Our Air Mail bill commemorates the beginning of mail being transported by airplanes. On May 15, 1918, the Post Office Department began scheduled airmail service between New York and Washington, D.C. using Army pilots and six Jenny training planes of the Army. On August 12, 1918, the Post Office took over all phases of the airmail service, using newly hired civilian pilots and mechanics, and six specially-built mail planes from the Standard Aircraft Corporation. These early mail planes had no instruments, radios, or other navigational aids. Pilots flew by dead reckoning or "by the seat of their pants." Forced landings occurred frequently because of bad weather, but fatalities in those early months were rare, largely because of the small size, maneuverability, and slow landing speeds of the planes. Congress authorized airmail postage of 24 cents, including special delivery. The public was reluctant to use this more expensive service, and, during the first year, airmail bags contained as much regular mail as air mail. By 1920, mail was flown during the day, and carried by trains at night. By 1922, the Post Office Department built radio stations at flying fields for weather reports and mail was flown both day and night. The first commercial airmail flight in the United States occurred on February 15, 1926. By September 1, 1927, all airmail was carried under contract. The Post Office Department sold or transferred its emergency landing fields, radio towers, etc. to the contractors or other government agencies.
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