Harriet Quimby
Library of Congress Collection, 8-1-08

by Harriet Quimby
from Colliers Magazine
30 September 1911
Transcribed by Dave Lam, 1-9-04
     " The commonest question asked of the aviator is: "do you think flying is safe"? Every aviator answers in the affirmative.
     What else can he do? Any other answer would be checked up against him, or her, as an evidence of indiscretion, for if flying is not safe, why court danger by flying?
     But let us stop a moment and ask the question if anything we do in our round of ceaseless activities is entirely safe? If aeronauts or aviators meet with casualties, sometimes involving fatalities, who, in any pursuit, either for gain or pleasure, escapes mishap? Does the automobilist? Read the papers every Monday and note the list of fatalities to "joy riders" and pleasure seekers, out for speed and recreation. Only a few days ago, an official report sent out by the Police Department of New York City stated that a greater number of deaths during the last month had been caused by wagons than by automobiles-and so it goes. Casualties on land and on sea, to the walker, the swimmer, the polo player-- to every one who enjoys outdoor sports, including the mountain climber, are matters of daily record. Why go on? The case needs no argument.
     I drive an automobile and I also drive a monoplane, and I say frankly and truthfully that my nerves are put to a severe test in driving from my office down Fifth Avenue, through the crowded tenement district to the Williamsburg Bridge, on my way to the country, than they have ever been tried while flying, even during that severest test to which the aviator is put, that of flying to win a pilot's license.
     The dangers of flying are exaggerated, as are also the difficulties of learning to fly. Anyone can fly-at least any person who is capable of running an automobile. Most of the casualties of aviation so far recorded have been clearly attributable to the victims themselves. They have not been due to inexperience or to the frailty of flying machines as much as to the carelessness which arises from the rage for risk so widely prevalent here and everywhere.
     The temptation to "dip" and "spiral" and "bank" his machine at a dangerous angle is great for this flyer, as is also that of flying so high that he is lost to sight of those below. When I read the cablegram from Etampes, France, stating that M. Helles, the French Aviator, had covered the distance of 746 miles in 11 hours and 5 minutes, I felt like cabling him my earnest congratulations. He had achieved something worthwhile. He had proved extensive cross-country flying to be possible. His accomplishment inspired a hope that long-distance cross-country flying would soon be practicable. But when the announcement met my eye that Roland B. Garros had in a monoplane reached an altitude of 13,776 feet, I experienced only a sense of regret that a flyer of Garros' skill should waste his energies and his gasoline and endanger his life in such a foolish feat. To climb 13,000 feet into the sky requires no more skill and no more courage than is required to climb 500 feet. If a flyer's engine proves faithful, an altitude record may be achieved simply by setting the planes at the required angle and gradually spiraling up. Although this has nothing to do with the progress of the science of aviation, many aviators succumb to the temptation of the spectacular and for applause, and many thereby come to grief. If the engineer of the Twentieth Century Flier were to attempt to do tricks with his engine, the risk of fatalities he incurred while running from New York to Chicago would be greatly increased. This applies to aviators.
     When we follow the flights of Beaumont and Vedrines and of Atwood, who stay for hours in the air and safely traverse the distances from city to city, we cannot look upon a flying machine as more dangerous than a powerful automobile. It is amazing, in view of the popular craze for speed, that flying machines do not fill the air. Unquestionably they would if this sport were not the most expensive of all sports. It is not everyone who can afford to spend from $3,000 to $10,000 for a flying machine. Bring the cost down to that of a motor cycle or a bicycle, or even an automobile, and the atmosphere will be full of winged creatures.
     In taking my flying lessons, the first of which was cutting across the field in a heavy machine, barely touching the grass as I slid over it, I felt much as a child feels while riding a sled down hill. The sensation was not very different when I was permitted to raise the planes of the machine for a slight ascent. That sensation grew into a fascinating feeling of freedom when the motor carried me twenty-five, fifty, and finally several hundred feet up. Swinging around and around, with the propeller making 1,400 revolutions a minute, an aeroplane soars through the air as lightly as an eagle takes its flight.
     Given a well built machine, light but solidly constructed, critically examined in every part, the flyer who has any degree of confidence-I do not say courage-need have no fear of danger, or at least no more fear than one may have from a thousand possibilities or accidents which constantly present themselves in our crowded thoroughfares. If aviators will take their chances, they must blame themselves for accidents.

Harriet Quimby
Collection of David Lam

Harriet Quimby
Harriet Quimby
     This old farmhouse was once owned by the family of Harriet Quimby. The old abandoned building is found in the northwest corner of the lower peninsula of Michigan, just south of Arcadia.
Photo & text courtesy of Lee Wonnacott, 10-17-05

BackBack Home