World War I has always intrigued me. It was a time when machines were starting to play a bigger role in society, and as a result, many important inventions came into the mainstream. It’s true we’ve had pumps and clocks and cannons for centuries. But it wasn’t until the early 1900s that humans had ever built a machine that could stay in the air and fly.
In writing Fire in the Sky, I wanted to learn about early flying machines and how they changed the war. In the process, I discovered some bizarre facts about early flight inventions! One of my favorites was the story of a French pilot who became tired of the German planes racing past him and tried to knock down his enemies by hurling a small boat anchor from his cockpit. He was credited with destroying one enemy plane.
The invention of the synchronized machine gun was also fascinating. Who could ever have imagined a machine gun firing its bullets through a propeller without shooting it off? And yet, it was one of the most successful inventions of the war.
It also turns out that the young pilots themselves were often inventors. They would frequently return to base with suggestions regarding improvements for gun placement, landing gear, and instruments. The engineers often honoured the suggestions. Necessity, as is so often the case, became the mother of inventions!