Willem Krause watched the Las Vegas Belle fly over and the left side of his mouth lifted in his patented half-grin. He was a charming fellow. Which was something he both knew and worked at. Krause worked at everything. Very little had come easy to him. His title was real enough, but mostly meaningless. He made his living as a mercenary soldier. He watched and as he watched, he formed a new goal. The goal of my life, he thought. He would gain an airplane—buy one, or build, or steal one, to take him where he wanted to go and turn him into a whole scout company all by himself. With an airplane, he could sell his services anywhere. Anywhere at all. To Krause it was obvious just from seeing the airplane fly, that aircraft would be of immense value in war even if they could never fire a shot. He watched the plane for another moment, then turned away. He had things to do. And he needed to be in Saxony to get the money to do them with.
“It’s true, Elector,” Willem Krause said. “I saw the airplane fly with my own eyes.”
John George of Saxony asked for another beer—as was his custom, by dumping what was left of his present beer on the head of his servant. It was a boring old joke a hundred years before the Ring of Fire. But Willem smiled as though it was the freshest of wit. “They,” he said, referring to airplanes, “will be world-changing, Elector. But I don’t think the up-timers know it.”
“Why not?” John George asked.
“Because of the resources—or rather the lack of resources—they are dedicating to them even now.” Willem shook his head in only half-pretended disgust. Telling John George anything bad about the up-timers on his western border was always a good tactic, but in this case Willem was somewhat amazed at how little resources the up-timers were spending on aircraft.
The conversation continued, a mix of complaints about the up-timers and their destabilizing effects, upsetting the natural order of things. And the advantages of air power which, if invested in by farsighted members of the better classes, could stave off—at least for a time—the democratizing effects of the up-timers.
It took two more weeks and quite a bit of groveling, but Willem got the money and headed back to Grantville. During the groveling, they discussed whether it was better to simply buy an airplane or have one built. Krause managed to convince the Elector of Saxony that having one built, and having the Elector’s loyal Willem Krause involved in the building, would mean that they were not dependent on the up-timer knowledge nearly as much as they would be if they simply bought whatever some up-timer sold them.
Back in Grantville, with a bank account filled with Saxony silver, Willem Krause started looking into the possibilities for airplanes. There were many people building many types of airplanes. The Kellys, an up-timer couple, were building three different aircraft at once. A pair of idiots, one up-timer, one down-timer, were trying to get people interested in building multi-engine bi-wing airplanes.
Money, Darius thought. Back up-time, big stars and rich people ran around in faded jeans and torn T-shirts. Not down-time. Down-time, real money was needed to have a wardrobe and having a wardrobe meant having real money. And at first glance this guy looked like he had real money. All those fancy clothes, and this dude was pretty well-padded, too. Not fat, but definitely nowhere close to starvation.
“How can I help you, sir?” Darius asked.
The guy looked at Darius and gave him this sort of conspiratorial grin, as if he had a secret but was willing enough to share it with Darius because he trusted him. “Aircraft. I’m interested in aircraft.”
“Yes, sir!” Darius said in Amideutch, half-unconsciously returning the grin, “Aircraft design and history have been two of our most popular research areas ever since the National Library was established. And they’ve gotten even more popular since the Las Vegas Belle first flew. We have a standard booklet you could buy. It has some basic research from the library and it contains the basic theory and the main formulas involved. It costs twenty-five dollars, but it’s just an overview. There is a much more detailed and complete book that was put together by three researchers and examined by Herr Smith. He said it has enough information in it to get you killed.”
The guy looked kind of surprised and a bit bemused by that comment. But it was exactly what Hal Smith had said about the book. And Darius told him why. ” An airplane that never left the ground was unlikely to kill the pilot, but even the best airplane ever built is a death trap if badly-flown or poorly-maintained. The more expensive book Aeronautics 101 has enough information in it to get you off the ground. ”
Darius continued with his sales pitch. “If you’re actually going to try to build an airplane of your own, you want to read the second book. It’s two hundred dollars, but it has a lot of information. After you’ve read it, you want to consult with Herr Smith and get his thoughts on any design you come up with. That’s expensive too, but Herr Smith is a real aeronautical engineer and the only one in the world. There are also the spreadsheets that Herr Smith and Colonel Wood came up with. You can do the calculations with a slide rule, or even on paper if you’re good enough at math. But you’re safer with the spreadsheets.”
“That was a good sale,” Gemma said behind him. A few minutes later while Willem Krause was leaving with his books. Researchers got a ten percent commission on books sold and twenty-two fifty wasn’t bad for a quarter hour’s work.
Darius jumped a bit. “Jeez, Gemma. Where did you learn to sneak up on people like that?”
“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, Darius. Not even half the Lord’s name. I don’t understand why the good Lord sent a bunch of up-timers back to our time just so they could blaspheme.”
“Maybe,” Darius suggested, “it’s because the good lord doesn’t actually care that much about blaspheming. Maybe he cares more about what’s in your heart than what comes out of your mouth.”
“Maybe,” Gemma agreed. “But I’m not going to risk centuries in Purgatory on the chance.” Then she smiled at him.
Darius’ heart gave a little flutter. Gemma Bonono was pretty. Not pretty in a “oh my god, she’s gorgeous” kind of way. Pretty in a “home-town girl” sort of way. If your hometown was in Italy in the seventeenth century, that is. Or at least so Darius imagined. Not that he’d ever been to Italy, not yet.
Gemma also worked in the library. She was more a translator than a researcher, since she spoke Italian, Latin and German. Her English was coming along, too.
“I gotta go, Gemma.” Darius sighed. “I need to keep the commission from that sale, so I’ve gotta do some of the pro bono questions.”
“I’ll help,” Gemma said. “It’ll be good practice.”
