Edith Scott Magna, President General, NSDAR

Fate has decreed that I am the first President General to use flying as a method of transportation to facilitate the demands of my office and to save time. I have flown so much during the past two years that I take it as a matter of course – and have long since ceased to treat it as an adventure, or as a courageous feat. One day I read an article in an air magazine entitled "Flying Becomes Nonchalant” – but it had become just that to me before I saw that caption. My friends and secretaries still scan the headlines for crashes after they know I have taken off for some point – as for myself, I have no fear and never consider it. I use airplanes because they are fast, clean, and as safe as any mode of transportation when handled properly, under expert, intelligent, self-controlled operators.

I have been up hundreds of hours – have assisted at controls, have flown over nearly all the states and probably can write “all” by the time Continental Congress convenes this April.

I like it, enjoy it and use planes whenever and wherever I can. Last fall I would have had to disappoint two State Conferences had I not been able to hire a licensed pilot and a plane to take me from point to point.

I have absolute faith in the companies operating regular lines, for the planes receive constant overhauling and testing. I also have faith in the pilots, who have to undergo a physical and mental examination at regular intervals. If they fail on any requirement, they cannot fly, much less take up passengers. This information was given me by a physician for one of the lines.

Accidents do happen, but this is true of any method of transportation, and, excluding stunt flying, the average for passenger planes is very small.

It is interesting, too, to try to regulate one’s personal baggage to the minimum of thirty pounds. Lace or net dresses help to solve this problem and, like every other contingency in life, it can be met if the desire is strong enough.

Audiences like to hear about flying; and, while I have had joyous, happy, unusual, and exciting experiences, seen gorgeous settings, learned untold geography, etc., the happenings have been constructive and educational rather than thrilling, and never terrifying.

I have had infinitely more real thrills on a roller coaster than in any plane. Perhaps it’s Lady Luck–but so far this is true. I have traveled in nearly every make of plane. All my comments are confined to generalities. The fastest bird cannot compete with the speed of our everyday transportation. The airliners, carrying passengers, mail, and express, hit 180 miles an hour, 3 miles a minute, but without any annoying sensations to the travelers.  A few facts quoted directly from the aircraft yearbook for 1934, published by the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce of America, Incorporated, may be of interest and, in the future, a matter of history:

“The airlines complete more than 95 per cent of their scheduled mileage annually.

“Because of improved motor exhausts, geared engines, which reduce propeller noise, and scientific insulation of the airplane cabins, our modern airliners have reduced noise to a minimum. “There are 600 planes in service on air lines in the United States and operating under the American flag to other countries – one air liner for every 9 Pullman cars. “An average of 1,550 men, women, and children, three-fourths of a million letters, and 4,700 pounds of express were flown over our air lines every 24 hours during the first 10 months of 1933.

“More than 40 percent of the flying is done at night.”

In 1926, 5,782 passengers were carried and this has grown to 550,000 in 1933–less than ten years. Every detail is interesting. Such scenery!–unbelievable cloud effects–indescribable dawns–breathtaking sunsets–fires–floods–colors in the autumn the envy of any magic carpet of Arabian Nights’ fame. The wonders of the earth and sky and the waters below and the heavens above are memories I shall never forget. It lead me to write in one of my messages, “God-given nature is as bountiful as ever”; trivial personal things  seem as nothing after witnessing such glories. From my own notes and quoting from an interview with one in authority, I give here some random observations which will interest my readers:

One of the most potent signs indicating that air transportation has passed through its so-called experimental stage and has become a permanent and everyday form of transportation is the widespread custom of having women stewardesses as an integral part of the crews of the transport planes. There are nearly 150 women in the country today who travel constantly on the various airlines for the purpose of making the passenger’s trip more pleasant. These girls serve the meals on the plane, point out and explain interesting views from the plane enroute, and answer the many questions which occur to the air traveler.

The requirements for the stewardesses are strict. The girls must be trained nurses, not because their work demands such training, but because of their being accustomed to rigid discipline. Discipline on board a plane must be maintained with military precision, with the pilot in complete command and the co-pilot and stewardess receiving their instructions from him. The girls must not weigh more than 118 pounds, and must not be more than 5 feet 4 inches in height. The stewardesses fly approximately 5,000 miles per week, or, allowing 50 weeks, 250,000 miles per year. This is equivalent to more than eight trips around the equator each year. The foods that have been found best for the air traveler include sliced chicken, chicken salad, imported and domestic cheeses, baked ham, tongue, veal, and turkey. Pastries are bought, fresh from the bakery, just a few minutes before the plane is scheduled to arrive at the airport and are served a few minutes later, after the plane is in the air again. Bouillon cubes are taboo; but real bouillon is served, and tomato juice and fruit juices, as well as coffee and tea.

Sandwiches are of uniform size throughout the system. The bread is sliced to specified thickness and the completed sandwich must be 4 inches square.

A survey, made during the last summer, showed that women averaged about 30 per cent of the total passenger lists. This figure is increasing every year. Mothers find it much more convenient and successful to carry very young babies by air on long trips. The babies enjoy every minute of the trip and the mother is greatly pleased to have her journey completed in less than one third of the usual time. Many adventures have been humorous, as the illustrations of this article will testify, when I had to fly in an open plane in borrowed finery. The architect of the suit evidently planned it for someone about 250 pounds. Though my dignity suffered considerable, by amusement, when met by a committee of much civic importance, was enlivened to meet the occasion.

Two statements, one pertinent to the Army and one to the Navy, are of importance:

“An efficient airways system, will in time of an emergency, permit the quick transfer of tactical units from various parts of the United States to air defense frontier strategical points, thus greatly increasing the potential strength of these units."

“Young as it is, air transport, better than all the surface facilities, could meet the two main requirements for war-time transportation–speed and mobility.”–Maj. Gen. B. D. Foulois, Chief of the Air Corps, U. S. Army, December 11, 1933.

“The transport airplane manufacturing plants are practically dependent upon the air lines to supply a market for cargo and passenger planes and support the constant engineering research and development. Thus the air lines help maintain an important branch of the aircraft industry which would be called upon for the greatest possible number of planes in the event of war, and so are potential reserves for the national defense. If war were declared, the contract air-mail lines would provide the fast, reliable transport service needed from the first day of the emergency, for mobilization and thereafter for movement of troops and indispensable military (naval) supplies.” – Rear Admiral E. J. King, Chief of Bureau of Aeronautics, U. S. Navy, December 1, 1933.

My advice to anyone who wishes to take a flight is not to “go up” just for fun. In this event the passenger is self-conscious and self-analytical. Decide on a trip, have a definite mission to a definite place, take a plane and fly there.

I am confident that, just as the automobile has brought interstate relations closer, so the airplane will develop an interstate consciousness that will bring a deeper meaning to the term United States of America.