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Building the Foundation
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>> A Bold Venture and Public Failure
>> NY – Chicago
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Coast to Coast
Innovations
From Public to Private
 

 

AIRMAIL CREATES AN INDUSTRY: NY - Chicago

Armed with lessons learned form past mistakes, Praeger decided to open the New York – Chicago flyway in two parts. The relatively easy air route between Cleveland and Chicago would open first, and the dangerous and unpredictable New York – Cleveland portion second.

James C. Edgerton, Chief of Flying, set about to hire the best pilots possible. Lack of flying jobs after the end of World War I led to an inundation of applications. Airmail pilots had to have at least 400, preferably 500 hours of flight experience under their belts. But, that did not stop just about anyone with any flight experience at all from applying.

The de Havilland airplanes were transformed from military purpose craft to mail airplanes. Field managers worked to ensure their fields were useable and kept up. Pilots practiced landings, takeoffs and familiarized themselves with the new routes.

On May 15, 1919, Eddie Gardner, who had made the only moderately successful Chicago – New York trip during the path-finding tests, took off from Cleveland with the west-bound mail, landing in Chicago three hours and 50 minutes later. Aided by favorable winds, pilot Trent Fry carried the mail from Chicago to Cleveland in three hours, 13 minutes.

The fist casualty of the new route was Frank McCusker. He died after jumping from his airplane on May 25, 1919 when it caught fire in midair.

Earl White had the honor of flying the west-bound mail out of Belmont Park, New York when the New York – Cleveland route opened on July 1, 1918. White took off at 5:15 a.m. for Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The mail was carried from Bellefonte to Cleveland by Max Miller, and from Cleveland to Chicago by Ira Biffle, who landed there just under nine hours later.

Click here to read more about the NY - Chicago Route.

Related Link:
>> de Havilland

Chicago -- Bellefonte Airmail station Allegany mountains
NY-Chicago flyway, hand made map Standard plane loading mail for NY-Chi leg of flyway

Click on the photos to view a larger image.

(top left) NY - Chicago -- Bellefonte Airmail station - DH4

(top right) Allegany mountains

(bottom left) Section of the NY-Chicago flyway, hand made map

(bottom right) Standard plane loading mail for NY-Chi leg of flyway

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