They went back to the reference desk to pick up the next pro bono question. As it happened, that question—like so many others—was one that had been asked and answered before, so they made a note to reference the number for the already researched answer and put it on the out-going stack, then went on to the next question. One of the many clerks would get in touch with the person who had asked the question, find out what kind of report they wanted, and either answer it verbally or, for a fee, have a written report made up and sent out. Some questions already had reports written up and ready to send out, but not all of them.
That part wasn’t the researcher’s problem. Darius and Gemma would mark down on their timesheets that they’d spent however many minutes answering the question. Enough hours of answering the pro bonos would pay their library fee, which is what they were after.
While they were doing this, Darius explained to Gemma that the sale had been to another aviation nut, and who knows, maybe he’d come back with questions. Most of the people who bought that book never returned. Darius wasn’t sure if it was because the book answered all their questions or if it was because the answers in it scared them off.
Willem Krause bought both books and read them through, which took him almost two months. Partly because there was a lot of stuff in them, partly because they were in the up-timer type face and he wasn’t used to it. Partly because they were in English and he would have done better with either German or Latin. But mostly because they were poorly written. What they were, were articles copied out of various encyclopedias, periodicals, and bits of books, strung together with connecting paragraphs inserted to explain why they had chosen this article or this scene from a given book. There was an article about a plane that had tried to pull out of a dive too fast and had its wings come off. The accompanying paragraph pointed out that while lift increased by the square, stress on the wings increased by the cube, and then failed to explain what that meant.
Willem made a note of another question to ask the next time he went to the library and went back to reading.
This was a few paragraphs from a fiction book, describing how the hero took off from an aircraft carrier. And the connecting paragraph discussed preflight checklists. It was poorly organized minutia of aircraft design and flight, put together by people who, for the most part, had never been in a cockpit or drawn so much as a line of a design of an aircraft. The knowledge was there and some of it was sneaking past the poor authorship to present itself to him. And that was the two hundred dollar book. Willem wanted to throw it across the room. Or, better yet, at the pimple-faced teenager who had sold it to him. At the same time, he realized that it was absolutely the best book available down-time on the subject of powered flight.
Willem presented his list of questions to Darius, who examined them carefully then looked at him with considerably more respect. “Some of these are new.”
“The questions that aren’t new . . . why aren’t they answered in the book?
“Because they’ve come up since it was written. There is a second edition being worked on now, but it won’t be out till the end of the year, if then. It should be better organized, though. By the way, if you agree that the answers we find for you can be included in the next edition, there is a discount.”
“How much of a discount?”
“Well, they may not want the answers for the book, so it’s only twenty percent. Or you can gamble and if they use it and you’re the only one that asked it, they will refund half the research cost.”
Willem knew a scam when he heard one. But the whole library worked on a pay-me-again system. Almost every question asked would have an answer that more than one person would want. So the rates they charged took into account the fact that they could probably sell the answer several times. And they always charged extra if the customer wanted their answers kept private. Even if you paid the extra, it didn’t keep someone else from asking the same question and getting it answered. It just kept that researcher from selling the answer to the general pool of previously answered questions. By now a lot of questions were answered by typing the question into the list of previously asked questions and getting back a reference number to an already found, correlated and printed answer. So even if Willem didn’t take the discount, it was just as likely that someone else would come along and ask the question, so the answer would show up in the next edition of the book anyway.
“I’ll take the twenty percent discount.” Willem shook his head, partly in admiration for a good scam but mostly in disgust that he was the one who was helping write the next edition of Aeronautics 101—and he was paying for the privilege.
“Hey, Gemma,” Gemma heard Darius call. “You want to help me with this one? It’s that airplane nut again.”
“How can I help?” Gemma asked. “You know that airplanes are . . . how do you say . . . out of my league.”
“He wants the answers in German if possible and he’ll pay extra for it. So I’ll look the stuff up and then we’ll go over it together and you can translate it into German.”
“I’m still not the best at German.”
“Yeah, but you need the work as much as I do.”
“No way to get a dowry built up if I don’t,” Gemma said.
“All you down-time girls are always worried about the dowry business. What ever happened to love?”
“Love is for those who can afford it,” Gemma said, primly. “And I can’t. Not yet. Not since we spent so much on the doctors for Mama. My sister’s marriage took what was left, so Papa and I are starting over.”
“You guys can’t go back to Padua ?”
“Matteo is in charge of the shop. Papa doesn’t want to work for his son.”
Willem spent months in the National Library, looking at plans and reading texts on air flight. And in the process, paid for the pimple-faced boy’s junior prom. And more.
Increasingly, he found himself entranced by the delta-wing aircraft. He told himself that it was because they didn’t stall out. Which was certainly true. A stall happens when the loss of lift causes the nose-heavy airplanes to go into a dive. A delta has its weight farther back, so it doesn’t stall. It just sinks and its controls get mushy. He told himself that a delta-wing would be able to land in narrower spaces because its wingspan would not need to be as wide. Also, true lift is square feet of surface area. The greater the distance from the leading edge to the trailing edge of the wing, “the chord,” the less the span, or the distance from wing tip to wing tip, needed to be for the same lift. Of course, there are always trade-offs. More chord means more drag. And he was told that by Herr Hal Smith, the up-timer expert on aircraft design.
Willem looked at the copy of a picture of the Convair Delta Dart and imagined. He roughed out a sketch based on the Dart, but with a propeller rather than a jet engine. The propeller was in the front, as it was in most airplanes. Just behind the propeller was the engine, even though he wasn’t yet sure what sort of engine he could get. Behind the engine was the cockpit and behind that the fuel tank. This was a small plane, one person and some armaments, but small, a short wingspan. He ran some calculations using the new slide rule he had bought, pencil and paper. The wing span would be only thirty feet and the plane would be thirty-five feet long.
Willem was no great artist, but like most people of his station he had been taught the basics. His drawing wasn’t good, but it was good enough to give a real artist the idea. He drew a wing section and made marks on his silhouette to indicate where the ribs of the airplane would be placed. Then he took another sip of beer and went back to his calculations.
