The Post, Coast to Coast

Photograph of airmail planes at Omaha, Nebraska
Mail planes in front of the hangar at the airmail field in Omaha, Nebraska.

To fully realize the advantages of airmail, the routes flown had to cover the longest possible distance. Being faster than the trains, airmail increased mail speed considerably when sending letters. That being said, airplanes of the day generally traveled about twice the speed of trains, they could only fly during the day, so, in order to make a tangible difference in overall travel time, airmail had to cover vast distances. The New York-Chicago route showed some improvement over the railroad, but the difference was measured in hours, not days. As the concept of night flying had yet to be conquered, the only solution that presented itself was to expand the airmail service outward.

From the beginning Praeger envisioned an airmail service that delivered letters from coast to coast. He wanted to open up an airway between New York and San Francisco, with sets of feeder lines stretching north and south of the airway making the Airmail Service truly a national phenomenon. Great steps toward his vision would take place on September 8, 1920, two days shy of the second anniversary of Eddie Gardner’s bridging the distance between Chicago and New York in one day. The feeder lines would open shortly thereafter, only a few short weeks before Praeger was to leave office.