The United States after the World War

By James C. Malin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS (CONTINUED) AVIATION

AIRCRAFT was the product of the pre-war period in both the major forms -- dirigibles and planes. The use of aircraft during the war brought about a rapidity of development which could not have occurred in a like period of peace. By the end of the war a stage of perfection had been reached which made air commerce a practical, though experimental and speculative, business. Up to the close of the war the major use of aircraft had been military, and it was natural that under such circumstances governments should have been vitally interested in promoting civil air service as well as military air service. There was a marked contrast, therefore, between the governmental interest in automobile development, for instance, and in aviation. In the former the initiative and risks were assumed wholly by private enterprise; in the latter, after the World War, promotion was undertaken with active government encouragement and some assistance. The army and navy services were of vital importance to the development of civil air service, both directly and indirectly.

The first field of government activity in civil aviation was the establishment of air-mail service between Washington and New York in May, 1918. This was owned and operated by the government. In 1919 the first division of transcontinental service was opened from Chicago to Cleveland, and during the next year the Cleveland-New York division and the Chicago-San Francisco division. Until 1924, when night flying was begun, the service was by train and plane.

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