The Heyday of Propeller Airliners(1941-1958)

Is Flying a Necessity?

A necessity is something you can't live without. Could you live without air travel? People got along just fine before airplanes were invented. But now the world has come to depend on airplanes for many things. See the luggage pile activity to explore the many ways air travel affects everyday life.

The Era of Mass Air Travel Begins

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Reprinted courtesy American Airlines, Inc.

As flying became more popular and commonplace, the nature of the air travel experience began to change.

By the end of the 1950s, America's airlines were bringing a new level of speed, comfort, and efficiency to the traveling public. But as flying became commonplace and jet aircraft began to replace piston-engine airliners, the air travel experience began to change.

With the steady increase in passenger traffic, the level of personal service decreased. The stresses of air travel began to replace the thrill. Flying was no longer a novelty or an adventure; it was becoming a necessity.

End of Sleeper Service
National Air and Space Museum Archives

With airplanes becoming faster and passenger numbers increasing, airlines discontinued their plush sleeper service by the 1950s. Expensive to operate, sleeper service gave way to low-fare night coach service. The coast-to-coast eastbound flights became known as "red eye" specials.

Jet Lag Cartoon
CartoonStock Ltd

Passengers began experiencing physiological problems due to crossing several time zones within a few hours. Shortened or lengthened days or nights upset natural body rhythms and made sleeping difficult. Although later dubbed "jet lag," this was first experienced after long-distance trips on fast piston-engine and turboprop airliners.

Dodgers Convair 440
National Air and Space Museum Archives

The arrival of nonstop transcontinental service meant that major league baseball was no longer restricted to cities within a day's train ride, but could expand into new markets west of the Mississippi. In 1958 both the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers found new homes in California. Even before the move, the Dodgers had acquired a Convair 440 for their use.

Credit Card
Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

Charge Card

Airlines issued company charge cards to their employees-predecessors to today's credit cards.
Gift of Herbert Ford