Hats off to June. For
over ten years she edited the Air Mail Pioneer News. All
that time she never faltered in her drive to keep the News
alive and vital. She packed each issue with photos of the
old mail planes, articles from venerable aviation magazines,
correspondence from members and the occasional joke.
Now, June is directing
her energies to helping her husband, Bob, operate their
26-acre Christmas tree farm in Kent, Washington. Not a Pioneer
herself, June was the daughter of member Louis Krentz.
MEET YOUR NEW EDITOR
Nancy Allison Wright
Like June, I am an AMP daughter.
My father was Ernest M. "Allie" Allison, one-time national
treasurer and western division president. Over the years
I attended many AMP reunions with Dad and my mother, Florence.
Inevitably, I came away from these meetings impressed by
the spirit and camaraderie I observed among members.
Pilots, field managers, field clerks, watchmen, mechanics,
secretaries and other post office employees traveled hundreds
of miles at considerable expense to spend a few hours in
each other's company. I knew, of course, what drew them
together -- their contribution to one of humankind's greatest
endeavors, the world's first transcontinental air route.
I understood why they took enormous pride in this accomplishment.
I remember pilot Tex
Marshall saying, ".. . the great passenger planes of today
would not be flying, the men would not have landed on the
moon when they did, and man would not be able to fly around
the world on regularly scheduled airline, if we had not
made that great undertaking, the Transcontinental Air Mail
the success that we did."
Pioneers, like Dad
and others, were concerned that their place in aviation
history would fade in time. To etch their accomplishment
in the minds of the world, they drew attention to AMP's
50th anniversary; they rebuilt a deHavilland 4-B "Old 249,"
which William J. Hackbarth flew to Washington, amongst much
press notice. And they perpetuated their history through
the Air Mail Pioneers News, which brings me to this current
issue and my goals for the News.
We welcome new readers
I plan to increase our newsletter
circulation. This idea may strike some as unrealistic. After
all, the Air Mail Pioneers is a last-man club and membership
numbers are bound to diminish. Our mailing list has
declined from a high of 1,000 to slightly under 100. Of
those 100 only 30 go to original Pioneers. The rest are
sent to relatives, aviation history writers, libraries and
But I feel certain the News
can reach a larger audience. Through the generosity of the
Reuben H. Fleet Foundation, we are able to keep our message
before the public. As of 1986, the San Diego Foundation
has administered a fund supplied by the Fleet Foundation
for AMP with the understanding that the interest on the
capital should be used " to prolong the memory of the Air
Mail Service after we cannot be here to do it," as Emil
"Curly" Henrich informed members.
How to expand?
in Cyberspace: Yes, the News is on the Internet. I hope
to reach aviation buffs, retired and current professional
and private pilots, airline employees and young people fascinated
by the thrills of early flight. Classroom teachers can steer
their pupils to the site, and researchers will find it a
AMP web site visitors are
offered subscriptions to the AMP News.
But the Internet is not the
only vehicle I'll use for promoting Air Mail history. I
am offering subscriptions to museums and libraries that
feature early aviation collections and aviation magazines
Current members also need
to spread the word. I welcome suggestions on how to spark
interest in commercial aviation's fascinating origins.
you can expect to read
Everything that pertains to the Air Mail Service organization
receives top billing, as will news concerning members' activities.
Letters to the editor find their way into print, as will
any written material from President Jerry Lederer.
People like to read about
people and little will interest young and adult readers
as much as biographical snippets on some of our more colorful
members. I think, for example Tex Marshall, Slim Lewis and
my own dad, among many others, will make fascinating character
sketches. Much of this material may seem like old news to
many readers, but I intend to present it in a new and more
exciting way, which should revitalize the subject for all
Air Mail Milestones: Next
year marks the 80th anniversary of the first pilot's strike.
Thirty years have passed since the Air Mail Pioneers celebrated
their 50th anniversary. With calculator in hand, it's hard
not to find some remarkable milestones to celebrate, write
about and bring to the world's attention.
General Aviation News: June
included articles of interest to readers whether they applied
to the old Air Mail Service or not I will follow her lead
in this regard, hoping to find material on the Internet
Article Sources: For over
a decade I've accumulated material for a biography of my
father's aviation career As a result I don't have a book
yet, but I have an enormous amount of information on the
U. S. Air Mail Service. I've researched in such libraries
as the Wyoming, which contains many AMP memoirs, and the
San Diego Aerospace Museum, a rich depository. I also have
scrapbooks, letters, memos, photos and much more information
my mother collected on Dad's career over the years. From
all these sources, I'll draw my material. But I also welcome
contributions from all members.
