A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Warning to Air-Ship Investors!

Freight haulage?  We think not?
Ir's amazing how incisive rational thinking is when applied to new possibilities. 

Good old Paleofuture delights with these excepts an editorial in the December 10, 1908 Engineering News on the future of air transportation (as reprinted in the January 2, 1909, issue of Literary Digest*)
So far as the possibilities of freight transportation are concerned, it may be passed with a word. Wherever ordinary methods of transportation on land are available, it will be absurd to carry goods of any sort through the air. The cost of such transport would be measured not in mills per ton mile, as in rail or water carriage, or cents per ton mile, as in wagon haulage, but in dollars or hundreds of dollars per ton.It is true that for exploration in difficult country, as over the Arctic ice or in rough mountain regions, there are possibilities in the air-ship. But such use, of course, is rather scientific than commercial.
Due to the risks (see Wright Flyer, above)
passenger air travel will never be more than
a novelty at county fairs
For the carriage of passengers, the necessary risks attendant upon flight through the air, either with the dirigible balloon or the aeroplane, are certain to limit passenger traffic to the field of sport and amusement. This is, of course, a much more considerable field than is often realized. The public is willing to pay very high prices for mere amusement, and it is altogether probable that a few years hence aeroplane flights will be a drawing card at county fairs and other public occasions, just as ordinary balloon ascensions have been for a century past. The experience of the high-speed automobile, too, has proved the existence of a very large leisure class of wealthy men who find vent for their surplus energies in undertaking all sorts of risky exploits. Flight through the air may very likely become as popular a fad a few years hence as automobile racing is to-day; but it will have just as little relation to the serious, practical, every-day business of carrying freight and passengers for the great workaday world as have the hundred-horsepower automobiles that break speed records in France or America.
The Wright military aeroplane,
terror of the skies

It is said that the leading military nations are vying with each other at the present time in the development of military air-ships, but this does not prove that these structures can be made practically useful in the serious business of actual warfare… Of all the apparatus ever proposed for use on the battle-field, a flying-machine is beyond all question the most vulnerable. It offers an ideal mark to the bullets of the enemy. Its limitations of weight forbid its protection by any sort of armor. Had the flying-machine been developed forty or fifty years ago, when projectiles were limited to small velocities and short ranges, it might have performed some service in observing the enemy’s forces; but with modern infantry rifles discharging projectiles with an initial velocity of 2,700 feet per second, and with light artillery fitted to discharge a perfect hail-storm of bullets having equal velocity and range, the rise of an air-ship at any point within several miles of a hostile army would be merely the signal for its immediate destruction.
So much for prognostication.

The Dragon
absurd to carry goods of any sort through outer space.
The cost of such transport would be measured in
thousands of dollars per ton.
Virgin Galactic
...the necessary risks attendant upon flight through space
are certain to limit passenger traffic


  1. It seems they didn't properly account for the speed of air flight. It's still more expensive to travel or send freight by air, but it's preferred because of the speed. What takes several days by ground can be accomplished in just a few hours by air. We're willing to pay the extra because, since time = money, we end up coming out ahead in cost. In the days of the Wright flyer, where the airplane wasn't much faster than the freight train, it might not have been easily foreseeable that travel by air would become so much faster.

    I wonder, then if speed will be the necessary factor in space travel. I once took a non-stop flight from Paris to Los Angeles. All said and done, it was 13 hours in the air. Compared to the two weeks or so that it would have taken by combination of train and boat, it's easy to see why people would be willing to pay much more. But if space travel could offer the same trip in a couple hours, would it be worth it? Would people be willing to spend several times more than the cost of a plane ticket for a savings of only a few hours--less than a full day?

    1. Not to mention the vomiting at the top of the arc....

  2. They didn't properly account for the gas turbine engine.

  3. but at the same time, they got a miracle. It wasn’t the kind that comes on a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float. And it wasn’t the one that they wanted, where God would reach down from the sky and touch their girl with a magic wand and restore her to perfect health. Maybe that will still happen-who knows? I wouldn’t put anything past God, because he or she is one crafty mother. Still, they did get a miracle, one of those dusty little red-wagon miracles, and they understand this.

    Cheap Flights to Lilongwe


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