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Air Mail Pioneers owe a major debt of gratitude to AMP Retired President Jerry Lederer. Without Jerry’s dedication, the organization would not exist today.

This year, at age 96, he turned the honor over to News editor Nancy Allison Wright, daughter of Air Mail Service pilot and AMP Ernest M. "Allie" Allison,

In October 1976, Jerry assumed the office as AMP national president. In the ensuing 23 years he kept the organization alive and vital, even as its membership dwindled. His stated goal at the time he took over was to "...memorialize the efforts and sacrifices of our members..." Ever since he has been a tireless advocate for the contribution the U.S. Air Mail Service rendered to the nation.

"I have always considered my membership in the AMP as a unique distinction, more significant than my memberships in any of the organizations to which I belong, even though I am an honorary member of several," Jerry wrote in his acceptance letter.

As the favored organization, the AMP should take immense pride, for Jerry continues to garner prestigious awards from both national and international aviation associations. This year the International Civil Aviation Org., an arm of the United Nations, bestowed on him their thirty-third Edward Warner Award, "..in recognition of your eminent contribution to the safety of international civil aviation."

It’s safer to fly abroad now because Jerry’s established the use of English for global flight operations.

Known internationally as Mr. Aviation Safety, Jerry was the first director of the Safety Bureau of the Civil Aeronautics Board; during WWII he trained 10,000 airmen and 35,000 mechanics in 14 months for the Air Transport Command.

After the war, he founded the Flight Safety Foundation for the global exchange of information on aircraft accident prevention.

Hardly slowing down as he approaches age 97, Jerry will travel to New York City to be honored as one of the alumnus of George Washington High School hall of fame. He will find himself in the company of luminary-grads Henry Kessinger, Sidney Poiter and Alan Greenspan. In 1992 Jerry was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame.

The list of Jerry’s honors could fill a book. The Air Mail Pioneers feel honored that he elected to grace the organization for 23 years as its president.


Air Mail Pioneer member Red Kelso from Cheyenne, a retired newspaper and magazine editor and military and commercial pilot, thought we should include this article of reminiscing by Paul Collins.

THOSE PEARLY GATES "Boys," said Leo McGinn, "I thought sure enough I’d crashed and gone straight to heaven. I thought that queer-looking arch must be the pearly gates."

"McGinn’s problems began when he tangled eye-ball to eye-ball with a bad combination of wind, rain and fog on approaching the shores of Lake Michigan into Chicago," wrote Paul Collins in the March 23, 1929, issue of Liberty Magazine. (5 cents delivered.)

McGinn was making the night run carrying the New York mail from Cleveland to Chicago in early spring of 1926.

"At that time, we had not yet come to the stage of investing much faith in our instruments, partly because the ones we used were not altogether reliable; also because instrument flying was a matter of confidence, of learning to trust our lives to the antics of cute little dials," Collins explained.

When Leo judged Chicago was somewhere beneath the fog, rain and dark clouds, he started to circle the area looking for anything that might pinpoint his location. He could see nothing as the wind tossed his plane all over the sky. He flew north, then made more circles looking desperately for even a pinpoint of light on the ground – nothing except more fog, rain and darkness. Another worry cropped up as he glanced at his fuel gauge. It wasn’t a happy sight.

Fighting the weather for what seemed like hours, Leo still had not sighted Chicago. He was thinking he, his plane and the mail might end up in Chicago Bay.

Suddenly, a brilliant panorama of lights, people and strange architecture materialized out of the darkness over the tip of his left wing.

"Rigid with astonishment, he watched the vision pass and disappear in a whirl of mist," wrote Collins.

"The whole think was twisted on its ear," said Leo, afterwards. "It seemed made of fantastic domes and towers like some Oriental palace. There was a large gilded archway in the middle. Chicago never looked like that to me."

The truth dawned on him almost immediately. In the fog, his plane had flopped over on its side and wallowed down to a point directly over the entrance of White City, a major Chicago amusement park. In a split second, he recovered and found the landing field and delivered his mail.

Leo McGinn joined the Service May 10, 1923 to August 31, 1927. He flew 593.58 hours for 60,937 miles.                                                                                        Paul Collins

Collins joined the U.S. Air Mail Service February 12, 1921, to August 31, 1927. He flew 3,487 hours for 361,689.


In my first issue as editor of the Air Mail Pioneers News (summer 1998) I questioned John R. "Duke" Skoning’s claim that he was one of the six U. S. Army Air Service pilots who inaugurated and flew the mail for the post office from May to August 1918. My research showed that Skoning could not have participated in that aviation milestone because, as official post office records indicate, he joined the service in 1919 and bailed out three months later.

I asked readers for help clearing up the discrepancy. No less an expert on airmail history than our president (ret.), Jerry Lederer, came through with newspaper clippings and first-hand memories of his co-worker and friend.

"I had flown with Skoning and because of his affiliation with many U.S. Air Service officers, I assumed he had been an Air Force pilot," wrote Jerry.

A yellowing clipping from the Dayton Herald gives Skoning’s history. According to the reporter, he instructed flying cadets at Brooks field in 1918 and then flew the airmail between New York and Chicago for two years thereafter, a claim unsubstantiated by U.S. Air Mail Service records.

Jerry remembers Skoning as an aeronautical entrepreneur. In 1929, Skoning convinced the Dayton Aircraft Corp., a Studebaker Securities Co. of Chicago enterprise, to support the development of a radically new monoplane. This experimental craft featured two engines mounted on the top of the plane, allowing greater visibility for pilots and eliminating the danger to passengers from revolving propellers. It cruised at 140 mph and because of the height of its cabin permitted passengers to stand upright.

Skoning asked Jerry to join the project and design the structure for the new craft. The plane was the brain child of noted French aero-engineer Theodore De Port, chief of the aerodynamic unit of Wilbur Wright field where the plane was tested. Skoning superintended construction of the plane.

The first two tests on the new plane succeeded but the third, in which a stiff rudder caused the pilot to lose control in landing, resulted in a broken right wing and a smashed tail skid. Due to the skillful handling of pilot Lt. John A. Macready, former altitude and cross-country flyer, he and Skoning escaped injury. In honor of Macready the plane was to bear his name.

 After Jerry completed his stint designing the twin-engine transport, he joined Pioneer Aviation Insurance Underwriters: Barber and Baldwins in New York where he launched his career in aviation safety, evaluating risks and losses.

Jerry remembers 1929 vividly: "When the 1929 depression broke my salary was reduced from $5,000/year to $3,000. I was lucky. My office was in the Wall Street area – people were committing suicide by jumping out of office windows, due to the economic calamity."

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