THE idea of linking continents by air has always had a romantic appeal. Even before the World War students of aëronautical technology were speculating upon the conditions that would make trans-oceanic service possible. The war in fact interrupted a well-prepared American project for an experimental flight across the North Atlantic. And the Versailles Treaty had not yet been signed before a half-dozen competing camps were established in Newfoundland by contestants for the late Lord Northcliffe's prize of ten thousand pounds for the first aviator to cross the Atlantic. It was not, however, until Lindbergh's sensational flight in the summer of 1927 that the general public came to regard regular trans-oceanic air communication as within the realm of possibility.
Now the problems of intercontinental air communication are in two categories: technical and political. In the first place, it is necessary to produce an aircraft that can make the required flight, not merely as an occasional stunt performance under carefully chosen conditions, but over and over again on a regular schedule with a load that will pay for at least a part of the expense involved. Then, assuming that there is an aircraft physically able to make the flight, comes the question: Will all the various governments concerned allow the flight to take place?
In 1919 it was only the technical obstacles that seemed to matter. Could an airplane be built capable of crossing the Atlantic? That was the prime question. Political and legal difficulties were not anticipated. It was assumed that in the new and supposedly reformed postwar world a certain freedom of commerce would naturally prevail. The work at Paris had, indeed, included an International Air Navigation Convention establishing the freedom of innocent air passage in time of peace as a fundamental rule of international conduct. Private planes are thus free to voyage by air, at least in the thirty-two countries which have ratified this convention. These ratifying powers include most of Europe (except Germany, Hungary, the Baltic States and Russia), a
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