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| Home | Reading Room Tom Swift And His Sky Racer

Tom Swift And His Sky Racer
or The Quickest Flight on Record
by Victor Appleton

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Chapter Five

Building the Sky Racer

"What will you do, if, after you have your little

monoplane all constructed, and get ready to race, you find

that some one else has one exactly like it at the meet?,"

asked Ned Newton one day, when he and Tom were out in the

big workshop, talking things over. "What will you do, Tom?"

"I don't see that there is anything I can do. I'll go on

to the meet, of course, and trust to some improvements I

have since brought out, and to what I know about aeroplanes,

to help me win the race. I'll know, too, who stole my


"But it will be too late, then."

"Yes, too late, perhaps, to stop them from using the

drawings, hot not too late to punish them for the theft.

It's a great mystery, and I'll be on the anxious seat all

the while. But it can't be helped."

"When are you going to start work on the sky racer?"

"Pretty soon, now. I've got another set of plans made, and

I've fixed them so that if they are stolen it won't do any

one any good."

"How's that?"

"I've put in a whole lot of wrong figures and

measurements, and scores of lines and curves that mean

nothing. I have marked the right figures and lines by a

secret mark, and when I work on them I'll use only the

proper ones. But any one else wouldn't know this. Oh, I'll

fool 'em this time!"

"I hope you do. Well, when you get the machine done I'd

like to ride in it. Will it carry two, as your Butterfly


"Yes, only it will be much different; and, of course, it

will go much faster. I'll give you a ride, all right, Ned.

Well, now I must get busy and see what material I need for

what I hope will prove to be the speediest aeroplane in the


"That's going some! I must be leaving now. Don't forget

your promise. I saw Mary Nestor on my way over here. She was

asking for you. She said you must be very busy, for she

hadn't seen you in some time."

"Um!" was all Tom answered, but by the blush that mounted

to his face it was evident that he was more interested in

Mary Nestor than his mere exclamation indicated.

When Ned had gone Tom got out pencil and paper, and was

busily engaged in making some intricate calculations. He

drew odd little sketches on the margin of the sheet, and

then wrote out a list of the things he would need to

construct the new aeroplane.

This finished, he went to Mr. Jackson, the engineer, and

asked him to get the various things together, and to have

them put in the special shop where Tom did most of his work.

"I want to get the machine together as soon as I can," he

remarked to the engineer, "for it will need to be given a

good tryout before I enter in the race, and I may find that

I'll have to make several changes in it."

Mr. Jackson promised to attend to the matter right away,

and then Tom went in to talk to his father about the motor

that was to whirl the propeller of the new air craft.

Mr. Swift had improved very much in the past few days, and

though Dr. Gladby said he was far from being well, the

physician declared there was no reason why he should not do

some inventive work.

He and Tom were deep in an argument of gasoline motors,

discussing the best manner of attaching the fins to the

cylinders to make them air-cooled, when a voice sounded

outside, the voice of Eradicate:

"Heah! Whar yo' goin'?" demanded the colored man. "Whar

yo' goin'?"

"Somebody's out in the garden!" exclaimed Tom, jumping up


"Perhaps it's the same person who took the plans!"

suggested Mr. Swift.

"Hold on, dere!" yelled Eradicate again.

Then a voice replied:

"Bless my insurance policy! What's the matter? Have there

been burglars around? Why all these precautions? Bless my

steam heater! Don't you know me?"

"Mr. Damon!" cried Tom, a look of pleasure coming over his

face. "Mr. Damon is coming!"

"So I should judge," responded Mr. Swift, with a smile. "I

wonder why Eradicate didn't recognize him?"

They learned why a moment later, for on looking from the

library window, Tom saw the colored man coming up the walk

behind a well-dressed gentleman.

"Why, mah goodness! It's Mr. Damon!" exclaimed Eradicate.

"I didn't know yo', sah, wif dem whiskers on! I didn't, fo' a fac'!"

"Bless my razor! I suppose it does make a difference,"

said the eccentric man. "Yes, my wife thought I'd look

better, and more sedate, with a beard, so I grew one to

please her. But I don't like it. A beard is too warm this

kind of weather; eh, Tom?" And Mr. Damon waved his hand to

the young inventor and his father, who stood in the low

windows of the library. "Entirely too warm, bless my finger-

nails, yes!"

"I agree with you!" exclaimed Tom. "Come in! We're glad to

see you!"

"I called to see if you aren't going on another trip to the North Pole,

or somewhere in the Arctic regions," went on Mr. Damon.

"Why?" inquired Tom.

"Why, then this heavy beard of mine would come in handy.

It would keep my throat and chin warm." And Mr. Damon ran

his hands through his luxuriant whiskers.

"No more northern trips right away," said Tom. "I'm about

to build a speedy monoplane, to take part in the big meet at

Eagle Park."

"Oh, yes, I heard about the meet," said Mr. Damon.

