Airmail Line Opens Here Monday. Hundreds To View Planes On First Hop. Grand Forks and Northwest Enter New Era of Quick Travel. Group To Take Trip. Local Men Will Help Dedicate Service; Tri-motor Due Early. Grand Forks will enter a new era of transportation history Monday when daily airmail and passenger service is inaugurated on the St. Paul-Winnipeg line. The step will place Grand Forks on a 14,000 mile international airmail line stretching from Fort McPherson, Alaska, to Buenos Aires, South America. It will be the greatest transportation event in this city since the railroad reached here half a century ago. A great crowd is expected at the Municipal airport when the wheels of the first north and south bound ships touch the landing field. Tri-Motor Ship Due. Those who visit the port early Monday morning will have an opportunity to see the giant tri-motor plane which leaves at 8:30 A. M. for St. Paul, carrying the mayor of Pembina and a Grand Forks delegation headed by John L. Hulteng, president of the city commission. The group will visit the cities as guest of Colonel L. H. Brittin, vice-president and manager of the Northwest Airways, Inc. which will fly the route. Thousands of letters and souvenir postcards mailed by Grand Forks citizens and by stamp and cover collectors from all parts of the United States and Canada are at the post office ready to be flown north or south on the inaugural mail planes.
Service is Speeded. These letters and cards will be carried swiftly to destinations far and near on schedules shortened greatly by the new service. Mail leaving here Monday morning will reach New York at 6 A. M. the following day and mail bound for the Pacific coast will reach its destination a few hours later. Grand Forks is ready to usher in the new service. All possible advance preparations have been made by city and Commercial club officials in conferences during the past month with officials of the United States post office department and of the Northwest Airways. In these conferences, J. H. McNicol, chairman of the Commercial club aviation committee, W. W. Blain, secretary of the club, Mayor Hulteng and others have participated. Weather Service Ready. A weather forecast service for airmail pilots was arranged tentatively here Saturday when Prof. H. E. Simpson, University weather observer, met M. R. Hovde, meteorologist of the United States weather bureau and other officials. Airport official report facilities are adequate for any type of service to be required by the airmail planes. The present facilities have been praised by Colonel Brittin and several government officials who inspected the port preliminary to the inauguration of the service. Commercial club and city officials will see the delegation headed by Mayor Hulteng off on the tri-motor plane at 8:30 A. M. and later will attend the official opening of the daily airmail and passenger route.
Russell J. McNown, former army instructor who won his wings at Kelly field in 1920, will pilot the all-metal Hamilton plane from Pembina which will inaugurate service through Grand Forks. His ship is scheduled to reach the port at 10:55 A. M. It will fly on regular schedule, taking on the load of southbound mail and leaving at 11 A. M. McNown will be followed a few minutes later by J. E. (Joe) Ohrbeck, who will fly the northbound ship from St. Paul, arriving here at 11:20 A. M. and leaving at 11:25 A. M. Ohrbeck is one of the latest pilots to be enrolled in the crack air corps of the Northwest Airways which will fly the route between the border city and Winnipeg. (Grand Forks Herald, Sunday, February 1, 1931, Volume 50, Number 80, Page 1)
Page 1. Airmail Planes Will Fly Here Today. Initial Hops Are Held Up By Fog Banks. ‘Official Party’ Ship Forced Down at Wadena, Minn. Fete Plan Cancelled. Grand Forks to Take Part in Dedication Program in Spring. First flights of the Winnipeg-St. Paul airmail service, which were delayed Monday because of a heavy fog, will be made on schedule today, according to advices received by J. Harry McNicol, postmaster, from the Northwest Airways, Inc. at St. Paul. Two of the three mail planes which were to figure in the last link in the 9,000 airmail chain from Aklavik on the rim of Canada’s Arctic to Buenos Aires in South America, attempted to penetrate the “pea soup” fog that hung over the Red river valley only to be forced down, and the third remained on the ground all day at Pembina waiting for visibility to increase.
A fourth plane, a tri-motor, started from St. Paul for Grand Forks to pick up a party composed of John Hulteng, president of the city commission, M. M. Oppegard and Don Whitman of Grand Forks, Mayor E. R. Langton of Pembina, and Mayor Ralph Webb of Winnipeg and a party, but was forced down at Wadena, Minn. by the fog. The party was to have been joined at Fargo by a delegation from that city and proceed to St. Paul for a dinner in celebration of the event. When the weather remained foggy all afternoon the plans were abandoned. Colonel L. H. Brittin announced the abandonment of the plans for the formal opening of the line, but said they would be held some time in the spring. He added that the mail will go through seven days a week, weather permitting. Weather reports early this morning will determine whether or not the mail will get through today, although he believes the fog of such density is unusual for this time of year.
Pilot Joseph Ohrbeck took off in a mail plane from St. Paul, according to the schedule with 150 pounds of mail aggregating about 6,500 letters, but was forced down by the fog at Osakis, and spent the night there. The Canadian plane scheduled to leave Winnipeg at 9:15 A. M. delayed the takeoff, according to the Associated Press, until afternoon. After waiting for skies to clear Pilot A. E. Jarvis decided to make the attempt in spite of the low flying ceiling. He took off with an estimated cargo of 18,000 letters, which included 150 greetings from Mayor Webb to mayors of eastern Canada cities.
