Air Mail Days Quick Links
AAA Members Flew Air Mail At The 2008 Fly-In!
The theme of the 2008 AAA-APM Fly-In commemorated the 90th anniversary of air mail service in the United States. The 2008 Fly-In theme was Air Mail Days, honoring the pilots and airplanes of the early air mail service. The event dates were August 27 to September 1, 2008, at Antique Airfield near Blakesburg, Iowa.
At the end of World War I, the U.S. government found itself with a surplus of airplanes and pilots leftover from the war. It was decided to put some of them to use by flying mail by air on a regularly scheduled basis. Air mail flying experiments with aircraft had been tried as early as 1911 - even earlier than that by balloon. But those were special events, often held at one-time air meets, carnivals, and fairs. With the war ended, the post office was determined to make air mail a permanent part of its everyday postal service. The inaugural flight took off on May 15, 1918 ... almost 90 years ago!
To make the 2008 AAA-APM Air Mail Days really come to life, we sent out special invitations to all AAA members who own and fly airplanes that actually carried the air mail during their working years. The list of air mail airplanes in the membership include some really rare aircraft ... like the world's only flying DH-4, Boeing 40 and Ryan M-1 ... plus a Curtiss Jenny, numerous Travel Air and WACO biplanes, Laird biplanes, Pitcairn Mailwings, multiple square-tail Stearman 4Ds and C3Bs, Ford Trimotor, Stinson A Trimotor, Stinson SM6000 Trimotor, Stinson Jr., and Stinson SM-8. Most of these airplanes carry authentic air mail colors and markings.
These historic air mail aircraft actually "flew the mail" once again. Special souvenir air mail covers were printed up and then flown from Antique Airfield to the nearby Ottumwa airport, and then on to Iowa City Airport, by the air mail airplanes in attendance. The Iowa City airport was one of the historic stops on the original transcontinental airmail route.
In an effort to be historically accurate with all aspects of "Air Mail Days", our commemorative postal covers mimiced those originally carried by the early air mail airplanes (see sample picture below). The envelopes were custom printed to replicate the size 6 envelopes that were commonly used for airmail letters during the 20's & 30's. In cooperation with the U.S. Post Office, the outgoing cancellation stamp was an accurate replica of ones typically used on the original CAM routes. These cancellation stamps were hand stamped, as was the practice back then, right at Antique Airfield. The "cachet" (see lower left corner of the envelope) also reflected the style of those that were used on many original airmail inaugural flight covers. We have a different airplane featured in the cachet for each of the four days of airmail flights during the fly-in (Wed Aug 27th through Sat Aug 30th). So in total there will be four different covers, one for each day, with a different airplane cachet and a different date in the cancellation stamp on each day.
The postage stamp itself was a custom printed, updated replica of the original 1918 Scott C3 airmail "Jenny" stamp - the first airmail stamp ever issued in the United States (we decided against doing the famous "inverted Jenny" version because they were never actually used on any envelopes, they went to collectors). By the way, note the 11:30 A.M. time of the cancellation stamp. This was our scheduled airmail takeoff time each day of the fly-in ... and guess what ... it is historically accurate also ... the first U.S. airmail airplane took off at 11:30 A.M. on May 15, 1918!
The limited edition flown covers are available for purchase in the APM Museum gift shop - only 500 of each of the four different covers were printed.
What a great historical event this was. It was a rare privilege to once again see these beautiful antique airplanes carry the United States mail.
These airmail airplanes attended the 2008 event:
Never been to Blakesburg before? Read the First Timer's Guide to attending the fly-in.