Pierre Trovler was in Grantville for the movies, for the pictures, for the art that came from the future. He wasn’t in the encyclopedia, he’d checked. There was no way for him to know why, and if Pierre had known, it’s hard to tell if he would have been pleased. For in that other history Pierre had died in 1632 of food poisoning. Without that bad bit of mutton, it’s quite likely that Pierre would have made enough of a name for himself to have gained an entry in the encyclopedia. But Pierre didn’t know that. No one on Earth, in either timeline, knew it. All he knew was that he had looked and found no entry for Pierre Trovler, born June 9 th, 1604, outside Paris. That lack of such an entry had left him a bit—actually, rather a lot—more modest. He knew he was a good artist, but knowing that he wasn’t in the history books and not knowing why had been a cold shower to his ego. It had needed one. He worked harder now. For instance, he worked on the rough sketches that Willem Krause had given him with care and practiced skill, using Herr Krause’s notes as well as his sketches and the drafting course from the adult education class at Grantville’s high school to make designs and even a perspective view of the aircraft. He worked well into the night using the Coleman lantern, had some of the fried chicken that he had bought that noon, then went to bed.
Pierre Trovler handed over the cardboard tube that held the plans. The tube, as it happened, was made down-time, a copy of examples that had come with the Ring of Fire.
Krause took it with a smile that was both very endearing and probably more than half real. “So how is it?” he asked as he removed the cardboard cap from the tube. “Did you manage to turn my scribbling and notes into something worth seeing, or were they too bad to even give you a starting point?”
Pierre grinned in spite of himself. “I persevered, Herr Krause. In fact, they weren’t bad drawings. To be honest, they weren’t professional, but the information was there.” He started to add that he thought that Herr Krause would be pleased, but decided not to. He doubted the man would be influenced by such a claim and it might raise expectations.
By now Herr Krause had the papers out and was looking at the drawings and the neat, careful notes. “Marvelous. This actually looks like the design of an airplane.”
They talked for some time. They talked about the shape of the wing, and of the three-wheeled undercarriage.
“How do you turn it?” Pierre asked.
“These here . . . ” Herr Krause pointed at the trailing edge of the wing and the line that Pierre hadn’t known the meaning of. ” . . . are actually separate little wings. They move up and down and change the airflow over the wing so that one wing has more lift or so that the lift is more in the front of the wing or more in the back.” He pointed at the tail fin. “That has a rudder that pushes from side to side.”
“Those parts will need to be clearer and drawings made of the . . . ” Pierre paused. He didn’t know how or why little wings Herr Krause talked about moved up and down. ” . . . of whatever it is that moves those little trailing wings up and down.”
“They’re called ailerons,” his employer told him. “Or, more generally, control surfaces. And they are moved by a system of cables that are run inside the wing and body of the aircraft.”
“Just as you say, sir, but they will need to be drawn for the plans and I will need to know what they look like.”
“More than that, the book Aerodynamics 101, insists that a scale model should be made and tested in a wind tunnel,” Herr Krause said. “I will not skimp on such a step because, as the up-timers say, it’s my pale pink body that will be strapped into the thing when it flies.” Then he grinned at Pierre again. “Do you happen to know a carpenter of skill that could help us first with making the model and later with making the airplane?”
“I may, sir. Giuseppe Bonono is certainly skilled enough,” Pierre said. “He is from Padua and came to Grantville to see what new skills and tools of the carpenter’s art might have been developed in the future.”
It took a few days to arrange a meeting with the carpenter. In part that was because it wasn’t, as it turned out, one man. Giuseppe Bonono, a widower and master carpenter from Padua, had on arrival in Grantville discovered Black & Decker power tools. Hand-cutting a hole in a piece of wood so that you might insert a dowel had never been one of Giuseppe’s favorite occupations. Electric motors to do the grunt work so that the carpenter could concentrate on the art of carpentry had impressed him greatly. So had the advancements in treating wood. Not that the up-timers knew everything. Giuseppe had his own tricks of the carpenter’s trade and thirty years of hands-on experience.
It was, by up-time standards, a small shop in Rottenbach, on the road from Grantville to Badenburg. By the standards of the seventeenth century, especially in terms of output, it was major industry. Still, while their bread and butter was the tables, chairs, and desks they produced, they were also very interested in prestige work.
Willem Krause’s delta-wing airplane had the potential to be prestige work. The sort of work that they could advertise and that would bring in sales.
It only took convincing them of that.
Not that they were going to do it for free. Prestige work meant prestige prices, after all.
“Gentlemen and masters, I am on a budget,” Willem complained pitifully.
“You do that very well, Herr Krause,” Giuseppe complimented him.
“Yes, thank you, Master Bonono,” Willem agreed immodestly. “I thought the squeak at the end was especially artful, as though you had just twisted the tongs in which you held my stones. Nonetheless, it is true. If we can’t come to an equitable agreement, I will be forced to go elsewhere. I don’t want to. Pierre tells me good things about you. But my backer is already concerned over the expense involved and he actually has access to tongs. Red hot tongs, if needed.”
No one asked who his backer was. There was no law forbidding the building of aircraft for Louis of France or the Holy Roman Empire. But being able to say honestly “I had no idea who it was for” might prove useful. Besides, it wasn’t their business.
Eventually they agreed on a price for the scale model. It was to be a one-twentieth scale model which would make it a bit over a foot wide and a bit under two feet long. It would be much heavier for its volume than the full-size one would be, but the control surfaces would be adjustable so that that the model could be tested in the wind tunnel with ailerons up and ailerons down so that the effect on drag lift and ground effect could be measured.
“Gemma,” Master Bonono shouted. “Gemma, bring wine!”
“Yes, Papa,” a girl’s voice said.
The noise of the power tools was muted here and Willem was glad of it. His ears were still ringing a bit from the noise of the table saw.
