Crash Pastoral

Today’s Poster has a remarkably placid feel, despite depicting the aftermath of a floatplane ditching.


Entitled ‘Warning! Consider the possible consequences if you are careless in your work’, it is a 1917 painting by L.N. Britton, reproduced as a 104 x 72 cm poster and shows a pair of US Navy floatplanes, one of the crash’s crew draped over the lower wing, the other airman awaiting rescue. While the consequence seems clear, the cause of the accident is left unspecified beyond ‘carelessness’. The aircraft seem to be Curtiss N-9 trainers, bearing the Great War US roundel of white, blue and red. The development of training and the close relationship between risk, disaster and reward, and how the illustrated event could occur, are shown by this quote from the Wikipedia page:

“Although the consensus in early 1917 among aviators and even the N-9’s manufacturer was that the N-9 could not be looped, the pioneering early United States Marine Corps aviator Francis Thomas Evans, Sr., believed it was possible. On 13 February 1917, he flew an N-9 over the Gulf of Mexico off Pensacola, Florida, and began attempts to loop it. He succeeded on his fourth try, becoming the first person ever to loop a seaplane. Lacking witnesses, he flew over Naval Air Station Pensacola and repeated the feat. In 1936 [nearly 20 years later!] he received the Distinguished Flying Cross for this achievement. More important, however, were the stall and spin recovery techniques he discovered while flying the N-9 that day. During his first three loop attempts, the N-9 stalled before he reached the apex of the loop and fell into a spin. He found that by releasing back-pressure on the stick and aggressively applying opposite rudder to the direction of the spin he could change the spin into a normal dive and recover, something previously thought impossible in an N-9. His stall and spin recovery techniques remain in use to this day by aviators around the world.”

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

Source: Library of Congress.

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