As political and public pressures mount, Superintendent Praeger demands flying in unrealistic conditions. Above all is the mission -- the safety of the pilots is not a priority for him. The result is palpable: tensions rise between Praeger and his pilots, those who must live and die flying the mail. Heedless of their advice and complaints, he decides to expand the service during the worst flying conditions, the middle of winter. In doing so, he places the pilots at great risk. Lipsner protests and loses in the gamble. He is forced to leave the Service.
Along with Lipsner's departure, the Air Mail Service has suffered other set backs. On December 16, 1918, we were struck with our first fatal accident, the first of many to come. Carl Smith, a former Navy pilot, is out testing a de Havilland 4 mail plane. His craft stalls at 200 feet, goes into a spin and crashes to the ground. He dies instantly.
The Air Mail Fatalities
It is December 18th. The new routes to Cleveland and Chicago were supposed to start but both engine failures and poor weather keep all four planes assigned to the route grounded. With so much opposition and tragedy, the expansion has been temporarily forgotten.
Finally, on May 15, 1919, a full year after the Service's first flight, the expansion commences. With this anniversary comes another attempt to move westward. The weather is good and a new set of de Havillands have come back with modifications to accommodate Air Mail flying. It's the perfect time to move on!