AVIATION SHOULD HAVE AID FROM GOVERNMENT
Planes Need Better Inspection and Some Stimulus to Promote More Wide-Spread Experimentation
The three most important needs in the development of commercial aviation in the United States are an aid or subsidy from the federal government, inspection and licensing of planes and increased dependability in aeroplane motors, according to Professor G. E. Lucke, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University and President of the New York chapter of the National Aeronautical Association of the United States. In a recent interview with a CRIMSON reporter, Professor Lucke discussed the possibility of a subsidy to commercial aviation from Congress, the comparative value of aeroplanes and dirigibles, and the plan of establishing a national Air Department for the control and operation of army, naval, postal, and civilian flying.
Expects No Subsidy
When asked whether he thought the government would ever aid the commercial aeroplane companies, Professor Lucke replied, "No, I do not think it will. All the European governments are helping civilian flying with bonuses for inventions, prizes for records, and subsidies to aeroplane manufacturing and operating companies. Congress has never shown much interest in aviation, however, and it appears to me that there is very small chance of help from the federal government.
"The United States is undoubtedly behind Europe in number of planes, trained pilots and mechanics, and in popular interest", went on Professor Lucke. "On the other hand, individually American aviators are as expert as foreign. The difference is in quantity rather than in quality. Public indifference in America is so great that I do not see how the few existing companies can continue. The present high cost of air travel is also retarding aeroplane development, but I believe that there will be some sort of regular air service established in the near future on route when the cost will not be prohibitive.
Dayton Greatest Experimentation Station
"Whether the government gives any-aid or not, there will always be a few enthusiasts working and experimenting with new inventions, but it must all be carried on with private funds. If Congress would encourage invention through a series of prizes and bonuses for the lightest or longest-running engine, or the fastest or smallest plane, as is done in Germany, we would witness a tremendous improvement in aeroplane construction. At present the only systematic experimentation in this country is at Dayton, Ohio, under the direction of the army, and to a lesser extent at Langley Field under the navy.
"The need of federal regulation, licensing, and inspection of planes cannot be over-emphasized. Nothing has been done for safety so far, although safety is the most important factor in aviation. In the army and navy the planes are thoroughly examined before every flight, while with civilians, flying for profit, the temptation is toward a cursory inspection. There should be a federal law against flying in uninspected planes."
Does Not Expect Air Department
When asked whether he thought the United States should organize an Air Department, with a Secretary of the Air in the Cabinet, Professor Lucke said. "I do not think such a department will be established, though it might seem to be desirable. The army and navy air services should cooperate, even more closely than they are doing now, but I think they should and will remain under the jurisdiction of the War and Navy Departments respectively. Commercial flying may be controlled by the Department of Commerce or by a separate bureau or board of aviation with police function."
Discussing the comparative value of planes and dirigibles, Professor Lucke said. "Their relation is somewhat like those of full-powered steamboats to auxiliary-powered sailboats. The aeroplane is independent of the wind but its safety lies in motion, while the dirigible can stop but is at the mercy of the wind. There is in addition the great danger of fire with the dirigible, for although the non-inflammable helium has had much publicity, it still costs a great deal and there is not a large supply. During the war the German Zeppelins were unsuccessful, practically all of them being wrecked in storms, while since 1918 no great advance in lighter-than-air aircraft has been made. With its much greater speed and ease of control and maneuver, the possibilities of the aeroplane seem to me to be much greater than those of the dirigible, though the lighter-than-air vessel will have its uses.
More Reliable Engines Needed
"Outside of government subsidy, licensing, and inspection, the greatest need of aviation is increased reliability of engines, especially in planes," concluded Professor Lucke. "Enormous improvements are possible if the people who are capable of making them have the proper incentive. With very little chance of federal aid, this incentive must be supplied by the public. A great deal of good could be done if people who can afford it would offer substantial prizes for inventions and improvements in the field of aviation. Public interest is fundamental."