EAA Bleriot Gets Paint, Will Fly Soon
EAA’s completed Bleriot XI project at the Kermit Weeks hangar. Photo by Steve Cukierski
Post Master General Frank Hitchcock hands Earle Ovington the first bag of mail to be transported by air. Courtesy: Wikipedia.org
Earle Ovington flies over the Post Office tent in his Dragonfly, September 23, 1911 Courtesy: Jesse Davidson Aviation Archives
View the EAA Bleriot XI photo gallery
September 23, 2010 — Today marks the exact 99th anniversary of the first official airmail flight in the USA, and in preparation for the 100th anniversary celebrations next year, the 1911 paint scheme used by Earle L. Ovington has recently been added to EAA’s Type XI Bleriot reproduction. EAA’s chief mechanic John Hopkins reports that the aircraft should fly within the next month.
The EAA Bleriot project has been underway for the past four years, and includes an original 3-cylinder Anzani engine acquired from a French museum, dated to 1910. Volunteers are making final mechanical and paperwork preparations for the first flight.
This included the recent application of a paint scheme derived from Earle Ovington’s famous Queen’s Bleriot of 1911. Ovington was sworn in as a postal carrier by the postmaster general just before he departed from Grand Estates, New York on September 23, 1911 with a mail bag containing 650 letters and 1280 postcards. He then flew the five mile route to Mineola, New York where made a perfect drop on a predetermined spot outside the post office. However the 500 foot drop spilt the bag scattering mail everywhere. Ground handlers were able to gather the letters and each piece of mail was sent on its way with the “Aeroplane Station No.1 - Garden City Estates, N.Y.” postmark. The mail route was temporary, part of an air show going on in Garden City Estates. Ovington spent the rest of the week delivering at total 37,470 pieces of mail from the show to post office in Mineola.
Hopkins says the conditions have to be perfect for the first flight, “We’ll wait for a really, really, really nice day to fly it. Probably from Pioneer Airport.” Hopkins said. “In the meantime we hope to have it on display in the Airventure Museum while we complete the required FAA inspections.”
EAA’s Bleriot will help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first airmail flight during AirVenture 2011, which is planned to include a major gathering of historic airmail aircraft.