Hundreds of images span a century of passenger flight, from the rudimentary trajectory of routes to the most intricately detailed birds-eye views of the land to be flown over. Advertisements for the first scheduled commercial passenger flights featured only a few destinations, with stunning views of the countryside and graphics of biplanes. As aviation took off, speed and mileage were trumpeted on bold posters featuring busy routes. Major airlines produced highly stylized illustrations of their global presence, establishing now-classic brands. With trendy and forward-looking designs, cartographers celebrated the coming together of different cultures and made the earth look ever smaller.
But some of the maps in the book are really geometric and straightforward, like transit maps. I’m wondering, how are these airlines dealing with some of the problems of transit maps? For instance, how do you get a lot of lines to a central station, or a hub in terms of air travel?
Roberts: I’m not sure that they do. I’ve actually looked closely at a lot of these airline maps and tried to get my head around them, and actually some make no sense at all. They’re essentially unusable. And that’s the big irony with airline maps: Nobody’s ever used an airline map to plan a journey.
It seems to me that this is because airline maps aren’t transit maps, they’re pictorial maps. Pictorial maps were about promotion and decoration, not navigation.
A new study quantifies the economic benefits of GPS: in the U.S. alone, it estimates around $1.4 trillion in economic activity resulting from private-sector GPS use, about half of that coming from improvements in the telecommunications sector. (Roughly a quarter came from the telematics sector, and 15 percent from location-based services.) About 90 percent of those benefits have been generated in the last decade. The study also quantified the impact of a GPS outage: about a billion dollars a day, more if it occurred during planting season (agriculture has become reliant on GPS). [Ars Technica]
And speaking of GPS outages, earlier this month hundreds of flights were grounded over what appeared at first to be a GPS signal problem, but turned out to be a technical issue with GPS receivers made by Collins Aerospace. About 400 flights were cancelled on Sunday, 9 June, mostly involving Bombardier regional jets, but also other airliners and private aircraft. The FAA instructed pilots of affected aircraft to use other navigation methods; Collins says it has identified the issue and is working with the airlines. Coverage: AINonline, FlightGlobal,Forbes, GPS World, RNTF. [Jason Rabinowitz]
Daniel Huffman had the opportunity to redesign an airline’s route map for their in-flight magazine. He came up with the above design, which in the end the client decided against, but he talks about how he came up with it in this blog post. He calls it a cartogram, because he’s expanding or shrinking the continents to account for where the routes are clustered (which I guess kind of counts); and he’s adopted what he calls a “root-and-branch” style to avoid the cluttering and overlapping of multiple lines. It’s a fascinating read, particularly if you like learning about the mapmaking process.
The Global Map is a neat toy from the 1940s. The whole thing is just under one by two feet in area, and consists of two rotating hemispheres that touch at a single point, with the purpose of showing the shortest distance by air or sea between two points—a quick and dirty way of showing a great-circle route with a bit of cardboard and no math. From the David Rumsey Map Collection. [Maps on the Web]
Out this month from Amberley Publishing: Mapping the Airways. “Drawing on fascinating and unique material from the British Airways archive, curator Paul Jarvis focuses on the beautiful map artwork used over nearly 100 years of history to chart our voyages through the skies—from early adverts to twenty-first-century on-board moving maps—and the vital maps and charts used by pilots and navigators.” (The paperback edition seems to be delayed until June on the U.S. Amazon store, though you can still get the Kindle version.) Here’s a short piece about the book in the trade journal Advance. [Tony Campbell]