THE first international air services were inaugurated in 1919. Twenty years later the independent states or major colonial possessions which did not have regular air connections with their neighbors could be numbered on the fingers of one hand. A large part of that service is still in active operation, especially in the Western Hemisphere. But it will be enormously expanded and much of it will be remade in the years immediately following the present war. If there is ever to be a fundamental change in the legal and political framework which had gradually developed in the last twenty years the time for it will be when we shift from war to postwar conditions. We must decide now whether change is really desirable and, if so, consider what new forms might be substituted for the old ones.

The basic political features of the air transport situation before the war were as follows:

(1) Each state maintained full sovereign rights in the air space above its territory.

(2) Most states (though by no means all) had adhered to one of the two major international conventions governing air transportation, that of Paris (1919) and that of Havana (1928).

(3) The parties to these conventions undertook to give certain general privileges to the aircraft of other ratifying states; and those which ratified the Paris convention undertook to observe uniform practice in such matters as traffic rules and standards for licensing pilots and aircraft.

(4) In practical application, the conventions created no rights to operate international air transport services.

(5) Such international services were established either as a result of bilateral agreements between governments, or when interested airlines themselves secured concessions to operate into and within foreign territories.

Since 1918 little has been heard of the argument that the air should be free above a certain altitude, in the sense in which the seas are free beyond territorial limits. No one now seriously questions the fact that the full sovereignty of every state extends to the air space above its territory. All international agreements have taken it for granted. No one is likely to question it in future, unless as part of a general review of the privileges of sovereignty and of the possibility of abridging them by general agreement or of surrendering some of them into the keeping of an international organization. "Freedom of the air" as now conceived would be merely an agreement among sovereign states to restrict the exercise of their recognized sovereign rights.

The International Convention for Air Navigation, signed at Paris on October 13, 1919, had an effective membership in 1938 of 33 states.[i] The Pan American Convention, concluded at Havana in 1928, was ratified by the United States, Mexico, Chile and Ecuador, all the States of Central America except Salvador and all the Caribbean states (excluding the colonies of European Powers) except Cuba. Few of the larger South American countries and none of those bordering the Caribbean on the south ever adhered to either convention.

Both of these conventions have been interpreted and applied in the sense most unfavorable to the free expansion of international air services. Both permitted a reasonably free movement of privately-owned aircraft in the territories of member states, as well as of commercial aircraft not engaged in a regular scheduled service; but both have been interpreted so as to deny a corresponding freedom to the operators of regular transport services, thereby making the inauguration of regular services dependent upon special agreement. In the case of the Paris convention, a certain ambiguity in the text was resolved so as to limit the freedom of air transport. The Havana convention was less ambiguous. To most readers it seemed to say clearly that air transport should be free within the territories of the ratifying states. But it was not so applied.

Efforts were made from time to time to secure a more liberal interpretation of the Paris convention or to modify it into a more liberal form. From the first, the British had favored a large degree of freedom in the operation of air services into and through all countries. So had the Dutch, who were like the British in possessing a small home territory, distant colonial territories and an established tradition as carriers. Whenever the Government of the United States had occasion to make a declaration it supported freedom of operation.

In June 1929 a conference was held in Paris to consider revising the Paris convention so as to permit greater freedom of operations. It was attended by representatives of the United States, Germany and certain other states which had not ratified the convention, as well, of course, as by representatives of the adherent states. Only the United States, the British Empire, the Netherlands and Sweden favored the change. In opposition were 27 states (including Brazil, Cuba, Chile, Haiti, Uruguay and Venezuela from the Western Hemisphere). Even the modest proposition that the ratifying states bind themselves not to prohibit the establishment of international transport services except on "reasonable grounds" (they themselves presumably being their own judges of reasonableness) mustered only 11 out of 30 votes.

Since no general privilege of international operation was recognized, there remained two procedures by which international services might be established -- by bilateral agreement and by unilateral concession. The former has been the prevailing rule in Europe, the latter in the Western Hemisphere south of the Canadian border. Bilateral agreements varied widely in their provisions. In the case of two major Powers they customarily provided for complete equality of privilege with respect to a particular route, which would then be operated by airlines of both states. Where a major and a minor Power were concerned, the commoner practice was for the more powerful to receive the privilege of operating a through service between the principal centers of the two countries while the smaller received the privilege of operating certain international services of a more local character.

