In 1918 the Post Office Department (now United States Postal Service) initiated airmail service between Washington, DC and New York City with a stop in Philadelphia – Service began on May 15, 1918 using Army pilots, but was fully taken over by the Post Office with its own pilots on August 12, 1918.
This effort was begun to demonstrate the viability of such a service to potential private operators. Despite the inherent dangers of early aviation, many brave and heroic pilots took up the challenge, first along this East Coast Route, then from New York City to Chicago in September 1918, and two years later across the full width of the nation to/from San Francisco. The plan eventually succeeded, as private contractors began flying airmail in 1926 and fully took over the service in September of 1927.
In celebration of this anniversary and in honor of those folks who both risked and lost their lives during the formative stages of airmail service in the United States, this blogpost provides information on the first airfields that were used at the dawn of airmail service. As can be seen, several are hardly what one would consider an airfield – a polo ground and a horse racing track.
A followup post will provide data on the airfields used for the transcontinental airmail service that began shortly afterwards. Peace!
Airmail flight landing at Potomac Polo Grounds – Source: historynet.com
- Bustleton Field – Served the Airmail Service from May 15, 1918 to May 31, 1921 – 130 acres. Renamed William Penn Field in 1928 and was only 80 acres then. Renamed Boulevard Airport in 1934 and closed on October 4, 1951.
New York City, NY/NJ
Airmail flight at Belmont Park – Source: mavericksofthesky.com
- Belmont Park Racetrack – Served the Airmail Service from May 15, 1918 to December 1919.
- Hazelhurst Field – Mineola, New York – Served the Airmail Service from December 19191 to December 24, 1924. Renamed Curtiss Field in 1920 and later merged into Roosevelt Field in 1929, which eventually closed on May 31, 1951.
If this topic fascinates you as much as it does me, here’s a visual link to my personal favorite book on the airmail service that’s available on Amazon* – “Mavericks of the Sky.”
* A small commission is earned by us from purchases that are made using this visual link to Amazon.