National Postal Museum logo
Top Image
Pilot StoriesHistoric PlanesAirmail Creates an IndustryObject ShowcaseHistory TimelineActivity ZoneFlight School
Square boxes
Above the Clouds: The Airplanes
By the Seat of Your Pants: The Pilots
>> Suit-Up
>> Logbook
>> Forced Landing
>> Aviation Innovation: "Flying By the Seat. . ."
Learning that Delivers: Site Guide
Pilot Stephen T. Kaufman
Pilot Stephen T. Kaufman.

- Courtesy of Nancy Wright
Leg 1 : Suit-Up

Pilot Lester Bishop
Pilot Lester Bishop.

- Courtesy of the Air Mail Pioneers

When you participate in a sport or hobby, you often wear special clothes and use special gear. For instance, soccer players prepare for a game by putting on uniforms, cleats, and shin guards. Musicians prepare for a concert by gathering their instruments, sheet music, and music stands. Sometimes gear is necessary to carry out the activity and sometimes it is for protection and safety.

Early aviators used special clothes and gear. Their high boots, jodhpurs, and leather jackets could look very stylish, but fashion was not the reason why pilots used them. They needed their outfits for protection in the open cockpit. Some items that they brought with them on their flight included:

Issued by the Post Office Pilot's Personal Items

Leather Face MaskLeather Face Mask



Flight logbookFlight Logbook



Dress shirt and tieDress Shirt & Tie

- Courtesy of National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Lined, Winter Flight Suit BootsLined, Winter Flight Suit Boots
(Fur Lined for Winter)

- Courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution


- Courtesy of the Air Mail Pioneers


- Courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Fur-lined jacket Fur-lined jacket


- Courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution


Silk ScarfSilk Scarf

- Courtesy of the Air Mail Pioneers



- Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Mail SacksMail Sacks  

You are going to fly the mail!
Be sure to wear the proper clothes and gear.

The superintendent has assigned you to fly the mail from Omaha, Nebraska to Cheyenne, Wyoming in ship (another name for airplane) number 385. You go immediately to your prep room to dress properly. Remember to pin on your number badge with pride - you are one of the few daring and courageous airmail pilots.
It is a clear day, October 15, 1923. You know that it will be very cold flying up so high in an open-air cockpit.
You and your mechanic inspect the airplane to make sure that it is ready for the 6 to 7 hour flight. You review the for directions before taping it to the leg of your flight suit. Then, you slip your personal into your pocket because you will need to write down the details of your flight after you finish today's work. With your gear on and airplane ready, you climb into the cockpit. The airplane holds its precious airmail cargo – 284 pounds of . All looks good for takeoff.
As the airplane bumpily takes off into the blue sky, you are grateful that you pulled on a over your jodhpurs, shirt and tie. The suit keeps you very warm and dry. You observe the landscape below and happily realize that your neck is free from chafing because of the wrapped tightly under your fur collar. Even though a steady stream of cold air blows all around you, your toes are toasty inside a pair of and your hands remain warm inside your .
Without warning, a flock of birds flies directly in front of you. After a bit of commotion, you pass them without injury. Luckily, you are well protected with a firmly on your head, a over your face, and a pair of covering your eyes. You feel able to face almost any emergency, equipped with a toolkit, flares, pyrenes, and even the that you are sitting on, but which you hope that you will never have to use.
You check the compass, your map and look around. You realize that the airfield in North Platte, Nebraska should be on the horizon. There it is! North Platte is your regular, refueling station. It is also a good place to stretch your legs and check the weather reports. You start a gentle descent over the Union Pacific railroad track and look over to the colorful fall trees along the river. You are in position for landing.


Continue the story . . .
>> Leg 2: Logbook
>> Leg 3: Forced Landing

Review This Activity's Classroom Objectives, Subjects & Age Level.

2004 © Copyright. National Postal MuseumBottom Navigation

Top of page link to homepage