Historical concrete arrows dot Kansas, United States

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According to the Kansas Aviation Museum, in the late 20s and early 30s, the Department of Commerce placed large, 70-foot concrete arrows throughout the United States to point pilots toward a nearby airport. They were eventually painted bright yellow or orange.

“Before that, they just had to fly by dead reckoning. They had to use constellations, the sky, whatever they could use to try to locate where they were going,” museum executive director Teresa Day said.

Day reports, back when planes were not as advanced, they were made of cloth, wood and wire and it was easy for problems to occur in the sky or, for emergency landings.

Eventually, as pilots struggled to fly by night, large beacons were added for visibility to the concrete arrows. Arrows were also added to the sides of large barns and buildings.

A couple out of California is working on tracking down all the arrows and beacons for the Arrows Across America project. Five arrows and eight beacons are in Kansas.

KSN tracked down one of the arrows in southern Sedgwick County, currently overgrown with weeds and located just off a bridge near Clearwater. 

“Once they got closer to the airport, something even more outstanding than arrows were huge concrete targets,” Day explained.

The Kansas Aviation Museum is located inside Wichita’s first airport. Though no longer there, Day said a huge concrete landing with lines acted as a guide for pilots to land their plane.

“Literally the pilots aimed for that target,” Day said.

The Kelly Act was passed in 1925, commercializing the air mail system. Air mail pilots also depended on the arrows as their guide to the skies.

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