THROUGH the enterprise of our German correspondent and the courtesy of the author we publish this month a lengthy extract from a small book recently published in Germany by Herr Milch, Chairman of Deutsche Luft Hansa, on the experiences of his company in running commercial air transport services during the years 1926, 1927, 1928. With commendable, and unusual, candour there are embodied a series of statistical tables, some of which we reproduce, which give data of a far more complete nature than anything that a company engaged in similar operations in other parts of the world has ever seen fit to divulge. These enable an analysis to be made for the first time not only of the number of accidents and interrupted flights, but of their precise causes, effects—in the resulting damage to material—and of the types of aeroplane in which they were most prevalent. These statistics are of very general importance because they give a picture of the sort of regularity that is attainable by air transport at the present stage of development. It would, of course, be interesting to draw a comparison between the achievements of Luft Hansa and competitors such as Imperial Airways, Ltd. But, as Herr Milch truly says, this is not easy, as the bases on which figures arc prepared in different countries differ widely. We have consulted the table of efficiency obtained on European services by Imperial Airways, Ltd., published in the official “Report of the Progress of Civil Aviation, 1927,” and this appears to show for that year a slight superiority in favour of the British line—taking the “Percentage of Scheduled Flights completed with or without interruption” as comparable with Herr Milch's heading, “Trips completed on the same day so far as the scheduled destination.” But the difference docs not amount to much, and is less important than the more general question of what air transport is capable of achieving in competent hands in any country. There is a very striking difference, as might be expected, between the summer and winter performances; indeed, the disparity is so great that Herr Milch remarks, “There can be no question for the time being of any regularity during the winter.” This at first sight may seem a pessimistic statement, but it is, in fact, justifiable in view of the German figures, confirmed by the British statistics already referred to which show that during October to March only 71 per cent. of scheduled flights are carried through without interruption and not more than 83 per cent. are completed after interruption. There will be some who will disagree with Herr Milch's statement that “Many years' experience have now enabled us to find our way in a fog, but the problem of landing in fog is as yet unsolved.” There is still a widespread view that flying in fog and cloud is not practicable, though those most competent to judge have for some years claimed that with modern instruments there should be no insuperable difficulty. We are glad to see that a high official of Luft Hansa is satisfied that this is so. Since this opinion is confirmed by Mr. Rowe in his authoritative article published in this issue, we hope that the combined force of the two statements will satisfy doubters. At the same time, the optimistic view that the problem of landing in fog—a totally different question—is on the point of solution is not justified by the facts, as is cogently proved by Mr. Rowe. That the precise situation regarding the two problems should be cleared up in this way is of great importance, as it shows in which direction research must be directed before air transport can achieve the regularity during the winter months that is essential.
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