Notes from the Past

Early History of the American Air Mail Service - Part VI

Next Stop, Boston

Postmaster General Burleson began expansion plans for the airmail routes almost immediately.  The first extension was an experimental flight from New York to Boston.

The first Boston experimental flight was assigned to a French flight instructor, Lieutenant Gustave Vannelle, serving at the Army Aviation Field No. 1 in Mineola on Long Island.  Vannelle, along with his mechanic, attempted a takeoff on Monday, June 3, 1918.  Again aircraft unreliability changed the plan.  A control cable snapped as Vannelle was making his takeoff run.  He lost control of the aircraft and it flipped over before becoming airborne.  Vannelle survived without serious injury but the mail did not go through until later.

The Boston-bound mail was trucked to the Belmont field to await another flight attempt on June 6.  The replacement pilot was Torrey Webb who became the second most experienced pilot in the group assigned to the Air Mail Service.  He took off at noon along with his mechanic, R. Heck, and seven bags full of mail.

Bad weather made the flight over the untried route quite difficult.  Cross-country flying was in its infancy.  There was even a landing in Connecticut for compass correction.  To top everything off, "it was raining cats and dogs" when Webb got to the landing strip in Boston.

To be Continued.

 Posted April 5, 2000

Editor's Note:  This series will draw on Donald B. Holmes' Air Mail -- an illustrated history 1793-1981 which is an exceptional piece of philatelic literature and The American Air Mail Catalogue Vol. 1 published by the American Air Mail Society.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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