How Airline Maps Came To Be
It is very likely that you are among those who have killed time at 30,000 feet by looking closely at the airline network map in the in-flight magazine. A new book reveals that airline flight maps evolved over the past centuries from stylish bird’s eye view map to the more basic maps.
Bird’s eye view maps are not actually tools for navigation and airline maps are descendants of the cartographic genre that was highly popular centuries ago. Inspired by bird’s eye view maps, airline maps were able to tap into the romance of flight and technological innovations that enabled its expansion while attempting to reassure passengers that soaring through the skies inside a metal tube was a safe and convenient mode of travel.
In the book “Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design,” authors Maxwell Roberts and Mark Ovenden presented the pictorial history including homage to previous map genres, art deco and mod aesthetics. According to the authors, airline maps are not same as railroad maps because nobody knows the flight paths. Map illustrators have a free hand to design a completely different airline map.
Through the years, passengers would enjoy little vignettes of what local people may look in a part of Africa or India or whatever colony. There are landmarks in countries like famous buildings or the type of animals that a visitor can expect to see. There are details that you will never get from a basic railway map.
When air travel was relatively new, map illustrators were looking for images that will show how the world was joined up like the way the old fashioned cartographic maps showed them. Series of airline maps show bursts of creativity that can be exciting from the passenger’s point of view. Airline maps are not really made to advertise airlines but to make people feel what it is like to fly above and look down at the earth. ‘
Map illustrations are also called bird’s eye view map because the technique used by the map illustrator shows a scene at it looks from above at an oblique view. While the illustrated map is not drawn according to strict scale, it shows major landscapes in detail.