Duties of the Wedell-Williams Air Service, Patterson

Stop 3 of 6 in the Wedell-Williams Airport in Patterson tour

The air service at Patterson performed transportation and maintenance services and built the racing planes which brought fame to Wedell-Williams.

The Air Service’s routes usually started and terminated in New Orleans, but Patterson’s connection to New Orleans brought the town closer to cities like Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Alexandria, Dallas, and even Laredo, TX, next to the Mexican border. One air route went from New Orleans directly to Patterson, then Beaumont and on to Houston. Air routes in the 1930s were similar to train routes, with a main route from Point A to Point B, but with several stops on the way for refueling and maintenance. The aviation industry shared similarities with other transport industries in the beginning. As with trains, planes could transport a group of people more quickly than automobiles; like cars, planes could be privately owned.

Jimmy Wedell’s passion for building fast planes distinguished Wedell-Williams from other air service operations. His first planes were the We-Will and its smaller twin, We-Will, Jr. The We-Will was designed to carry mail faster than any other planes, which Williams thought would help him secure an airmail contract. US airmail delivery routes were hotly contested among air transport companies.

Small air service companies, including the Wedell-Williams Air Service, complained of unfair practices in the awarding of government contracts. The “Airmail Scandal” required action, and on February 9, 1934, Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order that cancelled all airmail contracts in favor of the military.
Army Air Corps pilots did not know the routes, causing disastrous results. Airmail went back to private companies, but with the stipulation that no previous holder of a government contract would be considered. The air service eventually received an airmail route from New Orleans to Houston.

While the transportation aspect of the air service fluctuated due to the Great Depression, Wedell kept building and racing planes. Wedell would start with small sketches before building the plane from the ground up. Once complete, the plane would undergo numerous test flights to determine its speed capabilities. When Wedell was satisfied with the plane, it would be sold to the person who had commissioned it. Those Wedell built for himself would be flown in many air races across the country.

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