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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Page 48 of 67

April 2019 • Nebraskaland 49 A Boeing 80A at Omaha Municipal Airport, June 5, 1930. Mayor Richard Lee Metcalfe stands in center. Boeing Air Transport (today's United Airlines) took over airmail fl ights in 1927 and introduced its tri-motor Model 80 the following year. More than an airmail plane, the 80A carried 18 passengers in its heated, leather-upholstered cabin, where a stewardess attended to their needs. HN RG 3882-1-25-1 been a preferred land route across Nebraska. Now it became an aerial highway. Forced landings and crashes were common, and pilots were vulnerable to changes in weather. Fog was especially deadly. Then as now, pilots had to see the ground in order to land safely. They often carried fl ares to drop. That at least marked ground level. Nebraska's fi rst airmail fatality occurred near Marquette in 1928 when a pilot crashed into a tree. He had been fl ying low to avoid headwinds. The pilot survived, but he was carrying a passenger who did not. Night fl ying added other risks. The Post Offi ce staged its fi rst coast-to-coast round-the-clock fl ight on Feb. 22-23, 1921. Pilot Jack Knight fl ew in darkness from North Platte to Chicago, following bonfi res along the way. When the Post Offi ce began regular overnight fl ying in 1924, beacon lights marked the route's emergency landing fi elds. Radio was another exciting new technology. Experiments with two-way radios aboard airmail planes began roughly the same time that consumers were starting to buy radio receivers for their homes. In December 1923, Jack Knight and a government radio engineer kept in touch with Omaha for 100 miles, and checked in while passing Mead and Grand Island. But it took several more years for radio to become common on airmail planes. This early era was brief. Boeing Air Trans port (today's United Airlines) took over airmail fl ights in 1927. Three years later, Boeing began carrying both mail and passengers in its new tri-motor Model 80, a big metal-clad biplane with an enclosed, leather-upholstered cabin in which a stewardess attended to passengers' needs. In just 10 years, much of what we take for granted in aviation had gone from novelty to a way of life. Based on Kathleen Alonso, "Trail above the Plains: Flying the Airmail through Nebraska from 1920 to 1930," Nebraska History (Winter 2018). See

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