Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mail Wars - Stornoway v Campbelltown

In 1927 American aviator, Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. flew solo from New York to Paris in 33 hours and 30 minutes in a single engine monoplane and became a legend overnight. Later he hit the headlines when one of his children was found murdered, he tried to keep America out of the Second World War and was accused of being a Nazi sympathiser and anti-Semitic.

After Lindbergh others, including Wiley Post, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Johnson paved the way. Somewhat against the norm for the time many women attempted to conquer the skies above the Atlantic ocean. Amongst those who died were Miss Ruth Elder (she declared that when she landed in Paris she would be “dressed to kill both man and mannequin”), Princess Lowenstein, Mrs. F.W. Grayson, Mrs. Beryl Hart (both Americans) and ironically the English millionaires the Hon Elsie Mackay (she was the twenty something daughter of Lord Inchcape the Chairman of P&O).

While these intrepid fliers were the pioneers newly formed American, British and European airlines were pursuing the goal of commercial transatlantic flights, but not at first with a view to carrying passengers. The mail was their mission. Before the Second World War business relied upon getting the mail through and while British airlines were preoccupied with the Empire and mail, Americans and Europeans were no less myopic.

Not everyone who saw opportunities in aviation seemed to make much, if any, sense. Take Rene Fonck, a ‘French air ace’, who was obsessed with the idea of a series of floating islands that would be staging posts, every 325 miles, at which sea planes would refuel. In Scotland, the mayors of Stornoway (airport right) and Campbelltown competed to become the eastern end of the transatlantic mail route. How different would life have been for these communities if technology hadn’t overtaken them? The German’s were busy catapulting aircraft off ships in an attempt to speed up the crossing of the Atlantic by boat and then plane. Not that Britain was left behind in the eccentric ideas department. In 1937 two aircraft were built, they took off with the smaller one attached to a larger aircraft that would then ‘release’ its ‘passenger’ that would fly the rest of the way across the Atlantic. Against all the odds the idea actually worked in practice, and while it did make a few transatlantic crossings with mail events overtook its development.

Finally in 1938, after years of discussion and corporate posturing by American and European airlines the first commercial mail flight took place; it was made using a seaplane.


Lil Jimmy said...

But even more intriguing was the reason for the abduction in the first place after Lindbergh Snr had been busy exposing certain people.

Richard Havers said...

You have my attention....