From The Archives: How A World War I Era Executive Envisioned The Future Of Aviation

“What now?” That was the reaction of U.S. airplane manufacturers after a ceasefire ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. 

In our Dec. 1 edition—which featured a cover photo of a British bomber about to embark on a night raid—Standard Aircraft Corp. President Harry Bowers Mingle penned an essay on the future of U.S. aviation on page 560

“With the suspension of hostilities, aircraft manufacturers who had established their enterprises solely for the purpose of meeting military requirements during the war are viewing with grave consideration their future prospects,” he wrote. 

“Their experience as manufacturers of aircraft on a wartime program will not be of much use to them in the manufacture and sale of commercial airplanes.”  

He went on to offer a long list of possible uses for airplanes, including policing the air, express package and postal service, agriculture, mapping, exploration and sporting. Mingle also called for establishing zones of travel for air traffic.

 “It is reasonable that these laws should be administered by the military and naval authorities rather than by civil authorities,” he wrote, “it being impracticable to clearly define the limits of control as is customary with highways, railroad and similar public utilities.” 

In the same issue, a two-year-old Navy contractor took out a full-page ad putting three airplanes up for sale “at very reasonable prices.” 

That company, Boeing, would survive that postwar shakeout—and many more.

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