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CAM #11 Cleveland-Pittsburgh

Cleveland OH-Pittsburgh PA; interim stops: Youngstown OH; Pittsburgh PA; McKeesport PA; awarded: Skyline Transportation Company; CAM #11 Covers

CAM #11 Airways (Airways are based South to North and West to East)

United States Congressional serial set. 9509. page 238; Contract for Mail Service, Route No. C.A.M 11; Contract made 27th day of March 1926 to Clifford Ball; Route: Cleveland, Ohio to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and return.


Miss Pittsburgh

Clifford Ball

March 9, 1930, The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Sun  •  Page 21 (Transcription below article)

Sun, Mar 9, 1930 – Page 21 · The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 


Local Aviation Firm Achieves Success After Long Struggle

The story of a long struggle, disappointment after disappointment and then final, outstanding success is the story of Clifford Ball, whose name is interlinked with the story of aviation development in Pittsburgh.

Operator of the Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh air mail route as well as the Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Washington "Path of the Eagle” passenger air route, Ball is recognized today as one of the leading figures in national aviation circles.

It wasn't always that way, "Cliff" admits. There was a time when friends of the aviation man literally took up a collection to get two parachutes "out of hock" for Cliff in order that the first air mail flight from Pittsburgh be staged as scheduled. Now, local aviation men admit, Ball could buy many of the rest of them, and still have money in the bank.

Started in 1925

Back in 1925, Ball, then an automobile man, got the “aviation bug." In August of that year the property now known as Bettis Airport was purchased. Flying was done off 25-acre cleared plot at. that time. Cutting trees and filling ditches yielded 18 acres more for flying. Late the same year the American Legion air meet was held there, and funds were secured to bring the flying acreage up to 85 acres.

The first plane stationed at Bettis was a war-production Standard J-l, equipped with a 90-horsepower OX-5 water-cooled engine.  Passenger flights brought $5 each in those days, the field receiving $1 of that sum. Ball did not own nor operate that plane. He ran the barbecue and staged stunts, clearing in all about $250 weekly for a time.

Took Up Plane Agency

The next ship was another Standard, this time with a 200-horsepower six-cylinder motor. The motor was an excellent one, when it would run, Ball said.

Ball next took over the district distributorship here for Swallow planes, with "no success at all," in his own words. Several ships were sold.
"I came to the conclusion about that time that if we were to make the business a success financially we couldn't carry the burden of the airport and a transport system," Ball said. Accordingly, with D. Barr Peat, another prominent local figure in aviation. Ball divorced the interests, and sold his interest in the airport property with the understanding it was to be continued as a port for at least five years. Then he began to look around for "a steady job for an airplane."

About that time Congressman M. Clyde Kelly of Pittsburgh was getting the Kelly Air Mail Bill through Congress in Washington.

Awarded Mail Contract

"We took advantage of that act and succeeded in having the post-office Department ask for bids on a line from Pittsburgh to Cleveland," Ball said. "I was the only bidder, and I bid the maximum rate allowed, under the act. At that time bidding was on the 80 per cent plan, we were to collect 80 per cent of the postage for carrying the mail.

"Under that arrangement the possibility of financial success was so remote Congress changed the law and paid $3 a pound instead. Even so, it was found air mail was so scarce it was not practical even then. We spent four months working up sufficient business to make the proposition pay before we began actual operations. We knew we had to carry 45 pounds a day to pay expenses.

Results of the four months' development work were apparent from the day the first plane took off. It carried 56 pounds of mail, on the average, every trip during the first month.

Needs More Pilots

"Our business grew at the rate of about 10 per cent a month," Ball said. "Today we average better than 200 pounds daily. Of course, costs have increased proportionately. More pilots are needed, and more ships. Bigger crews of ground workers are employed, day and night."
Merle Moulthrop, well known here, was chief pilot for Ball at the start. K. F. (Curly) Lovejoy was a pilot. Dewey Noyes was reserve pilot and mechanic at the Cleveland terminal.

Many times, during the history of the line it has been completely rehabilitated with new equipment. The first ships in regular use were Waco "9’s" with OX-5 motors. Three of those ships were owned and operated by the line. Next the line secured Pitcairn "mailwing" biplanes, later sold to an operator on the Gulf Coast. Two Ryans and later three Fairchild monoplanes were used. The most recent move was replacement of the Fairchild ships on the mail line with New Standard biplanes, equipped for night flying.

"Since the first our pilots have worn chutes," Ball said. "And maybe it wasn't tough to buy those chutes in those, days." When Cliff talks of some of the struggles of the past there's a twinkle in his eyes as though he was mentally enjoying the comparison. Banks weren't so good to him then in the way of loans. And today? Well, Ball's credit is rated as "excellent" by many of those who used to shake their heads and tell him "It can't be done."

First Trip Nearly Last

"Curly Lovejoy nearly had to "bail out' his plane on the first trip," Ball reminisced, "He ran into a lot of thick fog, had engine trouble well, most everything that could happened to him on that flight except that he made the trip."

In more than 1,500,000 miles of flying on the mail route since its inauguration, there has been one fatality. Two planes have been "washed out."
Harry Sievers, one of Ball's present mail fliers, "cracked up" a ship one night near Beaver Falls when he ran into dense rog, the engine stopped, and the pilot went overboard in a parachute. In the face of the total loss of an expensive plane and motor, Ball's first question on being told of (the affair, was:

"Did Harry hurt himself."

Attendants at Bettis Field called Ball on the long-distance phone in Washington to inform him of the crack-up. He was told Sievers was uninjured, had done everything in his power to save the ship, and that the ship was a total wreck.

"Buy another plane," Ball ordered. "Send Harry out in the reserve job tomorrow." Confidence in his pilots and their judgment is one of Ball's characteristics.

Passenger Business Booms

Last fall passenger business began booming. Ball bought several big new Fairchild cabin monoplanes, and opened "The Path of the Eagle," Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Washington passenger service. Experienced pilots who had seen daily, and nightly service on the mail route were chosen to pilot the ships. Orders were to provide the utmost safety for passengers. Emergency fields were "spotted" along the Pittsburgh-Washington leg of the journey. The northern half of the line was already equipped with emergency fields.

Day in and day out, weather permitting, the sleek monoplanes ply the airways along the "Path of the Eagle." Usually the ships carry pay loads, passengers going safely and swiftly on their way.

And now Ball has a new "wrinkle." It's the Adams Air Mail Pickup, a device which enables a mail pilot to pick up or discharge mail without alighting.

Pitcairn Field- The Clifford Ball Page


U.S. Navigation Chart No.
U.S. Navigation Chart No.
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