[Release] Arrows Across America: flying the air mail on CAM5

Bare bones navigation from the dawn of commercial aviation…
Flying really low and slow in all weathers, day and night, no autopilot required…
Following in the slipstream of Leon D. Cuddeback & Elrey B. Jeppesen

If this sounds like your kind of flying, then we might have something for you.

Inspired by a discussion on the MSFS 1950 - Historical Airports thread we have been recreating an original US Air Mail airway for the sim.

In 1926 the US Postal Service & Department of Commerce began contracting air mail routes that would eventually criss-cross the USA.

Each route was marked every ten miles by a path of yellow concrete arrows with flashing beacons mounted on 51’ towers, interspersed with landing fields. Some surviving arrows are visible on Bing Maps, meaning that they are also visible in the sim, if you know where to look.

CAM5 Beacon 27 in Bing Maps
CAM5 Beacon 27 Arrow in Bing Maps


CAM5 Beacon 27 Arrow in sim

However, we have decided to recreate the whole 600 mile Contract Air Mail 5 (CAM5) route from Salt Lake City UT to Pasco WA, using original maps and research by aviation historians.

The route is mapped, 59 individually numbered beacon sites have been built to scale, positioned precisely using the original sectionals & surviving remains and are now being tested…


CAM5 route in LNM

Arrow, mast & generator shed in Blender
Arrow, mast and generator shed in Blender

Beacon in Blender 2
Beacon in Blender

Beacon sign
Beacon sign

CAM5 Beacon 27 in sim
CAM5 Beacon 27 in sim

You can now download the freeware release from Flightsim.to - 1926 Airway Route CAM5 » Microsoft Flight Simulator

If you want to find out more about the airway system, then these sites are a great place to get started:
Arrows Across America
Zhanna’s Survey Station

And for an account of how low you need to go to fly the mail check this interview with Elrey Jeppesen

See you on the Airway!

@RobCap1966 - modelling; CAM5 lead
@PipsPriller - research & route mapping; ILF lead
@Megadyptes7635 - terraforming; CAM32 lead
@WaldoP3pper - beta testing
@Stearmandriver2 - beta testing

28 Likes

WOW, this seems to become a great adventure!

At least for the guys on PC.
X-Box users seems to have to wait for Asobo reach the same altitude in terms of user created content as Snowrunner on the X-Box has.

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Really cool seeing you guys do this. Look forward to trying it out.

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Just wanted to say that this is exactly my type of flying. I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with it, and I’m very impressed with what Pips and Rob have accomplished in such a short time.

My time so far has been limited by work, but I flew portions of the route flying slow and low in the Waco, using one of Jan Kees Blom’s liveries.

I flew with a 1920’s radio broadcast playing on YouTube in a browser in the background. Very immersive. I decided to dead-recon instead of using nav, so I took a pencil and wrote down a navlog on paper with Beacon number, track, and distance.

I want to sit down and fly the entire length in one shot with the Waco, then again with the Boeing 247D.

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Thanks! I have just seen that Varney Air Lines, who had the contract for CAM5 and became part of United Airlines, operated some Boeing 247s to add a passenger service to the mail runs.

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I think this is an excellent idea! I’m looking forward to its availability.

I enjoy reading about aviation history and especially about these arrows. Some of these arrows had a runway and rest stop facilities. It is a good thing the government funded aircraft to fly Air Mail across the country. Most of the infrastructure was built by the government for transporting mail.

2 Likes

yaaaass! About time, great to hear a project like this is in the works

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Excellent project. Well done!

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You’re right and we have been looking at those as well. Intermediate Landing Fields were placed every thirty miles or so along the CAM routes.

The runways are still visible at several that have not evolved into airports or been redeveloped.

If the interest is out there we might look at recreating the ones on CAM5 to go with the arrows and beacons.

5 Likes

Now this is a really cool project. Sounds like an amazing trip to fly with the Boeing 247 :slight_smile:
I only need some more practice…

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OK guys,

PipsPriller accumulated a significant amount of information in a spreadsheet for CAM#5.
Co-ordinates, (for placement in MSFS and for Little Nav Map (which has a different way of reading the co-ordinates), links to info and old maps, direct links to google maps locations, etc, etc.

It’s cool to dive into all the resources available, to figure out what was going on back then.


We started reading books and websites on the subject, and it was quite an achievement in those days, often gained at a very high price, in the form of loss of lives.

I used the spreadsheet to keep track of progress, and to see what still needs to be done.
And I add my info here and there as well.

I’m filling in the final gaps of things to do, all models have been compiled. (Which is a steep learning curve, getting to know Blender and the SDK.)
We had to place 209 scenery objects, and still counting.
Arrows, towers, numbers, flashing beacons (stock effects, for now), exclusion poligons, etc.

You get to see plenty of great MSFS scenery during your flight, hugging the terrain.

We will keep you informed when it’s up for download.

Cheers, Rob

11 Likes

No longer WIP.

We uploaded it to Fligtsim.to.
Go get it here:

Please let us know what you think.

17 Likes

Thanks a lot, great idea and beautiful release

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I flew the first part from Salt Lake with the B247C (before my engines both failed).
It seems that orange arrows are pointing to the left, like they have a 25° shift vs the expected heading. Does anyone see that?

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Not all arrows are straight.
When the route goes into a different direction, the arrow points that way.

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Really looking forward to trying this out once I get my replacement joystick and am back in the air. Looks quite cool. Do you guys have any plans for more routes in future?

Great, look forward to hearing what you think.

We have discussed more routes but there are 33 more and about 1500 more beacons to place so it would be a long-term project!

If the interest is out there, the the next update might be some of the Intermediate Landing Fields on the CAM5 route. Where they have not evolved into modern airports or been built over some of them are still visible and the information is available to recreate them.

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I’m definitely interested in some intermediate landing fields. Especially if they’re modelled as old timey airfields which would kinda tie it back to the original thread this project was born from :wink:

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Excellent. Yes, if we were to go ahead then the plan would be to model them as at the operation of the original airway routes.

Descriptions of the size, layout, runway surfaces and services for each ILM exist in the annual Airway Bulletins and they used a standard lighting system so I think we have enough to work with.

3 Likes

This is an excellent add-on, highly recommended for anyone interested in aviation history! The next 33 should be coming soon, right? Seriously, I think just creating the spreadsheet with all the info would be challenging let alone build objects for map placement.

I noticed a couple of things on the map extract on the package page. First, there were radio ranges used around that time. I haven’t tried the radio range add-on. Obviously the Arrows were for visual flight. I wonder how powerful the beacons were, especially for scud running. Second, there is an AM radio station that could be tuned by the ADF. (for sports and news?)

I wonder if pilots back then used any printed charts. I assume the pilots could navigate using only the Arrows as long as any mountains or other obstructions were visible. I cannot imagine trying to fly these routes at night! This is an excellent challenge for MSFS! Presumably the next beacon could be seen when leaving a station.

3 Likes