National Geographic : 1949 Jul
Zanesville Needs No Aerial Marker; Its Famous "Y" Bridge Is Unmistakable Even pioneers on the old National Road knew this Ohio town, where Muskingum and Licking Rivers meet, by its "Y" bridge, then a covered wooden span built in 1814. Such odd landmarks are often a private flyer's best guideposts. Where none exist, an aerial marker with a town's name may save a lost flyer. Motorists asking directions here are amazed when told to "go to the center of the bridge and turn left." delighted with it. We had burned just a little under 10 gallons of gasoline, which, at 25 cents a gallon, cost less than the cab fare between field and hotel in St. Louis. Next day we headed for Indianapolis, In diana, by way of Vandalia, Illinois, and Terre Haute. The weatherman reported numerous local thunder showers en route, and again he was right. We had to go around three of them, and arrived just outside Indianapolis to find three more holding a convention right over the city. Fearing one of the earlier ones might sneak in behind us, we turned back and landed to wait it out, and were more than an hour late landing at Indianapolis. This was the other side of flying, and we were no longer so certain it was the only way to travel. A Veteran Air-mail Pilot's Memories While Ernie made pictures, I got acquainted with airport owner Bob Shank, who was a pilot on the first established air-mail route, from Washington to New York.* At that time there was no proved method of aerial navigation, and Mr. Shank told me, from his rich experience, how painted markings would have helped. He recalled that the magnetic compass was the only navigation instrument then available to the cross-country flyer, and that many planes lacked even that. When he confessed to having been lost even with modern instru ments and radio, I felt much better about my own wanderings. Leaving Indianapolis, we flew over what was probably the country's first marked air route. Early pilots had found navigation so difficult with the sketchy maps available that they had spent their own time and money to paint signs on the roofs of buildings between Indianapolis * See, in the NATIONAL GEO;RAPIIIC MAGAZINE: "On the Trail of the Air Mail," by J. Parker Van Zandt, January, 1926.