Why Is Freedom of the Air a Peacetime Problem?

Almost a century ago a prophetic poet foresaw “the heavens filled with commerce.” His name was Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Today passenger and cargo transport planes by the thousands roar through the skies. It begins to look as though Tennyson was right. During the war these planes went mostly on military errands and could cross friendly frontiers without explicit and individual permission. The question remains to be answered, however: Will even more commerce fill the skies of peace?

In their wartime service, transport planes could go farther at greater speeds across more arduous routes carrying heavier cargoes than they ever could before.

In the African jungle, planes on regular runs were almost as common as lions. Twenty planes an hour crossed the high Himalayas through fierce storms and between the jagged peaks of the Shangri-la country. Planes flew from New York to London between supper one day and lunch the next. Daily they rode the airways above the iceberg lanes of the North Atlantic.

Those are impressive accomplishments. But is the golden age of aviation truly upon us? Or will the plane, because peace has come again, be a modern chained giant?