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How the War Crates Flew: The Constaninesco Interrupter Gear

Link - Posted by David on January 12, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the July 1932 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing R. Sidney Bowen to conduct a technical department each month. It is Mr. Bowen’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Mr. Bowen is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot of the Royal Air Force, but also because he has been the editor of one of the foremost technical journals of aviation.

The Constaninesco Interrupter Gear

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters, July 1932)

ALEC WATSON, leading Hun getter of the 23rd Pursuits, crouched over the stick, glued his eye to the ring-sight, and tripped the triggers. . . .

Now just a second, Alec old sky eagle! What do you mean, tripped the triggers? Generally speaking, that is correct. But technically speaking it is not so correct. You, personally, Alec, do not trip the triggers. Of course, being an A1 Hun getter, you realize that. But there are a lot of fledglings around here who don’t. So I think it would be a pretty good idea if we went into this question of tripping triggers, and found out just what it was all about.

Alright, fledglings, gather ’round, and let’s go!

The pilot of any pursuit plane used in the great war, could only shoot in one direction . . . that was forward. Sometimes he had one Vickers gun mounted on the engine cowling, and one Lewis mounted on the top center section. Sometimes he had two Vickers and one Lewis. And sometimes he had just two Vickers. But regardless of what he had in the way of guns, they were always mounted on something and pointing straight forward. We’ll just forget about the Lewis gun because that was mounted on the top center section and therefore was able to fire clear of the top peak of the propeller disc. Now when I say propeller disc I simply mean the circle inscribed by the revolving propeller.

But, the Vickers gun being mounted on the engine cowling, just forward of the pilot’s cockpit, must fire through the prop disc, if it’s going to fire at all.

I just heard some one ask: “What about hitting the revolving propeller blades?”

Well, fledgling, that’s just what I’m getting at. We don’t want to hit the prop blades, do we? I’ll say we don’t! So some way we’ve got to work things so that the shots from our gun will pass between the prop blades on their way to that Hun johnnie sitting up there in the sky.

And here is how we do that little thing.

As a matter of fact, it has already been done for us. A gentleman by the name of Constaninesco invented what was known as the Constaninesco Interrupter Gear. It was composed of four parts. 1. The generator. 2. The trigger motor. 3. The reservoir with Bowden control. 4. Pipe lines, main and secondary.

The generator is simply a small* cylinder affair with plunger attached, which is mounted forward on the engine, and in a vertical position. The drive for the generator is generally taken (on stationary engines) from the boss of the propeller by means of gears which engage with a cam shaft leading to the vertical generator. To put it another way, the generator is just a small cylinder with a plunger at the top which is forced down every time the revolving cam on the cam shaft strikes it. And that cam shaft is not the cam shaft of the engine itself, but a separate cam shaft which is revolved by means of gears which attach it to the boss of the propeller. And, of course, when I say boss, I mean the metal plates and bolts which hold the propeller on the crankshaft of the engine.

Now, the next thing is the trigger motor, as it was called. As you all probably know, the Vickers gun operates (briefly) by, what is cabled, the lock moving forward and backward inside the gun. The lock is about three inches by four inches and maybe an inch or so thick, and contains all the trigger mechanism of the gun. Now, one of its actions as it moves forward in the gun is to cock the trigger which is a part of it. Then as it rides back again in the gun the trigger, which projects up out of the top a bit hits against a movable pin fitted at the rear of the gun casing. And of course that action trips the trigger and the gun fires.

IT IS that movable pin that I’m yarning about now. It is simply a round slender piece of metal which projects out of the rear end of the gun and is fastened to a thumb lever. In other words, when firing a Vickers on the ground you simply grip the spade handles of the gun and press your thumbs against the thumb levers. That forces the pin forward so that the end of it trips the trigger as the lock slides back. Now, when you don’t press the gun naturally doesn’t fire because the pin, which is really like a plunger on a spring, is forced back by the spring action so that the trigger doesn’t touch it as the lock slides back.

