Air Mail Centennial Celebration Flight

AAASDC members are invited to a once in a lifetime event. Send your US Mail on 1 of 3 SpeedMail planes from San Diego to Seattle.

A brief history below.

Air Mail Centennial Celebration Flight

San Diego – Seattle    May 13-18, 2018



            On the morning of May 15, 1918, as President Wilson and members of congress watched, a young Army pilot eased a wood and fabric biplane from Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. bound for New York. The first government-operated air mail flight in America was underway.

            To mark the 100th anniversary of that service, three vintage biplanes will retrace the pioneering west coast airmail route, Contract Air Mail 8 (CAM 8), from San Diego to Seattle, May 13-18, 2018.

            The flight, supported by the non-profit Western Antique Airplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM), of Hood River Oregon and endorsed by the U.S. Postal Service, will carry official mail in the form of special envelopes which will be postmarked at the 12 stops along the 1200 mile flight. The pilots, Addison Pemberton and Jeff Hamilton, both from Spokane , Washington and Ben Scott of Reno, Nevada will be duly sworn in as official Airmail pilots and will assist local post office authorities in cancelling the mail at special temporary stations at the airports, many used by the original CAM 8 pilots, enroute.

            After departing Gillespie Field in San Diego, stops will include Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Francisco and Redding in California; Medford and Eugene in Oregon; Vancouver, Olympia and finally Paine Field in Everett, just north of Seattle, Washington. The flight is expected to take about 12 flying hours spread throughout the six-day event.

            Talks are underway with the National Park Service to allow the flight to land at the former Crissy Field, once part of the Presidio army fort and the first airport in San Francisco, and now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

            “The establishment of air mail service marks the first steps towards the founding of commercial aviation and airline service in America”, Pemberton said. “The fact that the Congress specifically asked that service begin while the nation was mobilized to fight the first world war, shows that the potential  and importance of aviation was recognized even in those early days.”

            The flight will use three Stearman Speedmail biplanes, as used by several airlines as mailplanes in the early 1930s. Powered by 450 horsepower engines, the wood-winged and fabric covered open-cockpit aircraft were noted for their dependability and ability to carry heavy loads. Of the 41 built, seven still fly, so the CAM 8 flight will be a rare chance to see these aeronautical pioneers at work.

Author: Abraham Talerman
Updated On: 04/06/18 PST