My First Air Trip to
the Pacific Coast
By Armen S. Kurkjian
Air Line Pilot, August 2003, p.30
Higher and higher we climbed. I knew that between Laramie and Salt Lake City we would have to pass over extremely high regions. At one time the instrument recorded an elevation of about 11,000 feet. Then I lost interest in elevation and took more careful note of our surroundings as we seemed to brush aside cloud-like formations and fly on and on over peaks, valleys, mountains. At Rock Springs, Wyo., we took a short descent to get down to earth because Rock Springs has an elevation of about 6,000 feet, which means that we had to descend about a mile from our highest altitude. The airport at Rock Springs is out of the city quite a way. It is a brand-new, beautiful place, just finished and used mostly for refueling. Just ten minutes and on we went in the dark.
|"I felt just as safe on that ship as I would sitting in a rocking chair in my own home. Somehow absolute utter confidence in the Boeing System was my general feeling."|
About an hour and one-half more and we were over the city lights of Salt Lake City at about 1:10 a.m. From the air, the city formed one huge checkerboard of perfect squares, with the city street lights forming the dividing lines of the squares; and on one side of the city, because of an extra well lighted street, with a shorter extra well lighted cross street, there seemed to lie a fiery cross of scintillating light, which influenced me much as Brigham Young must have been influenced when he first saw that valley, only he saw it at daytime in the light of the sun, with the grandeur of nature, while I saw it, at this time, in the bleak darkness of the night evidenced only by the lights.
We passed over Salt Lake City and then landed at the airport about six miles outside the city. The Boeing Air Transport station here is very well furnished, beautiful, and officered by capable men, very alert, active, and solicitous of the passengers’ welfare. We refueled, exchanged mail, and also exchanged the stewardess—this time she became a medium-sized girl of Norwegian descent, willing and efficient.
By this time I had gotten used to the hum of the engines and the general surroundings, so I removed the cotton that I had put in my ears when we left Chicago, just to see how it felt. Soon I realized my error—the noise of the engines was troublesome, not conducive to sleep at any rate. I decided that Miss Hassel knew what she was doing when she gave to each of us a small packet of cotton and chewing gum and suggested that we put some cotton in each ear. I reverted to the becottoned ears.
Leaving Salt Lake City, we passed over Great Salt Lake and Salt Air Pavilion, and thence into bleak darkness except as to occasional beacon lights. Now, I soon succumbed to the arms of Morpheus, shut my eyes, and tried to sleep, and what is more, in general I succeeded. Every once in a while, I would awake to shoo away a cloud or two, or to shake hands with a mountain peak or two, but aside from that, nothing bothered us and soon we were at Elko, Nev., elevation about 5,000, population 2,173 in 1930; but the 2,170 had already repaired to their boudoirs and the remaining 3 made short work of refueling our ship. On we went over mountain peaks, valleys, and wide open spaces for about two hours more, and then, dropping almost as if from heaven, we descended at Reno, Nev., [to the] airport about 15 miles outside of the city limits. I looked at my watch and it was Pacific time 7:05 A.M., which means Central Standard time 9:05 A.M.
My passage mate, Mr. F.E. Sutor (I do not know whether he went with that name in Reno), climbed into a waiting taxi and drove away, after telling me that I must not forget to call on him in New York. I was told to come in the station and wait as there would be about one hour’s delay on account of weather conditions.
The eastbound ship, which had left San Francisco at eight o’clock the night before, had become lost in the fog and had returned to Sacramento, so I must wait until their morning’s weather reports.
This ship on which I had come to Reno and which normally would have gone on to San Francisco and arrived there in only two hours more (one hour to Sacramento and another hour thence to San Francisco) was gotten ready, and soon three passengers who had entrained at Sacramento and had come from there to Reno on the train (having left their air ship at Sacramento) appeared at the station, showed their tickets, were loaded in my ship, and started toward Chicago with the idea of reaching there 18 hours later.
