Nov 9, 1920 – San Francisco
Joseph Mortensen was 25 years old when he joined the Air Mail Service on September 8, 1920. He signed on for the standard beginning pilot's salary of $2,000 a year, plus 5 cents per mile flying pay.
Apparently airmail officials were not at first impressed by Mortensen's flying credentials. He first applied for the position in early 1920. In May 1920 he was asked to submit more information about his flying experience because he had less than the 500 flying hours experience they were looking for. Mortensen listed various flight experiences, including five cross-country trips averaging 180 miles and added "the number of hours flown is not the outstanding qualification. The hours that were spent were well used showing no accidents whatever, rapid acquirement of flying ability, and broad diversion of training." In a final note, he stated that most of his flying was done in Texas and Oklahoma and at army fields.
Mortensen was assigned to the Western Division, where the landscape and weather challenges differed significantly from the conditions he was used to. Possibly because of this, Mortensen's work performance was not impressive. After a couple of accidents that field managers clearly believed to have been preventable, Mortensen was released from the service.