Now, what we’ve got to do is attach something to the rear end of that pin to take the place of the thumb levers. The reason being, that running from our generator up front to the pin at the rear of the gun is a length of quarter inch copper tubing which is filled with oil. Ah, you’re guessing it already. That’s right . . . as the cam rotates and strikes the plunger in the generator it sends a pulsation back along the copper pipe full of oil and forces forward the pin in the rear of the gun so that it trips the trigger of the lock. So what we really do is fit another plunger to the rear of the gun to take the place of the pin with its thumb levers.

Now, so far, we have a plunger at the forward end of the copper tubing, and another plunger at the rear end. The forward plunger is set so that the revolving cam will hit it. And the rear plunger is set so that as a pulsation of oil forces it forward it will trip the trigger lock.

Just oil (nine parts parafine and one part BB vacuum oil in the copper tubing isn’t going to do us any good unless we put that oil under pressure. So we use what is called the reservoir. The reservoir is something like a double bicycle pump. In other words, a plunger and chamber inside of a larger chamber. At the end of the inner chamber there is a copper pipe-line running to the one we’ve just been talking about. Just so we won’t get too mixed up, the copper tube running from the generator to the trigger motor is called the main pipe-line. And the tube running from the reservoir to the main pipe-line is called the secondary pipeline.

Now, the plunger in the inner chamber of the reservoir is attached to a handle at the top, and there is a strong spring around the stem of the plunger to keep it forced down. In other words, when the handle of the plunger is pulled up and released the spring tries to force it down. And of course the reservoir is attached to the inner right side of the cockpit, at an angle of forty-five degrees, so that the pilot can grab it when he wants to put the oil under pressure.

So now let’s see just how we work the thing.

OF COURSE we assume that there is oil in the main pipe-line, in the secondary pipe-line and in the outer chamber (low pressure chamber) of the reservoir. There isn’t oil in the center chamber (high pressure) because the plunger is down at the bottom. But all of this oil is under atmospheric pressure. In other words, not enough pressure to force the generator plunger up so that the revolving cam will strike it.

Okay, let’s go. We pull up the handle of the reservoir. In doing that we suck oil from the low pressure chamber into the high pressure chamber. Then we let go the handle and the spring tries to force the plunger down, and that action puts the oil under a pressure of 150 lbs. per square inch. Now the oil in the high pressure chamber and the oil in the secondary pipe-line is under pressure. The oil in the main pipe-line is not, because where the two pipe-lines join is a three-way valve. To get pressure in the main pipe-line we have got to open that three-way valve.

We do it this way. From the joy stick to that valve is a movable wire in a metal casing. (Something like the choke wire on your car.) On the joy stick that wire, called the Bowden control, is attached to a clamp you can press. Oftentimes it is attached to a thumb lever you push forward. But squeezing the clamp, or pushing the thumb lever, pulls the Bowden control wire and opens the three-way valve. Of course then the oil in the main line is put under pressure. And in being under pressure the plunger in the generator is forced up so that the revolving cam will strike it.

Alright, the cam strikes the plunger and forces it down. A pulsation, traveling at the rate of 4,000 ft. per second, starts back along the main pipeline. It reaches the point where the main pipe-line is joined to the secondary line. But because of the three-way valve it can’t shoot up the secondary line and hit against the reservoir plunger. So it carries right on along the main pipe-line and hits against the plunger in the trigger motor, and of course shoves it forward. And when the trigger motor plunger is forced forward, it of course trips the trigger of the lock and the gun is fired. Now, that pulsation after it has hit the trigger motor plunger naturally wants to bounce back along the main pipe-line. But we stop that by putting a check valve in the trigger motor. Then, of course, the pulsation can’t bounce back and interfere with pulsation coming forward.

We have yarned about this step by step. But of course you understand that these pulsations are traveling at the rate of 4,000 ft. per second, and things happen fast. And whenever the lock slides back again with its trigger cocked there are always pulsations to slap the trigger motor plunger forward and trip the trigger again.

