Winged Peace or Winged Death?

Air Marshal William A. Bishop November 15 1944

Winged Peace or Winged Death?

Air Marshal William A. Bishop November 15 1944

Winged Peace or Winged Death?


Air Marshal William A. Bishop

WHAT LIES ahead in aviation’s next 40 years, in its next 20, in the decade immediately before us? Does aviation become the straightline route to world peace through the skies; or does it go on from here to become a constant threat to our civilization through its use in the hands of aggressors? The choice lies with you and me, the ordinary everyday citizens of the world.

In future wars civilian populations will be at the mercy of any aggressor, for aggression will come without warning and its impact will be so terrific that what has happened to Europe during World War II will be picayune by comparison. One shudders, therefore, as one contemplates the backward thinking of so many of the world’s leaders, so much of its influential press and, as a result, of so many of the ordinary men and women of good will with whom the world abounds. Are we going to permit the new weapons of the air to run wild in our world, or are we going to bring them under man’s control? If the former, the world is not going to be a comfortable place in which to be about 25 years hence.

Primarily, talk about what the aviation of tomorrow will be like focuses on new propulsion forms, called the jet and the rocket respectively. What are they? What can they do that the present arrangement of reciprocating-engine-plus-propeller will not do?

First, the jet, if only because it is already in flight. The principle of jet propulsion is identical with that of the propeller, in that the purpose of each is to produce a thrust which will drive an airplane

forward by sucking in air and expelling it. In the case of the jet, however, the air is sucked in through an orifice, to be heated and expanded and ejected at high velocity through a nozzle, aft.

Considered alone, the jet holds several advantages over the engine-driven propeller. It has only about 10% as many moving parts as the ordinary airplane engine. Hence it will be cheaper, more easily produced, and more easily kept running. It requires no ignition system, and ignition systems in the conventional engine must be pressurized at high altitudes. It has no carburetor and so needs no elaborate fuel mixture controls. It presents no major icing problems. It needs no automatic throttle control, and it does away with the propeller. It does not need to be warmed up . . . just start the engines and away you go. It has other minor advantages and one disadvantage at its present stage of development. Its present extravagant fuel consumption offsets in some degree the lighter engine weight. But there are ways around that problem.

As matters stand at the time of writing, the position of the jet-propelled airplane, then, is something like this:

(1) It came along just about the time the propellertype airplane seemed to be reaching its speed maximum.

(2) The practical ceiling of the propeller-driven plane was also in sight . . . propellers need something to bite on, and there is no biteable substance in the thin air up near the stratosphere.

(3) The jet plane, therefore, brings higher speeds and altitudes into sight now. It is actually performing in these terms, with the experimental stage still not behind us.

Now about the rocket:

Much of what has heen written in the preas abou rocket propulsion must have been extremely m is leading to the layman, in that it has usually been accompanied by a picture of a strange-looking fürplane being shot into the air like a giant firework, leaving the reader with a sort of general sense of whoosh and nothing much else to go on. Other stories have talked of series of rocket explosions as the plane hurtles through the stratosphere, and these give the reader a sort of staccato bang-bang-bang impression, as of an airplane moving forward swiftly in a series of terrifying jerks as each new firecracker explodes. This is not the picture at all.

The airplane of tomorrow, in sight today just out there on the hangar-apron behind that new jetpropulsion bird, will be something else entirely.

It will leave the ground smoothly impelled by rocket motors, which will assist its jet engines to get it off with huge loads, hitherto beyond our thinking. Once off, power will switch from the rocket engine? to the jet engines, for the excellent reason that an airplane will fly comfortably with at least 50% more load than it can take off the ground. The jets will attend to the provision of motive power

/#The key to peace is in the skies. In these same skies flies the possibility of destruction more appalling than any we have known before. "— Bishop

until very' high altitudes (in today’s conception of altitude) are reached. Ultimately, however, the new aircraft will come into stratosphere altitudes in which the jet, requiring oxygen, will tire and finally quit. Then the rockets come into play again.

Faster Than Sound

THE ROCKET requires little, if any, atmosphere.

