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Schatzberg, Eric, 1956- / Wings of wood, wings of metal : culture and technical choice in American airplane materials, 1914-1945

2. Engineering enthusiasm: World War I and the origins of the metal airplane,   pp. [22]-43

Page 24

Figure 2.1. A 1918 Fokker V-37 steel-tube fuselage structure. National Air and Space
Museum, Smithsonian Institution (SI neg. no. A 43641-10).
entirely of a large hollow wing enclosing engines, cargo, and passengers,
with no external bracing. Junkers received a German patent for this idea in
1910. In 1912 he left the Technische Hochschule to devote himself full-time
to his inventive work, financed by profits from his patented "geyser" bath-
water heater, still common in European kitchens and baths.6
Junkers was no theorist, and he had a strong sense of the practical, as
demonstrated by his numerous successful inventions for home and factory
Yet when it came to airplanes, Junkers became a visionary He was driven by
two idees fixes: devotion to the unbraced monoplane and an unwavering
commitment to all-metal construction. Both these obsessions were clearly
foreshadowed in Reissner's Ente and Junkers' 1910 flying-wing patent. In
1914 Junkers began the serious work required to translate these ideas into
practice, to make the impractical practical. The result was the J1, an all-
metal fully cantilevered monoplane fighter (figure 2.2).*
Early in 1915, Junkers moved from Aachen to Dessau, site of his bath-
heater factory, where he established a laboratory to develop his all-metal
airplane. The army gave Junkers a contract for a prototype of the J 1 after
visiting his laboratory in May Construction of the JI began in August. The
* Fully cantilevered wings, also termed unbraced or internally braced, lacked the external
struts common in the 1920s. These struts added strength but increased aerodynamic drag.

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