Published Date

August 1, 1945

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 37: Will There Be a Plane in Every Garage? (1945)

Until Orville Wright took off from the earth in 1903 and twelve seconds later landed 120 feet from where he started, the world’s most successful aerial navigator was a joker by the name of Prince Houssain. The prince could go wherever he wanted through the air—and that was more than the Wright brothers or other early birdmen could do.

Of course Houssain, like the Wrights, had a very special contraption to carry him through space. It was a magic carpet, and in 1,001 Arabian nights there was only one of its kind. In the light of day there might not have been even that many.

No longer, however, is flying through the air the exclusive privilege of either an imaginary Arabian prince or a couple of intrepid American inventors. At Kittyhawk the Wight brothers unlocked the sky to all kinds of heavier-than-air flying military airplanes, commercial craft, and personal planes that anyone can fly.

Ten years after the war,1 if Prince Houssain were still around to take a Sunday joy ride, he would probably have to look sharp to avoid a collision with one of the many planes we are told will crowd the skyways.

A great deal of thought is being given to these airplanes of the future—especially to the private planes. Airplane manufacturers, airplane designers, and other interested persons are putting their minds together on the question of what kind of planes to put on the market once civilian production starts again.

In all this discussion there is one missing person—the person for whom all the planning is being done. YOU are that person. If you could be on hand the others would fire questions like these at you:

Are you going to fly yourself after the war? For business? For pleasure? In a plane of your own or in one you will rent? How much money are you going to put into a plane? How many seats do you want in it? Do you want high performance or maximum safety? Are you serious enough about this to have read up on the subject? Have you figured out how an airplane will fit into your personal life? Have you had any experience in owning or operating a small plane? Have you ever belonged or would you belong to a flying club? Are other members of your family interested in flying?

Are you going to own a plane?

The automobile is one of the most useful machines ever in-vented by man and it can perform a number of daily services that make life easier. Is the private plane in its present stage of development a very useful article for most people to own? A plane can take you from St. Louis to Buffalo, but it cannot be used for taking the kids to school, your wife to the grocery store, or you to your job. In other words, the private plane has the automobile to reckon with. Until private planes can do everything that automobiles can do, and fly as well, they will not displace the automobile. Not even the most enthusiastic advocate expects they will.

But the war has given America a close-up view of the modern airplane. In addition to the considerable number of private plane owners, there are 75,000 with civilian pilot licenses who do not own planes, and 3,000,000 young men engaged in some way in military and naval aviation—nearly 300,000 of them with pilot training. Not only all these, but many others, including some of the older generation, will want to learn to fly and have the thrill of owning and operating their own planes.

How much will it cost?

We can quote figures on the prewar cost of buying and operating a private plane. One estimate indicates that it cost about $1,000 to operate a $2,000 airplane for 100 hours a year. Assuming the life of the plane to be about seven years, it would cost you a minimum of $9,000 if you keep the plane that long. For that amount of money you could consecutively buy and operate three or four good automobiles over the same period of time.

We have only guesses to go by for the price of and demand for airplanes of the future. The predictions range anywhere from 20,000 to 450,400 private planes within five or ten years after the war. At a guess, most airplanes for personal use will sell for about $2,000. By comparison, there was a prewar market for some 50,000 Cadillac automobiles a year—costing $2,000 apiece. If the price comes down to $1,000, the market will of course expand—nobody knows just how much.

Whether you are going to have a private plane after the war depends probably on whether airplane designers and engineers are able to build a safe, reliable plane that you can operate; whether you will have money enough to buy and operate it; whether your community has landing facilities for private planes; and, most important of all, whether you can make practical use of an airplane.

Next section: What Will the Postwar Planes Be Like?

  1. This pamphlet was in press when Japan surrendered. Lines appropriate during the war have not been reconverted to Peace. []