Sky as Frontier: Adventure, Aviation, and Empire

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Overview

When the Wright brothers invented their flying machine, Americans lived in a nation of two dimensions, circumscribed by lines drawn on a conventional map. A century later, their nation existed—in fact, reigned—in three dimensions. Two million Americans "slipped the surly bonds of earth" daily, carried aloft by aircraft operating in every part of the world.

The airplane turned the sky into a new domain of human activity, a fast-developing frontier first braved by adventurous young men. Then came the rich and the hurried, followed by just about everybody else. Until now, no one has told the story of aviation as one of frontier expansion.

Aviation's frontier stage lasted a scant three decades, then vanished as flying became a settled experience. Sky as Frontier shows how commercial and military imperatives destroyed this pioneer world by routinizing flight. Along the way, Courtwright stops to consider dogfighting, barnstorming, the first air mail pilots, the development of airlines, air power during World War II, flight's impact on the environment, the troubled space frontier, and how the male-dominated aviation enterprise was domesticated and democratized.

The history of American flight shows a fateful trade-off. Rationalization killed the adventure in flying but made possible rapid aerial expansion. With it came commercial growth and global military reach. In no other country did social life, business, and military operations become so intertwined with aerospace advances or have such large consequences for national power and prestige.


About the Author:
David T. Courtwright's recent books include Violent Land: Single Men and SocialDisorder from the Frontier to the Inner City and the prize-winning Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World. He lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and teaches at the University of North Florida.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of American History
"Sky as Frontier offers a fresh and interesting interpretation of the role of aviation in American culture, solidly rooted in both original and secondary sources...The book offers much food for thought, not only for historians of flight but also for students of broader issues in American History."
Journal of Transport History
...a wonderful source of aeronautical ideas and information. It is also an excellent and entertaining read. Courtwright has an enviable eye for detail and irony…impeccably and richly sounded.
Choice
Courtwright adopts an innovative approach in analyzing the course of U.S. aerospace history from 1908 to 2001. . . . provides a useful paradigm for understanding the broader implications of America's aerospace century.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585443840
  • Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Series: Centennial of Flight Series , #11
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author


David Courtwright writes about U.S. and world history. His recent books include Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder from the Frontier to the Inner City and the prize-winning Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World. He lives in Jacksonville and teaches at the University of North Florida.
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Table of Contents

Pt. I The age of the pioneers 3
1 Sky as frontier 5
2 The worm gets the early birds 21
3 Gone west 38
4 The next thing to suicide 56
5 The Protestant ethic and the Spirit of St. Louis 70
Pt. II The age of mass experience 89
6 Assisted takeoff 91
7 The Rome of the air 110
8 Routine stuff 132
9 Marginal costs with wings 151
10 Space as frontier 172
Pt. III The significance of air and space in American history 193
11 Winners and losers 195
12 A storm of planes 209
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