The ‘Golden Age’ of aviation is often associated with scenes of smiling hostesses serving comfortable passengers in spacious cabins. Even though these images reflect a time when commercial operations were starting to peak, it was the period before that was truly the Golden Age of Aviation.
The interwar years between 1918 and 1939 saw a breakthrough in aviation that revolutionized the way people fly. A key part of this period was the progression from the use of wooden biplanes to metal monoplanes.
The biplane is what gave the Wright brothers their feat of the first successful flight in an aeroplane. However, these builds were made from low powered engines and were designed in a way that caused a lot of drag. Therefore, their wings could not handle much weight or harsh wind, so the plane was vulnerable in longer flights. The improved design of the monoplane gave it much lower drag. Ultimately, this meant that it could fly faster even with the same type of engine as the biplane. Manufacturers such as Boeing were starting to mature since their founding and invested in the production of monoplanes. The United States-based firm introduced its first monoplane model in 1932 with the P-26 Peashooter. This aircraft was also implemented into the United States Army Air Corps, making it the first monoplane to do so. Models such as these became integral to the war effort in the years that followed. The new aviation technologies gave even more power to fighter pilots and further amended the way battles are fought.
This change was matched with the application of the jet engine further enhancing the efficiency of flight. Longer flight times with less cabin vibration was achieved with the use of this engine type. Both British and German engineers researched into the technology before Heinkel He178 became the first jet-powered aircraft in 1939. The excitement of longer flight times saw the growth in the number of planes used for racing. The famous MacRobertson Air Race from the United Kingdom to Australia took place in 1934. The de Havilland DH.88 Comet travelled a distance of 11,000 miles to win this groundbreaking race.
The years that followed this period saw tragedy in World War II with many institutions using the new inventions for warfare. However, another period of progress following the war saw passengers benefit from airlines using these builds effectively for consumer purposes. Iconic airlines such as Panam invested in larger jet carriers such made by Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. These institutions continued to dominate the aviation industry throughout the middle of the 20th century. The breakthroughs that were made during the interwar years proved to be revolutionary for global aviation. The ease of travel that we have today can be attributed to this groundbreaking era. Longer, more comfortable flights with greater fuel efficiency grew from these successes.