Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
In 1903, America led the world in aviation. By 1919, the United States aviation industry lagged behind other nations. Europe began commercial airlines. In the much larger United States, aviation was seemingly limited to aerial entertainment. Americans appeared to be losing interest in it.
“The Great Air Race: Death, Glory, and the Dawn of American Aviation” by John Lancaster recounts an almost forgotten 1919 transcontinental air race. Hosted by the Army Air Service and limited to military pilots, it was billed as a demonstration of capability, not a race. It attempted to revive America’s aviation industry.
The 1919 Aircraft Reliability Race was the brainchild of Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell, then America’s foremost air power advocate. He was at the height of his influence. A war hero and Director of Military Aeronautics, Mitchell organized it as a readiness demonstration. Army pilots starting in New York City and San Francisco, would cross the continent to the other city and then fly back to their origin. Half would start in each city. It was not a “race,” although the competitive instincts of the participants made it one. The pilot completing the journey first would have bragging rights.