That there is an element of danger in aviation is

undeniable, but it is nowhere so great as the public

imagines. Men are killed and injured in the operation

of flying machines just as they are killed and injured in

the operation of railways. Considering the character of

aviation the percentage of casualties is surprisingly


This is because the results following a collapse in the
r /> air are very much different from what might be imagined.

Instead of dropping to the ground like a bullet an

aeroplane, under ordinary conditions will, when anything

goes wrong, sail gently downward like a parachute,

particularly if the operator is cool-headed and nervy enough

to so manipulate the apparatus as to preserve its equilibrium

and keep the machine on an even keel.

Two Fields of Safety.

At least one prominent aviator has declared that there

are two fields of safety--one close to the ground, and

the other well up in the air. In the first-named the fall

will be a slight one with little chance of the operator

being seriously hurt. From the field of high altitude the

the descent will be gradual, as a rule, the planes of the

machine serving to break the force of the fall. With a

cool-headed operator in control the aeroplane may be

even guided at an angle (about 1 to 8) in its descent so

as to touch the ground with a gliding motion and with

a minimum of impact.

Such an experience, of course, is far from pleasant,

but it is by no means so dangerous as might appear.

There is more real danger in falling from an elevation

of 75 or 100 feet than there is from 1,000 feet, as in the

former case there is no chance for the machine to serve as

a parachute--its contact with the ground comes too


Lesson in Recent Accidents.

Among the more recent fatalities in aviation are the

deaths of Antonio Fernandez and Leon Delagrange. The

former was thrown to the ground by a sudden stoppage

of his motor, the entire machine seeming to collapse.

It is evident there were radical defects, not only in the

motor, but in the aeroplane framework as well. At the

time of the stoppage it is estimated that Fernandez was

up about 1,500 feet, but the machine got no opportunity

to exert a parachute effect, as it broke up immediately.

This would indicate a fatal weakness in the structure

which, under proper testing, could probably have been

detected before it was used in flight.

It is hard to say it, but Delagrange appears to have

been culpable to great degree in overloading his machine

with a motor equipment much heavier than it was

designed to sustain. He was 65 feet up in the air when

the collapse occurred, resulting in his death. As in the

case of Fernandez common-sense precaution would

doubtless have prevented the fatality.

Aviation Not Extra Hazardous.

All told there have been, up to the time of this writing

(April, 1910), just five fatalities in the history of power-

driven aviation. This is surprisingly low when the nature

of the experiments, and the fact that most of the

operators were far from having extended experience, is

taken into consideration. Men like the Wrights, Curtiss,

Bleriot, Farman, Paulhan and others, are now experts,

but there was a time, and it was not long ago, when they

were unskilled. That they, with numerous others less

widely known, should have come safely through their

many experiments would seem to disprove the prevailing

idea that aviation is an extra hazardous pursuit.

In the hands of careful, quick-witted, nervy men the

sailing of an airship should be no more hazardous than

the sailing of a yacht. A vessel captain with common

sense will not go to sea in a storm, or navigate a weak,

unseaworthy craft. Neither should an aviator attempt

to sail when the wind is high and gusty, nor with a machine

which has not been thoroughly tested and found to

be strong and safe.

Safer Than Railroading.

Statistics show that some 12,000 people are killed and

72,000 injured every year on the railroads of the United

States. Come to think it over it is small wonder that

the list of fatalities is so large. Trains are run at high

speeds, dashing over crossings at which collisions are

liable to occur, and over bridges which often collapse

or are swept away by floods. Still, while the number of

casualties is large, the actual percentage is small considering

the immense number of people involved.

It is so in aviation. The number of casualties is remarkably

small in comparison with the number of flights

made. In the hands of competent men the sailing of an

airship should be, and is, freer from risk of accident than

the running of a railway train. There are no rails to

spread or break, no bridges to collapse, no crossings at

which collisions may occur, no chance for some sleepy

or overworked employee to misunderstand the dispatcher's

orders and cause a wreck.

Two Main Causes of Trouble.

The two main causes of trouble in an airship leading

to disaster may be attributed to the stoppage of the

motor, and the aviator becoming rattled so that he loses

control of his machine. Modern ingenuity is fast developing

motors that almost daily become more and more

reliable, and experience is making aviators more and

more self-confident in their ability to act wisely and

promptly in cases of emergency. Besides this a satisfactory

system of automatic control is in a fair way

of being perfected.

Occasionally even the most experienced and competent

of men in all callings become careless and by foolish

action invite disaster. This is true of aviators the same

as it is of railroaders, men who work in dynamite mills,

etc. But in nearly every instance the responsibility rests

with the individual; not with the system. There are

some men unfitted by nature for aviation, just as there

are others unfitted to be railway engineers.