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PILOT STORIES: Paine, Topliff O.

Air Mail Service Began: December 4, 1920
Air Mail Service Ends: April 30, 1922
Assignments: Cheyenne, Wyoming
  Mar 1, 1921 – Salt Lake City, Utah

Topliff Paine ran into spectacular weather-caused trouble two days in a row while flying the mail between Salt Lake City, Utah and Cheyenne, Wyoming in March 1921. On March 7, he took off from Salt Lake City at 7:35 a.m., flying above heavy rain clouds, relying almost entirely on his compass for navigation. Fortunately for Paine, his compass was operational, and he landed at Rock Springs, Wyoming at 9:10 a.m. His de Havilland #171 was serviced and he took off at 11:50 a.m. in a return flight to Salt Lake City. He arrived there two hours and 30 minutes later, according to the field manager having "encountered heavy snowstorm which frosted his goggles and for over a minute he was flying blind. Landed at Salt Lake City nearly exhausted on account of nervous strain. He is the only pilot to make this treacherous run over the Rocky Mountains in such impossible weather."

The very next day, Topliff was flying with the east-bound mail, landing at Cheyenne, Wyoming at 9:05 a.m. He ran into a heavy snowstorm five miles west of Green River. After flying into a pass at Green River, Topliff could not turn around and had to come through the pass. He flew over Rock Springs fifteen minutes before he could locate the tracks leading out to the field. The field manager there noted, "We built a smoke fire and could not see him until he was actually landing right alongside the Hangar. He was out of sight before his wheel touched ground and had to send mechanics out to guide him towards hangar. It was an excellent landing."

Topliff O. Paine died of a gunshot wound on April 30, 1922. At first thought to be a suicide, his death was later ruled accidental.

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