Mavericks of the Sky
Every night, dozens of FedEx planes take off from cities all over America and converge on Memphis, Tennessee, where they disgorge their cargos of envelopes and packages to be sorted and reloaded. Today we take this speedy delivery for granted; we seldom think about the pioneers whose imaginations first dreamed of such things and whose courage first brought it about.
On May 15, 1918, the world changed as the U.S. Postal Service inaugurated regular airmail service between Washington and New York. To be sure, the service did not start out with the dependability of FedEx. Often mail sent by air arrived later than if sent by train.
The story of the beginning of air mail is the story of men of vision – men like Albert Sidney Burleson, Postmaster General under President Wilson, and like Otto Praeger, who shepherded the fledgling service. It is also the story of men like Jack Knight, who flew and flew and flew some more because his relay pilots couldn’t make it though the snow to the airport. Mavericks of the Sky is not perfect. The authors sometimes wander off the topic with diversions, and there are some strange constructions and usages. But it is well worth the reader’s patience with those flaws, because it tells a fascinating story.