2019-12-05 Now Boarding: The Birth of Air Travel

Curated by Tim Nelson. December, 2019 – October, 2020.

A look back at the colorful early years of civil air travel, from canvas & wire to pressurized all-metal machines. (Link to article 1) (Link to article 2)

Listen to the Museum of Flight “Flight Deck Podcast” episode about the development of this display!

Models on display


Avro 504K (QANTAS) - 1920

In Australia, the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd began operation with two 504k's. The airline soon adopted the acronym QANTAS.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Bill Glinski

Blackburn Kangaroo (North Sea Aerial Navigation Co.) - 1919

This converted British bomber flew popular "joy rides" at the 1919 Amsterdam ELTA exhibition, and was a pioneering air freight carrier on UK and cross-channel runs.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Bréguet 14 (Aéropostale) - 1919

One of many World War I types quickly adapted for air taxi and air mail purposes, and one of the most important.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Jack Matthews

De Havilland DH.66 (Imperial Airways) - 1926

Pioneered far-flung Imperial Airways routes in the Middle East, India, and South Africa. Later opened new routes across Australia.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

De Havilland DH-4 (U.S. Mail) - 1919

Converted DH-4's and sibling DH-9's were a mainstay of early air mail routes in Europe and the USA.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Bill Glinski

Dornier Delphin Do L Ia (Prototype) - 1920

Only four of this early flying boat were produced, but it strongly influenced later Dornier designs such as the Komet, Merkur, and Wal.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Farman F.62 Goliath (Československé Státní Aerolinie - CSA) - 1919

One of the most important and influential early civil transports, the Goliath established that passenger air travel could be safe and profitable. This later Czech version was license-produced.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Fokker C.1 (Fokker Air Tours) - 1919

Anthony Fokker adapted several WW I aircraft for air tours during the 1919 Amsterdam ELTA exhibition. He would later design a long series of important transports.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Fokker F.II (KLM) - 1920

The Dutch firm Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij ("Royal Airline Company"), better known as KLM, is the world's oldest continuously operating airline. It began by flying Anthony Fokker's first post-war design between Amsterdam and London.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Handley-Page 0/400 (Handley Page Transport Ltd.) - 1919

The massive 0/400 was one of several World War I bomber types quickly adapted for civil use. Handley-Page developed several purpose-built civil variants through the early 1920s.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Bill Glinski

Junkers F 13 (SCADTA) - 1919

The first ever purpose-built civil airliner was an innovative all-metal design. It helped establish SCADTA's operation in South America, which continues today as Avianca.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Don Conrard

Junkers G 24 (Aero O/Y) - 1925

Before the famous Ju-52, this design further established Junkers as a major transport manufacturer. This example served Finnish airline Aero O/Y.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Ken Murphy

LVG C.VI (SNETA) - 1919

Belgium received several German aircraft as reparations following World War I. This LVG was one of several quickly adapted for commercial air service by SNETA, forerunner of Sabena Airlines.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Vickers Vimy Commercial (China Mail Service) - 1919

The Chinese government ordered 40 of this civil version of the British WWI bomber for air mail service.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Will Perry

Zeppelin Staaken E4/20 (Prototype) - 1920

This shockingly advanced post-WWI all-metal German design so alarmed the Allies that they required it be destroyed under terms of the Armistice.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

BFW / Messerschmitt M.20 (Lufthansa) - 1928

One of Willy Messerschmitt's first designs, carrying 10 passengers.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Chellie Lynn

Boeing Model 200 Monomail (Prototype) - 1930

The sleek Monomail introduced all-metal construction and retractable landing gear. Only 2 were built, but its innovations were influential.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Bob Peterson

Boeing Model 247 (United Air Lines) - 1933

Widely considered to be the first modern airliner, the 247 established the basic transport configuration which remained common until the Jet Age.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: John Newcome

Boeing Model 40C (Pacific Air Transport) - 1925

The Model 40 took air mail to new heights of profitability, and showed that passenger service could be lucrative too.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: John Newcome

Boeing Model 80A-1 (United Air Lines) - 1928

The Model 80 was introduced after other monoplane tri-motors, but retained a biplane configuration for high elevation airports on West Coast-Chicago routes. It introduced the first "stewardess."

