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A CALIFORNIA HIGH HEADWATER POWER DEVELOPMENT
The water from canyons is led from a point miles farther up, by canal, to the relatively small reservoir shown in the upper right corner of the picture. The water then flows from the reservoir through an extremely strong pipe line to the power house shown at the foot of the steep hillside. Here it dumps over the Pelton wheels into the canyon at the power house. Water in some developments is used again for a similar installation immediately below in the same canyon. Frequently several power houses appear on the same stream.
"One of the first studies was to determine whether visibility is absolutely necessary to flying," reads an early Post Office report. And the slogan, "Fly or resign," was popular among those whose duties kept them with both feet on the ground.
SHORTER LINES ABANDONED FOR TRANSCONTINENTAL ROUTE
During the fateful year of 1920 a number of the finest pilots lost their lives while flying unsafe and obsolete equip
Then a new policy came into force. A standard type of plane, equipped with the 400-horsepower Liberty engine, was adopted. The shorter mail lines were abandoned and all effort concentrated on perfecting the service along the transcontinental route.
The improved performance resulting from this policy was nothing less than remarkable. Year by year the efficiency percentage rose and the morale of the service mounted with it.
In July, 1924, a night schedule was established between Chicago and Cheyenne,
AN AIR VIEW OF THE STATE CAPITOL AND GROUNDS, SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA Sacramento was formerly visited by the Air Mail pilot as a resort in case a landing could not be made at Crissy Field, San Francisco. Often the airman, upon reaching San Francisco Bay, found that it was impossible to proceed farther because of the low fog which rolls in, especially during the summer months, from the Golden Gate. He had only to fly northeast to Sacramento and land at the U. S. Army Air Service Field, where the mail could be picked up and shipped by truck or train to San Francisco. Because of the distance required for transfer of mail, it became necessary for the Air Mail Service to provide a permanent field nearer San Francisco-at Concord, which is about an hour's run from Oakland (see, also, illustration, page 58).
the world's first serious attempt at regular night-flying. Within a short time the lighted sector was extended westward to Rock Springs and eastward to Cleveland. To-day it is complete from New York to Salt Lake City.
THE THRILL OF NIGHT-FLYING Almost a million miles have now been flown at night without the loss of a single letter. One fatality during the fiscal year
1925 must be recorded, however. A pilot who had but recently joined the Mail lost his head upon flying into a snowstorm at night, and in attempting to jump from the plane became fouled in his parachute. "How did the older pilots take to night-flying?" I prompted Peter.
"Well, some were rather slow warming. up to the idea. There was Lee, for instance, who said he'd try nights when there were no more thrills left for him in
A WRECKED MAIL PLANE ON THE MOUNTAIN SIDE
The pilot was unharmed and the mail forwarded intact. Planes have been forced down in the winter in such deep snow, in almost inaccessible places in the mountains, that they have had to be left until spring, as in the case of this plane. In every instance, however, the mail has been salvaged and forwarded.
day-flying. Then he made a few runs while one of the pilots was off on Christmas leave and he's been at it ever since.
"At first Page used to swear that each night flight would be his last. He'd run into a cloud or a patch of fog, lose sight of every light in the world, and then he'd hit a bump and the engine would sputter and backfire-everything inky black-it made his hair crawl around under his helmet, he said.
"After a while the big searchlight at Omaha would show up, with the field boundary lights shining like jewels in the dark ground. Then he'd relent a little, decide he had imagined most of his troubles, and agree to try just one more run.
"He's been doing that now for more than a year and has over 100,000 nightmiles to his credit. Claims he can smell his way into Chicago at night by the big starch factory on the canal bank.
"Lightning flashes close by blind a pilot temporarily, straining his eyes in the dark to make out vaguely familiar landmarks; but on real clear nights there's no trick to it at all.
"Hopson reported he was 11,000 feet above Davenport, Iowa, on one trip, to
take advantage of a strong upper wind, and he could see a glow in the sky over Chicago, 150 miles away; seven of the 25-mile beacon lights along the course were all visible at once.
"Sometimes, in bright moonlight, you can actually see the shadow of the plane against a black cornfield; and then again, when there's a ground haze, the moon shining on it makes it look like a blank wall-like flying into a damp blotter."
