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William F. Blanchfield    Harry W. Huking    Eugene Johnson    James B. Knight
Rexford B. Levisee    Harold T. Lewis    Claire K. Vance    Burr H. Winslow
William F. Blanchfield
Hooded Messengers Who Brave the Red Line 'Hump' *  1922: Reno-Elko
*  1 German plane over Bruges, 3 unofficial
*  More flying hours than anyone in mail service
Hooded Messengers, Part II *  Was a major in R.F.C., having served at Mons as well as Bruges
*  Acted as courier between French HQ and war office in London
*  Came to U.S. and immediately applied for citizenship
*  Started on San Francisco-Reno line
*  New to flying the hump
*  Has flown over 3,000 hrs, 300,000 air miles, all in planes rated over 100 miles per hour
*  28 Nov 1921: Went up from Elko in blizzard; landed at Reno and couldn't be seen for the snow covering him; was frozen to his seat and had to be carried out to defrost
*  20 Mar 1921: Another snowstorm; had to set plane down in the desert; walked in circles for 5 hrs; tried to convince some old-timers he found to help him but they were too scared of the plane; was able to get the plane to take off and didn't default the mail
*  Spring 1922: Another blizzard, landed in Palisade, dragged the mail to railway and got a lift on train; again didn't default
Riders of the Thundercloud .
. The Airplane and the Eagle *  pilots will descend to frighten water fowl into the air in order to get a "kick" that will alleviate the boredom of flight on a beautiful day
. Reno Flyer Dies in Crash *  while positioning his plane so that he could drop a wreath onto the grave of an air mechanic who had just died, Blanchfield's plane hit an air pocket and crashed
. LINKS: *  National Postal Museum
Harry W. Huking
Hooded Messengers Who Brave the Red Line 'Hump' *  1922: Reno-San Francisco
Hooded Messengers, Part II *  Started with air mail service when it was still experimental
*  Married
*  Made a record from Salt Lake-San Francisco with 450 lbs of mail, 18K letters, 2 hrs
*  20 May 1922: Hard trip San Francisco-Reno in fog, couldn't find a hole to descend, turned back to San Francisco, propeller stopped and he landed in a tree, was unconscious when gotten to hospital, 10 days there
*  29 Nov 1921 ?: Took off from San Francisco with blizzard in Reno; Reno didn't expect him and closed up; when they learned he was coming everyone waited anxiously till he called to say he'd landed near a rancher and would bring the mail in and would not default. Next morning went with mechanics and flew plane to Reno, then back to San Francisco
. Bird of the Broken Wing *  17 Nov 1923: made 1 hr 18 min record San Francisco-Reno in ship No. 167, carrying 370 lbs of mail, after flying through fog and hitting air pockets 6,000 feet high, that threw his ship up and down as he circled Reno
. Prisoners of the Fog *  20 Jan 1923: he took off into a fog so wet and thick that his face was scoured raw from the water streaming off the plane; he took the plane up to 17,000 feet and was able to find, besides sunshine, many short-lived rainbows; he knew he'd reached the hump when grey spires began to appear before him; finally reaching the Reno field, the fog still clung to the ground and darkness was rapidly falling; everyone on the field came out to watch the landing, but there was only one sighting of him before his plane disappeared; but while the pilot worried over where he could set down, an opening showed him a flat piece of ground on which he'd landed during a snowstorm only a few days back; while Huking did make contact with mechanics driving out to find him, none of them were able to make their way back to the plane in the fog and he wasn't able to make the railroad mail connection when they did find the plane in the morning.
