The Route: Rock Springs to Reno

Pilots flying the mail cross-country in 1921 followed these directions to find landmarks along the way.

A Varney Air Lines Swallow outside the airmail hangar at Elko, Nevada in April 1926. (NASM (SI-85-6459))

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293. Alkali Lake—Lies on the northern edge of the course.

363. Humboldt Lake—The course adjoins the southern edge of this lake and crosses the Southern Pacific Railroad 5 miles beyond. If the pilot elects to not fly the direct course, the Southern Pacific Railroad may be followed from Battle Mountain to Winnemucca, a distance of approximately 60 miles. At Winnemucca is an emergency field south of town, marked by a wind indicator and a T. Supplies necessary for reservicing a ship may be obtained here. At this point the Western Pacific continues on in a westward direction, while the Southern Pacific turns to the southwest. Following the Southern Pacific for 30 miles the small town of Imlay will be reached. There is open unobstructed land on all sides of the town, suitable for emergency landings. Forty miles farther on will be found the city of Lovelocks. A first-class landing field is situated here on the eastern edge of the Southern Pacific tracks just south of town. A permanent T has been placed on the field and a rolled runway constructed. Gas and oil may be obtained from the Standard Oil plant on the edge of the filed, and at a near-by fertilizer plant there is a fully-equipped machine shop which is offered for the use of any pilot who may need to make repairs to his ship. This field is level and is kept up in good shape. Pilots coming in must hold the ship up with the gun until they pass over a series of irrigation ditches at the end of the field. After these ditches have been passed a landing  may be made. Numerous emergency landing fields may be found all the way between Winnemucca and Lovelocks. Twenty-five miles farther on the Southern Pacific joins the course 5 miles east of the southern edge of Humboldt Lake, into which the Humboldt River empties. To the south of Lake Humboldt is Carson Sink, which has a dry sandy bottom throughout the year and offers an ideal landing ground, but is uninhabited and pilots can not receive assistance except along the railroad. By following the Southern Pacific Railroad from Humboldt Lake southward for 25 miles, Hazen, Nev., will be reached.

388. Hazen, Nev.—Fourteen miles south of the course on the Southern Pacific Railroad. Four branches of this railroad radiate out of Hazen. All about the town there are open fields of a size sufficient to set down an airplane. The best landing field is to the south and east of the Southern Pacific roundhouse and is a space a mile long and half a mile wide. Sagebrush grows on the eastern portion of this field and the southern end is bounded by a set of high-tension wires. A 40-foot T marks the field. If the pilot has flow as far south as Hazen he can follow the Southern Pacific westward into Reno. If he is on the direct course, he will cross the northern branch of the Southern Pacific 7 miles north of where it joins the east-west main line at Fernley. Twelve miles to the north Pyramid Lake can be seen.

437. Reno, Nev.—The air mail field at Reno lies 2 miles west of the city. The main runway is east and west. The field is marked by a T and wind indicator, and landing from four ways is unobstructed. Reno is 4,497 feet above sea level. Whenever possible it is advisable to leave the Reno field on the east-west runway, taking off to the east. A slight downgrade enables the ship to quickly obtain flying speed. Just beyond the east edge of the field the ground is extremely rough and there is a huge ditch here.


Reprinted by permission from Pilots' Directions: The Transcontinental Airway and Its History, edited by William M. Leary, University of Iowa Press, 1990.




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