Wings Wanted

LIEUT.-COL. GEORGE A. DREW November 1 1935

Wings Wanted

LIEUT.-COL. GEORGE A. DREW November 1 1935

Wings Wanted


THE BRITISH EMPIRE became what it is today because a vigorous people living on small islands in the Atlantic Ocean with few natural resources had the vision to see the possibilities of employing long range transportation to develop trade to their own advantage.

With the advent of steam power, Britain did not rest on her marine traditions, although it was difficult then to foresee that the “wooden walls of England” would be replaced by the vast steel vessels of today. They employed this new development in transportation so well that they became the carriers of the greatest part of the world’s international commerce. It was because of Britain’s enormous shipping resources, supported by efficient railway transportation, that the British Empire and its Allies were able to withstand the German attempt at world domination in 1914.

Transportation in every form by sea and land has carried the nourishing flow of commerce, and spread wealth not only to the British Isles but to all parts of the Empire. Hundreds of years of history teach us that we cannot lag behind in any new development in transportation if we are to retain the proud place which the marine power of Britain has built for us in the past.

This was clearly foreseen when the rapid improvement in aircraft during the war suddenly raised aviation to the assured status of a new branch of transportation. In May 1917, the British Government appointed the Civil Aerial Transport Committee under the chairmanship of the late Lord Northcliffe, to consider the policy which should be adopted throughout the Empire after the war. Canada was represented on this committee, as were the other Dominions. It included men of great ability. A most exhaustive survey was made of the whole subject, and its final report was presented in May, 1918.

The Committee, which consulted experts in all lines of transportation and was composed of capable, hard-headed business men, not dreamers, was emphatic in recommending the vigorous development of air transport throughout the Empire. At the outset the report stated :

“We consider it of vital importance that the British Empire should not be allowed to lag behind other nations in this movement, more especially as this might have a very serious effect upon the position of the Empire with regard to the international aspects of aerial transport.

“We consider, also, that it is a matter of urgent necessity to establish a system of propaganda throughout the Empire, in order to convince the whole nation of the vast importance and possibilities of aerial transport and to familiarize the Government and the local authorities with the subject.” That was seventeen years ago. To this day, as far as Canada is concerned, the report might as well never have been written. We have lagged behind badly in aerial trans]X)rt, and succeeding governments have done little or nothing to familiarize themselves or local authorities with the subject, even in its purely Canadian aspect, let alone in relation to our important part as a unit in the air commerce of the Empire.

Canada has been misled, doubtless unintentionally, and the rest of the Empire has been misled, in regard to the Canadian position, by the very impressive figures of passengers, mail and freight carried by Canadian commercial aircraft. These figures, relating almost exclusively to the “bush” operations in the North, are the result of special conditions under which private enterprise has succeeded, not because of but often in spite of governmental policy. In ordinary commercial transportation we are lagging hopelessly behind, in spite of the fact that we probably have more to gain by the reduction of time in the transaction of business between different parts of the country than any nation in the world.

Great Britain has been under a serious handicap in

expanding commercial aviation because distances within the British Isles are so short and rail services so good that the saving in time is not very great except where there is water to be crossed. But even there, internal commercial services are expanding very rapidly. It is in the extension of air routes to outlying parts of the Empire that the greatest efforts have been made, and it is now possible to fly from England to almost any place under the British flag

,,Thc commerce of the world is taking to the air: Canada cannot longer remain anchored to the ground//—Col. Drew

except Canada. Soon, however, that will also be possible, as Imperial Airways in co-operation with the British Government are completing plans for the construction of machines for a regular transatlantic service. These should be ready next year, and then the only break in the Empire chain of communication would be in Canada itself.

How We Waste Time

\ /"ARIOUS explanations are offered for the fact that V we have no interurban air transportation in Canada operating on a regular schedule except the short flight between Moncton and Charlottetown for the winter months. We are told that we must wait for the completion of the emergency landing fields across Canada, that we have not sufficient population, or that we cannot afford the expense under present conditions. None of these explanations hold water.

