Production of aircraft became a huge industry during World War I. While the government sustained the aircraft manufacturers during this time, this support came to a screeching halt when the war ended.
Among the many things taken for granted today is long-distance travel by jet airliners. So common is long-distance air travel that there have even been around-the-world races for general aviation aircraft. One forgets that regularly scheduled intercontinental commercial air travel only came into being after World War II.
The roots of long-distance flight lie in the five years after the First World War. In the early post-war period, aviation spread its wings in ever greater long-distance flights, culminating in the first round-the-world flight in 1924.
During the decade of the Great Depression, the streamlined form stood as an optimistic symbol of progress and efficiency. Streamlining was applied to cars, trains, ships, buildings, and even household appliances. This new idiom replaced the angular, art deco forms of the 1920s.
By the mid-1920s aircraft construction was in need of a new design approach. With the availability of engines with 200 to 350 horsepower, aircraft were flying faster, but not in proportion to the increase in power. With all the higher turbulent flow being experienced at higher speeds due to common design practices of the time, a reduction in drag became important to improved performance.
So in the era between the middle 1920s and middle 1930s, streamlining came into its own in aircraft design.
The history of aviation is a long record of man’s restless urge to emulate soaring eagles and swooping hawks, to escape the earth and reach the freedom of the skies.
Even though the air had been harnessed for centuries with aerodynamic devices such as the feathers on an arrow or the shape of a boomerang or used to power sailing ships and windmills, it took eons for the principles to be applied to human flight. In attempts to achieve human flight, mankind failed for millennium to put principles witnessed in bird flight and sail power into practical application. Let’s examine some of the steps taken to progress from myth to tower jumpers, from kites to gliders to arrive at the airplane in a short pre-history of flight.
Though Hammondsport, N.Y., is synonymous with the name Glenn Curtiss and well known as the home of the Curtiss Aeroplane Co., after World War I Hammondsport also became the home of another aircraft manufacturer — Aerial Service Corp.
LINDBERGH DOES IT! TO PARIS IN 33-1/3 HOURS cried out the newspaper headlines on May 22, 1927. Lindbergh’s epic flight made front page headlines in papers all around the world.
We are all aware of the impact Lindbergh’s New York-to-Paris ?ight had on the public, but what other aviation events of the 1920s and 1930s were deemed of enough importance to garner headlines in the newspapers?
Aviation burst upon the American public in 1910 through a frenzy of air meets, contests, daring flights and maneuvers. Over the year, 100 regularly organized meets and exhibitions were held. New records were set and broken almost every week. During that one year, the art of aviation made such extraordinary advances that there are few comparisons in the history of technology.
Aviators became heroes, and the top heroes changed constantly. Cosmopolitan magazine called the new birdmen “Wizards of the Air” for their daring do. One of the most active and daring pilots was Charles K. Hamilton, who in 1910 became famous for thrilling the crowds. During the year Hamilton would appear in events from coast-to-coast, along the way setting records.
Those who are familiar with today’s Federal Aviation Regulations know that they are a thicket of rules, occupying four volumes of the Code of Federal Regulations, consisting of 460 sections extending over 3,600 pages.
But 85 years ago, it was a simpler time for aviation. That’s when the regulation of aircraft and pilots began with the Air Commerce Act of 1926. [Read more…]
In a previous column, I discussed the penetration of the ubiquitous, war-surplus Curtiss OX-5 engine into the new aircraft market, which lasted into the 1930s. Not only was the OX-5 engine used as a powerplant option on new aircraft, it also powered custom-built aircraft that were used in exhibition work and races.
In fact, the Aero Club of Southern California would pioneer OX-5 class races and foster the design of new class of race planes designed around the engine.
Dennis Parks is Curator Emeritus of Seattle’s Museum of Flight.
Aviation was introduced to California — and Californians were introduced to aviation — via a spectacular 11-day event held at Dominguez Ranch outside of Los Angeles in January 1910. [Read more…]