Kenneth R. Unger
Upper left to right:
Pilot J. W. Sharpnack, Pilot Pilot Paul P. Scott, Pilot L. F. Bishop and Pilot Kenneth R. Unger.
Left center: Pilot Hugh Barker, who, with the above, will carry air mail into and out of Salt Lake.
Right center: a group of the nine planes at the local field being overhauled by the mechanical staff.
Bottom: Miss Anona Burgeson, a Salt Lake miss, who will break a bottle of water over the bow of the first ship to leave Salt Lake in the new 34-hour mail service and bid the pilot godspeed

America Inaugurates Transcontinental Air Mail Service, July, 1924
Postmaster Guthrie of Salt Lake Completes
Preparations at Woodward Field for
Spanning of Continent as Enterprise

     Hail to the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, and to thousands of others whose lives and energies have been given to the cause of aviation. On July 1, the United States, the foremost nation of the world, begins the operation of a transcontinental air mail service as a business proposition.
     The fruits of six years of experimenting will be utilized in an effort to successfully operate a fleet of mail carrying airplanes that will bring the east and west coasts within from thirty-two to thirty-five hours of each other. The operation of the service is expected to bring about a tremendous change in the business world.
     Ten years ago it would have been branded as impossible, almost ridiculous, but the development of the science of aviation and the results of six years of testing by the government have proved to the satisfaction of officials that the air mail can be successfully operated as an independent mail-carrying agency of the United States postoffice department.
     Necessarily there will be some overlapping, but the air mail in its routing through the principal cities of the east and on through the middle portion of the west is expected to rapidly become an agency of the greatest importance.
     Manifestations of public approval of the service have been received at the Salt Lake postoffice from the east and the west in the form of letters mailed some days ago from points along the air-mail route for delivery at those points on the first air-mail plane from Salt Lake. San Francisco has received thousands of these letters, written by persons who will cherish them as haveintg been delivered by the first regular air-mail plane, and reports from eastern cities indicate receipt of similar letters in constantly increasing numbers.

     It was on May 15, 1918, that the air-mail service began its first transcontinental carrying of mail. A definite route from New York to San Francisco was laid out, including Salt Lake, Cheyenne, Omaha and Chicago. No attempt was made to establish a time record for delivery--the air-mail service "went in" for performance accomplishments rather than speed tests.
     In the stages of development there were many misfortunes. The airplane of six years ago was not the equal of the present-day plane, nor had the lessons of experience been learned. Unfortunately, several pilots lost their lives. Some crashed on mountaintops and there were many harrowing experiences.
     Gradually those in charge obtained a firmer grasp of the situation. Better planes were built and the efficiency of the air-mail service slowly by steadily improved. A brief survey of the accomplishments for the year beginning Jyly 1, 1922, and ending June 30, 1923, shows that there were 8260 scheduled flights, covering 1,644,487 miles, and that of this total mileage, 1,590,637 miles were covered with mail in the planes. The aviatiors made 4505 trips in good weather and 3670 in bad weather, defaulting or failing to start, mostly on account of bad weather, in 205 instances.
     The average efficiency for the year for the entire service was 94.72 percent, and 67,875,840 letters were delivered. Out of the entire number of flights, 8280, only 176 forced landings were made for mechanical troubles. Work of this nature, extending overe a period of six years and more, brought about the decision of the government officials to begin that fiscal year of 1924 with a definite flying schedule, inaugurating night flying so that the continent might be spanned within the shortest possible time consistent with general efficiency.

     With this object in view, a series of tests were conducted last August throughout the central division of the service, extending from Cheyenne to Chicago, to determine the feasibility of night flying and to locate, map and establish beacon lights and emergency landing fields at regular intervals.
     This work has been accomplished and on the morning of Tuesday, July 1, planes will leave New York and San Francisco, westbound and eastbound, to transport mail across the continent in a few more than thirty hours.
     In connection with this development of the service, men will be sent along the line of flight for the purpose of conferring with farmers and other residents of the rural districts to instruct them in the methods of giving emergency weather reports when called upon to do so, and to negotiate for emergency landing fields from which the farmers will restrict their crops and livestock. The people residing along the air mai route will, in a sense, be called to the support of the service.
     Air mail stamps in 8, 16 and 24 cent denominations have been on sale at the Salt Lake and other postoffices for a number of weeks. Boxes for the receipt of air mail have been set up in Salt Lake in front of the Salt Lake Tribune, the Telegram and the Deseret News with a special chute at the federal building.
     Postage is 8 cents for each ounce of fraction thereof for each zone or part of a zone. The first zone extends from San Frencisco to Cheyenne, the second from Cheyenne to Chicago and the third from Chicago to Hew York. Matter for air mail transit must bear air mail stamps, and there will be no additional postage for mail carried to a central distribution point by airplane and then delivered from that point by train.

     Westbound planes will leave New York at 10 o'clock, eastern standard time, on the morning of July 1 and the mail on that plane will arrive in Salt Lake, at 11:05 o'clock, mountain time on the morning of July 2. The plane carrying the same mail will depart for San Francisico at 11:20 o'clock, Salt Lake time, and will arrive in San Francisco at 5:45 o'clock on the evening of the same day. This gives an elapsed time of 34 hours and 45 minutes between New York and San Francisco.
     The first plane to arrive in Salt Lake under the new plan of operation will leave San Francisco carrying mail east at 6 o'clock, Pacific time, on the morning of July 1. It will arrive at Elko at 10:45 o'clock in the morning, Pacific time.
     Pilot Paul P. Scott will have the honor of bringing the plane from Elko to Salt Lake, leaving Elko at 11 o'clock, Pacific time, and arriving in Salt Lake at 2 o'clock, Salt Lake time. He will be relieved by Pilot Lester F. Bishop, who will leave Salt Lake fifteen minutes later for Rock Springs.
     The mail will be delivered in New York at 5:05 o'clock on the evening of July 2, having been en route 32 hours and 5 minutes.
     J. W. Sharpnack will bring the westbound mail into Salt Lake Wednesday and will be relieved by Kenneth Unger, who will take the mail as far as Elko.
     Glenn H. Larned of the Salt Lake postoffice has been named mail clerk at Woodward field and will have complete charge of the dispatching of planes. Pilots will not leave with the mail until the pouches have been checked by the mail clerk and the pilots have been given their clearance papers.
     Miss Anona Burgeson, a winsome Salt Lake miss, has geen chosen by Postmaster Ralph Guthrie to dedicate the first plane leaving Salt Lake under the new air mail schedule. No pretentious ceremony will take place, but when Pilot Bishop gets his clearance papers and prepares for his eastward journey, Anona will break a bottle of water across the bow of the ship and wish the pilot godspeed.
     Tables relating to rates of postage, flying schedules and the delivery of mail to points not on the air mail route will be found elsewhere on this page.
Clipping from the collection of Lester Bishop
Courtesy of David Balanky

The story of Kennth Unger in the Royal Flying Corps
may be found on the Aerodrome site
by clicking on Unger.


Dear Mr. Cooper,
I am writing you concerning a letter to my grandfather written by Kenneth
Unger on March 6, 1922. It is a letter of recommendation regarding my
grandfather's invention, called the "Trimming Indicator".

I am doing some research for a book, and would appreciate any information
you might have regarding Kenneth Unger or his family.

Thank you for your time.
Kathy Wright McGuiness
Email address -

Kenneth Unger died in 1979

Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this Early Bird,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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