IN CASE you’ve forgotten, all this is happening because we are still pressing the Bowden controls. Once we let go, the three-way valve closes and the main pipe-line goes back to ordinary pressure and the generator plunger sinks down where the revolving cam doesn’t hit it. To fire again we simply press the Bowden control and that opens the valve again. The 150 lbs. per square inch pressure is maintained for about ten bursts of any length. And then we have to pull up the handle again and renew the pressure. In order to get it clear in your minds about those pulsations, the oil being under pressure, a single pulsation is like a solid rod moving through the main pipe-line. And the number of pulsations is determined on how the cam shaft is geared to the prop boss. In other words, according to the speed of the revolving cam shaft.

And there you are.

No, we’re not. That young fledgling is checking on me again. “How about hitting the prop blades?” he asks.

Alright, it’s like this. The cam is set so that it strikes the generator plunger when the trailing edge of the prop blade (two-bladed prop) is one inch past the bore of the gun. In the case of a four-bladed prop the cam should be set when the center of the blade is right opposite the bore of the gun. That is, of course, assuming that the muzzle of the gun is four feet from the revolving prop blades. The nearer the gun is to the prop the nearer you set the cam to the trailing edge.

The Editor of this mag of yours has just looked over my shoulder and reminded me that I’m not writing a book, so I’d better quit.

And so, you fledglings, when these leading Hun getters trip triggers again, don’t let ’em kid you. They are just pressing the old Bowden control to open that three-way valve to put the main pipe-line under pressure so that the oil pulsation will trip the triggers. Can you beat it? . . . These sky birds are just a bunch of oil pumpers!

How the War Crates Flew: Airplane Cooperation with the Artilary

Link - Posted by David on February 9, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the August 1932 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing R. Sidney Bowen to conduct a technical department each month. It is Mr. Bowen’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Mr. Bowen is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot of the Royal Air Force, but also because he has been the editor of one of the foremost technical journals of aviation.

Airplane Cooperation With the Artillery

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters,August 1932)

COLONEL BOWERS leveled calm gray eyes at the pilots of the 42nd Pursuit Squadron.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “The Seventh Field Battery will start its shoot of the German rail-head, back of Issy, tomorrow morning at nine sharp. The Fiftieth Observation Squadron will conduct the shoot, and it will be your job to see that they are protected from German patrols. I know I can depend upon you to do a damn fine job.”

OF COURSE you can, Colonel. The 42nd boys will go over and knock the pin feathers off any Huns who get nasty. But there happens to be a couple of fledglings around here who are piping up with questions about what those observation ships have got to do. Now, you and I both know that during the late war the observation ship boys missed a lot of praise and credit that they rightly deserved. So I think it would be a good idea if we gathered ’round and chinned about observation ships and shoots for awhile.

Okay, then let’s gather.

Naturally the main idea of observation ships was to observe. And of course, what they observed was anything going on below on the ground. So in order that these question-asking fledglings won’t interrupt us, we will start with the ground and work our way up.

The map of France was divided into a number of sheets that were key-numbered so that you could easily find the adjacent sheets if you wanted to. Each sheet was 36,000 yards by 22.000 yards. And each of those sheets was divided into twenty-four lettered squares, lettered from A to X. (Fig 1)

You’ll note that there are four rows of six squares. And of course you want to understand that the top represents the northerly direction, the bottom the southerly, and the two sides east and west respectively. Well, so much for that. Now, the squares in the top and bottom rows were 6,000 by 5,000 yards. And the squares in the two middle rows were 6,000 by 6.000 yards.

Alright, now the top and bottom rows were again divided into thirty squares numbered from one to thirty. And the squares in the two middle rows were divided into thirty-six squares, numbered from one to thirty-six. To show just what we mean let us take Square A and Square K of Fig. 1, and what do we have? Well, take a look at Fig. 2. Get the idea?

Okay. Now as Square A is 6,000 by 5,000 yards and divided up into thirty numbered squares, it makes each of those squares 1,000 yards square. And as Square K is 6,000 by 6.000 yards and divided up into thirty-six numbered squares, it makes each of those squares 1,000 yards square also.

