I’ve posted before the long photo version of Leon Cuddleback’s memories of making the first flight from Pasco to Elko via Seattle, but this site has put together the story along with a lot of newspaper clippings and additional information. Click on the clippings and photos to see a larger version. It’s an excellent reminder of why it’s so important to remember our heritage and preserve it for the future.
We are now officially recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization and eligible to receive tax deductible funds, including bequests, devises, transfers, or gifts. Please support us in our efforts to preserve aviation heritage in Idaho and the West and spread the word to anyone who might help!
We currently have active projects in Montana, Idaho, and Utah and are organizing events to commemorate key dates in commercial aviation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the form pictured or with questions or donate directly via Paypal using the address email@example.com.
There are many artifacts from the original air mail routes remaining in Wyoming. Watch Main Street Wyoming’s Cowboys of the Sky, produced in 2013.
It covers the brave aviation pioneers who connected the coasts by flying U.S. Airmail across the country. Pilots like Slim Lewis, James Murray, Hal Colleson, and Jack Knight were among the most notable, braving the rugged skies in Wyoming and across the Rocky Mountain Region.
It is a beautiful map of airports, including the Contract Air Mail Routes, in 1934. You can use it to see where the beacons used to be and you will find that some of them are still in place (and a few moved to new locations). You will also find some arrows remaining. We are working hard to restore this aviation heritage and teach people about the importance of Idaho in the history of commercial aviation.
The Experimental Aircraft Association’s 1927 Swallow open-cockpit biplane is believed to be the oldest aircraft still available to the public for passenger rides. It is among the most advanced of the Swallow series of aircraft that led aviation’s golden age. Swallows had bold design improvements over existing World War I aircraft and fostered a new market for post-war aviation.
Walter Varney bought six Swallows for the route from Elko to Pasco via Burley and Boise and quickly discovered that more powerful engines were needed to cross the rugged terrain. Forced landings and crashes were common.
A Swallow aircraft restored to look like the one that made the first airmail flight through Idaho in 1926.In 1925, the Post Office began to make contracts with private operators to carry air mail. One route, from Pasco, Washington, to Elko, Nevada, called CAM 5 (Contract Air Mail route number 5), was awarded to Walter T. Varney. Varney acquired six new Swallows for the dangerous route over the mountains and desert. On April 6, 1926, 2,500 residents of Pasco came to see pilot Leon Cuddeback and the first mail-laden Swallow take off for Elko via Boise, Idaho. This plane was restored to look like the Swallow aircraft that made that flight. It is at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Don’t miss the Idaho Experience episode Pioneers of the Air: Idaho and the Birth of Commercial Aviation, which debuts on December 2 at 8:30 pm on your local Idaho Public Television station. Idaho Aviation Heritage gets some airtime!