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Air Mail History

     The first official airmail flight was undertaken by Earle Ovington on September 23, 1911.  Overton flew from Garden City, New York to the nearby town of Mineola a distance of about 3 miles where he dropped the mail from his Bleriot IX model plane named Dragonfly to a prearranged spot.  The astonished postal officals had to chase after and pick up the mail after the bag spilt open upon inpact with the ground. This first bag of mail had 640 letters and 1,280 postcards. 

     This first airmail fight showed that the Post Office Department was committed to speed and innovation in transportation, earning Overton the honor of being Air Mail Pilot No. 1.  Over the next few years many experimental airmail deliveries were accomplished, and on May 15, 1918 the first airmail route in the United States was established between New York and Washington D.C. with a stop over in Philadlphia. 

See History of the Air Mail Service for more information about these early flights, and Remember the Air Mail Pioneers.  Try this flight similator to see what is was like to fly like the early pilots did. Fly the Mail, or Contact Flying.


Some Links Containing Station Displays, Beacon Photos, and Air Mail Information

Aviation Heritage Museum: Cibola County Historical Society has recreated a station at the Grants-Milan Airport.

Beacon Field Airport Virutal Museum has photos of the origial beacon: History of Beacon Field Airport.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: The Early Years of Air Transportation 1914-1927.

U.S. Lighthouse Society's The Keeper's Log: Aids to Navigation Provided by the Lighthouse Bureau Part 1

U.S. Lighthouse Society's The Keeper's Log: Aids to Navigation Provided by the Lighthouse Bureau Part 2.

Federal Aviation Administration:  Photo Album-The Foundation


Flying the Airmail-Video

How Planes Navigated Decades Ago (1:08)

Fred Wiseman's first airmail flight (2:04) narrative

First U.S. Airmail Flight 1918 commemorative (1:12)

F-0154 Flight of the Swallow CAM 5 (50 year re-enactment) (8:43) narrative

Airmail: The Quest for Speed (4:56) narrative SmithsonianNPM

1920's Aviation - Stock footage (4:28) music

Stinson Airplanes Take off with Airmail  Cam 9 (1:12) silent

An unusual feature length film from the 1920s about the Air Mail Service which, essentially, began civil commercial aviation in the U.S. (41:22) silent

Transcontinental Air Mail Re-enactment Flight The 2008 transcontinental air mail re-enactment flight consisted of 3 historical aircraft: a 1928 Boeing 40C flown by Addison Pemberton, a 1927 Stearman C3B flown by Larry Tobin, and a 1930 Stearman 4E flown by Ben Scott. This epic flight commemorated the 90th year of air mail service in the U.S. and honored the pioneers of commercial aviation in the U.S. The flight was authorized to carry official U.S. mail for the post office making a total of 15 stops from New York to San Francisco (36.55)

"Flights of Courage" chronicles the exploits of America's mail pilots, the "cream of the crop" who risked their lives to unite a nation by air.(52:29)
Dir: Elizabeth Dobson/Greg Barker. Prod. co: Phoenix TV. CH. 4 1997; Drama doc. 1918 - Pioneer fliers cross a continent against all odds to give birth to the U.S. Airmail.

Pony Express Rider Meets 1st Airmail Delivery to Mather Field

In 1925 stunt rider on horseback, dressed as a Pony Express rider, watches the first mail plane taxis down the grass runway at Mather Field Sacramento CA.
View Photo


Arrows Across America

Historic Airway Beacons

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