Chronicle of Flight

Flying Dangers

Early aircraft were extremely difficult to fly.
Early aircraft were extremely difficult to fly.
Wright State University Archives

­Th­e quest for perfection and the attention to detail is necessitated by the danger inherent in flying. Although danger is no doubt part of the appeal of flying, it is ever present and must be acknowledged by participants. Fortunately, as aircraft have be­come intrinsically more dangerous because they are flying higher, faster, farther, and more often, safety records have improved remarkably. Such advancement is hard earned and expensive, but the benefits are well worth the effort.

As safety and performance have improved, aviation has become more fun. The earliest aircraft were extremely difficult to fly; the pilots had to literally wrestle them about the sky, using muscle to overcome problems of trim and stability. Over time, aircraft were made easier to fly, and labor saving devices such as trim-tabs, autopilots, and improved instrumentation were installed. Aviators began using aircraft for entertainment purposes: racing, flying cross-country, aerobatics, or simply lazing about the sky on a pretty afternoon. Although aircraft never became as inexpensive as the automobile, the cost of flying has been held somewhat in check by the availability of good used aircraft and of home-built aircraft for those skilled and per­servering enough to create them.

While enjoyment in personal aircraft has increased, the concept of having fun on an airliner has been largely eroded by the conversion of airline travel to a mass-transit system. The advent of terrorism and the security precautions necessary to combat it have further diminished the pleasure of airline travel. Nonetheless, no other form of transportation compares when it comes to time and money saved.