PILOT STORIES: The Army
. . . [military
airmail pilots are] doing pioneer work in an entirely new
field, where there are no precedents to follow.
Flying, July 1918
There were so
many things wrong with our airplanes and their engines that
we worked all night to get them in safe flying condition.
For example, one gas tank had a hole in it and we had to
plug it up with an ordinary lead pencil. Next morning, one
machine was flyable, so at 8:40 a.m. I took off for Washington,
where I landed at 10:35 at the [Polo Grounds] in Potomac
Park. The mail was due to start twenty-five minutes later.
Major Reuben Fleet, on preparations for the May 15, 1918
U.S. Army provided the airplanes, ground crews, pilots and instruction
for the world's first regularly scheduled Air Mail Service.
The flights, which began May 18, 1918, connected Washington,
D.C. and New York City through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Army relinquished control of the service to the Post Office
Department in August 1918, but their connection to airmail
did not end there. During a contracting scandal in 1934, Army
pilots flew the mail again for a brief period.
Click here to learn more about The