Folks, Will Rogers was one of America’s leading promoters of air travel in the early days of aviation. I figured you might be interested in his opinions (quotes below) on aviation safety compared to other means of transportation, and his admiration of the brave pilots. He kinda laughed off the fact he was in a half dozen accidents himself because he knew how important aviation was to our future. It still is.
COLUMBUS: America suffered another tragedy yesterday, not just America but the whole world. Columbia went down over Texas and took seven aviators with her. India and Israel each lost a hero. But the dream lives on, strong as ever.
Some newsmen asked if the space program should be stopped because it is too risky. Others wanted to know immediately what was the root cause of the problem.
Well, on the first one, these journalists don’t understand aviators. Of course there’s a risk, but do you think that will keep folks like Chuck Yeager, John Glenn, Amelia Earhart and Buzz Aldrin bound to the ground? Not a chance. Mr. Glenn said he would be ready to jump on a space shuttle tomorrow if NASA wanted him to.
On the second question, these NASA engineers say they are going to look at all possible causes, not just one or two that everyone wants to proclaim in tomorrow’s headline. There’s a lot of evidence scattered over east Texas around Nacogdoches that they want to look at. It is worthwhile for these newsmen to remember that a few months ago around Washington, D.C. they were intent on finding a white van driven by a local, middle-aged white man with a rifle.
Aviation has come a long way in the hundred years since Wilbur and Orville Wright from over in Dayton stopped repairing bicycles and built an airplane. And we’ve still got a long way to go, at least to Mars and back.
NASA is already learning how to grow wheat, potatoes, peanuts, beans and lettuce in zero gravity. See, when they go to Mars the astronauts will need to grow their own food on the spaceship, so they want someone who knows how to plant and harvest, and when to fertilize and irrigate.
So, on that trip they’ll take along a farmer. Now there’s a man who knows about risk.
Historic Quotes from Will Rogers: (on aviation safety, and great aviators)
“Every paper is raving about legislation to stop ocean flying because thirteen people have been lost, just a fair Sunday’s average in automobile deaths. From ten to fifteen is just about the number that are always in a bus when it meets a train at a grade crossing, yet you never see an editorial about relief from that.” DT #350, Sept. 5, 1927
“When will the newspapers commence giving aviation an even break? There were eight people killed all over America in planes Sunday and it’s headlined in every newspaper today. If there was a single State that didn’t get that many in automobiles yesterday it was simply because it fell below their average.” DT #549, April 30, 1928
“Just flew in from Santa Barbara and found a real, legitimate use for my polo field. We landed on it.
And speaking of aviation, I sure feel bad about this boy Carranza. I had flown with him in Mexico City. He spoke English, and he and I got very chummy down there. He was a fine aviator and a great young fellow. Mexico will feel mighty bad, for they were sure proud of him, and they had a right to be.
That’s one of the sad things about it. There has been and will be lots of fine pilots lost in developing aviation to such a point that it will be safe for a lot of folks less useful to the world than these fine young fellows are.
All America grieves with Mexico, for the boys like him belong to the world and not to one country.” DT #614, July 15, 1928
“I was just sitting down to write to you saying that I bet the minute Lindbergh’s arm was able he would take Miss [Anne] Morrow and fly again and here is the paper saying he did that very thing today [the day after an accident while landing in Mexico City]. I knew he would and that’s great, just another example of that boy doing the right thing.
Flying is Lindbergh’s business. He spent years perfecting himself at it. Because he tips over on his nose once out of a million miles, a lot of editorial writers start howling about it.
This thing of talking about ‘somebody’s life being too valuable to risk in an airplane’ is not only the bunk, but it’s an insult to the men we ask to do our flying. Where does anybody’s life come in to be any more valuable than anybody else’s? Ain’t life just as precious to one as to another?
We have heard that ‘can’t spare you’ attitude till we got a lot of men in this country believing it now.
So bravo, Lindy. You are bigger tonight than you ever was before, and that’s saying a lot. And bravo, little Miss Anne, you have helped aviation more today than you will ever know.
… Aviation is not a fad, it’s a necessity and will be our mode of travel long after all the people who are too valuable to fly have met their desired deaths by the roadsides on Sunday afternoons.” DT# 809, Feb. 28, 1929
“The plane accident was terribly, unfortunate, and it no doubt will have a tendency with some of the more skeptical ones to say that aviation is unsafe.[8 persons perished] Their death will receive tremendous publicity all over the country, but on Monday morning, when you read this, if you had the entire statistics of everybody all over our country who was killed today (Sunday) by autos, well, it will be lucky if it’s under twenty_five. Yet some of their deaths will never be published beyond their own country newspapers. Yet every one of them is just as dead as those on the plane.
So, sir, travel by air is here to stay, and all the doubt in the world can’t stop it.” DT# 973, Sept. 8, 1929
“Just flew in from Chicago…. I see where some airline is going to make aviation pay by taking it out of the pilots’ salary. When they start hiring cheap pilots I will stop flying. That’s what built up what confidence in aviation we have is the experience, character and dependability of our pilots. I think they are just about the highest type bunch of men we have.” DT# 1739, Feb. 19, 1932
“I had met (Jimmy Mattern) before he made this last round the world flight, but this was the first time I had met him since he got back from just about the greatest adventure that any aviator ever had. They have all had some pretty queer ones and are a great gang these aviators. Just about the most interesting fellows to talk to of any bunch of men I ever saw. Lindbergh, Wiley Post, Frank Hawkes, Jimmy Doolittle, Al Williams, Roscoe Turner, and dozens of others that have really done things.” WA# 559, Sept. 10, 1933