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With it comes a contract to carry U. Mail — crucial to financial stability. Two major carriers — Delta and Eastern — and Charlotte-based State Airlines challenge the award, and litigation nearly sinks Piedmont before it can start flying, reaching as far as the Supreme Court.

At last, on February 20, , Tom Davis personally flies the Kanawha River Pacemaker to Wilmington to start the official first flight — a bellwether success. As Pacemakers conduct flights on time and with signature courtesy, passengers become nearly as effusive in their loyalty to Piedmont as are crew and ground employees. To the end, the airline started by Tom Davis retains the stubborn loyalty of its employees and passengers. Davis coaxes his employees to excellence through his charm and conversational reports.

No delays at that station for the month. DAN [Danville] is also to be congratulated as they only had a total of 3 minutes of time on the ground, and I am sure that those 3 minutes were used to the fullest advantage. Yes sir, those are two mighty good records. Who else can do as well?

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Despite the hospitality in the cabin and the addition of in-flight lounges, passenger aviation is still finding its stride, and flying can be dangerous. In December , Capt. Hutcheson has just taken off from Tri-Cities Airport in Tennessee when his engines sputter out. He is forced to make an emergency landing in a nearby field. Crewmen build a fire to warm passengers as they await transport back to the airport.

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Piedmont was legendary for its punctuality and friendly service. Once aboard, pursers passed out magazines — and, if passengers were lucky, Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

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Then it sounded like an explosion. The victim is Oren Ase Pruitt, a chef traveling with his new bride. Apparently, while trying to find the restroom, he opened the rear door of the aircraft and was sucked into the slipstream. The wind was screaming in. Somebody said the door had blown off. Nobody got up. I was afraid to look back there. And then a stewardess came to my seat and sat down beside me.

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I knew then. Nobody ever told me anything. I just know he was gone. Still, Piedmont maintains a remarkable safety record, given that its Pacemakers fly over rugged Appalachian terrain along routes buffeted by summer thunderstorms and ambushed by winter snowstorms, into airports tucked between ridges in bowls that often fill with soupy fog. It slams into Bucks Elbow Mountain at a speed of more than miles per hour, killing everybody aboard — except one man.

Phil Bradley missed an earlier flight and took the last open seat on this one. Bodies are scattered across the mountainside. Bradley spends Halloween lying in the drizzly cold, the pain from his injuries keeping him awake. Sunday dawn illuminates a wake of turkey vultures in the trees around him.

Later that day, 35 hours after the crash, rescuers arrive — including Zeke Saunders, vice president of Piedmont. They sedate Bradley and carry him to the summit, where he is airlifted to a hospital.

Piedmont concludes that a homing beacon in Pennsylvania interfered with the navigation of Flight , pulling it off course. Piedmont recovers, earning an admirable safety record in the years to come. The birds that survived were returned to the civilian fanciers, who donated their birds for wartime purposes.


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Getting Started. It's quite easy to get started as a pigeon fancier. First thing you need even before you decide to get your pigeon is a loft. It should be easy for the bird to access, dry, warm and stocked with food and water.

Son in Homing Flight Image at Mighty Ape NZ

Most fanciers will build their lofts themselves, like Leo Turley. He is an Australian fancier with 45 years of experience. Lofts are important. If your loft is inadequate and the bird is not comfortable, the experience will not be rewarding for you or your pigeon. You must create a home that pigeons can't wait to fly back to for food, water and care. People with disabilities may have trouble participating in this hobby. To train the birds, you must be very mobile and able to do some lifting.

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You need to be able to rely on a car for training. The next step is a pigeon clock or timer that operates very much like a bar code scanner in a supermarket checkout. Some older fanciers use an old wind-up clock to time their birds, but most modern fanciers buy electronic bands that are coded and picked up by an antenna.

It is also important to buy carrying cases to transport your pigeons. The last and most important investment is the pigeon itself! But he says if you are close to the pigeon fancier community, it might not cost you anything. But it needs to be said that new fanciers need to show a level of keenness and willingness to put the time and effort into their birds before a fancier will hand over free youngsters," says Turley.

Training the birds is difficult.


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  • Most seasoned fanciers suggest beginners find a mentor to teach them how it is done. Many new fanciers lose valued feathered friends from making mistakes that could have been avoided with a little guidance. Tom Barnhart is a fancier with 40 years of homing pigeon experience. He also owns Barnhart and Son Lofts. He suggests you start out slowly.

    Be wary of hawks during training, as young birds and some older birds are targets. Target shooters use wayward or training pigeons to perfect their aim. Weather is also an important consideration. Fanciers suggest not letting your birds fly in questionable conditions, like high winds.