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Some Topical Notes and Comments. • IHAVE already expressed regret that so much public attention has been directed to the transatlantic flight. I would not for the moment endeavour to depreciate the courage of the men who attempt it or belittle the immense power of endurance that must be shown by those who succeed. I feel, however, that the thing will be more a personal triumph than the triumph of a system, and that the general flavour left on the palate of theA public by the whole affair will be such as to delay rather than accelerate the coming of commercial flying schemes of. a practical character. At the time of writing, the Atlantic has not been bridged through the air. A successful flight may be made almost any day if weather permits. This is, however, a very big " if." We have seen already what care must be exercised in choosing the right moment for the flight, and I feel that a great many people will be led to imagine that all aeroplane services will be equally dependent
on weather conditions, and equally unreliable from the point of view of the man who must be in a given place at a given time. Even overland routes have their dangers, but we recognize that a well-equipped ground organization may minimize these. More thoughtless public opinion may not acknowledge the same distinction.
A Navy in Support.
The plans of the United States Navy are again such as to create doubts rather than to encourage confidence. We read that 36 observers, mechanics and repair men have been selected to help in connection with the enterprise, and that .two machines have been chosen for the flight. Further, we are told that light and speedy aeroplanes are to be sent out on craft which will be posted in mid-ocean so as to be at hand if rescue work becomes necessary. Two cruisers and no less than 54 destroyers have been detailed to act mainly as patrol boats, more or less fulfilling the duties of intermediate landing stations. All this makes the thing easier for the airmen. and if they succeed detracts somewhat from the credit their success. The nerve strain of the flying men will be much reduced if they have the equivalent of a ground organization ready to aid them at any point on the journey and acting as a kind of guide to pre c44 vent them from losing their bearings. The creation of such. an organization shows how hopelessly uncommercial the whole proposition of transatlantic flying is and must be in the immediate future. Personally, I am firmly of the opinion that if anything approaching a regular seirvice, is established within the next few years, airships and not aeroplanes will be employed upon it.
In the United States they have already begun to establish an aerial police,:whose first officialduty will apparently be the guarding of the forthcoming Pan-American aeronautical exposition. Aerial police will, of course, be required in all countries, as otherwise the rules of the air will be freely broken. Equally we shall need aerial coastguards and commonsense points to the advisability of combining the two functions in one organization. Undoubtedly
there would be many cases of criminals endeavouring to escape justice by .using aeroplanes as a means of getting themselves out of the country. The men who are responsible for intercepting aerial smugglers should at the same time be made responsible for the interception of criminals. Some change may be needed in the rules with regard to extradition, since the type of man wile is likely to have an aeroplane at his disposal as a means of evading justice is also the type who, at the time he uses the. aeroplane fer that purpose, probably still ranks as a substantial and trusted citizen. Criminals in a smaller way of business will, no doubt, utilize the regular aerial services from one country to another, booking their tickets in advance, so as to arrange for an early removal in the event of a successful completion of their nefarious business.
The arrangement for taking up passengers for aeroplane trips at Easter time were evidently very ,efficient, for the whole business was carried out without accident. Meanwhile, the fatal accident of Vedrines ; the failure of Major Wood to reach Ireland as a preliminary to the transatlantic flight westwards, and-rthe fatal accident at Andover have served to accentuate and, in fact, to over-accentuate the danger of flight. Both Vedrines and ,Wood were flying under conditions of abnormal stress. If we are to avoid accidents we must go quietly and very carefully to work and civilian flying must for some time to come be carefully regulated.
Speaking at a recent dinner of the Rotary Club of London, Colonel Bristow, R.A.F.' explained Why it is that this country does not lend itself to the creation of an internal system of aerial posts. The point is, of course, that our distances are not sufficiently great to justify the method. When a letter is despatched, say, from London to Birmingham, only a very small proportion of the time that elapses between its despatch and its arrival is actually occupied in the journey by rail or road. The rest is taken up by unavoidable delays between pillar-box,. Post Office and railway at the sending end, and-railway, Post Office and destination at the receiving end. If, out of the total time spent between sending and delivery only a small proportion is represented by time in transit, then it stands toreason that the saving to be realized by the aerial method becomes trifling. Say, that out of 12 hours four are occupied by the railway journey. The aeroplane might reduce this amount by two hours, but the practical effect would be negligible. The value of the aerial post will be far more easily demonstrated over long distances as, for example, from London t,o Egypt or to South Africa. The establishment of a great postal service ._ with the Continent is under consideration, and will, no doubt, materialize. Here we have, in favour of the aerial method, the-fact that the through journey . by an express train is not yet possible and considerable delays are involved by the channel crossing.
Reorganization of the Air Ministry.
Unquestionably the problem, of dealing both with .civilian and with military flying will involve considerable reorganization in the _Ministry responsible. In certain respects the two departments must be treated. quite separately. In others, they must be connected While requiring distinct treatment. In other cases, again, it would result merely, in duplication of work if the two branches were not completely identified with one another. One of the difficulties will be the old tendency, so often noticeable in Government Departments, and considerably increased by the war, to multiply departments and branches mainly with the • object of finding permanent jobs for officials. Duplication where it is unnecessary would not merely be wasteful but would be positively detrimental, because it almost always happens that two departments trying to do the same thing spend the greater part of their time in cutting one another's throats, with the result that neither develops into a really effective organization. BEMBRIDGE.