While I was waiting, I sent my wife a wire stating that I had arrived at Reno safely and that after a slight delay on account of weather would continue to San Francisco. Then I shaved, washed up, put on a clean shirt and collar—right there in the men’s washroom at the airport station—and got ready to leave; but alas, I was to meet disappointment. I could hear pilots from their ships talk to the men at the station. I could hear the men at the ground station talk to the ships in flight thusly: "Reno calling (name of the ship). Reno calling—weather east reported clear, weather west very cloudy, rain, and getting worse, proceed east." And many other similar messages, all pertaining to weather conditions, to direction and checking up information between ground stations, and the air ships flying in the blue or cloudy skies.
Then, about 10 a.m., I was definitely told that that morning’s flight to San Francisco was cancelled and the mail was being sent to the railroad station at Reno to catch the 10:25 local train to San Francisco, and I was advised to take that train at least to Sacramento with the promise that if the flight from Sacramento west would be undertaken that afternoon they would reach me at the Sacramento station and take me on the rest of the way.
I boarded the train and spent the day crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I could appreciate why the flight was cancelled. At times it would snow, at times it would rain, and then again a deep, thick fog would surround us. On and on went the train in a slow circuitous route, up and down heavy grades, round and round mountains with gorgeous scenery all about us. This is the Lake Tahoe region passing near Donner Lake, through Emigrant Gap, American River Canyon, on through Sacramento, Dixon, Berkeley, and to Oakland, arriving at San Francisco Pier at 9:30 P.M. Thursday night, Jan. 22, 1931.
Wednesday, about noon, I left Chicago. I arrived at Reno the next morning, Thursday, 7:05 a.m. I continued on the train (slow local train) from Reno to San Francisco, but nevertheless arrived in San Francisco that night 9:30 p.m. in a total lapsed time of about 34 hours. Had the air ship started on time from Chicago, that is, at 9:30 a.m., and had old man weather not interfered the next morning, I would have arrived at San Francisco [at] 6 A.M. the next morning in a total elapsed time of about 20 hours.
Oh, yes! I received a refund of $16.00 from the Boeing Air Transportation people because I had paid $168.00 from Chicago to San Francisco, and the fare from Chicago to Reno, Nev., is only $152.00. After finishing my work temporarily at San Francisco, my itinerary called for going to Seattle, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; back to San Francisco; and then to Los Angeles before starting on my return trip. The time schedule was such that I could utilize one Sunday on the train traveling to Seattle, and so there would be no business day served by taking the airplane during the day. Therefore, the trip to Seattle, as well as the short trips from Seattle to Portland, thence to San Francisco and Los Angeles, were made on a train, because airplanes would not take passengers at night during the fog, storm, and rainy winter season, and there would be nothing gained by taking them during the day so far as the saving of business time is concerned.
During my stay in Seattle, I had the opportunity of going through the entire factory of the Boeing Airplane Co., which is located in that city. The vice-president in charge of the operating division very kindly took personal charge of me and personally conducted me through the various important parts of that plant. I saw a large variety of both military and ordinary transport aircraft under construction. The Boeing Airplane Company was founded on designing, building, testing, fully developing, and selling military aircraft of all kinds to the U.S. Army and Navy. These ships vary in weight from about 2,500 to about 28,000 pounds each, and every one of them had to perform to the full satisfaction of the Army and Navy officials before final payment was received.
In this plant, the Boeing Airplane Company not only develops and builds military planes, but it also manufactures many commercial planes ranging from those having a gross weight of about 2,000 pounds to those tri-motored transports weighing about 18,000 pounds. It not only manufactures new air ships but rebuilds, repairs, and alters used aircraft of all kinds. When repair of this kind is done, everything is dismantled down to the bare skeleton, every part double inspected and then reassembled with new parts furnished where needed so that the greatest safety may be assured when the craft is again put in operation.
