Here’s How the First Ever Commercial Air Crash in History Happened

In September of that 1929, a trimotor crashed at Mount Taylor, killing everyone on board. It was the first disaster of a commercial airline.

On December 17, 1903, a dream shared by generations was realized: flying.

Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first propelled flight in history.

The plane had to take off and land 5 times before reaching the first stop. PHOTO: BBC Mundo

Over the next decade, aviation developed at a dizzying speed, accelerated by the advent of World War I.

And when peace came, commercial aviation began in earnest.

In 1929, the first U.S. coast-to-coast airline service was launched, which was promoted highlighting the incredibly short travel time: 48 hours from New York to Los Angeles.

It cost US $5,000 in money today, each way, and embarking on such adventures was the height of glamour.

Actually, the trip was a tremendous test of endurance.

Passengers had to board a night train first to take them to the Columbus, Ohio airport, 850 miles away.

From there they departed on a three-engine Ford plane for their first day of flight.

The plane had to stop 4 times to refuel before arriving in Oklahoma, where they boarded another night train where they spent the night and arrived at the next airport.

For those traveling in the trimotor it was perhaps glamorous, but also busy and risky. PHOTO: BBC Mundo

That second day, passengers took another plane, which also had to stop 3 times on the road before finally landing in Los Angeles.

With everything and that, it had the appeal of being a pioneer and fun adventure, depending on the weather.

Flying at only 1,500 meters high, the trimotor was vulnerable to bad weather, which made it an unpleasant  and dangerous journey.

In September of that 1929, a trimotor crashed at Mount Taylor, killing everyone on board. It was the first disaster of a commercial airline.

Unfortunately, aviation history is plagued by tragedies. But there were those who refuse to accept the state of affairs, and were willing to risk everything to improve technology.

Maybe a plane could avoid bad weather flying over it and travel faster through a less dense air?

That would make air travel safer and faster, and the idea of ​​being able to fly above the clouds came from beneath the waves: use deep water diving technology to explore the upper atmosphere.

It meant visiting a place never explored, and the difficulty was not only to get so high, but to live to tell it.

Captain Hawthorne C. Gray had flown more than 12,000 meters that same year in a helium balloon. But, when the balloon landed a day later, he was found dead at the controls.

Wiley Post was an aviator obsessed with speed.

He had lost an eye in an industrial accident and used the insurance money to enter aviation.

In 1931, he and his navigator, Harold Gaddy, went around the world in just 8 days, earning a world record and instant fame.

Post wanted to go faster and the key was to fly higher, but it was very dangerous. Photo: BBC World

But Wiley Post wanted to go even faster and believed that flying high was the solution. The taller you go, the thinner the air becomes and the less atmospheric drag it produces on the plane.

That means that, for a given amount of engine power, the plane can go faster.

Wiley Post thought that would be the key. But first, he would have to defeat the hidden assassin that lies above the clouds.

Both Post and others who were exploring that environment noticed that with sustained exposure even an altitude above 10,000 feet had severe fatigue effects on their mental processes.

This mental confusion can lead to errors that, in the air, can be fatal. If an emergency occurs, you have to react well and quickly, something that is difficult if you have less of your full mental capacity.

As the pressure drops further, new dangers come into play.

On the Armstrong line – 63,000 feet high – water boils at 98.6 degrees, and the human body has about two thirds of water, so blood in the veins literally begins to bubble.

Post needed a way to protect his brain from lack of oxygen and the body from pressure.

Working with BF Goodrich Company, now famous for its tires, but at that time one of the most respected aeronautical manufacturers in the US, helped develop an outfit inspired by the costume of a deep-sea diver.

Only, instead of keeping the water outside, it kept the air inside.

The suit created a new habitable atmosphere around the aviator. On a test flight in 1934, Post risked his life, testing the limits of the human body.

Not very comfortable, but effective. PHOTO: Getty images, via BBC Mundo

Unfortunately, the instruments that measured their altitude failed, but exceeded 40,000 feet and reached 540 km per hour, almost twice the speed that the plane could do at sea level.

The pioneering Post flights completely changed the face of aviation because it was able to fly much higher and, therefore, much faster.

By 1938, we had planes in which the entire cabin was pressurized.

Since then, pilots and passengers can travel comfortably without the need for bulky pressure suits, such as the one used by Post.



Source: Elcomercio