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Jet Age

Related: jet set - 1950s - 1960s - tourism - sixties

Airliner no. 4, Norman Bel Geddes with Otto Koller, 1929


The jet age is a common description of an historical period beginning with the introduction of airliners powered by turbojets and turbofans for scheduled passenger service.

Aviation history
The De Havilland Comet was the first jet airliner to fly a scheduled route in 1952, but the original version of the Comet had serious design problems leading to several highly-publicised crashes, and the entire fleet was eventually grounded (the Comet later reemerged in improved versions). The first truly successful jet airliner was the Boeing 707, which began service in 1958 on the New York City to London route; 1958 was also the first year that more trans-Atlantic passengers travelled by airline than ship.

Social history
Large aircraft powered by turbine engines are able to fly much higher, faster, and further than older piston-powered propliners, making transcontinental and inter-continental travel considerably faster and easier: for example, aircraft leaving North America and crossing the Atlantic Ocean (and later, the Pacific Ocean) could now fly to their destinations non-stop, making much of the world accessible within a single day's travel for the first time. Since large jetliners could also carry more passengers, airfares also declined (relative to inflation), so more people of more different social classes were able to travel outside of their own countries. In many ways, these changes in mobility are similar to those brought about by railroads during the 19th century.

The introduction of the Concorde supersonic passenger for regular service in 1976 was expected to bring similar social changes, but the aircraft never found commercial success, and flights were discontinued in 2003. When the Airbus A380 begins service, it will offer a higher capacity and will introduce recreational facilities to long-distance flight, possibly bringing further social changes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet age [Feb 2006]

Car tailfins and the jet age

1959 Cadillac Eldorado "rocketship" tailights

As the industry progressed after World War II into the '50s, auto designers came under the influence of the jet age and tailfins, portholes and heavily chromed toothy grilles marked the fabulous cars of this era. Started by Harley Earl on the '48 Cadillac, the tailfin caught on as a styling craze. --http://info.detnews.com/joyrides/story/index.cfm?id=245 [Feb 2006]

The tailfin era of automobile styling encompassed the 1950s and 1960s, peaking between 1958 and 1960. It was a style developed in the United States but spread its influence worldwide, as cars designed in all parts of the world picked up styling trends from the American automobile industry. General Motors design chief Harley Earl is generally credited for the automobile tailfin, introducing small fins on the 1948 Cadillac. Harley credited the look of World War II fighter aircraft for his inspiration, particularly the twin-tailed P-38 Lightning.

The style was incredibly popular and its use spread to other models in the General Motors family of brands. Soon it was adopted by other manufacturers; Chrysler's Virgil Exner in particular took the tailfin idea on board. As confidence grew in the styling trend, the fins grew larger and bolder as manufacturers competed to have the best-looking, most striking vehicle.

The most extreme tailfins appeared in the late 1950s. Many consider the fins on the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado to be the largest and most outrageous ever fitted. Those fins were too much for many customers, however, and the tailfins shrank after that point. Within a couple of years, tailfins had become much less prominent, and by the mid 1960s, they were gone on many models. However, vestigial tailfins remained on American cars until very recently, with the sides of the quarter panels often being raised above the trunk lid and the corner sharp-edged. Mercedes used something similar to fintails (nicknamed "heckflosse" in German), but they claimed it wasn't fintails but "sight lines" to make it easier to determine the corners of the vehicle. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tailfin [Feb 2006]

See also: jet set - car - 1959 - 1950s

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