A pretty young girl brought wine and Willem gave her an appreciative smile for the wine as his eyes took in her form. Nicely curved, firm, yet soft. He let her see that he had noticed then went back to the discussion. “I’m told the model will need attachments where they attach little threads which are in turn attached to weights and scales and dials. One at the center of balance, one at the nose, one at the tail, and one on each wing.”
The girl seemed to accept his appreciation as her due but showed more interest in the plans. “A delta wing?” she asked curiously.
“Yes!” Willem was suddenly more interested in the girl. “You know about delta wings?
“Not really. But I was the German translator on your additional questions at the research center, so I had to read up on aircraft design. From what I read, delta wings are not particularly well thought of by Herr Smith.”
“There are disadvantages but also advantages. For one, a delta wing doesn’t need as much wing span for the same amount of lift. So a delta might be able to use a runway that a straight wing wouldn’t.”
“You know this man?” Master Bonono asked his daughter suspiciously.
The girl, Gemma, rolled her eyes as her papa went all fatherly on her and Willem hid his smile as the girl answered.
“I’ve never met him till today, Papa, but I have seen him at the research center, consulting with Darius.”
“You watch out for that boy. He doesn’t have two dollars to rub together, even if he is an up-timer.”
“He’s just a friend, Papa!” Gemma said with clearly strained patience and a face growing a bit pink.
When Willem first learned that the girl knew of his interest, he had had a moment of concern. But it was clear, after all, that all that had happened was a coincidence and perhaps a useful one. “So you have some familiarity with aircraft design?” he asked. “From your work in translating the questions?”
“A little,” Gemma admitted, doubt clear in her posture. “I have a good idea what the words mean, anyway.”
“So here,” Willem said to Master Bonono while gesturing at the girl, “you have a consultant on the interpretation of the design in your own house. How convenient.”
Making such a model is not the work of an hour or a day, but for a master like Giuseppe Bonono it wasn’t the work of a lifetime, either. In a couple of months, there would be a twentieth-scale model, of the arrowhead plane, as Giuseppe called it. Ready for the wind tunnel test over at Smith Aeronautics.
Leaving the Bononos, father and daughter, to their work Willem went looking for flying lessons.
“And this is realistic?” Willem didn’t even try to hide his doubts.
The man shrugged. “It was my son’s, and he mostly used it for gun-fighting games. But it has the flight simulator on it. The ads say it’s realistic, but I don’t really know. It’s fifty dollars an hour if you want to use it. If you don’t, there’s others who do.”
Willem tried it and didn’t know if it was realistic or not. It did let him get used to the idea of banking into a turn and a little bit familiar with the gradualness of flight. And, perhaps more importantly, the misleading nature of that gradualness. Planes do things slowly and smoothly . . . till they don’t. The don’t part is when they get close to the ground. Then things get fast. A crash at two hundred miles per hour is pretty sudden.
The second simulator was a thing of wood and canvas, controlled by men with ropes and poles. They rocked and tilted the mini-plane in three dimensions in response to Willem’s manipulation of the controls. Again, it was far from perfect but it taught him something about flying. Well, reinforced something the flight game had shown him. If you bank the plane to the right then bring the stick back to neutral, you’re still banked to the right. To get back to level flight, you have to move the stick not just back to neutral but beyond it, till you have reversed what you did to bank in the first place. And all the time you were banking to the left and un-banking, you were turning left. So, to turn left, you pushed the stick left, then back to center, held the stick as you made most of the turn, then pushed the stick right till you were out of the bank, then brought it back to center. And with each move it was easy to go too far or hold it too long, and it took practice to get it right.
That was what the low-tech simulators that had sprung up since the Belle had first flown were about, letting you practice before climbing into one of the still few planes that had been completed since the Belle‘s first flight. Flight time in those was very expensive. The Belles were unavailable, strictly for the military. Kelly Aviation usually had one plane running, well, sometimes. In general, Mr. Kelly would finish it, then a few days later take it apart for parts for the next one. But during those times when one of his planes was in fact flight ready, you could take flights in it and even get flying lessons. For the paltry sum of two hundred fifty dollars an hour.
The Kitts had an airplane and mostly kept it running. It was a two-seater, front and back, and lessons were three hundred dollars an hour. Over the two months that Giuseppe and Gemma were occupied in building the model, Krause racked up over a hundred hours in various simulators, forty hours of ground school, reading maps from the air and such, and a grand total of seven and one quarter hours in the air. He thought he knew how to fly, not well perhaps, but well enough. Besides, he was spending a lot of money on flying lessons.
It was in the days before the model was ready for the wind tunnel that the secrecy, which had been more a matter of habit and general caution, became a matter of vital necessity. Hans Richter flew into history and John George into insanity within days. In response to the change from the CPE to the USE, John George and and the Elector of Brandenburg had withdrawn from the Swede’s alliance. John George had never been the most popular neighbor to the up-timers, but now he was considered a traitor by the king of Sweden and at least a potential threat by the Americans. Building an airplane nominally for John George would be seen as an act as hostile as building the plane for Cardinal Richelieu. Possibly more hostile. After all, John George was closer. It made no real difference in Willem Krause’s plans. He had always been careful about such things. Because if no one knew who was paying the bills, it would be harder for them to come in at the last minute and take away his airplane. Now, keeping them in ignorance would be essential to keeping the project going.
“I lost another commission today,” Pierre Trovler told Willem dejectedly “Because I’m French. I’m not a cardinal or a politician. I’m an artist.”
“You have my sympathy, my friend,” Willem told him. “As long as you don’t expect me to express it too loudly. People are excited by boys at Wismar and incensed by the League. I suggest you don an appropriately patriotic mien. Perhaps a painting of the heroic outlaw driving into the enemy ship. Or, you could join the CoC. I’m just grateful no one is asking where I was born, since my family’s estates are in the electorate of Brandenburg.”
“I’m already a member of the CoC,” Pierre told him. “I was before this happened.”
