What if you could access decades of aviation collectibles from the comfort of your own home? How cool would it be to experience the first flight of a particular plane or airline, to review timetables from years gone by, or leaf through the original sales brochure for aviation icons like Concorde? Well, you can, and it’s all down to the hard work and dedication of one man.

The Airchive is perhaps the world’s most comprehensive collection of aviation-related materials, from brochures, menus, and safety cards to an enormous collection of photographs and accounts of special flights and events. Simple Flying caught up with Chris Sloan, founder of the Airchive, to find out what inspired him to start his collection and led him to share it with the world for free.


After a lifetime of collecting aviation memorabilia and personally experiencing many momentous moments in history, Chris Sloan has made his extensive collection available to the world. Photo: The Airchive

Starting from a young age

Chris’ obsession with aviation began as a kid, growing up in Tulsa under the shadow of American Airlines’ enormous maintenance base. The airline was the largest employer in the region, and a major influence on Chris during his formative years. He also notes how the exotic tails often spotted when visiting family in Miami further fueled his love of all things aviation. He shared,

“As a kid, I would run around the airport, travel agencies, city ticket offices, and call airlines’ reservation lines for my collection. I’d stake out our mailbox for the airline treasure of the day. I even wrote letters to airline CEOs who often wrote back!”

From brochures and timetables to models and photographs, Sloan has amassed an incredible collection over the years. Photo: The Airchive

Joking that his stash of aviation collectibles could be the basis of a new TV show – Hoarders: The Airline Edition – Chris has now been building his collection for over 40 years. He has perhaps the world’s largest private assortment of brochures, photos, maps, timetables, and more. But he wanted to be able to access it more easily than by digging through boxes, so he began to curate, catalogue, and digitize much of his entire collection.

Everything in his collection has been scanned, photographed and digitized for the benefit of everyone. Photo: The Airchive

Sharing with the world

Having scanned, organized, and photographed everything he had collected over the years, Chris felt compelled to share his collection with the world. He commented,

“About 20 years ago, I began thinking about the idea of creating a museum. A bricks-and-mortar museum was a little too ambitious for the time, so I created a “web-seum” – an online aviation museum in 2003. I wanted to focus on creating an “Archive” of airlines, hence the name “Airchive”.”

Who can remember when Gatwick’s apron looked like this? Photo: The Airchive

Unlike other online collections in the aviation sphere, Chris hasn’t focused on planespotting or collections of specific aircraft types. Rather, he has built a documentary of the history of the industry, something he calls “The Hub of Commercial Aviation Nostalgia.”

Chris at the final flight of the DC-10 for Biman Bangladesh. Photo: The Airchive

Here you can find the behind-the-scenes virtual tours of airline headquarters, maintenance bases, and operation control centers; photos not just of airplanes but inside the terminals, vast timetables and route maps photos of airliner cabins and catering, sales brochures for aircraft and manufacturers, airplane boneyards, aircraft manufacturing facilities, model collections, aviation museums, and so much more.

His goal has been to preserve what others were not at the time. In today’s digital age, far more of aviation’s recent history is being documented, but the paper trail for older events can be sparse. As an aviation journalist, Chris has had the pleasure of participating in numerous inaugural flights, visiting CEO offices, and final flights of disappearing airlines and airliners, and has captured these moments for everyone to enjoy, forever.

A very cool collection

Chris has over 100,000 assets in his collection, consuming space in multiple storage units and enough to fill a Boeing 737. These have been obtained from visiting collectible shows, buying other people’s collections, 40 years of photography, traveling extensively, and simply meeting interesting people. Avgeeks sometimes donate materials to the museum, understanding the importance of this incredible resource. Others seek Chris out to purchase unusual and unique items, which he sometimes does to enhance his collection.

Within his collection, Chris has a few choice pieces for sure! Photo: The Airchive

Within the collection, Chris has some standout pieces that he is incredibly proud to own. He has a 1:50 scale Concorde cutaway that once sat at the final assembly line in Filton, UK, a rare 1:50 McDonnell Douglas DC-10 cutaway that was used for marketing the aircraft, and a 7 foot long TWA Boeing 747 cutaway that he has loaned to the Miami Airport which is on display. His aviation mancave is the stuff of avgeek dreams, with a desk made from the leading edge of the wing from the first L-1011 and a pair of seats from PSA Airlines.

Some of the models are ex-factory or sales pieces. Photo: The Airchive
Just a small portion of Sloan’s extensive model collection. Photo: The Airchive

Some of his treasures are a bit weird and wonderful too. He is in possession of Freddie Lakers’ top hat, famously worn when the Queen knighted him Sir Freddie. He also has the license plate that adorned all 30 of Laker’s Rolls-Royces – FAL 1. He even had a Qantas A380 model painted up in the same colors as John Travolta’s Boeing 707, to get his attention and participation in a film he was making. Travolta still has the model to this day, although the Airchive has the photos!

The model he had made to attract Travolta’s attention. Photo: The Airchive
In case you’re wondering, yes he did secure Travolta for his production. Photo: The Airchive

“Airchive is a true rabbit hole of aviation nostalgia. When users tell me that they get lost in it with hours going by – that’s the greatest compliment.” – Chris Sloan

Relive memorable first and last flights as well as cabins long gone at the website. Photo: The Airchive

Can you support Chris?

Chris Sloan’s efforts in making The Airchive the incredible resource it is today are largely the result of a one-man labor of love. And it really is a labor of love of the strongest kind, as the project has been created in memory of his young son, Calder ‘Mr. Awesome’ Sloan, who was tragically killed in a freak accident in 2014, aged just seven.

Calder was an avgeek too. He was named after the famous artist who designed the Braniff Flying Colors of America 727 and Flying Colors of South America DC-8. He had his whole world in front of him when his life was disastrously cut short. The Airchive is just part of his legacy, as Chris has also set up Caleb & Calder Sloan’s Awesome Foundation, which strives to give back to the community, to support disadvantaged children, and to do good in an increasingly toxic world.

The Calder Sloan Boeing 727. Photo: The Airchive

The Sloans are a family crippled by tragedy, but who have risen up to bring happiness and kindness to the world. The Miami International Airport dedicated their 727 ground trainer to his son, which is affectionately known as Awesome Force One. They worked with Spirit and JetBlue Airways in 2017 in standing up a relief operation in Puerto Rico raising money and delivering $500,000 worth of food, supplies, and toys in the wake of Hurricane Maria called Puerto Rico CareLift. The Sloan’s collect everything and anything Calder, including a rare model of the 727 signed by the author.

Chris has turned his grief into action through the foundation and his hard work on the Airchive. Photo: The Airchive

For The Airchive, avgeeks around the world will agree that it’s an inspirational project. It not only brings back memories for those who have been around aviation for many years, but is also an incredible resource for the education of the next generation of aviators. One day, Sloan hopes to have the collection on display at a physical location, but online it It will always be free and open for all, and you can help build it even further, as Chris explained,

“Think of Airchive as the present and the past. As they say, history is created every day. Please contribute to the site by uploading photos and memorabilia. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @theairchive and spread the word!”

Check out Airchive for yourself, and please do donate your own photos and memorabilia to make it even better than it is today.

This content was originally published here.