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Airport 1941

Airport 1941

July 1941. "Observation deck and airliner on the field seen through the window of the waiting room. Municipal (National) airport, Washington, D.C." Medium format acetate negative by Jack Delano. View full size.


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Someday, planes might carry 40 or 50 people!

In 1942 my mother was head ticket agent for United Air Lines at Chicago's Municipal (later Midway) Airport. She always told us about how she and the other agents imagined the future of flight where airplanes might hold as many as "forty or fifty people!"

She also explained that she was required to climb that little set of stairs and hand the flight manifest directly to the pilot through his window.

The Three and Me

I was a Foreign Service brat, born into the last days of the Chinese Revolution and civil war in Nanking.

As the remnant of US representation shriveled and moved from place to place with the nationalist government, my first rides were in a Marine Corps Douglas. I think the Navy/Marine C47 equivalent was called the R4D.

We went on to Colombia, where as in all of South America the DC3's and C47's ruled the skies. I loved the blasts of fire and noise as the radials fired up in the Andean dawn and the wonderful visuals of low-altitude flight, now lost to travelers.

We could watch people as we flew between the mountains and see individual fish in the Caribbean. All Colombian pilots were avid readers of "Terry and the Pirates" and were great fans of the WWII look. They invariably wore battered leather flight jackets and 50-mission hats crushed to "Just Right," and kept their nickel plated .38 revolvers in shoulder holsters. One did not hijack planes in those days!

Our Dachshund achieved fame in aviation circles -- he broke out of the tail baggage compartment, waited til someone opened the bathroom door, and joined us at our seats. The Colombians quite understood. I preferred the freighters we often flew to the passenger 3's. I could walk around exploring, read AAF overhaul plaques from Calcutta 1944, and just marvel at the beauty of it all.

A popular hangout

This is what I remember it looking like when I was a kid. I wish this were a color photo - my memory has the floor being a green and black terrazzo tile. I took my first flight from there in 1959 at the age of 5 - Capital Airlines to Minneapolis.

A different era

When flying was still romantic and adventurous. And nobody drew the shades over the windows while there was still something to see outside. Of course, the tickets were much dearer, too.

Counting beans, the C-47 (first flight December 23, 1941, 10,174 built) was the military version of the DC-3 (first flight December 17, 1935, 607 built).

The Great Silver Fleet

I just had to go to Wikipedia to see what it said on the side of that DC-3!

Culture changes

My attention was drawn to the well dressed women. There was a time when either flying or greeting was a huge event either by air or rail. Love the nostalgia nudge.

What an era

I was introduced to the work of Jack Delano through Shorpy. I'm now a big fan. It's fascinating to think that he was active at a time when both steam engines and airplanes were in common use.

History Awaits

Looks like a DC-3, the civilian version of the Army Air Corps Douglas C-47 "Skytrain." Just a few years later (1944) hundreds of these would be crossing the English Channel carrying parachute troops to be dropped off behind enemy lines for the D-Day invasion.

Ended in a cane field

Eastern took possession of five DC-3's in September of 1940. Registered as N15595 through N15599, this one, N15597, crashed into a sugar cane field in the Dominican Republic, (as Victoria Air), in June 1991. All 35 passengers survived.

Photo Orientation

Looking over the Potomac and toward the mouth of the Anacostia River in the distance?

You can still visit today

Historic Terminal A.

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