Sometimes the agreements fixed the maximum number of schedules to be operated daily or weekly by each carrier (as in the case of the transatlantic services between the United States and the United Kingdom and the United States and France), but more often that was left for the carriers themselves. In fact, one can hardly appraise the significance of the inter-governmental agreements without at the same time allowing for the effect of the inter-company agreements, which usually were secret. Since most European airlines were in effect the agents of their governments, it was by agreements between them that rate and service wars were avoided. The extreme form of such inter-company arrangements was the "pool," which involved the distribution of total traffic revenues in accordance with some agreed ratio. Pools were particularly favored by the Germans, the French and the Swedes. The British shunned them.

Most of the international services to which American airlines have been a party have been authorized by concessions obtained directly by the carrier [ii] from the government concerned, but there were exceptions. The United States Government has had agreements with Great Britain (1935) and France (1939) covering transatlantic air services, and with Canada (1939 and 1940) covering all air transport services across the border. Under the agreement with Britain, which remains in force until 1950, a designated carrier of each country may operate two schedules per week between the United States and the United Kingdom.

By 1939 the process of reciprocal exchange through bilateral agreement had developed so far in Europe that there was a close approximation to general freedom of passage. Although Germany was generally recognized to be holding the Damoclean sword of war over all her neighbors, German aircraft were being welcomed on daily services to the airports of the United Kingdom and most countries on the Continent. If it was considered dangerous to let the transport aircraft of potential enemies fly over your territory, and if it was that presumed danger which had brought about the defeat of a general agreement conceding the natural right of passage, the course taken failed to accomplish its purpose. The aircraft of potential enemies, and of all other states, were overhead at all hours.

On this side of the Atlantic, Pan American Airways or Pan American-Grace Airways had concessions to operate into every one of the American Republics and into most of the South American and Caribbean colonies of the European states. The case of the United States and Canada is exceptional in that the length of the border and the grouping of many large cities close to it on either side make necessary a number of distinct international services. By an agreement entered into December 3, 1940, these were so allocated as to avoid any direct duplication.[iii]

For the future, the following new alternative procedures appear possible:

(1) Air transport might be operated internationally, either through a world monopoly or through a number of companies representing groups of nations interested in particular areas.

(2) There might be general agreement on a body of principles defining in general terms the air transport privileges to be enjoyed by all countries. (They might go so far as to convey to every country the right to carry passengers and goods between any two points in the world; or the privileges conveyed might be much less extensive.)

(3) Air transport might be conducted by privately or governmentally owned airlines, bearing national flags but operating subject to an international control and receiving from an international agency the certificate that gave them the right to conduct international services.

Alternatively, of course, bilateral bargaining might continue as in the past.


Proposals for the international operation of airlines first received serious attention in 1932 when the French delegation to the Disarmament Conference proposed the internationalization of civil aviation as a measure of security against the possible misuse of civil air fleets. Specifically, the French proposal was that international civil air transport services should be entrusted to continental, inter-continental or inter-colonial organizations which would operate them under the auspices of the League of Nations. Orders for the necessary equipment would be allocated among the aircraft-building states in proportion to their industrial capacity rather than with a view to securing the equipment, regardless of its source, which would permit the most economical and efficient operation. A few of the Continental European delegations favored the scheme but it received little support from people actively connected with air transport. These denounced it with vehemence, perhaps less because it would remove national characteristics from the airlines than because it might entail governmental direction and the restriction or elimination of private enterprise.[iv]

Now that there has been another war and the world has seen what the bomber can do, the aims which the French proclaimed a dozen years ago, often to deaf ears or impatient audiences, will find new advocates. Looking back on the years from 1931 to 1939, many will proclaim the indivisibility of peace. Already the proposal to deprive civil aviation of all national quality has been revived, and it has found a surprising measure of support in Britain. Journals of such importance as the Times and the Economist have favored as much internationalization as can be obtained in the face of anticipated American opposition. Labour Party spokesmen are also favorable. In general, Conservatives are opposed, seeing in the development of air transport under British control an influence for the unification of the Empire. The opposition of those professionally engaged in aeronautics is (with isolated individual exceptions) vigorous. The British Government has taken no position, but seems likely at least to give the possibilities of internationalization serious and respectful study. Even those who dismiss it as impossible on a world-wide scale often hope that some consolidation of interests in Europe may avert the rival operation of 15 or 20 companies with the active backing of as many governments.

