|Map of Omaha, Nebraska drawn by airmail pilot Farr Nutter features railroad tracks, the Missouri River, and an airfield.
- Courtesy of the National
Archives and Records Administration
Learning that Delivers: More Ideas for
Early airmail pilots used compasses, road maps, and notable
features on the landscape (such as train tracks, rivers, and
buildings) to find their way. They were setting out America's
first, regular air routes and they did not have set paths
to follow or topographical maps with information available
to them. After a time, some pilots wrote down descriptions
of the landscape and the particular winds and directions along
a route. They made hand-drawn maps of the route and sketches
of landing fields to share with other pilots. These maps included
information on the best direction from which to approach the
landing field, pictures of trees, buildings and other obstacles,
and the direction of the wind.
Place a book or some other object on a table or chair.
Draw a map of the room with visual clues locating the
book's position. Include enough information for
someone to find his or her way. Test your map. See if
someone else can locate the book by using your hand-drawn
Improve a Paper Airplane
Try a hands-on activity to underscore innovation based on
trial and error.
>> Find resources on paper airplanes.
1. Make a paper airplane (any style).
2. Fly the paper airplane and record observations on its
3. Hypothesize what you think may make the paper airplane
fly farther, steadier, faster, etc.
4. Put these hypotheses to the test. Alter the design
5. Fly the paper airplane again to see if the improvement
works as predicted.
(Repeat four and five times to try different design and
Inventors look for innovation in the everyday. They start with what they know and look to fix the problems and fill in the gaps. Inventors often take us beyond what we think is possible. Inventors often take us beyond what we currently
think is possible.
The Wright Brothers repaired and sold bicycles
before they began to design the first airplane. They decided
to find a way for the pilot to balance the airplane in the
air, the same way a cyclist balances a bicycle. They tested
the controls on a kite and a series of gliders. The Wright
Brothers created new ideas based on their knowledge of mechanics
1. Be an inventor. Create a new way to move people and
things more quickly and safely. Think of a creative change
for one of the following vehicles (spacecrafts, cars,
trains, ships, carts, bicycles, wheelchairs) or perhaps
envision a completely, new mode of transportation.
2. Draw your new invention on paper. Focus on what will
make this vehicle new or different.
3. Create a model. Gather materials from around your classroom
or home to make a model of your new invention (paper,
glue, tape, paperclips, string, balloons, plastic cup,
Rules and Regulations
The Post Office Department assigned superintendents to make
sure airmail moved as swiftly as possible. However, superintendents
were also responsible for the pilots' safety and the
expensive airplanes they used. Sometimes the demand for speedily
moving the mail and the interests of the pilots and the equipment
were not always given equal consideration. The superintendents
placed heavy demands upon the pilots to fly in all types of
weather conditions and in the dark of night. Nevertheless,
pilots were generally a courageous bunch. They could even be rather rowdy and they definitely liked the independence the pioneering age of flight offered. Balancing the pilots'
personalities and the need to move the mail could make the
superintendents' job a difficult one.
Pretend you are the first airmail superintendent. Write the first 10 rules and regulations that the airmail service pilots must follow. Keep in mind the need for safety and
professional behavior, as well as the importance of time
schedules, record keeping, and the need to move the mail.
What moved people to explore the realm of flight? What motivated
the early pilots to face the dangers of flight?
Early pilots had many personal and professional considerations
to weigh in choosing their career: danger, discomfort,
adventure, salary, and fame to name a few. Make a pros
and cons list of the rewards and the drawbacks of serving
as an airmail pilot.
Dare to Dream
Motivation is a quality that inspires people learn and improve.
Express your personal motivations through one of the following:
Create a piece of art that describes what motivates
you. Make a collage (use pictures from a magazine, catalog,
etc.), make a mobile, draw a picture, or create a song.
Write an essay comparing the creation of airplanes to
Write a poem about the beauty of flight. How does human flight compare to the ability of birds?
Pretend you are an airmail pilot. Write a diary entry
of your first flight.
Write an acrostic using an airmail word. To make an
acrostic, turn each letter of your chosen word into
a separate word. For example, an acrostic for the word "plane" might be, Pilots, Land, Airplanes, Navigate, Engine.
There are many interesting facts about early flight and the
role airmail played.
Make a trivia game from the facts you find in this website.
Players will receive "fly points" for their
correct answers. The winner is the one who collects the most "fly points."