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Airline and Airliner History

I've been interested in the development of air transport for better than two decades. I'm active in the Washington Airline Society (and was its president for nearly a decade), and serve as reviews editor for the monthly AIRWAYS magazine. My focus is in the technical, business, policy, and social history of civil aviation from about 1920 into the 1960s. I'm more a "propeller" than a "jet" person--the current aircraft largely all look (and surely sound) alike! So my interest is more armchair reading rather than visiting airports, not that the latter is much fun these days! I focus on the story in the U.S. and Britain, and to a lesser degree, other nations. My chief activity is collecting books old and new that cover this fascinating four-decade period of 20th century transport.

At the July 1997 opening of the new control tower and terminal at Washington's National Airport, a number of old aircraft were present---including this Eastern Air Lines Martin twin-engine craft from the 1950s.

Websites

Airchive: The Webseum of Commercial Aviation Timetables (the history of some 30 airlines), routemaps and museums around the world.

Pan American World Airways Lots of sites on this long-gone (1927-91) global airline, but this is one of the better ones. My special interest is the 1930s flying boat period.

Imperial Airways This was a predecessor company (1924-40) to BOAC and today's British Airways, and was based at London's Croydon Airport Amazing what routes were maintained (to Australia and South Africa) given the airplanes of the day!

Concorde Now out of service, the airplane is best recorded on the Web on this well-organized site with information on all the flying models and their history. Includes many good photos and full technical specs.

The Virtual Aviation Museum Extensive site providing access to European websites on aviation history, both commercial and military. It can be searched by aircraft type, museum, or topic.

Suggested Books

Angelucci, Enzo. World Encyclopedia of Civil Aircraft: From Leonardo da Vinci to the Present. New York: Crown, 1982. Directory combining drawings, photos, scale profile and three-view drawings, charts, and tables of airliners from the beginning through the 1970s. The variety of ways of presenting airline design changes (and sizes and capabilities) makes this especially useful.

Davies, Ronald E.G. A History of the World's Airlines. London: Oxford University Press, 1964 (and reprints). Still the standard source for the period up to the earliest jet airliners. Davies offers far more than mere chronology in this integrated analysis from the first attempts before World War I into the early 1960s.

(Ibid). Airlines of the United States. London: Putnam, 1972; Washington: Smithsonian Press, 1982. By far the best history with valuable maps and other illustrations.

(Ibid). Airlines of Latin America since 1919. London: Putnam, 1984. The best one-volume history with wonderful maps, working from Mexico down to Argentina.

(Ibid). Airlines of Asia since 1920. London: Putnam, 1997. The best one-volume history, again with great maps and far more information than found anywhere else.

Donald, David, general ed. The Encyclopedia of Civil Aircraft. San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 1999. A big (800 page) colorful directory (with photos and diagrams) to most of the important airliners through history, arranged by manufacturer. Each gets several pages of coverage.

Guttery, Ben R. Encyclopedia of African Airlines. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1998. Arranged by airline, and the only attempt at a regional survey.

Hanlon, Pat. Global Airlines. Oxford, England: Butterworth Heineman, 1999 (2nd ed.). Useful survey of the economic and policy issues facing global transport---but written before the post-2001 airline meltdown.

Jarrett, Philip, ed. Modern Air Transport: Worldwide Air Transport from 1945 to the Present. London: Putnam "Putnam's History of Aircraft," 2000. Very useful survey of technical, economic and policy trends world-wide.

Leary, William O., ed. The Airline Industry. New York: Facts on File "Encyclopedia of American Business History and Biography," 1992. Only book of its kind---people, airlines, policies, events all in concise entries written by authorities.

Leary, William M., and William F. Trimble, eds. From Airship to Airbus: The History of Civil and Commercial Aviation. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995, 2 vols. Very interesting papers from a conference, and ranging over airlines, people, airports, and policy development..

Smith, Myron, ed. The Airline Encyclopedia. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2003 (3 vols). Huge compilation of very detailed chronologies for nearly every airline in the world that ever existed.

Sterling, Christopher H. Commercial Air Transport Books: An Annotated Bibliography of Airlines, Airliners, and the Air Transport Industry. McLean, VA: Paladwr Press, 1996, Supplement, 1998. This grew out of my years of collecting and suggests the best books through the 1990s.

Stroud, John. European Transport Aircraft Since 1910. London: Putnam, 1966. Definitive historical directory of airliners developed in Europe through the first generation of passenger jets.

Zukowsky, John, ed. Building for Air Travel: Architecture and Design for Commercial Aviation. New york: Prestel (and the Art Institute of Chicago), 1996. One of the best books on the historical development of airports and passenger facilities in Europe, North America, and Asia.