2018 50c Red Air Mail Centenary
Value: 50¢ 1-ounce first-class letter rate- Forever
Issued: August 11, 2018
First Day City: College Park, Maryland
Type of Stamp: Commemorative
Printed by: Ashton Potter
Format: Pane of 20
Quantity Printed: 20,000,000 stamps
On August 11, 2018, the US Postal Service issued a stamp to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Post Office Department taking over Airmail flights from the US Army.
For the first four months of the United States' fledgling Airmail Service, all flights were handled by US Army pilots. But in August 1918, the Post Office Department's own Airmail Service took over. This ushered in a new era of civilian pilots, improved planes, and more delivery routes.
Captain Benjamin Lipsner of the United States Army was the first superintendent of the Airmail Service and supervised the new flights. Lipsner hired the first pilot, Max Miller, to make the inaugural Post Office Department flight on August 12, 1918. Miller flew from College Park, Maryland, to New York City in the powerful new Curtiss R-4 biplane.
The delivery was flawless, and the Post Office Department began looking for new routes. One of the first was New York to Chicago, with the intimidating Allegheny Mountains in the middle. Pilots Max Miller and Eddie Gardner were selected for the mission and turned their dangerous task into a friendly race. They took off September 5, each checking how far the other had gone at stops along the way. In the end, Miller won when he arrived over half a day earlier than Gardner.
These two brave pilots paved the way for future pathfinding flights. Soon, mail was being flown all across the United States. It was not long before Airmail Service became an outstanding success. This commemorative stamp is a reminder of those early days.