Thomas William Moy (1828 - 1910)


Craft by Thomas Moy, 1875

A History of Aeronautics

Two years before the publication of Penaud's patent Thomas Moy experimented at the Crystal Palace with a twin-propelled aeroplane, steam driven, which seems to have failed mainly because the internal combustion engine had not yet come to give sufficient power for weight.

Moy anchored his machine to a pole running on a prepared circular track; his engine weighed 80 lbs. and, developing only three horse-power, gave him a speed of 12 miles an hour. He himself estimated that the machine would not rise until he could get a speed of 35 miles an hour, and his estimate was correct.

Two six-bladed propellers were placed side by side between the two main planes of the machine, which was supported on a triangular wheeled undercarriage and steered by fairly conventional tail planes.

Moy realised that he could not get sufficient power to achieve flight, but he went on experimenting in various directions, and left much data concerning his experiments which has not yet been deemed worthy of publication, but which still contains a mass of information that is of practical utility, embodying as it does a vast amount of painstaking work.

a summary of some other various references and others

Spring, 1875 the first unmanned airplane to fly from level ground, by Thomas Moy of England. The craft, a tandem wing with two 12ft six-blade pusher paddles was powered by a 3hp steam engine.

"Interestingly enough these blades could be adjusted to produce maximum thrust under certain conditions, an early recognition of the need for changing blade pitch."

The craft was tethered to a post in the centre of a specially built circular track in the gardens of the Hotel DeLuxe in south London and was reprted to have left the ground by 15 cm.

Hydrofoil History - Pioneering Vessels and People

According to Ian Hamilton in his article "The Hydrofoil As a Weapon," which appeared in Pacific Defence Reporter Aug 1981,

"The first hydrofoil boat was the product of an accident in 1861, when Thomas Moy, an Englishman, decided to study the aerodynamics of wings by observing the underwater swirls they created. Having attached wings to his craft, he ventured out onto the Surrey Canal. To his surprise, the ship rose from the water -- and unintentionally he had invented hydrofoils. But it was not until 1898 that the first efficient hydrofoil was designed by Enrico Forlanini of Milan..."

Further Reading

The Flight of the Albatross
Paper by Thomas Moy and read before The Balloon Society, October 3,1884

Progress in Flying Machines
Octave Chanute, Aeroplanes : Part VI, November 1892

The next apparatus to be noticed will be found described in most of the articles on flight in magazines and in encyclopedias but the writer of these lines has been fortunate enough to obtain from Mr. Moy himself still further particulars concerning an experiment which has well been characterized in the reports of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain as "one of the most determined attempts at solving the problem which has yet taken place."

Fig. 55 shows a front view, from a photograph, of "Thomas Moy's aerial steamer," which was tried in the open air at the Crystal Palace near London in June, 1875. The supporting surfaces consisted in two aeroplanes, one in front and the other behind the propelling aerial wheels; the planes being of linen, stretched upon bamboo canes, and set at an angle of 10 with the horizon, the rear plane being placed higher than the front plane, but parallel therewith. A third steering plane, of smaller size, governed by a horizontal wind wheel with screw vanes, was placed in the rear to serve as a horizontal rudder. The front plane measured 50 sq. ft., and the after plane had 64 sq. It. of surface; their true size in relation to the whole apparatus being inadequately shown in the figure, because of the perspective, as they are seen nearly edgewise.


Thomas Moy monoplane of 1875

Between the two supporting aeroplanes were placed two propelling aerial wheels 6 ft. in diameter, each provided with six blades. These were first made of thin laths to approximate to true helices, but were afterward made of Scotch cambric. The blades or vanes were by a most ingenious and simple arrangement caused to change their angle of incidence as they rotated, so as to be "successively caused to be inclined to the line of onward motion of the machine, in such a manner that the blades on one side of the neutral line will be caused to act downward on the air with both a raising and propelling effect, while those on the other side thereof will, in their upward course, be impinged upon by the air with only a lifting tendency." This being in effect an aerial screw in which the pitch was variable in every portion of the revolution, and constituting the chief feature of novelty in the whole apparatus.

