ii. The Aero Bramble Bush: Air Safety, Air Commerce, and the CAA
While air traffic, aviation technology, and the communication amongst its players was evolving and growing more organized, the regulations emanating from the Bureau of Air Commerce were diverging and growing like a bramble bush. Air commerce regulations were amended with little regard for process by various types of orders published in bulletins or department correspondence. Many of these changes did not bear the signature of the Secretary of Commerce, and were technically invalid as a result. There was no clear mechanism for organizing and centralizing the regulatory process. The problem was compounded by the railroad lobby and resultant air mail regulation that was evolving independently, muddying the regulatory waters between air safety and air commerce.21 This state of regulatory disarray prompted revision and codification of the disparate aviation rules into the Civil Aviation Regulations, which became effective in 1937, pursuant to the Federal Register Act.22 23
Supported by two highly critical senate reports in 1937, the Civil Aeronautics Act established the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) independent of the Department of Commerce. The act unified various patchwork air mail regulations that had proven unwieldy through inception and amendment, allowing codification of a single set of regulations addressing both economic and safety aspects of aviation. The new CAA also included a 3-member Air Safety Board (ASB) designated to conduct accident investigations and recommend ways to prevent future accidents.24
iii. The First Giant Leap: World War II and the Coming of the Jet Age
A few years later, the groundwork laid by the CAA proved ill-suited to handle the next evolution in aviation: jet power. While the first technical consideration of jet propulsion for aircraft appeared in 1908, cloth wing and wood spar proved no match for the power of the jet engine.25 The idea was not proven technically viable until the years immediately preceding World War II.26
21 Airmail: The Air Mail Act of 1925 Through 1929, U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Government_Role/1925-29_airmail/POL5.htm, (see note supra at 16) cited January 1, 2013.
22 Ballard, 1240
23 44 U.S.C.A. Ch. 15, Public Printing and Documents, Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations.
24 Id., 1252.
25 Le propulseur à échappement et l’aeroplane à grande vitesse [The Thruster Exhaust and High-Speed Airplane], L’Aerophile, September 1, 1908 (Page 332).
26 For a brief look at the state of the art and development of the jet engine preceding World War II, see generally Jet Propulsion, Flight Magazine, September 25, 1941 (Page 191 et seq.).