“One of the last surviving air mail towers!”
For years, intrepid adventurers have been discovering something strange way out in the middle of nowhere. In deserts and empty lots across America, gigantic arrows can be found crumbling in the heat. They all point the same direction, but who put them there? Where do they lead? The answer to the mystery of America's giant arrows lies in the history of the U.S. Postal service. Before the days when radio was in common use, the U.S. Postal service decided to imporve their mail delivery by putting old World War I military planes to use for an air mail service. In order to do so, and without the help of radio control towers, pilots would need a fool-proof way to navigate accross the country. This was a bit of a problem. The solution came in 1924 when the federal government funded the creation of giant concrete arrows, painted bright yellow and measuring anywhere from 50 to 70 feet in length, to be placed every ten miles across the entire country. Each arrow was placed near a 50 foot lighthouse, ensuring that pilots had a sort of cross-country runway for their midnight flights. The giant arrows worked surprisingly well, guiding pilots through every manner of rough weather, but by the time WWII rolled around, use of the radio was commonplace, rendering the giant beacons obsolete. Most of the airway lighthouses were scrapped and recycled during the war, but many of the giant arrows still sit in the desert to this day. Thankfully, there are preservation programs like Passport in Time which aim to protect the few remaining beacon sites for those looking to experience the history of air mail for themselves. You can see lovingly-restored beacons at the National Postal Museum, or visit an original beacon site at the Aviation Heritage Museum in New Mexico, but if you want to go hunting for the giant arrows yourself, one of your best bets is to head out to the Utah desert. Don't worry, if you get lost, the arrows will point the way. -Roadtrippers The Western New Mexico Aviation Heritage Museum is a small aviation museum located at the Grants-Milan airport (KGNT) in Grants, New Mexico. It was dedicated on June 9, 2012 It commemorates the Los Angeles to Amarillo segment of the Transcontinental Air Transport, an early air mail provider. It consists of a lighted tower, a small building with a generator, and a concrete arrow which helped aviators find the correct direction to continue in.
As a pilot these arrows have always captured my imagination. So much so that I have a Google Map of every known location of these arrows! Did you also know that many of the beacons were repurposed as small town airport beacons and are still in use today? Also, did you know that Montana purchased all the beacons in it's borders from the Federal government and still operate them in their mountainous regions to this day? Thank you for this article. The airway beacons are an amazing part of our aviation heritage.
Great website so locate them throughout the US: https://thesurveystation.com/map-of-ngs-airway-beacons/
The arrow is part of the Western anew Mexico Aircraft Museum at the Grants Airport, not in the hills to the north of I-40. Look for the orange and white building to the west end of the airport.
Adding to my earlier review there is a question as to where do the arrows point. Here is a good link that provides more info and other links for those wishing to check these concrete arrows out.
I would answer the question by saying they are more like giant push pins in your Google travel map pointing ahead to the next arrow and beacon on your route, it could be west from NYC to SAN or ABQ to PHX.
Arrows Across America - I drove my daughter from Las Vegas to FL in 2017 and we took in the arrows. The museum at Grants-Milan airport is fine, but the arrow there is a reproduction. So we had to venture on to where we could locate one off of a road. We located one north of Cuervo NM. Well the road was dirt and wash-board and it took 15 minutes for five miles but we thought the adventure was worth it. If you are doing Route 66, definitely add this in to your trip.
Great little stop just off the freeway. Self guided tour of interesting artifacts. Evidently the buildings are open on Saturdays but if you need to let the kids out this is a good choice.
Directions dump you onto a dirt road on private property!
After a very disappointing detour down a washboard road full of dips we ended up having to turn around. The directions provided are not any good! We were led to the middle of no where and onto private property. By the time we were done following these directions we lost time on our main trip and didn't get to see what we went for in the first place!
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Western New Mexico Aviation Heritage Museum
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