I oftentimes dream about going back to the golden days of aviation, even if only for a day. Before the modern era, before the jet age, to the days of pioneering and risk takers. To the days of grassroots flying and glamorous airliners. The golden days.
Today, me and @Brandon_Ng would like to take you on a journey to the era lost in time, and to see just how much times have changed since this era of the past. Stuck between two wars, and overshadowed by the financial hardships of the era, the 1920’s and the 1930’s were the golden age for aviation.
Starting us off, back in the 1920’s and 30’s, pilots and airmen alike were looked up upon by many, instead of just a profession of the modern day. Household names like Charles Lindbergh, Ernest K. Gann, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and so many more figures were known worldwide for their accomplishments. Now, flying is just a normal everyday activity, records are broken, but when they are, they get little publicity. Where has the grandeur of flight gone? Even in the 70’s and 80’s air travel was losing its charm. And in the 50’s and 60’s aviation became mainstream, and started to lose the sense of freedom and joy, as aviation lost the very things that built it — grassroots flying and risk-takers willing to make something happen.
Long gone are the days of open-cockpit flying, in the days when anything could happen. Canvas and wood planes were one thing, but the period between the 20’s and 30’s was the golden era. Airliners were becoming relevant, barnstorming was as popular as ever, grassroots flying was the only way to go, air travel was luxurious and some of the best planes to exist came from this era. The list goes on virtually forever. And even by the 50’s, the days of record breakers, barnstormers, and open-cockpits were irrelevant and almost forgotten by non-aviation enthusiasts Overshadowed by the massive jets of the 50’s and 60’s. Even the legendary Ford Tri-Motor and DC-3 were largely relegated to small roles for airlines, personal use, or sent for scrap.
And this would continue to happen. Aviation would continue to go bland, as even more aircraft became relics of the past. The new and modern 707’s and DC-8’s would eventually become primitive technology. Aviation would become more and more automated, slowly loosing the glamour and luxury we came to know and love for the first time in the 20’s and 30’s.
Now what are we stuck with? Reliable aircraft being replaced at a faster rate than ever. Being replaced by more modern aircraft. Pilots are no longer looked up upon by all (though still by us av-geeks), they are just another profession that will eventually just be a software-monitor role if Airbus continues it’s autonomous-aircraft program, that’s already proven successful in tests. Even if that doesn’t happen, being a pilot continues to change. For the better or the worse? We don’t know yet. And air travel is although cheap, has lost its class and sophistication.
Back in the 60’s, ask any man or woman about airplanes and airlines, they’ll have stories to tell of barnstorming, DC-3’s and WW2-era airmen, the Boeing 747, Trans World Airlines, Pan Am, the Concorde, and more. Just read some books and stories from Ernest K. Gann or any other airmen from the era. They recall the days of the 30’s, when DC-2’s, Tri-Motors, and DC-3’s dominated the skies. The era before WWII when aviation was at its purest. The writings from these airmen are partially what inspired me at least, to write this about the days of raw flying.
The respect that we people once had for such technological marvels and the fine men and women on the frontlines and in the cockpit is great. But there is little hope for the former glory to be restored to its fullest. Say what you will about economics and cheap airfare, but the classiness and the sophistication associated with aviation and air travel is gone.
There are hardly any aircraft if the 20’s and 30’s that survive to this day. It is the forgotten era, between WWI and WWII when most people don’t believe anything happened for aviation (besides the DC-3). But in fact, it was the era with the purest flying. Just you, and your plane. No speedy jets, no computers, just you and the plane. These were the golden days of flying. The days of risk, the days of self-made pilots, the days of real flying.
Sure, both of us have great respect for the engineering and the effort that goes into making our skies safer through technological advancements and reduced workloads on aircrewmen, but at the same time, the skill and the airmanship that goes into actually handing, configuring, and flying an aircraft instead of staring at a glowing rectangle is now a lost art, a footnote in some history book sitting on a cobweb-covered, dust-coated shelf in an attic.
We will preserve our heritage and history, tell our grandkids about the lost arts inherited from our grandfathers, pass it onto the younglings of the future. Though time may shift the sands, erode away the statues and palatial monuments we once revered, rain and shine will surely wear away the once-fresh paint coatings, and the summers and winters cycling by will chip away at our museums and artifacts, we have the power through technological advancements of our day to bring back the lost arts in our computers, on our televisions, on websites, simulators, and more. The golden days of aviation may be gone, but they will never be forgotten.
Aviation sure has changed a lot since the golden era. For the better, or the worse, that’s for you decide.
Thank you so much for stopping by! I would personally like to thank @Brandon_Ng for helping me with this. Providing input and advice, to providing extra information, even writing a some paragraphs for the topic. I couldn’t have done it without you. Classic aviation is a passion for both of us and I’m glad to have Brandon helping me with this.
We both hope you enjoyed reading this. Have a great day, IFC!
This is in no way meant to make modern aviation, look bad. Or to take away the credibility of modern pilots. They are the best at what they do, and we have full respect for them, and for the people who manufacture modern planes too. We are thankful aviation today is safe for everybody flying and glad that aviation continues to become safer. We are simply here to talk about the golden era, and compare that era to later times in aviation’s history, and the modern era. Thank you for your understanding. 🙂
This quote pretty much sums up aviation, old and new, and the people that have made a name for aviation as a whole. They know when to persevere, and when to quit. That’s how aviation was made.
“If you want to grow old as a pilot, you’ve got to know when to push it, and when to back off.” -Chuck Yeager. Quote pulled from here.