The development of the airplane, first invented in 1903, truly took off as a result of World War I. In January 1919, after the war, what should be the purpose of airplanes?
This prediction largely ended up coming true:
Some of the practical men even go so far as to say that a perfectly developed peacetime air service, elastic enough to be used for defensive purposes, would make unnecessary a standing army of the proportions now being figured on. These men believe that, if the United States put its energies and ingenuity at work in the air, it would solve, once and forever, this perplexing problem of a universal training, a large standing army, and big military budget for the nation’s defense.
Well, except for the part about eliminating the big military budget for the nation’s defense.
Several other uses for airplanes were accurately predicted in that article as well, such as mail delivery and firefighting:
Airplane carrying of mail is practical, and as soon as the necessary steps have been taken for establishing air mail routes they will be flown — except in particularly bad weather — with a reasonable degree of regularity.
The Bureau of Forestry has use for planes in operating fire patrols, and with dirigible balloon auxiliaries in carrying fire-fighting crews and landing them in small clearings. As it is today these fire fighters have to go many miles round about, over mountains and almost impassable streams, canyons, and swamps to get into action and to stop a sweeping forest fire.
Putting the Airplane to Peacetime Uses: America Must Decide Whether Aviation Is to be a Minor Branch or the Chief Recourse for Defense — Progress in Mapping Aerial Lanes of Travel
Published: Sunday, January 5, 1919