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IN Western Europe air transport is inherently international in its nature. The airplane and airship are essentially long distance vehicles. The terminals between which they operate are usually well outside of the cities that they serve, and the loss of time at the beginning and end of a voyage when travel is by air is much more serious than when the railroad is used. Except on such unusual routes as those across the Channel and those connecting Copenhagen with other points, the airplane does its passengers but little good over distances of less than two hundred and fifty miles. For a real demonstration of its possibilities the distance should be considerably greater than that. As for mail and express transport, which may be quite as important as the carriage of passengers -- and in this country up to the present time has been much more so -- the distance should be a full thousand miles to permit the airplane to compete successfully with a highly organized railroad system. For the airship the economical and practically expedient length of journey is still longer. As a result, no single country in Europe, except Russia, is large enough to build up solely within its own borders a really extensive or important system of air lines. The vast majority of the lines now operated in Europe touch at least two countries, and in some cases an intimately connected group of services makes it possible for passengers to cross half a dozen international boundaries in a single day's flight.
The manifest importance of aerial navigation in the sphere of international relations attracted the attention of students at a time when the airplane was still incapable of flying more than a few miles, and when the only aircraft in common use was the free balloon drifting at the will of the wind. At that early day, and indeed for a number of years afterwards, there were two directly clashing opinions on the legal position of air space. One view, that of most of the British writers on the subject, upheld the claim of complete sovereignty over the air, at all heights, within national boundaries. The other, commanding the adherence of a number of Continental students of international law, declared the air, like the sea, to be free to all nations, -- freedom beginning either above the bounds of actual use from the ground or above some arbitrary altitude specified by analogy with the three-mile limit at sea. The experience of the war removed the question from the realm of theory. Once the potentialities of aircraft had become apparent, the assertion of sovereignty over the air, dictated by vital considerations of national self-preservation, was accepted by common consent.
Although there was no questioning of the rights of sovereignty, it was clear that an intolerable situation would result if every nation were left free to prohibit foreign air traffic or to control it as it willed, subject to no restraint by international agreement. Out of this general recognition grew the International Air Navigation Convention, drawn up at Paris on October 13th, 1919, and signed by the representatives of thirty-two nations, including the United States. A number of these, however, did not subsequently ratify the Convention, and in our own case it was never even submitted to the Senate.
In that basic charter of non-military flying the position taken as regards sovereignty is explicit. In the first sentence of the first article it is declared that "Every Power has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the air space above its territory." The need of concessions to facilitate commercial flying, however, is dealt with in wording equally plain. "Each contracting state undertakes in time of peace to accord freedom of innocent passage above its territory to the aircraft of the other contracting states, provided that the conditions laid down in the present Convention are observed" (Art. II). And, again, "Every aircraft of a contracting state has the right to cross the air space of another state without landing" (Art. XV). As between the signatories, there has been general coöperation in carrying out those provisions, the occasional international incidents which have resulted from misunderstandings or from forced landings or other misadventures in flight having been too trivial for discussion. The only moves towards the control or restriction of air traffic for national ends have been through the passage of laws, similar to the coastwise shipping law of the United States, reserving to native enterprise the right to the carriage of passengers and goods between internal points.
The International Convention, in addition to defining the legal status of the air, makes detailed provision for the supervision of aircraft and their operations. The one thing is a necessary consequence of the other. No state can undertake to give freedom of passage above its territories and above the heads of its citizens to foreign aircraft unless there is assurance that they will be of safe design and properly maintained and under competent pilotage. It is therefore required (Art. XI) that "Every aircraft engaged in international navigation shall . . . be provided with a certificate of airworthiness, issued or rendered valid by the state whose nationality it possesses." There is a similar requirement with reference to the licensing of pilots and other members of the navigating personnel, and the rules under which certificates of airworthiness and licenses are to be granted are made by each state in accord with general specifications laid down and subject to periodic modification by the International Commission for Air Navigation. That body, placed under the nominal direction of the League of Nations, and including representatives of every nation that has ratified the Convention, meets at regular intervals and maintains a permanent office and staff in Paris. Additional safeguards, in the form of rules for the lights and signals to be carried on board of aircraft and for the operation of machines when there is danger of collision, are incorporated in the annexes of the Convention.