The steam-engine was placed between the two aerial wheels, and was a marvel of lightness. The diameter of the cylinder was 2 1/8 in. and the stroke 3 in., with 520 to 550 revolutions per minute. The heating surface was 8 sq. ft. or 2 2/3 sq. ft. per horse-power, the boiler being of the water-tube description, and the steam pressure was 120 to 160 lbs. per square inch, the fuel being liquid and burned in Russian lamps. The engine weighed, with the boiler, 80 lbs and developed fully 3 H.P., being at the rate of 26 2/3 lbs. per horse-power. or about the same as the 1868 engine of Mr. Stringfellow as rated by himself. Mr. Shill a clever mechanician who exhibited a remarkably light engine in 1868 was associated with Mr. Moy in producing the 1875 engine, and had an interest in the patents, so that the apparatus was also known as the "Moy & Shill aerial steamer." It was 14 ft. long and about 14 ft. wide, was mounted on three wheels, and weighed 216 lbs., thus being proportioned at the rate of 0.53 sq. ft. of sustaining surface per pound of weight, omitting the lifting effect of the aerial wheels, which measured 60 sq. ft. more.

The inventor estimated that at a speed of 35 miles per hour the apparatus would be able to rise from the ground and glide upon the air, and this estimate seems fully confirmed by Professor Langley's recent experiments, which show that the uplift on a plane surface of 114 sq. It. at an angle of 10 would be fully 206 lbs., while somewhat higher results are obtained from the table of "lift" and "drift" heretofore given herein, when taken. in connection with Smeaton's table of wind pressures.

After some preliminary tests a path around one of the fountains at the Crystal Palace was selected, which had a diameter of nearly 300 ft.; a pole was erected at the center of the fountain, and two cords were run from the top of the pole to each end of the machine in order to keep it at a uniform distance from the center. The gravel had been rolled, and steam was got up. The gravel, however, proved too rough, it shook the steamer and largely increased the traction. Then a board walk was laid over the path, and again steam was got up and a good run was made around the fountain, the machine (which was only a large model and could not carry an engineer) being wholly propelled by the action of the aerial wheels upon the air, acting only as driven.

The utmost speed attained was 12 miles per hour, while 35 miles an hour was required to cause it to leave the ground. This indicated that the resistances had been underestimated, which resistances consisted in the traction upon the boards, the air resistance on the framing, cordage and ground wheels, and also in the "drift" due to the inclination of the sustaining planes. With our present knowledge we can say that at a speed of 35 miles per hour (6 lbs. per sq. ft.) the latter would have been: 114 X 6 X 0.0585 = 40 lbs., and as the speed would have been 3,080 ft. per minute, the power required by the "drift" was: (40 x 3080)/33.000 = 3.73 H.P., to say nothing of the other elements of resistance, so that it is not strange that only 12 miles an hour was attained.

Mr. Moy needlessly handicapped himself in starting from the ground by a level run. He reasoned, like many others before and since, that "when they were coming down power was wanted, and, of course power was especially wanted when they were going up," but he encountered thereby, in an experimental machine, all the additional resistance of the traction upon the boards. He considered the propriety of launching the apparatus from a height, or down an incline, but then this costly machine, built wholly at his own expense, would surely have come to grief, for he says that "the transverse stability was better than the longitudinal stability, but both were bad," and unless this was first remedied, it really was not safe to experiment.

Mr. Moy also placed his sustaining aeroplanes at too obtuse an angle, for if he had simply doubled their area, and inclined them at 5°ree; instead of 10°ree; the "lift" would have been, by the table, at 35 miles per hour: 228 X 6 X 0.173 = 236 lbs., or practically the same as before, but the "drift" would have been diminished to: 228 X 6 X 0.0152 = 20.79 lbs., or about one half of that heretofore calculated.

Such experiments would doubtless have been tried had ample means been forthcoming, but other things were more pressing, for it was recognized that some modifications would be required in the steam generator, which was provided with six Russian lamps burning methylated spirits, and it was found that when running in the open air, the fumes from the three forward lamps extinguished the three after lamps, and thus reduced the power one half. Before even this difficulty could be remedied the machine was seriously injured by the wrecking of the bamboo aeroplane frames, while it was being moved stern' first across the grounds, in a fierce gale, and Mr. Moy then decided to rearrange it for experiment, as to its vertical lifting power, by substituting 12-ft. aerial wheels with vertical axles tried under cover.

