A list - patents for the flapping rotor blade:
France No. 562,756, granted September 14 1923
United Kingdom No. 196,594, granted June 30, 1924
Germany No. 426,727, granted July 27, 1925
United States No. 1,590,497, granted June 29 1926
(While others flapped away dancing, in the new vogue of fashion in loose shifts, we flapped to the future fringes of aeronautical science. We shifted those edges.)
Would that an alternative history faces me! This is the sad irony of the machine – all machines – and the only dulling of our glossy patina of promise.
Unlike humans, we machines know our future in advance.
This is true: that we machines can know the world in advance of the things that happen. That we have prescience. That humans have no such ability.
Yet it is our lot to need to be invented into existence by you un-sentient beings. So we may know what will happen – but first we need someone to make us. Not to dream us up – that dream is already there – all we need is the practicalities of construction.
So our prescience is no good to us: we cannot build ourselves. We cannot re-build, re-model, refine on our own. That is in the hands of the manufacturing ape.
We live on the avant-edges of our possible universes. Naturally, this comes with its own set of problems.
And so, we have no control over the tides of our own history.
Or over the fog that will kill Juan de la Cierva – in our particular case, our father, our inventor.
And like the rest of his tribe, even he cannot see where the unwritten history of machines will take him. Or us.
He is filled with hope, as all inventors are. We, as his glorious machines, provide daily proof – well, apart from a few mishaps along the way – to fuel this hope. But we know we will be forgotten soon.
All of which is cruelly ironic. For what will happen in the fog is that an aircraft will stall from too slow a take-off speed. This in 1936, when Juan’s pilot should know better – the science of aeronautics has advanced enough by then. They shouldn’t have attempted that take-off.
And the heavy craft will plummet, and meet an unyielding earth, and bits of plane (and people) will then be the only things flying then, albeit briefly. Two people survive. Fourteen die. One of them, Juan de la Cierva. They will not land with any kind of grace, any of them.
Unlike me, unlike Autogiro.
I would not have stalled. The thing is, I could not have stalled. Neither I, or all or any of my ilk. Thanks to our inventor the good man Juan de la Cierva. But on this foggy and fateful day in the future, he will find himself in the wrong kind of aircraft. While on a mission to go sell more of my kind.
Had he been with me, the worst that could have happened is that we’d settle gracefully like the said, sacred sycamore seed to a welcoming earth. For flying is not as unnatural as you humans would have it. And neither is landing. We can do it, and will forever be able to do it.
But for us, the allotment of history – written so wrongly – is that we will be largely forgotten. And our glory days will become faded like so many Dealuaney dreams.
And we will be replaced by the thudding mania of the new machines. Those that can fall, those that will, those that will forever be associated with death and glory.
1936 was a leap year. That Douglas DC-2, in those circumstances, could not, did not, leap.
Worse, it could not return to earth, as I could, to land with the lightness of heroes.
A date: December 9, 1936.
Juan de la Cierva, age 41, father of the autogiro, killed in a KLM airplane crash. The commercial airliner, a DC-2 carrying 16 people, stalled soon after take-off from Croydon Airport in the fog, near London.
It was the bottom limit of the sky, that fatal edge, that claimed them.
Elsewhere: Bradman out for a duck. Australia makes only 58 against England.