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Taking Flight

The Foundations of American Commercial Aviation, 1918–1938

M. Houston Johnson (author)

ISBN: 9781623497217

Publication Date: Nov 2018

Format: Hardback

Explores the emergence of commercial aviation between the world wars - and in the midst of the Great Depression - to show that the industry's dramatic growth resulted from a unique combination of federal policy, technological innovations, and public interest in air travel.

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Taking Flight explores the emergence of commercial aviation between the world wars–and in the midst of the Great Depression–to show that the industry's dramatic growth resulted from a unique combination of federal policy, technological innovations, and public interest in air travel.

Historian M. Houston Johnson V traces the evolution of commercial flying from the US Army's trial airmail service in the spring of 1918 to the passage of the pivotal Air Commerce Act of 1938. Johnson emphasizes the role of federal policy–particularly as guided by both Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt–to reveal the close working relationship between federal officials and industry leaders, as well as an increasing dependence on federal assistance by airline, airframe, and engine manufacturers.

Taking Flight highlights the federal government's successful efforts to foster a nascent industry in the midst of an economic crisis without resorting to nationalization, a path taken by virtually all European countries during the same era. It also underscores an important point of continuity between Hoover's policies and Roosevelt's New Deal (a sharp departure from many interpretations of Depression-era business history) and shows how both governmental and corporate actors were able to harness America's ongoing fascination with flying to further a larger economic agenda and facilitate the creation of the world's largest and most efficient commercial aviation industry.

This glimpse into the golden age of flight contributes not only to the history of aviation but also to the larger history of the United States during the Great Depression and the period between the world wars.


"This is a well-researched and welcome addition to the history of the US airline industry. In looking at the period from 1918–1938, it explores the important developments during both the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations as well as examining the role of the federal government generally throughout these crucial early decades. This single volume weaves together many important threads to provide a comprehensive introduction to the subject." - Janet Bednarek, author of Dreams of Flight: A History of General Aviation

"Taking Flight is a well-crafted, original history of the formative years of commercial aviation in the United States.  By tracking continuity and change across the administrations of Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, Houston Johnson offers a rich, nuanced account of American politics during the 1920s and 1930s.  This book deserves attention from anyone interested in the history of technology, public policy, and the government's role in the economy." - Mark Wilson, author of Destructive Creation: American Business and the Winning of World War II

"US commercial aviation took flight in the 1920s and 1930s through the violent storms of Depression-era politics. Reinterpreting headline-grabbing controversies, M. Houston Johnson V shows that aviation's ascent was steadier than often supposed. From the young Herbert Hoover to the seasoned Franklin Roosevelt, federal aviation policy was pragmatic, broadly consistent, and remarkably successful in paving the way for America's mid-century aerospace dominance. Taking Flight offers crisp insights for political and aviation historians and a fresh demonstration of a deep truth: The New Deal's anti-business bark was far worse than its bite." - David T. Courtwright, author of Sky as Frontier
Illustrations 24 black & white photographs
Pages 300
Dimensions 229 x 152
Date Published 30 Nov 2018
Publisher Texas A&M University Press
Series Centennial of Flight Series
Series Part 21
Subject/s History of the Americas   Aircraft: general interest   Transport industries   Military history  
M. Houston Johnson V is associate professor of history at the Virginia Military Institute. He resides in Lexington, Virginia.

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