Planning for Jet Age Traffic

April 1, 1958
General Quesada is Special Assistant to President Eisenhower and Chairman of the Airways Modernization Board. A native of Washington, D. C., he enlisted in the Army in 1924, was commissioned in 1927. In 1929 he was one of the “Question Mark” pilots, who stayed aloft for a week by using midair refueling techniques. A pioneer airmail pilot, during World War II he directed the US air effort at the Normandy landings. In 1946 he became the first commander of TAC. From 1949-51 he was in command of Task Force Three’s Eniwetok H-bomb experiments.

In view of the fact that the aviation industry in its broadest sense is certainly characterized by being dynamic, I think it follows that, by and large, we have been willing to accept change. There were a few periods of time in the last three decades in which change came to us quite rapidly. One of those occurred, in my opinion, in the early stages of the second World War.

Prior to the second World War the airplane as a weapon was primarily an airframe with a propulsion system, usually reciprocating, upon which we saw fit, when convenient, to hang a gun with a mechanism to permit us to aim it with relative ease. It started out as a ring or bead-sight. Admittedly things got more complex, but fundamentally the airplane was a frame and a propulsion system.

Most of us recall the period of the early part of the war quite vividly, when we really did not have a very good weapon. And all of us will recognize that the B-17 with its Norden bombsight, although the bombsight definitely was an ingenious device, really was not a good weapon.

I hope I do not offend SAC people when I say that when we actually got down to brass tacks, we realized that we looked at our abilities more wishfully than practically during World War II.

When it came time to actually penetrate Germany, and in some cases, France, we were inhibited by a cloud cover. We were inhibited by cloud cover often enough to find our force ineffective. There was a time when we were having difficulty defending our position. Precision bombing had a rough time for a while, if for no other reason than the reduction of our period of effectiveness. We had to wait for almost clear weather.

At that particular time, or shortly before it, I happened to be part of an event that I think is interesting. Admittedly my part was as an aide to General Arnold.

In that position, I heard Dr. Vannevar Bush suggest that if he were to gather together a group of highly talented people, specialists in physics and related subjects, they could conceivable come up with ideas and subsystems, they were called “subsystems” in those days, that could be beneficial to the military establishment. Arnold, being the dynamic person that he was, was quick to see that Dr. Bush’s idea had value. The general was not offended when Dr. Bush indicated that perhaps the military was not capable of translating certain talents into a military requirement. Perhaps the military did not have the imagination to design certain devices and equipments that this group of people could themselves generate, Dr. Bush suggested. The acceptance of that idea led to the radiation laboratory, which in turn led to any devices that we simply accept today without recognizing their source.

We came up with the H-2X bombing equipment that was certainly a significant factor in the strategic war in Europe and in the Pacific as well; the SCR-584, GCA, and other items to numerous to mention.

This same process occurred in other places; the radiation laboratory did not have a monopoly. Nevertheless it was the center of the revolution and built semi-automation or automation into our weapons.

At the moment we are about to go through another revolution; rather change. The jet age, which we are now here to celebrate, is another revolution.

Ten years ago we had jet airplanes. The military establishment has been operating jet airplanes. The military establishment has been operating jet airplanes for a decade. The military establishment today is operating more jet airplanes with four engines and more than the commercial fleet will ever operate.

One can ask: “Why are we not up to date Why are we not up to the jet age Why can we not manage the traffic that is about to be thrust upon us?” Part of the answer is “bureaucracy.” But primarily it is because we just have not had the money with which to function. We have not had the resources to meet the needs of today.

This is partially because the military establishment has almost a monopoly on imaginative groups devoting themselves to the development of weapons. The CAA cannot be expected to have kept up with the state of the art as it has been pushed forward by the aircraft industry, pushed forward by the military establishment.

You cannot expect the CAA to have performed miracles on a starvation diet. Things are changing now. It is getting some funds now and the results are showing. The effort of my Board is to give to both CAA and to the military establishment semi-automatic equipment and facilities for systems that heretofore were manual. This is not going to be an easy job. There are going to be many suggestions offered, all of which we shall welcome. There will be many solutions tried. Some will fail. We will have disappointments. I hope we will have some successes.

There is only one thing we are sure of: we are going to have some hard knocks. We will not be able to satisfy everybody’s desires or everybody’s ideas; we hope to reach optimum solutions. Everybody will have his own idea on how we should conduct our business. We have means whereby all interested parties will have an opportunity of expressing themselves. I am required in the conduct of the business of the Board to seek the views of the using parties.

There is one thing I can promise you, however, and that is we are not going to conduct ourselves as a committee. We have our own funds, we have the backing of the military establishment, we have the support of CAA.

We hope that some of the vacuum that exists today can and will be filled primarily by the development of semi-automatic equipment that will in due course replace the manual equipment now in use. I expect that in the process we will be confronted by those who resist change.

Our effort is not purely a civil effort. We are required to meet military requirements to the same extent we are required to meet civil requirement. It might be interesting to note that our budget for the last half of this year is something twice that of the Bureau of Standards for the equivalent time. I know that the vast majority of it has been transferred to us from the military establishment.

When I say a “vast majority,” I mean something more than eighty or eighty-five percent. So there is imposed upon us a very serious military requirement. If they foot the bill, we have to perform. The military establishment has demonstrated considerable strength or confidence in us, which we recognize and appreciate.

That imposes upon us an obligation to provide devices and equipment essential to military needs. It will not be our problem to produce this equipment because the military establishment will have to contract, for them and package them to meet their needs. But the system and device, we hope, will be there for them to buy as they see fit.

We must adapt ourselves to change. There are very few people that have been damaged by change. Only the weak, those who cannot keep up, are damaged by change.


Mr. Shannon: Are you thinking about some change in your organization

General Quesada: Yes. I am instructed to prepare legislation for the establishment of a national aviation agency.

If a national aviation agency is formed it would have in it the functions that are now spread over many departments of government, and this has come about through the process of evolution.

Mr. Yarbrough: Recently the aircraft industry announced that in 1957 the industry had produced over six thousand general aviation utility aircraft. Assuming that production figure would count, do you feel that a plateau in that production will be reached before the air traffic control system is here too take care of it

General Quesada: I think the aviation industry will never reach a plateau.

I think the growth of general aviation is going to be more rapid than the growth of any other segment of aviation.

That being the case its needs have to be met just like the needs of the military, just like the needs of the air transport group.

Mr. Carroll: Would you think it wise to have an introductory period of about eight months of the new jetliners carrying only mail and cargo

General Quesada: I think there is a wealth of experience in the development and production of a pressurized airplane in this country that would make it unnecessary to have a dry run.

From the Floor: Do the regulations today have any special objections to jets flying into airports, and has there been anything done about the problem of licensing this type of aircraft

General Quesada: That is truly a “Pyle question”!

Mr. Pyle: Basically there is nothing in the regulations that prohibits the use of any airport by a jet airplane; however, the airport operator himself can so prohibit that operation. The question of certification of these aircraft is a highly complex problem. The only thing we can do is to study the cases individually. – End