The Airplane: Public Reaction Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the world’s first airplane at the turn of the twentieth century. Mary Belles described the years following the brothers’ discovery, during which various engineers furthered their invention to where it stands today, capable of intercontinental travel for commercial, transportation and militaristic use. The airplane’s introduction and advancement was first met with apathy, then with both praise and criticism from people of varying social classes ranging from the trundling immigrant to national leaders.
Never before had man been able to fly, and the sheer thought of such an idea fascinated and frightened the public. People delighted in the thought of traveling across the country in never-before-seen timely fashion to experience people and cultures that were once thought unreachable. However, others cringed at the potential damage that air travel could create if the utmost care were not taken. Elements of disbelief, fascination and fear make the reaction to the airplane a tale of multiple perspectives.
Initially, the airplane’s invention did not incite the level of Jubilation that the Wright brothers had anticipated. The U. S. Military was the first body of power to really put air travel into use, but even they did not take the invention seriously until later on. Gerhard Fall, author of the novel Twelve Inventions Which Changed America, spoke of the airplane as the military “new aerial weapon” that was “terribly primitive” and did not show much promise based on its ineffectiveness in the First World War.
Other authors shared Fall’s view; three COST-sponsored writers (Punjab State Council for Science ; Technology) attributed the airplane being thrown side as an impractical invention to “its high instability and poor control [which] made it less glamorous than other weapons of WI” . Following the military was the Air Mail service utilizing the advantages of the airplane. Again, public interest simply was not there, so much that, according to author Gerhard Fall, the postmaster from Springfield, Illinois wrote that air travel was viewed with “public apathy’ .
It was not until later on when the U. S. Government stepped in that people began to recognize the benefits of mail travel via airplanes. However, the airplane caught on the slowest with the general public. People did not see the practical use of such a small, simplistic invention capable of carrying limited passengers for short periods of time. Andy Thompson wrote that even as planes developed to commercial use, expensive prices kept all but the wealthy from flying. Nevertheless, as time went on and advancements were made, the airplane trend started to catch on.
Once it became prevalent, society was in store for quite a revolution. One of the reasons public opinion of the airplane became so high was its efficiency in mail delivery. According to Fall, in 1934, air-mail was first assigned to the Air Corps. , the predecessor of the U. S. Air Force, and would later be transferred to commercial carriers who and contracts with Postal Service came about and undertook all air mail delivery services, shipping everything first class, free of charge. These advancements hit home with the public, mainly because of the wartime situation and relatives being overseas.
Friends and families were able to write to their loved ones with the guarantee that they would get it in a matter of days, as opposed to the weeks it would normally have taken had ships still been utilized to transport mail internationally. Not only were international mail services quicker, but domestic ones as well. According to the online article, “Aviation Innovation: Yesterday ; Today,” it took three to four days for mail to travel coast to coast via train in 1926, whereas air mail got it there in one to one and a half days.
The huge gain in mail travel efficiency was one of several factors influencing public appreciation of the airplane. Cargo transport was another important element of air travel that positively contributed to public opinion. The online article, “The History of Cargo Aircraft” said hat the very first cargo plane, the Road Ar 232, was initially designed for mail transport but eventually became equipped to haul heavy cargo in large quantities over long distances. Early models in the twentieth century were capable of carrying up to 2,500 pounds of freight for up to 750 miles at a speed of 75 m. . H. According to an article in The Journal of Commerce: 175 Years of Change, the innovative technology allowed for major businesses, such as Ford Motors, to ship mass quantities of parts, products and materials to different parts of the country in a timely manner. Business tycoons basked in the revenue streams generated from the effective distribution of product, and so continued to propel the airplane industry forward by meaner of advertisements and propaganda that would, in turn, influence general feeling about the new invention.
Cargo transport, as well as other benefits, was an important element of the military strong support of the Wright brothers’ invention. After overcoming its early skepticism, the United States military became a huge supporter and user of the airplane. Militant leaders saw it as an opportunity to gain n advantage over enemies if fighting were to break out. They could not have been more right. Thompson described the strategic mindset going into the First World War: “For the first time soldiers had to worry about threats from above in addition to heavy artillery and gas warfare” .
