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In One Ear: Off to a flying start

Airmail celebrates 100 years since first flight
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on May 11, 2018 12:01AM

Heads up, history and aviation buffs: On May 15, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson and members of Congress watched a wood and fabric biplane take off from Potomac Park in the nation’s capitol, heading for New York on the first air mail flight.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of that historic moment in aviation, a reenactment of the Contract Air Mail Route 8 (CAM 8) — San Diego to Seattle — is taking place Monday through Friday. Three 1931 Stearman Speedmail open cockpit biplanes, actually used to deliver air mail in the 1930s, will fly the route.

All three of the aircraft became crop dusters after their airmail service, before being lovingly restored by their present owners. One of the three, which was also one of the original 12 mail planes, even went Hollywood for a bit with a small stint in the 1934 Shirley Temple movie “Bright Eyes.”

The anniversary flight will take about 12 flying hours all together. A segment of the route is shown, courtesy of its website,, where you can follow them, and read their history. Or, you can just head out to Vancouver, Washington, which is one of the stops. The planes will arrive at Pearson Field on Thursday, taxi over to the Pearson Air Museum (360-816-6232), and leave Friday. This is a rare treat to see these aircraft, since fewer than a dozen of them are still flying of the 41 originally built.

Can’t make it to Vancouver? Celebrate the centennial by buying a commemorative stamp (pictured, inset) at the post office, instead.


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