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YOUNG AMERICA’S FUTURE HIGHWAY—THE AIR By GEORGE
AVIATION development in the United States seems just now to have struck an air-pocket. Manufacturing plants which grew up almost overnight during the war and worked on a twenty-four-hour basis to supply machines and motors are, in the language of the airpilot, just “ticking over”—that is, they are in operation, but are not producing many planes. Twenty companies, with a combined capitalization of $10,000,000, are employing only thirty-five hundred men, all told. If unemployment were as bad, comparatively, in other industries, few workmen indeed would have jobs. Why is there this lack of activity in America's newest and most fascinating industry? America was the birthplace of the first heavier-than-air machine that lifted itself from the ground and flew under its own power. That was only eighteen years ago. Many students of the world's progress and invention claim the achievement of Orville and Wilbur Wright at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903, to be the greatest of the twentieth century, so far; and it may remain that when the twenty-first century arrives, seventy-nine years hence. As everybody knows, the war gave aviation its great “lift.” From 1914 to 1918, progress that in times of peace might have re
quired two decades was made in one fifth of that time. No money was spared in the development of new designs, and doubtless the aërial supremacy which the Allies gained in 1917 counted greatly in the victory of 1918. But the fast war airplane, carrying only the pilot, or the pilot and an observer, was not adaptable to commercial flying. The landing speed required was too fast for ordinary fields, the engines were too high-strung, and their construction was so complicated and fragile as to make their operation neither economical nor advisable. The year following the armistice, manufacturers of aircraft were busy disbanding the huge mushroom organizations called into being by the war. During 1920 and the first months of this year, they have been building principally for the Government, and Uncle Sam has not been a lavish customer. Naturally, some commercial planes have been built, but not in large numbers. Aircraft engineers have not been idle, however. The designs which they have worked out and the plans they have laid, look years ahead. A demonstration of what American-built commercial aircraft can do was had at Curtiss Field, Long Island, on October sixteenth. From dawn till dark, forty airplanes were in the air continuously, competing in passengerand freight-carrying tests, and every flight was successful. Our picture on page 145 shows the field, and also the extremes in sizes of planes—one of seventy-seven feet wingspan, carrying thirty-four passengers, and an air runabout for one, the wings of which are fifteen feet wide. Similar tests were also carried out at the American Legion Convention in Kansas City and at the International Air Congress in Omaha. The flying-machine itself had to be stabilized before it was a dependable passengercarrier, and the industry (the making and operating of machines) must have just such stabilizing influence in the form of ačrial laws before it will become a legitimate commercial operation and not be regarded as a blue-sky adventure. One of the chief underlying causes of the lack of ačrial development in this country is the absence of governmental oversight. There should be some governmental agency to inspect aircraft, license operating companies and pilots of machines, and exercise a supervision in establishing airways and aérodromes. There may be a question as to which comes first, airplanes or ačrodromes; but certainly aerodromes and air-highways, properly mapped, are the necessary forerunners of air transportation on a reliable basis. Steamship companies would pass up New York as a port of call if there were no piers, docks, or harbor facilities provided at our chief city. Maintenance of harbors, coast-guardstations, and lighthouses are a national necessity, and their upkeep by the Government is considered part of its natural duties. The same attitude will presently be taken in regard to air facilities. To be sure, twenty-one different departments and bureaus at Washington are concerned with flying in one way or another; but the twenty-second one is needed—the one which will deal with commercial aviation. There is such a bill now before Congress which, if passed, will add an air bureau to Mr. Hoover's Department of Commerce and provide for the regulation of aircraft in interstate and foreign commerce. The army is Uncle Sam's chief pair of wings, and ninety per cent. of the aircraft in this country is controlled by the United States Army Air Service. Army fliers have been active this year not with long trips, such as they made to Alaska in 1920, but chiefly with bombing operations, sinking off the Virginia capes four types of German war
vessels, submarine, destroyer, light cruiser, and dreadnought, as well as one obsolete United States battle-ship. Some of the photographs accompanying this article show the planes in action. These bombing tests proved that airplanes are highly effective for coast defense, and that ships which require years to build and cost as much as thirty to forty million dollars each could be sent to the bottom of the sea by six one-ton bombs carried by airplanes costing only
Photo Herald-Sun syndicate
forty thousand dollars apiece. The army has about seven hundred pilots, and their air-mileage during the year will amount to about six and a quarter million miles.
The United States Naval Air Service has also been busy with a long and successful cruise from San Diego to Panama and many service flights in the West Indies and the Canal Zone. The pilots of our seaplanes will turn in log-books at the end of the year which will show approximately two million miles of flying. The Navy has about three hundred pilots, and maintains flying-fields in the Canal Zone and Hawaii, as well as in the United States.
The Marine Corps, as those who read recruiting posters know, offers a three-in-one service—land, sea, and air. The soldiers of the sea do fly, and in many out-of-the-way places, for their corps is always the expeditionary force. Clearing away jungle to provide an ačrodrome is quite ordinary duty for the air mechanic in the Marine Corps.
