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Some Topical Notes and Comments.
THE NOTICE 'recently issued by the Air Ministry, warning demobilized officers of the R.A.P. against investing their gratuities or savings in hare-brained schemes for the establishment of so-called commercial aerial services, was both timely and necessary. Commercial aviation is as Yet not the sort of business for the very small capitalist. Success depends fundamentally on the possession of means wherewith to organize and support the proposition. The mere possession of the minimum number of aeroplanes necessary does not constitute the possession of the essentials of an aerial service; in fact, it has not gone halfway in that direction. One can hardly imagine any enterprise much more certainly doomed to failure than an aerial service run, say, on a sort of co-operative basis by a number of ex-pilots of the .R.A.F., each putting in a, few hundred pounds, but the whole group possessing no substantial reserve upon which to draw in emergency. Even such a speculation, however, is more hopeful than the so-called conamere cial concern which, instead of employing pilots as its paid officials, offers to take them into its service as partners or directors in return for some trifling investment. People who are not financially strong enough to do without trifling help of this kind, are certainly not the right people to make commercial aeronautics a success at the present stage. '
Unsound Company. Psomotion.
It is not only the pilot who will lose money on erratic aerial transport' schemes. Some of these, on a very large scale, will undoubtedly be put before the public as good speculative investments, their appeal being based on figures which cannot possibly stand analysis. It may well be a difficult matter for the layman to distinguish between the bogus and the genuine concerns. It seems a pity that we cannot establish some sort of tribunal, possessing a combination of financial and technical knowledge, the general approval of which would be a necessary preliminary to the formation of any considerable aerial company inviting public subscription. It is most improbable that the Air Ministry or any other official body will commit itself to the undertaking of such a delicate duty, because there always remains the 'possibility of failure of a scheme which really possesses the elements of success and, in the face of such failure, the wrath of the investor -would fall upon the official advisory body. It would perhaps be less impossible for some unofficial but reputable organization; such as the Royal Aero Club, to form a panel or committee, before whom the details of schemes could he laid voluntarily prior to shares being offered to the public. This panel would then report, and its report could be published in the prospectus.. It -would, of course, inevitably be qualified by a clear indication that the club or other 'body responsible for the existence of the panel, could take no responsibility whatever in the event of the judgment of the panel proving inaccurate: or unintentionally misleading to investors. Certainly, some special precaution is needed to prevent the whole movement getting into disrepute as a result of financial failures, involving many members of the public, but really inevitable from the first.
The -Atlantic Flight.
Any notes on aviation written at the present moment and containing no reference to the Atlantic flight would be an anachronism. At the moment of e48
writing, the first British essay would seem to have had a rapid and disastrous conclusion, It is, however, of the principle involved rather than of the success or 'failure; of individual efforts that It is necessary to write here. We are concerned in this journal with aviation as a, commercial undertaking and not as a sport, or even as a demonstration of personal courage and determination. The history of the Atlantic flight up to the present has been productive of lessons, arid, it is to be feared, has also served to increase unduly the doubts already existent in the public mind of the feasibility of regular aerial services over long distances. So far as one can judge without full particulars, the accident to Raynliam's machine at the start merely emphasizes the necessity for the provision of really adequate aerodromes. The delays suffered even by the most favourably situated competitors have shown that, as yet, the Atlantic is not really conquered by the aeroplane, and will remain unconquered despite successful individual crossings. The victory will not have been gained in the commercial sense until it is possible to run a regular service keeping closely to time-table and without subjecting passengers to undue risks.
. The Air Ministry and the British Government have been blamed for not creating an organization for the flight comparable with that of the United States Admiralty. We have left our representatives to make the effort on their own initiative, dependent upon their oven resources. The Americans, en the other hand, have spent millions on perfecting an organization intended to serve as nearly as possible the purpose filled by a, chain of landing grounds upon a long cross-country route. The history of the flight from Newfoundland to the Azores shows that even this organization does not suffice to eliminate considerable risk or to guide pilots with certainty. Starting with the knowledge that the flight is mechanically possible, we merely, have now the additional knowledge that very great and excessive precautions are needed, and, even then, are insufficient to eliminate a high degree of danger. The American and the English fliers have up to the present been attempting two very dissimilar feats. Even the lesser—that undertaken by the Ainerieans—is very big business indeed. The greater is a desperate one.
'Without the slightest doubt, the time will come when a regular aerial service will cross the Atlantic, but one may be pardoned for holding the personal view that neither the Government nor the Press of any civilized country has the right to encourage or command valuable citizens to jeopardize their lives to such an extent as the present attempt has been shown to involve. Personally, I have no sympathy with the point ofeview of those daily papers which consider that, if any other country claims the first successful transatlantic flight, Great Britain is in some way disgraced or discredited.
My fear is that, the first great feat performed, aviators will go on to attempt first one and then another dangerous flight, and, in the course of the next year or so, scores of valuable lives will thus be recklessly 'thrown away, with the natural result that the average man will become more and more convinced that aerial travel is inherently dangerous. Men will always take big risks from the sporting standpoint, but in a commercial undertaking, catering for the more staid members of the community, we want risks eliminated and we should make far better progress by means of a long series of successful demonstrations upon a far more moderate but nevertheless steadily increasing .scale.