. Settin' 'er Down on the Hump *  2 Feb 1923: on flight between Colfax and Reno ran into winds buffeting the ship from 3 directions, while he was shoved up and down between 9000 and 13,000 feet in sudden air pockets
. The Night Birds of April *  photo showing survival gear pilots carry - snow shoes, life ring and food
. Rainbow Circles of the Air Line *  10 Feb 1923: left San Francisco in fog and flew in the space between the ground fog, tule, and the clouds
*  describes "cloud surfing"
. Ships Caught In a Whirlpool *  13 Mar 1923: left Reno for San Francisco with 350 lbs of mail; over Verdi he flew into a whirlwind and was tossed up and down, and around for 45 min; at the same time, Winslow was coming from San Francisco and ran into the same aerial whirlpool; although observers from the ground watched the ships almost collide, neither pilot ever saw the other
. The Songsters of the Altitudes *  confirms that the "Song of the Ships" include melodies from jazz to classical, and the notes mirror the stress placed upon the ship
LINKS: *  National Postal Museum
*  Testing New York-San Francisco route
C. Eugene Johnson
The Night Birds of April *  flew the Hump
*  test pilot for night flying appliances
. All Dressed Up in Feathers *  Mar 1922: took off from San Francisco in fog starting at 20 feet, flying dangerously low over the bay; ceiling lifted to 30 feet when the air was covered with a flock of uncounted water birds; fruitlessly trying to find an altitude where he could get past the birds, he was finally forced to force his way through the flock, the detritris covering his plane
. Air Mail Pilot Misses Death *  6 Feb 1927: caught in a blizzard, and too low to parachute out, took the ship down, turned off the engine and landed, wrecking everything on the plane except his cockpit and the mail pit; uninjured, Johnson made his way to the railroad tracks and used his pistol to fire signal shots; not finding a phone or help at his first refuge, Johnson continued to Troy where he was picked up by a special train sent out to get him by the Southern Pacific; unfortunately, the snow filled in his tracks and they weren't able to find the plane or the mail
. LINKS: *  National Postal Museum
*  Testing New York-San Francisco route
James B. Knight
The Night Birds of April *  22 Feb 1921: record night flight North Platt-Omaha
*  23 Feb 1921: matched time Omaha-Chicago never having flown the route
LINKS: *  Wikipedia
*  Photo
*  Pilot Jack Knight book
*  National Postal Museum
Rexford B. Levisee
Hooded Messengers Who Brave the Red Line 'Hump' *  1922: Elko-Salt Lake
. Hooded Messengers, Part II *  Was with Air Mail from the beginning
*  Nov 1922: While over the mountain peaks from San Francisco, lost his motor and glided her down into a valley that turned out to be full of stumps; plane wrapped around a tree and he was pulled out by forest rangers;
. Bird of the Broken Wing *  Photographs of broken plane
. The Airplane and the Eagle *  chasing an eagle to higher altitudes
. LINKS: *  Photo
*  National Postal Museum
*  Papers in Archive
Harold T. Lewis
Bird of the Broken Wing *  2 Nov 1922: crashed luxurious, flying limousine carrying Second Assistant Postmaster General Paul Henderson during a storm at night; he'd tried to land on a road paralleling the railroad, but had ended up in a ditch, resulting in damage to the wings and propeller; Lewis worked with the mechanics from Reno on the plane, then borrowed highway leveling equipment and scraped the highway clean of snow in front of his plane; his takeoff in that crowded situation was considered exceptional
. The Night Birds of April *  will fly night run Omaha-Chicago
. LINKS: *  Smithsonian
*  National Postal Museum
*  Crash of the Elizabeth
*  Air Mail art
*  Air Mail Pioneers
*  Yaeger didn't want Lewis to fly Yaeger's plane
*  Davis-Monthan Field
*  Flew for Superintendent of Air Mail
*  Photo with Superintendent of Air Mail
Claire K. Vance
Hooded Messengers Who Brave the Red Line 'Hump' *  1922: Reno-San Francisco
*  record flight Elko-Reno in Ship No. 158 - 1 hr 20 min
Hooded Messengers, Part II *  Last Elko-Reno run was caught in snowstorm, dropped to 50 feet and found railway tracks, landed at Reno w iced plane
*  Dropped emergency supplies to snowed in family, cutting cord to drop supplies from wing
*  Building a plane to attempt record non-stop flight to New York
, Riders of the Thundercloud *  Abbreviated story of dropping food to starving ranchers during blizzard
. Bird of the Broken Wing *  27 Jan 1923: thwarted attempt to reach Reno in snowstorm
*  Broke record for San Francisco-Reno (1 hr 18 min)
