Airmail planes at Omaha, Nebraska


Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

The first airmail field used by the Post Office Department in Omaha, Nebraska was known as Ak-sar-Ben Field (or Nebraska, spelled backwards). The field was part of the transcontinental flyway between New York City, New York to San Francisco, California. The airfield was the site of one of the most dramatic events in the early years of the airmail service; pilot Jack Knight's historic flight during a demonstration of night flying. Due to the limited instrumentation of the time and lack of beacon lighting, flying time was limited by the length of the day.

Knight was originally scheduled to fly just one leg of the first day and night-time transcontinental airmail trip on February 22, 1921. He left North Platte, Nebraska, flying the mail eastward to Omaha, where he arrived well after dark and in the middle of a snowstorm. Knight was able to land safely at the Omaha field because it was lit by a line of burning gasoline drums placed along the runway. The relief pilot refused to continue west to Chicago , Illinois through the storm. Knight volunteered to take the flight. He took off for Chicago at 2 am with only a road map to guide him over terrain he had not even crossed in daylight hours. Amazingly, Knight successfully completed the flight into Chicago, winning national applause for his daring feat.

Photographer: Unknown

National Postal Museum, Curatorial Photographic Collection

Museum ID: A.2009-30

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  • Title: Airmail planes at Omaha, Nebraska
  • Date Created: 1920
  • Medium: paper; photo-emulsion