COMMERCIAL & GENERAL AVIATION EXHIBIT:
The United States Post Office created the commercial aviation industry. At a time when passenger travel was practically non-existent, flying the mail was the only stable source of commercial aviation revenue.
Many pilots got their start in the industry as airmail pilots. Early airmail pilots faced numerous hazards. They had no lighting on the ground or in their aircraft, making nighttime flying extremely dangerous. Weather reports were often inaccurate and updates unavailable once in the air. Radio communications didn’t exist. Early airmail pilots called themselves “The Suicide Club.” Thirty-five pilots hired by the Post Office Department died in crashes while flying the mail between 1918 and 1927. Later pilots found conditions much better. Improvements in aircraft and in flying conditions ultimately led to safer travels and the growth of America’s commercial aviation system. But it all started with inauguration of the airmail service in 1918.