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1919: Orville Wright On The Future Of Civil Flying


Regular readers of Aviation Week & Space Technology will know that we run a Viewpoint column in the magazine. One particular viewpoint, that ran 99 years ago in this magazine (then called Aviation and Aeronautical Engineering), was penned by Orville Wright.

Wright wrote to the magazine fifteen years after he and his brother Wilbur first took to the air in a new flying contraption, the airplane. In his page-long viewpoint, he argues the need for “distinctly marked and carefully prepared landing places,” now commonly known as the runway. Wright suggested that in order “to make flying perfectly safe, good landing places must be provided every ten to twelve miles.” But, he said, it is not an easy accomplishment “on account of the expense involved.” 

In Wright’s time, he saw the biggest challenge to building runways “the preparing of the surface of reasonably flat ground an expensive undertaking...there would also be a continuous expense for the upkeep.” 

Wright goes on to argue that because of the cost involved, this is unlikely to happen, rather “the development of airplanes of such design as to permit of landing in any ordinary field encountered in cross-country flying,” is a more feasible solution.

“More and more landings will, no doubt, be provided as the use of the airplane increases, but its use is heavily handicapped until these landing places are provided,” wrote Wright.

Fast-forward a few decades, and Wright was, well right. While we do have safe landing places, constrained capacity at existing runways and staunch community/environmental objections to new ones are the modern handicaps to an old problem.

Read Orville Wright’s full viewpoint, The Future of Civil Flying, published on January 1, 1919.

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