Airplane dopes and doping

Smith, W H

Cellulose acetate and cellulose nitrate are the important constituents of airplane dopes in use at the present time, but planes were treated with other materials in the experimental stages of flying. The above compounds belong to the class of colloids and are of value because they produce a shrinking action on the fabric when drying out of solution, rendering it drum tight. Other colloids possessing the same property have been proposed and tried. In the first stages of the development of dope, however, shrinkage was not considered. The fabric was treated merely to render it waterproof. The first airplanes constructed were covered with cotton fabric stretched as tightly as possible over the winds, fuselage, etc., and flying was possible only in fine weather. The necessity of an airplane which would fly under all weather conditions at once became apparent. Then followed experiments with rubberized fabrics, fabrics treated with glue rendered insoluble by formaldehyde or bichromate, fabrics treated with drying and nondrying oils, shellac, casein, etc. It was found that fabrics treated as above lost their tension in damp weather, and the oil from the motor penetrated the proofing material and weakened the fabric. For the most part the film of material lacked durability. Cellulose nitrate lacquers, however were found to be more satisfactory under varying weather conditions, added less weight to the planes, and were easily applied. On the other hand, they were highly inflammable, and oil from the motor penetrated the film of cellulose nitrate, causing the tension of the fabric to be relaxed.

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