Notes from the Past

Notes on the Vin Fiz Flyer
Part IV
The Rest of the Story -- Part II
What Happened to Earle L. Ovington?

Our previous installments in the Vin Fiz Flyer story accounted for all of the contestants but Earle L. Ovington.  His story is worthy of a note all its own.

Earle L. Ovington learned to fly at Bleriot's Aviation School in Pau, France.  He had been an engineering assistant to Thomas A. Edison.  Ovington did get started on the Hearst cross-country jaunt; however, he had to abandon the attempt due to engine trouble.  He is, however, noted as the First Airmail Pilot.  In an international aviation meet at Garden City Estates on Long Island on September 23, 1911, he was the pilot who flew the daily mail.

U.S. Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock, a proponent of aeoplanes for transporting mail,  convinced organizers of the Garden City meet to include an experimental airmail trial.  Twenty collection boxes were situated near the grandstand and there was a large white tent with U.S. Mail/Aeroplane Station No. 1 in large letters on its top.  Ovington was duly sworn in as the first U.S. airmail pilot, then handed a load of 640 letters and 1,280 postcards in a mail bag.  Ovington put the bag between his legs and at 5:26 p.m. took off. After six minutes, he arrived over Mineola -- five and one-half miles away.  He circled a mark at 500 feet, tossed the bag over the side and hit the mark, but the sack burst and scattered the letters and postcards.  After rapid retrieval, the mail was sent on its way by regular post.  Except for weather problems, Ovington flew at least one mail flight each day throughout the meet.

Ovington is supposedly the first licensed pilot in the United States.  He was a noted pioneer aviator and was involved in many first flights.  He often signed covers for stamp collectors.

-Excerpted from
AIR MAIL an illustrated history 1793 - 1981
Donald B. Holmes; edited and designed by Ladislav Svatos
Published 1981

Posted February 7, 2000

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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