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Celebrating 100 years of mail by air

By Carter Eckl ceckl@nevadaappeal.com

One hundred years ago, the Transcontinental Air Mail Service began in the United States.

The first pilots didn’t have gauges for altitude or radar for navigation, but instead relied on following train tracks across the country – simply to deliver mail.

Thursday, the Centennial anniversary of the Air Mail Service made its 13th of 15 stops across the country in Carson City.

The ceremonial flights began in Farmingdale, New York and made stops in numerous states across the country before touching down twice in the Silver State.

Mike Costner, an Ely resident, picked up the ceremonial bag of postcards in Elko and was the pilot in charge as the commemorative trek stopped in Carson Thursday afternoon.

The ceremonial flights were designed to follow the originally route as close as possible to the first Transcontinental Air Mail Service in 1920.

“(Bill Moore) did it all by Internet. It was pretty impressive. All these pilots have never met each other,” said Coster. “It was a group of volunteers wanting to reenact something with historic interests and I thought that would be a good opportunity.”

Being a part of history

Any excuse to get up in the air for the three pilots that were a part of the stop in Carson, was good enough for them.

John Sawatzky and Stephen Tucker took off Friday morning from Carson to just outside of Sacramento in the 14th leg of the honorary flight.

“I have a passion for aviation and anything flying is good for me,” said Sawatzky. “The chance to be part of history on something that comes around every 100 years I guess.”

Tucker echoed Sawatzky’s sentiment as both volunteer through multiple organizations designed to grow interest in aviation, especially amongst youth.

A Bay Area resident, Tucker has a deep fascination with historical aviation.

“To be able to recognize the US Postal Service,” said Tucker, “imagine 100 years ago it was like going to the moon. They couldn’t see the ground. They were having to follow train tracks. They were willing to do that to deliver somebodies mail.”

The historical explorations don’t stop there, as Tucker is also heavily involved with restoring arguably the most famous plane in Peru.

“I am looking for pilots or folks that could help financially or be part of the project in restoring this aircraft. There is only one of them in the world,” Tucker said.

The penultimate stop outside of Sacramento will then see the 100-year ceremony make its final flight into Concord, California where there will be one final ceremony.

Wildfire smoke made travel into Carson a tad difficult Thursday, but nobody involved let it dampen the significance of the event they were a part of.