THE MUNICIPAL AIRPORT,
WHERE WINGED CRUISERS COME AND GO
Chicago As the Hub of the Transcontinental Air Lines
BY WALTER WRIGHT
Superintendent of Parks, Recreation and Aviation
UNCHALLENGED as a railroad center, Chicago has within the last few years, and with the development of commercial aviation, which she has done much to encourage, become the hub of the transcontinental airlines which have spread their amazing network over the United States.
Air-conscious Chicagoans today regard St. Louis, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Cleveland, if not as suburbs, at least as near neighbors, within a few hours’ hop of their doors. It is nothing at all out of the ordinary to have lunch in Chicago and dinner in New York.
Air lines radiate from Chicago in all directions. Powerful beacons guide the mail and passenger planes to the city, and the Lindbergh beacon scouring with its silver beam a circle with a 5OO-mile radius, nightly beckons the winged cruisers to the Nation’s air capital.
To those who have not as yet realized how rapidly and how completely the new form of transportation has captured the public imagination, a visit to the new air terminal passenger station at the Municipal Airport will be a revelation. At no other station in the world do more regularly scheduled mail and passenger planes arrive than at this, and from no other station do as many planes depart on scheduled flights.
Paul Gerhardt, architect.
The white, monolithic concrete depot, with its modernistic lines and comfortable appointments, the busy ticket office, the click of telegraph instruments, the attendant redcaps, the announcement of departures by the loud speaker, and even the illuminated weather maps, all give one an impression of progress and make him realize that he is living on the threshold of a new age, an age of modern transportation.
While waiting for his plane to take off, the passenger may hear the drone of motors overhead, while out of the clouds drops a carrier from New York or San Francisco. The door is opened, and the new arrivals step down, receive their hand baggage, and pass through the gates, while a compartment in one of the wings is let down, and the mail is transferred to a truck. The landings are made so quietly and with so little bustle and confusion that it seems impossible that the planes could have come from such distances and without adventure.
The immense hangars at the Airport not only house the resident planes, but also the shops where the planes are daily inspected and kept in perfect trim. Here too will be observed the radio and control tower, through which the field can talk to flying pilots; and the radio beacon which guides ships safely into port no matter what the weather. Everywhere is evident the combined official watchfulness of city, state, and federal government, which assures the air-traveling public of the highest degree of safety and comfort, combined with speed.
Municipal Airport, 1929
Chicago Aerial Survey Co.
Chicago’s Municipal Airport is today the busiest airport in the world. It has outstripped even such older and world-famous ports as Croyden, Le Bourget, and Templehof, serving respectively London, Paris, and Berlin. It has outstripped them in the number of daily scheduled flights as well as in the number of passengers and amount of air mail carried. Thus Chicago has reached in the air that supremacy it holds in railroad transportation.
The Airport is under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Parks, Recreation, and Aviation, of which Col. A. A. Sprague, Commissioner of Public Works, is the director. It occupies an area of approximately one square mile, from 55th to 63d streets, and from Cicero avenue to Central avenue. It is situated nearer the heart of the city it serves than any other airport of its class, and lies entirely within the city limits. It is readily accessible by four main traffic arteries, and by two surface hues. By bus or taxicab, it is about a half hour’s ride from the Loop. The field is splendidly illuminated for night flying, with beacons, flood lights, boundary and hazard lights. Its four oiled cinder runways, in total length more than two miles, offer a perfect landing surface for planes of any size under any load. The new concrete taxi runway, a mile and a quarter long on two sides of the field, makes both clean and rapid the arrival and departure of the many ships in and from the loading zone.
The immense volume of activity at this airport can be appreciated when it is known that there are twelve lines operating forty different routes on daily schedule. Eighty planes a day leave or arrive at this port on regular schedule, and an average of twenty more independent planes arrive and depart each day. The combined total mileage of scheduled flights arriving and leaving Chicago totals over 44,000 miles daily.