The pattern shop of the Boeing Airplane Company was the last building we came to. Here I had the pleasure of seeing in use several woodworking machines manufactured by the Oliver Machinery Company of Grand Rapids, Mich., many years ago. They were originally used in the shipyards near Seattle where the Emergency Fleet Corp. built many wooden ships; but as those yards were dismantled, Mr. Boeing bought these "Oliver" machines and first used them in his private experimental shop and later transferred them to their new pattern shop. In this way, Grand Rapids, "The Furniture Capital of the World,’’ has participated in the development of the great Boeing system.
On the return trip from Los Angeles, one whole business day was saved by my flying from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City via Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc. The airport near Los Angeles is located at Alhambra, which meant about a 45-minute drive from the hotel to reach the airport. I found the Alhambra Airport equipped with a very large station, with all accommodations that could be imagined—a very large restaurant, a very large waiting room, express and ticket offices, and several porters gave the air of moderness and security to the business of flying. I bought my ticket here, with flight insurance at a cost of only $2.00 added to the price of the ticket. This flight insurance is sold at all airport stations in connection with the ticket when the passenger inquires for it, but it really has become quite unnecessary because it has been calculated that in proportion to the number of passengers handled, traveling by air ships is becoming one of the safest method of transportation.
At 7:35 a.m., a 12-passenger airplane equipped with three Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines, each having 425-horsepower capacity, taxied directly in front of the airport station. Two passengers, consisting of myself and one of the officials of the Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc., were led, through a corridor and under a canopy, directly to the air ship.
|"Just get in an air ship...and you will be convinced that the only real safe way to travel is by air, and that the coming transportation system for passengers is bound to be the air system."|
There was no stewardess in connection with this trip. The pilot and co-pilot attended to all of the duties in connection with the flying and care of passengers. Both of these men were uniformed, wore peculiar shaped caps, very much as if they were piloting a ship across the Atlantic. The weather was marvelous, a beautiful, clear day, with sunshine and a slight wind. In fact, everything was very propitious for this trip. Very soon after leaving Alhambra, we had to rise high to cross the mountains. We must remember that within a short distance from Los Angeles in southern California is Mount Whitney, reputed to be the highest point in the United States, having an elevation of 14,600 feet above the sea level, and that in the same county is located Death Valley, which is approximately 600 feet below the sea level. From this, you will have a good conception of the high peaks and the deep valleys that form the mountain range directly east and north of Los Angeles, and over which, on this beautiful sunny morning, I was flying.
At the altitude of approximately 7,000 feet above the sea level, we were gliding along very nicely, and presently we were passing through what seemed from the sky a narrow space with one high mountain on each side. This is the same pass as the railroads use to cross the mountains. Soon we were flying over the great American desert, a flat, low land without any vegetation to speak of except a little sage brush here and there, and no habitation except an occasional building or few huts at the end of a lonely trail, parched clay surface to the ground, sand and desolation everywhere, narrow trails here and there, which supposedly were the automobile roads or paths. The air ship engines performed perfectly, not a vibration, everything gliding along as smoothly as if we were flying over a smooth sea.
At 10:40 a.m., approximately 3 hours after we left Los Angeles, we landed at the Las Vegas Airport after we had passed over the city of Las Vegas. The airport is about 18 miles out of the city simply because the land owners in and about the city demanded such high prices for land that the airplane company had to go outside to get a proper landing place. Two men were busily engaged in building a warehouse and a station. No accommodations for passengers here, merely a landing place to refuel and to exchange mail.
