My Oh My, How Flight Has Changed Since the 1950s

29 Jul

Delta Air Line In-Flight Report From 1951
An in-flight report from 1951

Over the past month, I went on a mission to research commercial flight in its early years. Commercial aviation took off right after World World II, when the excess of jet-engine-powered aircrafts and leisurely time made flying a newfound excitement around the country and world.

I spoke with a number of people about the topic, including early flight attendants and airline passengers, one of which told me that due to the lack of PA systems, when the engines were too noisy, the attendant would pass around pieces of paper with the flight crew’s names and the destination city’s weather conditions.

Since he shared that story, I couldn’t stop imagining what that paper might have looked like – was it hand-written, printed, white, off-white, letter-headed, signed, dated, scented?

Today I received an email from a Delta Air Lines archivist, passing along the above image of an in-flight report, the piece of paper my interviewee had told me about. As it turns out, it was beautifully illustrated and hand-written. I most love that it points out the “next point of interest” for passengers peering out the window, a pastime I’m told was popular in the early days of air travel, when seat-back entertainment and in-flight WiFi were not yet the norms.

I’m consistently amazed by the power of the Internet. With just one post, I wondered what this piece of paper of a bygone period looked like, and the next day, the answer was in my inbox. The world is a beautiful place. Thank you, universe and Delta Air Lines archivist.

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4 Responses to “My Oh My, How Flight Has Changed Since the 1950s”

  1. Alex Turnbull (@alexmturnbull) August 29, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Just stumbled on this post, Erica. So cool to see how things were, especially with information most of us get tracking our flight with inflight internet. And it’s hard to imagine flyers these days wanting to pass anything to their fellow passengers :)

  2. Ron Zeligzon July 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    Great random posts, deserve random comments. Speaking of amazing finds. I’ve been dying to get my hand on an old school Pan AM Kit that included a Gillette Safety Razor, shown here: http://www.everythingpanam.com/images/1950s%20amenity.jpg

    I feel like passengers used to get the most awesome in-flight schwag.
    Back then it was also super expensive to fly until commercial airlines were more or less deregulated in the 1980s, but that’s a separate topic.

    These were the other kits passengers received: http://www.everythingpanam.com/Amenity_Kits.html

    As you can see the quality really diminished over the years.

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