I have listened to scientific friends discussing what will happen then. To simplify their erudite talk I will simply put it that the plane will then thrust forward smoothly through the stratosphere at something faster than the speed of sound, and probably somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 miles an hour. That will go on until the destination is, say, about 500 miles and 30 minutes away. Then the nose will turn down the long hill, and near the airport the jets will come into action and before the passenger in his air-conditioned and soundproof cabin knows it, he will be back on terra firma, after crossing the Atlantic Ocean in three hours, perhaps less.

Fantastic, isn’t it? But that is what is in sight. That is what the aeroscientists are up to in the here and now, not just dreaming about!

That is what is meant, then, by the repeated statement that the aircraft in use now are all obsolete, and by the other oft-repeated statement that mankind had better hurry and lift his social and political thinking into the realm in which he is going to be living, or else.

In the Age of Science, in the Air Age, today’s fantasy is tomorrow’s reality. That has been proven so many times, with such extremely painful results to the unbeliever, that the time has passed to refrain from discussing what may appear to the uninitiated as fantastic, for fear of being adjudged a lunatic. Far better to discuss it and examine what can happen. That way you get no sand in your eyes from burying your head in a dune.

Tho primary object of such talk is to bring home the thought that wo can no longer afford the bitter luxury of war. Civilian populations, women and children by the thousands, tens of thousands of old men and women in their declining years, were destroyed during the course of the second world war by weapons their leaders pretended did not exist, or with which we pretended we could cope without trouble.

No aggressor nation, once it has become sufficiently powerful to satisfy the appetites of aggression, ever again will bother about the niceties of declaring war. In future such an aggressor will simply unleash the full power of his stratospheric air projectiles. The first warning his simple-minded enemies will receive of his intention to attack will be when a defender’s detection devices tell him that those projectiles are on their way across the intervening space — whether land or sea —and they will be exploding in the heart of his capital in a matter of hours at the outside, perhaps in minutes. With luck the peace lover may just have time to duck for cover a thousand feet underground. Huge cities could be reduced to rubble and ashes in a single sortie.

You might almost say that if we are going to have any more wars we had better be about the business of turning New York’s skyscrapers upside down now and burrowing deep down into the ground to live like moles in the hope of finding precarious security. As the science of the air tends to develop, its powers of destruction and devastation will become so great as to corivert areas of almost any size into ruins with a single massed blow from the air.

War After War?

IT MAY be argued that our scientists will provide other instruments of death to counterbalance such fantastic weapons.

Perhaps so. The question would then seem to arise: Is this to be the final pass to which civilized man reduces his civilization? Is it our purpose to bring on war after war after war, until the horror of the cataclysm becomes so great that everything we have ever built of good is to be destroyed and ourselves with it? It will do us no good to call these things fantastic, or for our leaders to play ostrich again. Mankind is on the spot. Only the most careful application of intelligence and energy can get us off it.

As the United Nations come down the homestretch toward victory, men begin to look ahead in hope to an end to carnage and the writing of an enduring peace. Men tell each other that the future of all mankind rests on four cornerstones, the United States, the British Commonwealth, the Soviet Union, and China, and that the great nations must accept the responsibilities of their greatness and in turn share with the smaller nations and the liberated peoples a common brotherhood. These are the idealistic things of which we speak and of which our press continually writes. But are these the terms in which we are actually thinking?

As you look about you and listen to some of the greatest leaders in the United Nations, there begins to be discernible and audible a definite swing back to the nationalism which pervaded the atmosphere of the 1930’s. With victory in sight and, we say, assured, our approach to partnership is by no means as selfless and generous as when we walked together in dire adversity.

Some people are of the opinion that the only way in which we can find security in the air is by the strict maintenance of the policy of nationalism, as it is reflected in the idea of “closed sky.” Others hold to the view that the solution lies at the other extremity, that is, in complete freedom of the air, or “wide-open sky.” Neither of these estimates is acceptable as it applies to our enemies, no matter the outcome between friends.

In the first place, we are not going to be able to keep the German people on the ground for long, for the excellent reason that they will find a way to get

back into the air. Perhaps we can find a way to grant them rights in a properly policed air (policed, that is, in the military sense); perhaps not. But one thing is sure: We cannot grant them freedom to operate with the connivance and assistance of people in our own countries as they did before, to sneak back into the sky while peace-loving men of good will are looking in the other direction, or are so engrossed in their private affairs as to lose interest in questions of safety. There can be no dummy companies in world aviation, and no behind-themulberry-bush manufacturing deals. To be safe we shall always have to know who’s who in the air. Never again can we sacrifice safety to private profit.

