Tomorrow's Freighters
June 1941 Popular Science

June 1941 Popular Science
June 1941 Science Popular Science - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

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Tomorrow's Freighters

Freighters with wings, hauling 80-ton cargoes 3,500 miles without a stop, are more than an aviator's dream. According to Glenn L. Martin, Baltimore airplane manufacturer, they are a logical development of the aviation industry. The construction of planes capable of such performance, weighing 380,000 pounds, could be started tomorrow if somebody should order one.

Paradoxically, the destruction of the present war will speed the development of air freighters, their size to be determined by the business available, Martin believes. This is because the war is teaching airplane manufacturers to turn out bigger, better, and speedier planes by mass-production methods. It is pushing aeronautical research far beyond the point to which it would have progressed under more normal conditions in an equal period of time, and at the same time is destroying sea-borne cargo carriers at such a rate that a serious shortage already exists. Thus, when the war ends, exporters can be expected to turn to the air for a means of transportation that can be produced rapidly to replace the lost ships, and will also get the freight to its destination faster than would be possible by any method of transportation on land or water.

Martin, who flew an early "air express" in 1912 when he carried newspapers and mail in a plane, and whose factory has turned out some of the world's biggest planes, is not telling what the detailed specifications of a 190-ton air freighter would be. But he already has the drawings for a 65-ton luxury passenger airliner, a step in the right direction, and his factory is building a plane, presumably a bomber, which will be the U. S. Navy's largest flying boat.

Drawing by B. G. Seielstad

He has no fear that postwar conditions will cause a slump in the aviation industry. Before the war began, he points out, it was the nation's fastest-growing industry. War-stimulated growth will enable it to pick up commercial plane production when the war ends years ahead, in progress, of where it would otherwise have been.

The not-far-distant future will see a system of harbors, landing fields, docks, and warehouses serving air freighters as railroads and ships are now served, Martin believes. He sees in air freight a new frontier for Americans, with thousands of new jobs for workers and vast new fields of investment for capital.