The International Convention was written as an instrument of peace, but it was drawn up in conjunction with the Treaty of Versailles and its companion documents, and the intent to keep German flying closely under control is manifest. "No contracting state shall, except by a special and temporary authorization, permit the flight over its territory of an aircraft which does not possess the nationality of a contracting state" (Art. V). That provision might be defended as guarding against a state remaining outside the Convention and making separate agreements with those of its neighbors from whom it had something to gain through air commerce, while barring passage above its territory to the aircraft of other states. In practice, however, the exclusion of Germany from among the contracting states, the German Government never having been invited to accede to the Convention, has made Art. V unworkable. To take only a single instance, air traffic with Germany was of vital interest to the Netherlands, and while Art. V remained in force that traffic could be maintained only at the expense of Dutch adhesion to the Convention. Dutch inability to comply with the terms of the document and consequent unwillingness to ratify would, under a strict interpretation, have made Dutch airplanes in turn outlaws within the Allied countries with which, as well as with Germany, they desired to keep up services. That is but one typical case. A circle of non-ratifying states tended to spread outward from Germany as a center.
It is the highly special position of Germany in relation to commercial air transport that has lain at the root of most of the international difficulties of the last five years, and that gives the clue to several otherwise mysterious elements in the present situation.
Like so many other European troubles, the erection of barriers against European aeronautical commerce finds its origin in the Treaty of Versailles. It is with the clauses of that instrument relating especially to military aeronautics that the German aircraft industry has come into conflict, with secondary repercussions disastrous for certain commercial air lines. The military, naval, and air clauses include provision that "The armed forces of Germany must not include any military or naval air forces" (Art. 198), and that "During the six months following the coming into force of the present treaty the manufacture and importation of aircraft, parts of aircraft, engines for aircraft, and parts of engines for aircraft shall be forbidden in all German territory" (Art. 201). The six months' period so defined was subsequently extended on grounds of German non-compliance with treaty provisions and failure to surrender aeronautical equipment as required, but full freedom of rights to manufacture was regained in 1922, so far as admittedly commercial aircraft were concerned. The construction of machines for military uses is prohibited under Art. 198.
Unfortunately, the definition of a commercial aircraft is a very difficult matter. The vagueness of the distinction between certain classes of military airplanes and those intended for peaceful purposes was considered at the time of the Washington Conference for the Limitations of Armaments to be prohibitive of any attempt at limitation of the equipment for aerial warfare, and it has been quite impossible to arrive at a line of demarcation which would permit the companies operating German commercial air lines to use the equipment that they wanted to and which would at the same time satisfy Allied, especially French, demands for security against the preparation in Germany of a reserve of equipment for possible future bombing raids. The Treaty has left the Allies in a position to write their own definition of a commercial airplane and enforce it, and they not unnaturally leant towards conservatism in deciding what was needful to admit a German airplane to the commercial class. Their final decision took shape in the famous Nine Rules, which became effective on May 5, 1922, and which, with some changes introduced during the summer of 1925, still remain in force. The rules stipulate, first of all, that there shall be no construction of airplanes designed for flight without a pilot under radio control, no special provision for the mounting of guns or bombs, and no building of single passenger machines having engines with more than 60 horsepower. Those specifications relate to purely military factors, and against them no one can well complain, if the abolition of the German air force is accepted as a fait accompli.