“Really? I wouldn’t have thought you were the sort. Didn’t you just say you weren’t political just after you disclaimed being a cardinal? Do you paint in red robes?”
“You don’t have to be a cardinal to be Catholic and you don’t have to be a politician to believe in liberty. I know you’re of the nobility, but you’re a regular guy, not like John George.”
Willem gave no sign by word or action that anything had changed but something had. For while he was in no way John George and cordially despised the man, neither was he a regular guy. He was of the nobility and that made him different from peasants of any situation, no matter how grand their circumstance or how mean his. He was of the nobility. His genial manner was just that—a manner. He stepped down from his natural station to put people like Pierre at ease and get the best labor out of them, not because he thought them his equal. But here they thought they were—even normally sane people like Pierre. He would have to be more careful now.
Willem watched as the technician attached the thin steel wires to his model airplane. One from the top of the model, set at the center of gravity, went through the top of the wind tunnel, over and around a pulley, off to another pulley, then down the side to a weight and gauges for reading. The bottom center of gravity wire went down through the bottom of the wind tunnel to an adjustable spring.
There were similar sets of wires at the nose, center, tail, and wing tips. Together the wires and gauges would measure the lift and drag of the airfoil at varying wind speeds and at various flap and aileron settings.
Then they started the fan and the model Arrow was pushed back by the wind. The technician took measurements: lift at nose, lift at tail, drag—each measurement taken several times, once for each air speed. The process was repeated with smoke and more notes were taken, when the smoke started swirling and where on the wing. Then the fan was turned off and the flaps were adjusted, and the process started again. After they were done, they had the Reynolds number by working backwards from the point of non-laminar flow.
That, and a whole lot more data that could be fed into a computer spreadsheet program to give solid estimates of lift and drag over a range of speeds and angles of attack. They added weights to different points on the model, adjusting its center of gravity to include the weight of things like engine and pilot. Maneuverability, carrying capacity, takeoff speed, and more, were provided by the wind tunnel tests of the model in combination with the knowledge bought by thousands of lives over a hundred years in that other timeline. It seemed to Willem complete, and offered a level of confidence that surpassed that even of shipwrights. And compared to what the Wright boys, Curtis, Sikorsky, or even Douglas had had to work with, it was complete.
It took a few days to process the data. Well, it took a few days to get around to processing the data. It took a couple of hours to input the data and the computer took microseconds to do the calculations. And it didn’t take Hal Smith much longer to interpret the results.
The faster the plane was going, the greater the lift. As was standard but, like the weight, the lift was centered well back on the plane. In fact, even at fairly low speed, the center of lift was farther back than the center of gravity, which meant that in flight the Arrow was going to be nose heavy. Because of ground effect, that was even more of a problem on takeoff and landing. Because the ailerons were actually elevons, combining the function of both elevators and ailerons in one control surface. And because it was a tailless delta, you couldn’t go flaps down for takeoff and landing. Not without shoving its nose into the ground. So they would need to shift as much of the heavy bits as they could toward the back of the aircraft.
He discussed his changed designs with the boy Darius because he had been the researcher for the whole project. “Herr Smith doesn’t much care for the delta-wing design,” Willem told Darius with another of his half-grins. He had just returned from a very expensive half-hour consultation with the only aeronautical engineer on earth. When not working for the State of Thuringia-Franconia Air Force, Hal Smith—for a piddling five hundred American dollars an hour—did consultations with prospective aircraft designers. And to spend that five hundred dollars an hour, you made an appointment and waited your turn.
“Well, he’s probably right, sir,” the youngster admitted. “I know they look cooler, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better.”
“I know, Darius, but ‘cooler’—did you say?—looking airplanes may have a higher sales price because they look better, faster, or more dangerous,” Willem said. “We aren’t the only ones building aircraft and it’s generally better to stand out from the crowd at least a little.”
Armed with the information from the wind tunnel tests and analysis, Willem didn’t abandon the delta, but did adjust his design. He did several things to move weight toward the rear of the aircraft. The gas tank, storage and armaments were moved back, but he wanted the pilot as far forward as he could manage. That just left the engine, the heaviest single part of the aircraft. He considered the idea of a center-mounted engine and a long drive shaft, which might have worked, except that the drive shaft would then go right through the small of the pilot’s back. And that left a pusher, a plane with the propeller in back. Well . . . why not? They were supposed to be quieter, anyway, not that Krause had ever been in a pusher, but that’s what the books said. Besides, the Dart, even if its engines had been spread throughout the body if the plane, the thrust at least had gone out the back. The Krause Arrow would be a pusher. That simplified things greatly. The engine and prop would be right at the back, with the gas tank just in front of the engine. The cargo and/or weapons would be between the gas tank and the pilot. The pilot would be as far forward as he could be and still have room for the control runs. Then it was off to the carpenter’s shop to turn the designs into an airplane.
“Plywood?” Willem asked.
“That’s what the up-timers call it. Take a thin sheet of wood, not a lot thicker than a sheet of paper, then a thin layer of glue. Another thin sheet of wood laid out crosswise to the grain of the first sheet, more glue, another sheet, still more glue, still another sheet, constantly changing the direction of the grain. Then compress it all and let it dry. The up-timers call it plywood; we call it laminated wood and it’s what the up-timers call a composite material. Whatever you call it, it gives you wood that won’t split along the grain because the grain isn’t all going one way. Wood that spreads the stresses placed upon it in ways that normal oak or ash can’t.”
“What about spruce?” Willem asked. “The books mention aircraft spruce.”
“Yes, but what is aircraft spruce?” Giuseppe Bonono asked. “All I know is that the books talk about spruce in the Americas. I know there is spruce in Europe. It’s light and fairly strong, easy to work. But I don’t know if it is this airplane spruce that they are talking about. It’s pretty clear that not all spruce is airplane spruce. But I know about laminated wood. I know things I can do to make sure that it’s strong and light.”
