AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 81

THE GOOD 9/11

COURTESY BILL MOORE

By Bill Moore

GENE SALVATORE takes off

from Bellefonte in his Rans S-7
Courier (left). Scouts welcome
the airmail pilots at Carson
City, Nevada (below). Thick
wildfire smoke at 10,500 feet
over California (below right).

Nineteen years ago, America-correct that-the world, was shocked by terror attacks using airliners that knifed into New York's World Trade Center, plowed into the Pentagon, and dug a crater
in a field in Pennsylvania. Some 2,977 people lost their lives that terrible day. More, many more,
would follow in its wake. We all remember where we were that Tuesday morning because of it.
But let me tell you about another 9/11. A good one, I believe-this one in the city of
San Francisco exactly 100 years ago, when a converted World War I-surplus Army bomber
descended across the sparkling waters of the bay that afternoon. Looking over the airplane's
long nose with its clattering Liberty V-12 engine, the pilot, E.E. Mouton-nicknamed "Monte"-
could see the fabled Golden Gate through which tall ships could still sail. There was no Golden
Gate Bridge, nor San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, for that matter. They were more than a
decade away. Alcatraz Island was there, a military prison and fortification. 
Mouton's destination wasn't the Army's Crissy Field at the foot of the Presidio, but the former fairgrounds of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition just to the east. A couple feet in front of his
open cockpit was a storage compartment modified to hold bags of mail, some 400 pounds of letters. Cutting the
engine to an idle, the DH-4 glided across the waters of the bay, touched down on the grassy field, and ponderously taxied to a stop near a crowd of onlookers surrounding a U.S. Post Office parcel truck. 
U.S. airmail plane No. 151 had just made history, completing a 2,561-mile relay over four days, involving multiple
government airplanes and pilots that had started on Long Island, New York, on the morning of September 8.  
On hand to help unload the sacks of mail was San Francisco Postmaster Charles Fay. He beamed with obvious pleasure and probably a sense of relief under his bowler hat. The airplane, the pilot, and-most importantly-
the mail that had begun its transcontinental journey was down safely and he could wire back to his tough-asnails bosses in D.C.
With the successful completion of that flight, America, in effect, was about to be ushered into the modern age.
The country was no longer on a war footing and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19 was finally fading. The 1920
presidential election was less than two months away. Before the decade was out, the first embryonic airlines would
emerge, airplanes would be equipped with radios, a nation-spanning network of lighted airways would be built,
canvas and spruce would give way to aluminum spars and skins-all driven largely by two things: the pursuit of
profit and improved safety. 
The seemingly simple task of ferrying Sears catalog orders; business documents; birthday greetings; and,
yes, love letters a day or two earlier by air instead of by train would prove the catalyst that America needed
to emerge as a world leader able to flex its muscles in so many positive ways. Mouton's landing on 9/11 was a
little-noticed event worth only a few column inches in the press of the day, but like a single spark, it would help
generate a wildfire of innovation.
Bill Moore is an aviation writer, pilot, and the organizer of AirMail100

aopa.org/pilot AOPA PILOT | 81


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AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 5
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 6
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 7
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 8
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 9
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 10
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 11
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 12
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 13
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 15
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 16
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 17
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 18
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 19
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 20
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 21
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 29
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 30
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 31
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 33
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 34
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 35
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 36
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover4
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