In about ten minutes, we were up again, and after another hour or so of calm, monotonous flying over the everlasting flat desert, about 12:30, the co-pilot came in and asked me if I would like something to eat. Contemplating the fact that this flight so far had been very calm and anticipating no air sickness, I said, "Sure, why not?" whereupon he produced a Thermos bottle of hot soup (broth of some kind), a little salty, and then a paper carton in which were three or four different kinds of sandwiches and two small paper cups with milk bottle paper covers over them, which when removed disclosed pickles in one and fruit sealed in the other. These items and a few cookies made the lunch; but just as I got through the soup, I noticed one or two unexpected lurches of the plane up and down. We had evidently reached the "choppy section," just southwest of Salt Lake City, where the Wasatch Mountain Range presents a very ruffled-up terrain below. Here we were flying over hills, mountains, gulches, projections, chasms, rock, tremendous upright projections, with all colors of the rainbow vividly shown in the various minerals in which the rocks or the earth, in that section, abound—deep indigo blue, deep red terracotta, the ever-present brown in various shades—blotches of color, minerals, rocks, deep valleys, and high prominent mountains. You might well imagine that any wind blowing in a section of that kind can cause eddy currents, causing up-and-down waves in the air so that the poor man-made airplane, although flying at a rate of approximately 100 miles per hour, was being shunted up and down and sideways. At this point, just as I looked outside of the airplane, it seemed to me the whole Earth was dancing a merry jig. It is this effect on the vision that really causes air sickness, I am told. Somehow I didn’t care to finish my lunch, somehow I quickly opened the ventilators wide open and let the cold air from the outside blow against my face, and at that instant, I noticed the ever-present round heavy carton box, the type in which we get ice cream from the ordinary drug stores, on the rack above me within my reach. Bless the person who put it there. Another second or two, the cap was off, and in it I deposited what seemed to me a thick mixture of everything. I am sure I was several pounds lighter in an instant. For a while I wondered if the carton was big enough; it proved to be just big enough—nothing more, nothing less. Immediately I covered the carton and felt very much the better for the effort.
Presently, the co-pilot came out from his cabin in the front of the plane and said to me, "Little choppy, don’t you think?" to which I answered, "Yes, a little and then some; and as far as your lunch is concerned, there it is in the box you handed me, and here is a carton full of something else." He took both of them saying, "Oh that’s all right, the coyotes down below will appreciate it," whereupon he opened one of the windows just enough so that he could hold out the two cartons and let them fly wherever they would. I assume in their flight downward of about four to five thousand feet, long before those cartons reached terra firma, they had been shredded into atoms and their contents distributed so that nothing much of value reached the poor coyotes.
Feeling fine, I was ready again for the sights above me. Presently, we flew over the Great Salt Lake, the Salt Air Pavilion, and landed at the Salt Lake City Airport, which is used in common by the Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc., and the Boeing System. A taxi soon took me to the hotel, and my business day began. I made three important calls that day, but found that I would have to stay at Salt Lake City about three days.
No time could be saved by flying from Salt Lake City to Denver, because I utilized a Sunday on the train in making that trip. This situation was very lucky because I learned that there were no direct air flights south of the main east-and-west air lane. Poor Denver, it has missed out on the railroads, and now it is missing out on the air lanes. It is just about 100 miles too far south. To get from Salt Lake City to Denver, therefore, by air, you would have to fly from Salt Lake City to Cheyenne on the Boeing System, and then change to the Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc., from Cheyenne to Denver. This combination, as well as the uncertain weather conditions over the Rocky Mountain range, lessens the value of the air trip from Salt Lake City to Denver, and so I took the train.
After finishing my work in Denver, I made reservations for air flight from Denver to Cheyenne, from where I was to go to Minneapolis, Minn., via Omaha, Neb. Both the clerk at the hotel and the young lady at the airplane ticket office downtown in Denver gave me the time of the flight as starting from the Municipal Airport in Denver at 5:30. I finished my work, drove to the airport, and arrived there at exactly 5:27. Just as I was approaching the airport, I saw an air ship go up in the air, and I wondered if that was the one I was supposed to take. In another half minute, we were at the airport station and were told that the ship had just left. When I complained that the ship had left before scheduled time of departure, I was told, "It was scheduled to leave at exactly 5:25; and you know, U.S. mail cannot wait for anybody. We have to leave exactly on time, or the government will cancel our contract."