“All right. The Convair Delta Dart was made out of aluminum, after all, and we aren’t going to get that.”
They went on to talk about the structure of the wings and the internal supports of the fuselage. Where the control runs would go and how they would be attached. What kinds of glues would be used where.
“What about the skin? Laminated wood . . . even very thin it’s going to be heavy,” Giuseppe warned.
“Doped canvas,” Willem told him. ” I have Pierre Trovler working on finding the right canvas and doping agent. The book, Aviation 101, second edition, suggests that the frame be lacquered before the canvas is applied. Apparently raw wood and canvas aren’t a good combination.”
The Arrow wasn’t the only work of the carpenters, nor of Pierre Trovler. They had chairs and desks to make and portraits and landscapes to paint, respectively, and Willem Krause wanted to see and understand everything that went into the construction and maintenance of his aircraft. To Giuseppe and Pierre, this seemed simply a reflection of Willem’s obsession with aviation.
In part it was that, but Willem, having determined that he would find his home among the lords of France and Austria not the peasants of the USE, intended that he would know all that was needed to see to any repair or even rebuild the Arrow. He noted the interest that Gemma showed in him, and in other circumstances he would have taken advantage of it. But not here. Not now. Not among peasants who thought themselves his equal. It was too risky. The girl would have to make do with a clumsy farm boy to lose her innocence.
Still, gradually, amid impatient letters from Saxony, the Arrow did come together and became an aircraft. In all considerations save one. It had no engine. Engines, even the heavy engines of pickup trucks and vans, could not be had for love or money. Half a dozen companies were making down-time produced engines and each and everyone was sold before it was built.
A rich peasant could get an engine. A rich burgher from the Netherlands could arrange the creation of a company to make them for his airplanes. But a noble of Germany had to wait his turn. Money wasn’t enough. You had to have connections.
The plane was finished. The months dragged on. No engine came to Willem Krause.
“Where is my airplane?” John George of Saxony demanded in the fall of 1634. “Krause has had over a year. There are dozens of airplanes by now and I don’t have even one.”
Karl Gottlieb knew better than to point out that he had harbored doubts about the project from the beginning. John George didn’t care for “I told you sos.” Instead he simply said, “I don’t know. I could send someone to check up on Willem Krause.”
“Send someone?” John George asked. “No! Go yourself. I want to know where my money is going. Gustav Adolph and that jumped-up peasant Stearns are pushing things in the CPE and I won’t have the Swede as overlord of the Germanies.”
Karl wasn’t John George’s spymaster, but he also wasn’t a field agent. He was the assistant spymaster for Saxony and really too well-known to be sent to Grantville. But that was now beside the point. He had his orders and the Elector had a whim of iron.
“Where, Willem Krause, is the Elector’s airplane?” Karl asked as Willem opened the door.
“What are you doing here?” Krause whispered harshly. Then with almost no pause, “Come inside, quickly.”
Once Karl was inside and the door closed, he asked again, “Where is the Elector’s airplane?”
“It’s sitting in a hanger at the Grantville airport, waiting for an engine,” Krause said. “Just as I wrote in my last report. Do you want the airplane seized by the up-timers while they decide whether building a plane for John George is abetting treason against the USE? If I understand the laws correctly, I will be exonerated and the plane turned over but not, I am sure, before Gustav Adolph has the Elector’s head on a pike. Is that what you want?”
“What I want, Krause, is for you to deliver the aircraft that you promised over a year ago and stop being a drain on the Elector’s finances.”
With some difficulty, Willem kept his temper. The fact that he and Karl Gottlieb had never cared for each other was beside the point. It was a safe bet that Gottlieb wasn’t here because he wanted to be. “Then we are in accord. I also want the airplane finished. It is finished, so far as any parts that might be obtained or reasonably fabricated. The issue is engines. I have begged and bribed, but so far have been unable to obtain one.”
“By this time you could have had one made by hand.”
“Yes, I could have,” Willem Krause acknowledged. “But that would have cost twice as much as the whole rest of the airplane. No. As I think about it, it would be closer to ten times the cost of the rest of the aircraft. Steel is not soft and its shaping is no mean endeavor. To get engines light enough in comparison to their power to allow them true utility in powering an airplane needs careful and skilled shaping so that the loss of weight does not also produce a loss of strength.” Willem shook his head. “These things are not easily done. Every syllable in each report represents hours or days of labor and, yes, considerable outlay of silver. But look around you. Am I living in luxury?”
Willem waved and then watched without concern as Karl Gottlieb went through his room. For it was true. Willem had spent every pfennig—even every American cent—that was designated for the airplane on the airplane. His room was decent but not large, and located outside the Ring of Fire where the rents were cheaper. That his clothing was clean and of good quality was more a function of washing machines and sewing machines than of extravagance. Nor was the room filled with gewgaws and objects d’ art. Instead, there were plans and the wind-tunnel model. Notes and requests for engines and letters of polite refusal, all of which assured him that he was on their list and they would get to him as soon as they possibly could.
It was a clearly irritated Karl Gottlieb who waved him back to his seat on the bed. “Oh, sit down. When can I see the plane?”
“Whenever you like,” Willem said, then added with a certain malice in his tone, “And while I am sure that Stearns’ Jew spymaster has agents at the airport, who knows? They may fail to recognize you . . . or fail to care.”
Karl Gottlieb’s lot, over the next couple of weeks wasn’t a happy one. He had had hopes on his trip from Dresden that he might find Willem Krause engaged in fraud. But the evidence was to the contrary, and while he was still convinced in his heart of hearts that Krause was somehow cheating the duke, there was no evidence to support that belief.
The one good thing about the trip was sitting in the cockpit of the Arrow. It was a tight fit, but comfortable and as Karl moved the stick he could look out the windows and see the way his actions moved the control surfaces. Finally, he was convinced. Given a power-plant, this would fly and fly well. There was too much care in every detail, too much skill in every piece to allow any other outcome.
