Summary of Air Mail Service

The Post Office began regularly flying the air mail in May of 1918, inaugurating a route from Washington D.C. to New York via Philadelphia.  They began expanding the service west, first to Cleveland, then Chicago, Omaha, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Reno, and San Francisco.  In September 1920, the Post Office launched the first transcontinental air mail route after having convinced these cities, and smaller communities where fuel stops were needed, to build airports to support the fliers.  Several feeder lines would also be created, connecting other cities such as Minneapolis and St. Louis, to the main aerial artery.

Pilots flew during the day, and put the mail on trains at night.  Then in 1921 the Post Office orchestrated a publicity stunt, and flew the mail from coast to coast.  Jack Knight followed bonfires from North Platte, Nebraska to Chicago and became the hero of the day.  In 1923 the Post Office began experimenting with regular night flying, with the assistance of light beacons across the route, and in 1924 night flying became standard protocol.

In 1925, Congress passed the Kelly Act, allowing the Post Office to turn over flying duties to private corporations (which were not equipped to handle the task in 1920, emphasizing the importance of the Post Office in promoting regular flight).  The smaller routes were turned over first; the Robertson Aircraft corporation which hired Charles Lindbergh operated between Chicago and Saint Louis, for example.  In 1927 the Post Office turned the San Francisco to Chicago portion of the route over to Boeing and the eastern portion of the route over to National Air Transport.

This blog is intended to pay tribute to the pilots, government officials, ground staff, community leaders, and unsuspecting civilians who came to the aid of grounded pilots.  These people are the grandfathers of the aviation system which exists today.

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