ALTHOUGH the primal practical use of the aeroplane, as conceived by the Wright brothers, was for purposes of war, perhaps the regular carrying of mail will be the first actual use to which it will be put by our government. The first experiments in carrying mail were made. by the British government in India last winter, when mail was carried from the Allahabad exposition grounds to a point several miles distant. Early in the present month, an aerial postal service was maintained for about a week between Hendon (near London) and Windsor Castle. This is a distance of some twenty miles. The mail was carried with more or less regularity by three machines two biplanes and a monoplane, piloted by Driver, Hubert. and Greswell. The last named made the opening flight on his Blriot racer in a 25-mile wind, carrying letters sent hy the King, Queen, and Postmaster-General to the Mikado and all the crowned heads of Europe. On the opening day, 11,000 to 13,000 letters were carried, and all told, over 100000 letters and postals were started on their way by the air route. It was in the maintaining of this mail service that Lieut. Cammell fell to his death. Strong winds delayed it on some of the days. but on the whole the service was maintained with commendable regularity. When it was decided to hold an aviation meet at the Nassau Boulevard Aerodrome, one of the first features determined upon was an aerial POstal service to Brooklyn. Postmaster-General Hitchcock authorized this service, and so interested was he that he personally carried the mail on the fourth day of the meet. About a score of letter boxes were placed around at different parts of the grounds. These were labeled Aerial IT. S. Mail and two collections were made each afternoon. The mail was taken to a special tent, where it was stamped and assorted and placed in small bags containing from ten to fifteen or twenty pounds. Instead of carrying the mail to the outskirts of Brooklyn, it was taken a few miles farther away from New York to Mineola and dropped in a field at the feet of the postmaster, who was on hand to receive it at the appointed hour. Starting on Saturday, September 23rd, Earle L. Ovington, in his Bleriot monoplane, made regular deliveries twice a (lay. On Sunday, the big day of the meet, there were 6615 post-cards, 781 letters, anti 55 pieces of printed matter to be transported. One bag weighing 14 pounds was carried by Ovington. while, another, which weighed about 20 pounds, was given to Capt. Beck to be taken in his Curtiss biplane. Capt. Beck had trouble with his motor, however, and the heavy bag was carried by Tom Sopwith in his Wright. On Tuesday, when Postmaster-General Hitchcock himself carried the mail. the pouch which he dropped overboard at Mineola contained 162 letters and 1.4 00 postal cards, while the one carried by Ovington, who showed him the way, had 3OO letters and 2,200 postal cards, besides 78 other pieces of printed matter. But one day during the meet was the mail service interrupted, which speaks well for the aeroplane as a regular mail carrier. Several days there was a strong wind, and two days it rained. A demonstration of skillful airmanship was made by Mr. Ovington when he wrote a letter with a widely advertised fountain pen while aloft in his Bleriot monoplane. Before ascending, Ovington gave a blank sheet of paper to representatives of three New York newspapers. who wrote their names upon it. so that they could identify it after the exploit and testify to the genuineness of the document. This letter is reproduced herewith, together with a postal card, which was sent by aerial post. Ovington was able to write, but once in a while, when the machine tipped sidewise, or tended to dive, his pen would slip slightly. The vibration of the motor caused the irregular writing shown in our reproduction of his letter; but the fact that he could write at all while flying a fast monoplane, shows the control which he had over his machine. He operated his warping mechanism and horizontal tail rudder with his left hand while writing. It is to be hoped that the successful demonstration of mail-carrying that was given at the recent meet will cause the Postmaster-General further to consider the aeroplane for this use. It is quite possible to dispatch mail from New York to Boston. or to Philadelphia. and send it through without a stop. A gain of one or two hours could be made in the first instance, and the establishment of' the service between New York and . Philadelphia would make it possible,', to send a letter in the morning at the opening of the business day, and. receive a reply early in the afternoon, when-upon a second letter could be forwarded awl received before nigh tfall. It is said arrangements are about to he made by transatlantic steamship companies for the special delivery of certain classes of foreign mail from the deck of the steamer, as it approaches the coast, to some station or locality in Jew York city by aeroplanes carried on the ship. By this means much quicker delivery could be effected. Aeroplanes may yet be used for carrying messages or light life saving lines ashore from a stranded steamer when the distance from shore is beyond the range of the usual cannon.
This article was originally published with the title "Carrying Mail by Aeroplane"