National Geographic : 1926 Jan
ON THE TRAIL OF THE AIR MAIL ; x. . FI t&-""1k Photograph by Captain A. V . Stevens FLOODLIGHT, SEARCHLIGHTS, AND WIND MARKER AT IOWA CITY, IOWA The airway between New York and Rock Springs, Wyoming, 1,886 miles, was lighted for night flying at a cost of $514,405, or an average cost of $273 per mile. The annual maintenance cost for this lighted route is $157 per mile. lower stars. An impalpable gossamer mist slept in the dewy grass, gleaming under each swift, silent passage of the sweeping beam. I thought of the legion of travelers that had crossed that broad river to push on in hot quest or in weary indifference toward the beckoning West-of the lonely, ven turesome trapper devouring his evening meal uncooked, lest the light of his fire should attract the eye of prowling Indian bands; of Lewis and Clark poling their slow way past snags and sandbars to ex plore a route to the Pacific; of Pike, who had so far misread the future of these fertile Nebraskan plains as to pronounce them "a desert barrier placed by Provi dence to keep the American people from thin diffusion and ruin"! On those low bluffs across the sleeping valley the homeless Mormons and the drifting Potawatomi had once sought tem porary shelter, in friendly accord wrought out of common misery and persecution. The last of those early Potawatomi has long since joined his fathers in the "happy hunting ground," and over the long Mor mon trail across the rolling plains the winged couriers of the Mail now cut the hours to minutes in their swift flight from coast to coast. It was in the darkest hours of the night that I finally scrambled down the tower, to find the hangar crew bestirring itself to receive the eastbound mail; and as I dropped off to sleep on a hard little cot in the pilot's room, the drone of the incom ing plane sounded faintly across the hills, like a rumble of distant thunder. Late the next afternoon I picked up a passenger and pushed on to North Platte. Peter Berger, field manager at Omaha, is one of the most experienced mechanics in the Mail, with the insidious virus of flight coursing hot in his veins. The sight of the empty rear cockpit in my plane. tagged for the Pacific coast, completely overpowered him. Throwing all caution ~~ ~--~---~ ~;"