For the aviation evangelists I recommend the issue of Flight dated 7th March 1914, published by the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom. The list Committee members then included aviation notables such as T. Sopwith and J Moore-Brabazon.
Frank Van Haste emailed me today:
Captain, I note that 100 years ago today (4 Mar 1914), among those present at the annual dinner of the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, was your ancestor Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny. He would have heard the extensive remarks from the First Sea Lord, Sir Winston Churchill. Thought if you were unaware, it’d interest you.
Thank you Frank. Indeed this issue of Flight is an extraordinary newsletter that shows a glimpse of the intrepid aviators in their fledgling industry as it existed 100 years ago, and how far we have progressed in such a relatively short time.
The discussions included:
Fear of Flight – 1914
… at the high altitudes above 8,000 feet …
- pilots may have a lot of light to throw on the subject, but that they dread to say anything about it, for fear they might be thought less of from the point of view of those not knowing better ….
- many pilots have an awful dread that their engine is going to stop
- Everywhere is space, emptiness, blankness. He is but a speck in the vast expanse.
- Still higher, and yet even higher he may force his machine, and all the previously explained sensations become intensified. Is it then not possible, or even probable that at an altitude similar to that pictured a pilot may become possessed of fears that have no foundation—fears that are born entirely of his own imagination, and having been born, shall become more and more realistic, and, attacking the nerves when they are in no fit state to fight against them, shall take possession of, and dominate the whole mind to the extent that the pilot shall see with his very eyes, the thing which he dreads taking place, with no power to prevent it.
Hypoxia (not understood in 1914)
- Ten, twelve, fourteen thousand feet! The air becomes more rarefied, the brain becomes exhilarated, there is a feeling of lightness about the whole body. With the reduction of the atmospheric pressure, the blood courses more rapidly to the brain, the pulse beats quicker, there is a dawning sense of hysteria. Then arises an inclination to sing and shout, or, perhaps, even an almost irresistible impulse to get out and walk about on the wings.
- At a still greater altitude, when the air becomes even more rarified, this light feeling is probably followed by one of lassitude—a reaction to the previous excitement. The brain becomes dull, strange fancies take possession of it, and it is conceivable that a man may now have thoughts, which, under the circumstances, are more likely to take the form of fears than the previous glorious exaltation. He is up thousands of feet above the earth. Above him, as he looks up, is space— blue, indefinite space, unmeasurable even to the imaginative mind.
- On a related physiological topic, Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has just released its Flight Safety Australia publication (March-April 2014) that includes an interview “Don’t believe your ears” and video on the topic of spatial disorientation.
Sir Winston Churchill – 1914
My ancestor Sir Claude (QF32 page 14) was one of the 75 pilots that attended the Royal Aero Club annual dinner. Sir Winston Churchill (First Lord of the Admiralty) was the special guest who offered these perceptions:
- Perhaps flying is one of the best tests of national quality which exists. It is a combination of science and skill, of organisation and enterprise, which affords a more fitting field for the exercise of this quality than many of those games and competitions which are made the subject of international contest. (p 249)
- I do not think we can expect for some considerable time that pleasure flying will be indulged in on a large scale. I am not talking about mere sensationalism, or the very natural desire to see what a new thing is like, but if pleasure flying were ever to be solidly established in this country, it would be necessary that it should be possible to travel across country with a considerable degree of assurance that the passenger would reach his destination punctually and in good condition. And that unhappily is not possible at present. This is a particularly difficult country to fly in. Its land and its physical nature make it incomparably a severer test of aviation than do the conditions which present themselves on the Continent. And until British engineers are able to devise an arrangement of engines or a combination of engines which will ensure that the pilot is not forced to make an unexpected and possibly inconvenient landing it is not very hopeful that flying for the moment will reach a point at which it could be a sure foundation of strong propulsive power for our aviation services. (p 248)
Air Crash Investigators – 100 Years Later
The Royal Aero Club newsletter reminded me of my closing remarks in a recent interview for the production “Air Crash Investigation S13E10 – Qantas 32: Titanic In The Sky”.
At the time of my interview, our story was planned to be the final episode (ever) in the Air Crash Investigators series. So I was determined to use this opportunity to acknowledge my ancestors that had toiled and suffered to make aviation what it is today – perhaps the safest transportation industry in the world.
What a privilege. What a responsibility!
My final words were intended to thank everyone who had contributed to aviation. I wanted to acknowledge the earliest pioneers; those who had assembled in London at the Royal Aero Club Dinner on the 4th March 1914, and their descendants.
I particularly wanted to thank; Armstrong, Boeing, Bird, Boyd, Brabazon, Brentnall, Crossfield, De Havilland, Earhart, Gagarin, Garros, Glenn, Hawker, Haynes, Hinkler, Hoover, Hughes, Johnson x 2, Kingsford-Smith, Kranz, Kuchemann, Langley, Lindbergh, Lovell, Lowe, Ogilvie, McLean, Moody, Orlebar, Roe, Rolls, Royce, Sikorsky, Smith, Sopwith, Sullenberger, Sutter, Turcat, Ulm, Von Braun, Whitcomb, Whittle, Wright, Yeager and Ziegler, and so many more.
It’s a pity that my full statement of appreciation was shortened:
The QF32 story – it’s not about me as the pilot in command of QF32, the pilots, the cabin crew or even my airline. It’s a story of resilience and team excellence where 8 teams pooled the industry’s knowledge, training, experience and worked together to survive a Black Swan Event. It’s about aviation that for the last 110 years has shared their knowledge and experience to made aviation safer for the travelling public.