Monday, July 22, 2019

Air Mail Carriers Strike as Protest -- July 22, 2019

Washington Evening Star, 25-July-1919
100 years ago today, airmail pilots went on strike to protest being forced to fly in zero visibility weather.

Object to Discharge of Pilots
for Refusing to Fly
in Fog.

By The Associated Press.

NEW YORK, July 25. -- A strike of aerial mail pilots began today, no aviator appearing to take out the plane with Chicago mail, due to start for Bellefonte, Pa., at 5 a.m. The strike, the first of its kind in the country, follows the refusal of the Post Office Department to reinstate two pilots discharged for refusing to take out planes Tuesday on account of the fog. Post office officials at Belmont Park, Long Island, the landing field for mail planes, stated that they had received instructions to give out no information concerning the aviators' action.

Protest Pilots' Discharge.

A protest against the discharge of the two pilots. Leon Smith and Hamilton Lee, was sent to Second Assistant Postmaster General Praeger Wednesday, giving him twenty-four hours to make known his decision. Mr. Praeger in his reply, which was received by the aviators last night, announced that the orders discharging the two men had not been revoked.

"They came into the service," Mr. Praeger's telegram said, "as every other pilot, with the knowledge that they must comply with the department's orders to fly with the mail, and where flying conditions are so that they cannot operate they have the option to resign."

Complain of the Planes.

The aviators state they have complained on several occasions that the planes supplied them were poorly equipped for flying, even in good weather, because of their high speed. They said they desired lighter and slower machines, as in misty or foggy weather the visibility was so poor as to make high speed dangerous. The men declared that since July 15 no less than fifteen accidents have occurred, in which ten planes were demolished and two aviators killed.

Aviators of mail planes at Chicago, Cleveland and Bellefonte will join in the strike, according to local aviators. Twenty pilots at Belmont Park, all civilian employes of the Post Office Department, are affected by the strike action.

Mr. Praeger Makes Statement
on Controversy With
Service's Pilots.

Washington received no airplane mail from New York today, due to the strike of twenty mail service pilots there late yesterday, but the trouble, apparently, is confined to the Belmont Park field, for the Washington-New York plane left on schedule time, 10:30 a.m., today, and reports from Chicago said that mail planes would leave there this afternoon, as usual.

Refused to Fly in Fog.

The strike of the air mail pilots began late yesterday, when the flyers demanded the reinstatement of Pilots Leon Smith and E. Hamilton Lee, discharged by order of Second Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger when they refused to fly in the fog last Tuesday.

In a statement issued shortly after noon today Mr. Praeger denied that the two discharged pilots had been asked to take unnecessary risks, saying that "every step possible to reduce the danger of flying in the air mail service has been taken."

Takes Issue With Strikers.

The assistant postmaster general takes issue with statements made by the striking pilots to the effect that the Curtis R-4 planes, equipped with Liberty motors, are too heavy for flying in foggy weather or that they cannot fly at a speed less than 100 miles an hour. The controversy which resulted in the discharge of Smith and Lee, said Mr. Praeger, was not one as to the danger of making the flight, but followed the demand of the pilots to be allowed to use a small JN-4-H machine, "practically obsolete for mail work."

Statement by Mr. Praeger.

Mr. Praeger issued the following statement today:

"My attention has been called to newspaper statements containing charges said to emanate from air mail pilots. These charges, if they were true, are not sincere. They were not made before the dismissals of the two pilots in question and would not have been made if these two pilots had been reinstated or had been permitted to have their own way in the matter of the selection of types of planes to fly the mail.

"Any statement that a Curtis R-4 plane with a liberty motor is an unsafe ship is a calumny on our airplane industry. The statement that this type of plane cannot be flown at less than 100 miles an hour is false, and the pilots who are supposed to have made this statement know that they have to push the engine almost to its utmost limits of performance to get 100 miles an hour out of this type of plane; also, they know that its lowest flying speed is not in excess of fifty five miles an hour, as demonstrated at a recent official test by the air mail service. This is possibly five miles an hour more than the small type JN-4H.

As to Lee and Smith.