Then I asked them why the young lady at the station told me that time of departure was 5:30. I could not pin anything on them, but it is my general feeling that the ship that they were using that day was a small monoplane just large enough to carry the existing mail and the pilot did not care to load it further with a thick-set, heavy, short passenger, plus two good-sized bags as luggage. At any rate, I returned to Denver in a taxi, caught a train, and arrived at Cheyenne at 9:30 that night. Having missed the night air ship out of Cheyenne, I slept at the hotel, but the Boeing System attendants at the Cheyenne Airport over the phone accepted my reservation and assured me there would be beautiful flying weather the next morning; they also promised to wire for reservations for the flight from Omaha to Minneapolis and told me to go to bed without worry, as they would call me up one-and-one-half hours before time for departure of the air ship in the morning, so that if for any reason the air ship from the west was late, I need not arise until I needed to. This again convinced me of the thoroughness with which the Boeing System is now operating.
Being aroused as expected by a telephone call from the airport the next morning, I was politely told I had one-and-one-half hours until departure, which gave me ample time for breakfast, getting to the airport, and buying my ticket as well as the flight insurance.
The station at Cheyenne is a very large building, about eight miles out of the city, fitted with all conveniences and also with offices and quarters for the Boeing Air Systems personnel. This is headquarters for the passenger division, or whatever you might call it—the operating section I believe is the technical wording. There is a restaurant and well-informed, intelligent persons are in charge of every unit of the building.
Now again being on the Boeing System, we had the privilege of being taken in tow by a stewardess, this time a Miss Johnson. I am sure she is either Swede or Norwegian with a good portion of Irish thrown in because she had red hair, very light in complexion, and a good lot of general humor. Three ladies and four men entered the ship, which departed Cheyenne at about 7:45 in the morning. I felt just as safe on that ship as I would sitting in a rocking chair in my own home. Somehow absolute utter confidence in the Boeing System was my general feeling. All the passengers went aboard smiling; the day was beautiful, sunshine and clear air everywhere. In a comparatively short time, we were flying over Nebraska, where the route followed over the piece of land between North Platte and South Plate Rivers in Nebraska. The terrain here has no prominent mountains—it is comparatively flat, rolling farm land. We could plainly see the automobile roads, buildings, villages, and cities as we passed over them.
At 9:45 we arrived at North Platte, which is located at the confluence of North and South Platte Rivers. It was very enjoyable to fly over Nebraska and watch the rivers and the various branches of the rivers and the land in between full of variegated colors. The airport at North Platte is on the east side of the river, and very close to the river, so that as the ship was being refueled, the passengers took advantage of the ten-minute interval, walked along the river, ran around, and exercised generally before getting in the air ship.
Soon we were up again after taking the precautions that I have described elsewhere of always stopping at the end of the runway and testing out each and every motor separately before the pilot takes to the air. Now we were over a section more thickly settled. We could see prosperous farming houses and small villages, and with the airway map in my hand, I could tell exactly what section of the country we were flying over, because the airplane was leaving on time and keeping perfect schedule exactly the same way as a train would.
The stop at Lincoln, Neb., was very short. We did not even taxi to the airport; the station master drove his mail truck to the air ship and got the mail for Lincoln. In other words, Lincoln is more or less of a flag station and is not a real stop. We went up again and at exactly 1:00 in the afternoon, on time, we landed at Omaha, Neb., having covered a distance of 484 miles in a total elapsed time of five hours and fifteen minutes, twenty-five minutes of which time was certainly spent at stations.
Although lacking in mountain scenery, this morning’s flight over the state of Nebraska was most interesting because of changing weather conditions. For the most part, the sun was shining through a clear sky; but for short intervals, we went through a snow storm, a hail storm, thick fog, and rain—surely enough variety to satisfy the most fastidious lover of changeable weather.