I remembered a flight of my own at night, over the Alleghenies, when a cold gray haze lay sleeping in the long, narrow valleys, and the lost beacon markers set on the intervening razorlike hills winked. their tiny eyes of flame at me as if in derision. In flying, as in life, it is not what we see, but what we cannot see, that we fear.
A sense of utter solitude took possession of me, an illusion of disembodiment, while I seemed to float through the velvety sky like a lost soul, beyond the confines of a three-dimensional world.
There is an indefinable something about a cross-country flight at night among the wandering stars and phantom cloud shapes, where illusion and reality are
This is the main western terminus of the transcontinental Air Mail line. Eastbound mail leaves from this field. Westbound, the Mail plane flies
hauntingly intermingled, that may well color one's whole "sentiment of existence" forever.
MAIL PILOTS TAKE WEATHER AS IT COMES
The Mail pilots, of course, must take the weather as it comes, and be prepared for the worst. They must know at an instant's glance every hill and house, every road and river, every "one-limbed cottonwood and obscure woodpile" along a track from 10 to 20 miles wide and nearly 500 miles long.
And they must know them under all the confusing conditions of which one can possibly conceive-forward or backward, wrapped in haze or fog, swept bare or buried in snow, under the trembling light of the stars or transformed by the occult power of the moon.
Like that vanished race of Mississippi River pilots, they must learn their long course as "you follow a hall at home in the dark"; and like them, too, they are as picturesque a type as in those old steamboat days when "every man was half a horse and half an alligator."
Pilot "Dog" Collins once remarked that he had so much to remember it made him stoop-shouldered.
Nor are all their troubles confined to the air. On stormy, threatening nights, when the clouds hang low over the hills, it is the custom to telephone to the emergency fields for last-minute advice on the weather. But the local, nonaëronautical caretaker often fails ludicrously to supply what is wanted.
"Some of them were so green at first," exclaimed Pete, "that they didn't know a propeller from wild honey! We called up a chap one night and inquired, 'How high is your ceiling?' He must have taken a quick glance around his office, for after a pause he said, 'About 10 feet, I think; but if you'll wait a minute I'll measure it'! "Last winter I put through a call to a caretaker at one of the Nebraska fields. 'How's the weather?' I asked. 'Not so bad for this time o' year,' was his answer.
"But the worst problem is on the Eastern Division. The only caretakers that could be found for three of the Allegheny fields speak nothing but Pennsylvania Dutch-and this within 100 miles of Philadelphia!"
It is one of Pete's delightful weaknesses to succumb under the naïve promptings of confiding strangers, and to entertain them with the most picturesque and admirable yarns. For his sophisticated air-mates he usually reserves only dull and ineffectual facts.
"SAN FRANCISCO OR BUST"
On this night, however, I had broken through his restraint. He warmed to his subject and wandered off into impossible tales of his feats as an aërial dare-devil. My quiet warning to consider Mark Twain's injunction about dressing his facts in tights and not in ulsters fell on deaf ears. Hair-raising climax was piled on climax.
"Enough!" I cried out at last. "Tell that to the grease-monkeys! We both need sleep for our flight to-morrow. Remember-it's 'San Francisco or bust!"
That last was an ill-chosen slogan, for at high noon the next day we very nearly "busted" landing at Elko, Nevada, 200 miles west of Salt Lake. A shallow, unmarked ditch lay hidden under the June grass at one end of the field, and into it we rolled, breaking the undercarriage. As an "office flyer" I may have some points, but as a ditch jumper I am a distinguished failure! (see page 45).
Nor was it any consolation to find the "bones" of three or four other planes whitening near by, under the scraggy sagebrush. Still, the damage was far from irreparable. A radio to the Army. Reserve station at Salt Lake quickly brought a new undercarriage by airplane, and late the next afternoon we were in the air again, headed joyfully toward Reno.
By train the distance is more than 300 miles; but beyond Beowawe we deserted the tracks to follow the shorter air trail over Carson Sink, thereby saving 70 miles.
This land is all part of that vast inland plateau between the Wasatch and Sierra. Nevada ranges. Cut by a hundred minor mountain groups that rise several thousand feet above the general 5,000-foot level, and draining to neither sea, it lies. silently aloof, in ashen baldness, wrapped in an ominous neutrality, in a solemn suspense of waiting.