National Geographic : 1926 Jan
ON ''ilI 'TRAIL U,F T'l 'fl AIR MAll, blackened faces of the canceled air-mail stamps. Something of this great modern epic I already knew, from frequent flying visits to near-by Air Mail fields. Bit by bit, out of informal conversa tions with the "grease monkeys" (as the me chanics are called) and with the "beezos" (as the mechanics h a v e nicknamed the pilots), forgotten elements of the unusual story be gan to come to light. You will not find them in the archives of the Post Office De partment; nor in the prosaic records of the Air Mail files; nor are you apt to overhear them in the hangars. Beezos and grease monkeys alike, after the manner of true men of action, make a common virtue of reti cence. Information must he "stewed out of them," as Mark Twain once said, "like the precious ottar of roses out of the otter." So it was with keen delight that I wel comed orders from the Photograph by Nat. I,. Dewell AN AIR-MAIL PILOT ENTERING IIS PLAN, WEARING A SEAT TIGHT PARACHUTE PACK The parachute, made of high-grade silk, is tightly folded in the pack. When the pilot wishes to use it, he jumps from the plane and, when clear, pulls a ring which opens the oack and allows the parachute to be caught in the wind. War Department to take a plane and make an inspection flight along the entire trans continental airway of the mail. THE START OF A TRANSCONTINENTAL INSPECTION TRIP Flying by easy stages from Washington to Monmouth, Illinois, where the Air Mail experimental shops are to be found, I hurried on after a brief visit and reached the field at Omaha late one afternoon. The day had been rough and gusty, with banked clouds against the western sky; but, following a crimson sunset, a passing shower had cleared and cooled the air. "Evening red and morning gray help the traveler on his way"; and I accepted it as a hopeful omen for the I,6oo-mile journey that still lay before me. Far overhead the night hung glittering and resplendent, like an immense drapery, studded with tiny shafts of silver light. I climbed the steep ladder of the beacon tower to watch for the incoming plane from Chicago. An idle breeze toyed fitfully with the limp cloth wind cone mounted on the floodlighted hangar roof just beneath me.