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Vintage Postal Biplanes Make Landing in Medford

Credit: Jim Dunn

A flight this week marks the 100th anniversary of a historic airmail route between San Diego and Seattle—with a pit stop at Rogue Valley International Airport.

Posted: May 16, 2018 3:05 PM
Updated: May 16, 2018 5:55 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Just over 100 years ago, on May 15 of 1918, the U.S. government of President Woodrow Wilson christened a brand new system of speedy airmail flights to criss-cross the country via biplane. One of those routes, the Contract Air Mail 8 (CAM 8) ran from San Diego to Seattle.

On Wednesday, May 16, Medford will see the return of the CAM 8, flown by some original Stearman Speedmail biplanes used for airmail routes in the early 1930s.

“The establishment of air mail service marks the first steps towards the founding of commercial aviation and airline service in America,” said Addison Pemberton of Spokane, one of the pilots who will be making the trip.

The flight includes 12 stops along a 1200 mile route—beginning at Gillespie Field in San Diego, and including touchdowns in Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Francisco, Redding, Medford, Eugene, Vancouver, Olympia, and ending in Everett (just north of Seattle). It should take six days and 12 flying hours in all.

The flight is supported by the non-profit Western Antique Airplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM) of Hood River Oregon and endorsed by the U.S. Postal Service.

Pemberton and fellow pilots Jeff Hamilton and Ben Scott will be '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, en-route. The pilots will also carry official mail in the form of special envelopes which will be postmarked at each stop.

There will be an opportunity for members of the public to view the aircraft and special displays by the U.S. Postal Service tomorrow morning from 9 - 11:30 a.m. Visitors will need to enter through the main gate next to theDove Media Center at 2070 Milligan Way. Airport personnel will be escorting groups to visit the biplane.

By 11:45 a.m., the biplane will be taking off for the next stop in Eugene.

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