Airmail Pilot Stories

The first regular airmail pilots in the U.S. were Army Air Service pilots who flew the mail between May 15 and August 9, 1918. These first airmail pilots flew a total of 254 trips during those months, flying mail on the first scheduled airmail route between Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; and New York, New York.

Did you know
...that pilot Eddie Gardner got his nickname "Turkey Bird" because of his wobbly takeoffs?
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When the Post Office Department took command of the service in August, civilian pilots were hired to fly the mail. The postal pilots were a fascinating mix of men, including native born Americans; immigrants; former military pilots; civilian instructors; loud, brash and confident fliers; and quiet, steady and reliable aviators. The list of applicants for these positions was consistently long, and any pilot that did not live up to expectations could quickly find himself without a job.

Eight years later, the Air Mail Service was turned over to private contractors who hired their own pilots, including several of the postal pilots. Regardless of employer – Army, Post Office Department or private airline companies - pilots who flew America's airmail for the first few decades were among the most courageous pioneers of aviation.

Fad to Fundamental: Airmail in America