Praeger's triumph of coast to coast service in the fall of 1920 was short lived. By early 1921, Praeger was back in Congress fighting for airmail funding. He had asked for $3.5 million but received only $1,250,000 for the year. The Post Office Department was the target of Congressional inquiries over its use of non airmail postal funds to support the service. The inquiries, combined with continued criticism over deaths and injuries to airmail pilots due to unreliable equipment or forced flights in bad weather, put airmail service officials in an uncomfortable spot.
Praeger needed to convince Congress that the service was useful, even potentially critical to the nation. Among the criticisms aimed at the service was though exciting, it was only slightly faster than train service. Pilots, unequipped for night flying, were forced to land at dusk. Mailbags were transferred to trains which carried them through the night to another airmail field, where they were placed back aboard aircraft and flown through the day. To regenerate the excitement Praeger needed from Congress and the public to secure further funding for the service, he needed to set it up to fly mail around the clock.
De Havilland mail airplane at night, showing its landing lights.
Airmail employees Carlton Force and James King of the Omaha, Nebraska ground crew adjusting a field beacon.
- Courtesy of National Air and Space Museum
An airplane on Hadley Field on the first night airmail night service August 2, 1925.