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HOME > Classical Novels > Bill Bolton and the Flying Fish > Chapter V THE TRANSFORMATION OF A SEA MONSTER
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 The two lads, Bill and Charlie, stared with undivided attention at the astonishing spectacle. Two large fins which evidently had been lying close to the submarine’s sides, were rising into the air. With a speed that seemed remarkable these fins reached a vertical position. For a moment they remained pointing straight toward the high blue arc of the heavens. Then they swung outward, lowering horizontally from the ship’s sides, to come to rest when level with the deck, and about five feet above the surface of the water—a complete set of airplane wings.  
“Gosh, she’s a monoplane now!” exclaimed Charlie.
“Wonder how they’ll produce a tail unit?”
“You mean a rudder?”
“Yes. That, together with a stabilizer, fin and elevator.”
But before the words were well out of Bill’s mouth, the miracle occurred. A large rudder lifted itself out of the water, and opening out as it came to rest, seemed to sprout like a giant seabud into a complete tail group.
“Can she use the water propeller in the air?” Charlie kept his eyes glued on the submarine. “It seems to me that would hardly be big enough to fly with.”
“Hardly. That outfit is the queerest engineering jumble I’ve ever seen. But unless the Herr Baron can work absolute miracles, it will take more than one motor and propeller to move her.”
The submarine lay to windward of the amphibian. The lads therefore obtained a stern view of the ship and it was difficult for them to see exactly what was going on forward.
Suddenly Charlie raised another shout. “Look, Bill, look! Here comes the motor. Some jack-in-the-box, I call it.”
“And there’s another one! And still another! Gee-jumpin’-gee-roosalem—the blamed thing is coughing up motors like—”
“Like a cat with the belly-ache,” suggested Charlie.
“Inelegant, but apt. Let’s see, there are one, two . . . five of them!”
“Some packet!”
“Some packet is right. I’d pay admission to see this any day.”
The reason for this excited dialogue had been, first, the raising of that section of the deck between the two great wing sections until from wing-tip to wing-tip, one continuous horizontal plane was formed. Next, up through what was probably a hatch in this center wing section, though of course invisible at that distance from the lads, appeared an airplane motor. This rose on its own engine struts, slid to starboard along the wing and came to rest. Another made its appearance and moved to starboard in line with the first. The next two found places on the port wing, and the last engine remained directly above the hatch which probably closed with a sliding cover. Then the mechanics came topside, through another hatchway, bearing propellers which were fitted to the engines, fore and aft.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen two propellers on the same engine!” cried Charlie. “What’s the reason for it, Bill?”
Bill turned round in his seat. “Each one of those engines, as you call them, Charlie, is a double unit. In other words, two motors joined together, one forward and one aft. There are ten propellers, because there are ten motors in that line. The propellers forward are tractors, those aft pushers. The Dornier, the big German DO-X passenger plane, has the same arrangement of motors.”
“Guess they must generate a heap of power?”
“Plenty. But you need it to propel a heavy ship like that sub. By the way, do you happen to know what they call her?”
“The Flying Fish—one of the gobs told me.”
“Say, where do you get that Navy stuff?”
“Gobs?” Charlie chuckled. “Oh, I’ve got a sea-goin’ dad. He had a U.S.N.R.F. commission during the war.”
“That so? Great!”
“You bet yer. Say, Bill, hadn’t you better get our own engine going? The Flying Fish will be taking off right away. She’s a regular monoplane now.”
Bill shook his head, and turned to face the submarine again.
“They won’t take off for a few minutes yet. As she is, those wings will never hold her weight in the air. And for another thing, she sets much too low in the water to ever get off.”
“But, see, Bill—she’s rising. She’s getting higher in the water all the time.”
“By Jingoes! She is, at that!”
“How do they do it?”
“Same method as a submarine helps to raise itself from the bottom. Water is forced out of certain compartments and air pumped in.”
“Gee, it’s a marvel! And look, there are short wings or fins, extending from the hull under each wing. What do they need them for?”
“Wing-strut supports, I guess. Yes, there come the men with the struts. See how they are securing them from the wing sections to the fins below, and shorter ones from the fins to the hull?”
“Is that what you meant when you said that the wings of the Flying Fish wouldn’t hold her?”
“That’s it. Without struts to support that spread, the wings would surely crumple with her weight in the air.”
“Well, I guess she’s all set for the take off now.”
“Reckon she is. Yes, there go her motors idling! Hear ’em?”
“What shall I do now?”
