Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


"Flyover country" is a popular epithet that dismisses the American interior as a region to be passed over or through on the way to someplace else. Thought to be a dominant preconception held by coastal urbanites, the term, or related imagery, is prevalent in contemporary Great Plains writing, where it is used to represent the neglect and ignorance of the region by outsiders. Flyover country captures the views of a coastal elite who see the Great Plains as a vast, boring, featureless expanse of land in between, a place to be passed over as quickly as possible on the way to the mountains or coasts.

Such sentiment has deep roots in American society. A defining characteristic of the Great Plains throughout history has been the mythic role it has played as a transit region from at least the time of the Oregon Trail in the 1840s. A high proportion of transit on the Plains has always moved through rather than to the region, and the Plains have long been considered an obstacle to travel. Flyover country can be interpreted as a jet-age manifestation of this characteristic and belief. While the flyover image may be the creation of outsiders, the term is more commonly used by Plains residents and sympathetic writers to characterize the negative preconceptions of the Plains and to defend regional interests.

David Roberson University of Oklahoma

Shortridge, James R. "The Expectations of Others: Struggles toward a Sense of Place in the Northern Plains." In Many Wests, edited by David M. Wrobel and Michael C. Steiner. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997: 114–36.

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