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PILOT STORIES: Robillard, Fred S.

Air Mail Service Began: November 11, 1919
Air Mail Service Ends: January 15, 1920
Assignments: College Park, Maryland
  November 14, 1919 – Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
  December 1, 1919 – Belmont Park, New York
  December 15, 1919 – Newark, New Jersey

Fred Robillard was born on September 14, 1890 to Wilfred and Mary Robilard in Chicago, Illinois. As a young man, Robillard was drawn to the sport of flying, and by age 22 he was taking part in exhibition flights. Before that, he had found an outlet speed in auto racing, as had some other airmail pilots such as Bill Hopson and Eddie Gardner had done before him. He served during World War I, receiving flight training at Parris Island, South Carolina. After leaving the military, Robilliard worked as a civilian aviator/pilot.

On November 11, 1919, at age 28, Robillard joined the Air Mail Service. Unfortunately, family responsibilities soon demanded his full attention. On January 11, 1920, he wrote to Chief of Flying, James C. Edgerton stating, "Having thought it over carefully, I have decided that on account of the large amount of travel necessary in flying the mails and the impossibility of being with my family, that I will have to resign. Very sorry I caused you and Mr. Stanton any trouble but I cannot figure any way in which I can come out ahead."

Unfortunately for Robillard, he was unable to find anyone to tell him he was leaving, and left a letter and message with another employee, who promised that he would deliver the message. As Robillard explains in his letter to James Edgerton of May 28, 1920, that plan did not work out very well.

I am writing this letter as an apology to you, General Praeger, and Mr. Stanton.

When I left you at the Postoffice Building I went down to the Western Union, and wired my wife at Miami and received an answer about six o'clock. She begged me to come down for a couple of weeks as she was very sick.

I tried to get in touch with you to ask for a leave of absence but did not know where to find you at night.

While trying to find you I ran across Lt. St. George, and told him about it. He said that he would go up to see you the first thing in the morning, and explain it to you, and tell you where you could get me by wire. I also wrote you a letter telling you all about it, also one to Mr. Stanton.

I have been waiting, and wondering why I did not hear from you until yesterday when he arrived in Miami on his way to Cuba, and on asking you what you said he told me that he had forgotten all about the matter, and had never delivered the letters or the message.

I am very sorry that all this has come up and I hope that you will forgive me for causing you all this trouble, and I want you to understand that I did not want to sting you, and I do want to stay on the Mail, after that talk I had with you in your office, when you were so square about everything.

I have been flying H boats down here while waiting to hear from you, and I am not stale in flying so if this explains things, and you can use me why please drop me a wire, and I will pack up my self, and wife, and come at once.

I sure want to hear from you as soon as I can because I feel rotten about the whole thing, and I realize just what you must have thought of me.

Apparently Edgerton did not reply, and by that fall, Robillard decided on a new tact. He wrote again to Edgerton in October, and again apologized profusely for the error. "I am going up to Washington to tell you this in person as that seems the only square way to do, and to ask you to do what you can to get me back in any capacity so that I can prove that I am truly sorry about this, and I can stick on the job."

That same day he wrote similar apologies to Charles Stanton of the Eastern Division and Second Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger. To Praeger, he plead, "I promise you that if you will give me one more chance to show you, I will attack, and do everything in my power to keep the Mails moving. . . . I thank you for past favors, and hoping that you will forgive me for this big mistake."

In spite of his earnest pleas, Praeger refused to consider the request. He was not a man who easily forgot and not one to offer second chances. Robillard's request was refused and he did not return to the service.

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