Crossing the Alleghenies in 1919

The man who saved the airmail describes “Hell Stretch.”

After his career with the airmail service, Knight flew for United Airlines between 1934 and 1937, when the airline was still flying single engine Boeing aircraft. By the time Knight retired, he had flown more than 2 million miles. (NASM (SI-81-4954))

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High points of the mountains in this locality stuck up 2400 ft—why didn’t I see them altimeter shows 2000—still no ground—what moment will a mountain side rush up at 140 mph and end all this worry?

Altimeter registers 1800-1600 still fog—fog. The elevation of Bellefonte field is 1800 ft. What has happened—at 1500 ft above sea level (on the altimeter).

Suddenly just a flicker of a glimpse—of a road—then fog again. Nosing straight down—I want to see that road again regardless. The ground at last—and a 200 ft ceiling—with fair ground visibility.

Flying down this road that had suddenly become a dear friend I circled a small town and read Mifflinberg Carriage Co on a roof.

Good night I had some [?] through a 6000 ft layer and been lucky enough to hit Mifflinberg Valley—a valley about two miles wide with mountainous ridges almost 1000 ft higher extending up into the fog.

I couldn’t slap myself on the back without knocking off the angel of good luck—so refrained from so doing, and began flying down this narrow valley twisting—turning & dodging through passes—pulling up blindly into fog—counting ten—diving back out—finally by good fortune more than good flying arrived at my terminal field intact.

After finding that the west bound ship had returned to N.Y. on account of fog—and hadn’t been dumb enough to get caught like I did—the noon whistle blew and I called it another day.

--Jack Knight

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