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Retrospect: December 1, 1918


flightFifteen years after the Wright brothers proved to the world that a powered, heavier-than-air vehicle could achieve for humans what had previously been the domain of birds, aviation had progressed to the point where its utility for society—and not its novelty—had become the focus. Military uses for aircraft advanced warfare tactics on European fronts, and civilian aviation became an increasingly viable method for transporting items domestically—from passengers, to miscellaneous goods, to mail. The U.S. Post Office Department (the predecessor to the U.S. Postal Service) began establishing regular Air Mail routes across the country on May 15, 1918. For the first three months, the service relied on pilots from the U.S. Army Air Service, until the Post Office Department began using its own pilots on August 12. As a result, it became clear that pilots needed regular, reliable weather information to support the new service. In an effort to meet the demand, the U.S. Weather Bureau began issuing its first official aviation weather forecasts on December 1, 1918, for the newly established airmail route from New York to Chicago.

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