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history-of-commercial-flight

Human curiosity led to the idea that man could one day take to the skies. Through many failed attempts, engineers and philosophers alike experimented with different means of transportation light and nimble enough to support the weight of human being while traversing the open air. Leonardo Da Vinci even proposed the idea of a flying machine as far back as the late 15th century. But, the first successful flight occurred on U.S. soil in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina thanks to the iconic brothly duo of Orville and Wilbur Wright.

The Wright Brothers’ ability to become the first aviators to get a manned, heavier-than-air controlled flight off the ground fueled a revolution in the flight industry, as more and more designers attempted to do the same. Pilots all over the country began to develop aircraft and technology that would soon surpass that of the Wright Brothers’, including passenger aircraft, radio towers, fighter jets, and bombers, thus leading to the necessity of flight during World War I.

Years would pass until airplanes were considered a safe mode of transportation however, with 1925 seeing the Air Mail Act, which allowed the U.S. Postal Service to contract private airlines to assist in delivering mail. Not long after that, the Air Commerce Act was passed, giving way to such iconic airlines as Pan American, Western Air Express, and United Airlines.

By the late 1920s and early 1930s, commercial aircraft had become popular, but were still not seen as the most effective means of transportation. Trains remained much faster, as airplanes could not fly safely at night, nor could they reach heights that allowed them to fly over geographical obstacles, forcing them to reroute around mountains and ranges. Additionally, they had to stop to refuel much more frequently than the planes of today. Nonetheless, more and more people began to choose flying when traveling.

In the United States, the estimated number of flyers jumped from around 6,000 in 1926 to nearly 173,000 just three years later. A large reason why was because of companies beginning to pay for their employees to travel via air for business.

At the time, some of the models of aircraft most frequently used included the Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT, which could carry around just 14-15 people. This made it clear that larger cabins were needed to support the growing number of passengers, though a touch of luxury should still be included. In 1935, the Martin M-130 was designed and built by the Glenn L. Martin Company, which included luxury seating and the ability to fly nonstop for 3,000 miles. Though they didn’t see much success, they inspired even more designers and engineers to continue searching for the most practical forms of aircraft imaginable.