On the other rules there is more argument. German airplanes must not be designed to rise to a height of over 13,000 feet above sea level. That limitation is of comparatively little importance, as ability to climb to great heights is secured only at the expense of economy. Speed was originally limited to 106 miles an hour at a height of 6,500 feet, a figure subsequently increased to 112 miles an hour at the same altitude, which, for the typical airplane, is equivalent to about 116 miles at sea level. For many commercial routes that is ample, but where the airplane has to come into direct competition with a good rail service a somewhat higher speed is desirable. German protest against the limitation of speed has been vigorous and frequent.
The original set of rules limited the amount of fuel that could be provided for to about enough for four hours' flight at full power, while the total weight of pilot and crew and passengers and freight carried could not exceed 1,320 pounds. The last restriction, introduced of course to prevent the building of machines large enough to be converted for heavy bombing, laid the most serious burden on German operators of aircraft. In response to their protest a considerable concession was made in 1925, the load limit being raised to 1,980 pounds, permitting the carriage of a pilot and eight passengers and three or four hundred pounds of baggage and express. Even that concession keeps the Germans from competing on equal terms with the French and British companies, which operate some machines on which the weight of the "pay load" and crew totals over 2,500 pounds, with types very much larger in early prospect.
The first result of all this was a hegira of German airplane companies onto unregulated soil. Although they keep up factories in Germany, nearly all of the important constructors have branches across the borders in Italy, Denmark, Sweden, or Lithuania, where they can build airplanes of any size or speed without hindrance or inquiry into their activities.
Aside from such a removal, a further possible German answer was clear, and it was promptly made. The aerial navigation clauses of the Treaty of Versailles (Arts. 313 to 320) had given to the aircraft of the Allied and Associated Powers "full liberty of passage and landing over and in the territory and territorial waters of Germany," as well as most-favored-nation treatment in respect of internal commercial air traffic, but all obligations laid on Germany by those clauses expired on January 1st, 1923, when full liberty of action in respect of foreign aircraft was regained. The German Government was prompt to provide that foreign machines flying over German territory should comply with the same restrictions laid upon native aircraft. Since none of the French and British commercial airplanes at that time fell within the bounds marked out by the Nine Rules, all being either too large or too fast (in fact it would hardly have been possible to build an airplane which would fit those rules and still qualify for the French subsidy), the effect was to prohibit Allied air traffic across Germany.
That this was a very serious matter becomes clear from a glance at a relief or contour map of Europe. The Alps, running in a crescent from within ten miles of the shore of the Mediterranean to near the shore of the Adriatic, cut off the Italian penisula from the rest of Europe as far as aerial navigation is concerned, except for airplanes able to operate safely across a rough and jagged terrain six thousand feet or more high -- an accomplishment of which truly commercial airplanes, operating with reasonable economy, are hardly capable. Express may be carried over mountains by air, and the United States Air Mail is flown across ranges much more than six thousand feet high, but the hazard for passenger transport is too great. For aerial transport, then, as for the march of armies, the Alps isolate Italy; and Italy has no landplane commerce as a result. If to the Alpine barrier the whole German Republic be added as a forbidden land, the combined topographic and political obstacle extends clear from the Mediterranean and the Adriatic to the North Sea and the Baltic, and cuts Europe definitely into two parts. If French airplanes are unable to fly across German territory, no practical route to the east is open to them, unless they are so safeguarded against forced landings that they can strike out directly over the open sea from the Dutch Coast to the Danish, and again from Southern Sweden to the Polish Corridor, the latter flight covering a distance of 160 miles over open water. Given a free passage over Germany, on the other hand, there lies open a route across level fields and plains for virtually the whole width of Europe, and the trip from Bordeaux by way of Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Moscow to Kazan or other cities in Central Russia can be made without ever crossing land more than fifteen hundred feet above sea level. Germany holds the key.