In the United States the proposal has not aroused any such interest. Vice-President Wallace has sponsored it, but without attracting much response. American operators and the manufacturers of aircraft would certainly oppose it, as they would any scheme that was likely to bring air operations more directly into the hands of government, whether national or international.


If we intend establishing any general principles defining a natural right to participate in air commerce we shall do this most easily as a part of a world convention on air navigation. After the war there will be a plain need for machinery to insure uniformity in aerial rules of the road and some other matters. Either the Paris convention of 1919 will be extensively recast or it will be replaced by a new instrument taking account of experience on both sides of the Atlantic. Some specification as to the degree of freedom of transport operation that is to be generally conceded could be included. This would be easier than to try to build an air navigation convention on technical considerations alone and subsequently to attempt to secure general adhesion to a separate agreement outlining the right to participate in air commerce.

One general principle would establish the right of transport aircraft to make non-stop flights across the territory of foreign nations. Thus an airline that wished to operate from Sweden to Greece would have the right to cross the territory of the intervening states without special sanction.[v] A next step would be to extend the universally recognized right of non-stop passage to include stops of foreign aircraft for refueling. Such a concession, of course, would not in itself convey any right to pick up or discharge a single passenger or package.

That much, at least, should be hoped for. No country ought to claim the right to bar the passage of aircraft handling only through traffic and therefore in no way affecting its own commerce. To do so, and to refuse to let them use available ground facilities and purchase supplies, would be an outrageous exploitation of geography for purely negative and destructive purposes It would be particularly outrageous in view of the rapid contraction of the earth's surface through the development of aviation. That sort of obstructionism by countries which occupied strategic positions along important inter-continental routes was the greatest barrier to the development of international air transport between 1920 and 1938. Its recurrence should be discouraged.

If the decision were made to go still further, the next step might be a general agreement which allowed the aircraft of a member nation to discharge traffic which had originated in the metropolitan territory of that nation and to pick up traffic which would be delivered there. For example, a Canadian airline could then operate across the United States and on to the countries to the south, dropping off traffic of Canadian origin at the various points touched on the outward-bound journey and picking up Canada-bound traffic at the various points on the return. It would not be privileged, however, to handle traffic between the United States and the countries beyond. If it wished to handle traffic originating in any one of those other countries and terminating in another it would have to secure the right to do so by special agreements with the governments immediately concerned.

A likely limitation will be the reservation of cabotage rights. National companies thus will have the sole right to handle traffic which both originates and terminates within the national territory. The United States insists on this in its coastwise shipping laws and in analogous provisions in the Air Commerce Act of 1926. Many other countries have taken the same position, and the practice is likely to become even more general in the future. Before the war, Continental airlines operating into England were allowed to carry passengers between British points. This seems likely to be changed, and, in addition, cabotage may be reserved not only for traffic in the United Kingdom but for traffic throughout the British Commonwealth as a whole, which would mean that all traffic both originating and terminating within the Commonwealth would be transported by airlines of the Commonwealth. Some British critics challenge the wisdom of such a policy, but it has two obvious appeals -- the economic one that it would provide a substantial "home market" for British air transport, and the political one that it would draw the parts of the Commonwealth together into a single self-sustaining air bloc.

Much talk has been heard about "spheres of influence" as a basis for distributing postwar air traffic so as to avoid destructive competition. Generally the term implies that the globe should be divided into economic zones, and that traffic taking place entirely within one zone should be reserved for the airlines domiciled therein. Interzone traffic would be open to the enterprises of the zones involved, on terms to be determined. This device would bar American airlines from competing for traffic which both originated and terminated overseas, and might be expected similarly to bar European companies from handling traffic originating and terminating in the Americas. Complications would be presented, from our point of view, by the fact that several European states have wide-flung colonies, some of them in the Western Hemisphere. Britain, France and the Netherlands might have a claim to a domicile in every zone.

