A young blond child wears an astronaut costume.  The child has taken their helmet off and is smiling.
The history of commercial aviation in the United States from air mail to airlines.

Flying was new and daring in the early years of the 20th century. Traveling by airplane was rare. Airlines, airliners, airports, air routes—none of these existed. But by century's end, you could travel to almost anywhere in America by air in a matter of hours. How did this revolutionary change happen?

Themes in Commercial Aviation

Feature Pages

Related Collection Objects

The Museum's collection holds a number of objects related to the history of commercial aviation—from boarding tickets to uniforms, full size aircraft and archival photos—together these objects tell the story of commercial aviation in the United States. Explore some of these objects below.

Related Exhibitions

Related Videos and Podcasts

STEM in 30: Could the Wright Brothers Fly Today's Commercial Planes?

The Concorde and the Future of Supersonic Flight

AirSpace Podcast: Me and the Sky

Setting Commercial Air Routes with Charles and Anne Lindbergh

The Slow Entry into the Jet Age

The World's First Jumbo Jet

Hear Perspectives from 9/11

An Animation FAA Closure of US Airspace on 9/11 

Educational Resources

STEM in 30: Could the Wright Brothers Fly Today's Commercial Planes?

STEM in 30: Staying Safe is No Accident: The Science of Safety

My Path: Alaskan Pilot Ariel Tweto

Publications

Airlines and Air Mail: The Post Office and the Birth of Commercial Aviation by F. Robert van der Linden

Art of the Airport Tower by Carolyn Russo

Airlines of the Jet Age, A History by R.E.G. Davies

Boeing 247: The First Modern Airliner by F. Robert van der Linden