The Job of Postal Pilots Was So Dangerous It Was Called “The Suicide Club”

In 1918, the profession of airmail pilot was a horrendously dangerous one. In fact, pilots were dubbed “the suicide club.” Aviation was still young and mail pilots didn’t have the luxury of waiting for optimal conditions. Crashes were common, and the life expectancy of the first mail pilots was as short as 900 flying hours. They flew without parachutes over land that had few, if any, emergency landing fields, and there were no lights on the ground or in the plane to assist with night flights. There were no wireless weather reports, no wing de-icers, and no radio guides. Of the pilots hired by the Post Office between 1918 and 1926, 35 were killed. In fact, in 1919, one pilot died for every 115,325 miles flown. By 1926, the number had dropped to one pilot death for every 2.5 million miles flown.