Regularly scheduled airmail service began on May 15, 1918.
Regularly scheduled airmail service began on May 15, 1918.

Government attempts to bolster the budding aviation industry in the United States began in the late 1920s. Accusations of political favoritism in the 1930s led to passage of the Air Mail Act of 1934, which was designed to make the process of awarding contracts equitable and to make flying safer. It also divided the regulation of airmail rates, routes and equipment.

Resolving the Problems

Because of the controversy, President Franklin Roosevelt suspended the contracts in February 1934 and assigned airmail delivery to the Army Air Corps. Unfortunately, because these military pilots were not accustomed to the longer flights required and because their military aircraft were not equipped for the severe winter weather along the mail routes, several AAC pilots died. In June 1934, Congress approved the Air Mail Act in an effort to correct the flaws in air mail delivery practices.

Ensuring the Safe Delivery

The new law gave the United States Postal Department the authority to return airmail contracts to private sector airlines, while the Interstate Commerce Commission had the power to set the rates. The Bureau of Air Commerce would monitor both routes and equipment to ensure the safety of pilots. The larger airlines received most of the mail route contracts, with a lesser share going to smaller airlines.