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The Complete Canal Priests Of Mars is now available!

The original publication of Canal Priests Of Mars cut slightly over a third of author Marcus L. Rowland's manuscript to fit GDW's adventure format. The Complete Canal Priests Of Mars restores the cut material, features all new artwork by Paul Daly, and adds many useful player handouts. Enjoy the "author's cut" of a classic Space 1889 adventure, or experience it for the first time!

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Fuelless Flyers

by Marcus L Rowland

Could new technology make the steam engine obsolete? In a scenario for Space: 1889 our reporter investigates some daring new concepts in flyer design.

One of the major limiting factors in flight is the need for such heavy equipment as a power plant and coal bunkers, sails, or galley cranksmen. The fact that such mechanisms might one day be discarded has received remarkably little attention. While liftwood can be used to build so-called perpetual motion machines (such as the Great Wheel of Garyaan, described in Canal Priests of Mars), they obtain their power from gravity and the interaction of liftwood with the ether, and must be firmly anchored to the ground. They are not suitable for use in aerial conveyance. It should be obvious, however, that flyers themselves take advantage of this 'free' power whenever they ascend.

Recent experiments with winged heavier-than-air gliders have established that it is possible to build a craft capable of attaining respectable speeds by trading height for velocity. It may even be possible to take advantage of 'thermals' and other upwards air currents, familiar to anyone who has ever travelled by flyer, to regain height. Naturally, such craft must eventually land, but some remarkable results have been achieved, most notably by Sir George Caley and the German engineer Otto Lillenthal.

Liftwood panels would allow gliders to maintain their speed while gaining height, and thus stay aloft indefinitely. Headway would only be lost if the craft attempted to maintain constant altitude, and it might be possible to use a foot-pedalled airscrew for this eventuality. Such a craft would look radically different from our current flyers, much more like the winged aircraft envisioned by Da Vinci. It has the potential to be as fast as any steam flyer in service today.

It would be wrong to suggest that there are no drawbacks to this idea. A craft that must constantly change altitude might induce nausea in its passengers. The degree of such sickness would, of course, relate to the frequency of such altitude changes; it has seldom been reported by users of conventional gliders, who rarely experience anything other than a slow descent, and occasional broken limbs. More seriously, constant altitude changes and the need for extensive streamlining would make gliders a poor mount for artillery and other weapons, and might cause stresses which would limit their capacity.

Putting these facts together, the most likely use for such a craft would be as a courier or as a fast, manoeuvrable and almost completely silent scout, possibly launched from a larger vessel, capable of carrying a helmsman (who also operates the trim controls) and one or two observers. The amount of liftwood built into the craft could be remarkably small compared to that needed for a normal flyer; once it is moving at any speed, air flowing over the wings should provide the extra impetus needed to gain height after each descent, a relatively small amount of force. Since the liftwood would not be the sole support of the craft, trim errors would be considerably less important than in a conventional flyer, giving the helmsman ample time to compensate before they become critical.

In the long term, it is possible to envisage a hybrid craft combining the best features of the liftwood flyer and the glider, capable of high speeds and perhaps carrying several tons of cargo. But perhaps such wild speculation is best left to the writers of scientific romances and their readers...

Lillenthal "Improved" Glider

Armour:    None
Hull:      1/4
Power:     Liftwood-assisted glider with man-powered airscrew
Speed:     5/10 (Ascending/Descending; add 1/2 if pedals are also used)
Altitude:  Very High
Tonnage:   2.1 Tons
Price:     350
Crew:      2 (Pilot and Observer)
Armament:  None
Level:     10 Knots (add 10 knots if the occupants are pedalling)

Bridge: C  
Hull Hits:  VH:O

Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:52:04 EDT

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