Author Topic: Aero Electric Eros 1  (Read 533 times)

Offline Small brown dog

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Aero Electric Eros 1
« on: August 24, 2019, 07:58:29 PM »
Owing to the Italian success the previous year, the 1927 Schneider trophy contest was hosted in Venice. That year Supermarine took both first and second place which was the first of three consecutive wins by RJ Mitchell designed aeroplanes from 1927 to 1931 which secured the Schneider trophy permanently for Great Britain.

There was another English machine entered that year which caused some controversy as well as amusement in the media and, within halls of the British air ministry, some outrage and hostility.  After the British defeat of 1925 and the lack of any British aircraft being available in time for the 1926 event, the Air Ministry agreed to support the British team. It should be noted that at this time both American and Italian teams had the backing of their respective countries whereas the British ventures had been private up to this point. The RAF high speed flight was formed at the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment Felixstowe in preparation for the 1927 race. 



During this period there were still many Biplane configuration advocates within the Air ministry and so a specification for a high speed experimental biplane seaplane was issued with the ultimate aim of such an aircraft being a contest entry.  The RAF was also interested in air cooled radial engine performance and the future high speed potential of such units.  This posed something of a dilemma for the industry as no one really wanted to touch the specification but did not want to appear disinterested. However, Aero Electric seized  upon the opportunity.

Neville Bane had joined Aero Electric some two year earlier at the invitation of Samuel Benson Dogge, A.E managing director. Bane had been involved in the Royal Navy aerial battleship program that led to the Predator class and had done a great deal of research into ion thrust potential. Unfortunately his research did not meet with great enthusiasm which may partly have been a result of his outspoken views on the future of the aerial Warship.

Both Bane and Dogge were convinced that the dominance of aerial battleships would decline over the next decade as advances in coupled thrust/electrical generator technology were gathering momentum. Both were also equally convinced that in the future it would be Ion propulsion that would dominate aviation.

The Schneider race was an ideal opportunity to investigate the potential of ion thrust and get funding into the bargain. So, with a clever bit of politics and some intelligence of a rather personal nature involving senior ministers, Aero Electrical successfully submitted a design outlining a single radial engine biplane to explore the characteristics and future development of high speed flight. This met with the RAF high speed flight criteria and to satisfy the Air ministry the ultimate goal of the project was classified as a proof of concept to contest trials project.

There was no mention of radical aero electrical features and no questions asked which is surprising as perhaps the name Aero Electrical Ltd may have made at least someone look a little bit closer as A.E. were not at that time aircraft designers. However, another benefit of Bane's employment to A.E. was his close association with Gloster aircraft and in particular, Henry Folland with whom he was on very good terms with. The A.E. aircraft could really be said to have been a joint venture as far as the airframe was concerned. This would, and later did, meet with the air ministry approval.

It was an accepted fact at the time that inline engines had a clear advantage over radial engines owing to the smaller frontal area. Additionally biplanes induce more drag along with other undesirable drag effects to that of monoplanes. However, A.E. argued that the above negatives could be nullified and at the same time the inherent advantages of the biplane expanded on. This was just what the Air Ministry wanted to hear but they would not have liked how he proposed to do it.

Again through past association and behind the scenes dealings, Bristol gave Aero Electric an experimental supercharged 9 cylinder Mercury radial engine that at one point delivered over 900HP. This power to weight ratio was very much an advantage as A.E. proposed to use the engine for electrical generation only for an ion thrust unit. The thrust unit itself was uncomplicated and light weight but the generator and capacitors were a different matter.  The air ministry would have gone into a flat spin if they had been aware as this was the province of the Senior service Aerial fleet and, for this time, nothing but science fiction as far as the aeroplane was concerned especially for high performance single engined types.

The theory was simple. Make use of the Bristol high output light weight air cooled engine without a drag inducing propeller, Take advantage of additional lift of the biplane configuration, Exploit the electromagnetic field on mass effect to compensate for the additional weight and drag and win the Schneider trophy.

Of course it didn't win the trophy and winning it was never a consideration but as a proof of concept it certainly was a winner as history would prove.



By the time the Aero Electric Eros 1 was unveiled to the public the Air Ministry had become very concerned over the growing costs and the seemingly impenetrable curtain of secrecy that had surrounded the project. Then there was outrage from certain quarters which was compounded by an American pre contest review that ran with the headline “Did they forget the prop?” and the fact that the RAF took to referring to the electrical thrust system as the flying fart. To add insult to injury the name Eros was taken exception to, as Eros being the Greek god responsible for illicit affairs,  it seemed as though  Aero Electric were hinting at certain “goings on” in the upper echelons of the air ministry.

