PILOT STORIES: Reuben
Major Reuben Fleet faced the enormous challenge
in setting up the world's first regularly scheduled
airmail service. A difficult enough assignment became even harder
when his airplanes were delivered only partially assembled. As
Fleet, his pilots and mechanics raced to put the airplanes together,
they found even more problems. The pilots used a pencil to
temporarily plug a hole in one airplane's gas tank.
Postmaster General Burleson, confident of the
service's success, had issued a press release announcing
the May 15 start date, and even ordered a 24-cent airmail stamp to be printed and released for those flights.
had been told to pick four pilots. He chose Lieutenants Howard
Paul Culver, Torrey H. Webb, Walter Miller and Stephen Bonsal.
Postal officials selected two more, Lieutenants James C. Edgerton and George L. Boyle. Although Edgerton and Boyle did not have
much flying experience, they did have great connections. Edgerton's
father was a purchasing agent for the postal service, and Boyle was engaged to the daughter of an Interstate Commerce commissioner.
Two days before the service was to begin, Fleet
and his officers (except Boyle) traveled by train to New York
City to pick up their airplanes. The Jenny training airplanes
had been modified for postal use and were delivered to the landing field at Hazelhurst in crates. Fleet and his crew managed to assemble two of the modified airplanes and flew one, along with a borrowed Jenny, south in preparation for the May 15
flights. Bad fog slowed Fleet's progress, and in the
end he flew the Jenny that was scheduled to leave Washington,
D.C. into that city just 25 minutes before its scheduled
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