By the Seat of Your Pants:
|Airmail pilot examining a weather report
at an airfield office.
- Courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian
The first pilots who flew for the Post Office's airmail service were pioneers of flight. Their
work blazed the trail for new, permanent airway routes and
made nighttime flying routine.
To be a pilot in the early 20th century was
an adventurous, difficult and dangerous job. The Post Office
Department paid pilots well. From 1918 to 1926, airmail service
pilots earned between $2,000 and $5,000 a year, plus five
cents for every mile flown. This was two to three times what
an entry-level postal clerk was paid.
Pilots could also earn national fame. Pilot
Jack Knight became an overnight hero in 1921. Taking part
in the first transcontinental
airmail run, Knight successfully completed his assigned
flight. When the next pilot refused to fly in darkness and bad weather, Knight rose to the challenge and delivered the mail. Without
Knight's determination, airmail service would have suffered
a major setback.
Knight was one of many famous pilots of his day. Have you
heard of Charles
Lindbergh's record-setting first transatlantic flight?
Did you know that for part of his flying career he transported the mail?
Have you heard the phrase "flying by the seat of your
pants"? What does it mean? The phrase evolved from
the early days of aviation.
What does the phrase say about the work these pilots did?
Put yourself into the role of an airmail pilot by reading the following stories and completing the activities:
1: Suit Up
Leg 2: Logbook
3: Forced Landing