Such statements apply with extreme force to our whole relationship with those who, as I write, are our enemies and to all our international relationships in the world of tomorrow. For our own safety, as a definite insurance policy against new wars, mankind can no longer tolerate undercover arrangements as between cartels and other official and unofficial partnerships engaged in the manufacture of potentially lethal materials. There will always be men who, either from ignorance or selfishness, or a combination of the two, Will be prepared to perform what may be termed acts of hostile manufacturing, solely for the purpose of private gain. That is one great reason why wars happen ánd it will apply in tomorrow’s world with even greater force than in yesterday’s, if only because the world’s productive capacity has increased so tremendously.

World Control

THE grim record of the basic material of war we passed on to our enemies, even during the days when we were virtually sure we would have to fight them again, and of the use of those supplies to kill our own sons, is a matter of common knowledge today. It must never happen again.

If we are going to live civilized lives tomorrow we must make sure that never again are greedy men in our own midst allowed an opportunity to assist in the arming process, as they did between World Wars I and II.

As this is written we are heading straight back toward the same old sovereignty ideas which governed the air before we began to use it together in self-defense. We are perhaps not taking exactly the same direction. Even the most violent air grabbers among us would refute the suggestion that aircraft of one country should be able to land on the soil of another country only on the stringent terms we used to know. “Enlightened self-interest” is taking a new tack today, but its destination has not changed. We might as well be extremely frank about it, because the issues at stake are of too great importance for any of us to attempt to evade them. What is going on is every bit as nationalistic in its approach as the old sovereignty policy.

There are air operators and politicos in the United States who are determined that American aviation shall dominate that of the world. A similar pronouncement is applicable to similar interests in Britain—and such interests are extremely powerful in both countries. In due course, no doubt, Russia will be putting forward her own ideas. One by one aircraft interests in what are now the occupied and neutral countries will soon follow our example. Finally demands will even be received from our enemies for a share of the spoils. The whole thesis of this approach is utterly wrong.

Global aviation not only will not work under such conditions; the only outcome of such methods will be to lead us back to international ill will and, finally, to grave international disputes and trouble. No man of good will can support a world aviation operated by profitseeking individuals and founded on the dog-eat-dog theory of commerce. The air (other than in the domestic

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sense) is not national. The air is global and the operator of tomorrow in the global air must be a global operator. No words can be minced about it. The air world must be world-controlled.

Each country will probably operate its own internal and local aviation through the medium of private commerce, or by any other means it chooses. That is for each nation to decide according to its own whims. But in the international or global realm such an attitude is out of the question. Global aviation is not merely global in geographic concept. It will have to be global in its controls and in its entire organization and, in my opinion, it will have to operate under co-operative global direction.

It is not for me to attempt to tell either the LTnited States or the United Kingdom how they should view the future of the Air Age. That would be presumptuous on my part and I have no doubt it would be so regarded. I have come to realize the power of the air, however, and conversely its tremendous potentialities of use for the good of all mankind. Hence, with the utmost vehemence at my command, I must plead the case for world cooperation and organization, before we blunder again into new cataclysms. We shall so blunder if we embark on any high, wide, and handsome scrambling for air routes in the world of tomorrow.

World Government

Nobody knows what form of world society of nations we shall create at the peace table, whether we shall attempt to do a repaint and overhaul job on the old League of Nations, equipping it with the teeth it always needed so badly, or whether we shall attempt some entirely new form of world government. Such a world government could have been established with ease when the United Nations had their backs against the wall. Then the idea of world union was on every man’s lips. But we have slipped badly since the circumstances of war took a turn for the better. I am one of those who stand convinced that wre must create some form of supreme world organization if we are to have enduring peace. Assuming that we shall create such a body, that

body must not merely control intercontinental and international flight— it should direct it and operate it.

The directors of such an organization would be representatives of the respective countries, and countries perhaps would he given representation based on populations, or shares of world trade, or geographical situation, or other factors. Nobody should be excluded. World air personnel from the top down to the lowest grease-monkey should be men trained to think in world terms, men of world loyalties. All aircraft flying the global routes would fly under the ensign of the world air organization. It must be alone and supreme in global aviation and the purpose of its operations should not be commercial or profit-making.

