Between 1903 and 1914, what did the aviation pioneers think flight would be used for, besides military purposes? Did they envision anything like crop dusting, commercial transportation, charting terrain in the wilderness, scientific study of the atmosphere, etc.? Even just pure entertainment flights?

I did read this little article about the Wright Bros thinking it would actually deter war, but it didn't mention if they had thought of some alternative use to warfare.

There are of course many aviation pioneers from those days. Did any of them envision uses besides war? It would be really interesting to see what they came up with and if it turned out that way.


1 Answer 1


"Airship" originally meant any large aircraft, whether lighter or heavier than air. Ballooning was already a popular sport among the rich when aeroplanes first flew. Most pioneers seem to have taken it for granted that aircraft - both airships and planes - would be used for private and commercial travel as well as warfare. Airmail was perhaps the most discussed niche role. A few might have had other niche purposes in mind but on the whole they were content just to get the thing flying and find a buyer or sponsor. A V Roe built the first plane with an enclosed passenger cabin in 1912, the first year a mail package was delivered by air.

J W Dunne was one of the few influential pioneer aviators from a military background and argued for a variety of specialist types for different military roles. He was also a friend of writer H G Wells. Together they envisaged total war with vast airship fleets capable of wrecking whole civilizations and hoped that the threat of this would put an end to ground warfare as such. When Wells wrote "The War in the Air" (around 1908?), Dunne sent him some of his research materials which found their way into the story.

Rudyard Kipling (of Jungle Book fame), though not an aviator himself, wrote a novel about a commercial transatlantic mail airship, "With the Night Mail" in 1905.


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