The United States is the only nation in the world with a complete system of emergency landing fields such as those being constructed in Canada under the unemployment relief programme. Yet all over Europe, South America, Africa and the Orient, airlines connect almost every city of importance, with speed and safety. While we are waiting for the completion of our fields, multi-engined aircraft are rapidly reducing the necessity for them except at much longer intervals. Granted that they are very desirable, they are ceasing to be a necessity.

But even if they were necessary for a trans-Canada service, there is no reason why services should not be established in Eastern and Western Canada. In Ontario and Quebec there are large cities, a dense population, and the distances are great enough to create a demand for the faster service if machines of the latest type, capable of soeeds of 200 miles an hour, are used. Such machines are

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regularly in use today in Europe and the United States. With such speeds the flight from Toronto to Montreal would take a little more than an hour and a half, and from Toronto to Ottawa ten or fifteen minutes less. If such sendees were available between these and other cities in Eastern Canada on a regular and reliable schedule, there is no doubt that they would be used extensively from the very outset.

If proof of this were needed, it is only necessary to take the experience of European airways where it is necessary to book one's passage a day or two in advance.

In China, which we do not usually admit to be more progressive than Canada, there are excellent sendees connecting Shanghai, Hankow, Peking, Tientsin, Hong Kong, Chungking and all the more important cities in between. The trips from Shanghai to Canton, from Hankow to Canton and Hankow to Peking are all about 800 miles, in which two or three stops are made at intermediate points. The trip from Hankow to Chungking is nearly 1,000 miles. Yet on none of these routes are there emergency landing fields. The planes are nearly always filled, and it has been necessary to increase the services rapidly.

Another interesting contrast between China and Canada is that President Chiang Kai Shek has several machines always at his service. Most of the Chinese Government officials also have their own planes. In this they are merely following the example of statesmen in Europe and the United States. In Canada alone it is still considered desirable that men whose time is supposed to be of great importance should take days in the train to accomplish a trip that could be made comfortably and safely by air in a few hours.

Nor is there anything in the argument that our population would not support such services. We might very well look at the example of Holland, with a population very much smaller than ours. On the folders of the Royal Dutch Air Line you see the words “The Oldest Air-traffic Company in the World.” Although the country is so small that there is hardly any need for internal routes, Amsterdam is one of the busiest airports in the world, and the luxurious Dutch airliners fly all over Euroiie and across India to the Far East.

European Air Service

DURING a trip through Europe by air this summer, the thing that most impressed me with our backwardness was the trip from London to Berlin. Although my ticket had been purchased from Imperial Airways, it was neither a British nor German machine which made this trip but a thirtytwo-passenger lour-engined Fokker monoplane built for the Royal Dutch Air Lines at Amsterdam. These are the most comfortable machines in regular service anywhere in the world. The interior is roomy, and everything is finished in ultra-modern colors and design. The seats are wide, deeply upholstered and covered with soft red leather. The walls to a height of about six feet are light blue. Above that is a yellow panel more than a foot wide, and the ceiling is of the same color. There are oblong indirect lights in the ceiling, and lights above each seat. The windows are wide and low enough to watch what is passing below without straining. Forward, just in rear of the control room, are the kitchen and the bar, while at the rear is a large washroom. There are two pilots, a radio operator and a steward. It is luxurious transixjrtation to the last detail at about the same cost as by rail, and the machines are manufacturer! and operated by a country very much smaller and less populous than Canada.

Taking off from Croydon at seven o’clock in the morning in a steady drizzle of rain, in a few minutes we were above the clouds and enjoying the first sunshine for days. In about half an hour there was a break in the

clouds and the North Sea could be seen below. Thus distances vanish in this new manner of travelling. A few minutes later the steward set up a table with a red bakelite top. and over it placed a yellow cloth the same color as the ceiling. He then served a delicious hot breakfast which was Dutch to the extent of large slices of Edam cheese.

