In his talk, Alan Meyer provides an engaging account of private aviation, taking the audience inside a community that required exceptionally high skill levels, celebrated facing and overcoming risk, and encouraged fierce personal independence. Meyer uses the rise and fall of the Ercoupe, a personal plane lauded for its safety and intuitive operation, to show how ideas about pilot skill influenced the market for small airplanes in the postwar era—and the makeup of the flying community. Despite the Ercoupe's revolutionary—and life-saving—design, it was largely spurned and ridiculed by this community of mostly male aviators, who valued the high barriers to personal flying. Through the failure of the Ercoupe, Meyer explains how the technology of flying continued to reinforce these values.
This talk was held at Hagley Museum and Library on October 26, 2017.
Alan Meyer is a longtime private pilot who received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Delaware. Currently he is associate professor of history at Auburn University.
Banner: Day's Pay, plane purchased by employees at Hanford Engineering Works who contributed a day's pay, 1940's. See the full image in the Hagley Digital Archives.