Whatever rights of entry and passage a nation may concede to foreign airlines, it will impose certain restrictions in the interest of safety. The world's ports are open to peaceful maritime commerce, but a European vessel cannot enter New York harbor without picking up a local pilot. Since it is impracticable for an airplane to pick up a pilot the captain will have to possess the qualifications of a local pilot for all the airports which he enters. He will have to know the local traffic rules, the radio procedures, the obstructions around the field, and the miscellany of detail which an airline captain must master before he is allowed to command even on a purely domestic flight. Language will often be a problem, for there must be some means of direct oral communication between the officers of an incoming aircraft and the traffic controllers in the airport tower. Such matters will be even more important in the postwar period than they have been in the past, for increasing traffic congestion will increase the necessity that every pilot shall understand local control methods and cooperate with them. The methods should be standardized to the greatest possible degree, but variations in the local terrain will always require some special local procedures.

Another proposal is sometimes heard -- that the Great Powers assume leadership in the development of international air lines either by regions or on a world-wide basis, using their economic and political power to obtain unique privileges. Occasionally it goes so far as to assume that only a small number of states will be "allowed" to participate in international air transport. Our own consciences would hardly accept such a denial of opportunity to our weaker neighbors. The fact is, however, that large expenditures and great technical ability are required to develop airlines, and that this fact by itself will limit the number of countries which operate anything except short local routes.

In one respect at least leadership will be indispensable. Safe and efficient operation will demand that air traffic rules and regulations as to air-worthiness and other matters be standardized. The necessary agreements will be secured more easily in discussions between a limited number of nations having wide experience in aircraft manufacture and operation than in an assembly of all the sovereign states of the world. No question of appreciable national advantage is likely to arise in this connection. If a limited group will frame competent technical proposals they should receive universal and grateful acceptance.


A strong motive among those who advocate the internationalization of airlines is their fear of what may happen if one of the alternative courses is adopted. British observers in particular foresee possible "cutthroat competition," with extravagant or excessive operations maintained for prestige or indirectly for military purposes and often supported by government subsidies. They fear a subsidy race, with new international jealousies and dangerous tension as the result.

Many persons have put forward substantial arguments for the complete elimination of subsidies in air transport after the war, but there is little reason to expect that this can be achieved. Many states are likely to wish to maintain air communications on certain routes which would not produce sufficient commercial revenues to cover the cost of operation. In the general interest, too, air transportation should be made available to parts of the world where commercial advantage alone would not ensure its maintenance. Countries where costs are high may also find it necessary, if they wish to serve as international air carriers, to provide subsidies to cover the cost differentials. The United States has done this for its merchant marine.

The economic effects of a real race in subsidies would be direct and immediate.[vi] The political effects would be indirect. Nations will hardly be brought to the point of war by their efforts to maintain supremacy in the field of air transport at government expense. However, the spectacle of the United Nations engaged in such efforts would be a disheartening augury of their inability to coöperate in matters more directly connected with the preservation of peace. Both the economic and political consequences ought to be averted.

Publicity would help. The very full financial reports that each American airline submits to the Civil Aeronautics Board each month have aroused astonishment and admiration in other parts of the world. The British aircraft industry has suggested that all nations agree not to allow lines to engage in international operations unless they make regular public reports as to the sources of their revenue and their expenditures.[vii] This excellent proposal might be supplemented by a universal undertaking to make public the terms of agreements between airlines and governments.

A direct limitation of subsidies by international agreement is often proposed but seems impracticable because of national differences in cost levels and because indirect subsidies may take an infinite variety of forms. Control might be applied more easily to the uneconomic consequences of subsidies, such as: (a) rate cutting; (b) maintenance of luxury services at normal rates; (c) maintenance of a volume of service beyond what the traffic actually warrants.

One way to prevent rate-cutting and other extravagant and uneconomic practices would be to create an international air commission having powers over international services analogous to those exercised by the Civil Aeronautics Board in the United States. Its functions could include the approval of tariffs, the setting of maximum limits on volume of service and the hearing of complaints regarding unethical or uneconomic competitive practices. It might even be given the power to certificate routes and determine which services should be operated by which carriers and how much competition there should be on particular routes. It might be a continuous or frequently recurrent session of representatives of the governments concerned in a particular area; or it might be a genuinely international agency, the members of which were chosen individually by some process designed to minimize the likelihood that they would turn out to be merely national advocates.

