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NEWSLETTERS -- FALL 1998

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 museums.

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?
 Pioneers 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 valuable tool.

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 and newspapers.

Current members also need to spread the word. I welcome suggestions on how to spark interest in commercial aviation's fascinating origins.

What 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 of us.

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 and elsewhere.

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 from you.

Nancy Allison Wright
Air Mail Pioneer News Editor

    LAST FLIGHT

    Ernest 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.

    In retirement 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."

    Ernest (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.

    Following 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.

    Ernest's 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 Space Museum.  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.

      Remember the
      Forgotten Mechanic

      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 everyone's hero;
      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 mighty aircraft
      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.

      Author unknown

      PHOTO: 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 aeronautics.

       

 

 

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