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in Science & Technology ⚡ by (21.3k points)

I was watching this old German propaganda film from 1917, showing von Richthofen, the Red Baron, preparing for air combat.

At 3:35, the ground crew primes the cylinders by squirting fuel into them, one by one, but what amazed me most is that the cylinders turned WITH the propeller. I always thought the radial cylinders were fixed, like on Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis.  I later learned that this was done to save the weight of having an additional flywheel.


I bet Rooster knew about this! :)

4 Answers


O'Tink that is beautiful footage...just so heart-rending...just now I read he once downed four 'enemy' planes in one day. He was so young, only 25 when he was killed. 

He was truly a hero, we of the hoi polloi just doing our jobs no matter who is in the government at the time...he was shot in the head once; bone fragments in brain left him permanently impaired but he refused to stop flying...found this official photo, so handsome!


Oh, and I did notice those cylinders, also!

TheOtherTink Virginia

@ Virginia,

Yes, those air warriors were something else, to go up in those rickety planes and fire machine guns at each other day after day.  I'd be scared to DEATHBut I guess that marks a hero. Someone who overcomes fear and performs despite all.

But things were terrible on the ground too.  Can you imagine having to climb out of a trench and charge against a hail of machine gun fire?


Virginia Virginia

O'Tink, THAT is a remarkable photo...makes you wonder how they even took it, with the technology of the day...

I actually learned more about WWI from Canadian TV; CBC. They do huge commemorative documentaries for the anniversaries of the major battles, or they did so 2001-2010. With 86 million deaths in WWII, I tended somewhat to discount WWI, but no more not after the CBC! 

I think at that time there was one (or so) WWI veteran alive still.

For example, one battle where the commander just sat back miles behind the front line and kept ordering waves of troops to charge into hopelessly superior fire...it was a slaughter, tens of thousands died, just obeying orders on that one day. I don't really see how WWI could have made warfare worse than it already was, but apparently it did...changed warfare forever.

TheOtherTink Virginia

@ Virginia,

That may have been the battle of the Somme, of which Siegfried Sassoon wrote in his diary,

"I am looking at a sunlit picture of Hell." A year later, he protested the continuation of the war.


Virginia Virginia

At OtherTink, that is very eloquent...magnificent. 

Yes, it may have been the Battle of the Somme in the documentary I saw.

Marianne Virginia


And there were quite a few great movies about these "crazy heroes in their flying machines", but the awkward beginnings had also some hilarious parts:


Marianne Virginia


I think that the first flying attempts were dramatic - but sometimes hilarious; I can't help remembering certain scenes, especially the one with the car, on which a round "umbrella" wing was mounted, which went up and down; it is in this compilation:

TheOtherTink Virginia

@ Marianne,

LOL, I especially liked the 'rocket-man' that set his rump on fire.  :D

And actually, the last scene in the clip looked a lot like a Wright brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk. Their first attempts were launched from a rail and only flew two or three hundred meters, at most.

Virginia Virginia

Marianne, I can barely recall that movie...THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES...so I enjoyed looking through your link!

Virginia Marianne

Marianne I enjoyed learning about the Wankel engine!


Yes, I read about this many years ago and know how they run and work. One of the drawbacks was that they had a tendency to spit oil out while they were running. Hence the old pictures of the pilots with blackened dirty faces when they returned from a mission. Quite an innovation in it's day. You can see in the video how they actually worked to fire on all cylinders without a heavy flywheel to keep them from rotating. As the engines got bigger and more powerful? Large flywheels were added to keep the engine stable. It was a time of invention and innovation.

The Truth About Rotaries | HistoryNet

Rooster Rooster

Marianne Rooster
Virginia Rooster

Oh Rooster, I enjoyed that video watched it all! Those beautiful little planes, they really show you the wonder of human inventiveness, creativity - I kept thinking that in all of human history, just 100 years ago now we actually learned to fly!

Virginia Rooster

Marianne, the synchronization gear...I remember reading about that when I lived on Mt. Baker, and was fascinated by the grove of old Sitka spruce there...how to fire the gun and not hit your own propeller blades!

TheOtherTink Rooster

@ Rooster,

I knew you would know all about them.  :)

Marianne Rooster


Yes, I also read about it, and I saw some documentation - that was long ago - lol.



I remember you telling me about those planes when we saw a couple at airshows when I was a kid. Cool old planes, Pop!