CIRCULAR WINGS

 

Also in 1912 a unique aircraft was tried as a glider. The Lee-Richards annular wing, a circular planform with a hole of diameter half span. The powered prototype was a biplane, and they tested it at Middleton Sands, Heysham in 1911. This was supposed to be a very stable configuration, and a later version flew successfully, but the prototype had run into a gulley, and then been destroyed when the hangar blew down in a gale. They had been changing the leading edge camber shape, but were unable to decide which was best, so before rebuilding they tried two models, span 4.7 feet, flown indoors. Extra camber seemed to give a flatter glide angle, so they built this into a glider, to develop the controls, and get some air time cheaply.

The main wing was a circle, with the pilot sitting in the hole (and the breeze). Elevators behind the wing were also operated differentially for roll control, and a fin & rudder were added later. The upper wing was the front half of a circle. Wing span (diameter) 22 feet. Wing area 400 sq.ft. Empty weight grew from 215 to 390 lbs. and pilot plus ballast took gross up to 710 lbs maximum.

Launch was by catapult from a track, pulled by rope tied to a dropping weight within a tall tripod. The site was Sellet Banks, an east facing slope above the River Lune near Kirkby Lonsdale. Cedric Lee made many successful flights, and the best glide ratio was said to be 1 in 8. The glider was very stable and controllable, was banked into turns, and even taken to the stall at 30 degrees nose-up, when it pancaked steadily. They often flew in winds of 20 mph, and even 40 mph. On the final day of trial flying in December 1912 Cedric Lee made a hill-soaring flight in a strong wind.

Cine film was taken, used in the opening clips of "Those Magnificent Men", and held in the Science Museum. Newark museum has a static replica of the powered version, a monoplane which flew 128 hours prior to the 1914 war..

 

SOURCES.

 

Connon "Aviation in Galloway & Cumbria"
Jarrett "Circles In The Sky", Aeroplane Monthly, Sept & Oct 1976.
Windermere Steamboat Museum, display board.