Three 1920 predictions by the British Air Ministry’s Cuthbert Hicks about the future speed, carrying capacity, and military influence of aircraft — two predictions proved wild underestimates, while a third proved a wild overestimate.
At the moment the fastest officially recognized speed attained by aircraft is one hundred and eighty-seven miles an hour — three miles every minute. What it will be in ten years’ time no one can say, but, remembering that ten years ago the record speed was barely fifty miles an hour, I do not feel that it would be extravagant to prophesy a three-hundred-mile-an-hour rate in 1930. In other words, aircraft could reach from Europe in ten hours.
This prediction proved an underestimate. A 300 mile per hour flight airspeed was surpassed in 1928, and by 1930 the record stood at 357.7 miles per hour. The modern-day record: 2,193.16 miles per hour.
It is well to remember, also, that there are machines being built today that will carry one hundred men or their equivalent in weight or bombs. Perhaps in ten years’ time it will be possible to carry two hundred and fifty men or their terrible equipment. Why not?
The prediction was that in 1930 planes could carry approximately 50,000 pounds. That was a considerable underestimate as well. 1929’s Dornier Do X aircraft had a maximum takeoff weight of 123,460 pounds.
The time is coming when aircraft will be so perfected that land and sea forces will cease either to be useful or necessary, for a squadron of aircraft will have more value than an army division or a navy squadron… So I repeat that aerial supremacy will rule the world; and when that supremacy is temporarily in the hands of an unscrupulous nation, then flying will be a curse. For an invincible air fleet will be able to force its will upon any country, however large, with ease.
Land and sea forces hardly ceased to be useful or necessary. Today, the U.S. Air Force has fewer active duty members than the Army, or about the same number as the Navy. And although some nations certainly maintain greater air power than others, no one single country gained true “aerial supremacy” or “an invincible air fleet.”
A World Ruled From the Air
Published: Sunday, October 3, 1920