The Heart of the Golden Age of Flight

Aviation Popularity

The DC-1 was the first of a Douglas dynasty of airliners.
The DC-1 was the first of a Douglas dynasty of airliners.
McDonnell Douglas Corp

The new and powerful sentiment for aviation was reflected in the popular culture of the time. Aviation films, including the first film ever to win an Oscar, Wings, were extremely well received. For the wealthy, it became as socially progressive to own an aircraft as to own a yacht, and the fine old magazine The Sportsman Pilot lovingly recorded the comings and goings of the rich and famous all over the country. Aircraft were used by businesses for practical tasks suc­h as flying along pipelines, making swift delivery of photographs for newspapers, and, to a very limited degree, serving as executive aircraft.

But records and racing caught the public imagination, and heroes emerged to follow in Lindbergh's mighty footsteps. Among them was Amelia Earhart, who resembled Lindbergh so much in physical appearance and in her mannerisms that she was inevitably called "the Lady Lindy." Jimmy Doolittle, who had earned his doctorate in aeronautical engineering at M.I.T., flew a series of record flights and performed the first outside loop. After leaving the service, he became America's premier racing pilot in the Granville brothers' hot Gee Bee racer. He had a host of colleagues, including Wiley Post, Frank Hawks, Roscoe Turner, Clarence Chamberlin, and others, all of whom had a devoted following in press and public.

The American aviation experience was replicated around the world. Great Britain honored its great flyers, including Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Jimmy and Amy Mollison, Flight Lieutenants John Boothman and George Stainforth, and many more.

­As hotly contested as the races were, so was the technology of transports. Boeing created the first modern transport in 1933 with its twin-engine Model 247, beginning a ­dynasty of Boeing transports. Douglas countered the same year with its remarkable DC-1, the sire of the famous DC line. These would lead to a revolution in the air transport industry, since the Douglas series of aircraft would for the first time make flying passengers profitable without a subsidy.

­The stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent depression put a damper on the aviation firestorm Lindbergh had created, but it did not extinguish it. Aviation was still a young and vital industry with the capacity to draw from its own resources all that was necessary not only to survive but to progress. For the next chapter in the history of flight, check out Flight in the Depression.