Regretting the necessity, Karl returned to Dresden with a completely favorable report. “If an engine can be procured, the plane will fly. Nor is Krause the only one who is having his plans delayed by this bottleneck. Engines are needed by everyone from the army and navy to every industry. Every engine produced by every manufacturer, no matter how poor its quality, has a dozens buyers,” Karl Gottlieb explained to the Elector. But he couldn’t explain the why of it, because he didn’t understand himself. The world had changed and with it the rules of commerce and needs of production. Those changes were apparent but unnatural to a man born and raised in a world without engines. “I see no way for us to acquire an engine and without one the Arrow is a useless shell.”
“But I see a way to acquire an engine,” John George informed him. “In fact, one is already in our city. One of our wealthy merchants bought a steam engine and several other machine tools in Magdeburg, then had them sent here over the last few months. He is now trying to put every craft hall in Dresden out of their livelihoods by underselling them. I have received complaints, but he has stayed barely within the law and he has friends.” Then John George smiled, thrilled with his cleverness. “The emergency of military necessity will require the loan of his steam engine. Which, just by chance, will give my friends time to acquire their own engines and compete with him on a better footing.
“You, in the meantime, will see to the transport of the engine from Dresden to Grantville by secret means, so that it can be installed in my Arrow—so that a surprise for that arrogant Swede may come from my quiver—all unknown to him.”
Arriving back in Grantville with a three-cylinder steam engine and several hundred pounds of boilers and condensers, Karl Gottlieb was subjected to complaints from Willem Krause.
“It’s too heavy and not powerful enough. It has only twelve horsepower. I need at least fifty for the Arrow and a hundred would be better.”
“Tell the Elector,” Karl returned. “I want to watch. It’s his idea and our task to make it work, or at the very least make a good faith effort to make it work.”
“But . . . ”
“So who can you talk to about steam?”
“I have no idea. The notion of using steam engines in aircraft has come up a few times, to the ever lasting amusement of every up-timer in the Ring of Fire. But we can find out.” It wasn’t that easy. It seemed that every steam expert in the Ring of Fire had found lucrative employment elsewhere. Willem applied to Darius and Darius directed them to Vince Masaniello of the Steam Engine Corporation. They didn’t, as it happened, talk to Vince.
Charles Anthony Masaniello looked at the engine and said, “That’s one of the Schmidt boy’s engines. Pretty good engines, well-enough made, too, if not up to our standards. Pretty good tolerances, too. What are you fellows after?”
“We wish to increase its horsepower, Herr Masaniello.”
This wasn’t the first time Charlie had heard that. “Call me Charlie. Why do you want to up its horsepower?” Then he held up his hand. “I’m not trying to get into your business, but most of the time when folks want to up the horsepower it’s because they think a steam engine is the same as an internal combustion engine. And they ain’t.” Charlie spoke Amideutch fluently, but with a pronounced West Virginia accent, something he made no effort at all to curb. In fact, he emphasized it, because it made him seem even more up-timer and therefore more expert on steam engines. He was expert. He would have been considered an expert up-time; down-time he was the “pro from Dover ” and knew it.
The guy who had introduced himself as Willem Krause was a little taken aback by the question and Charlie waited for him to decide if he was going to answer it.
Eventually, almost twenty seconds later, Herr Krause did answer his question. “We wish to use the engine as the power plant for an airplane.”
Charlie grinned and almost laughed. He didn’t because it was safe bet that they would misinterpret the laughter. Instead he said, “Dad would love this. He’s been working on steam tugs for years. Look, it’s not the horsepower. It’s the torque. The . . . well, a big difference between steam and internal combustion is that steam has full torque at zero rpm. An internal combustion engine needs to wind up to get its full torque. Another difference is simply that by upping the pressure you can up the hp, though in this case you may not need to. Just gearing the engine right might get you there. Your real issue is going to be the boiler and condenser, keeping their weight down enough to let you get off the ground. I can, for an agreed-on fee, draw up some specs that can let a good down-time smith take one of Adolf Schmidt’s condensers and adapt it to an airplane. It’s going to be heavy and it’s going to cause some extra drag, and you’re going to have to figure out how to feed and exhaust the boiler burner, but it should work. The fee for that will be considerable, but it will give you a power plant.”
“Could we run without the condenser to test the airframe? Just to see if the airframe flies?”
“You could. At a guess, this engine would use about a quart of water a second. How many gallons do you think you can carry before the condenser is lighter? Figure six hundred pounds of water for a five minute take off and landing loop.”
There was more negotiation but they paid. By now the pressure from John George would have turned coal into diamonds in hours not centuries. They really didn’t have any choice.
Karl Gottlieb thought that he had figured out Willem’s plan. Krause intended to steal the Elector’s airplane. And Karl intended to stop him. He would watch. And once the airplane was ready, he would take it back to the Elector. Pursuant to that goal, he started taking flying lessons while Krause and his smiths reworked the condenser. It was slow hand work, using the machine-made pipes, but hand welding them together. It took weeks.
“It’s ready,” said Herr Krause with an intensity that Darius had seldom heard from him . . . or anyone else, for that matter.
Naturally, that night the snows came. Not for the first time that winter, but a major blizzard. All that could be done was steam tests and engine tests. So, steam tests and engine tests they did. The prop spun up with incredible speed starting at full torque, and simply adjusting a lever not only stopped the prop but reversed it. Which Willem found marvelous. The plane moved with ease and panache, and they got good reads on how much fuel they needed for how much flight time. The delay caused by the weather was irritating, not dangerous. The one thing that bothered Willem about the Arrow‘s power plant was that it took over five minutes to build up a head of steam. There would be no jumping into this plane and being in flight less than a minute later.
