engines. Joseph and James remained with the new organization for a time, Joseph continuing to work on engine and airplane developments. Unfortunately, little more was heard of the Boland tailless airplane and its unique jib control.

An improved version of the 1910 Boland /1e-v at the Mineola fair grounds in 1914. A fabric-covered nacelle was added to protect pilot and passenger. An 8-cvlinder, 60-hp Boland engine powered the biplane, which was made in both land- and seaplane versions.

The Boland brothers were a relatively small, but extraordinary, part of early aviation history in the United States. Frank supplied the enthusiasm, ingenuity, and self-taught flying ability; Joseph provided the mechanical genius to transform ideas into some tangible, workable form; and James had the business sense so often lacking in ventures of that sort. Unfortunately, with Frank Boland's death, many of the ingredients necessary for success went with him.

With World War I came a temporary hiatus in the experimentation with tailless aircraft as nations turned to the more practical business of adapting the airplane to full scale warfare for the first time. In the decades that followed, however, the impetus provided by the tremendous growth in military aviation and associated technology contributed to a resurgence of interest in the tailless airplane, initially in Europe, then in the United States.