Transcontinental route

ROCK SPRINGS -- A century ago, the U.S Post Office selected Rock Springs as one of 16 airfields to link the nation’s new transcontinental air mail system.

According the 1921 edition of the Post Office’s “Pilots’ Directions - New York to San Francisco Route,” the southwest Wyoming airfield was 231 miles west of Cheyenne. After describing Black Butte as a “huge black hill of rock south of the course,” it points out: “Pilot Butte will seen projecting above and forming a part of the Table Mountain Range. This butte is of whitish stone. Head directly toward Pilot Butte and Rock Springs will be passed on the northern side. The field is in the valley at the foot of Pilot Butte about 4 miles from Rock Springs. It is triangular in shape; the hangar being located in the apex. The surface of the field is good. The best approach is from the eastern side.”

Photos from the period show an ornate hangar stripped in alternative dark and light tones. While the primary Post Office airfields in the region were Cheyenne in the east and Salt Lake City in the West, Rock Springs served as a refueling and emergency landing field, as did Rawlins further east. In time, as aviation technology improved offering greater speed, range and carrying capacity, many of the original airfields of the early 1920s like Rock Springs found themselves bypassed, but for a brief window of time, they made possible one of the Post Office’s boldest and riskiest gambles.

On Sept. 10, 2020, on the 100th anniversary of the launch of transcontinental airmail service, a group of volunteer private pilots will be retracing the original U.S. Air Mail route established in 1920, including a stop at Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport, successor to the first gravel paved airfield north of the town of Rock Springs. The inbound plane will be carrying commemorative postcards collected along the route and destined for San Francisco. It will be met by a second plane from Salt Lake, which will take over the relay, including commemorative postcards dedicated to Rock Springs, which were earlier distributed to local Scout troops.

The mail transfer will take place at approximately between 9:30-10 a.m. in front of the Sweetwater Aviation hangar. Visitors are welcome and local health precautions are urged to be followed. For more information contact Southwest Regional Airport Director Devon Brubaker at 307-352-6880.

To learn more about the AirMail100 Centennial Flight project, visit www.AirMail100.com.

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