The Silent Bullet HTML version
9. The Terror In The Air
"There's something queer about these aeroplane accidents at Belmore Park," mused
Kennedy, one evening, as his eye caught a big headline in the last edition of the Star,
which I had brought uptown with me.
"Queer?" I echoed. "Unfortunate, terrible, but hardly queer. Why, it is a common saying
among the aeronauts that if they keep at it long enough they will all lose their lives."
"Yes, I know that," rejoined Kennedy; "but, Walter, have you noticed that all these
accidents have happened to Norton's new gyroscope machines?"
"Well, what of that" I replied. "Isn't it just barely possible that Norton is on the wrong
track in applying the gyroscope to an aeroplane? I can't say I know much about either the
gyroscope or the aeroplane, but from what I hear the fellows at the office say it would
seem to me that the gyroscope is a pretty good thing to keep off an aeroplane, not to put
"Why?" asked Kennedy blandly.
"Well, it seems to me, from what the experts say, that anything which tends to keep your
machine in one position is just what you don't want in an aeroplane. What surprises them,
they say, is that the thing seems to work so well up to a certain point--that the accidents
don't happen sooner. Why, our man on the aviation field tells me that when that poor
fellow Browne was killed he had all but succeeded in bringing his machine to a dead stop
in the air. In other words, he would have won the Brooks Prize for perfect motionlessness
in one place. And then Herrick, the day before, was going about seventy miles an hour
when he collapsed. They said it was heart failure. But to-night another expert says in the
Star --here, I'll read it: 'The real cause was carbonic-acid-gas poisoning due to the
pressure on the mouth from driving fast through the air, and the consequent inability to
expel the poisoned air which had been breathed. Air once breathed is practically
carbonic-acid-gas. When one is passing rapidly through the air this carbonic-acid-gas is
pushed back into the lungs, and only a little can get away because of the rush of air
pressure into the mouth. So it is rebreathed, and the result is gradual carbonic-acid-gas
poisoning, which produces a kind of narcotic sleep.'"
"Then it wasn't the gyroscope in that case" said Kennedy with a rising inflection.
"No," I admitted reluctantly, "perhaps not."
I could see that I had been rash in talking so long. Kennedy had only been sounding me
to see what the newspapers thought of it. His next remark was characteristic.
"Norton has asked me to look into the thing," he said quietly. "If his invention is a failure,
he is a ruined man. All his money is in it, he is suing a man for infringing on his patent,