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CAM's - Contract Air Mails

Contract Air Mail Route No. 5

Inaugural Service — Elko, Nevada - Pasco, Washington
Inaugural Carrier — Walter T. Varney
April 6, 1926

Walter T. Varney, a flight school and air taxi operator, realized the submitted the only bid for Contract Air Mail Route 5 linking Pasco, Washington, (a station on the Northern Pacific Railroad system) through Boise, Idaho to Elko, Nevada (a stop on the Government’s Transcontinental air mail route) – the first contract air mail service in the Northwest. Varney purchased six Swallow biplanes that could carry a pilot and 600 pounds of mail.

On the first westbound flight out of Elko to Boise, Pilot Franklin Rose met with severe storms and made a forced landing in Jordan Valley, about sixty miles off his course. His landing was made without damage to the plane or himself, and borrowing a horse at a farm about ten miles away, he took the mail and rode to the nearest phone, thirty miles away. This delayed the mail and it did not reach Boise until April 8 and Pasco until April 9. Failure of the plane to arrive at Boise caused the mail to be held over until April 7, when Arthur Walters flew the mail into Pasco.

Upon request by the airline, the operations on this 435-mile long route were immediately suspended in order to upgrade their equipment.


CAM-5W1f – Elko, Nevada Airport Mail Facility dispatch

Flown by pilot Franklin Rose out of Elko on April 6, 1926 until his airplane made a forced landing. Then flown by Captain Arthur Walters from Boise to Pasco, where it arrived on April 9, 1926.


June 1, 1926 — Resumption of Service

During the period when Contract Air Mail Route 5 service was suspended, Varney replaced the 150 horsepower Curtiss K6 engines in the Swallow biplane with more powerful Wright J-4 engines, facilitating the service resumption.

June 1, 1926 – Service Resumption

Flown on the Walter T. Varney service resumption from Pasco, Washington to Boise, Idaho


October 1-2, 1926 — Salt Lake City, Utah Added

In order to establish a safer route for the winter months, Salt Lake City replaced Elko as the eastern route terminal. The change was found so satisfactory that it was maintained. There was very little publicity and no official cachets were furnished. The plane out of Boise into Salt Lake City made a forced landing at Lucin, Utah, and the mail was trained into Salt Lake City arriving on October 2.

5W4f – Elko, Nevada Airport Mail Facility dispatch

Autographed and flown by Leon Cuddeback, the Chief Pilot of Varney Airlines, on the inaugural flight from Salt Lake City, Utah to Pasco, Washington.


CAM-5E5 – Boise, Idaho dispatch

The plane out of Boise into Salt Lake City made a forced landing at Lucin, Utah,
and the mail was trained into Salt Lake City arriving on October 2.


March 1, 1930 — Air Express Service

Air Express was an adjunct to the carriage of mail and provided airlines extra revenue from business customers who regularly shipped large parcels of heavy or time-sensitive goods.

On March 1, 1930, the Railway express Agency established its air express service over Varney’s route system, which in early 1930 had been extended to Portland, Oregon and several cities in Washington: Spokane, Tacoma, and Seattle.

Air Express – 19n

Inaugural Air Express dispatch from Portland, Oregon to Pasco, Washington.


June 16, 1930 — Pasco, Air Mail Field

Unofficial information reports that the Pasco, Washington Air Mail Field Post Office was established on December 15, 1929 – and that office received its first postmark on June 16, 1930.

Air Mail Field Cancellation – PSC 1

Flown by Varney Airlines from Pasco, Washington to Salt Lake City, Utah.


Airline Merger and Route Consolidation

United Aircraft and Transport Corporation acquired Varney Air Lines during June 1930.

On July 7, 1930, Contract Air Mail Route 32 between Pasco and Seattle, Washington was consolidated with this route and the combined routes thereafter were known as Contract Air Mail Route 5.

On July 1, 1931, Boeing formally consolidated its own system with Varney Air Lines, Stout, Pacific Air Transport, and National Air Transport to create United Air Lines.

On December 17, 1933 Contract Air Mail Route 5 service was discontinued at Tacoma and Seattle, making Portland, Oregon the route terminus.


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Updated 22 February 2015
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