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Boeing 40B-2 Air Mail Plane
Boeing 40B-2 Air Mail Plane
Resource Typeimage
TitleBoeing 40B-2 Air Mail Plane
Coverage / Year1928
DescriptionA single-engine biplane. The fuselage is painted green and gray and its wings are red and gray. Wing construction consists of solid spruce wooden poles routed out for lightness, spruce ribs and a plywood leading edge. The fuselage is a welded steel-tube frame covered with fabric. Fuel is carried in two forty and sixty-gallon tanks. The mail compartment is right behind the engine. The pilot's cockpit is behind the mail compartment. The mail compartment also could be used to carry two passengers. The airplane's engine is a Pratt and Whitney Hornet 525-horsepower radial engine. When empty, the plane weighs 3, 543 pounds, when loaded to full capacity, the biplane weighed 6, 079 pounds. The biplane is thirty-three feet long. Its wingspan is forty-four feet. The propeller's diameter is ten feet.
InterpretationAfter World War I numerous veteran pilots and engineers returned to the United States determined to turn aviation into an industry. These veterans believed that airplanes had a practical and profitable purpose other than warfare. Once it became clear that there was profit to be made in delivering cargo by air, the commercial aviation industry rapidly developed. The Boeing Model 40B-2 was one of the first planes used commercially. With its Pratt and Whitney Hornet 525-horsepower radial engine, the Boeing Model 40B-2 could reach a maximum air speed of 132 miles per hour. In the 1920s, the Boeing Model 40-B-2 carried one of the most precious cargoes of the time: air mail. Nowadays airmail delivery may seem like a routine service, but back in the early days of aviation, crossing the continent as an air postal carrier was a dangerous job. There were thirty-one fatal crashes involving the first forty pilots hired by the Post Office in 1927. The pilot sat in an open cockpit exposed to the elements, while the two passengers sat in the completely enclosed fuselage behind the engine. The public was captivated by the daring exploits of these fearless pilots. Hollywood also took an interest and produced numerous films with aviation themes such as the 1930 Ãirmail, Three Miles Up, Wide Open, and Now We™re in the Air. Initially the airmail program was controlled by the U.S. Government. In 1927, however, the first privately operated carriers were hired to provide transcontinental air mail and passenger service. This informal combination of cargo and paying passengers was the forerunner of the commercial airlines we have today. This 40B-2 is one of only two remaining Boeing Model 40 aircraft in existence. United Air Lines donated it to the Museum of Science and Industry in 1935 at the close of Chicago's A Century of Progress World's Fair, 1933-1934. The plane currently hangs next to the Museum's Boeing 727 Turbojet illustrating the evolution of passenger air travel.
Lesson Plans / ThemesHow we learn about communities; World War I;
Learning Standards16 History; 10-12 Science; 13 Science, Technology and Society;
Author or CreatorBoeing Aircraft Company
SourceHolmes, Donald. Air Mail an Illustrated History 1793-1981. New York: Clarkson N. Potter Inc. Publishers, 1981; Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Accession File #35.2
Subject / KeywordsAir transportation; Aircraft; Airplanes; Transportation; Airmail; Biplanes; Engines; Radial engine; Postal service
Collection PublisherMuseum of Science and Industry, Chicago;
Further InformationFor any further information related to this record, please contact the Collection Publisher. See for more information about this project.
Rights Management Statement
Resource Identifier35.2
CONTENTdm file name90619151982002_BOINGMAI.jpg
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