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PILOT STORIES: Culver and Webb

CULVER
H. Paul Culver made his historic airmail flight between Philadelphia and New York on May 18, 1918. Culver waited and waited that day for Lieutenant Boyle to arrive with the mail from Washington, D.C., not knowing that Boyle had crashed his airplane in Maryland and the mail was not coming. Culver finally took off for New York at 2:15 pm, carrying the 200 letters from Philadelphia. He landed safely at the Belmont Park race track, which was being used as a temporary airmail field.

Did you know?On May 30, 1918, Culver had a particularly close call when he flew out one afternoon after waiting all morning for a fog to lift. With postal officials impatient for the pilots to keep to the schedule, Culver finally took off at 1pm in the fog. He was forced to climb to 4,000 feet to get above the clouds. He tried to track his progress through breaks in the cloud cover, having an erratic and unreliable compass. When he thought he was near Philadelphia, he came down to break under the clouds, breaking free of them at only 800 feet, directly over downtown Philadelphia. Culver quickly pulled back up and continued on as best he could to Bustleton airport.


WEBB
Although the JN-4 "Jenny" was most often used by the army airmail pilots, the service did experiment with another airplane. Lieutenant Webb was asked to fly a Curtiss R-4 aircraft on June 6, 1918. Webb was to carry the mail from New York to Boston on a trial run to connect the two cities by air. Webb carried a passenger, mechanic Robert Heck, with him on the flight. Lost because of bad weather during the trip, Lieutenant Webb landed in a pasture to get his bearings, then continued on to Franklin Park aviation field in Saugus, Massachusetts. On landing, the airplane hit a mudhole, flipping over. Fortunately neither Webb nor his mechanic were injured. The airplane was repaired, and Webb returned to New York five days later with mail and another passenger, Boston's postmaster William Murray. Webb noted that weather wasn't much better on the way back. "Visibility was zero-zero, and I just skimmed over the telephone poles all the way."

Click here to go back to the Short Summary of Culver and Webb.

Webb receiving bag of airmail May 15, 1918 Webb on top of his wrecked Jenny aircraft
Culver receives first mail May 15, 1918 Webb taking off from Belmont Park May 15, 1918
Click on the photos to view a larger image.

(top left) Webb receiving bag of airmail May 15, 1918

(top right) Webb on top of his wrecked Jenny aircraft

(bottom left) Culver receives first mail May 15, 1918

(bottom right) Webb taking off from Belmont Park May 15, 1918
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