Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter to the Secretary of War Terminating Air Mail Service by the Army.

March 10, 1934

My dear Mr. Secretary:

On February 9th the Army Air Corps was given the temporary assignment of carrying the air mail and commenced the actual carrying on February 20th. This action was taken on the definite assurance given me that the Army Air Corps could carry the mail.

Since that time ten Army fliers have lost their lives. I appreciate that only four of these were actually flying the mail, but the others were training or were proceeding to the mail route. I appreciate also that almost every part of the country has been visited during this period by fog, snow and storms, and that serious accidents, taking even more lives, have occurred at the same time in passenger and commercial aviation.

Nevertheless, the continuation of deaths in the Army Air Corps must stop.

We all know that flying under the best of conditions is a definite hazard, but the ratio of accidents has been far too high during the past three weeks.

Will you therefore please issue immediate orders to the Army Air Corps stopping all carrying of air mail, except on such routes, under such weather conditions and under such equipment and personnel conditions as will insure, as far as the utmost care can provide, against constant recurrence of fatal accidents?

This exception includes, of course, full authority to change or modify schedules.

As you know, the period of emergency will end as soon as the necessary legislation has been enacted and new contracts can be obtained. I am writing once more to the chairmen of the House and Senate committees urging speed in the enactment of the legislation. Because military lessons have been taught us during the past few weeks, I request that you consult immediately with the Postmaster General and the Secretary of Commerce in order that additional training may be given to Army air pilots through cooperation with private companies who later on will fly the mails. This should include, of course, training in cross-country flying, in night flying, blind flying and instrument flying.

I am sending a copy of this letter to the Postmaster General in order that he may make arrangements with you. He will, of course, modify the instructions given on February 9th to conform with the Army plans.

Very sincerely,

The Secretary of War

Washington, D. C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter to the Secretary of War Terminating Air Mail Service by the Army. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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