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PILOT STORIES: Bradley, Charles E.

Air Mail Service Began: April 3, 1919
Air Mail Service Ended: August 13, 1919
Assignments: College Park, Maryland

Lieutenant Charles E. Bradley was an old army buddy of James C. Edgerton who, by 1919, was the Chief of Flying for the service. Late in 1918, Bradley had written to Edgerton asking for a position. On January 2, 1919, Edgerton wrote to his friend at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland to tell him that he was sorry but "as far as applications for the Aerial Mail Service are concerned, we will not be able to accept any until we have the time to construct adequate ships. We have had to call off the program because of unsuitability of the de Havilland."

"I was certainly glad to hear from you again and will be glad to see you any time that you may be in Washington. Remember me to all the fellows. If you care to drop me a line two or three months hence I may have something better to offer."

Bradley tried again, and in late May, he received a letter notifying him of openings that would be available at the first of April. "The requirements are that you will agree in writing to fly the mail airplanes whenever directed by the Department regardless of weather conditions and that on days of poor visibility, you will fly by compass over the clouds, fog, snow, or rain, whenever it is possible to climb above them. Unless you are prepared to pilot the mail airplanes under these conditions do not accept this position. All appointments will be made at an entrance salary of $2,000.00 per annum, with an automatic increase of ten per cent upon the satisfactory conclusion of each 100 hours in the air, up to $2,800.00 per annum after which increases up to $3,000.00 will be made only in consideration of special technical or executive qualifications of unusual meritorious performance of service.

"If you desire to accept a position in this service under these conditions telegraph your acceptance not later than March 26th and report to this office in Washington not later than April 1st for duty."

On May 21, 1919, Second Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger received a telegram from Harry W. Powers, Belmont Park airmail field manager regarding an errant flight of Charles Bradley. According to his telegram, "Bradley forced to land at Bath Beach, Brooklyn account fog. Everything OK. Mail sent to Bath Beach Post Office to be forwarded to New York. Low ceiling here."

Showing his characteristic disregard for pilots' concerns over visibility while flying, Praeger responded to Powers that he should "tell Bradley to come through by compass. Perfect weather conditions this end. We must fly or we must give up the service. Every pilot should be advised of this. Many a pilot has flown over fog and clouds. Ask Bradley to make the effort."

Life as an airmail pilot did not agree with Bradley, and on August 13, 1919, he resigned from the service.

Click here to learn more about early problems with the de Havilland airmail airplanes.

Charles Bradley's resignation form.  
  Telegram from Praeger
Click on the photos to view a larger image.

(top left) Bradley's resignation

(bottom right) Telegram from Praeger
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