January 3, 1918.
DEAR AUNT LOT, —
Where on earth do you think I am? To tell you the honest truth, I’m not on earth at all. I am 5000 feet in the air! All alone! The engine is making such a noise that I can’t hear myself think, but it is very smooth up here at 5000 feet, so I can run the ’bus with my left hand and write to you with my right! I am beginning to think that I am some aviator now, because I can go up and write letters in the air.
I just received your Page & Shaw’s chocolates to-day. They have followed me all over England, and finally got here. There is a little box on the instrument-board of this plane, and in it are six or seven chocolate gum-drops which I shall eat.
The flight commander sent me up and said, ‘Fly around for an hour’; so here I am, with a board on one knee to write on. Is n’t this a novel letter? I see another machine over the town doing circles. I guess it’s Tom —. We were told to meet at 2000 feet over the town and fly around together. I’m at 5000, and I’m going to dive to 2000 and wave at him. Wheel Motor off, stick forward, and down we go! Gad, it’s bumpy down here at 2000! It’s Tom all right, because I know the number of his machine. He waved — I waved. I shall climb.
I hate this bumpy strata of air I’m in now. Smooth again. I’m now at 6000 feet, still climbing. Tom is about 5000 feet, but passing directly under me. It’s colder than all get out up here now. So I’ll have to put on my glove again and write with my left hand and drive with my right. This can’t be done, so I ’ll stop writing for a minute or so.
I’m now at 8500, and have completely lost sight of the ærodrome. I’ve lost sight of Tom also. Engine off, nose down, spiral, look all over the sky for Tom. I see him going down. I’ll let him go, because it’s too wonderful up here. I guess Tom has had engine-trouble or run out of petrol. He sees me and is waving with both hands. Down I go after him, over 100 miles an hour. I’m now at 3000 again. Tom has landed in a field about half a mile from the aerodrome. A lot of people are running to his machine from some little farmhouses. No, he has n’t crashed. I can see him getting out of his machine. Out of petrol, I guess. They must have forgotten to fill his tank up before he went. I hope he has had sense enough to telephone to the aerodrome for some petrol. He’s now sitting calmly on top of his ’bus.
I’ve been up half an hour. I shall climb to 10,000 feet and spiral to the aerodrome, just for practice. On the way up there I shall eat the chocolate gum-drops.
I’ve lost the aerodrome again! I’m now at 9000 feet, and am getting very cold, so I’ll turn around and glide in. I’ll stall first, just for the sinking sensation. Going only 30 miles an hour, motor off, and about to sink — sinking, nose level. Controls have very little effect at this speed. I’m merely dropping, nose down, and get up speed — 50, 70, 90, 110 miles an hour. Flatten out, 90, 80, 70, 65, motor on again, and away we go — 7000 feet now. All chocolate gum-drops eaten!
Ah, — I see the aerodrome again. Tom’s machine is just leaving the ground; it’s getting further and further away from its shadow. I’m all alone in this aeroplane, with one empty seat in front. I wish you were in it; I’d give you some wonderful thrills that would make 70 miles an hour down a crowded street in an automobile seem like riding in a baby carriage!
Do I dare try a loop? I believe not — not yet anyway. I’m right over the ’drome at 6000 feet, so I’ll try a spin. Wheel Three times wing over wing was all I did, but what a sensation— dropping all the time! There are three other machines trying to get into the aerodrome, and they are all below me, so have right of way. They ’re in now, so down I glide — need right hand for landing, and so I must stop.
Now at 1000 feet. Bumpy again and can’t make the aerodrome from here, so must fly around it and try again.
Well, I’ve got to do the rest with my right hand! Much love, and how I miss my dear old aunt!
Your loving nephew,
(200 feet from ground)
P.S. I’m now on terra firma, engine stopped (my fault), and calmly stranded in the middle of the field, waiting for some one to come out and swing my propeller again, so I can ‘taxi’ back to the sheds. Had a great flight — 1 hour and 10 minutes, with a very good landing, except for letting the engine stop. Well anyway this is some letter. My poor hand is cold as ice, but I had a great time. Only four more hours to do in the air, before I transfer from ‘C’ flight into ‘A’ Flight, where we learn to do stunts.