Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


DAUGHTER SUZ Christmas-gifted me with Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design. What a find! As its title suggests, it describes how airline maps changed cartography. Here are tidbits and images from the book.

Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design, by Mark Ovenden and Maxwell Roberts, Particular Books, 2019.

Ovenden and Roberts describe airline maps as “a new branch of cartography… free of the practical constraints of roads and rails…. Only the destinations and intermediate calling points matter, not the actual routes.”

The Romance of Flight. From the beginning of commercial flight more than 100 years ago, airline map designers had the opportunity to share the romance of flight.

Lignes Aériennes Latécoère flew these routes in France, Spain, Morocco, and Algeria in 1919. This and the following images from Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design.

French aircraft maker Latécoère was founded in 1917, and within two years its aircraft were flying routes in France, Spain, Morocco, and Algeria. Note, this was barely 14 years after the Wright Brothers’ epic flight and only five years after the world’s first commercial heavier-than-air travel, Florida’s St. Petersburg Tampa Airboat Line.

“This charmingly illustrated postcard map,” Ovenden and Roberts write, “makes no apologies for featuring an entirely female crew and passengers, women having played a major part in early aviation.”

“Just a year after its formation in 1923,” the authors note, “Société Anonyme Belge d’Exploitation de la Navigation Aèrienne was better known by its acronym SABENA”

Art (and Jingoism) of Flight. By the 1930s, airlines celebrated their national identities. Britain’s Imperial Airways, France’s Aèropostale, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines carried mail and passengers to their colonial destinations across the world.

This 1929 map shows KLM itinerary to Batavia, the Dutch East Indies, modern-day Jakarta, Indonesia. The airline first flew this route in 1924.

In 1931, Italian aviator Italo Balbo organized Crociera Aerea Transatlantica, a mass flight of Savioa-Marchetti seaplanes between Italy and Brazil.

This poster by Italian artist Umberto di Lazzaro shows the Savoia-Marchetti S.55s used for the 1931 mass flight.

Displaying Italian air prowess, Balbo and his squadrons had already performed an Aviation Cruise of the Western Mediterranean in 1928 and one involving the Eastern Mediterranean a year later. Still to come was his command of 24 Savoia-Marchettis flying from Orbetello, 80 miles northwest of Rome, to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933.

Arty Post-War Posters. In its post-World War II advertising, British Overseas Airways Corporation employed strong graphic designs that were quite free with their cartography.

Polish artist Stan Krol fashioned a flower from BOAC’s world of 1951.

Modern Eras. Schematics returned with the age of wide-body jets. The Russian airline Aeroflot adopted a London Underground approach in describing its 1974 operational details. Though complex, it’s not unreadable.

In conclusion, the authors note, “Proving that even in the age of apps, well-thought-out design can still produce excellent results, this 2018 map of Air Europa’s destinations is both neat and effective.

As a background image, they also include Kevin Reinhardt’s “Global Flight Paths,” in which every plane trajectory was tracked over a single 24-hour period in 2014.

The Reinhardt art tells a tale far beyond just departures and destinations. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: