Post Office Airmail Flight
90th Anniversary

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The following article is a compilation of emails and photos from the pilots celebrating the 90th anniversary of Airmail flights by the US Postal service. Many thanks to The contributors for the great photography and stories; and to Ed Phillips for putting this together for all of us to enjoy.

P.S. there is a fun movie out called the "Aviator" staring Christopher Reeve, depicting what it may have been like during the early days of this service.

Sent: Wed, 10 Sept 2008 9:37:24 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Subject: 90th anniversary Post Office airmail flight leaves New York

What an awesome day. Down Jones Beach at 400 ft, up to 700 ft for a tour down 31 Left at JFK. Then back to the beach for a tour by Coney Island, over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and around Our Lady of Liberty. Then over Newark at 1000 ft, with a police chopper taking photos as we go. Can't wait for those pictures.

At Belefonte, PA a large , enthusiastic crowd greeted us. The trip over the Alleghenies was impressive.
Glad we had good weather over those rugged, tree covered ridges. Then on to Cleveland Lakefront, between downtown Cleveland and the lake. A rival to Chicago's Miegs Field before Mayor Dailey stole it. A bit cross windy, but fun. Another big reception.

Big day tomorrow. On to Bryant, OH, Lansing, IL and Iowa City, weather permitting.

Sent: 9/10/2008 6:19:41 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Subject: FW: 90th anniversary Post Office airmail flight leaves New York

The three mail planes left New York this morning with a great send off from Republic field, on hand were all media reporters and dignitaries from the Post Office and the Air Power Museum.

Addison Pemberton being interviewed regarding the re-enactment flight.

The Post Office processed the mail that we are carrying and it was loaded into the Mail planes.
Here Mary Weber of the US Post Office in full era costume personally cancels the postage on many of the letters.

Our departure included a low pass over JFK airport at the request of ATC so they could see the very rare old aircraft in our flight.

Next the three aircraft passed over the Statue Of Liberty as we started our first day of the trip West.

Our first stop was at Bellefonte PA where the folks provided a terrific reception with media, and over 200 residents came out to see the planes, this was one of the stops on the original flight 90 years ago.

Our last stop of the day was at Cleveland Ohio where again there was a great reception with the Post Office on hand, local residents and many others. We will overnight here and be off early in the morning to continue the trip West to San Francisco.

Subject: Sunday update 8/14/08
Date: Sun, 14 Sept 2008 23:16:21 +0000

Well, we are still here in beautiful Rochelle Ill. now going into 5 days since we were unable to launch today, we had a break in the weather, packed the planes, pulled them through and then another storm started dumping on us. We have hope that if there isn't fog in the morning that we will be able to make it to Iowa City.

In the meantime we continue to give tours to folks visiting the hangers to see the airplanes.

Last night we toured a local private museum featuring WW2 armory items, a quite extensive collection.

Addison discovered that human comfort was not considered when the designers went to work on this equipment.

The airport staff provided an excellent lunch yesterday for us including fresh sweet corn on the cob, the first we have had on this entire trip.

Here is another shot taken on the way into New York.

One more shot of the Boeing 40C just in case you are not tired of seeing them.

Our goal is to make North Platte, Nebraska tomorrow night if the weather gives us a break.

Subject: (no subject)
Date: Sun, 14 Sept 2008 21:03:49 EDT

I just had to share this quote from the Renee Brown, Postmaster of Reno with regard to the flight delays.  'Life is not about waiting for the Storm to pass - it is about learning to Dance in the Rain.'

Westward Ho at last.

Sent: 9/15/2008 9:48:59 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Subject: Transcon airmail flight

Today the ceilings lifted barely enough for us to safely depart Rochelle after spending 4 nights there waiting for a break in the weather. We headed West towards our first stop at Iowa City.

One danger that we faced while traveling with low ceilings that the original pilots did not was the ever present radio towers disappearing into the cloud deck above.

One of the more striking things is as you are flying along are the large windmill electric generators,  I was thinking about the contrast in technology when flying in a 1928 airplane flying over this very modern equipment.

Once we got about 100 miles West, the skies cleared and we were on our way again.

Our spirits were high once again as you can tell as Larry Tobin maneuvers his C3B in close and gives us a wave!!!

We traveled low to the ground over the farmlands due to higher headwinds at the upper elevations.

Ben Scott brought his 4E Stearman Speedmail in for a photo while over the vast farmlands of Iowa. Al Holloway in the front cockpit looks us over as they fly by.

As we left the airport tonight in Grand Island Nebraska, we looked over our shoulder to the East and saw this magnificent full moon appearing on the horizon.

Tomorrow we will rise early and push on to North Platte NB, then on to Cheyenne WY, than to Rawlins WY and lastly to a overnight stay in Rock Springs WY. At Rock Springs we will be joined by Mary Weber of the USPS who will be traveling with to San Francisco. Wyoming was the only state that had three mail stops.

Sent: 9/16/2008 9:44:15 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Subject: September 16 Airmail Flight

Today was the most spectacular day we have had regarding weather! We started out this morning from Grand Island NB.

It was just beginning to become daylight as we pulled the planes from the hanger, the air was dead calm and not a cloud in the sky, Everyone was excited about flying the mail today!!!

Addison waves goodbye to Grand Island just as the sun comes over the horizon behind us as we once again head West.

Our first stop this morning was at North Platte NB, where the Post Office was on hand to process the mail which was done efficiently as we had four legs to fly today.  Again as at other stops, a very interested group of folks from North Platte came out to welcome us and take a first hand look at the antique airplanes that were flying coast to coast.

Cheyenne was our next stop where we were greeted by a very large group of townspeople, the Post Office handled the mail while we visited with and enjoyed the crowd. It was difficult to leave as there were so many questions from both young and old, as well as many stories from people who had knowledge of the airmail planes stopping here many years ago.

The Boeing 40c casts an interesting shadow just seconds before touching down on the runway.

Our third mail stop today was at Rawlins WY, the altitude of this airport is nearly 7000 feet high and really reduced the performance of these vintage aircraft. Very friendly residents came out to meet the pilots and see the aircraft.

We could tell that we were not over Iowa anymore, where once there were miles of fertile farmland below us, now our vintage aircraft passed over harsh mountains and sagebrush.
We began the day cruising at altitudes below 2500 feet above sea level, we finished the day flying at 10,000 feet to safely clear the peaks.

Our final stop of the day was in Rock Springs WY.

The five of us were pretty tired as we pushed the planes into a hanger for the night.  Today was probably the best traveling day we have had but it also included the most stops in one day on the trip.  After the mail was processed we headed for the motel and for the first meal of the day!!
Tomorrow we will load up and head for Salt Lake and then to Elko and finally to Reno.

Subject: Trans con mail flight second to last day
Date: Thurs, 18 Sept 2008 13:20:34 +0000

Only one more day and the adventure will be drawing to a close! Yesterday we got an early start from Rock Springs WY.

When we departed Rock Springs, the Jr High school had all the student out in the yard to see us depart.

Dropping down from high altitude over the rugged Utah mounts, down into Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake tower asks for a low pass over international as we head for Salt Lake Number 2 airport for the first stop of the day.

The mail was quickly canceled and the planes refueled, there was a nice lunch for us and a great reception.

The Boeing 40C flying over the Salt Flats on our way to the next stop, Elko NV.
We had great weather for this flight.

Larry Tobin makes a right break over the desert, the little C3B has to really pedal hard to keep up with the larger and more powerful Boeing and Speedmail.

The folks at Elks were very interested in the aircraft and we a great time visiting about the trip across the US from New York.  The Post Office processed the mail and we fueled the planes and were off for Reno.

At Rock Springs we picked up a passenger, Mary Weber of the US Post Office.
Mary will be traveling with us to San Francisco.

Our next leg is our last, we will make the hop over the hills to San Francisco where there are programs and receptions to celebrate the completion of the adventure.

Sent: 9/18/2008 10:48:24 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Subject: Mail flight final edition

The mail has been delivered!!!!! We arrived at Hayward airport today and delivered the mailbag to the Post Master for delivery. All of you that have sent mail via the trans con flight will be getting your mail soon. Each letter was stamped at every stop across the nation.

The flight from Reno today was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky as we traveled West to our first stop at Salt Lake City. A good turn out at Salt Lake, here the Post Office cancels the mail. From Salt Lake we headed over Donner Pass and then dropped down into the Sacramento Valley.

A mix of old and new air traffic with Ben's Stearman and jet traffic out of SLC

We stopped in at the Museum at SFO, here is a shot from the C3B over the airport.

We did a harbor tour by air, here the 40c flies by the Bay Bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge below the Boeing 40c, probably this scene was repeated many times 80 years ago.

Larry Tobin with SFO behind.

An interesting story regarding Larry is that on his last trip as a 767 captain for TWA just prior to his retirement was a flight from New York to San Francisco.  On this trip he flew his Stearman on a flight from New York to San Francisco.

So with Ben and Addison passing by the Golden Gate, we completed the adventure of a lifetime flying 3 old bi-planes from New York to San Francisco. The trip took over 28 hours of flying time and 8 days, with the loss of 4 days in Rochelle Ill.

Tonight, Bud Field hosted us and invited nearly 100 guests to a dinner and a program to celebrate completion of the New York to San Francisco AirMail re-enactment.

Subject: Tobin C3B
Date: Sat, 20 Sept 2008 14:41:30 EDT
From: Ben Scott


I just heard from Addison at Hood River, OR. Larry's C3B Stearman was destroyed in a crash landing but Larry is unhurt.

They were on their way home up the Columbia River Gorge, between Cascade Locks and Hood River, 1500 feet under a 2500 foot ceiling. The engine quit, Larry put it in a field and hit trees.
The left wings were torn off, absorbing energy. The airplane is destroyed, but Larry is unhurt.
The airplane is insured, but so sad to loose the oldest Stearman.

Addison's theory is carb ice.  He said he was running full heat and it was a textbook carburetor ice day. He felt that Larry's heat muff just didn't have the capacity to cope.

It could have happened in a lot worse places on the trip.


Subject: Fwd: : plane crash
Date: Sun, 21 Sept 2008 12:11:57 EDT

So glad good people were there to take care of Larry when he dropped in.

Subject: plane crash
Date: Sat, 20 Sept 2008 20:10:18 +0000

Larry and his family

First I would like to say I am so grateful that Larry is alive to tell his story and am blessed by meeting him. It was our pleasure to assist Larry with anything he needed during this ordeal, you are welcome at our home any time.  Craig and I will watch over the plane until the insurance company and FAA have come to remove the plane.

Attached are a few photos of the crash. I will burn all the photos to a disc and mail them to you.


Subject: 1928 Boeing 40 Air Mail
Date: Sun, 21 Sep 2008 22:12:15 -0700
From: "Jerry Turner" <>

Click on the link to see the collector items made to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of Boeing 40 carrying the mail and the 90th Anniversary of Air Mail service.

Nostalgic Reflections
P.O. Box 350
Veradale, Washington 99037
509-226-3522 shop/museum
Jerry Turner

Society of Airway Pioneers
James Holtsclaw, Executive Director
Ron Cowles, Webmaster