The two ideas are far apart. An agency of the first type would function through diplomatic adjustments; every issue would be resolved by compromise. If an agency of the second type lived up to its expectations, it would be a judicial body and behave as such, like the quasi-judicial agencies of national government now possessing similar powers within their respective territories. An agency whose members had no commitment or responsibility to any particular national interest would be clearly superior in theory; but to endow such a body with actual powers, as opposed to merely advisory functions, would mean a very sharp break with tradition, and any proposal of the sort would have to overcome a strong feeling against entrusting national interests to an agency composed largely of "foreigners."

Unless an international air commission of the judicial type is created there certainly will be need for frequent meetings among the aeronautical officials of states having common problems. Disputes over subsidy arrangements for competing lines can be reduced, if not averted, by frequent and frank exchanges of views among the governments concerned. Rates will have to be harmonized with conditions of service either by governmental regulation or by agreement among the carriers themselves. The need for governmental controls should not often arise. Commercial enterprises would be slow to start rate wars, for reprisals would be easy. But how the controls are to be supplied when they are needed ought to be planned in advance.


For aircraft operators, all the problems of law and diplomacy are less important than those of ground organization. They do not need a continuous right of way on the surface, but they do need bases and communication facilities on a much more elaborate scale than the layman often appreciates.

Where practicable, for example, it is advisable that there be well-equipped bases at intervals of some 500 miles along all major routes. They must have not only adequate landing surface and hangars and stores of supplies but also radio installations to give assistance in navigation and weather information directly to aircraft in flight. Additional radio stations, either off the course or at closer intervals along it, may be needed to supply supplementary aid. There must be a network of weather stations, in constant communication by wire or radio with a central point; and there must be the necessary organization to receive, map and interpret the weather reports and to distribute them.

The war has created many bases in places the very names of which were almost unknown a few years ago. Some are on mid-ocean islands which until the builders came were virtually uninhabited. Many of them have been built entirely or in part with American funds and with American material and labor in territories under the sovereignty of other nations.

Bases have been constructed during the war without reference to their postwar status. Considerations of sovereignty have not come in. Nothing, however, could be more certain to embitter the postwar relationships of nations now allied than recourse to the privileges of sovereignty to prevent civil aircraft from passing freely from one part of the globe to another. All question of wartime contributions aside, the selfishness of a state which refused to allow the aircraft of its friendly neighbors to stop and refuel at an established base -- perhaps the only one available -- would create a source of endless irritation in international relations.

Universal recognition of the general right of a civilian airplane to enter all territories, colonial or metropolitan, for refueling or other technical purposes, would eliminate all friction of that sort. This is the writer's strongest reason for hoping that a convention establishing such a right may be made and that it will receive unanimous approval. Above all, it should be approved by the United States and all the members of the British Commonwealth, thus forestalling the development of what might otherwise become a very sore spot in Anglo-American relations. The advantages would be mutual. Americans desire to use bases in British territory for intermediate stops along various American routes; and the British and Canadians desire to have free right of passage, including the right to stop for fuel, over Alaska and in the American island territories of the Pacific.

Air bases must be kept up. Radio stations must be operated; weather observations must be made; and equipment must be modernized or supplemented from time to time. Great bases have been built for wartime purposes in territories where the local government may lack the inclination or the resources to assume the upkeep and where the local population may not be technically competent to carry on the necessary services. In such cases some form of outside assistance and supervision must be assured. This may create another occasion for joint action by the major aircraft-operating countries.

Bases should be open to the traffic of all countries on equal terms and their radio and other facilities should be available to all comers, of course within the limits of the safety provisions already described. The suggestion is sometimes heard that the time is ripe to go much farther and to put the operation of air bases on a truly international footing. Unless we envisage the development of a much more centralized world organization than the League of Nations ever was, there would be no authority competent to undertake the operation of air bases in all parts of the globe. Much more restricted international associations, however, can be helpful. Already the South Pacific islands of Canton and Enderbury, which are important only as air bases, are under joint British-American control. In the course of developing air bases, the United Nations (to paraphrase Winston Churchill) have become pretty thoroughly mixed up with one another; and when the use of these bases is extended, either for international transport or international policing, or both, occasions may arise for transforming existing associations into permanent relationships.


