The Air Mail Act of 1925, also known as the Kelly Act after its sponsor, Congressman Clyde Kelly (R-Pennsylvania), authorized the postmaster general to contract for domestic airmail service with commercial air carriers and set airmail rates, creating a market for airline service in the United States and thus the U.S. airline industry. The initial contracts, for feeder routes, were awarded to Colonial Air Transportation, National Air Transport, Robertson Aircraft Corporation, Western Air Express, and Varney Air Lines.
85 years ago, on Tuesday 6 April 1926, Varney chief pilot Leon D. Cuddeback took off from Pasco, Washington in a Swallow biplane on the first airmail flight, operationg Contract Air Mail route 5 (CAM-5) to Elko, Nevada via Boise, Idaho. In addition to being the first airline flight in the United States it was also the first flight of United Airlines, which was formed when Varney Air Lines merged with Boeing Air Transport, National Air Transport, and Pacific Air Transport.
Walter T. Varney, founder of Varney Air Lines, went on to found Varney Speed Lines, which operated its first service on Sunday 15 July 1934 on a route from Pueblo, Colorado to El Paso, Texas. Ironically, this became the first flight of Continental Airlines: Robert Six purchased Varney Speed Lines in 1937 and renamed it Continental Airlines.
Today's Featured Map shows the routes of these first airline flights of Varney Air Lines and Varney Speed Lines, airlines which were joined last year via the merger of United Airlines and Continental Airlines.
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Karl L. Swartz.
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