Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014: One Hundred Years of Commercial Air Travel Marked

Happy New Year and Blue Skies in 2014!

Now, at a time when resolutions are made, is also a good time to reflect on something most Americans, and many people around the world, in fact, take for granted.

What's that? Well, the very first day of this new year begins with a very important celebration and anniversary, the first commercial (for hire) airplane flight.

It happened in Florida, whatever the dispute among North Carolina, Ohio, and Connecticut regarding the title of "first to fly."

Reports the Wall Street Journal online:
On Jan. 1, 1914, a wood-and-muslin Benoist XIV flying boat, powered by a noisy, six-cylinder, 75-horsepower engine, took off from St. Petersburg, Fla., with its pilot and one passenger sitting on a small wooden bench, exposed to the elements. The rickety seaplane traveled 18 miles as the crow flies, landing in the Hillsboro River off Tampa, a 23-minute journey at speeds up to 60 miles an hour. Normally such a trip would take two hours on a steam ship across Tampa Bay.

The flight carried a former St. Petersburg mayor who paid $400—about $9,323 in current dollars—for the thrill. It was repeated many times over the next four months, during the short life of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. Historians estimate that more than 1,200 passengers made the trip without mishap, paying $5 one-way, or $116.53 today.
As can be imagined, apart from laws protecting property or holding people responsible for their negligence or intentional acts, there were few laws in 1914 concerning aviation specifically. Over the next ten years, however, there was substantial legal activity at the local, state, national, and international levels as aviation went from "ultrahazardous activity" to a more progressive legal regime that accepted aviation technology as routine without diminishing individual rights where accidents might occur.

Today, 100 years later, we are at a similar point with respect to space commerce.