One French company has been in a good position to realize the importance of that key. The Compagnie Internationale de Navigation Aérienne, formerly the Compagnie Franco-Roumaine, has engaged since 1920 in the maintenance of air transport between France and the countries of the Little Entente and other eastern states. Starting with a line from Paris to Warsaw via Strasbourg and Prague, there was added in 1922 an extension from Prague to Vienna and Budapest, a branch extended in the next year to Belgrade, Bucharest, and (only intermittently, because of political difficulties) to Constantinople. Negotiations were entered into with the Angora Government for a continuation to the Turkish capital, and a few flights into Anatolia have been made. The stretch from Strasbourg to Prague, however, ran for two hundred miles across German territory. Airplane engines are not wholly immune from trouble, and there were occasional forced landings on the aerodrome at Nuremberg and elsewhere in Germany. Through 1922, with the German Government bound by the Air Navigation clauses of the Treaty, no serious inconvenience resulted. But in 1923 full liberty of action was regained by Germany, and during the latter part of that year and during 1924 each forced landing resulted in confiscation of the airplane and technical arrest of the pilots, who, however, were promptly sent on their way. Fifteen such incidents happened in all. Attempts on the part of the company to reach an understanding with the German authorities were in vain, and as the continued passage of the French airplanes across German soil without landing led to growing tensity of feeling, with consequent likelihood of the detention of pilots and passengers and the confiscation of mail and express, the attempt to run the service by the original route was abandoned. In the spring of 1925 a new route was laid out, skirting the German frontier by way of Basle, Zurich, and Innsbruck. Three months of trial, with one or two bad accidents, proved the virtual impossibility of regular operation across the Alps and the Tyrol, and during the latter part of the past summer the service started from Prague, -- a French air line making no contact with France.
Another Franco-German incident, of a very unhappy sort, occurred during the past autumn. On September 13 Robert Thierry and Dieudonne Costes, two well-known French pilots, started from Paris with a machine loaded to the limit with fuel to attempt a non-stop flight to Bagdad. Running into fog near the Rhine, they got into a valley which rose more steeply than the heavily loaded machine could climb, and finally crashed near Freiburg. Thierry was killed and Costes slightly injured, and after his emergence from the hospital he was fined 5,000 marks for having flown across German territory in defiance of German law and for having killed fish in the stream where the airplane fell, and forbidden to return home until the sum was paid, -- an action within Germany's strict rights, but hardly a graceful one under the circumstances.
The result of this cleavage of Europe into two parts by a combination of natural and artificial obstacles has been to emphasize the absolute dependence on Germany of several of the northern countries. Aeronautically, the Baltic is a German lake. From Scandinavia it is virtually impossible to go anywhere, -- impossible certainly to build up any important system of air routes, -- without entering German territory. The Baltic States, Sweden, and Denmark have had to come to some terms whereby their aircraft could operate over German soil, and the result is that Scandinavian lines now use, almost exclusively, equipment of German design, although in some cases locally constructed. The Baltic States, with no aircraft industries of their own, lean equally heavily on Germany, and the logic of a Russian bond with Germany in matters aeronautical, even if there were no special political friendship between the two countries, would be obvious. The drive on Moscow was actually started from two directions, one French and the other German. The Germans got in first three years ago with a line from Königsberg, in East Prussia, across Lithuanian soil to the Soviet capital, a line which has functioned with exceptional regularity and success and which brings Moscow to less than twenty-four hours from Berlin and thirty-two from London. The French company had a project for an extension from Warsaw across Poland and thence to Moscow, and some progress was being made in negotiations with the Soviet officials, but the elimination of the Strasbourg-Prague link has held it up for the present.
Eastern Europe necessarily being dependent on Germany for air transport under present conditions, and the Dutch and Swiss having every reason to remain on good terms with their eastern as well as their western neighbors, the countries neutral in the late war, and those formed out of the Russian Empire, have stood aloof from the International Convention, which would have required them to forbid the air to German craft. Twenty-one states, counting the British Empire and the Dominions as seven separate entities, had formally ratified the Convention by the end of August, 1925 (Bolivia had also ratified, but subsequently withdrew the action). Twelve of the twenty-one are European, but across Northern and Central Europe there extends a bloc of non-ratifying states, including Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and all the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. (Practically all of these countries, however, have passed laws regarding airworthiness, qualifications of pilots, and other matters affecting safety of flight which closely correspond to the terms of the Convention, and with the exception of Germany they even mark their airplanes with five-letter symbols corresponding in form to those used in ratifying countries.)
