Many pilots almost lost their lives in World War I, but only one pilot almost lost his life because he was innovative.
Adding A Machine Gun
In 1914, Louis A. Strange was a young British Pilot flying in World War I. He decided to mount a machine gun onto his plane, making him one of the first to do so. However, the WWI-style machine guns were not designed for planes.
They were not meant to be outside the trenches. In 1915, Strange was piloting a Maartinsyde S.1 scout plane that had a machine gun attached.
He saw a German plan, and they began firing back and forth. Strange went through all of his ammunition and needed to reload, but the drum was stuck.
Stuck In The Air
Prying it off did not work. Strange decided to stand up so he could use some leverage. However, that ended up being a mistake.
As he tried to keep the plane steady, something went wrong, and the plane turned upside down. Strange fell out of his seat and was holding onto his machine gun in the air.
According to John F. Ross’s Enduring Courage, Strange said, “Only a few seconds previously, I had been cursing because I could not get that drum off, but now I prayed fervently that it would stay on forever.”
Dangling from the air was soon to be the least of Strange’s problems. The plane he was flying was meant to operate with a pilot and right side up. Since both those things were no longer true, the engine shut down.
The plane began a rapid descent, but Strange managed to get himself back into the cockpit and right the plane. When the plane flipped back around, Strange crashed into the seat and jammed the stick.
He could no longer steer, but the engine was back on. The bad news was that he was still heading for the ground.
Since his seat was broken, he had to move all the pieces out of his way, but once he did that, he got the plane’s nose up just before he crashed into the trees. He made his way home.
Thankfully, he survived the ordeal to become a key figure in World War I and II for Great Britain. He would become a wing commander and lead Britain’s aerial forces.