Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education & Research






Ninety years ago, America was a very different place, but still similar to the America of today in many ways. Immediately following World War I, a large number of veterans returned from overseas unable to find suitable work. A popular song of the time by Tin Pan Alley asked the question, "How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm, After They've Seen Paree?" Indeed, many of the veterans did not return to their family farms, choosing instead to move to nearby smaller towns and cities. As President Woodrow Wilson's administration was winding down, many questioned the state of the economy and future of the nation. Shortly after the war, the country remained in a recession until 1921. As time passed, there was a move to entrepreneurism throughout many financial sectors. When Warren G. Harding assumed the office of the presidency on March 4, 1921, many in government advised him to raise taxes to help move the country out of the financial doldrums. Going against this advice, Harding lowered taxes. This allowed the new entrepreneurs to start new businesses, including many by the returning veterans. This took the country into one of the greatest chapters of prosperity in modern history. We now refer to this time as the Roaring Twenties. One group of entrepreneurs born of this time included the returning aviators. These were the first military pilots ever to return from a war. They recently learned how to fly, spent months flying in aerial combat, and they wanted to continue flying. Consequently, this group of men would go on to develop aviation in America. At the start of the third decade in the last century, pilots and airplanes were unlicensed and there was no requirement for maintaining a record of aircraft maintenance. When an airplane broke, the pilot fixed it with whatever resources were readily available, usually from the local hardware store. Pilots typically kept their airplanes tied down outside in fields, as airports and hangars were a long way in the future. These early aviators were not businessmen, never planned a day beyond tomorrow, and were happy to hop enough passengers to fill their tanks with fuel and to buy themselves a hamburger or two. In a phrase - if you were a pilot, this period of 1920 to 1929 was perhaps the very best time to fly in American history.

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