Keep ’em Flying

As of the early 1920s, the servicing of airmail aircraft along the transcontinental route was centralized in the suburbs of Chicago, allowing pilots to land an airplane for service and swap for a freshly refurbished or updated machine with little delay to the mail schedule. A series of cavernous hangars housed a shop for the Liberty engines, and other sections held special rigging and tooling equipment for repairs to the gear, fuselage, and instruments, particularly the all-important compass. This excerpt from Air Mail Service, a 1923 silent documentary produced by the U.S. Post Office Department, shows maintenance operations as well as emergency landing fields lit by floodlights and the early national radio system administered from Washington, D.C. Video: National Archives and Record Administration (6:31)

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