Now to check back for a moment, we started with a map sheet representing one section of land 36,000 by 22.000. We divided it up so that we got twenty-four sections of land, twelve of them 6,000 yards by 5.000 yards, and twelve of them 6,000 by 6,000 yards. And then we took those twenty-four squares and divided each of them into squares 1,000 yards by 1,000 yards. So you see we are now able to pick out any area of 1.000 yards by 1,000 yards on a section of land that was 36,000 by 22,000 yards when we started.

But we want to get it down smaller than that, so we take each one of these 1000 yards by 1000 yards squares and divide them again into four squares each and letter them A, B, C and D. And of course you can figure that each of these new squares is 500 yards by 500 yards. And just so’s you won’t forget look at Fig. 3.

However, 500 yards by 500 yards is still a pretty big area, so we will get it down smaller yet by starting with the lower left hand corner of each of the lettered squares and marking off ten equal points to the right and ten equal points straight up. Now, if we continued out those lines we would have 100 more squares with each square being 50 yards by 50 yards. Or if necessary we could divide each lettered square of Fig. 3 into 1,000 squares, each of which be five yards by five yards. But 100 squares, 50 yards by 50 yards each is small enough.

NOW all of these squares I’ve been talking about are all printed on the map sheet and lettered and numbered accordingly. That is, all except the last four lettered squares (A, B, C, D). They aren’t marked off in 100 squares usually. They are just left blank and you imagine where the ten equal spaced lines are going to the right, and going from the bottom up, beginning at the left side. Of course, though, if that particular observer was fussy he’d mark in the lines. Fig. 4.

I knew it. … I knew it! That fledgling sitting over there has just got to ask questions, hasn’t he!

He pipes up with: “What’s all these squares got to do with an artillery shoot?”

Alright, I’m getting to that right now. The Colonel has told the boys that the Seventh Artillery is going to let drive on the rail-head back of Issy. Well, does the artillery know the exact location of that rail-head? Perhaps they’ve never shot at it before.

Sure they know it . . . because the observation planes have already spotted it for them.

But to make everything clear for this question-asking fledgling we’ve got here, let’s say that instead of a rail-head it’s an ammunition dump that sprang up over-night, and that the observer notes it for the first time while out on patrol. Call it anything you want . . . but at least something that’s important and must be fired upon right away.

The leader of the observation flight sees it, and immediately starts to locate it on his map so that he can wireless the news (with the small sending sets carried) back to the gunners. Naturally he knows it’s on the map sheet he has, because he took off with the correct key numbered map sheet for the area he was going to patrol.

So by comparing the map with things on the ground (rivers, woods, towns, etc.) he finds that the ammo dump is in Square K. He looks closer and notes that it is in Square 15 of Square K. He keeps on looking and notes that it is in Square D of Square 15. And by figuring still closer he notes that the ammo dump is right where line 7, running from left to right in Square D, crosses perpendicular line 5. In other words he has pin-pointed the ammo dump, or whatever the target is, in an area of 50 yards by 50 yards.

Then he calls the battery on the wireless key by sending down a prearranged code number and the battery number. He does that three times at intervals of one minute each. Then he sends the pin-point map reading of where the target is. You’ve guessed it! Sure, he sends down the map sheet key-number, and then sends K—15—D—7—5. The gunners receive that and know just where to find the target on their map. And when they find that, they can set their guns for the range required.

So, that’s how an observation plane spots a target and sends its exact location back to the “blind” gunners.

Now, let’s say that the guns are ready to fire. The observation pilot has sent down the code-call three times, and he also sends down the pin-point location three times. And then he sends down the order to fire.

INCIDENTALLY, whenever the observer sends wireless messages to the battery he does so when he is flying from the target toward the battery.

Okay, the Fire! is sent down, and the plane banks around and flies back toward the target. At the end of three minutes the battery fires a shell over. The observer notes where it falls in relation to the target and then when the plane banks around and flies toward the battery again he sends down the correction.

Now for the corrections the observer sends down.

The target being fired upon is the center of a clock, with 12 o’clock being due north and the remaining hours accordingly. Around the target are imaginary circles at radial distances of 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400 yards, etc. And these circles are lettered from the center Y, Z, A, B, C, D, E, F, etc.

