The golden age of aviation is considered to be the period between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second World War. For some people, it is associated with white tablecloths in the cabin, chic dishes, first-class passenger service aboard handsome liners. It was also a time of very noticeable leap in aircraft construction, including a technological breakthrough.

Age of flying boats

Pan Am’s Sikorsky S-42B is rightfully considered as one of the golden age of aviation symbols. 


In 1935, S-42 aircraft were the first to pave the way across the Pacific Ocean from the United States West Coast to the Philippines. In 1937, S-42 opened the South Pacific route to New Zealand. In total, ten aircraft were built, including three S-42, and three S-42A with Hornet S4EG engines rated at 559 kW (750 hp), with an increased wingspan and an increase of 907 kg (2,000 pounds) take-off weight. Four S-42B boats showed improved aerodynamic performance, also, they had Hamilton Standard variable pitch propellers, which further increased take-off weight by another 907 kg (2000 pounds).

Nose art begins

World War I and II interrupted the process of civil aviation development when the countries had to invest human and financial capital into construction of the military aircraft. 

It also brought a new type of art, nose art, the way of decoration of the military aircraft. It is believed that the first drawing applied to the fuselage of the aircraft was the image of a sea monster on the bow of an Italian flying boat of 1913.

[ wikimedia]

Initially, images on the planes resembled heraldic symbols similar to those that the ancient knights applied to the shields. Nose art was the most popular in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. Quite often, pilots were not the main initiators of drawings on the aircraft, but the staff that was servicing it. Pin-up had a great influence on the development of nose art. Betty Grable, naked pin-up star of the era, appeared on many military aircraft. 

The nose art was approved by the Air Force command as a means to raise morale and provide some psychological support to the crew. American psychologists who studied the aircraft nose art phenomenon believe that in this way the plane became humanized, reminded the pilot of home and peaceful life, and served as a kind of psychological defense against the war. Nowadays, pilots flying historical planes also apply nose art to their machines, either in a classic form or create original images.

Introducing the flight attendant profession

After WWI the civil aviation continued its journey. The airline companies introduced a new profession ‒ flight attendant.

The image: The first flight attendant crew led by Ellen Church.

[ Public domain/flickr]

The world's first female flight attendant was an American Ellen Church. She worked as a nurse in Iowa but dreamed of being a pilot. Church entered flight courses to fulfill her dream, but Boeing Air Transport airline offered her another idea ‒ to recruit a group of seven nurses who would be up to 25 years old, weighing up to 52 kg, single, attractive, and ready to become stewardesses. Back then, passengers were afraid of flying. The first planes flew low above the ground and passengers often felt unwell. To ensure their safety on board, the airline's administration decided to involve nurses in the work. Air carriers were hoping that because of such innovations, passengers would be less afraid and more often turn to airline services. The campaign was quite fruitful.

The first flight attendant crew led by Ellen Church aerotime news

The first flight attendant crew led by Ellen Church. [Public domain/wikimedia]

Preparation took several months, and on May 15, 1930, the first flight attendant Ellen Church flew on a San Francisco – Cheyenne flight. In addition to medical assistance and communication with passengers, the first flight attendants were supposed to help them carry luggage, fix faults in the cabin (such as broken seats), refuel the plane, and help pilots roll it into the hangar! For this, they received a decent salary of $ 125 per month.

Boeing 247

Image: Stewardess Clara Johnson with Roscoe Turner's Boeing 247D.

[ Public domain/Flickr]

Boeing 247 Douglas D-2 was one of the first modern airliners. In 1933, it was introduced by United Air Lines as a participant of International Air Derby, also known as the MacRobertson Race. The Race attracted aircraft entities from around the world, including prototypes and established production types, with the course considered an excellent proving ground and an opportunity to gain worldwide attention. Two well-known American pilots Roscoe Turner and Clyde Pangborn flew it from England to Australia in 1934. The airplane completed an 18,180-kilometer (11,300-mile) journey in just under 93 hours. After the race, it was returned to United Air Lines and flown as the airline’s flagship until replaced by DC-3s.

Women in aviation

Everybody knows who Amelia Earhart was. She managed to pave the way for women in aviation of the era of big records of the 1930s. The image of a woman at the controls of an airplane stopped being unusual. Soon, women started piloting not only civil but war aircraft as well.

Sabiha Gökçen was one of those who did it first. She perfectly controlled both bombers and fighters. During her career in the Turkish Air Force, Gökçen piloted 22 different types of aircraft, spent more than 8,000 hours in the air, 32 of which were sorties. She piloted aircraft until 1964.

Image: Sabiha Gökçen in front of a Breguet 19, a light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, also used for long-distance flights

[ Public domain/wikimedia]