The day finally came. They had done tests. The Arrow was as ready as they could make it. Willem sat in the cockpit, reclined not for comfort but to save space. He watched the steam gauge with care and waited with impatience for the pressure to reach the levels needed for sustained flight. When all was ready he dialed the throttle up to take off power then released the brakes. The Arrow was heavier than he would have preferred, especially with the weight of the boiler and condenser. But still, according to all their calculations, it should lift off about halfway down the runway. It started quickly and picked up speed slower than he would have liked, but it did pick up the speed. He wasn’t quite sure how fast he was going when he reached halfway point on the runway. The Arrow wasn’t equipped with a speedometer. It was a matter of estimation and he figured he was going fast enough.
He pulled back on the stick and nothing happened. The wheels stayed glued to the ground. He put the stick back to neutral and waited for more speed to build. It was harder to build up speed when the stick was back. He also dialed the throttle as high as it would go, full emergency power, as it were.
Two-thirds of the way down the field he was going faster and tried again. Something was wrong. He was going faster than he had ever gone before at take off in any plane, and he was still glued to the ground. He should be getting something by now.
He wondered if he should shut down and try again another day. He’d give it another few seconds. After all, he could reverse thrust to slow rapidly
Seconds later he tried again. Now he was scared and angry. Too close to the end of the runway for comfort. Stick still back, he reversed thrust. The gearing took the strain, the prop and the shaft did not snap, and the prop bit into the air—backwards.
Suddenly, with no warning, he was airborne, the nose was coming up fast. And his mind was behind the plane still trying to slow it down. He pulled back on the stick and the nose lifted faster.
Willem had only a few hours of flight time. He had soloed once, for all of five minutes. Just enough to get his solo permit stamped. He had never been in a plane that moved like this one. No one had ever been in a plane that moved like this one. It wasn’t that it was especially maneuverable, but it maneuvered differently than a more traditional airframe would. More of the lift, but also more of the weight, was toward the back of the aircraft. With the elevons flipped up and the prop reversed while still in the ground effect range, it acted like a take off ramp made out of concrete. The nose flipped up like it was giving the world the finger and the Arrow shot into the sky at something over two gs change of vee.
It shot into the sky with its propeller spinning madly backwards. Momentum and air pressure got it into the sky, but there was nothing to keep it there. Still, it got almost fifty feet into the air. And all the way up—and all the way back down—it was flipping over backwards. For at the top of the arc, Willem pushed the stick all the way forward, just as his limited experience as a pilot told him to do. The tail hit the ground first but by then the Arrow was angled at forty-five degrees back toward the start of the field.
Willem had a few seconds, two, maybe three, to wonder what the fuck had happened before the canopy cracked into the runway and ended his capacity for questioning forever.
Hal Smith didn’t need to be called in. First flights out of Grantville Airport weren’t so common that he had to miss many of them, and first flights of delta-wing aircraft were even rarer. He had seen the take off run. He had seen the leap into the air. He had seen the crash.
And he knew exactly what had happened. Knew that he had told Willem Krause the right thing, but for the wrong reason. That he had never thought of the true reason that the centered prop was such a bad idea. Hal had never been a great fan of deltas. He’d never designed one and never flown one, so he had never thought about what would happen if you put a prop at the back of a delta wing with half its sucking power contained by the ground and the body of the plane.
To make a plane go forward, you push air backward. When you push air in one direction, you’re pulling it in from all the other available directions. That mostly doesn’t matter because it is all the other directions. There is no restriction on where the air comes from to replace the air your prop displaces. Not, however, when that flow of air is blocked by the body of the airplane above it and the ground below it. When that happens you get a vacuum.
Well, calling it a vacuum is overstating the case. The low pressure zone produced is to a vacuum cleaner what a vacuum cleaner is to a vacuum tube. Not even in the same range. The pressure deferential is only a few ounces per square inch, less even. But there are a lot of square inches on the under-surface of a delta wing thirty feet wide by thirty feet long.
The pressure deferential is the same thing that lets planes fly, but in this case it glued the plane to the ground as long as the prop was pulling air out from between the wing and the ground. Hal Smith knew all that the moment the Arrow lifted off. He prayed in those moments that Willem Krause would push the thrust back to full forward. It hadn’t happened and he couldn’t blame Herr Krause for not realizing what had happened in time. The only person that Hal found to blame for the death of Willem Krause was Hal Smith. He fell back into his chair by the tower and felt the cold wind and every day of his seventy-one years.
There were too many gaps in the knowledge brought back, too many errors. Not from lack of knowledge but from lack of understanding of the knowledge they did have. He wanted to quit then as he had wanted to quit at each of the deaths that had, over the last year and more, followed the introduction of flight into this century. He knew he couldn’t quit, for his quitting wouldn’t prevent a single death. The young men and women who dreamed of flight and dared turn their dreams into reality wouldn’t stop. Not if God Himself came down and told them to leave the heavens to him. They couldn’t . . . and Hal couldn’t blame them for that.
Darius stood next to Gemma as they watched the ceremony. Willem Krause had been buried three days before. This was different. A small plaque made of bronze with the name Willem Krause engraved on it. Above the name were the wings of a pilot and a compass and a square on the right and left to symbolize an airplane designer. It looked like a Masonic symbol to Darius and he almost smiled at the thought that someday this would be taken as proof that the Masons, even in the seventeenth century, were secretly trying to introduce a new world order. Herr Krause would have laughed his ass off at that, Darius was sure.
That wouldn’t stop the questions, though. Willem Krause’s room had been cleared out the day he died, before anyone had thought to look. No one knew who was financing him. For all Darius knew, it was the Masons or the Illuminati, though they weren’t even supposed to have started till next century.
It didn’t matter. Willem Krause had built an airplane. He had flown it, if only for a few seconds and had died providing a bit more understanding of what conquering the skies cost and how it was done. His wasn’t the first name on the wall of the Grantville airport tower and it wouldn’t be the last. But this was the first time that Darius or Gemma had known the person behind the name on the wall.
Darius held Gemma’s hand and thought about flying. About how the Arrow might be modified and made to fly. It should be possible.