Published Date

December 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 17: How Free Are the Skyways? (1945)

Cooperation against danger, not competition for prestige and economic advantage, guided United Nations air transport policy during the war. Economic and political obstacles were brushed aside. Amazing technical progress was the result, and thousands of men in the services observed it at firsthand.

The postwar use of the skyways is another matter. Critical questions must be answered. In these questions lie the major issues for your discussion:

  • How far will economic and political obstacles hinder peacetime international airlines?
  • How can these obstacles be removed or minimized?
  • Has something already been done to eliminate some of them?
  • Can large planes be operated safely enough and cheaply enough to compete successfully with steamship travel?
  • Should international aviation be governed by the principle of open competition?

If you raise these issues and add some of those suggested below, under “Questions for Discussion,” you will have much more material than you can cover in one meeting. Your task is to select perhaps the first three issues or the last two as points to discuss at one meeting. Or you might plan two or three meetings if your group wishes to talk out completely the subject of international air transport.

The text of this pamphlet does not contain the answers to the questions that have been raised. It does, however, explain what the economic and political obstacles are; it describes the proposals made at the Chicago conference to minimize the obstacles; and it summarizes concisely the known facts about the kinds of planes which will be used in intercontinental flying and about estimated costs of operating such planes. So you have the raw material for discussion. For the present at least, each man will have to work out the answers for himself.


Aids to discussion

Use the maps. If you put rough copies of them up on the wall, you will find them of invaluable assistance whether you conduct a forum or an informal discussion.

List the important problems you wish to keep before your group all through the meeting. Two lists are suggested. They may be written on a blackboard or a large sheet of paper. It is suggested that one chart contain the three “hazards”—mentioned on page 2. The other could list the five privileges or so-called “five freedoms” found on page 32.

The techniques of organizing and conducting discussions and forums are described in EM 1, GI Roundtable: Guide for Discussion Leaders, which every leader should have. Leaders who are especially interested in conducting roundtable discussion or forum programs over radio stations or sound systems of the Armed Forces Radio Service should also read EM 90, GI Radio Roundtable.

Make copies of this pamphlet available for advance reading in some central place—library, dayroom, service club, or other accessible spot. Informed members in your group will improve the quality of your meeting.

Questions for discussion

The questions that follow are intended to help you organize your discussion. If you have better ideas, don’t hesitate to use them.

  1. Which do you think are the greatest obstacles to full commercial use of postwar skyways—the technological, economic, or political obstacles?
  2. Since freedom of the seas means that ships of every nation can sail the oceans without asking permission of any other nation, does free and unrestricted use of the air mean the same principle applied to the air?
  3. If nations have feared that the regularly scheduled commercial planes of other countries might be used for concealed military purposes, why have they left noncommercial international flying almost unregulated?
  4. Will it ever be wholly impossible to use civil planes for military purposes and vice versa? What are the advantages a nation is supposed to gain from having a large and active aviation program? Are they peacetime or wartime advantages? How important is the “prestige” accruing to a nation because it has a far-flung system of air routes?
  5. If there were to be free and open competition in international air transport, is it likely that one nation might soon drive the rest out of business? Would such a development threaten world peace?
  6. Should each country allow only one line, a “chosen instrument,” to enter the field of international competition? Should this be a private company, a government monopoly, or a joint operation of domestic lines, or what? If drastic competition between lines of several nations for, say, the North Atlantic passenger traffic means profits for none, should a pooling or price-fixing arrangement be permitted? Should international air rates be regulated? By whom? Are most nations or only a few likely to try to develop large-scale international airlines? Why do you think so?
  7. Since ocean steamers can freely pick up and discharge passengers and freight in any port of any country, except for coastwise traffic (cabotage); why has a different rule been applied to planes?
  8. Will passenger travel by intercontinental plane be as common as steamship travel? How can costs be reduced? Can planes compete with ships in carrying freight? Will increased trade and travel between countries make them closer friends or give rise to more frictions?
  9. Which of the transport planes developed for immediate postwar use do you think will be successful from a business standpoint? Will flying boats be more practical than land planes on long overwater hops? Do you believe the prophecy that within ten years after the war the majority of commercial planes will be jet-propelled? Is the Beaverbrook estimate that the world will need 15,000 planes after the war sound? If true, what nations do you think will operate them?
  10. Do you think the Chicago conference produced important results? What are the most recent developments on international aviation agreements?
  11. Should Germany, Italy, and Japan be allowed to engage again in civil aviation? In international commercial air transport?

For Further Reading

These books are suggested for supplementary reading if you have access to them or wish to purchase them from the publishers. They are not approved nor officially supplied by the War Department. They have been selected because they give additional information and represent different points of view.

Civil Aviation and Peace, By J. Parker Van Zandt. Published by Brookings Institution, 722 Jackson Place, N. Washington 6, D. C. (1944). $1.00.

New World Horizons: Geography for the Air Age. By Chester H. Lawrence. Published by Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 270 Madison Ave., New York 16, N. Y. (1942). $2.75.

International Air Transport and National Policy. By Oliver J. Lissitzyn. Published by Council on Foreign Relations, 45 F. 65th St., New York, N. Y. (1942). $5.00.

Wings After War; The Prospects of Postwar Aviation. By S. Paul Johnston. Published by Duell, Sloan and Pearce (1944). $2.00.

International Air Transport. By Sir Harry Osborne Mance. Published by Oxford University Press, 114 Fifth Ave., New York 11, N. Y. (1944). $1.00.

Empire of the Air. By Matthew Josephson. Published by Harcourt, Brace and Co., 383 Madison Ave., New York 17, N. Y. (1944). $3.00.

International Control of Aviation. By Kenneth W. Colegrove. Published by World Puce Foundation, 40 Mt. Vernon St., Boston 8, Mass. (1930). $2.50.