Pégoud Loops

A Demonstration at Brooklands in 1913
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From the London Times, 26 and 27 September 1913:


Mastery of the Aeroplane

  The French airman Adolphe Pégoud duly repeated yesterday afternoon the astonishing feats in the shape of flying upside down which he has been performing in France during the last three weeks. With sublime confidence and consummate mastery of his machine, he described not only an S in the air, but a spiral vol plané [ie glide], hanging head downwards, and a complete and almost vertical circle. So great an artist is the airman, that these extraordinary performances, which he himself describes as "quite easy" gave the impression - a false one, of course - of being altogether free from danger.
  The weather in the afternoon was perfect for flying. A very considerable crowd was present, and no doubt to-day and to-morrow it will be greater still. The height, however, at which Pégoud's feats are performed is such that the innumerable bicyclists who encamped on the neighbouring roads probably had as good a view as the motorists who lined the track in the enclosure.
   At 4 o' clock precisely Pégoud started amid cheers. He was wearing a white sweater, and his demeanour was, as usual, entirely reserved and calm. He began by climbing in a great circle from north to west, and then, turning east, made a succession of sharp rolls to an angle of about 80 degrees either way, as one who endeavours to capsize a canoe.
  The wind aloft was evidently strong, for the machine made but slow progress against it and drifted considerably when flying across it. After climbing further, until he was at a height of about 3,000 ft., Pégoud suddenly descended in a steep spiral, continuing the dive until his machine was travelling on its back. For 22 seconds he proceeded in this fashion, dropping slightly all the while, and then quickly completed the S by another dive which brought him right side up again. At 4.25 he landed, as calm as ever, and was driven past the spectators amid scenes of great enthusiasm.


  At 4.45 Pégoud was off again, this time to "loop the loop". He now climbed to about 4,500 ft., and at 5.5, amid a great silence, dived until he was again inverted, and in this attitude performed a spiral vol plané, concluding with an S as before. On this occasion he must have been hanging downwards for nearly three quarters of a minute. Resuming his flight, he climbed again for a few moments. Then the machine dived, carried on, stood up on its tail, carried on upside down, and dived again, completing a full circle. A quick descent bought Pégoud's performance to a close. Another scene of enthusiasm followed, while his compatriots kissed him.
  Apparently Pégoud turns off his petrol when he leaves the normal attitude, and trusts to his momentum and the force of gravity to maintain his flying speed. His control over his machine is marvellous and the spectator quickly comes to share his confidence that nothing untoward will happen.

27th Sept. 1913
   Adolphe Pégoud, the French airman, gave a second demonstration of flying upside down at Brooklands yesterday afternoon. His feats were even more remarkable than those of the previous day. Most daring and astonishing of all was the "double loop", in which he made his Blériot monoplane describe two complete vertical circles in the air.
  The weather was again favourable, though the wind in the upper air was rather stronger than on Thursday. The enclosure near the sheds was thronged with spectators, the racing track was lined with motor-cars and the hill on the Weybridge side of the enclosure was black with people.
   Pégoud made his first flight shortly before 4 o' clock. Verrier followed him on a Henry Farman machine with the intention of photographing him inverted. Starting from the enclosure, Pégoud rose in a wide circle to an altitude of about 3,000 ft. and then flew across the ground to the Weybridge side. Diving headlong a thousand feet or more, Pégoud made his machine resume a horizontal position, he himself being below and the wheels above. In this position he travelled for about 45 seconds, in the course of which he made a half spiral turn. Then, with another dive, which brought him well within 1,000 ft. of the ground, he again brought the machine right side up. The half spiral turn while flying head down was a new element in this part of the demonstration. Continuing his flight, Pégoud climbed again to an even greater height. When over the centre of the ground, his machine dived a short distance, rose abruptly until it was standing on its tail, and turned over backwards. Then describing a complete vertical circle, it resumed its normal position. Almost immediately, the evolution was repeated: Pégoud had twice "looped the loop" in a  few hundred yards. When he came to earth in front of the enclosure the crowd broke through the barriers and greeted him with extraordinary enthusiasm.
   Later in the afternoon Pégoud gave a second exhibition. This time he flew upside down on the enclosure side, and the duration of his flight head down was timed at 47 sec. He afterwards combined a "loop" with a "bank" and spiral movement, and before coming to earth he made an almost vertical spiral descent.
   At a reception held afterwards, Pégoud explained that all he had done could be done by other pilots. His was not trick flying. He had only carried out the instructions of M. Blériot, who had carefully though out the evolutions which he had performed.
   Mr Hamel is anxious to experiment in flying upside down, and if he can persuade M. Blériot to lend him Pégoud's machine he may attempt the achievement privately this evening or to-morrow. In any case, he will make an experiment soon and he has placed with M. Blériot an order to convert one of his machines to a pattern similar to that flown by Pégoud.*

 *Pégoud's machine is described in The Times as being a standard 50 hp Blériot XI, but with its cabane one foot higher and six inches further forward than normal. This allowed the upper bracing wires (normally the landing wires, but in inverted flight the flying wires) to be at a less oblique angle to the wing. The lower cabane was strengthened. More substantial wires than normal were also used. The only other modifications were the fitting of a broader tailplane from a two-seater and the addition of the pilot's substantial leather shoulder harness.

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