Municipal Airport, 1929
Chicago Aerial Survey Co.
Speed has made the great success of air travel—speed with safety and comfort. When one can travel from Chicago to Cleveland in approximately three hours, spend practically a day there for business and return home in the evening, at a cost which is approximately the railroad fare plus lower berth, the future can readily be seen.
With the constant use and further development of radio in connection with flying, the safety of the passenger will be assured as in no other mode of travel.
With this swift progress Chicago is keeping step. Scattered about the Chicago area in Cook county and two adjacent counties are a score of commercial and privately owned airports, including a municipal seaplane base and a military combination airport and seaplane base. Plans are under way for the establishment of a landing field on an island off the lake front within five minutes’ ride of the Loop. This field, beautifully landscaped to conform to the adjacent park area, would accommodate land planes, amphibians, and sea planes. Planes arriving at and departing from this field would use the present Municipal Airport as a base, where every facility is at hand for housing, inspection, and repairs.
With this prospect in view, Chicago will have ample justification for her claim to being the transportation center of America.
United Air Lines which maintains general headquarters at Chicago for its Transcontinental, Middle West, Intermountain and Pacific Coast Lines, which fly more than one million miles per month, mostly with multi-engined passenger mail-express planes
1933 promotional film of American Airways that has several scenes of Chicago.
AIRPLANE PULLMAN-Two interior views of a passenger compartment as it appears by day and, at right, as it appears by night. The plane is said to be as ful1y equipped as any railroad sleeping car.
Chicago Tribune, December 22, 1929
Chicago Tribune May 12, 1938
City engineers yesterday began re- consideration of plans for enlarge. ment of Chicago’s airport. They stud- ied a compromise proposal, first made by Mayor Kelly, to move the Chicago and Western Indiana railroad tracks from the present right of way bisect- ing tho available landing area to a new position still on the field but adjacent to the northern boundary, which then would be 55th street. The tracks now follow the line of 59th street.
After reviewing the obstacles which have arisen during the last ton days to proposals that the tracks De moved entirely off the airport, the engineers decided that the suggestion of Mayor Kelly was worthy of more attention. Although the tracks would remain on the airport they would be so placed that the city would, virtually, have its mile square field.
School Board Owns Land.
The mayor s program calls for the deeding by the school board of a strip 100 feet in width and just south of 55th street to the railroad in return for the existing right of way. This would open up the field from Its pres- ent 300 acres south of the 59th street tracks to an area of about 600 acres. All the airport land Is owned by the board of education.
Bureau of air commerce experts have pointed out that a line of hang- ars and other buildings Is to be con- structed along 55th street anyway, and that the presence of the tracks there would not be any added hazard. Furthermore, the 100 foot strip would deduct so little from the length of the runways that It would not be noticeable by pilots of the big com- mercial air liners which will begin using the field this year.
Easy Plan to Arrange.
The school board already has as- sured Mayor Kelly that it will take any steps to aid the city in solving its acute airport problems. The transfer of title for the two strips would be accomplished easily, school board lawyers have announced. The ex- change with the C. & W. I. would in- crease the value of the airport tract by removing the right of way which has divided it into two pieces for so long, they hold.
Only one objection to this plan has been raised. The engineers say that an expensive grade crossing ultimate- ly would have to be constructed at 55th street and Cicero avenue if the C. & W. 1. tracks are laid along the northern edge of the airport.
Instead of a simple bridge over, or tunell under the tracks, a four leaf clover crossing with ramps to route trafic from 55th street to Cicero ave- nue and vice versa would have to be built.
No. 1 marks present route of the Chicago and Western Indiana railroad tracks at the edge of the present airport and bisecting the airport property; No. 2 marks proposed route for the tracks, out of the center of the field but still on the airport property, and No. 3 marks Indiana-Harbor Belt railroad tracks. The white circle shows where grade crossing project will increase cost of airport improvement if tracks are laid parallel to 55th street.