Romance of Omaha, Chapter XXV
When the famous Pony express was established between the Missouri river and California points in 1860, and reduced the time for a letter to go over that distance to eight days, all but the more visionary men and women of that time believed the ultimate speed in mail carrying had been reached.
But within a few years railroads crossed the plains, gradually increasing the speed of their mail trains until now a letter will reach California in something like 30 hours from the Missouri river.
Again, most people thought the speed limit had been reached.
But they were overlooking the achievements of the Wright brothers who 25 years ago set in motion the new method of transportation that was to eclipse anything of which man had dreamed.
Aerial navigation and mail service was then in sight, but few could see that far into the future.
When Tennyson in his poem, "Locksley Hall," visioned aerial argosies "dropping down with costly bales" it was regarded as nothing more than poetical fancy. Men dreamed of flying through the air, but few believed the dreams would ever come true.
That Omaha would one day be one of the principal stations on a great transcontinental aerial mail route was not even a dream.
There was little or no practical background for the air service that is playing such a large part in modern transportation and that is destined to loom larger and larger as time goes on.
Airplanes and Omaha
Up to the most recent years Omaha has seen but little aerial activity. A few Omaha men, more daring than others, have tried their hand at flying, but before the world war the airplane was a great curiosity to Omaha and the west.
When Glenn Curtiss brought his aerial circus to Omaha in 1910 people came for many miles just to take a look at the "flying machine."
A brisk breeze or a drizzle kept the planes of those days on the ground. The world war developed the plane more rapidly and after the war several air meets were held in Omaha.
The Pulitzer air meet, several years ago, was the largest of these. Some prominent citizens of Omaha will always remember the visit of British fliers to Omaha. They gave the Omaha folks aerial rides that turned them pale with fear.
Through those years of development Omaha was rather backward about taking up the new idea in transportation. At one time Bellanca, designer of one of the crossatlantic planes, had an airplane factory here, but it was abandoned because of lack of financial support. The airplane industry was still in its infancy and few believed it would ever amount to very much.
That period of doubt and disbelief is gone.
The day of aerial transportation has dawned and Omaha's future as a great airplane center is very promising.
The city is now one of the great stations on the New York - Omaha - San Francisco - Los Angeles airmail route. Another route connecting Omaha directly with Kansas City and the southwestern transcontinental service will soon be established. A third route running to the Twin Cities is proposed.
Regular Air Service
Regular air service is maintained daily between Omaha and both the east and west coast. Two planes a day travel eastward from Omaha.
The comparatively small mail planes of today will soon give way to great tri-motored, 12-passenger planes that will carry more than a ton of mail in addition to the travelers.
One air corporation is working on plans to install great mail planes that will carry at least 3,000 pounds of mail at one time and in which sorters may work just as they do on the mail trains.
Airplanes in this country average more than 40,000 miles of flying every day. The planes on the Omaha transcontinental route are flying almost 10,000 miles each day.
Letters travel from Omaha to either coast in 15 hours or less. The time of the pony express that seemed so wonderful 68 years ago has been cut to less than 1/14th so long.
At the present time the airplanes out of Omaha carry about a ton of mail each 24 hours. During the Christmas rush the traffic is much heavier.
Omaha has one government airfield at Fort Crook, second to none in the country in the way of equipment. The municipal airfield in East Omaha is in process of development. Omaha people recently voted $250,000 in bonds for its improvement.
Recently two men, said to represent one of the large air transportation interests in the country, were in Omaha inspecting possible airfield sites.
An idea of the rapid growth of the airmail may be gained from the fact that in 1921 only 810 pounds of airmail was carried. In 1927 the amount had risen to 1,500,000 pounds and this year it is estimated the total airmail transported by plane will amount to approximately 4,500,000 pounds.
This year more than 12,000 airplanes of all kinds will be built in this country and orders for 1929 already on hand are said to have surpassed the 1928 total.
The city that does not grasp the opportunity that now presents itself to get on the air map of the country will be as much a back number in the years to come as the city of the 60s, which refused to encourage railroads.
The west is full of towns that might have been great had their people visioned the possibilities of the railroad. One of the towns of the west that had farseeing men was Omaha.
This city had to fight hard for the Union Pacific railway. Men of that day - and they were men - won the fight for the transcontinental railroad against great odds.
They did not have one-tenth of the wealth or resources of the Omaha of today but they had vision, courage and a willingness to battle valiantly for what they wanted. They won.
Today as great an opportunity confronts Omaha. Air transportation has as great a future as the railroad had 60 years ago. Passengers, express and mail will, within a few years, be carried through the air. The city that steps out in the vanguard of the air centers of the country is the city that will be great in the future.
In the past it has been said that the city which lies at the crossroads of railway and water transportation is the city that will prosper.
Now we may say the city that lies at the crossroads of railroad, water, motor and aerial transportation is the city that will be great.
Omaha has the railroads. It is getting the motor transportation and good roads, it has a start on the aerial traffic and the waterway is coming.
No wonder the slogan of today should be "Onward Omaha."
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