Gardner's Trip

Telegram from Praeger on September 5, 1918
Praeger informs Lipsner of the troubles with the fuel pump on Gardner's Curtiss R-4.

Eddie Gardner was also assigned to the New York-Chicago path finding flights. He flew a more powerful Curtiss R-4M. Like the JN-4 the R-4 was manufactured by Curtiss. Also like the JN-4, it was designed for the Army. However, the R-4 was a heavier airframe with a more powerful 150 horsepower engine. This was not powerful enough for the Post Office. Before going into service with the Post Office it was retrofitted with a 400 horsepower Liberty Engine, making it capable of higher speeds and carrying heavy payloads of mail. In addition to carrying the mail, Gardner was carrying Edward Radel, the Airmail Service’s best mechanic, just in case Gardner’s or Miller’s aircraft had major mechanical failures.

Lipsner assigned Gardner to take off after Miller. Gardner was not happy about this, as he wanted to arrive in Chicago first, however, he complied. His flight did not get off to an auspicious start. Upon attempting to start his airplane, he experienced problems with his engine’s fuel pump, which required replacement. On top of all of this, the airplane’s tail skid broke as they were moving it off the field to be repaired. At this point Gardner gave up on that particular R-4 and ordered the mail to be moved to a nearby R-4, despite the fact that the mechanics had yet to check it for problems.

Western Union Telegram
Official observer John Jordan notes Gardner's error in leaving a bag of mail in Bryan and relays Gardner's requests for preparation of the landing field in Chicago.

Gardner finally was able to take off at 8:50 AM on the morning of September 5th, 1918. Gardner would set down near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in order to get directions to Lock Haven. He got said directions and landed in Lock Haven about an hour later at 1:50. This was originally just a refueling stop; however, a leak was discovered in the gas line, forcing Gardner and Radel to stay longer. Lipsner eventually ordered Gardner and Radel to stay the night in Lock Haven, and leave for Chicago the next morning. Gardner and Radel departed at 10:40 the next morning, September 6th, 1918. Gardner, pressing to catch up with Miller, flew the route to Cleveland, without any deviation from his planned course. Given the navigation technologies of the time and the fact that Gardner had never flown the route before, this was nothing short of miraculous. Gardner and Radel arrived in Cleveland at 3:00 in the afternoon. They spent only a few moments on the ground refueling the airplane and took off for Bryan, arriving at 5:15. Again, making every attempt to catch up with Miller, Gardner insisted on spending as little time on the ground as possible. They left at 5:50 and were said to have accidentally left some mailbags destined for Chicago behind.

Though Gardner was determined to land in Chicago that day, it was not to be. Darkness came and Gardner decided to land his airplane, rather than risk flying at night. They landed outside of Westville, Indiana and spent the night in the town. Gardner and Radel took off the next morning at 6:40, headed for Chicago. They landed at Grant Park, in the city at 7:30. They were greeted with significantly less fanfare than Miller, however, dignitaries and citizenry alike still showed to welcome the mail to its destination.