Shortly after the end of World War II, surplus military aircraft entered the civilian market in large numbers. This triggered an explosion of airlines, often flown by the abundant number of veteran pilots. The Douglas C-47 was a mainstay in many of these airlines and freight companies. Not satisfied with simply transporting cargo, two former Air Corps officers, Fred P. Dollenberg and Raymond W. Baldwin Jr. set up Winged Cargo Inc. with its headquarters at NorthWest Philadelphia Airport. This company utilized gliders to carry extra cargo.
The Deutsche Luftschiffahrts, A.G. (German for “German Airship Travel Corporation”) was the first airline with fare-paying passengers. It was founded on 16th November 1909 and operated airships including the famed LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin and the ill-fated LZ 129 Hindenburg which was destroyed at Lakehurst, New Jersey.
The Shimpu Special Attack Corps, a group of 24 volunteer pilots commanded by Lt. Yukio Seki was formed within the 201st (fighter) Air Group, Imperial Japanese Navy, during the third week of October 1944. The unit, equipped with Mitsubishi Zero-Sen single-seat fighters, was formed for the task of diving into the flight decks of American aircraft carriers in the Philippines area, with a 250kg bomb beneath the fuselage of each fighter. (Shimpu is an alternative pronunciation of the Japanese ideographs which also represent kamikaze, “Divine Wind”, the name applied more generally to Japanese suicide operations.)
Sometimes war can pit brother against brother, friend against friend. But when the fighting occurs 4 miles in the air, that is a different story. When Dean Ivan Lamb and Phil Rader met in the skies over Mexico, they were ordered to shoot and by doing so participated in the first aerial battle between aeroplanes.
Imperial airways, was formed on 1st April 1924. This was the manifestation of the British government’s determination to develop air transport, and the company was to receive $1 million in preferential air subsidies over ten years. Having acquired the businesses of British Marine Air Navigation Co., Daimler Airways, Handley Page Transport and Instone Air Lines, the British government created some order in the multitude of startup airline and mail carriers. Based in Croydon, a center for early aviation, the airlines undertook scheduled flights to Paris Le Bourget beginning in 3rd of May 1924. The first scheduled flight on this route had begun in 1919. The Chairman to head the company was Rt Hon Sir Eric Geddes GCB, GBE. He had accomplished much as the head of military transportation in WW1 and had a reputation for getting things done.
Returning from the Great War, some young men from Oxford and Cambridge Universities felt confined within their universities. Besides, they has just a few years ago faced German biplanes in nerve wracking (but adrenaline inducing) encounters in fragile aircraft 4 miles over the battlefield. One student, a former test pilot by the name of A. R. Boree, from Oxford had a thrilling idea which he believed would rival the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. He proposed a air race over a circuit at the London Aerodrome, Hendon with a total distance of 129 miles.
The Aeromarine Plane and Motor company was an early American aircraft manufacturer that was formed in 1914 and pioneered the civilian aviation market. Its subsidiary, Aeromarine Airways, started regularly scheduled flights between major US cities. By the summer of 1922, Aeromarine Airways operated daily flights between Cleveland and Detroit. Within two months, the aircraft had carried 4388 passengers thereby sparking optimism within the company that the general public would accept aviation as an attractive and integral part of transportation. However, this optimism was soon dashed as the flying boat Columbus (Pictured far top) suffered engine trouble and crash landed on heavy seas, claiming the lives of four passengers. Soon after, one of the flying boats from the Aeromarine fleet was destroyed in a Havana Harbour due to a storm.
Air Transport and Travel Ltd. (AT&T) was founded by aviation pioneer and newspaper proprietor, George Holt Thomas. He also founded the Aircraft Manufacturing company Limited (Airco) in 1911 and the company produced thousands of aircraft, mostly designed by Geoffrey de Havilland, for the British military. AT&T initially operated relief flights from Folkestone to Ghent using a fleet of former military Airco DH.4A biplanes but after the war entered the growing market for civilian aviation.
Before the advent of regular scheduled inflight motion pictures, passengers had little to do besides talking, reading, sleeping or peering out of the window. Although, the mode of transportation was the most advanced for its time, it was found lacking in the entertainment department. The first movie screening was in 1921 when eleven passengers in an Aeromarine Airways flight onboard a curtiss F-5-L flying boat watched Howdy Chicago! , a film promoting the city of Chicago using a DeVry suitcase projector. Soon after, in 1925, passengers on board an Imperial Airways World War 1-era Handley-Page Bomber watched part of The Lost World , a 70 minute film, during a 30-minute flight near London. Transcontinental Air Transport equipped their passenger aircraft with screens and projectors to show silent films onboard although the noise of the huge radial engines would have drowned out the sound anyway. All these efforts were experimental and movies were not shown regularly.
Following the discovery of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners Lee in 1989, the use of computers spread to the common man. The web enabled customers to communicate with machines like never before and the need for the travel agent was negated as Airlines rode this wave of efficiency to save costs and boost service times.