The military also saw the potential use of airplanes in aerial reconnaissance, or in-air spying of enemy locations and operations. As reported by the article, “Airplanes: Spies in the Air,” pilots would photograph and note enemy positions from the air during the WI era . Although the airplane played role in WI, it was really put to good use some decades later during WI. Equipped with more advanced technology, World War II airplanes were capable of carrying loads of ammunition and could deal out quite a bit of firepower, which made them a crucial part of the Allied attack against the Axles powers.
As mentioned by Fall, mounted machine guns and aerial bombing capacity allowed Allied planes to take out entire enemy aircraft carriers that otherwise may have wiped us out. The U. S. Military evidently had a very positive reaction to the invention of the airplane, ND showcased that feeling by exploiting them in the two biggest wars of the twentieth century. Perhaps the aspect to the airplane that was most unintentional to inciting a positive public reaction was the efficiency of travel that it offered. Foremost, air travel was Just flat out faster.
The online article, “Boeing 707,” says that the Boeing and Douglas airliners were capable of carrying 140-189 passengers at speeds well exceeding those of automobiles and trains. People delighted in accomplishing out-of-state trips in a matter of hours that normally would have taken days or even weeks. Moreover, long-distance travel became possible for individuals. Early commercial planes were able to travel upwards of 5,750 nautical miles, permitting transatlantic and transpacific Journeys for those interested.
Immigrants were especially fond of the airplane because it gave them the opportunity to return home to their families in a manor much easier than that offered by boat. Not only could they return home, but they could also have their families flown to the States. Certainly the majority of the public loved the airplane for its convenient travel options; unfortunately, some saw hem as anything but convenient. The final perspective on the airplane’s introduction was one comprised of fear. Those who criticized the invention of the airplane anticipated the negative effect it could have on people in wartime situations.
The airplane brought combat to the skies, which meant that other countries as well as our own were more accessible and therefore more easily susceptible to attack. Prior to the airplane’s invention, the military only had to defend against naval and ground forces. With aerial warfare becoming a factor, U. S. Defenses had to concern themselves with the possibility of attack from the sky, which could be much more devastating. The advancements of the airplane by WI made them capable of large bombing campaigns that yielded unprecedented damage.
Critics of the invention truly found their ammunition after witnessing the sheer devastation at the hands of U. S. Bombers in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Individuals were frightened that such damage could be done without ever setting foot on land, and trembled at the thought of similar havoc taking place back home. Not only did airplanes evoke fear regarding wartime situations, but also called or alarm in a general sense of safety because of the inherent nature of aviation and the lack of technology available.
As mentioned before, flying was inherently dangerous in the early twentieth century and consequently troubled some people about the effects it could have on pilots and civilians. According to Fall, an air-corp.. Pilot in the sass’s had very little experience, mainly because the sort of training we see today was not required back then. Between February and May of 1934, over 66 accidents took place involving Air Corp.. Pilots resulting in 12 of their deaths. Also, very few planes were equipped with adios when they first took to the air. Ground control and radar were nonexistent, and navigational devices were hardly available.
With forecasting extremely unreliable, weather prediction was virtually impossible and left safe flying to chance and the skill of the pilot. With such a myriad of safety issues surrounding airplanes, critics worried about the well-being of not only the pilots, but also civilians on the ground. If a plane were to spiral out of control and crash land, the death toll could certainly pile up depending on the area in which the plane went down. Opponents of he airplane foresaw grave issues with its operation, and resultantly feared its introduction into society.
Apathy, support and disapproval comprised the various viewpoints to the invention of the airplane in the early twentieth century. Such a revolutionary product was capable of changing the way people lived, and therefore was met with all sorts of opinions. As the airplane became more commonplace in everyday society, the hype and bewilderment died down to the point where the average person flew without thinking twice. Nevertheless, those same apathetic, excited and fearful opinions still exist today, especially in an age where nuclear warfare and terrorism loom on the horizon.