. When Winslow's Ship Stood Still *  27 Jan 1923: ran into the same strong winds that Winslow had, though Vance was traveling from San Francisco, where Winslow had left from Reno; at Colfax, Vance found his ship motionless against the winds; blown back to Sacramento, he tried again after reaching 12,000 feet; he gave up after a 3rd try at 15,000 feet; his situation differed from Winslow's in that his headwind was from the east while Winslow's was from the west
One Jump to Gotham *  preparing to try for record, nonstop trip from San Francisco to New York; designing and building his own 130 mph ship for the 21 hr flight; started building it Sep 1921; it will be 25 feet long and weigh 4200 lbs loaded
*  6 Feb 1922: Vance had left from San Francisco when a waterjacket on the plane cracked; he turned back and was able to land at Mather field, where he talked the army into loaning him a deHaviland plane that wasn't built for cargo, but he was able to strap the mail to the wings of the loaner plane; in the morning he reversed the process and carried mail back to Mather on his wings, where he was able to finish his run in his own repaired ship
. Prisoners of the Fog *  19 Jan 1923: leaving San Francisco, he ran into a heavy fog bank and he was soon lost; a break in the mist gave him a chance to quickly bring his plane down and get his bearings; he kept the plane 50 feet above the ground and traveled 25 miles through a narrow tunnel, a scary trick, but one that worked; but the field he was aiming for had closed because they never thought he'd travel in the thick peasoup; there was still security there and his sudden appearance out of the fog scared them as badly as the canyon had scared him
. Settin' 'er Down on the Hump *  26 Feb 1923: left San Francisco on beautiful day but hit 30 mph headwinds that rose to 60 mph by the time he hit Sacramento; expected that there would be some altitude where the winds would abate enough to let him through, but by the time he reached Colfax his ship speed was down to 15 mph against the wind; then the ship found itself being tossed up and down through 4,000 ft air pockets, just as Huking had been 24 days earlier; but still Vance was able to make it just past the center peaks of the Hump and could see Reno, his goal, dead ahead; but the winds were still holding him back and, in fact, blew him back over the western side of the Hump; the slowed flying was taking its toll on his gas and he knew he had to come down; he aimed himself at a small lake but his landing was thwarted by the ship wheels breaking through the snow crust and the ship ended up vertical, nose deep in the snow
. Rainbow Circles of the Air Line *  15 Feb 1923: saw falling meteor and flew through the smoke it left as it fell
. The Airplane and the Eagle *  26 Feb 1923: When the telegraph operator informed the train dispatcher of the crash of Vance's plane on the frozen pond in the Hump, everyone cooperated to arrange for the train to stop and pick up Vance and his mail
LINKS: *  Vance dies in crash - Nevada State Journal
*  Air and Space Magazine
*  National Postal Museum
*  Truckee History
*  1925 photo
*  Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register
*  Vance dies in crash- Oakland Tribune
Burr H. Winslow
Hooded Messengers Who Brave the Red Line 'Hump' *  1922: Reno-San Francisco
*  22 Oct 1922 - flew through thick fog to Reno, but was unable to see it, so returned and landed at closed Sacramento field in darkness
Hooded Messengers, Part II .
. Bird of the Broken Wing *  27 Jan 1923: observed fight with hurricane wings over Verdi
*  12 Jan 1923: tied San Francisco-Reno record of Vance of 1 hr 36 min
When Winslow's Ship Stood Still *  27 Jan 1923: people watched from the ground as he tried to move his ship forward in the face of a 100-mph hurricane; he was almost thrown from the cockpit by the struggle; as he fought the wind, his ship speed and the wind speed canceled each other out and he was suspended in space; he tried again, but was still unable to move forward; pockets of air forced him from 14,000 ft to 8000 ft; after failing a third time he gave up and had to default the mail
. Rainbow Circles of the Air Line *  saw rainbow circles, rather than rainbows, frequently at higher altitudes
. Ships Caught In a Whirlpool *  13 Mar 1923: left San Francisco for Reno; over Verdi he flew into the same whirlwind in which Huking was caught; for 15 minutes, Winslow's ship was thrown around, they passed within 3-400 yards of one another, but neither pilot ever saw the other, due either to them being blinded by the sand and dust carried by the wind, or the concentration it took to keep their ships from spinning out.
. LINKS: *  National Postal Museum
*  1910 Washington State Census
*  Signed Christmas card
*  Truckee History
*  Locate a Grave

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