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Cody Cathedral



Using personal funds and a borrowed airship shed, Cody built a huge sturdy pusher biplane of 52-foot span, weighing 1,200 pounds. Size and strength were Cody trademarks; he was observed tying knots in bracing wires with his bare hands and was the only one able to spin the biplane's 50-hp V8 to life. A reporter took one look and dubbed it "the Flying Cathedral." The nickname stuck.

While he had seen pictures of American and French machines, Cody saw no reason to alter his kite-with-an-engine concept, which, by the way, he carried entirely in his head. There were no blueprints or lists of materials because Cody had never learned to read and write. (He eventually mastered a huge "S.F. Cody" for official paperwork, holding the pen like a trowel.)

The finished product included a shock-mounted landing gear with steerable tailwheel, ground-adjustable wing camber and propeller pitch plus ailerons, this being the first aircraft to use separate surfaces forbanking. Cody did not invent ailerons, but he was the first to make practical use of them. Oddly enough, he abandoned them later in favor of wing warping.

In the summer of 1908, Cody's aircraft was towed to Laffan's Plain, a rough, rolling pasture surrounded by trees. One up-hill run to test the controls left a 234-foot gap in the tire tracks, a greater distance than the Wright's first hop, but Cody dis-missed it as "just a jump."

On October 16, with reporters watching, he gave it full throttle, rose quickly to 40 feet and flew 1,390 feet, crashing when he dragged a wingtip in an attempt to avoid some trees. The big man emerged from the pile of bamboo and linen bruised but smiling. The illiterate genius had become the first man to fly an air-plane in England.




Winner of the 1912 War Office military trials at Salisbury Plain was Cody’s Cathedral, but was clearly of no use to the newly-formed Royal Flying Corps and was not put into production.


One example, built in 1912 at Farnbough, was similar in configuration to the 1911 Biplane and was again evaluated for military application. It was evaluated by the Army at Cambridge in September 192 and subsequently purchased. The Army number 304 was allocated.
304 at Science Museum, South Kensington
It was little flown and passed to the Science Museum in 1913.


Engine: Austro-Daimler, 120 hp.
Span 43 ft
Length 34 ft. 4 in
Wing chord 5 ft. 6 in
Wing area 430 sq. ft
Weight, empty about 1,900 lb
Weight loaded 2,680 lb
Max. speed 73 mph.
Stalling speed 48.5 mph
Take-off run 960 ft
Range 336 miles.


Army 304
Engine: Austro-Daimler, 120 hp.
Span 52 ft
Length 44 ft
Weight loaded 2,900 lb
Max. speed 65 mph.





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