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IN HIS OWN WORDS – BLAZING THE AIR TRAIL TO CHICAGO

By Max Miller, Aerial Mail Pilot No. 1

From: Flying magazine, October 1918

Blazing the air trail to Chicago would have been a "cinch" if I had started at 6 A.M. on September 5th, as had been planned. This would have enabled me to start one hour ahead of the storm, and I could have reached Chicago by evening without trouble.

I left Belmont Field, Long Island, at 7:08 A.M., with a good wind in back of me, flew over the City of New York, the Hudson River and Hoboken, and headed west 284 degrees.

There was a bank of low clouds near the ground and another layer of clouds at a high altitude. I kept right between them and flew on my compass course. I could not see the ground, but ran for about two hours and at ten o’clock I came down through the lower strata of clouds and landed one mile from Danville, N.Y., about 155 miles from New York City. There I inquired to find out my bearings and found that I was not more than two miles out of my course. I did not kill the motor, but left it running, and after five minutes started up again and headed for Lock Haven.

I entered the fog which hung low over the ground and over the tops of the mountains, and I figured that it would take me about three-quarters of an hour to make Lock Haven. I came down and saw the field through a notch in the mountains and made a good landing. My motor was missing, so I changed spark plugs which took me about an hour, filled up with oil and gas, got a couple of sandwiches, and left about 11:45 A.M.

I climbed up through the fog again and went on over the mountains. I sailed on my compass course for an hour, 283 degrees, and I figured I was about 100 miles further on. Then I came down to see where I was and get my bearings, and the first thing I knew I hit the top of a tree. That sure gave me a good scare. I hustled back up again into the fog, determined to get plenty of altitude and keep on going as long as my gas held out.

I went fifty miles, and then I found my radiator was leaking and I came down and I saw a town with a fair going one. There was such a mob of people that I did not land there, but went on about twenty miles to a town named Cambridge. I inquired where I was and was told "Jefferson." On looking on my map I found a town called Jefferson lying to the north of my route, so on leaving I headed toward the south in order to cross the route again; but I found that it was Jefferson County, PA, instead of the town of Jefferson, Ohio, and I went about 150 miles out of my way before reaching Cleveland, where I had to remain all night on account of darkness.

The next morning I got my radiator fixed and rested up after being buffeted about by the storm and rain, and got away at 1:35 P.M. for Bryan on the compass course of 275 degrees, a little south of due west about 140 miles. I had to stop several times to fill up my radiator with water. The weather was very much better, and I was able to make Bryan, where I was received by Postmaster Jordan and got away at 4:35 P.M. I skirted the southern shore of Lake Michigan and arrived over Grant Park at an altitude of 5,000 feet at 6:55 P.M.

I circled around and made a good landing and was received by Postmaster Wm. B. Carlile, Mr. Chas. Dickenson, President of the Aero Club of Illinois; Capt. B.B. Lipsner, Superintendent of Aerial Mail Service; Mr. Thos. Downey,

Assistant Superintendent of Mails; Mr. James O’Conner, Director of the U.S. War Exposition; Mr. James Stevens, Secretary of the Aero Club of Illinois, and Mr. Augustus Post, Secretary of the Aero Club of America, who had come on from New York to witness the inauguration of the first aero mail service between New York and Chicago.

 The weather on the return trip was much better. I started from Chicago on September 10, at 6:26 o’clock A.M. I carried about three thousand pieces of mail. The weather looked so good that I expected to make a record trip. There was some haze on the ground, but not nearly enough to prevent landmarks being distinct. Just as I was over Cleveland, I found a broken connection in the radiator and I landed there to get it repaired.

This took some time, but I got away from there by 4:30 P.M., in time to make a pleasant flight to Lockhaven, one of the scheduled stops, before dark, a distance of 210 miles. I stayed at Lockhaven all night, leaving there at 7:20 the morning of the tenth. I arrived at Belmont Park at 11:22 A.M. As a pathfinding trip it was an immense success. We gathered a lot of information which will be very valuable in the future trips.

The radiator trouble was the only thing that prevented me from making the trip within the ten hours set. If I had had a spare aeroplane even, I could have done it. We will, of course, have spare machines for the permanent route, so it will not happen again.

Max Miller was killed on September 1, 1920 when his plane caught fire in the air and crashed.

Photo courtesy of The American Air Mail Society

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