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Bill Glinski

De Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide (Misr Airwork) - 1934

An anacronism even by mid-1930s standards, the Rapide was still a reliable and durable transport. Egypt-based Misr flew 5 Rapides, named after ancient cities such as “Heliopolis" and "Thebes."

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Neil Makar

Dornier Do JII Wal (Lufthansa) - 1922

The Wal ("whale") became famous for arctic exploration and transatlantic routes. This version was carried on a ship and catapult-launched nearing port to speed delivery.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Russ Bucy

Farman F.190 (Air France) - 1928

This later Farman design served on short routes with several European Airlines.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Bill Glinski

Focke-Wulf A 16 (Luft Hansa) - 1924

Better known for its famous FW-190 fighter of WW2, Focke-Wulf's first design was this stubby airliner with seats for four passengers.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Focke-Wulf F 19 (Prototype) - 1927

The unconventional Ente ("duck") was an experimental transport design. It unfortunately killed designer George Wulf.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: John Miller

Fokker F.VIIb/3m (Japan Air Transport Co.) - 1924

The Fokker Tri-Motor served with airlines around the world, helping to popularize air travel. It also was a workhorse of epic flights of exploration.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Morgan Girling

Ford Tri-Motor 4-AT (Pan American-Grace Airways) - 1926

The hardy all-metal Ford Tri-Motor played a leading role in demonstrating the safety and reliability of air travel. Pan Am used it in their South American operation.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Neil Makar

Kalinin K-5 (Aeroflot) - 1929

The most important transport in 1930s Soviet Russia. This version was a propaganda machine for routes to western Europe.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Latécoère 28 (Aéropostale) - 1927

Jean Mermoz flew the first mail flight across the South Atlantic, from Senegal to Brazil, in this attractive monoplane.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Lockheed Vega 5 (Alaska Coastal Airlines) - 1927

The fast and beautiful Vega was a favorite of airlines, business executives, record-breakers, and explorers. This aircraft flew the rugged coastline of Southeast Alaska.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: John Newcome

Ryan M-1 (Pacific Air Transport) - 1926

One of the first purpose-built mailplanes, and the inspiration for Charles Lindbergh's Ryan NYP "The Spirit of St. Louis."

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Jim Schubert

Savoia-Marchetti S.74 (Ala Littoria) - 1934

Only three of this modern looking transport were built. Although its four-engine configuration was advanced for the time, it still retained fixed landing gear.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Paolo Marcucci

Dornier Do X (Luft Hansa) - 1029

The massive Do-X was like an aerial ship. Even with 12 engines, it could only reach an altitude of 1000 ft.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Bill Glinski

Dornier Merkur (Ad Astra Aero) - 1925

The Merkur and its predecessor Komet were derived from the Delphin flying boat. They expanded new routes in Europe and South America. A Merkur was first to cross the Alps commercially.

Scale: 1/24 Modeler: Scott Kruize

Handley-Page H.P.42 (Imperial Airways) - 1930

The ultra-reliable H.P.42 flew Imperial Airways routes to the Middle East. Only 8 were built, but it became an icon of the era.

Scale: 1/144 Modeler: Bill Glinski

LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin (Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft - DELAG) - 1924

This hydrogen-filled dirigible flew epic circumnavigation flights and transatlantic service. The catastrophic loss of the later Hindenburg ended the dirigible era for mass air travel.

Scale: 1/245 Modeler: Doug Reed

Savoia-Marchetti S.55X (Special 1933 Formation Flight) - 1924

The unique twin-hulled flying boat was capable of airline service and exploration. The version here was one of 24 aircraft that flew from Italy to the Chicago World's Fair in 1933.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Russ Bucy

Douglas DC-2 (Eastern Air Lines) - 1934

The DC-2 was a major advancement in transport technology, making all previous models instantly obsolete. It was further refined into the classic DC-3.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Neil Makar

Lockheed Vega 5C (Shell Oil Co.) - 1927

The fast and beautiful Vega was a favorite of airlines, business executives, record-breakers, and explorers. This aircraft was an executive transport for the Shell Oil Company.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Tim Nelson

Sikorsky S-39 (Private) - 1930

The light and amphibious S-39 was flown by small airlines and private operators. The version here was used by Martin and Osa Johnson for extensive exploration of Africa.

Scale: 1/72 Modeler: Russ Bucy

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