At 8.15 we were over the coast of Holland, and at 8.45 landed at Amsterdam. There one appreciates the international character ol aviation in Europe. While having a cup of coffee during the half-hour wait in the open-air café which is a part of all the ; excellently equipped European airports, machines were coming and going all the time. A number of small Fokkers took off for different points in Europe. Then a large one similar to that in which we were travelling left for Hamburg. A few minutes later a three-engined Junkers left for Zurich. In that short time I saw British. French, I German, Swedish and Dutch flags flying over aircraft on the field.

At 9.30 we left for Berlin, and in a few minutes were over the Zuyder Zee from which the Dutch mariners more than 300 years ago carried the commerce of I Iolland to all parts of the world. Their descendants have inherited their spirit and are employing this new means of transportation with the same vision and courage as their predecessors did the sailing ships of old. At 9.43 we crossed the German border. Thus nations pass in flying over Europe today.

In an hour and a half after leaving Amsterdam we were at the outskirts of Berlin. During the whole trip the machine was as steady as a rock, there was a complete absence of vibration, and conversation could be carried on in a normal voice. In i every way it was more comfortable and i quieter than the best Pullman car.

Presently we were coming down at the ¡ Tempelhofer airport, once a military parade ground, which is in the very heart of Berlin. It is a revelation in organization and equipment and is the centre of European air activity. As we came down I counted fortythree planes on the ground. Others were arriving and departing every few minutes.

Our baggage, which liad been carried in the wings of the plane, was quickly unloaded, and in spite of the startling tales of Nazi j rigor we were all treated with the utmost ; courtesy, whatever our nationality. It only j took a. few minutes to pass the customs' officials, and in another ten minutes I was at the Adlon Hotel in the Unter den Linden. In its accessibility, ground organization, equipment and efficiency, the Tempelhofer airdrome may well be taken as a model anywhere in the world. Its volume of business emphasizes the advantage of having ; centrally located airports if possible.

I was greatly struck with the extent to, which flying lias become almost commonplace in Europe during a trip from Munich to Venice. Two German business men were in the seats in front of me, and during one of the most beautiful trips in the world, over the snow-capped Bavarian Alps, down to the Venetian Plain and over the loveliness of | Venice itself to the landing field at the end ' of the Lido, they slept soundly. To them it was just an opportunity for a short rest in a ! busy day.

A trip which made me think of the ; Rockies and the many possibilities of j developing tourist traffic in Canada by air, was the flight from Milan to Zurich when we crossed the Swiss Alps at 15,000 feet and saw to our left the towering peaks of Mont Rosa and the Jungfrau. Then we landed at Zurich, and found that this beautiful Swiss city of 400.000 has a magnificent airport with administration buildings that would compare favorably with those of any country in the world. As we landed there I were many machines on the ground— Junkersof the Lufthäuser with swastikas on the tail. Fokkers of the Dutch K.L.M. and j of the Italian Ala Littoria, an enormous '

Handley-Page of Imperial Airways, a Wibault of the Air France, and two Douglas airliners of Swissair.

Little Switzerland, Holland. Sweden and other European nations smaller, less populous, and much poorer than Canada, have turned their eyes to the sky and are pushing their air commerce beyond their own frontiers. Zurich and other smaller cities in Europe make one think without much satisfaction of the possibilities at Montreal and Toronto and of their utterly inadequate airport facilities, in spite of the fact that both have sites available second to none on this continent.

We Can Afford It

DUT WE ARE told that Canada cannot afford to develop air transportation under present conditions. Certainly we cannot afford further extravagance in providing transportation. Neither can we afford to be left hopelessly behind and see business diverted to the United States, as it is today in ever increasing quantities and will be even more as additional north and south lines link Canadian cities with the splendid transcontinental lines in the United States, where hundreds of thousands of passengers are being carried in safety.

The money can be found if we are honest with ourselves. If some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that are spent in fruitless competitive advertising by our two railroad systems, or some of the millions that are lost in useless duplication of trackage. or some of the other millions of Cana| dian money that are spent in not altogether necessary harbor improvements, post offices ! and other public buildings, were diverted to this vitally important means of communication. we could have commercial air transportation in Canada second to none in the world.