The situation is in a fair way to be cleared up considerably by the amendment of Art. V, in accordance with a protocol approved by the International Commission on October 25, 1922, and submitted to the member states for ratification. This amendment provides that the original provisions of Art. V, by which contracting states undertook to forbid their air to the aircraft of all non-contracting states, shall not apply in cases in which a special convention has been concluded with the state in which the aircraft is registered. Such a special convention, however, must not infringe the rights of the other contracting parties and must conform in its terms to the rules laid down in the Convention and its annexes. Special agreements must also be filed with the International Commission in order that they may be made a matter of general knowledge.
This opens the road for the states neutral in the late war to deposit their ratifications and still keep up their air traffic with Germany, and conversations among them have led to a tentative agreement that when the amendment is finally adopted adhesion to the Convention by Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland will be simultaneously announced. Adoption of the amendment seems near at hand, as it has been formally accepted by every ratifying state except Jugoslavia. Germany will still hold the whip-hand over trans-European flying, however, and it is to be hoped that German ratification of the Convention, presumably accompanied by some further relaxation of the control over German civil flying, will be among the beneficent results of Locarno. When Germany is admitted to the League her accession to the Air Navigation Convention ought to be not only invited but insisted upon. Others have more to gain from it than she herself.
As for ourselves, we too are in a somewhat anomalous position. Canada has ratified the Convention already, and flight across our northern border is possible only by special arrangement and with advance notification to Ottawa in each case. As flying becomes more common, intolerable inconvenience will result unless the Senate has taken the action necessary to enrol the United States among the nations participating in the Convention or unless, as a conceivable but somewhat awkward alternative, a fresh start be made on this side of the Atlantic and a very similar document drawn up to control pan-American air traffic. There appears to be nothing to gain and much to lose by such an arrangement.
Since practically every European Government offers subsidies to commercial air lines, the development of air transport is largely under Government direction. The obvious relation between foreign and colonial policy and commercial flying has been exemplified in the great "stunt" flights of the last few years, and in the activities of the numerous aeronautical missions despatched by the European Powers to various parts of the world.
The flights which form landmarks in British aeronautical history have been flights to and from the Dominions, and especially, in recent years, to Egypt and thence to the East or South. British pilots have flown from Newfoundland to Ireland, from England to Australia, and from England to South Africa, and a regular "all-British" airway from Cairo to the Cape was laid out in 1920. The propaganda of the Germans has specialized in demonstrations in Russia and the Baltic States. The French might have reached the same areas via Switzerland and Poland, for the passage of the Alps is easily feasible for occasional demonstration flights, especially by military machines, but they have shown relatively little interest in that direction. Their efforts have been concentrated in French Africa and in the Near and Middle East. The dream of a line to Dakar was gradually brought to practical fruition through several years of effort, and a year ago two giant machines, operated by military personnel, were despatched from Paris on a flight to Lake Tchad, some fifteen hundred miles south of the Algerian Coast. That expedition came to grief, but many remarkable flights into and across the desert have been successful before and since.
The "stunt" flight is often a trail-blazer for the air line. The most notable development in air transport under French control in the last four years has been the constant increase of activity in Northern Africa. British enthusiasm for Central African operations cooled after the preliminary experiments of 1920, but interest in flying eastward from Egypt is as keen as ever. The Royal Air Force has run an official mail service between Cairo and Bagdad for a considerable length of time, and Impérial Airways, now controlling British commercial operations in Europe, have been given a contract to operate a regular service between Cairo and Karachi, in Western India, on subsidy.
