The Chicago route with a stop at Bryan, Ohio, and the Cleveland route with a stop at Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, have finally started. This leg of the journey will forever remain as the most dangerous. It has become known amongst us pilots as the "Hell Stretch over the Alleghenies". Here, in the dangerous mountain passes of the Blue Ridge, the most lives are lost.

The Deadly Alleghenies
Although not as large as the Rockies, the Allegheny Mountains are far more dangerous. From the air, they look like gentle rolling hills, but in truth they are evil, with almost no clearings for emergency landings nor landmarks to fly by. Many mountain passes look alike, making them difficult to navigate. The weather that moves through these mountains is just as deadly. There is a dense fog that rises out of nowhere, hiding narrow valleys and wide hillsides. The winds toy with the planes as downdrafts pull the planes into nightmare crashes into the slopes.

The Hamilton Lee Adventure
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The Hamilton Lee Adventure

With Lipsner out of the Service, Second Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger is now fully at the helm of the Air Mail. His hardened view of the mail has not made the situation any easier. He is not a pilot himself and does not understand the restrictions the weather puts on our abilities to fly. At one point, he fires three of the best pilots, including Hamilton Lee for refusing to fly out of fog-covered Bellefonte. The weather was just 300 feet of visibility in fog, certain death to the pilot who dared take the chance. All of the pilots went on strike and the argument had to be settled in Washington before a congressional committee.

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