Cities From the Sky
Sherman Fairchild, the photographer who transformed aviation
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, January 12, 2009
Courtesy Princeton Architectural Press
By the 1930s, Fairchild was pursuing work in Asia and South America. Geologists used aerial surveys to identify possible iron mines in Venezuela, and the Peruvian government hired the company to photograph glacial lakes high in the Andes in order to spot potential dam breaks.
Needing to expand, the company purchased a 100-acre property near Farmingdale, New York, quickly adding nine buildings and two 4,000-foot runways.
Among the cityscapes photographed during that period was this October 19, 1931 shot. “In this view across the tip of lower Manhattan,” writes historian Campanella, “Pan American Airways’ Sikorsky S-40 American Clipper, and a smaller companion, pass high above the financial district. Christened only a week before by First Lady Lou Hoover, the American Clipper was used by Pan American on one of its earliest international routes—between Miami and Havana, Cuba. Charles A. Lindbergh piloted the craft on part of its maiden voyage south in November 1931.”
When Pan American needed a medium-size amphibian for an Amazon River run, it also turned to Fairchild. In late 1935 Fairchild introduced the diminutive Model 91 was introduced, which became known as the Baby Clipper.