Commodore Charlton has had a varled and intensely interesting career, ranging from pioneer work in Central Africa to aviation. It is as an aviator, however, that he has gained his reputation, being one of the most experienced men in the British Air Service at the present time. He has been an active flier since 1911, and except for infrequent intervals he was on the wastern front during the whole course of the war. He is now stationed in Washington, as Air Attache to the British Embassy.
Why, at the present time, is the industry of aeronautics not providing a career for many hundreds of young men of science and education; why, at the present time, is it not absorbing capital usefully in the wages of mechanics and the purchase of materials; and why, above all, at the present time, is not an every growing flying public taking to the air for purposes of business and pleasure as a duck takes to the water or, more appositely, as a bird takes wing? These questions are asked vainly by those who have grown up in and with the science of aviation and whose outlook into the future is practical and optimistic and robust as will all true pioneers.
Everything necessary is in a sufficiently advanced state for the day is development to dawn. Enthusiastic pilots exist in plenty and more can be trained Machines and engines, as the record of achievement can easily prove, are sufficiently perfected for all practical purposes. Aviation is known to all and the science of meteorology has come to be her handmaid. The offices of designers and inventors are full of future plans on gigantic scales which will come naturally to fruition as soon as a genuine primary movement is evinced.
Adjuncts and accessories to flight which will add immeasurably to safety, comfort and general and scientific utility are being daily manufactured, planned and patented.
And yet the thing helts as if an unseen agency were tugging in an opposite direction, and the high have on which aviation found itself uplifted at the end of the war, with the world indeed at its feet, has proved to be non-tidal.
At this moment, excepting always naval and military aviation which, though woefully windled, has become an integral portion of-national military power, the industry of aeronautics on a non-governmental basis of support is a negligible quantity compared to what was foretold of it and to what it was not, in 1919, too optimistic to expect of it. There are, it is true, many small flying companies and concerns and a number of privately owned machines, but, in the agregate, and regarded either nationally of internationally, by those who know the possibilities, they amount to a fraction of the sanely computed total.
Space, in this short article, forbids an analysis of the reasons for this distressing condition of affairs, but a few indications may be given which are in part accountable. For a successful musical piece to be given it is necessary to have la composer, an orchestra and an audience; and so, in a sense of allegory, in flying it is equally necessary. The composer is the capitalist or investor who provides the financial sinews; the orchestra is that body of aviation which provides the machines to fly and the pilots and crew to fly them and man them, and the audience is the flying public at large who commit themselves or their freight to the air. Unfortunately, in aviation, neither the first not the last are present in any considerable degree, in reality they are almost non-existent, and so it is not surprising that the soft pedal is down what time our orchestra is playing discordantly to itself.
The reasons of this are timidity in large part. Timidity in finance and timidity on the part of the public and this is aided by the element of novelty which the air provides, and the baleful headline prominence given in publicity columns to airplane fatalities.
What can be done, that is not being done, to hasten the advent of the day when to fly will be a normal individual undertaking? Only careful propaganda designed to reach the general public who still regard the airman as a superman and the airplane as the invention of the devil, can hasten the day, and such propaganda is best produced by the formation of aero clubs and aero societies with attendant activities, until the passage of a machine overhead is so usual as not to cause even the field laborer to look up from his toil. "Per ardua adastra."