Just as we landed at Omaha, an important-looking official stood by the steps, which were rolled next to the air ship; and as I was coming down those steps, this man said, "Passenger for Minneapolis?" In that way, I was recognized. He immediately took my grips and took me to the third hangar from where we landed, which proved to be the hangar of Northwestern Airways, Inc., which operates air lines extensively between Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Winnipeg, Canada, through Fargo, N.D. Then I learned that the air ship that was to leave Omaha at 1:40 in the afternoon to go to Minneapolis is operated only once a week on Thursdays, the very day that I wanted to take it. Wasn’t that luck? Any other day of the week, I would not have been able to make this connection between Omaha and Minneapolis and would have lost another whole business day. They are conducting this passenger service only once a week because after such continuous service for six months they will be eligible to receive an air mail contract between Omaha and Minneapolis. It seems that the U.S. government requires at least six months’ successful operation before mail contracts are granted to any air line.
I left Omaha in a six-passenger monoplane, having only one 475-horsepower engine and one pilot. I was the only passenger. The pilot reminded me very much of Lindbergh. He was certainly of Lindbergh’s size, as thin as Lindbergh, as tall as Lindbergh, and as noncommittal as Lindbergh. Just before getting into the ship, he asked me what kind of flying I had done during the day from Cheyenne to Omaha. I told him very nice indeed.
He said, "Well, it might be a little choppy north of here because we have a strong tailwind and we are going over some sections that are conducive of choppy flying."
I said, "Is there not some way we can avoid it?"
He answered, "Well, we might, if we fly high enough."
I told him to go as high as he wanted to, the sky was the limit as far as I was concerned. Then I asked him, "Where is the best place to sit in your plane?"
He said, "In any seat. You can change seats if you want to, although I have noticed that when other pilots ride with me they pick out the very last seat, so no doubt the last seat is the most comfortable." I learned this was a fact. Soon we were up in the air following the course of the Missouri River northwestward. In about 45 minutes, we arrived at Sioux City, Iowa, where we landed for refueling only. We really arrived at Sioux City a little ahead of time. The pilot told me that we would arrive at Minneapolis about half-an-hour ahead of time, because of the strong tailwind.
In about 15 minutes, we were up again flying easily and without the expected choppy riding. Having had the admonition of the pilot, I did not eat any lunch that noon, and when the pilot found out that I was holding my own as it were, and I was not going to be air sick, he offered to share with me a lunch box, containing several small Thermos bottles of coffee, as well as several sacks of cookies, which were furnished by the Sanitary Baking Company of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I felt quite sure that these cookies must have been furnished gratis by the Sanitary Baking Company, otherwise they would not carry the advertisement.
The course from Sioux City to Minneapolis was northeastward. The pilot flew at approximately 7,000 feet elevation, and by so doing he actually did avoid any choppiness, so that there was no more vibration in the air ship than there would be in any automobile going along the city streets. The minute we were flying over Minnesota, I began to notice the wide differences between the looks of the farms and the farm houses. The roads were wide, and everywhere there were signs of prosperity. From general looks of things, I would say that the farmers of Minnesota are the backbone of that state, and they are really wealthy and can take care of and do take care of themselves very nicely.
We landed at Chamberlain Field, Minnesota, at a quarter of five, 25 minutes ahead of time, having covered approximately 400 miles in about three hours. Chamberlain Field is far out from the center of Minneapolis; therefore, there is considerable driving to do to get to the city. It is too bad that a general airport could not have been established somewhere between Minneapolis and St. Paul to serve both of these cities mutually.
Oh, yes, I must tell you about my baggage. At Omaha, before I boarded the airplane for Minneapolis, my baggage was weighed, and it was found to be seven pounds over the allowable limit of thirty pounds; and so these fellows, no doubt more because they felt they needed the revenue than anything else, charged me for the seven pounds at the rate of one-half of 1 percent of the fare. This is a general ruling now over any of the airways, and so anyone who wants to be sure not to pay any overweight charge should limit his baggage to 30 pounds or else be prepared to meet the extra charge of one-half of 1 percent of the fare for each pound over the allowable limit of 30.
