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Looking back at 100 years of flight

  • Looking back at 100 years of flight

    The aerospace industry today is looking to push the boundaries of air travel in unprecedented ways. Airplane manufacturers like Boeing as well as up-and-coming startups have suggested work on supersonic air travel, almost 15 years after the last flight of now-retired Concorde, a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner. Whereas a mere 50 years ago, the idea of traveling to a faraway destination required weeks or months, technology has developed in such a way today that the idea of going from New York to London in a matter of a few hours does not seem so far-fetched.

    With this in mind, Stacker took a look at how the last 100 years of flight in America has developed over time. To compile historical data on American aviation starting in the 1950s and 1960s, Stacker used information from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the International Civil Aviation Organization and Civil Aviation Statistics of the World (via the World Bank), and the U.S. Defense Manpower Data Center (historical data and more recent data).

    Read on about the historical events in aviation that helped shape travel as it’s known today.

    RELATED: Click here to see the cost of a plane ticket the year you graduated college

  • 1917

    Three years since the first scheduled passenger airline service took flight in 1914, the U.S. government decided to transport mail by air for the first time.

  • 1918

    On May 14, 1918, an experimental airmail service left Long Island, New York for Washington D.C., with a stop in Philadelphia.

  • 1919

    On May 15, 1919, the Post Office used planes left over from World War I to make the starting leg of the first transcontinental air service, from Chicago to Cleveland.

  • 1920

    It wasn’t until Sept. 8, 1920 that the aircraft managed the difficult challenge of flying past the Rocky Mountains and the route was fully completed. According to Avjobs, by using airplanes, “the Post Office was able to shave 22 hours off coast-to-coast mail deliveries.”

  • 1921

    Americans began trying to solve the issue of not being able to fly at night in 1921. That year, the Army used rotating beacons over an 80-mile distance that were visible to pilots to guide them at night.

  • 1922

    The Army had originally taken charge of operating the beacons and overall guidance system, but the Post Office took over in 1922.

  • 1923

    The beacons were first placed between Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, and then in 1923 more were placed between Chicago and Cheyenne, Wyoming. This new system was at least two days faster than delivering mail by train.

  • 1924

    By mid-decade the Post Office was flying about 14 million letters over 2.5 million miles per year.

  • 1925

    In the first step toward the eventual privatization of the airline industry, the government passed the Contract Air Mail Act of 1925 (or the Kelly Act), which allowed the government to transfer airmail to private companies.

  • 1926

    This year President Calvin Coolidge’s government worked to develop a national aviation policy, which became the Air Commerce Act of 1926. This allowed the Secretary of Commerce to designate air routes, develop air navigation systems, license pilots and aircraft, and investigate accidents.

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