Nebraskaland April 2019

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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48 Nebraskaland • April 2019 arly airmail pilots fl ew open-cockpit biplanes, navigated by landmarks and simple maps, and landed in grassy airfi elds. By 1930 their facilities and technology had changed dramatically. What seems quaint in hindsight was in fact a time of rapid change. Airmail service began in 1918. The fi rst route was between Washington, D.C., and New York City. Regular coast-to-coast airmail fl ights began in 1920. Nebraska's fi rst airfi elds along the coast-to-coast route were in North Platte and Omaha. Airmail pilots used Omaha's Ak-Sar-Ben Field (near the famous racetrack) until 1924, when the Air Mail Service moved its operations to Off utt Field at Fort Crook. Off utt Field was literally a fi eld in those days – no paved runways – and the army did little fl ying at the time. The de Havilland DH-4 was the standard airmail plane during the early years. It began as a British two-seat light bomber during World War I. Modifi ed as an airmail plane, the pilot sat in the rear cockpit, while the front cockpit was enclosed to hold the mailbags. Pilots navigated with simple maps and followed landmarks such as railroads and rivers. The Platte River Valley has long E In 1919 the Post Offi ce decided that North Platte would be the best second airmail stop in Nebraska. HN RG2929-148 Pilots Jack Knight, at left, and Clarence Lange model cold weather fl ight suits, circa 1920. Knight became an Air Mail Service legend in 1921 by fl ying an extra leg of the fi rst transcontinental night airmail fl ight. HN RG3882-266-a U.S. Air Mail radio equipment, June 1924, probably at Off utt Field rather than Ak-Sar-Ben. HN RG3882-1-622-1 A section of J. James Duff y's map of the Chicago to Omaha route, which he used as an airmail pilot in 1924. The line of fl ight is in blue, and the circles near the line identify the emergency landing fi elds.

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