Table of contents
  1. A Scotman in Russia
  2. The First Steps
  3. Russian Military Flying Schools
  4. The Imperial All Russia Aero Club
  5. General Baron Kulbars & Aviation
  6. The Imperial Russian Technical Society
  7. The Prototype of the Zeppelin
  8. Contruction, Aviators & Workmen
  9. Famous Russian Flying Men
  10. I.I. Sikorsky
  11. Foriegn Aviators in Russia
  12. Heir Fokker's Russian Lady Pilot
  13. Just Before the War
  14. Aerial Russia & the British Press
  15. Aviation & the Russian Press
  16. By Way of Conclusion

Chapter I - A Scotman in Russia

Mr. Chessborough Mackenzie-Kennedy is a typical Scotsman. On the subject of aviation he speaks with such complete knowledge and authority that it is difficult to believe that he is only twenty-eight years old. His residence in Russia has caused him to identify himself with the Russian people so completely that he even speaks English now with a slight Russian accent. His Russian, of course, is perfect and he has a most enthusiastic admiration and respect for the Russian people and the achievement of Russian science. Mr. Kennedy has returned to England on an important mission connected with aviation. In my long conversations with him he has given me very full details of the progress of the conquest of the air in my own country. As a Russian soldier I am of course familiar with the technical developments of the Czar's army and, adding Mr. Kennedy's information to my own knowledge, I am now able to tell a story which I am convinced the British public will find both interesting and surprising. Mr. Kennedy received his early technical training in the United States and he went to Russia when he was eighteen.

 

 

Above: Mr. Kennedy with officers of the staff of the Korpusnoi Military Aerodrome at Petrograd - 1912.

"I reached Petrograd," he said, "with exactly three pounds in my pocket. That was my entire fortune. I did not know one word of Russian, and had not a single friend in Russia."

The revolution which was troubling the whole Empire and the irritation against Great Britain for the part she had taken during the Russo-Japanese War immensely complicated Mr. Kennedy's position. Englishmen in those days were not popular in Russia, and the authorities regarded both the English and the Americans with suspicion as the friends of Japan. I fancy that only a Scotsman could have overcome such unfavourable conditions. It is difficult in Russia, as everywhere else, for a stranger to get into touch with the heads of great business undertakings. Even, however, at the time of their greatest unpopularity the British were always sure of a certain courtesy in Russia, mainly owing perhaps to the fact that they were regarded as odd persons unlike anyone else in the world. There have always been many anecdotes in Russia about the obstinacy of the Scotch, and this tradition stood Mr. Kennedy in good stead. He approached the directors of the most important State factories, who in' Russia are usually generals with high technical qualifications. It says something for Mr. Kennedy's scientific equipment that he, young as he was, attracted the attention of these officials. Almost at once he was entrusted with important experimental work, and he was brought in successive connection with the Putiloff Gun Factory, the Baltic and Admiralty Wharfs; the Mechanical Factories of Ijora, Obuchof, and the Admiralty.

In a short time Generals Hume, Voskresensky, Veshkutzoff, Baron Kaulbars, Mr. Tennisson, and many other high officials bore tribute to Mr. Kennedy's unusual capacity. From the first he realised that technical science in Russia is on a high level and that the opinion common in Europe and America in regard to this is absolutely wrong. Mr. Kennedy indeed felt that Russia afforded him the best possible opportunity for fmproving his own technical equipment. He became a member of the Imperial Russian Technical Society, to which the most accomplished Russian professors lectured. The famous Imperial Institute of Ways and Communications hospitably opened its doors to the young Scotch student. The "anglitchanin" became very popular in Petrograd, and he was materially assisted in his studies by many of the best-known professors. It is remarkable that a citizen of the country that was Japan's ally and consequently Russia's enemy should have found so warm a welcome from all the most important personages connected with the technical side of Russia's army and navy.

Two years passed, and it was then suggested to Mr. Kennedy that he should turn his attention to aviation. In 1908 he had already finished the design of a first Russian aeroplane. It is interesting to remember that at the time he was beginning his aviation career the science had made small strides both in Great Britain and Russia, and neither country possessed a developed aero club. In 1909 Mr. Kennedy began to experiment with the hydroaeroplane. His efforts were made under the patronage of the Impcrial River Yacht Club of Petrograd and yielded most satisfactory results. They were reported in the Russian press of September, 1909, and the name of the young British engineer became known to the Russian public. One consequence was the formation of a private company called the Kennedy Aeronautic Company, and this enabled Mr. Kennedy to go on experimenting. He spent 150,000 roubles on these experiments. He gave his attention principally to the study of aero-dynamics and the application to the aeroplane of slow-revolution air screws of large diameter and pitch. It was not till 1913 that he obtained any positive results. During this time, however, he accomplished much for aeroplanes and assisted in the construction of the Russian dirigibles "Golub" and "Sokol."

Mr. Kennedy was presented to the Czar at the first International Aviation Exhibition in Petrograd in 1911. The Czar personally congratulated the young inventor, and he was given the medal of Trade and Industry for the improvements he had made in the details of flying, machines. The Russian Press christened Mr. Kennedy "the jeweller of aviation," owing to his particularly fine work. About this time ever vigilant Germany began to pay great attention to this British boy working in Russia, and his name was often mentioned in the German tcchnical press. He was regarded as a possible danger, and the usual Teutonic intrigues were started against him. In those days the British colony in Petrograd, in common with the British at home, were curiously uninterested in the real Russia. Its members went about their business mechanically. Few of them were really acquainted with the Russian language; and most of them were largely under German influence. At German instigation they regarded Mr. Kennedy with suspicion and refused rum any financial help, and all his work was accomplished by means of Russian capital alone.

In 1911 Kennedy met the famous Sikorsky, then a student at the Kieff Polytechnic. The two young men became friends, and their friendship has had a most important effect on the development of Russian aviation. A year before they met, Kennedy had begun to be interested in the construction of giant aeroplanes. Sikorsky was greatly assisted by his association with the Russo-Baltic Wagon Works) and in 1913 he surpriscd the world with his giant plane "Russky Vitias," which made a series of most successful flights. In the period 1912-14 Kennedy was busy designing giant flying machines and continuing his experimental work in aero-dynamics in the splendidly equipped laboratories of the Petrograd Imperial Polytechnic, the results of his work frequently receiving official commendation.

As a Russian, I know how difficult it is to win the confidence of highly placed Russian experts, and Mr. Kennedy may well be proud that he, a foreigner, should have been so intimately connected with Russian military aviation. He was elected to the Imperial All- Russia Aero Club on its formation, and he became a member of several of its committees. He was one of the four " Aviation Arbitrars," among his colleagues being Mr. Shipoff, once Russian Prime Minister, and Mr. Sikorsky. He enjoyed the close friendship and patronage of the directors of Russian Military Aviation, and he was assisted in his experiments by the best-known Russian scientists. At the present moment gigantic aeroplanes are being built in Russia according to Mr. Kennedy's theories, under the direction of Professor Slessareff. While in Russia Mr. Kennedy was offered the post of Professor of Aero-Dynamics in the Riga Polytechnic.

When war broke out Kennedy, as a British patriot, came to London to offer his services to Great Britain. He is convinced that it is only by means of gigantic machines such as those of Sikorsky that this country can be adequately protected from Zeppelin attacks. He was. naturally disappointed to discover that Great Britain was entirely ignorant of the development of aviation in Russia, which country, from a purely scientific point of view is undoubtedly at present leading the whole world in the conquest of the air.

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