It is a unique, though perhaps unnecessary, reminder of the stupendous progress of aviation in a score of years that at the same time that British and American airmen were winging their way east and west in a race around the world Orville Wright was decorated on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of his first flight. Reports of the frequent breakdowns of the fliers and news of the almost fatal adventures of the American leader indicate all too clearly, however, that man's conquest of the air is far from complete. In view of this conclusion, Major Hensley's prediction that before 1927 because of inadequate appropriations "we will have nothing to fly with" is of more than passing interest.
In the United States more than in other countries continued progress in aviation depends upon the government. Distances between centers of population are so vast that it will be some time before carriage of passengers and freight by air is as profitable as in Europe where London and Paris are but a few hours apart. And even despite the amazing growth of commercial air service in Europe to the point where three and a half million miles have been flown, England has deemed it wise to aid in the development by grants of huge subsidies. Since conditions are less favorable to extension of commercial air service in the United States of huge subsidies. Since conditions are less favorable to extension of commercial air service in the United States than in England, the task of stimulating progress falls even more directly on the government.
The use of mail planes is one very obvious means of promoting technical knowledge, and it was gratifying to read Postmaster New's announcement that on July first a permanent transcontinental air mail service will begin. Yet the plans for "safe" flying and low speed planes allow little opportunity for further pioneering in the development of the aircraft. The task of dangerous and costly, though vitally important, experimentation would seem to fall to the air departments of the army and navy. If Major Hensley's statement is correct that, "We are getting virtually no support from Congress in the way of new equipment," this duty can obviously not be performed.
The conviction of experts that "the next war will be decided in the air" would appear to be an even more cogent argument for the granting of sufficient appropriations. In case of a national emergency the 5-5-3 naval ratio which Congress has promised to investigate may prove far less decisive than the condition of the United States air forces.