Photograph of airmail plane at Chicago
A mail truck delivers the post to a waiting DH-4B in Chicago.

Praeger was not particularly happy with the debacle that the first attempt to expand service to Chicago had caused. It was such a disaster that it had left a large spot on the reputation of the service that its enemies could exploit. Praeger, always working to keep airmail service alive, decided to successfully expand to Chicago, post haste.

Another failure was unacceptable, so Praeger decided to change his approach. Noting problems the woefully inadequate landing fields from the last attempt, Praeger mandated improvements, or in the case of Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, outright replacement by a better airfield in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He saw the problems with the airplanes solved by having the war surplus DH-4’s, that had failed so miserably during the previous attempt, modified into workable mail planes. The labor shortage was solved by pilots and mechanics returning from WWI. Last, and possibly most importantly, this expansion occurred in spring, rather than the dead of winter.

The establishment of this new route followed a different timeline, as well. It was opened in two stages: New York-Cleveland and Cleveland-Chicago. The Cleveland-Chicago route opened first, as the terrain was less treacherous. Mail actually began flying across the route on May 15, 1919; the first anniversary of the Army flights. The New York-Cleveland segment opened on July 1st of the same year.

The careful preparation and months of planning paid off. The route was a resounding success, and operated with relatively low default rates. Despite this, sending letters by rail was cheaper and, due to night flying at that time being tantamount to suicide, the savings of time was not all that great. Further expansion of the service, coupled with changes in flight procedure would have to be made in order to compete.