On this day 1925, airmail pilot James Hill departed Hadley Field, New Jersey at 9 pm in the evening. This was the start of regularly scheduled transcontinental night and day airmail flights in the United States.
In an age when aviation infrastructure was in its infancy, roughly one hundred cars lined the airport to shine their headlights along the runway. Since runway lights were still a thing of the future, the extra lighting was a big help when departing in the evening.
Even their navigation was a bit primitive, yet tasty… It’s lucky the early airmail pilots enjoyed their cigars, and for good reason…
James Hill once needed three whole cigars and part of another just to find New Jersey. Hill had taken off from the airport in Cleveland, bound for New Brunswick on his leg of a regular airmail route. He’d been told the weather was clear up to the Alleghenies, with cloud cover from there to the coast. In the vicinity of Mercer, Pa., he finished an inflight cigar and looked at his airplane’s clock. The clock had stopped. Hill knew the distance from Cleveland to Mercer was 75 miles. He also knew that he’d smoked an entire cigar. Doing a bit of math on the fly, he figured he needed to smoke three more cigars and two-fifths of a fourth in order to mark the 255 remaining miles. When he got that far into the final cigar, he dipped below the cloud cover and found himself approaching Hadley Field, outside New Brunswick.*
While today’s pilots depend on satellites orbiting the earth to get from point A to B, these men only needed a bit of math and a good stogie. 😊 I wonder how well the cigar held up in the rain? 🤔
*Jensen, Richard. “The Suicide Club.” Aviation History May 2017: 60-65