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Archives on the Air 267: The Origin of Airline Dispatching – O. Theodore Larson audio recordings

Flying across Wyoming was a risky endeavor in the 1920s. Pilots were often forced down into open fields in bad weather. If they could land successfully, they then had to walk to the nearest farmhouse to keep from freezing to death. Only after the storm had passed would they attempt to continue their air mail delivery flight.

At the time, pilots had no practical way to communicate from air to ground. Then, in 1929, Thorpe Hiscock developed a small, two-way, high frequency radio system that could be mounted in the cockpits of commercial airplanes.

The radio operators on the ground became known as flight dispatchers. They played a critical role in communicating upcoming weather to pilots. Early dispatchers were stationed at airfields in Cheyenne and Rock Springs.

Planes had to stop frequently for refueling and both Wyoming cities were directly in the flight path from Chicago to San Francisco.

Listen to the O. Theodore Larson audio recordings at UW’s American Heritage Center to hear more about the early days of airline dispatching.