The total surface of these new aerial wheels was 160 sq. ft., and the weight, including engine, boiler and all accessories was 186 lbs. It was found that by counter-balancing 66 lbs. with levers, the wheels would lift the remaining 20 lbs., thus showing a lift of 40 lbs. per H.P., or about he same as the best performance which has been attained with other forms of screws.

Mr. Moy, as the result of his various experiments, then proposed to build a much larger apparatus, with an engine of 100 H.P., and capable of carrying several men, both to avail of the diminished relative weight and resistance of larger engines and to secure intelligent control while in action; but the money could not be secured for this purpose. It would necessarily have cost a large sum, and at that time (1875) not only was the whole subject of aerial navigation generally considered as visionary, but there was not sufficient knowledge to enable the public, or even scientific men, to distinguish the difference between a wild proposal sure to fail to compass flight, and a promising experiment which was worth following up--a condition of affairs which has in a measure continued to this day, and which this account of "Progress in Flying Machines" is partly written to remedy.

So Mr. Moy got no money, but he had instead "two chancery suits about shares in his patents, with no help from any one;" his experiments had brought him down in funds, and he had to turn to hard work to live. As he justly remarks, "Unless you can lift the last ounce of a model, the unscientific people call it a failure, and few can appreciate that as size and weight increase, the relative hull resistance decreases, by reason of its diminished surface in proportion to its cubic contents." He, however , continued to take an active interest in the subject; read papers at the meetings of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain, made private experiments with planes, both in air and in water, as well as with methods for securing automatic stability, and with an improved method of propulsion.

In 1879 Mr. Moy exhibited at the meeting of the Aeronautical Society the small flying model shown in fig. 56, which he described as a "military kite" mounted upon wheels and provided with propelling gear. The front plane measured 660 sq. in. of surface, and the after plane, of half its linear dimensions, measured 165 sq. in. They were made of cambric, fastened to a central box-girder of thin pine, running lengthways, and mounted on small wheels, the aeroplanes being given a diedral angle, as shown, and the angle of incidence fore and aft being adjustable. At each end of the central stick or box-girder cross-arms were fastened, which held in position strands of indict-rubber strings, one on each side of the central stick and parallel therewith, the untwisting of which rotated (in opposite directions) two screw propellers with two vanes each. These propellers are removed in the plan and side view of fig. 56, for the sake of clearness, but are shown in the end elevation or front view.


Thomas Moy monoplane of 1879

The model weighed 24 oz., of which 3 1/2 oz. was in the india-rubber springs, and with 500 turns of the rubber it would run on its wheels over a smooth surface, and under favorable circumstances would rise for a short distance upon the air, It would, of course, fly from the hand like Pénaud's planophore, but showed, like it, great waste of power, the supporting surfaces being at the rate of 3.82 sq. ft. per pound, and the angle of incidence required for it to rise from the ground being 8°ree;; and more unfavorable than a flatter angle, at which, however, it would not have possessed sufficient "lift." Mr. Moy says that "its transverse stability was very good, but its longitudinal stability was defective, and was a perfect puzzle at that time, but now all these troubles are overcome."

He has recently patented in England a method for automatically securing horizontal stability, and it is to be hoped that he will be enabled to renew his experiments,

Mr. Moy has also been an observer of soaring or "sailing" flight, and he described the sailing of the albatross in a wind, on rigid wings, in a paper read before the Aeronautical Society in 1869 . Deeming it possible for man to imitate this performance, but recognizing the prodigious difficulty of reproducing the complicated shape and arrangement of curved surfaces (not planes), with which impulse is received from the wind, and of imitating the exquisite balancing through which the soaring birds perform this feat, he read a paper before the "Balloon Society," in 1884 in which he proposed an ingenious method of carrying on the many experiments required, with no greater danger than that of getting wet, by taking a start at sea from a lifeboat on the crest of the waves in a gale, equipped with a pair of wings and an inflated Boynton dress In the hope that some aviator, favorably situated, may try this experiment.

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