AVIATION: Up from the Mailbags

On a dusty airport outside Detroit one February day in 1926, Henry Ford braced himself against a cutting wind, and lifted a sack of mail to a goggled pilot in an open-cockpit Stout monoplane. The engine roared, and the little 100-m.p.h. plane lurched down the runway and took off for Cleveland, 91 miles away. It was the first flight of airmail under the recently passed Kelly Act. To airmen, it was the beginning of commercial aviation in the U.S. Until then, the U.S. Army and a few private operators had flown the mail...