AIRMAIL CREATES AN INDUSTRY:
The primary purpose
of the trips . . . is to establish a daily aerial movement
in the face of weather obstacles.
Otto Praeger to Army Capt. A. C.
Weidenbach, Fleet's replacement, June 1, 1918
. . . the mail aviators
are demonstrating that it is possible to fly in any sort
Aerial Age Weekly, August 12, 1918
Praeger admonished his pilots and dismissed them for refusing
to fly in bad weather. Employees who could not keep to a schedule
were of no use to Praeger's service. Pilots, who were
willing to fly in wretched conditions, balked at flying in
impossible conditions. When pilots refused to fly on July
22, 1919, as ordered, when extremely low visibility would have
made the trip almost suicidal, Praeger responded by firing
two of the them.
The firings succeeded in the most part for uniting
the pilots against Praeger. Although not in total agreement,
most of the pilots wanted to push the issue and demand that
Praeger acknowledge their concerns. When their demand that
the fired pilots be rehired was rejected by Praeger, most
pilots refused to fly. The pilots strike was played out in
the press, which quickly sided with the pilots against Praeger.
July 25, Praeger met with some of the pilots to discuss the
must fly rules. Both sides claimed victory in the talks, and
the pilots went back to flying the mail. Field managers were
to have the last say on whether or not pilots would fly. Praeger
no doubt believed that his field managers would ask pilots
to fly, regardless of weather. The pilots just as firmly believed
that as an actual witness to the bad weather, no field manager
would insist a pilot fly in impossible conditions.
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