Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter to Kenneth McKellar Recommending Mail Legislation

March 07, 1934

My dear Mr. Chairman:

Our domestic air-mail contracts have been canceled. The Army Air Corps is temporarily carrying the air mail. I believe we should make new contracts with commercial air carriers as soon as possible to carry the greater part of our air mail.

To protect the public interest and to provide for new contracts on a basis of honest payment for honest service, I suggest new legislation on this subject.

We must avoid the evils of the past, and at the same time encourage the sound development of the aviation industry.

I suggest that new air-mail contracts be let for a period not exceeding three years on full, open and fair competitive bidding, with a limitation of the rate of compensation above which no contract will be awarded.

Any combinations, agreements, or understandings, intended to prevent free competitive bidding should be prevented and such action should be a basis for cancellation of contracts.

In order that the bidding shall be really competitive, I suggest that in determining the specifications for proper equipment, only speed, useful load capacity, safety factors and safety devices should be considered.

So that all companies desiring to qualify and bid may have an opportunity fully to prepare themselves for actual service I suggest that after the contract is awarded a period of not longer than six months shall be allowed the successful bidder to qualify under the terms of the law and the bid.

It is my judgment that six months before expiration of the contracts made under competitive bidding the Interstate Commerce Commission should pass upon the question of public convenience and necessity of air-mail routes, and thereafter fix a maximum rate of air-mail pay on the routes designated, subject of course to equipment specifications to be laid down.

I suggest that the proposed law prohibit the award of an airmail contract to any company having connections with subsidiaries, affiliates, associates, or holding companies, directly or indirectly, by stock ownership, interlocking directorates, interlocking officers, or otherwise, if said subsidiaries, affiliates, associates, or holding companies are engaged, directly or indirectly, in the operation of competitive routes or in the manufacturing of aircraft, or other materials or accessories used generally in the aviation industry.

No air-mail contract should be sublet or sold to any other contracting company, nor should a mail contractor be allowed to merge or consolidate with another company holding an air-mail contract. Obviously also, no contract should be made with any companies, old or new, any of whose officers were party to the obtaining of former contracts under circumstances which were clearly contrary to good faith and public policy.

Such safeguards should be provided as will prevent the evil practices of excessive salaries, unearned bonuses, and illegitimate personal expense accounts detrimental to the interests of legitimate stockholders and the public.

Public safety calls for pilots of high character and great skill. The occupation is a hazardous one. Therefore, the law should provide for a method to fix maximum flying hours, minimum pay and a system for retirement or annuity benefits.

Enactment of legislation along the lines suggested will establish a sound, stable and permanent air-mail policy. The knowledge that the Interstate Commerce Commission, a judicial body, will hereafter regulate air-transportation routes and air-mail pay will remove uncertainty as to routes and mail pay.

Such legislation will relieve air transport companies from paralyzing monopolistic control which has heretofore often influenced them to buy planes and other equipment from associates and affiliates.

Real competition between the manufacturing companies will stimulate inventive genius, and should give to our people safer and better equipment both for commercial and military purposes.

I am sending letters similar to this to Representative Mead, Chairman, House Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, and to Senator Black.

Very sincerely yours,

Honorable Kenneth McKellar,

Chairman, Senate Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads,

Washington, D. C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter to Kenneth McKellar Recommending Mail Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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