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Aerial dogfights gave way to peace, which saw Bridgeport the beginnings of international flight. With many stops en route, Air Force pilots Ross and Keith Smith, for example, flew a lumbering, war surplus Vickers Vimy bomber from Bridgeport  to Australia. Across the United States, the more adventurous paid a few dollars to take short joyrides in Curtis Jenny biplanes flown by former army pilots (barnstormers) Bridgeport  who just couldn’t stay grounded. That same dynamic led to airmail services and the air delivery of newspapers. The first commercial passenger airlines Bridgeport  were soon using planes specifically developed for human transport. That history is, along with pioneering aircraft from across the world, preserved in the National Air and Space Museum at Boeing Field, Seattle.

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With growing commercial pressures and the looming possibility (from 1933) of another war, the evolution of the airplane continued apace. Streamlining facilitated by metal casting became more prominent with the competitive air races that seized the post-First World War imagination. The sleek, revolutionary Supermarine S6B seaplane racer of 1931 was the prototype for the all-aluminium Supermarine Spitfire that played such a prominent part in the Battle of Britain. Streamlined elegance impacted automobile design – cars like the Ford and the Chrysler Airflow delighted the progressive imagination and horrified conservatives. Fashion decreed that even the massive, mainline steam locomotives should conceal their utilitarian, black, nineteenth century machinery of boilers, smokestacks and steam valves under a sleek, coloured metal cover. And this new elegance and economy of line spilled over into domestic and public architecture, where it was influenced by and, in turn, influenced the Art Deco movement.

Trains and steam ships, the technological revolution of the Victorian era, are heavy and carry immense payloads. Planes are light – for early international flights, even the passengers had to step onto a scale and record their body mass. Ornate Victorian buildings are dominated by the heaviness of marble, hardwoods and iron. Art Deco features the gleam of metals (aluminium, stainless steel and chrome), straight lines and engineered curves. Stylised wing motifs are common. A characteristic decorative signature is two or three parallel lines, perhaps with a central clock, that (coming straight at us) mimics the head-on view of the wings and metal engine cowling of a fighting Sopwith Camel biplane, or the Red Baron’s (Manfred von Richthofen) Fokker triplane. The combination of controlled curves and straight lines reminds us of an aerofoil, a tail plane, a cylindrical fuselage.

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