American Airlines - 1925 to 1938 - Part One - October 8, 2010

Howard Hughes and TWA – Part Four – April 23, 2010
April 23, 2010
American Airways to American Airlines – The Ads Tell a Story – Part Two – October 15, 2010
October 15, 2010
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American Airlines – 1925 to 1938 – Part One – October 8, 2010

American Airlines – 1925 to 1938

Part One

This week we begin a series on American Airlines, one of the largest commercial air carriers in the United States. You will notice a new look beginning this month as we begin with the new website design. No quote of the week and no lectures on getting in touch with your roots as a “Gatekeeper”. Give us your feedback, sign up for the newsletter, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. Now on with our story…

Barnstorming was at the forefront of the aviation industry during the 1920s. Most aviators flew the Curtiss JN-4s, also known as the Jenny, which they could buy for just $200 from the US Government as surplus. This plane was used to train pilots during World War I and most aviators were comfortable flying these planes and wanted to continue flying to make their living.

During barnstorming shows, a team of pilots, or a single pilot, would fly over a small rural town to get the attention of the town locals. These planes would typically take off from a farmer’s field and the pilot would make arrangement with local farmers to use their field. Barnstormers were famous for performing all sorts of stunts including loops, barrels, spins and stunt parachuting. The best known of the “Flying Circuses” was “The Ivan Gates Flying Circus” and an African American group called “The Five Blackbirds”.

Barnstorming continued to draw crowds and thrived until around 1927 when the U.S. Government enforced safety regulations that barred many barnstormers from performing public stunts. After several aircraft accidents, the Government outlawed many aerial stunts at low latitude and by the free spirited aviators were forced to change their focus.

Still, many skilled aviators were available to fly other planes and some trained to fly with The Aviation Corporation. This company was formed in 1929 to acquire young aviation companies, and its subsidiaries were incorporated into American Airways. The company grew rapidly to cater to domestic passengers, and by 1926, it became the first airline to fly the Douglas DC-3 in commercial service. By the end of the 1920s, American Airlines became the country’s number one domestic air carrier. On February 16, 1937, the airline made history by carrying its one-millionth passenger.

The airline grew rapidly at a time when the United States mail transport system and air transportation industry was expanding and growing at a record pace. When it became clear that passenger planes could be a viable source of revenue for the transportation industry, the Federal government passed The Air Commerce Act in 1926 to regulate air traffic rules and accommodate for the boom in commercial flights.

It wasn’t until 1927 that Charles A. Lindbergh made aviation history by flying his tiny “The Spirit of St. Louis” plane from Long Island to Paris. This became the first non-stop solo transatlantic flight and it was then that Lindbergh became campaigning for a World Air Code to set some regulations in air travel around the globe.

Some of the major government rules and regulations that impacted the airline industry took place in 1934 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt canceled all air mail contracts and forced aviation holding companies such as AVCO to break up. It was at this time that American Airways was renamed American Airlines and official service began in May 1934.

The DC-3, one of American Airlines’ primary aircraft that was used extensively during World War II

(Source: Wikipedia)

Next week we continue our series on American Airlines but I will be presenting the next part of their story in advertisements of the time. I hope you will enjoy this look back in time and as always take a few minutes each day to reflect back on your roots as an aviator and help me identify what we as “Gatekeepers of the Third Dimension” need to do to protect our profession.


Robert Novell

October 8, 2010