My stay at Minneapolis was longer than expected. I was very anxious of course to get home at least by Sunday morning, but the airplane connections between Minneapolis and Milwaukee or Chicago are not scheduled to correlate with the airways from there to Grand Rapids. Since I had to work until late Saturday evening at Minneapolis, I left there on the 10:30 train for Milwaukee, having made my reservations to leave there on the Kohler Amphibian at 9:30 Sunday morning to arrive in Grand Rapids at about 11:00 A.M. On arrival at Milwaukee Sunday morning March 1, I was told at the Northwestern station, which acts also as a ticket station for the Kohler System, that although they received the telegram from Minneapolis to reserve a seat on the morning plane for me, they were very sorry but the plane was full, and so I could not fly on the same.
Upon inquiry I found that the basketball team from the Michigan State College at Lansing, Mich., had played in Milwaukee the night before, and so six of the boys had chartered the 9:30 plane. No amount of telephoning could get any other action from the Kohler Air System. Then I inquired about the afternoon plane. I was told that it also was chartered because there really were twelve boys, six for each ship. I asked the Kohler people if on an occasion of that kind, it was not proper to put on an extra ship, the same as a railroad would put on an extra car to take care of unexpected business of that kind, so that their regular customers would not be handicapped. They told me they were very sorry but that all their other ships were out of repair so that they did not have any to put on at this time. I could see the extreme difference between the limited service the Kohler Company was giving and the super-excellent operations of the Boeing System. I smiled and decided that perhaps we ought not to expect the airplane operations in general to be as systematic as the railroads, because they had not had time enough to work out many details that will in time, without a question, be solved.
I took the Lake Shore Electric from Milwaukee to Chicago and thence the train to Grand Rapids, where I arrived Sunday night, March 1.
I have chronicled here my first air trip to the Pacific Coast, or rather the flying sections of my round trip to the West Coast. I am very glad that the city ticket office at Grand Rapids made the mistake in their connection calculations, which occasioned my decision to fly to San Francisco. I am very glad I did it—it was a wonderful experience. I would not hesitate to do it over again.
One of the important questions, which, of course, must be considered, is the comparative cost. In general, my figures show that the cost of traveling by air is approximately one-fourth more than the combined cost of railroad transportation and Pullman, but that backed up against the business days saved, throw the balance decidedly in favor of the airplane.
The achievements of the men and women who have been engaged in the air transport business of this country within the last five years are really marvelous. One cannot realize it by reading about it or listening to lectures. Just get in an air ship, preferably on the Boeing System, and you will be convinced that the only real safe way to travel is by air, and that the coming transportation system for passengers is bound to be the air system. It is here now. Those who do not take advantage of it are merely lagging behind. Those who are taking advantage of it each and every day are experiencing the thrills of this new achievement of mankind.
If this narration will help others to become more air-minded, I feel that my efforts are well repaid.
|Editor’s note: This article is the second of two installments of an interesting letter from a salesman for the Oliver Manufacturing Co., based in Chicago, about his first airline trip. The manuscript came to light a few years ago when a long-time Oliver employee, Gordon DeVries, was going through his father’s papers. His father, Ralph DeVries, was at one time Oliver’s export manager and a co-worker of Armen S. Kurkjian. Oliver has been in business since 1890—originally manufacturing woodworking machinery. Oliver started making bread slicers, packaging equipment, and labelers in the 1930s and started printing bakery and food labels (and producing the adhesives used to adhere them to packages) in the 1940s. Today, Oliver’s biggest division manufactures packaging materials for the medical-device industry. We are aware that the article includes certain prejudices of an earlier era. Despite that, we decided to edit the original letter as little as possible. We feel that the letter provides a unique view of the early days of airline travel. The letter’s author died in an airliner crash in the early 1940s.|