"In the case of Pilots Lee and Smith, safety of life, limb and property was, in fact, not in question. They offered to fly a small JN-4-H plane which has not the mail capacity, nor the power to make headway against a strong head wind such as was blowing on the day in question. They refused to fly a type of ship which had been flown daily on this route during the spell of bad weather, a long time before that, as well as since July 22, when the two pilots were dismissed from the service. The weather was not good at Long Island on that day, but it was not as bad as on the days previous. The rainy spell was breaking and at Washington, the end of the line, the sun was shining about the time that the mail plane was due. In addition, I am advised by our representative on the ground that planes for hire were being flown on Long Island on the afternoon of the controversy concerning the two pilots. This demonstrates that the weather was breaking even there and it was entirely possible to have started from Long Island toward Washington with any type of machine.

The Pilot's Demands.

"The pilot who was to have taken the regular run insisted on flying a type of plane of his selection and refused to fly when he could not have his way. He having refused, the other pilot on the run declined to fly except on the condition of the first pilot. The death of Pilot McCusker is mentioned, and the press dispatches said to have emanated from information furnished by pilots saying that with his death there were two deaths in the last ten days. The pilots know that this is not true. Pilot McCusker died about two months ago by a fall from an aeroplane which developed fire in the pilot's cockpit, which caught fire, and had nothing to do with weather or flying conditions. The statement that ten machines have been demolished in this recent bad weather is likewise not true.

Says Contention Not Borne Out.

"Bearing particularly on the issue involved, that the type of Curtis machine flying the mails with high compression liberty motor is more dangerous and liable to forced landings in bad weather than that small JN-4 plane with a 150 horsepower Hispano Suiza motor, is not borne out by the year's flying in the air mail. During the siege of bad weather last December, when the small type plane with the small motor was flown exclusively, there were ten forced landings in eleven days' flying between December 12 and 24. This was over 218 miles of route between New York and Washington, and is a worse showing than during the recent ten days of bad weather over 648 miles between Washington, New York and Cleveland.

"The superintendent of the eastern division advises that during the week of the worst of that weather, thirty out of thirty-three legs of the journeys were completed.

"Again, in forced landings, the type R-4 presents elements of greater safety to the pilot than the JN-4-H, in that the tendency to turn over on a forced landing in wet ground is less with the R-4 than with the smaller ship, and the pilot in the R-4 is farther removed from his engine, propeller and mail load than in the small ship. This whole subject has been given a most careful study by expert flyers during the year and every step possible to reduce danger of flying the air mail service has been taken, the results of which are at once in evidence by comparing the crashes, injuries and deaths in any other flying in this country since the termination of the war.

Truth of Statement Denied.

"There is no truth in the statement that the Post Office Department is refusing to equip planes with gyroscope turn indicators. These instruments are in course of further development and refinement and are not obtainable in quantities on the market as yet. The indicators for the air mail service which are being developed will require two months further completion by a factory.

The instrument is a device which, by gyroscopic action, shows the pilot when he turns either right or left from his course and does not show whether the plane is on an even keel or upside down, as press statements declare. It is a device to supplement the compass in times of low visibility, when the compass does not perform accurately or when a pilot has no landmarks to show him whether he is keeping on a straight course. The indicator will have to be further perfected, and this is what the Post Office Department expects to accomplish out of the lots which are being gotten up for them by the instrument manufacturers.

"Facts in Controversy."

"The fact in the controversy that should not be lost sight of is that the pilots did not contend that the weather was such that the route could not be flown, and this is borne out by all the weather reports in the hands of the department on that day, but that the pilots refused to fly on the theory that the regular mail ship was not as safe a type of plants as the type the pilot insisted upon using and which type is practically obsolete for mail work and has been in the course of retirement for the past few months.

"The Post Office Department has taken every precaution for the protection of Its pilots against death or injury, and the year's operation of the service with its small casualties is proof of the ceaseless attention given by the department to make the mail plane flying safe for the pilots.

"Of course, there is an element of danger in all aeroplane flying, but the records show that the air mail service, by its efforts for safety, has reduced these dangers to a negligible quantity.

"The department, however, cannot leave the question of when to fly and when not to fly in each instance to the judgment of a dozen different aviators. If this were done it would be impossible to operate a mail schedule with any degree of dependability and the air mall would have to be abandoned."

No comments: