From the left: Anton Fokker, Herbert Hoover, F. Trubee Davison and Edward Warner
Those of a certain age have fond memories of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comic strip. Among the memorable characters that lived out his fantasies was Charlie Brown’s dog Snoopy. A reoccurring fantasy was being a World War I fighter pilot in a Sopwith Camel, trying to shoot down the infamous German ace Manfred von Richthofen – the Red Barron – in his Fokker tri-plane. Anton Gerard “Anthony” Fokker, a Dutch citizen living in Germany, designed the Fokker aircraft used by the Germans during World War I. Following the war, Fokker returned to the Netherlands to resume his aviation company because the Versailles Treaty prohibited the manufacture of aircraft engines in Germany. Fokker moved to the United States in 1922 and eventually became a US citizen.
Hoover had an opportunity to meet Fokker on July 16, 1926 when the first air passenger service was launched between Washington, DC and Philadelphia. As Secretary of Commerce, Hoover perceived that commercial air service would become an important part of everyday travel even though at this time it was beyond the means of most Americans. A photograph of the event (above) shows Fokker with Hoover, F. Trubee Davison, and Edward Pearson Warner, standing next to one of Fokker’s F.VIIa/3m trimotors, a state-of-the art airliner.
Frederick Trubee Davison was the Assistant United States Secretary of War. He is best remembered as one of the First Yale Unit, also known as the Millionaire’s Unit. This group of young men from privileged families, created their own air squadron in 1916 anticipating the need for trained air pilots should the United States be dragged into war. Edward Warner had just been appointed the first Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Air) at the time of the photograph. He was a mechanical engineer and distinguished himself in aerodynamic research. Following World War II, Warner would champion international co-operation in air transportation and international civil aviation. The Edward Warner Award was created by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an organization he headed from 1945 to 1957, to recognize individuals who advanced civil aviation.
Hoover’s interest in the promise of commercial aviation can be seen in his endorsement of the Air Commerce Act, signed into law by President Coolidge on May 20, 1926. This legislation allowed Hoover, as Secretary of Commerce, to set standards for the infrastructure necessary for successful commercial air service. The launching of passenger service between Washington, DC and Philadelphia was but another step toward making air travel more accessible and eventually, a regular feature of everyday life.