It is in Russia, in the Near and Middle East, and in South America that international rivalries have been and are likely to continue keenest and most direct. In Russia the Germans have scored a point, as already mentioned, for the line between Königsberg and Moscow, partly controlled by German capital, is officially backed by the Soviet Government. The Deutsche Aero-Lloyd holds the German end of that enterprise, while their great rivals, the Junkers group, have furnished machines to companies holding concessions for a number of short lines in the Ukraine and the Caucasus. There have been constant reports also of negotiations by the Junkers interest for a contract to run on two routes of vastly greater importance, from Moscow to Pekin and from Moscow to Teheran, the former following the line of the Trans-Siberian railway throughout most of its length. Experimental flights have actually been made on both routes, and the German airplanes have several times appeared in the skies of Persia and Turkestan.
In Russia, as elsewhere, the German air line combines organize local subsidiary companies, instead of taking control in their own names. Local interest and local capital are enlisted and native personnel employed, while the parent group furnishes the airplanes, advises in the operation, and in most cases holds a controlling portion of the stock. Thus Junkers Luftverkehr A. G., with headquarters at Dessau, has seventeen subsidiaries, seven of them of non-German nationality, while the Deutsche Aero-Lloyd, in addition to its share in the Deutsche Russische Luftverkehrs of Moscow, has a subsidiary in Danzig and seven in various states of southern and western Germany.
In the Near and Middle East three nations are involved, and the contest is more active. The German approach, as just outlined, is from the north by way of Turkestan and the Caucasus. The Drang nach Osten has taken to the air, and Bagdad, once the goal of German hopes, lies within easy reach, by a single flight, of cities in which Junkers airplanes have already established themselves. The nature of the French approach to the East has likewise been indicated, as have the obstacles to the present maintenance of a service across Europe and Asia Minor. Both French and German interests have been active at Angora, and both French and German commercial airplanes have been flown there (even since the definite termination of the French air service to that city) by way of exploration and for moral effect. The British interest being in Egypt, Iraq, and India, rather than in Asia Minor, and British influence at Angora being at a low ebb after the Graeco-Turkish war, the selection of a southern route from Cairo to Bagdad and thence along the Persian Gulf was logical for them. An extension northward by seaplane, from Cairo across the Mediterranean and perhaps to the head of the Adriatic, may be foreseen. Angora, Bagdad, and Teheran are the bridgeheads from which the air transport lines of the three countries most interested face the nearer East.
Governmental interest in aeronautical penetration of the Near and Middle East has of course been primarily political. It has been rooted in the desire of the several European Powers to make an impressive display of their enterprise in developing a new art, and also in a wish on the part of each of those Powers for avenues of transportation easily and quickly conveying their mails and their officials and commercial travelers into districts judged of political or commercial importance, -- avenues of transportation which can be shaped to their own convenience.
On the other hand, in the third of the disputed territories, South and Central America, the contest is more economic than political. Here the important element is the desire to develop an export market for aircraft.
In South America, as in Russia, the Germans were the first to become active after the war, and have remained more continuously on the scene than have the representatives of any other nation. The Societa Colombo-Alemán de Transportos Aéreos, more commonly known as the Scadta, was founded in 1921 under the benevolent aegis of the ubiquitous Junkers, and has been at work ever since carrying passengers along the Magdalena river and its tributaries. No air service could elect to compete with existing means of transport under physical conditions more ideal than those in a country where most of the travel must be by mule team or in small steamers which often have to tie up at night. One of the company's routes has reduced the time required to cover 625 miles from ten days to eight and a half hours, while another has made a reduction from four days to seventy minutes. Several hundred tons of mail and some two thousand passengers have been carried in four years. The German and Austrian capitalists controlling the line have made proposals for an extension northward to Central America and to the United States by way of the Yucatan peninsula and Havana, and one of their machines has actually been flown over that route. The company's plan, as presented to the Post Office Department, seems to contemplate the formation of an American company, the use of German airplanes continuing, although there seems to be nothing to prevent the present Colombian company from making its operations pan-American in scope if the capital needed for the expansion can be raised in Germany or elsewhere. German interests also stand behind a short line in the northern part of Argentina, and there is prospect of further expansion there.
