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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.
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.
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.
“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.
In 1931, Italian aviator Italo Balbo organized Crociera Aerea Transatlantica, a mass flight of Savioa-Marchetti seaplanes between Italy and Brazil.
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.
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, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020