Skyward: Aviation and Airline Home Décor
World Airline Routemap
Vintage Air Travel
Aviation decor adds a touch of the experienced traveler, who has seen the wonders of the world. Having an aviation themed room or den gives us a flavor of the big planet that we live on. It gives people a sense that your a world traveler even if you have never spent more than a few weeks out of your state. Whether your interest is the early era of aviation, the first decade of commercial flights, the swingin' 60's and 70's, or the modern age, there are numerous themes to choose from.
The excitement of finally flying with the birds left people with a sense of wonder. Vintage airlines like TWA and Pan Am now seem to linger in an aviation golden age, and their old advertisements are filled with the promise of tomorrow. People throughout history dreamed of flying up in the sky and looking down to see their cities and towns. Today we take for granted what would have amazed our forefathers 100 plus years ago.
From the beginning when aircraft were piloted by daredevils and WW1 veterans to the modern jet age flying has become a part of everyday life. Some of us spend a great deal of time sitting in a metal cylinder of compressed air hurting through space at a good rate of speed. Almost everyone has flown on an aircraft at least once or twice.
The First Decades of Aviation
Early Days: Barnstormers and Daredevils
Ever since the Wright brothers coaxed their aircraft off the ground to soar a few hundred feet engineers and tinkerers attempted to improve the basic design. By the time World War One had started airplanes had become dependable enough to take part, first as spotters, and before long as weapons themselves. At first the pilots would throw bricks or grappling hooks at each other. Before long they would fire handheld pistols at other pilots. before long synchronized machine guns behind the propeller made airplanes weapons in their own right. After the war, flyers returning from Europe found that there were far more pilots than jobs available.
Fledgling companies tried to use planes as mail carriers and passenger conveyers with varying levels of success. Barnstorming pilots would cross the country performing acts such as wing walking and flying the aircraft in loops and upside down. or simply offering airplane rides. One of the best known wing walkers, Ormer Locklear even became a movie star who's career came to a screeching halt after his death in a crash while filming the Skywayman in 1920.
The Golden Age of Aviation
Just before and during WW2 advancements were made in aircraft technology including cabin pressurization which enabled aircraft to fly above 12,500 ft. New planes such as the Lockheed Constellation (pictured here), and the Douglas DC-6 entered service, making mass air travel available to the public for the first time. Instead of taking days to travel by train, you could cut your traveling time noticeably by flying cross country.
It was an era of starched white linen, real cutlery, and complimentary champagne service. Passengers went out on the tarmac and boarded air stairs to get on the plane. Flying was a rarity for most people, so the flight was as exciting for many as reaching their destination. I must admit to giving the Constellation a little extra notice, as it is my favorite aircraft of the time.
Why Braniff Airlines Failed
Trans World Airlines (TWA) despite starting out as a small airline, became a major player in the airline industry from the 1940s to the 1980s. TWA and their major competitor Pan American World Airways, were the only airlines to fly to Europe until the 1970s. The airline was once owned by well known aviation veteran Howard Hughes, and by the late 1960s was the top transatlantic carrier just edging out Pan Am. By that point TWA was considered one of the big four airlines along with United, American, and Eastern Air Lines.
Unfortunately the airline was hit hard by deregulation which took place in 1978, and they struggled to increase their domestic routes in the face of stiff competition. in 1985, Carl Icahn acquired TWA in a hostile takeover. He began stripping the airline of it's assets to pay off debt, including the airline's prized London routes. After Icahn sold the company, it went through a couple of bankruptcies trying to stabilize and cut losses. However, TWA at that point was a shell of what it once was, and was purchased by American Airlines in 2001.
The Jet Set
At the dawn of the jet age, airlines stepped up their marketing efforts touting the speed and ease of air travel. Bright colors for the crew and aircraft became the rule of the day. Rapid innovation to stay ahead of the other air travel companies was the order of the day.
Airlines were regulated at the time so they competed on amenities not price. Flying was still expensive and a rare treat to many people. Without price to battle over, companies tried to entice potential customers with glamorous destinations and stewardesses in mini-skirts (for the mostly male clientele).
Now vanished airlines such as Pan American Airways (Pan Am), Trans World Airways (TWA), Braniff International, and Eastern Airlines competed with still operating companies such as American, United, and Delta. You could still buy a ticket, go right out to the aircraft and board it. Aircraft such as the Boeing 707, the Lockheed L-1011, and the Douglas DC-8 filled the skies.
A new entry called Southwest Airlines started with only Texas flights instate to avoid government pricing, and made a name for themselves with low pricing in a time of high fixed prices. However in the early years they were best known for the hotpants that their stewardesses wore.
Southwest Hotpants Ad
Busy Skies: The Modern Era
In 1978 the airlines were deregulated and became price competitive. Southwest Airlines had joined the fray a few years before. Others such as America West Airlines, and Frontier followed. Planes became more crowded, and slowly lost most of the amenities that companies had formerly offered. The upside of course is that flight prices have come down considerably from the earlier decades.
Former giants Pan Am and TWA disappeared as did Braniff, Eastern, Western, and recently Northwest, and Continental. New entries such as Jetblue and Spirit have started up and it has never been quicker to get from one end of the country to the other. The old dream of having breakfast in New York and lunch in San Francisco is now a reality.