Airline Expansion and Innovation (1927 - 1941)

The Need for Reform

By the end of the 1920s, private airlines were flying an expanding system of air mail routes. Passenger service, however, remained almost nonexistent.

While airlines often prospered flying the mail, the system had problems. The Post Office's bidding process for air routes resulted in an unfair payment system, and short-term contracts discouraged airlines from investing in long-term development.

Airlines that carried only mail favored small, single-engine airplanes. Larger multi-engine aircraft were needed to carry passengers, but such airplanes were too costly to operate. Reform was needed for the airline system to grow.

"We think it is necessary to give some aid to the passenger-carrying lines, particularly if by giving that aid we greatly increase the air mail facilities in the country."
-Walter F. Brown

Fokker F-10
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Western Air Express tried to develop passenger service in the West using large Fokker F-10 tri-motor airplanes. But despite its reliable service, it could not make a profit carrying only people.

Air Transport of Goods
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Loading and unloading air mail, Chicago Airport, late 1920s.