AIRMAIL CREATES AN INDUSTRY:
The Air Mail Service beacon system became the
world's first ground-based civilian navigation system.
Each beacon, erected approximately 10 miles apart, was topped
with a 1 million candlepower rotating light which was visible
to pilots up to 40 miles away. The system was color coded,
with green lights marking nearby airfields, and red lights
signifying no airfields at that location. On July 1, 1924,
pilots took off on the first regularly scheduled night service.
By the end of the year, beacons lit the airmail skies from
Rock Springs, Wyoming to Cleveland, Ohio. By the next summer,
pilots could fly the entire route aided by these flashy navigators.
Thanks to the postal service beacons, transcontinental
airmail was able to be flown all day and through the night.
Mail could now reach San Francisco from New York City in 34
hours. Aided by favorable winds, east-bound mail made its
way across the country in an astoundingly swift 29 hours!
The system was turned over to the Commerce Department
on July 1, 1927, as part of the transformation of airmail
from postal service to contract-operated service.
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