So let us say that the first shell lands 200 yards north of the target. The correction would then be, C at 12 o’clock. And if the second shell lands 50 yards to the east of the target, the correction sent down would be, A at 3 o’clock. Of course I’ve been speaking of corrections. The observer simply tells the gunners where each shell lands so that they can make the correction on their gun sights. Of course there is no correction when a hit is made and the observer signals down that a hit has been made. And when the target is destroyed the signal to Cease Fire is sent down.

And now a little story before I put on my hat and call it a day with you fledglings.

It has to do with sending back new pin-point locations. There was in France, what was known as the S.O.S. call from plane to gunners. It was never supposed to be sent down unless the target was of great importance. A couple of thousand marching troops, or three or four field batteries on the road, or fifty or more motor lorries. In other words . . . mighty worthwhile shooting up. The reason being that when the S. O. S. signal came down, every gun within range of the target fired three shots. And during the latter part of the war, that usually meant 10,000 guns!

Well, it seems that an Allied pilot was one day straffing a German staff car, and he couldn’t seem to do much about it. So he ups and gets sore and sends down the S. O. S. Now, there’s no need of my describing what happened to that staff car and all the Hun brass-hats sitting in it. But, as for the pilot . . . he was yanked off the Front and grounded for the rest of the war. Now, take that funny look off your faces, because I’m telling you right from the shoulder, that poor peelot was not yours truly!

“How The War Crates Flew” by Robert Sidney Bowen

Link - Posted by David on May 13, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the June 1933 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing R. Sidney Bowen to conduct a technical department each month. It is Mr. Bowen’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Mr. Bowen is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot of the Royal Air Force, but also because he has been the editor of one of the foremost technical journals of aviation.

FORMATION FLYING

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters, June 1933)

WELL, maybe I’m getting good, or maybe you buzzards have ganged up together and decided to kid your old Uncle Wash-out. But anyway, I’m certainly getting a flock of letters asking me all sorts of questions. And would you believe it?—most of them are real sensible. They almost make me believe that you apes keep your ears buttoned back when I start to talk. As I said, maybe I’m getting good, and then again maybe I’m—! Oh, well, we’ll let that one go this time.

However, it all leads up to the fact that I’ve just received a note from Tony Battagalia out in Chicago. Now there is a buzzard who does his sleeping in the night time only. He keeps his eyes open while the sun is shining—and even on rainy days, too. In his note he tells me what a wonderful war eagle I must have been (which of course is quite correct), and then he asks me to get in a few words about formation flying.

Well, I was going to speak about knitting woolen helmets for high altitude flying, but in view of the fact that Tony wants to hear about formation flying then that’s what he’s going to hear about. Of course some of you other buzzards may think that you know all about that sort of thing. If you do just stick your chins in your vests and don’t snore too loud. Tony and the other lads crave information, so take a tip and shut up.

FORMATION flying is, of course, just what the two words signify—flying together in a group in a definitely arranged group. And why? Of course you can guess. When soldiers march they don’t go along the street in mob fashion, half of them in the gutter and the other half shuffling across peoples’ front lawns. No, they march in closed order. And the main idea is so that the whole group will execute an order as though they were one man. The same idea holds true for cavalry, gun batteries, tanks, etc. Formation is maintained so that the group will act as a solid unit.

Now, that is great stuff for the fighting forces on the ground. They can march into battle in formation positions, and in some cases they can fight a battle and still keep their formation. In the case of infantry going over the top, they go over in what are known as waves. The first wave is a line of soldiers spaced so many feet apart. In some cases it may be two lines. Then comes the second wave, and if necessary a third wave. But what I’m trying to bring out is that the soldiers advance upon the enemy in formation. When they meet the enemy and it becomes a case of hand to hand conflict, their original formation is of course broken up. But up to that point, the soldiers that were not killed while advancing across no man’s land kept an advancing formation that made it possible for their officers to maneuver them as a solid group.

THAT is exactly what happens in the air—planes fly in formation not because it looks pretty, but so that all of them will maneuver as a fixed body when the signal comes from the pilot in command. Troops on the ground march behind their commanding officer. The reasons for that are, first; an officer leads his men. That’s why he’s an officer. Second, so that they will be able to see or hear his commands and execute them as a unit.

