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Cooley Airship: 1910

Cooley Airship: 1910

Rochester, N.Y., ca 1910. "Cooley Airship. The aviator sits in the front to manage the wheel and the engineer sits six feet behind to control the engines." John Cooley's giant kitelike aircraft, of a design dating to the 1890s, was something of an aeronautical dead end. More here as well as here. Bain News Service print of a glass plate now in the Albert R. Stone Negative Collection. View full size.


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Re: Cooley's Airship

The NYT article which EvenSteven links to is from 1895 - 15 years before this photo. It refers to a different aircraft - probably either a massive kite or a lighter-than-air balloon.

Mr. Cooley's Air Ship Sailed Away

But the men at the ropes could not manage the vessel.

This I would have loved to have seen. The giant airship swooped up in the air while men were unsuccessful in holding her down as she soared to 500 feet and then landed on top of four oaks.

A viral You Tube moment.

NY Times Article

Another "Life Imitiates Art"?

I Wonder whether Mr. Cooley had got his idea from reading H. G. Wells' "The War In The Air" (published 1908)?

Kite shaped aircraft take a major role in the plot of that novel, and as fixed-wing heavier-than-air aircraft they best lighter-than-air airships.

Which was something the experts of the time could not quite bring themselves to agree with. Not yet anyway. After all, the airships did fly somewhat longer and further than those mousetraps. Not even the horrendous losses of the German war airships drove that point home. It took at least one horribly failed airship project for each major power to do that trick.

An ungainly beast!

I would have loved to see this contraption fly.

"The magnificent airship of Rochester and its hangar are said to have been destroyed by a windstorm."

But did it fly?

I can't tell from either of the links if this contraption ever got off the ground. Given that Mr. Cooley disappeared towards the end of the project, I can't decide if he was either a visionary or a conman.

Either way, it is clear that those days really a great age of invention where daring ideas could be tried.

Aerial Yacht

What dreamers …

Farm Equipment Dealer, January, 1911.

A Gigantic Aeroplane.

"In construction at Rochester, N.Y., where since early spring John Cooley and a force of seven mechanics and draftsmen have spent ten, and sometimes twelve, hours a day in hurried but careful labor," says a correspondent in Fly, "is a craft which is confidently expected to revolutionize the navigation of the air, and to relegate existing types into the obscurity of mere playthings for ennui-afflicted men of wealth seeking diversion in its most exciting form.

This is the Cooley model, a gigantic aeroplane, nearly 100 feet long. In late September, 1909, the plan of building a monster aeroplane for use as a commercial transportation medium was conceived by Inventor Cooley, who has spent twenty-eight years in the study of aerial navigation, and the backing of several New York capitalists was secured, among them that of Richard Parr, the customs official, who was awarded $100,000 by the United States Government for his services in exposing the sugar frauds. …

The greatest difficulty that confronted the builders was the utter lack of existing types from which to draw comparisons and gain ideas. Every detail must be worked out in the brain of the inventor, with no regard for fundamental principles connected with the operation of other types of air-navigating craft, since the Cooley model differs essentially from every known make. To describe it adequately in a limited space is impossible.

The general shape of the ship suggests a large yacht, with keel and tailboard, and even a bowsprit, with the similarity ceasing when a front view is obtained. Not an inch of resistance is opposed to the passage of the big man-made bird through the air. All is gradually sloping lines and inclined surfaces, with the plane surface so placed that the passage of air beneath has a tendency to push upward so long as even the slightest velocity is continued.

One hundred feet from tip to tip, and less than 15 feet wide across the center, the plane will sustain a weight of 1400 pounds—one pound to every square foot of soaring surface—thus giving a margin of safety of over 500 pounds. Two wide planes extend from the center like the upper planes of an ordinary biplane, with one big plane extending downward like the fin of a fish, and various small planes, or sails, are rigged on the 15-foot pole extending out in front of the main body.

A framework of cloth and strengthened ribs encloses a space similar to the hold of a ship, in the sides of which are cut numerous portholes for use of the pilot in guiding the immense machine through the air. All mechanism is controlled from a seat in front of the center line, wires running to every part of the craft and a signalling system connecting the pilot with his engineer, or engineers, as no limit is placed upon the size of the crew carried. Two 40-60-horsepower engines are installed working independently, both engines occupying a space amidships, just behind the engineer's quarters. On each side a driving shaft runs through a hollow wooden conduit to the propellers, which are placed approximately five feet from the ground, without taking into consideration the elevation of the machine when the wheels are installed.

A tail tapers gradually from the center body fifteen feet to the rear, and is graduated from the top of the framework, twenty-five feet from the ground, to a sharp point. No detached steering plane is used, the control of the plane depending upon the working of the many small sails which take the place of the usual ailerons.

Strengthened bamboo is used throughout, with a special brand of Naiad rubber-covered silk, and the wheels are extra wide because of the immense strain placed upon them. One of the chief features of the "Flower City," as the big craft will be called, is a device for lessening this strain, consisting of a spring just above each axle, with a give of one foot.

To say that the model will be a success would be to make an unsupported prediction, but inventors and aviators who have looked over the machine have expressed the hope and belief that it will prove to be the sensation of the aviation world. Models constructed upon the same plans and driven by small motors have flown successfully, and have shown the most important feature—absolute stability in the air.

The plans of the promoters sound like a romance of the middle ages, and are quite as hard to realize, calling, as they do, for a complete world tour in the ship, with stops at all the principal cities of the United States and Europe. The crossing of the Atlantic is but one of the least daring of these plans, and a direct flight from Rochester to New York is first on the program. A crew of four men, with Mr. Cooley and supplies to last for a three days' journey, will be placed in the plane on the trial trip, so that, should the idea prove a success, no time need be lost in demonstrating the practicability of the machine to the world.

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