Carbon arc searchlights of the type illustrated above and below were also used to spread their light out and over landing fields.
A 1925 article in Everybody's magazine aptly described the brilliant effect of these airport lights: "Through most seasons of the year the relay from Omaha to Cheyenne is covered at night, but the half-billion candle-power flood lights illuminate the terminal fields as brilliantly as the sun," wrote Samuel Taylor Moore.
"Even those powerful lights are sometimes obscured by snow drifts by the fierce winds that sweep over the plains from the Rocky Mountains."
In the same year, a bill was introduced in Congress to transfer the mail routes to private contractors. This was put into effect the following year.
Those airmail contracts may have been the key to the survival of many of the struggling young air transport companies.
Airmail contracts were what gave these companies steady work and permitted them to purchase new planes—like the Boeing above and the Douglas illustrated in the 1927 advertisement from U. S. Air Services magazine below—and earn something for their services.
Without earnings of some kind, they could never have expanded and finally become the great commercial airlines in the United States today.
The Airmail Pioneer “Doc” Eefsen of Tigard Oregon is seen below. He was known in the Northwest as one of the pioneers of airmail flying in the region. Born in Lampoc, California in 1894, he passed away in a Portland hospital on November 28, 1976 at the age of 82.
On May 2, 1968, Bill Hackbarth, a 68-year-old California pilot, is shown standing below on the wing of his rebuilt DeHavilland DH-4 biplane at Omaha, Nebraska, at the midpoint of his transcontinental trip retracing the route used by the first air-mail pilots 50 years before.
The AP report on the photo above went on to add, “Hackbarth’s plane, hardly bigger than the front section of the modern jetliner in the background, took him over the Rockies where his cockpit temperature at times dropped to 30 degrees below zero. He plans to go to Iowa City, Iowa, Thursday, and reach Washington, D.C. by May 15th to present his 50-year-old airplane to the Smithsonian Institution air wing.”
The UPI photo above shows he arrived early.
The AP photo above shows Bill Hackbarth of Santa Paula, California climbing from his 1918 model biplane at Washington National Airport after completing his transcontinental flight to mark 50 years of air mail service. He is greeted by his wife and Rep. Charles Teague, R-Calif. Hackworth was one of the pioneer air pilots in early 20th century.
According the Staff Writer Michele Mecke of the St. Petersburg Times Evening Independent, who is apparently riding along, above we see Capt. E. E. “Buck” Hilbert flying a “Swallow.” “It’s the proud and sole survivor from the first regular airmail routes in this country.” This photo of February 28, 1981 is the courtesy of Fred Victorin.