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The transcontinental Government-operated Air Mail route between New York and San Francisco forms the backbone of "a skeleton in the making" of commercial Air Mail routes. Five commercial contract Air Mail routes have already been awarded to contractors, other routes are under advertisement, and additional routes are under consideration by the Post Office Department. During the fiscal year 1925 the Air Mail expended $1.097 for every mile flown, and flew 2,501,555 miles. The cost for transportation only (that is, pilots' salaries and gas and oil) was 20.9 cents per mile. The rest was the cost of building, maintaining and overhauling the planes, engines, and other equipment; the operation of the 18 terminal fields, 89 emergency fields, and approximately 500 beacon lights along the 2,665-mile airway, radio operators' salaries, watchmen, etc.
point by the stove and moving over to the corner where his parachute and winter flying clothes lay piled. "Allison'll be here in a few minutes."
Collison's run was from Cheyenne to Salt Lake, 400 miles, over the mountain ranges and desert plains that form the Continental Divide.
RUSHING THROUGH A BLIZZARD WITH
The Superintendent of the Mountain Division looked worried. Rising from his desk, he threw open the office door. Out of the black night an icy blast of snow-laden air rushed into the room, to beat and sizzle against the glowing iron of the stove. A sudden eddy of wind flung itself on the piled snowdrifts about the doorway, catching up the dry flakes
and whirling them away in a smother of darkness.
Under the sweeping pencil of light, the faint outline of the near-by shelters flashed suddenly into brilliant relief, then sank back into the storm. The long, mute row of border lights that marked the boundary of the field lay hidden behind the drifting blanket of snow.
And somewhere, thirty miles beyond, Allison was rushing headlong through the night, at a hundred miles an hour, above. the Union Pacific tracks.
The Executive slammed the door against the gale. The mail must go, but-"Better wait, Collie," he advised grimly. "This is no flying weather."
"Wait! Heaven won't have it! We can't hold up the Christmas mails. If I can snake across the Laramie Hills,
A NIGHT AIR MAIL PLANE ILLUMINATED BY A HALF-BILLION-CANDLEPOWER FLOODLIGHT AT HADLEY FIELD, NEW JERSEY
A special lens is used to keep the lights perfectly level and to prevent stray light from troubling the pilot while he is landing.
we're all right. Medicine Bow reports a 500-foot ceiling and Rock Springs is clear."
The Superintendent did not reply. Sherman Hill beacon light, on the Laramie Range, 30 miles west, is 8,600 feet high, and in such a storm it seemed folly to attempt it. There was still time to consider the matter; the mail was not yet in.
STARTING AN ENGINE IN BELOW-ZERO WEATHER
Out in the meager shelter of the temporary hangar, exposed to the gale and the snow, the mechanics were starting Collison's plane.
It is no idle matter to start an airplane engine in the open in minus-thirtydegree weather, in the midst of flying snow. Sixteen gallons of boiling water are poured into the radiator, twelve gallons of heated oil in the tanks. "Contact!" shouts the mechanic at the throttle, and three mechanics link hands, lurching forward together to pull the propeller through compression (see page 22).
The footing is treacherous on the icy ground, and should one slip and fall into the whirling disk his life would probably be forfeited. If the engine fails to start after the first few trials, the water and oil must be quickly drained before freezing. reheated, and the whole weary process repeated.
Two mechanics froze their faces that night, sticking to their unspectacular, but none the less heroic, task to "keep the mail in the air." And all through one bitter winter, after their fire, the Cheyenne force carried on day and night, out on the shelterless plain, defying tempest and storm.
Above the angry voice of the gale came a sudden shout from the watcher on the tower-"The Mail!" The mechanics on the line took up the cry, "The Mail!" Allison coming through!
The beacon ceased its restless searching and shone down on the field, gleaming through the snow-choked air and throwing into bold relief, within its narrowed arc, the shifting snowdrifts, while
LOADING CHICAGO MAIL ON A NIGHT PLANE AT HADLEY FIELD, NEW JERSEY The New York-Chicago overnight service, begun July 1, 1925, operates on a schedule of 9 hours, 15 minutes westbound and 8 hours, 30 minutes eastbound. Planes and pilots are changed at Cleveland. The postage rate is 10 cents per ounce, which is proportionately higher than the rate charged for the transcontinental service which leaves New York in the forenoon.
CHECKING POUCHES AS THEY ARE TAKEN FROM THE TRANSCONTINENTAL MAIL PLANE'S FUSELAGE
The Post Office Department has 83 planes in flying condition and 13 now being reconditioned; 61 are equipped for night flying. Each pilot is assigned a plane for his exclusive use.