John Stringfellow

John Stringfellow

English engineer and inventor in the field of aircraft and engine construction
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of John Stringfellow
  2. Early Life
  3. Aerial Steam Carriage
  4. Challenges and Speculations
  5. Continued Experiments
  6. Legacy and Death

Biography of John Stringfellow

John Stringfellow was an English engineer and inventor in the field of aviation and engine building. He was one of the first to propose and patent, along with William Henson, the design of a glider and its control methods used in aviation to this day.

Early Life

John Stringfellow worked in Chard, Somerset, England, where he was involved in servicing and developing steam engines for machines used in lace factories, as well as manufacturing bobbins for these machines. In 1838, he met William Henson, who was also involved in the development of machines for lace factories. Henson's ideas in the field of aviation fascinated Stringfellow, and they joined forces.

Aerial Steam Carriage

In 1842, they patented the "Aerial Steam Carriage" (British Patent No. 9478). The Ariel, as it was commonly called, was a monoplane with a wingspan of 46m and a weight of 1400kg. The wing area was 420 square meters. The Ariel was designed to be powered by a 50hp steam engine that drove two propellers located on the wings. It was capable of carrying up to 12 passengers at a maximum speed of 80 km/h over a distance of up to 1600 km.

Challenges and Speculations

In 1843, Henson and Stringfellow, along with Frederick Marriott and D.E. Colombine, formed the Aeriel Transit Company. Meanwhile, Stringfellow built a six-meter model of the Ariel, equipped with a small 1hp steam engine. From 1844 to 1847, Stringfellow conducted tests on the model, constantly changing various parameters, modifying the glider, and increasing the power of the steam engine. However, most of the tests were unsuccessful, with the model only flying a maximum distance of ten meters horizontally when it was tethered to a wire. They never had the opportunity to test take-off and landing. By 1847, despite the support of Parliament, it became clear that the company could not raise the necessary funds for further development and the construction of a prototype. Speculations arose in the press that the Ariel was a hoax and a fraud. Disheartened, Henson left the project and moved to America with his family.

Continued Experiments

Stringfellow continued experimenting with the Ariel model. In 1848, his son Frederick joined the project. Together, they built a new three-meter model, taking into account the flaws identified in the previous model. The first test ended with significant damage to the model due to errors in calculating the glider's balance. Eventually, after the model was repaired, they achieved their first successful flight. After disconnecting from the guiding wire, the machine flew for about 10 meters in a straight line before being stopped by a fabric screen. The experiments continued for over 20 years, during which Stringfellow, along with his son, built several models each. Stringfellow's greatest success came in 1868 when he built a working triplane model, inspired by Francis Wenham's ideas. This model was tested several times during an exhibition at Crystal Palace and showed promising results, earning it the first prize at the 1868 exhibition. In the same year, Frederick Stringfellow successfully built a working biplane model, also capable of flying. Both machines were exhibited in America, where they were popular with the public.

Legacy and Death

Inspired by his success, Stringfellow planned to build a prototype on which he could make flights. Between 1868 and 1869, he rented a building for construction and began acquiring materials and equipment. However, his age caught up with him, and Stringfellow passed away on December 13, 1883, in London, at the age of 84. The models he built are currently on display at the London Science Museum (the 1848 monoplane) and at the Gallery of Early Flight at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. (the 1868 triplane).