“Strap on your helmet and your goggles. Then go forward and haul in our sea anchor. When you get back to your cockpit, keep your hands off the controls in there and adjust the headphone set hanging below the instrument board. Some day, if we ever get out of this mess, I may give you flight instruction, but not on this hop.”
“Anything else?”
“Yes. And this is important—for safety’s sake, remember. I’m skipper of this craft. What I say goes—and goes with a bang. Savez?”
“Yes, sir.” Charlie’s voice was sober and subdued.
“O.K., then. Hop to it, kid, I want to get moving.”
A very important Charlie quickly buckled the chin-strap of his helmet and scrambled forward. He followed directions exceedingly well, considering the fact that he had never been in a plane before. Once out on the nose he pulled in the mooring line and the collapsible canvas bucket known as the sea anchor, and carried them back to the rear cockpit. There he stowed them away. Back in the pilot’s seat again, he adjusted his goggles and the headphone set. Then he stood up, and grasping the cockpit’s cowl, he leaned forward so as to watch Bill manipulate the controls in the fore cockpit.
From the time that he was a little tad of a fellow, Charlie had been crazy to fly. At home, his bedroom was decorated with pictures of famous flyers and their planes. He fairly ate up airplane stories and his book shelves were crowded with literature on flying, although he found some of the volumes too technical. Now that he had a chance to witness a take-off at first hand, he wasn’t going to miss a single detail if he could help it.
Charlie knew that the take-off includes the handling of a plane from the time the throttle is opened until the ship is in level flight directly above the surface. He had also read somewhere that in order to leave the ground or the water, it is necessary for the plane to have flying speed, the minimum speed at which the lift of the wings will equal the weight; for the object of the take-off is to gain this speed. The plane must first be manoeuvered into an attitude which facilitates a quick increase in speed. It must be held in this attitude while moving forward at an increasing rate and must finally be taken off in such a way that it is under full control from the instant it leaves the surface. He also knew that all take-offs must be made directly into the wind.
The Flying Fish was already moving through the water, her ten engines roaring like an express train, when Charlie saw Bill set their own motor idling. Rudder and ailerons were placed in neutral and the amphibian allowed to swing until it was headed directly into the wind. Then Bill slowly but steadily opened wide the throttle. At the same time, the youngster saw him pull the stick back in order to raise their bow out of the water. This he knew was necessary, both to gain planing speed and to keep the propeller out of the spray which might damage it.
Six or eight seconds after opening the throttle, with the bow well up and the amphibian gaining momentum every instant, Bill pushed the stick all the way forward, and did so in order to raise the tail and depress the nose. But as the plane was moving at some speed, the bow could not be pushed down into the water. Instead, the speed at which they were taxying gradually forced it upward until they were skimming the surface on their step. Bill then eased the stick back to neutral and maintained it there while speed was being gathered. Spray was dashing against Charlie’s face and chest as they sped along. The sensation of traveling at terrific speed was enormous.
“Gee! This sure is great!”
“Getting a kick out of it?” asked a voice in his ear, causing him almost to lose his balance. Then he remembered the transmitter on his chest and realized he had been talking into it.
“I sure am, Bill. What’s the next thing you have to do?”
“The next thing for you to do, young feller, is to get back to your seat and buckle on your safety-belt. If you are so keen to learn, I’ll talk as I run this old crate into the air, and you watch what I’m doing. Maybe that will keep you from trying to climb down the back of my neck.”
“Thanks, Bill, that’ll be great. I’ll sit tight, honest I will.”
“All right, then. We are skimming the surface on the step now, as you’ve noticed. No more large movements of the controls may be made, as the plane is now sensitive to them. I’m paying particular attention to the lateral balance from this stage on.”
Bill stopped talking for a moment, then went on again:
“Remember this, Charlie. It’s important. The plane must not be taken off until speed adequate to give complete control has been attained. Any attempt on my part to pull it off prematurely will result in a take-off at the stalling point, where control is uncertain. Now we’ve gained flying speed, so I break her out of the water with a momentary pressure on the elevators. That pressure was very slight and I eased it at the moment of take-off.
“When the plane left the water, its speed was only slightly above minimum flying speed. Any decrease in this would naturally mean a stall. Therefore, I’m keeping the nose level for six to eight seconds in order to get a safe margin above the stalling point before beginning to climb. Safety first always—when flying, Charlie. Now she’s all right, the engine’s running smooth and sweet. So I pull my stick back gently, and as you see, we’re leaving the water behind.”

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