There has been a decrease in air-mail flying this year. The routes between New
nation two days (exactly, forty-two hours) ahead of the old all-rail schedule. Commercial ačronautics in America is indebted to the air mail for its pioneer work. Starting with old army machines, it established an enviable record for regular performance and built up a fine esprit de corps. “The mails must fly” is the slogan of the service, and the planes have operated through all kinds of weather, winter and summer. The air mail laid out
TYPE OF AIRPLANE, CARRYING A ONE-TON TOR
York and Washington and between Minneapolis and St. Louis were discontinued, because Congress refused to appropriate more than $1,250,000 for the service, and this was sufficient only for the New York-ChicagoOmaha-Salt Lake City–San Francisco route. This transcontinental air-highway has not only had a great influence on the domestic mail service, but has proved an effective link in rapid communication between the Orient and Europe by way of the United States. An example of this may be of interest. Your letter is deposited in a New York postbox on Monday evening. It is collected during the night, and on Tuesday morning at 5:30 it leaves, along with 15,999 other letters, by plane for Chicago, where it is delivered late in the afternoon in time to catch the mail-train to the West (the same train which left New York at 8:40 Monday night, before your letter was posted). Your letter has been advanced twenty-four hours so far. It travels by train from Chicago to Cheyenne, Wyoming (arriving there Thursday morning), where it is taken from the railway mailcar and placed on board another airplane. This pilot delivers it in San Francisco that same afternoon. The train arrives the next afternoon; so your letter reached its desti
PEDO BOMB, USED BY U. S. ARMY PILOTS IN BOMBING Ex-GERMAN WAR-VESSELS
the transcontinental route, established landing-fields, and gave the impetus for the development of new models of machines, until the latest ones are capable of making more than one hundred and thirty miles per hour with from eight hundred to a thousand pounds of mail. ST. NICHOLAS in July published an article which described the activities of the Airplane Forest Patrol and told how an investment of fifty thousand dollars by the Government in 1920 saved thirty-five million dollars' worth of timber from destruction by forest fires. This patrol of our national forests has been carried on this last year just as effectively, and it affords army pilots a training under conditions akin to those which they would experience in active service. Private companies have also used aircraft for varied forestry and lumbering work, especially in Canada, where the great woods are dotted with lakes which afford ideal landing-places for small seaplanes. Trips of inspection which formerly would have taken days are now accomplished in a few hours in the air. One sporting-club in Canada which has hunting-lodges in the north woods operates an air service for its members, so that instead of wasting days in a long canoe-andportage trip to camp, the busy man, off for a short vacation, can wing his way there in a small seaplane at a cost of about fifty cents a mile. The United States Bureau of Fisheries has also made use of seaplanes in searching out schools of fish. It was demonstrated during the war that submarines under water could be spotted from the air better than in
cially by aviators. Commander Reed, of NC-4 fame, reports that on his flight up the Mississippi River, while recruiting for the Naval Air Service, the maps he carried proved to be very inadequate. On one occasion he had difficulty in locating his position, and later found that a town which was marked on the map had been wiped out by a hurricane in 1893! The army pilots who flew from New York to Alaska had to cover about half of the journey without the aid of a definitely mapped route. With only about one half of the world's 60,000,000 square miles properly laid out on paper, the future of the airplane in this field is as important as it is im
mense! And much of this mapping will lead to exploration. As a notable example of this use of aircraft, Sir Ernest Shackleton carried with him on the Quest, when he sailed for the south pole in September, a small plane equipped with sled-like landing skids, to be used for scouting a safe passage for his vessel in the antarctic. During this last summer the Fijians for the first time saw a flying-machine. A seaplane, sent to survey and map the coast of the principal island of this group, caused a great sensation among the natives. Other government agencies to make use of the airplane are the coast guard, the Bureau of Mines, and the Bureau of Entomology. The coast-guard station at Moorehead, North Carolina, was the first to employ seaplanes. Pilots have made rescues of persons from foundered vessels, when the surf was too rough for launching a life-saving boat from shore. Vessels in distress can also be better located by plane, and news of their position wirelessed both to shore and to other vessels which might come to their help. In mine-rescue work, doctors and emergency equipment could be rushed by air faster than by train. But this use of airplane by the Bureau of Mines is overshadowed by another contribution which that department has made to the development of air navigation. The experiments in the production of helium, a gas which will not take fire as hydrogen does and yet is nearly as light and quite as suitable for the inflation of balloons and dirigibles, have been carried out by the Bureau of Mines. When the investigations were begun, in 1917, there were only about one hundred cubic feet of helium gas isolated in the world, and it was worth seventeen hundred dollars a cubic foot. By the time the armistice was signed we were developing large quantities of the gas and had it ready for shipment to France. The price had been reduced to ten cents a cubic foot. Helium is produced, in quantity, only in America, so in this gas we may have the key to our future mastery of the air. One of the striking photographs accompanying this article shows an airplane spraying a grove of five thousand catalpa-trees which were infested with caterpillars. A special device, holding fifty pounds of arsenate of lead, was attached to the airplane; and while flying to the windward of the grove, this was released and sifted, the fine particles of lead “snowing” the trees and destroying the pest. Bureau of Entomol