"I'd like to be in that."

"Well, I'm building a machine that will carry two," went on Tom,

"and if you think you can stand a speed of a hundred miles an hour,

or better, I'll let you come with me. There are some races where

a passenger is allowed."

"Have you got a razor?" asked Mr. Damon suddenly.

"What for?" inquired Mr. Swift, wondering what the

eccentric man was going to do.

"Why, bless my shaving soap! I'm going to cut off my

beard. If I go in a monoplane at a hundred miles an hour I

don't want to make any more resistance to the wind than

possible, and my whiskers would certainly hold back Tom's

machine. Where's a razor? I'm going to shave at once. My

wife won't mind when I tell her what it's for. Lend me a

razor, please, Tom."

"Oh, there's plenty of time," explained the lad, with a

laugh. "The race doesn't take place for over two months. But

when it does, I think you would be better off without a


"I know it," said Mr. Damon simply. "I'll shave before we

enter the contest, Tom. But now tell me all about it."

Tom did so, relating the story of the theft

of the plans. Mr. Damon was for having Andy arrested at

once, but Mr. Swift and his son pointed out that they had no

evidence against him.

"All we can do," said the young inventor, "is to keep

watch on him, and see if he is building another aeroplane.

He has all the facilities, and he may attempt to get ahead

of me. If he enters a sky craft at the meet I'll be pretty

sure that he has made it from my stolen plans."

"Bless my wing tips!" cried Mr. Damon. "But can't we do

anything to stop him?"

"I'm afraid not," answered Tom; and then he showed Mr.

Damon his re-drawn plans, and told in detail of how he

intended to construct the new aeroplane.

The eccentric man remained as the guest of the Swift

family that night, departing for his home the next day, and

promising to be on hand as soon as Tom was ready to test his

new craft, which would he in about a month.

As the days passed, Tom, with the help of his father,

whose health was slightly better, and with the aid of Mr.

Jackson, began work on the speedy little sky racer.

As you boys are all more or less familiar with aeroplanes,

we will not devote much space to the description of the new

one Tom Swift made. We can describe it in general terms, but

there were some features of it which Tom kept a secret from

all save his father.

Suffice it to say that Tom had decided to build a small

air craft of the single-wing type, known as the monoplane.

It was to be a cross between the Bleriot and the Antoinette,

with the general features of both, but with many changes or


The wings were shaped somewhat like those of a humming-

bird, which, as is well known, can, at times, vibrate its

wings with such velocity that the most rapid camera lens

cannot quite catch

And when it is known that a bullet in flight has been

successfully photographed, the speed of the wings of the

humming-bird can be better appreciated.

The writer has seen a friend, with a very rapid camera,

which was used to snap automobiles in flight, attempt to

take a picture of a humming-bird. He got the picture, all

right, but the plate was blurred, showing that the wings had

moved faster than the lens could throw them on the

sensitive plate.

Not that Tom intended the wings of his monoplane to

vibrate, but he adopted that style as being the best adapted

to allow of rapid flight through the air; and the young

inventor had determined that he would clip many minutes

from the best record yet made.

The body of his craft, between the forward wings and the

rear ones, where the rudders were located, was shaped like a

cigar, with side wings somewhat like the fin keels of the

ocean liner to prevent a rolling motion. In addition, Tom

had an ingenious device to automatically adapt his monoplane

to sudden currents of air that might overturn it, and this

device was one of the points which he kept secret.

The motor, which was air-cooled, was located forward, and

was just above the heads of the operator and the passenger

who sat beside him. The single propeller, which was ten feet

in diameter, gave a minimum thrust of one thousand pounds at

two thousand revolutions per minute.

This was one feature wherein Tom's craft differed from

others. The usual aeroplane propeller is eight feet in

diameter, and gives from four to five hundred pounds thrust

at about one thousand revolutions per minute, so it can be

readily seen wherein Tom had an advantage.

"But I'm building this for speed," he said to Mr. Jackson,

"and I'm going to get it! We'll make a hundred miles an hour

without trouble."

"I believe you," replied the engineer. "The motor you and

your father have made is a wonder for lightness and power."

In fact, the whole monoplane was so light and frail as to

give one the idea of a rather large model, instead of a real

craft, intended for service. But a careful inspection showed

the great strength it had, for it was braced and guyed in a

new way, and was as rigid as a steel-trussed bridge.

"What are you going to call her?" asked Mr. Jackson, about

two weeks after they had started work on the craft, and when

it had begun to assume shape and form.

"I'm going to name her the Humming-Bird," replied Tom.

"She's little, but oh, my!"

"And I guess she'll bring home the prize," added the


And as the days went by, and Tom, his father and Mr.

Jackson continued to work on the speedy craft, this hope

grew in the heart of the young inventor. But he could not

rid himself of worry as to the fate of the plans that had

disappeared. Who had them? Was some one making a machine

like his own from them? Tom wished he knew.



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