Civil Air Transport.

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9299.1946.tb01962.x
Date01 September 1946
Published date01 September 1946
Reviews
Civil
Air
Transport.
By
Group
Captain
W.
E.
WYNN,
O.B.B.
(Hutchinson’s.) Pp.
122. 16s.
THE
key question of this
book
is why British air
transport,
even before the war,
lagged far behind the American industry where the aeroplane is fast approaching
the point when
it
will
challenge
the
train
as
the
principal carrier
of
long-distance
travellers. After
making
a
brief reference to the differences in
natural
condi-
tions, Group Captain
Wynn
develops his
main
theme that the American lead
was
mainly attributable to the fact that the Americans treated
air
transport
as a
business.” Fortunately he defines what he means by
this
rather nebulous expres-
sion
and
says that he
means
an
enterprise that provides a public service profit-
able to all concerned.”
This
requires that four conditions should
be
fulfilled;
first, the business must be as near
technically
perfect as possible, second, it must
provide a service
for
which there is a ~:e.nu.ine demand, third, the administration
must be efficient and economical, and finally, the management must be endowed
with sufficient foresight
to
meet obstacles that arise. Now I don’t dispute that
American industry, by and large, is not more eflicient than British industry.
Our recently acquired comparisons of the output pr man-hour in
the
cotton and
coal-mining industries leave
little
room to doubt that Nor do
I
dispute that the
American air transport industry belongs to the group of industries which are
considerably more efficient
than
their British counterparts. But what I do dispute
is that
this
difference in efficiency could account for mare than a small part
of
the
lead which the American industry had over the British. If it were
so,
then
one would have expected the American overseas operators to have been
as
far
ahead
of
the British
as
were the domestic airlines. But I could quote figures from
Group Captain Wynn’s
own
book to
show
that
this
was
not
so
In
a comparison
between Imperial Airways
and
Pan American Airways in
1939
the British com-
pany shows up very well
in
standards of service
and
rates
of
fares. This is not
to give undue praise
to
Imperial Airways because in a comparison with
the
Dutch company,
K.L
M
,
it by no means shows up
so
well.
It
is my contention that the
Armrican
pre-eminence was,
and
is, in their
domestic operations and that
this
pre-eminence was
in
major part due to natural
conditions that were unique. Canada and Australia are comparable from a
territorial point
of
view, but neither yet have the population nor the industry to
put them on the
same
level.
The
only other country
with
anything
like
the same
territory, population, and natural resoxces, the Soviet
Union,
has
so
far
been
devoting
all
its energy to the task of raising itself from semi-feudalism. The
United States domestic market providd the ideal rearing ground for air
trans-
port.
Vast spaces
to
be
crossed,
no
nitional frontiers with their obstructions of
customs
ard
immigration rules, no
national
rivalries snd fears
to
put up even
more barriers, and above
all
the
inhabitants of
this
half-continent had a higher
natimal income
per
capita than any oihcr country in the world. When
all
has
been
said about the spirit
of
the pioneer and the importance
of
business principles,
these
~tural
conditions surely account for
all
but a very small
part
of the
American lead.
I would like to mention at
this
point one outstanding service which Group
Captain
Wynn
renders
in
this
book.
It
is to acquaint British readers with
some
very excellent American books
on
this
subject. I cannot refrain from mentioning
Oliver
J.
Lissitzyn’s
International
Ax
Transport
and
National Policy,”
which
I
believe is
very
little known
in
this comtry outside a
Wted
circle of students.
200
REVIEWS
Group
Captain
Wynn
completed
his
manuscript while the war was
still
in
progress.
The month that have
passed
since the
end
of the
war
have brought
profound changes in both the damestic
and
the international scene. The Labour
victory and
the
new
White Paper he was able
to
mention in the preface,
buu
the shape
of
the recently signed
Civil
Aviation
Act was then only dimly foreseen.
In my opinion
this
new set-up
has
the ingredients
of
success. Whether
it
will
produce the desired results depends to a very large extent
upn
the engendering
of
a spirit of rivalry
between
the
three
corporations
so
that each
will
try
to go one
better than the others.
In
the international sphere, too, things have changed, and
both
Britain
and
the United States have moved from the positions that resulted
in
the
deadlock
of
the
Chicago Conference. The Bermuda Conference in February was a fairly
radical reconciliation
of
the
British and American views,
and
&en,
early
in
August, the United States announced
that
they were withdrawing from
the
International
Air
Transport Agreement which embodied the famous Five
Freedoms. The Bermuda compromise was to be the future basis for negotiating
international agreements, and as the
Economist
remarked at the time, the new
position
might
well
be
described as the
Four
and three-quarter Freedoms.
Group
Captain
Wynn
gives a
useful
survey
of
the economic structure
of
an airline, the costs involved
and
how they might
be
lowered.
In
this
section
he also discusses
passenger,
freight and
mail
traffic, and gives many hypothetical
cost
studies
designed
to
show what may be expected
of
air transport
in
the
future.
Despite what
I
have
said
earlies
about
the
uniqueness of the American
domestic situation, rhe comparison which the author gives
of
British and
American fares is very
useful.
Very few people in
this
country realise how low
air
fares have become in the United States.
Wynn
quotes a figure
of
5.2
cents
per mile as the average for
1940,
that is about
2w.
a
mile. The average for
1945
was
even lower at
4.5
cents
a mile, and
the
long-term ambition
of
many operators
is to reduce the rate to
3
cents
a
mile. The Chairman
d
the Board
of
Directors
of American
Airlines,
C.
R.
Smith, introduced quite a slogan when he wrote,
“What
this
country needs
is
a good
3
cent airhe.” Although
I
am
quite sure
that
it
will
be
a long while before the Americans get
airline
fares
of
three half-
pence a mile,
it
is
a
fine target,
and
I
only
wish that we in
this
country had
a
correspoading
target.
I
am
often afraid that though we pay lip service to the
idea
of
mass
air travel, we don’t yet realise that
this
is incompatible with
the
600
m.p.h. ultra luxury air
her.
Mr.
C.
R.
Smith spoke for me too
when
he
wncluded,
“A
three-cent airline is more glamorous to
me
that
all
the glittering
promises
d
jet-propelled cocktail lounges.”
The literature in
this
country on
this
highly topical subject is still far from
being comprehensive, but Group Captain
Wynn’s
book
has filled some
of
the
gaps and may help a lot to increase the air-mindedness of our travelling public.
If
it
does
that
I
ant
sure
Group Captain
Wynn
will
be more
than
satisfied.
STEPHEN
WHEATCROFT.
Housing
Estates:
A
Study
of
Brisrol Corporation policy and
practice between
the
wars.
By
ROSAMOND
JEVONS
and
JOHN
MADGE
(Published
;or
the University
of
A
BOOK
of
this
kind
is of the utmost value in helping
us
to assess the achieve-
ments and failures of past policy and to avoid similar mistakes
in
the future.
It
records the detailed
resewlts
of
&at
part
of
the University
d
Bristol’s social survey
201
Bristol by
J.
W.
Arrowsmith, Ltd., Bristol.)
7s.
6d.

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