If you have been missing planespotting, riding in airplanes, being in airports, perusing inflight menus, studying vintage airline timetables or anything else air travel-related from the past year – or as far back as the 1920s – you are in luck.
After a few years offline, The Airchive website, which is filled with anything and everything (and we mean everything) aviation related, is back online for your education, entertainment and down-the-rabbit-hole journeys. And it is, as they say, bigger and better than ever, with photo-filled sections devoted to airlines, airplanes, airports, special flights and all manner of aviation-related ephemera and memorabilia, including timetables and route maps, brochures, safety cards, menus, postcards and more.
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Curious to see what the headquarters of your favorite airline looks like? There is a section for that. Want to weep a while over airplanes in various desert boneyards waiting for dismantling? There is a section for that. Curious about what the airport terminals in Fairbanks, Alaska; Youngstown, Ohio; or in dozens or other cities looks like? There is a section for that. And if you have a few hours to read through a bounty of airline brochures, there is a section for that too.
Chris Sloan oversees The Airchive. He caught the aviation bug early on while growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is the city where American Airlines operates the world’s largest airline-owned maintenance and engineering base. He even celebrated his eighth – and his 47th – birthday at the base.
“Everyone we knew worked for American Airlines. And that’s when I became an AvGeek,” said Sloan. “I’d call up and get timetables and brochures from the airlines mailed to me. I wrote letters to airline CEOs; some answered. And I’d go to airline tickets offices – remember those? – to see the airplane display models.”
Unfortunately, Sloan’s mom threw out his childhood collection of aviation memorabilia when his attention turned to sports, cars and girls. “But 30 years ago, I went into a hobby shop, saw an airline magazine with National Airlines on the cover and got addicted to aviation all over again,” says Sloan.
He created the first iteration of his online aviation museum in 2003 to share the ephemera and memorabilia he was amassing, along with his growing photography archive of aircraft, airport terminals and aviation adventures that include first flights and tours of aviation museums, airline headquarters and other locations.
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“There are websites out there for planespotters. And some with just airline timetables,” says Sloan, “I wanted this to be a central portal for everything related to commercial aviation. At first, it was all about history and nostalgia, but then I added material from the current affairs of the industry.”
Then, for a few years, he put the site “in storage in Victorville,” Sloan quips, in a reference to the desert site in California where some aircraft end up in storage or destined for dismantling. But now The Airchive is rebuilt and rebooted with about 50% new material scanned into the mix.
Now, Sloan says, the most popular parts of the site are the timetables and route maps, memorabilia and airline brochures, the photos of airline cabins past and present, special flights (firsts and lasts) and pictures of airports.
“That’s the stuff that makes the site unique from some of the other planespotting sites out there,” says Sloan, who finds that many visitors seek out the site when there is an aviation story in the news such as a new airline alliance or an aviation anniversary, or while searching the web for something else entirely.
Visitors also arrive at The Airchive via social media – the site has a presence on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – where images might mark an aviation anniversary, a collection of specific airline and aircraft themed memorabilia and, says Sloan, “a unique event such as the A380 first revenue flight that I was on, or something random like this 1970s brochure for Air France and the 747.”
When pressed for some special offbeat AvGeek treasures on the Airchive site, Sloan pointed us to the original pitch and product brochure Boeing sent to the U.S. government for what ultimately became the first Air Force One. And to a series of different and unusual models for the 747 he spotted when visiting the Boeing archives near Seattle.
It may seem like pretty much everything aviation-related is already on The Airchive site. Not so, says, Sloan. Since the reboot, he has been steadily adding more of his old and new photos, more scans of aviation-related memorabilia and images contributed by others.
Featured Air France image courtesy of Chris Sloan/The Airchive
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