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Part Cause, Part Cure: The Changing Relationship between Aviation and Air Pollution in the United States, 1927-1973

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Document pages: 11 pages

Abstract: This article discusses how airplanes and other aircraft became a crucial tool in investigating and comprehending local, regional, and nationwide air pollution problems from an early date, both by carrying scientific instrumentation aloft and by allowing human pilots and passengers to see the problem from a new vantage point. Pilots were among the first people to be aware of the extent of America s air pollution problems, and some, including Charles Lindbergh, became important environmental activists. Later, however, beginning with research into aircraft emissions conducted by Los Angeles County in the early 1960s, aircraft and airports came to be recognized as significant sources of environmental pollution in their own right, sources that needed to be cleaned up. Ultimately, despite the Nixon administration s desperate support of the project, the American supersonic transport program was canceled due to worries about environmental impacts. Today, aircraft, along with orbiting satellites offering an even higher vantage point from which to view environmental problems, continue to provide an indispensible tool for air pollution controllers and scientific researchers.

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