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Moving the Mail : Airmail in America : US Aerial Mail Service 1918–1926 : The 1918 Flights : August & September Flights

August & September Flights

August 1918

Benjamin Lipsner
Benjamin Lipsner, Superintendent of the Air Mail Service.

Two sets of blue, white, and red horizontal stripes above and below an emblem of the globe with wings
The Post Office Department's Air Mail flag.

The Army turned operations of the airmail service over to the Post Office Department in August. The department hired army Captain Benjamin Lipsner, Major Fleet's second-in-command, to run the service. Lipsner resigned his commission and became the First Superintendent of the Air Mail Service.

The first flight operated by the Post Office Department took off from College Park, Maryland, on August 12, 1918. The destination was New York. Max Miller, seen here with Mrs. and Mr. Benjamin Lipsner, flew that historic flight. Miller flew the new Curtiss R-4 aircraft. These new planes had more powerful Liberty 400 horsepower engines. Miller was the first pilot hired by the Post Office Department. He died when his plane caught fire and crashed on September 1, 1920.

The Lipsners

Badge with US in the middle, text on the outside: Aerial Mail Service / 809
Badge created for the Post Office Department's airmail pilots.

September 1918

Max Miller receives a bag of airmail from his boss, Superintendent Benjamin Lipsner.
Max Miller receives a bag of airmail from his boss, Superintendent Benjamin Lipsner.

The Post Office Department decided to launch pathfinding flights from New York to Chicago in September 1918. A major obstacle was the Allegheny Mountains, considered by some to be the most dangerous territory on the route.

U.S. Airmail Service Superintendent Benjamin Lipsner chose two of his best pilots, Eddie Gardner and Max Miller, for these flights. Eager competitors, Gardner and Miller turned the test into a race.

On September 5, 1918, the pair left New York. Miller flew in a Standard airmail plane with a 150-horsepower Hispano-Suiza engine. Gardner followed in a Curtiss R-4 with a 400-horsepower Liberty engine and was accompanied by Eddie Radel, a mechanic.

As each pilot landed to refuel or make repairs, he eagerly called Lipsner in Chicago to find out where the other one was. A set of telegrams now in the National Postal Museum tracked their progress. Miller landed in Chicago first, at 6:55 p.m. on September 6. Gardner arrived the next morning, landing at 8:17 at Grant Park.

Learn more about the September pathfinding flights

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