If we must be obsessed by the idea of profit, then the profits of such an operating company should go into the treasury of whatever the world league or world government of tomorrow is going to be. All this is no more than an attempt to put the outline of an idea down on paper. At this time it is fundamentally an idea. The terms and details can be worked out later. What is required now is that all nations, beginning with the Big Four, but taking in all of us, should move to accept the principle of such a formula. They should do so for the excellent reason that any other policy or program will quickly prove itself unworkable and is bound to lead to international dispute and ill will.

Why do I regard the air of the world as global property, and the use of that air as requiring an outlook of global partnership? I do so solely because I can think of no other way in which we can make use of the air globally without courting disaster. f

World Air Police

Let me now proceed to put my head squarely into the mouth of the nationalistic lion in every country in the world.

The question is already widely discussed as to what air strengths each nation should or will have and how these should be limited. The only solution is to get rid of them. If we have “limited” national air forces, somebody will always break the limit. As long as we have national air forces we shall have groups, blocs, cartels of nations, privately and secretly undertaking to hang together and in due course blow the top off other blocs or groups. This is the end result of power diplomacy and power politics and it

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has been going on since the beginning of time. So has war. Are men desirous of putting an end to carnage? Well, we cannot rid ourselves of war without first getting rid of international power groups in all their selfish ugliness and unless, as a starting point, we control all aviation by making it a world force. Aviation is too dangerous a weapon for stupid or selfish people to possess for their personal use.

World military aviation must be a world organization. The loyalties of its members must be world loyalties. It must be a strong force. To be a member of it, to wear its uniform, to hold its commission, must be the highest honor to which a young man may aspire. It will police the world. It would not waste one moment in talking before raising plain, ordinary hell with anybody in the world who committed any infraction of the rules of peace, in fact or in spirit.

So too with the industrial aspects of aviation as they affect its military side. So too with the developments of science in the realm of flight and the facilities which make flight possible and safe. The product of the air scientists’ minds must be available to all men in all nations. No manufacturer of military aircraft can be allowed to manufacture military air equipment for anyone but the World Air Force.

What is being hammered home is that we have in our hands the most potent weapon ever indented by man. Consistently it becomes more potent. It will continue to become more potent as the years go by. Therefore we must have steel-trap controls which we can spring at a moment’s notice on any potential aggressor or on selfish men, traitors to the thesis of world brotherhood and to mankind’s desire for peace.

Into this whole panorama of the Air Age of tomorrow, fraught as it is with unassessable dangers, comes a realization of the boons to be conferred on mankind through the air, if mankind is ready to become homo sapiens and cease to be a dolt always ready to pick up a gun and start shooting.

We can use the air for peace even as widely as we can use it for destruction. Tomorrow I hope our young citizens, in hundreds and thousands, will fly from country to country and come to know each other, come to know the lore and traditions of each other’s native lands and, what is more important, enjoy the free exchange of ideas which is only possible when people can meet face to face, talk to each other and live together.

Most people still believe that we are fighting to retain, or to get back, what we had in 1938. In a great many of us the idea is deeply rooted that the great problem which faces all men is the strange politico-economic tussle between capitalism and socialism. This question is secondary to that of civilization’s survival. I do know that if one group of nations insists upon encouraging and supporting bigoted opinion about the way of living of another group, sooner or later somebody will shoot somebody else. Then the rockets will fly. And all hell will be let loose. If, on the other hand, the people of our shrunken world are given opportunity to know each other, it is my conviction that any dispute born of such addled thinking will collapse for want of support.

We can retain our traditions, our customs, our ways of life, each in his own country, each amending his way of life, economically or politically, from time to time as circumstances demand, without engaging in external interferences or disputes leading to war. We can only do so, however, in an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation outside the field of domestic affairs. We can do so only if we recognize and accept the implications of world citizenship, superimposed on national citizenship, holding under closest control the means to destruction inherent in aviation and developing our a/iation for the good of all men and the peace of the world.

The Air Age faces mankind with a sharp choice — the choice between Winged Peace or Winged Death.

It’s up to you.