And it is well to remember that the development of such a service would mean the employment of thousands of Canadian young men who have proved during the war and in the past few years in Northern Canada that they are as good as any in the world as pilots or in the ancillary services. Commercial aviation does not mean merely the employment of pilots and mechanics. As an example, the Transcontinental and Western Air in the United States has sixtytwo skilled men on the ground for every plane in the air. Then there are all the men employed at the airports and the new activities that develop. It is the very sort of work that will give hope and courage to young Canadians to whom opportunities in this direction have been denied much too long.

In Europe today boundaries and distances no longer have much meaning so far as time is concerned. One can leave London at five in the afternoon and be in Berlin at ninethirty in comfort and safety—yes, in safety. For the year ending March 31 last, the German Lufthause established the amazing record of 100 per cent efficiency in their flights on the London-Berlin route. Then from Berlin to Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia, only takes two hours. From Prague to Vienna, one hour and twenty minutes; from Vienna to Venice, two hours and a half; from Venice to Rome, one hour

and fifty-five minutes; from Rome to Milan, three hours; from Milan to Zurich, one hour and three quarters; from Zurich to Paris, four hours. And then from Paris to London in the great forty-two passenger HandleyPages of Imperial Airways, irreverently referred to as the “gin palaces” by British pilots, in two hours and a quarter. This elmination of distances is, on one hand, an increasing menace in the event of war and, on the other, a hopeful sign of united effort. If sanity prevails, the rapid contacts in increasing numbers made possible by air transport may pave the path to peace. The faster and more efficient the services the greater is the hope.

Wake Up, Canada !

' I 'HERE ARE fast commercial machines A flying over Canada today, but they do not touch Canadian soil. Along the line in Ontario between Buffalo and Detroit, great Douglas airliners pass overhead at nearly 200 miles an hour every few hours, day and night. They are controlled by beacons erected on Canadian soil by American Airlines, Inc. Why can we not do the same thing? In addition to developing our own internal services, why should we not push communicating lines into the United States as little Holland has in Europe, and benefit by the ever increasing north and south traffic that is bound to flow to our great summer and winter playgrounds? If in Europe with their intense national outlook airliners can fly freely from country to country as they do today, surely the long unguarded “imaginary line” of which we have heard so much is not too great a barrier to similar services on this continent.

What sailing ships and steamers were to the Empire in the past, aircraft may be tomorrow. While the day is still perhaps far off when freight in great volume will be carried by air, passengers, mail and express are already being carried throughout the world more than one hundred million miles a year. The day is not far off when all firstclass mail will be carried over any considerable distances by air.

In this changing scene the British Empire must hold its place and Canada must play its part. The distances which at the outset were a disadvantage will afford the opportunity for an ever increasing volume of traffic as the Empire air routes are completed. The internal distances in the United Stetes gave them an opportunity to expand air transportation rapidly, so that more than half of the commercial flying in the world is now done within their boundaries. Our external distances and the internal distances in the Dominions afford scope for similar expansion if we seize our opportunity. We must move rapidly in Canada and throughout the Empire if we are to retain our ixjsition as carriers of world trade.

Canada should establish a clearly defined and progressive air policy without delay. First of all, the control of civil aviation should be removed from the Department of National Defense, where it now is, and placed under a separate ministry associated with other means of transportation. Practical operators with years of experience in Canadian flying should be called in to formulate this policy. And when the policy is formulated, effective steps should be taken in accordance with the report of the Civil Aerial Transport Committee “to convince the whole nation of the vast importance and possibilities of aerial transport.”

We have been leaders in aviation in the past. Bishop, Collishaw, Barker and Macharen placed Canada’s name at the head of the list during the war. Their tradition has been maintained in commercial aviation in the North by men like Dickins, May, Gilbert and Brintnell. We were successful manufacturers of aircraft during the war. With a progressive policy suited to our needs and co-ordinated with that of Great Britain, there is no reason why we cannot quickly assume our proper rôle as operators and producers of commercial aircraft. The commerce of the world is taking to the air; Canada cannot longer remain anchored to the ground.