Most important, I want your
opinion on all the above.
I look forward to hearing
Nancy Allison Wright
Air Mail Pioneer News Editor
The 'Winnie Mae' had completed two around-the-world
flights and numerous sub-stratosphere experimental
flights that earned it a place in "outer space"
exploration history. The date of the photo was Nov.
1935, three months after Wiley and Will Rogers crashed
and died in Alaska.
Shults, nearly 100 years old, took his "last flight"
Friday, October 3, 1997. A mechanic with the U. S. Air
Mail Service, Ernest loved working with aircraft engines,
on and off the job.
he rebuild antique airplane engines "just for fun,"
as he told a newspaper reporter in 1971. "I build them
down and build them back better than they were."
(shown at left with his wife Marie in 1989) launched
his aviation career in World War I as a navy submarine
spotter flying pusher airplanes off the coast of France.
His duties included carrying two passenger pigeons on
each flight, one to be released halfway to his destination
and the other when he arrived. The problem, as Ernest
pointed out to his commanding officer, was how to release
the pigeons without their striking the props. He solved
the dilemma by stalling the plane, then releasing the
birds just as it started to lose altitude. As the birds'
natural inclination is to climb, they cleared the props
with all their feather intact, happily finding their
way back to home base.
his employment with the Air Mail Service and later Boeing
Air Transport, Ernest became a co-pilot and mechanic
for Phillips Petroleum Company's Ford tri-motor executive
transport. It was during this period he met and made
friends with Wiley Post. Ernest worked with Post to
prove that airplanes could fly transcontinental at altitudes
of 35,000 feet. Post used his airplane "Winnie Mae"
for the test flight, which in 1935, after two aborted
tries, proved successful. After Post, along with Will
Rogers, crashed and died in Alaska, Ernest and his wife,
Marie, helped haul the famous plane to the freight depot
to be carted and sent to Washington, D.C. where it resides
in the Smithsonian Institution.
career included time with United Air Lines in Cheyenne,
Wyoming. Through the years he was associated with various
other companies besides Phillips Petroleum, such as
Aero Underwriters Insurance Association, Allison Division
of General Motors and Pacific Airmotive. Among Ernest's
credits are the many engines he rebuild for air races
all over the country.
Louise Thaden, the first woman pilot to win the Bendix
Trophy Race, used an engine Ernest rebuilt. He was instrumental
in building sky writing equipment for Art Gobel, the
pioneer skywriter and aviator. Retirement to Ernest
met doing the things he loved the most, rebuilding airplane
engines He also kept active as a member of the Air Mail
Pioneers. Ernest and Marie celebrated nearly 77 years
of marriage before she died in 1996.
Marie Shults and Mae
Post tow the 'Winnie Mae' to a box car that loaded
Wiley Post's famed plane for its destination at
the Smithsonian National Air and
Through the history
of world aviation
Many names have come to the fore.
Great deeds of the past
In our memory will last
As they're joined by more and more.
When man first
started his labor
In his quest to conquer the sky,
He was designer, mechanic, and pilot,
He built a machine
that would fly.
But somehow that order got twisted,
And then in the public's eye
The only man that could be seen
Was the man who knew how to fly.
The pilot was
He was brace, he was bold, he was grand
As he stood by his battered old biplane
With his goggles and helmet in hand.
To be sure these pilots all earned it.
To fly you have to have guts.
And they blazed their
Names in the Hall of Fame
On wings with baling wire struts.
But for each
of these flying heroes,
There were thousands of little renown,
And these were the men who worked on the planes
But kept their feet on the ground.
We all know the
name of Lindbergh,
And we've read of his flight to fame.
But think, if you can,
Of his maintenance man
Can you remember his name?
And think of
our wartime heroes
Gabreski, Jabara, and Scott.
Can you tell me the names of their crew chiefs?
A thousand to one you cannot.
Now pilots are
highly trained people,
And wings are not easily won.
But without the work of the maintenance man
Our pilots would march with a gun.
So when you see
As they mark their way through the air,
The grease-stained man
With the wrench in his hand
Is the man who put them there.
Ernest Shults (right) and Paul E. Garber, first
curator of the Smithsonian National
Air and Space Museum, discuss shipping the 'Winnie
Mae' to Washington, D.C. after a distinguished career
in the early history of commercial and explorative