When the present war ends, security will be the paramount consideration just as it was in 1919. It will color all the talk about the future of civil aviation and dictate many of the decisions made in that connection.

The apprehensions which a nation feels regarding the civil air fleet of a neighbor generally spring from the possibility that it can be used for espionage from the air, or that it can be converted into combat aircraft, or that it can be used to carry an airborne invasion.

The possibility of espionage will probably occasion less alarm after this war than it did 25 years ago. The arts of concealing and protecting military installations from air observation have been improved. Airlines can be required to avoid limited areas of particularly vital military significance. And the experience at Pearl Harbor, in an area which no Japanese airline had ever been allowed to approach, will remain as a reminder that there are likely to be more effective means of gathering military information than by operating a scheduled air transport service.

The fear of direct conversion of transport aircraft to combat types also belongs largely to the past. Although they have many parts in common, both types are too specialized for it to be possible to transform a transport fleet overnight into an efficient bombing unit. Operating crews are more readily interchangeable; and the closest approach to a real hazard may lie in a potential enemy's use of an air route to make pilots acquainted with targets they might later be called on to attack.

The possibility of surprise airborne attacks by civil transport airplanes cannot be entirely excluded, at least in a close-packed area like Europe. This risk will have to be taken into account by those who plan security measures for the future. But even a very limited national defense force or a comparatively weak machinery of collective security should be able to isolate and destroy the largest body of troops that any civil air fleet could convey.

There remains the possibility that an air transport fleet might be a military air force in disguise. The disguise could not be long maintained. In any case, the problem of how to deal with an aggressive air force is a main security problem of the future. Armaments must be brought into balance and made available for the use of some collective security system, so that the present United Nations may be relieved of the fear of sudden attack by the regular forces either of their present enemies or of each other. The problem of how to prevent the misuse of transport equipment or the concealment of combat aircraft under a transport guise would be solved almost incidentally.


The United States and Great Britain are likely to be the leaders in the development of international air transportation. Russia and China have great tasks ahead in building up air communications within their own vast territories. So do most of the British Dominions and the principal nations of South America. But while all these states will be conducting international operations to some extent, and sundry European states also, a very large proportion of the world's long-range international airline operations will be carried on under the American or British flag.

For that and other reasons, the relations of Great Britain and the United States in this field need special consideration. What are the interests of each? And where may they conflict?

Both countries have a tradition of advocating the free use of the air. Whenever there has been an occasion for a formal declaration of principle, both have stood for removing restrictions and enlarging opportunities. With that background, they ought to agree easily to extend to each other on a reciprocal basis the right of innocent passage and the right to stop for refueling. Both will gain more by such an agreement than by a policy of mutual exclusion. Both peoples are travellers by temperament, and in both countries many persons look forward eagerly to opportunities for swifter and more convenient movement by air.

Each nation has great ambitions in the air. Aside from the general intangibles of national pride, and from the bearing which the possession of air transport facilities has on security and trade, the mainspring of American interest in this connection is the eagerness of American youth to find a place in aviation. The same situation obviously exists in Britain. There it is supplemented by considerations of imperial unity, however, and by the necessity of depending upon the revenues of carrier services, both sea and air, to adjust the British balance of payments.

When British and American ambitions encounter one another in the air, the result may be either direct competition or the invention of some device to avoid it.

Competition might be avoided by an allocation of traffic or by an allocation of territory. The first alternative, which is the pool, has never been popular in Britain and certainly would not be in America. The idea of allocating territory, i.e., recognizing "spheres of influence," runs into difficulty along the borderlines of the proposed zones. It also runs up against the psychological difficulty that the peoples of both countries have been learning to think in global terms. They will not be patient, either in Britain or in the United States, of proposals that they be fenced off from any part of the world.

Competition may make conflict, but it need not do so. Competition between British and American airlines should be as keen, but at the same time as friendly and as coöperative in matters where coöperation is mutually advantageous, as the competition between any two of the airlines within the United States. There will be no occasion for Britain and America to parallel each other's routes throughout. But the writer believes that a substantial amount of competition will be healthful to trade and beneficial to the traveller, and further that it will cause less friction than the measures that might be devised to avoid it.

