National Postal Museum logo
Top Image
Pilot StoriesHistoric PlanesAirmail Creates an IndustryObject ShowcaseHistory TimelineActivity ZoneFlight School
Building the Foundation
Coast to Coast
>> Spanning the Continent
>> Creating a Nocturnal Flyway
>> Knight's Night
From Public to Private


AIRMAIL CREATES AN INDUSTRY: Creating a Nocturnal Flyway

Praeger's triumph of coast to coast service in the fall of 1920 was short lived. By early 1921, Praeger was back in Congress fighting for airmail funding. He had asked for $3.5 million but received only $1,250,000 for the year. The Post Office Department was the target of Congressional inquiries over its use of non airmail postal funds to support the service. The inquiries, combined with continued criticism over deaths and injuries to airmail pilots due to unreliable equipment or forced flights in bad weather, put airmail service officials in an uncomfortable spot.

Praeger needed to convince Congress that the service was useful, even potentially critical to the nation. Among the criticisms aimed at the service was though exciting, it was only slightly faster than train service. Pilots, unequipped for night flying, were forced to land at dusk. Mailbags were transferred to trains which carried them through the night to another airmail field, where they were placed back aboard aircraft and flown through the day. To regenerate the excitement Praeger needed from Congress and the public to secure further funding for the service, he needed to set it up to fly mail around the clock.

Click here to learn more about Creating a Nocturnal Flyway.

DH-4 at night Employee working with a flood light
  Night airmail service airplane
Click on the photos to view a larger image.

(top left) DH-4 at night

(top right) Mobile field flood light

(bottom right) Night airmail service August 2, 1925
View Our Collection
Postal Museum | Smithsonian | Privacy | Terms of Use | Site MapBottom Navigation
Top of page link to homepage