SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years

— General Manoj Pande, Indian Army Chief

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My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

— Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Indian Air Force Chief

Commercial Aviation - Criss Crossing The Globe

Issue: 04-2009By Group Captain (Retd) Joseph Noronha, Goa

It would hardly be an exaggeration to state that the entire edifice of early commercial aviation rested on air mail—millions and millions of letters, packets and parcels, which were generally subsidised by governments. Passengers were merely a means to shore up the meagre income of the air mail companies. A vast majority of passenger airlines, launched by the score, sank without a trace due to the losses they incurred.

No wonder then that till the end of the 1920s air travel was a slow, uncomfortable, messy affair. Passengers were tossed around, by the weather as well as the airlines, like mail sacks. The two most comfortable aircraft of the period, the Ford Trimotor 5AT and the Boeing Model 80, had fairly primitive facilities. The Tri-motor could touch about 6,000 ft, but its climb was excruciatingly slow. It would surge upward, level off, bump around and sink repeatedly before reaching cruising altitude. With no air circulation system, its ambience was made even more unpleasant by the smell of hot oil and metal, leather seats and disinfectants used to clean up after airsick passengers. And there were plenty of those! The Boeing was slightly more appealing, equipped with forced-air ventilation, and could reach a little higher, around 14,000 ft. However, no plane could climb high enough to escape turbulence and passengers were at risk of suffering from either spilled coffee or airsickness.


In 1936, the Douglas DC-3 Dakota, which made a lasting impression during World War II, was introduced. Its speed and range revolutionised air transport and more than 16,000 DC-3s were built; a few hundred are still operational. With a soundproof cabin and ventilation ducts, it had upholstered seats mounted on rubber and padded armrests apart from further reduced noise and vibration. It could also fly at an altitude of around 20,000 ft, considerably reducing troublesome turbulence. Naturally, passenger numbers surged.

Some early airlines employed male crew members, usually teenagers or short men, to load up the luggage, reassure nervous passengers and assist people around. But on May 15, 1930, Ellen Church, a registered nurse, persuaded Boeing Air Transport that nurses were best suited to tend to ailing passengers. Boeing, therefore, introduced the first female flight attendants, or air stewardesses, who made passengers comfortable, offering them water, a sandwich and sometimes chewing gum to help relieve ear discomfort.