Across the North Atlantic, at any rate, parallel American and British services may be expected between New York and London. If the situation causes any more friction than arose out of the three parallel non-stop services maintained by American airlines between New York and Chicago before the war, it will be evidence of a quite needless inability of the British and American Governments to coöperate in finding fair solutions for whatever problems of scheduling, rates or alleged unfair competitive methods may arise. Most of the problems involved in the use of each other's bases would be solved by acceptance of the fundamental right of any transport aircraft to stop for refueling at any base, whatever the nationality, and by agreement on standard traffic rules and radio procedures.

An issue between the two countries might arise out of the fact that the United States is producing military transport planes at a great rate at the present time, while British production concentrates on combat types. There has been great anxiety in British aeronautical circles and in Parliament over the possibility that the end of the war will find Britain with no aircraft that could perform creditable transport service. The industry that has produced the Spitfire and the Lancaster can obviously develop transports, and good ones; but development takes time. The Deputy Prime Minister told the House of Commons on June I, however, that arrangements were being made for the development of four new transport types, to be carried forward as rapidly as their subordination to the priority of military requirements would permit.

American builders have certain advantages. They have had more specialized experience with transports than the British have had, and they have been accustomed to working closely with a number of airlines instead of a single one as in Britain. American factories will be producing transports at the end of the war. However, they will be models built mainly for military purposes and a large surplus of these will have accumulated. It is unlikely that there will be any occasion to continue the production of these models, and as a result American factories, like the British, will be making ready to build newer types. While the newer types are coming through the preparatory stages both countries will operate air routes with existing equipment, which probably will mean largely with surplus military aircraft no longer required by the Air Forces.

There should be nothing in any of these problems to make serious trouble between the two countries. If all dreams could be fulfilled, Britain and America would each like to carry the air traffic of the world. Since neither can expect to do the whole job, each must prepare to deal with the other as a friendly and cooperative competitor. The Governments must not be content merely to make a rigid initial agreement. The departments concerned with civil aviation must remain in constant communication to make certain that the agreements are working properly and to expand them or liberalize them where necessary. As in the case of many another problem of British-American relations, the underlying spirit will be more important than the legal form of the solution. The only agreement that can be genuinely satisfactory to either party in the long run will be one which will be genuinely satisfactory to both. It must leave no sting or sense of defeat to either. Both British and American air transport operations can be of benefit to both countries, and to all the rest of the world. Success in handling the air transport problem will make success easier in other fields. And any advantage that either country might seem to gain in placing political handicaps on the air transport opportunities of the other would prove to have been indeed a Pyrrhic victory.

[i] This included seven of the members of the British Commonwealth. Of the remaining 26 members, 20 were in Europe. In the Western Hemisphere, Canada, Peru, Uruguay and Argentina ratified (some others did also but withdrew subsequently).

[ii] Pan American Airways, or its subsidiaries or affiliates, in practically every instance.

[iii] The airlines of the United States traverse the border at seven points (not counting a landing in Windsor, only a few minutes by bus from Detroit); while Trans-Canada Airlines secured a privilege in which both it and the Canadian Government were particularly interested, namely to operate non-stop between New York and Toronto so as to make connection with the Canadian trans-continental line to Vancouver.

[iv] There have been a few cases of actual international operation, e.g. by the Russo-German company, Deruluft.

[v] The right of non-stop passage was contained in the United States-Canada agreement of 1939. It was stated in general terms and without reference to particular routes, although an exception was made as to non-stop services between the United States and Alaska across Canada.

[vi] It was a desire to guard against the consequences of unrestricted intra-national competition that produced the Civil Aeronautics Act in this country and analogous statutes in some others.

[vii] "The Future of British Air Transport," a memorandum by the Society of British Aircraft Constructors, June 1943, p. 6. Similar proposals had previously been made by Sir Frederick Handley-Page, long known as a builder of large aircraft.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • EDWARD WARNER, Vice Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board; Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics, 1926-1929; Editor of Aviation, 1929-1935
  • More By Edward P. Warner