Dunne, John William

SUBJECT AREA: Aerospace
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b. 2 December 1875 Co. Kildare, Ireland
d. 24 August 1949 Oxfordshire, England
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Irish inventor who pioneered tailless aircraft designed to be inherently stable.
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After serving in the British Army during the Boer War. Dunne returned home convinced that aeroplanes would be more suitable than balloons for reconnaissance work. He built models to test his ideas for a tailless design based on the winged seed of a Javanese climbing plant. In 1906 Dunne joined the staff of the Balloon Factory at Farnborough, where the Superintendent, Colonel J.E.Capper, was also interested in manned kites and aeroplanes. Since 1904 the colourful American "Colonel" S.F. Cody had been experimenting at Farnborough with manned kites, and in 1908 his "British Army Dirigible No. 1" made the first powered flight in Britain. Dunne's first swept-wing tailless glider was ready to fly in the spring of 1907, but it was deemed to be a military secret and flying it at Farnborough would be too public. Dunne, Colonel Capper and a team of army engineers took the glider to a remote site at Blair Atholl in Scotland for its test flights. It was not a great success, although it attracted snoopers, with the result that it was camouflaged. Powered versions made short hops in 1908, but then the War Office withdrew its support. Dunne and his associates set up a syndicate to continue the development of a new tailless aeroplane, the D 5; this was built by Short Brothers (see Short, Hugh Oswald) and flew successfully in 1910. It had combined elevators and ailerons on the wing tips (or elevons as they are now called when fitted to modern delta-winged aircraft). In 1913 an improved version of the D 5 was demonstrated in France, where the pilot left his cockpit and walked along the wing in flight. Dunne had proved his point and designed a stable aircraft, but his health was suffering and he retired. During the First World War, however, it was soon learned that military aircraft needed to be manoeuvrable rather than stable.
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Bibliography
1913, "The theory of the Dunne aeroplane", Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society (April).
After he left aviation, Dunne became well known for his writings on the nature of the universe and the interpretation of dreams. His best known-work was An Experiment
With Time (1927; and reprints).
Further Reading
P.B.Walker, 1971, Early Aviation at Farnborough, Vol. I, London; 1974, Vol. II (provides a detailed account of Dunne's early work; Vol. II is the more relevant).
P.Lewis, 1962, British Air craft 1809–1914, London (for details of Dunne's aircraft).
JDS

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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