#5281 - Blue
2018 50c Air Mail Centenary
Value: 50¢ 1-ounce first-class letter rate- Forever
Issued: May 1, 2018
First Day City: Washington, DC
Type of Stamp: Commemorative
Printed by: Ashton Potter
Format: Pane of 20
Quantity Printed: 7,500,000 stamps
On May 1, 2018, the US Postal Service issued a stamp to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first airmail flight. The stamp depicts a Curtiss JN-4H “Jenny,” the plane used for that historic flight on May 15, 1918.
One of the first airmail pilots to fly the Jenny was Lieutenant George L. Boyle. Fresh from flight training, Boyle was in charge of the journey from Washington to Pennsylvania. After a rough takeoff, Boyle made it into the air, but quickly became disoriented and headed south instead of north. Not long after, the confused pilot crash-landed in a field. Pilots scheduled for other legs of the journey succeeded in delivering their mail, and the first day of airmail was deemed a success.
Boyle wasn’t the last pilot to get lost or have an accident – all pilots struggled with poor navigational aids and unreliable planes. Even the most skilled pilots had abrupt landings due to low visibility and fuel capacity. Fortunately, as time went on, navigational and other challenges were resolved.
Prices dropped as airmail gained popularity and letters arrived much faster than by train. The USPS continues to use airmail to ensure faster service and lower costs. With the issue of the new commemorative stamp we’re reminded of the early pilots who risked their lives to deliver America’s mail.