There has also been intermittent discussion of the project of maintaining an airship service between Spain and Brazil, Zeppelin ships being used. As the construction of airships at the Zeppelin factory at Friedrichshafen is prohibited by one of the Allies' rules, however, and as a license to build ships under the Zeppelin patents has now been taken by an American company which has employed a number of the German engineers who might otherwise have been available for and interested in the Spanish scheme, that project seems unlikely to materialize.
British business interests in South America has shown little concern for air transport as yet. Two years ago the Argentine Government subsidized a line running across the river Plate, between Buenos Aires and Montevideo, under British management, but operation was discontinued very shortly.
French efforts in the continent to the south of us have been somewhat different from those of other countries. There has been no attempt to enter into direct rivalry with Junkers, whose sway in Colombia is as unchallenged as around the Baltic. France looks farther ahead to the day when Europe and South America will be directly linked by air, and when French control of air transport across the South Atlantic will be an automatic consequence of the route which must then be adopted. The distance from French West Africa to the easternmost point of Brazil is shorter than that across the narrowest part of the North Atlantic. Allowing for islands which might serve to break the journey, just as the Azores were used as a re-fueling point in the first flight across the Atlantic, the longest stretch to be covered in a single flight is that from Bissago, in West Africa, to St. Paul's Rocks, a distance of a thousand miles, -- a very long airplane flight, but one not absolutely beyond the bounds of possibility for an air mail line if the need became sufficiently strong. But the project for the immediate future, formed as a result of the visit of a semi-official mission to South America, is simply to supplement the airplane service between France and Dakar by a service under French control between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, the normal oceanic transport being used to bridge the gap. It is claimed that the time from France to Buenos Aires can thus be cut from twenty-one days to thirteen and a half, while the operation of ships between Dakar and Pernambuco, with transfer to the airplane at that point, would further reduce the time to ten days. The intention is to start operations on the South American section in 1926 or 1927. If the plan is carried out even to the point of connecting Rio and Buenos Aires, it is natural to expect as an almost inevitable consequence that the same company would undertake extensions to the important inland cities, instead of leaving that for the Germans.
Both to feel out the opportunity for French air lines and to demonstrate French products and encourage export business in aircraft in a new field, Paris has sent several official or semiofficial missions into the Western Hemisphere. In addition to the one just mentioned, which was promoted by the company most active in air transport in Northern Africa, an expedition of a more purely official and military nature, including among its members the greatest of French war-time aces, was sent into South America a few years ago, and within the past year Central America has been favored with a similar visit, arranged by the French Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce with governmental support. It is as yet too early for results to be apparent, but it has at least been made clear that French concentration on domestic aeronautical affairs and on those of the Little Entente is not so complete as to obscure France's vision of possible opportunities in other parts of the world.
It is perhaps unnecessary to remark that American activities below the Rio Grande have received no such official stimulation. There has been a naval mission in Brazil, including an aeronautical officer among its personnel, and a naval aviation mission has also gone from the United States to Peru, but if there has been any promotion of commercial operation as a result it has been purely incidental. Several mining companies under American control have made use of airplanes for transporting passengers and goods, but the airplanes in some cases have been old and unsuitable for the work, and there has been no regular operation of lines open to the public for any appreciable length of time. Already we find ourselves in the curious situation of having a German company knocking at the gate and offering to handle special delivery mail between the United States and the Canal Zone and points further south, and if the Latécoère Company makes as much progress in the next three years as in the last three we shall see the great cities of the east coast of South America much more quickly accessible from Paris than from New York.