Navigation arrow

WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY     (Washington County, Utah)

AVIATION NAVIGATION ARROWS

Washington County, Utah

LOCATIONS

Black Ridge   (Beacon 40A)
1.25 miles southwest (239°) from I-15 Exit 36
37° 23' 45.18" North Latitude,   113° 15' 26.31" West Longitude
37.395884° North Latitude,   113.257308° West Longitude
5,054 feet (1,540 meters) MSL
Click for View 1       Click for View 2       Click for View 3

Pintura   (Beacon 39B)
Unknown if there was an arrow here

Leeds   (Beacon 39)
Unknown if there was an arrow here.

???   (Beacon 38)
Unknown if there was an arrow here

Quail Creek Reservoir West Overlook   (Beacon 37C)
On the bluff westnorthwest of the Quail Creek Water Treatment Plant
37° 10' 50.11" North Latitude,   113° 24' 1.57" West Longitude
37.180587° North Latitude,   113.400437° West Longitude
3,603 feet (1,098 meters) MSL
Click for View 1       Click for View 2

Shinob Kibe   (Beacon 37B or HO0622) (LOS ANGELES SALT LK AWY BN 37B)
On the very south edge of the Shinob Kibe mesa
37° 7' 2.80" North Latitude,   113° 29' 15.51" West Longitude
37.117448° North Latitude,   113.487639° West Longitude
3,303 feet (1,007 meters) MSL
Click for View 1       Click for View 2       Click for View 3

Bloomington Overlook   (Beacon 37A)
On the bluff west of the Bloomington Wal-Mart; on the south side of the water tank
37° 3' 53.37" North Latitude,   113° 35' 43.32" West Longitude
37.064826° North Latitude,   113.595366° West Longitude
2,932 feet (894 meters) MSL
Click for View 1       Click for View 2


HISTORY

On August 20, 1920, the United States opened its first coast-to-coast airmail delivery route, just 60 years after the Pony Express closed up shop.

There were no good aviation charts in those days, so pilots had to eyeball their way across the country using landmarks. This meant that flying in bad weather was difficult, and night flying was just about impossible.

The Postal Service solved the problem with the world's first ground-based civilian navigation system: a series of lighted beacons that would extend from New York to San Francisco. Every ten miles, pilots would pass a 70-foot concrete arrow on the ground which was painted a bright yellow. At the center of each arrow there would be a 51-foot steel tower and topped by a million-candlepower rotating beacon. Below the rotating light were two course lights pointing forward and backward along the arrow. The course lights flashed a code to identify the beacon's number. If needed, a generator shed at the tail (or feather end) of each arrow powered the beacon and lights.

By 1924, just a year after Congress funded it, the line of giant concrete markers stretched from Rock Springs, Wyoming to Cleveland, Ohio. The next summer, it reached all the way to New York and then extended all the way to San Francisco by 1929.

Around 1926, the new Aeronautics Branch in the Department of Commerce (or U.S. Postal Service?) proposed a 650-mile air mail route linking Los Angeles to Salt Lake City and passing through Washington County. It was designated as Contract Air Mail Route 4 (CAM-4). Western Air Express, Inc. was awarded a contract to lay out the route and carry the mail. Their first flight was made on April 17, 1926 in a Douglas M-2 airplane. By 1928, the route had been marked with the cement arrows and beacon towers for navigation at night and in inclement weather.

New advances in communication and navigation technology made the big arrows obsolete, and the Commerce Department decommissioned the beacons in the 1940s. The steel towers were torn down and went to the war effort. Today, only some of the weathered cement arrows (less the yellow paint) remain.


PHOTOS

Diagram of a typical installation

Head of the Quail Creek Reservoir West Overlook arrow
Head of the Quail Creek Reservoir West Overlook arrow
      looking northeast
        Head of the Quail Creek Reservoir West Overlook arrow
        Head of the Quail Creek Reservoir West Overlook arrow
              looking southwest


REFERENCES

A brief history of the Federal Aviation Administration

FAA article on the building of the airways

Aaron D. Gifford's article on Concrete Arrows in Southwestern Utah

Images of Faith: A Pictorial History of St. George, Utah
By Lynne Clark, 2012
Page 338

CAM Contract Air Mail First Flights CAM-4

Wikipedia article on Airway Beacons