So naturally, it follows that the commanding air officer leads his pilots through the air. And the best way to lead them is when they are flying behind him in formation position. When in formation they can see his signals, and by looking back he can see them.

Now, that brings us up to the matter of the various types of aerial formations, their names, and their uses.

The first is, of course, the most common one of all. It is called the V formation. (Fig. 1) A V formation can be made up of any number of planes, from three to six billion, if you want that many. The officer in command flies at the peak of the V. On his left and on his right, just behind him, are usually two experienced pilots. And then behind each of them is a new or inexperienced pilot. And behind each of them is a veteran. Now, because of prop wash (which is simply air churned up and disturbed by the revolving propeller) it is impossible for one plane to fly directly behind another and at the same altitude. Believe it or not, the air just back of the first plane is like a greased pole. You just can’t stay on it. Your plane will slide off to the right or the left. Therefore, in order that the plane behind will maintain its position, it flies a few feet above the level of the plane ahead, and a bit to the right or left such as the case may be. And the plane behind that flies a bit high. And so forth, right back to the last plane. In other words the planes on both sides form a flight of steps that slant outward and upward from the leading plane.

WHEN you speak of the left and right side of a formation you speak of them in reference to the right or left side of the leading plane. And the left or right side of a plane is its pilot’s left or right when facing forward. Therefore No 1 plane on the right is the first plane on the leader’s right. No. 2 plane is the next one back, and so forth. And the same numbering holds true for the left side. So by checking back on what I said about the two inexperienced pilots, you will note that in that seven plane flight one inexperienced pilot, was No. 2 plane on the right. And the other was No. 2 on the left.

Now, don’t rush me. I’m going to tell you why.

It’s simply for this reason. The greenhorns are protected in front and in the rear. In other words in case the flight is attacked from either the front or the rear, the attackers will smack into veterans first. They won’t be able to slip down and take a crack at the greenhorns when veterans aren’t looking.

AND as an added precaution against that, there is sometimes a veteran who flies what is called Top-cover position. You will note that that position is shown in Fig. 1. He flies in the center of the V, but at an altitude higher than any of the others. And so, in that particular formation you have the leader and two veterans keeping a weather eye on the air above and in front. You have two more veterans doing the same thing behind and above. And you have a lone veteran riding herd above the center of them all.

Now, before I go on with other formations just let me mouth a few last words about the V. That is the way a flight would go over the lines. However, maneuvering in formation is a rather ticklish job because each plane is so sensitive on the controls, and because of varying air currents. Naturally, planes used in the war were not as stabilized as the ships of the present time, and therefore any idea of fancy flying in formation was OUT. The formation could climb and dive together. It could bank to the left or the right. But looping together or rolling together wasn’t tried—and for two reasons. First, it was too risky. And second, it wasn’t of any value. However, banking to the right or the left was of value, for the simple reason that the formation had to turn some time. They didn’t go across the lines flying straight and then go right on around the world until they hit their own field. And so, of course, a way was doped out how to turn around to the left or the right and still maintain the V formation.

It was done in two ways—not both at the same time!

Once the leader signaled a bank to the right, the pilots flying ships on the inside of the turn (ships on the leader’s right in this case) would throttle their engines and more or less stall around. And the pilots flying planes on the outside of the turn (the leader’s left in this case) would speed up their engines and go fast. Naturally the reason for that was that to make the turn, they had to fly a greater distance than the ships on the inside of the turn. And then, of course, when the formation was headed straight again the pilots on the right would speed up their engines again, and the pilots on the left would slow up their engines—’and thus everybody would keep formation position.

The second way was really the most effective, because it did not necessitate the trouble of throttling or goosing the engine. And also it made it possible for the V formation to turn quicker and in a much smaller area.

It was executed this way. Again we’ll have the leader signal a turn to the right. (He’d signal by wabbling his wings and pointing his right arm to the right. Or he might just dip his right wings, and then start to turn.) But anyway, let us say that he has signaled a right turn.

