On February 13, 1926, a new airmail stamp design featuring two planes and a map was issued for airmail service (although it was valid for regular usages as well ). A new contract airmail service began February 15 with the new stamp intended for one ounce letters flown on those routes up to 1,000 miles (first zone). To help postal clerks spot airmail as they sorted letters, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving designed this stamp in a new format and with a new color: a horizontal rectangle in dark blue.
The central design depicts a topographical map of the United States, provided by the U.S. Geological Survey of the Department of the Interior, showing the rivers and mountain ranges that guided airmail pilots across the country. On each side is a de Havilland DH-4 single-engine biplane in flight, one traveling west and one east. The DH-4 had served as a bomber and observation airplane during World War I. After the war, the Post Office Department requested one hundred of the planes. The front cockpit was covered and used for added payload. The rear cockpit, unfortunately, too easily trapped the pilot in an emergency situation and resulted in some pilot deaths. This 'workhorse' of the postal service had twice the range of the Curtiss Jenny, which it had replaced.
C. A. Huston designed the stamp. It was printed by flat plate press in plates of two hundred, which were cut into panes of fifty. The first day of sales took place in Detroit and Dearborn, Chicago, Cleveland, and Washington, in the District of Columba. The first contract routes operated from Detroit to Chicago and Cleveland and back by Ford Motor Company. With contract airmail service, the post office simply delivered mail to and from the airfields.