The concept is almost as old as the airways themselves.The first flight inspectors flew war surplus open-cockpit biplanes, bouncing around with airmail pilots and watching over a steadily growing airway system predicated on airway light beacons to provide navigational guidance.
Flight inspection has been there all along, quiet and meticulous, changing and developing through various government agencies charged with air safety: the Aeronautics Branch, Bureau of Air Commerce, the Civil Aeronautics Agency, through to the modern FAA.
With continued growth of air transportation, and new technologies to support that growth, the essential means of flight inspection also changed, but its foundation, that of ensuring aviation safety, still remains the same.
There were no aeronautical charts, no terrain or obstruction information, and no radio capability for weather, communication, or navigation, much less anything resembling air traffic control.
There was no civil aviation authority at either the state or federal level.
Intermediate landing fields were spaced every 30 miles along an airway.
These fields were primarily used for emergencies during poor weather or for mechanical difficulties.
Whether or not these very early routes enjoyed any type of airborne inspection by Air Mail pilots has been lost to history.
However, the passage of the Air Commerce Act of 1926 transferred the airway system to the Department of Commerce, which created an Aeronautics Branch with an Airways Division.
Additional segments were lit both east and west and the entire route east of Rock Springs, Wyoming, was lit by July 1925.