This almost got completely out of hand until reasoned evaluation was put before the board of inquiry. It was noted that for all the fun made by the media of the time, the Eros performed remarkably. It came 3rd beaten only by Supermarine’s S5 designs which was expected and gave Britain not only first and second  but third place in the contest. Additionally the Italians and favourites to win failed to complete the contest with any of their aircraft. However, the performance of the Eros when measured against the laps the Italians managed was comparable. The Italians were racing powerful inline engined monoplanes. When taking in the above it can be seen that Aero Electric met, and could be said to have exceeded, all the criteria laid down in the Air ministry specification.

All contest aircraft other than the Eros suffered from  “digging in” owing to the engine/propeller torque effect and required only ideal sea conditions for take-off.  However the Eros, owing to the fact that there was no torque effect had no problems  getting unstuck from the surface of the sea and made all other contestants look like lame ducks during take-off.



Finally it was suggested to the Air Ministry that they should be more interested in how, as the governing body, they could remain so unaware of the complete proposal and, perhaps more importantly, that a more progressive and open mind to aeronautical/aeroelectrical research and development would invite more openness and lead to real world innovation.

The fuss was over and so was further development of the Eros 1. As per all contest entries the engines used were rated only for a very short durations. They were tuned to the maximum and prone to destroying themselves in complicated and expensive ways. This is exactly what happened to the Eros 1 during an all-out speed trial some weeks after the contest.

This was not the end though as certain individuals in the air ministry did wake up. Ion thrust would make inroads over the coming decade with larger transport and bomber aircraft being ideal owing to there multi engine configurations. The Eros airframe was ear marked for conversion into a research land plane for trials. The results of this prototype would later be invaluable to such types as the Supermarine Spirit and beyond.


« Last Edit: August 24, 2019, 09:54:33 PM by Small brown dog »
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Offline Old Wombat

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Re: Aero Electric Eros 1
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2019, 09:47:56 PM »
Yup! :smiley: 8)
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Offline Brian da Basher

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Re: Aero Electric Eros 1
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2019, 11:44:57 PM »
That magnificent example of mixed-propulsion hits on all cylinders!

That shot from above where it's diving on the pylon is especially nice.

Great stuff, SBD!

Brian da Basher

Offline elmayerle

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Re: Aero Electric Eros 1
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2019, 01:50:47 AM »
Beautiful aircraft and story; that's majorly impressive, to me, artwork.

Offline Small brown dog

  • Dwelling too long on the practicalities of such things can drive you mad.
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Re: Aero Electric Eros 1
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2019, 02:50:11 AM »
That magnificent example of mixed-propulsion hits on all cylinders!

That shot from above where it's diving on the pylon is especially nice.

Great stuff, SBD!

Brian da Basher

I'm thinking about a wheeled land variant with  perhaps ... some spats  :)


Beautiful aircraft and story; that's majorly impressive, to me, artwork.

Thank you, that's appreciated :)
Its not that its not real but it could be that its not true.

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Aero Electric Eros 1
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2019, 03:35:15 AM »
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

Offline apophenia

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Re: Aero Electric Eros 1
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2019, 07:04:40 AM »
Love it  :-*  Especially the phantom-view and drivetrain layout  :smiley:
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Offline Small brown dog

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Re: Aero Electric Eros 1
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2019, 06:27:44 PM »
Forgot the advert


... got to keep the sponsors happy even if they are all dead :)
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Offline Brian da Basher

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Re: Aero Electric Eros 1
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2019, 09:15:51 PM »
You've captured the period look in that ad perfectly!

The aged paper and faded inks are a master-stroke.

Brian da Basher

Offline Small brown dog

  • Dwelling too long on the practicalities of such things can drive you mad.
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Re: Aero Electric Eros 1
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2019, 04:33:03 PM »
You've captured the period look in that ad perfectly!

The aged paper and faded inks are a master-stroke.

Brian da Basher

Thanks
I get a kick out of reproducing these I must admit.
Got a few more I'll share at some point.
Its not that its not real but it could be that its not true.

Offline apophenia

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Re: Aero Electric Eros 1
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2019, 05:12:32 AM »
... Got a few more I'll share at some point.

Looking forward to those!
"Don't believe in violence, I don't even believe in peace."