Fog Causes Return. When approaching Pembina, Pilot Jarvis encountered fog that made further progress impossible, and he turned back to Winnipeg. Chief Pilot Chadwick Smith, who was at Pembina to fly the first ship over the south route waited all day for a break in the low ceiling to make the flight to Grand Forks. When he received news that the Canadian ship had left, he telephoned the Grand Forks airport that he would leave as soon as the Canadians were in. With the turning back of the Winnipeg plane, the Northwest Airways, who have the United States contract, definitely decided at 4 P. M. to abandon the flights until today. The south bound plane is due at the Grand Forks port at 10:55 A. M. and will leave five minutes later after loading mail. The north-bound plane will arrive at 11:20 A. M. for a five minute stop according to the schedule. W. Irving Glover, assistant postmaster general, who was expected to assist in the opening ceremonies, left St. Paul for Chicago Monday evening. A large crowd had assembled at
Page 2. the Grand Forks airport to witness the inauguration of the service, but as the day wore on and flyers at the port reported the fog thickening many left to await further news of the ships. When the Grand Forks mail sacks for the initial trip closed Postmaster J. H. McNicol announced that 19,700 letters had been mailed here for the first trip. These were taken to the airport in 11 sacks to await the arrival of the plane. Shortly before 10 A. M. Monday there was a long line of last minute airmail stamp purchasers in front of the stamp window and letters were received, the airmail cachets placed on them and stamps cancelled until almost 11 A. M. At that time the mail was thrown into pouches and word was received that the tri-motored plane which had left Wadena, was on its way to Grand Forks to pick up mail. The pouches were taken to the airport in truck to await the arrival of the ships. Colonel Brittin was reported by the Associated Press to have expressed disappointment at the interference of weather conditions, which he termed as “rare,” with the opening of the route.
Reports 1,000 Foot Ceiling. At 7 A. M. Monday Prof. H. E. Simpson of the weather station at the University reported the flying ceiling at about 1,000 feet, but this dropped later in the morning. Pilots at the Grand Forks port made several flights around the city during the day and announced that visibility was almost nothing. Fargo reported a 400 foot ceiling and from the north the news indicated even more adverse flying conditions. A slight improvement in weather conditions was noted at noon and a light wind was registered, which officials hoped would clear the skies. All morning officials watched the fog for signs of improving weather that would enable the ships to leave their ground posts, and it was late in the afternoon before it was decided definitely to call off the flights.
Assistant Postmaster General Glover attended a dinner Monday night in Minneapolis, given by Colonel Brittin and other Northwest Airways officials. Mr. Glover spoke Monday noon at a luncheon in St. Paul, at which Frank B. Kellogg, former secretary of state, and a member of the world court, presided. Mr. Glover was welcomed to the Twin Cities by Governor Olson. The post office department official traced the development of the airmail, both national and international. He said there were 66,000 miles operated by 26 lines and predicted rapid expansion of the service. He reiterated his forecast that trans-Atlantic airmail will be established soon, predicting that St. Paul would be an important link in a trans-Atlantic England-Australia line. (Grand Forks Herald, Tuesday, February 3, 1931, Volume 50, Number 81)
Airmail Ships Open Service On New Line. First Load of Letters Is on Time in Grand Forks. Big Crowd At Port. Planes to Fly Daily on Link With Winnipeg and Far East. The first load of airmail from Winnipeg arrived on time at St. Paul Tuesday when service was inaugurated through Grand Forks on the international link after having been delayed Monday by a heavy fog, Northwest Airways announced last night. Chief Pilot Chadwick Smith brought in the first consignment from Pembina where he met a Canadian plane and transferred the mail. Fog which grounded planes from St. Paul and Winnipeg Monday, lifted early Tuesday. Pilot Fred Whittemore took the first mail to Pembina. He was slightly delayed in reaching Grand Forks by late arrival of the plane with the mail from the east but most of the time was made up before the mail reached Winnipeg. Whittemore who was due at Grand Forks at 11:20 arrived at 1:21 and took off with two sacks of mail.
Exactly on the scheduled moment Pilot Smith set his big Hamilton monoplane on the municipal airport in Grand Forks. He was on time in spite of the fact that the ship landed in a field north of the city to change from skis to wheels for landing purposes. A large crowd was waiting at the airport when the plane from Pembina appeared on the horizon flying low and fast. The ship circled the landing field to come into the wind and then settled down. It taxied to a point near the hanger where a mail truck waited with 9 of the first flight sacks of mail. The transfer of mail was made quickly, signatures given, and the plane was off on the flight to Fargo and St. Paul. The only ceremony was the de-
Page 7. livery of a letter to John L. Hulteng, president of the city commission of Grand Forks, from Mayor Ralph Webb of Winnipeg, which was carried by special service outside the sacks. One Passenger Arrives. G. E. Spain of Peoria was the only passenger to leave the ship at Grand Forks. He had come from Winnipeg. Other passengers on the plane, which picked up the Canadian mail at Pembina were R. H. McNabb of Ottawa, superintendent of Canadian mail and Ben. F. Myers of Chicago, superintendent of airmail for the United States. A. R. Mensing was co-pilot with Smith on the inaugural plane. Pilot F. W. Whittemore was at the controls of the northbound plane which left Fargo at 12:31 P. M. and reached Grand Forks in scheduled flying time. J. B. Corley was the Canadian post office representative on the ship.
Additional mailings at the Grand Forks post office on Monday and Tuesday morning brought the total of letters sent on the initial flights to well over the 20,000 mark, according to Mr. J. H. McNicol, postmaster. Advices received from other points indicated that the mail cargo from Grand Forks was the heaviest one along the route. Nine sacks of mail were sent South and two North from Grand Forks. Winnipeg sent about 18,000 letters on the first flight, Fargo’s mailing was estimated at 10,000, and about 6,000 were picked up in the Twin Cities for the flight. The Twin Cities post offices did not use the government cachet on the outgoing mail as they had airmail previous to the opening of the line. (Grand Forks Herald, Wednesday, February 4, 1931, Volume 50, Number 82, Page 1)