As he started to turn, the planes on the inside (his right) would dip down to the left then up and over to form position on his left. At the same time the planes on the outside of the turn (his left) would climb up to the right and then down to form position on his right. In other words the right and left planes would simply change places. The ones on the inside of the turn going down to the left and up. And the planes on the outside of the turn going up to the right and then down. Of course a turn to the left was made in the opposite manner.

So much for that. Nope. One more word. The flight would cross the lines in formation but once they were attacked, or did the attacking themselves, the formation would soon break up. Because no matter how much you may slice it, a dogfight in the air is an individual against individual affair. Once a fight starts its just the same idea as when the advancing wave of soldiers reaches the enemy line. A general free-for-all with the best man winning. You can advance, attack, and retreat in formation—but during the scrap the formation goes by-by.

NOW, by squinting at Fig. 2, you will see what a V of Vs formation looks like. As in an ordinary V formation there can be as many planes as you want in each V. But in a squadron there are usually three flights; A, B, and C. Therefore, on a squadron patrol the formation flown is by individual flights, with the flight leader heading each group. And we call it a V of Vs because each group is in the form of a V, and all three groups form a large V. Maneuvering is, of course, just the same as with one V only on a larger scale.

And Fig. 3 is what is called line formation. It can start across the lines that way, or it can be formed by both sides of a V formation moving up into line with the leader in the middle. That type of formation was used for ground strafe work over a wide area. The line of ships would simply sweep forward dropping their small twenty pound Cooper bombs (usually four to each scout plane) and firing their guns at the troops below. To reverse and come back each plane simply half rolled and pulled up out of its resulting dive. (Naturally the ships flew far enough, apart to make reversing possible without tangling wings.)

Fig. 4 is a formation that was seldom used during the late mix-up on the other side of the big pond. It’s called, “line formation in echelon.” As you will note it’s simply a V formation with one-half of the V missing. The planes are like a flight of steps. And that type of formation was for ground strafing a small area. The ships came down, one after the other, and let drive with guns and bombs just before zooming up for altitude.

From echelon formation it was but a simple matter to form what was known as the Lufbery Circle, Fig. 5. (So called because it was used extensively by the great Lafayette Escadrillo ace, Raoul Lufbery.) As you can figure out for yourselves, regardless of its name, it is simply a follow-the-leader formation, or a ring-around-the-rosey affair. But its uses and its advantages were most helpful. It was used not only for trench straffing, but also for air attack defense. A pilot in a pursuit ship doesn’t have to worry much about what is in front of him, for the simple reason that he can see forward and shoot his guns forward. But, behind him it is another question. He can look behind, but he can’t shoot behind unless he turns around.

SO that makes the line formation in echelon and the Lufbery Circle, or follow the leader formation, a great help to each man’s tail. In other words you dive down on a trench, spray it with your guns, and zoom up without worrying much whether a load of nickel jacketed steel is going to crease the seat of your pants. And you don’t worry much because the pilot behind you is taking his turn at spraying the troops in the trench, with the result that they are too occupied with getting out of his way to turn around and blaze away at you as you zoom up.

And in the case of the Lufbery Circle, it wouldn’t be healthy for a Hun to try and drop down on the tail of the ship in front of you because you would simply pull up your nose a bit and chew off the soles of his field boots with your bursts. Incidentally, line formation in echelon, or follow the leader formation, was good for bombing work or photographic work. It enabled the pilots to bomb or snap, one at a time, the same spot on the ground, and while doing it be more or less protected from the rear. That is, each plane covered the ship ahead, with the exception, of course, of the last ship. But the pilot flying that ship was the only one who had to pray to Lady Luck to keep Spandaus lead away from him. And even he was protected if the planes formed the Lufbery Circle.

And so there you are, a few words of wisdom (?) on formation flying. In general, formation flying- was okay before and after the scrap. In fact, as you can figure out yourselves, if you’ve kept your ears open, formation flying or flying in formation was absolutely essential to effective patroling. BUT, in a scrap?—nuts to formations! Pick your man, and go get him. That was the idea. And when it was all over but the shouting, if you were still in the air, gather around your leader and reform your formation.