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Air Mail 100 lands in Cheyenne

JT Grainger holds up the mailbag pilots have been passing off across the transcontinental air mail route.
JT Grainger holds up the mailbag pilots have been passing off across the transcontinental air mail route.(Will Thomas)
Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 5:22 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - 100 years ago, the transcontinental airmail route was connected and became the first time mail could be delivered from the east coast to the west coast.

This year, from Sep. 8-10, pilots from all over volunteered to fly one portion of the original route while passing a mailbag off to the next pilot. The route runs from Farmingdale, NY to Concord, CA.

Kent Katnik waited his turn this morning as JT Grainger and Christian Iberlin arrived around 7 a.m. from North Platte, NE to pass off the mailbag.

“It’s pretty cool, it’s cool to see just how easy it is for us now, compared to what they had to go through in open cockpit airplanes, which is basic paper maps,” said Iberlin.

“When they started, they were doing a lot of visual flight rules, they were just looking at things on the ground. Every once in awhile, they would pop up into the clouds and fly on a specific heading for a number of minutes, and then let down and hopefully they would find their airport underneath them,” said Katnik.

“They used to fly by bonfires at night, and beacons, and all sorts of adverse weather. The power of the engines, and just the stability, and the safety of the modern day equipment is amazing in the last century,” said Grainger.

Grainger said reality set in as they took off from North Platte, about the importance of air mail pilots. Especially in the years when calling someone on your cell phone wasn’t an option.

“I mean in the old days, that’s how you communicated, was a post card, a letter. To actually take that written communication, it makes you feel responsible and it’s pretty honorable to do that,” said Grainger.

Though the technology has advanced, flying conditions haven’t changed. Just like air mail pilots had to, these pilots sometimes have to find a way to get to their destinations.

Katnik made his way with the mailbag to Saratoga this morning, which is a backup airport. Rawlins is on the original route but is having construction done on its airport.

The final stops included: Saratoga, WY, Rock Springs, WY, Woods Cross, UT, Elko, NV, Carson City, NV, Sacramento, CA and Concord, CA.

For more information on Air Mail 100, you can visit its website here.

Copyright 2020 Wyoming News Now. All rights reserved.

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