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United States/Covers & Postmarks : The 'Last' Commercial Air Mail flight, US 1934

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pigdoc
13 Jun 2021
02:10:49pm
I just picked up this interesting cover:
Image Not Found

I was motivated to search these covers out by something I learned in reading the book Air Mail Emergency: 1934 by Norman E. Borden, Jr. (1968). Here is an exerpt:

Quote:

" About 9:00PM, Pacific Time, mechanics at the Union Terminal at Los Angeles were hurriedly getting a new type of cabin monoplane ready for a special flight. The airplane had been designed and built at Santa Monica during 1933 by the Douglas Aircraft Company for Transcontinental and Western Airlines. Since accepting delivery of the machine in December, TWA pilots had been conducting a vigorous flight test and evaluation program. The ship had not been put into regular airline service. Called the DC-1, it was the first of a series that had been ordered by both TWA and Eastern Air Transport.
On the ground at Union Terminal, standing close by the airplane to supervise the servicing and preflight check, stood the vice president and chief pilot of TWA, Jack Frye. With him was Captain Eddie Rickenbacker of Eastern Air Transport. Together, they were going to carry the last load of mail that would be flown from the West Coast to New York before the air mail contract cancellations became effective. As the Department of Commerce weather forecaster had told Frye that he would have to reach Newark by 3:00 Monday, if he hoped to be able to land, all possible haste was being made to get the flight under way.
At 9:50, with Frye in the pilot's seat and Rickenbacker in the copilot's seat beside him, the DC-1 was taxied to the terminal's flight dock. A few minutes before, Rickenbacker had told and interviewing reporter that he considered the deaths of Air Corps pilots Grenier, White, and Eastham "legalized murder," and he had predicted there would be many more accidents. The present flight was to be a demonstration of the airlines' superior ability to fly the mails.
Mail sacks weighing several hundred pounds were hurriedly loaded into the ship's forward cargo compartment. Then the cargo door was closed and locked. At exactly 10:00 PM Jack Frye signaled the ground crew to pull the wheel chocks. A few minutes later, he and Rickenbacker were airborne. Both men knew that theirs was now a life or death race with the weather. They climbed to an unprecedented 20,000 feet to fly above the worst of the storm and to take advantage of a prevailing west-to-east tail wind at that altitude. When they came down through heavy overcast to make a refueling stop at Columbus, Ohio, the ceiling was down to 1,000 feet. Fifteen minutes after they had left the Columbus Airport, snow moved in and completely closed the field to all further traffic.
They barely beat the storm to Newark. Frye landed the airplane and taxied to the Newark Terminal building just a few minutes after 2:00 PM, Monday. The average speed, including three stops for fuel had been 203 miles per hour. Although Frye's total elapsed time of 13 hours, four minutes and 20 seconds was three hours more than the fastest time of racing planes, he and Rickenbacker had establishd a new transcontinental record for transport aircraft that was 5 hours less than the best previous time ever made by an airliner.
The demonstration had succeeded even beyond its purpose. From that moment on, every other type of commercial airliner in the world was obsolete."



I would guess that the photo of the DC-1 over the Missouri River in the cachet was taken during flight testing the airplane by Douglas, which had a facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am hoping, when I get this cover under closer examination, that the registration number of the DC-1 (X 223Y) is legible. This cover is an obvious philatelic creation. I would love to find a commercial cover flown on this flight...

Anyone else have a cover to show from this flight?

-Paul

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Bobstamp
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13 Jun 2021
04:59:10pm
re: The 'Last' Commercial Air Mail flight, US 1934

Great cover, Paul, and no, I don’t have any covers from this flight. However, if you send me yours when you receive it, then I will have one. It is, after all, better to give than to receive! Big Grin

It shouldn‘t matter if the registration doesn’t show. Because the DC-2, a slightly longer version of the one-and-only DC-1, first flew on May 11, 1934, almost three months after your cover was cancelled and flown to New York, the cachet has to picture the DC-1.

Bob

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sheepshanks
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13 Jun 2021
09:53:05pm
re: The 'Last' Commercial Air Mail flight, US 1934

Paul, this probably refers to this plane as the inscription on the envelope states it is the "City of New Orleans".
https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/ark:/21198/zz002cpncg

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Bobstamp
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13 Jun 2021
11:39:28pm
re: The 'Last' Commercial Air Mail flight, US 1934

Paul,

Another factor to consider: the cachet itself is small, and DC-1 is even smaller. I have only two postcards showing the DC-1, and just one of them, an RPPC — Real Photo Post Card — shows the registration clearly enough to read. The other postcard, a low-resolution dot-matrix greyscale version of the RPPC, gives an idea of the registration, sort of. Here are images of the two postcards:

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Here's a detail image of the registration on the RPPC:

Image Not Found

I doubt that the registration on your cover's cachet will be readable even under magnification.

Bob






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pigdoc
14 Jun 2021
01:04:13pm
re: The 'Last' Commercial Air Mail flight, US 1934

Thanks for your posting, Bob!

I don't want to make this into a topic about airplanes, but here's a picture from the book I cited above:
Image Not Found

Interesting that, in this image, the "X" that starts off the registration number had not yet been changed to "NC" as shown in your postcard images.

I guess I would presume that, once the plane was certified for commercial use, this change would have occurred. I wonder when that happened? And, this change could be a useful marker to date the various images of the airplane...

Where is Danny when we need him?

-Paul

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roy
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BuckaCover.com - 80,000 covers priced 60c to $1.50 - Easy browsing 300 categories
14 Jun 2021
01:17:36pm
re: The 'Last' Commercial Air Mail flight, US 1934

From https://1000aircraftphotos.com/Contributions/CrupiRay/10014.htm

Quote:

"made its first flight on July 1, 1933 from Clover Field, Santa Monica with the experimental registration NX223Y. This was the only DC-1 built.

TWA accepted the aircraft on September 15, 1933 with the restricted registration NR223Y and fleet number 300 and it made a new two-stop transcontinental flight of 13 hours 4 minutes on February 19, 1934. Beginning in April 1934, this aircraft, now registered NC223Y, was flown on the New York to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania route until it was retired from passenger service in 1936. It was then loaned to the US government, registered NS223Y, for high-altitude research work above 20,000 ft (6,096 m)."



Roy
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