Vintage Boeing 40C Airplane in Spokane Restored and Ready to Fly

Earlier this month, my dad toured the Pacific Northwest on his motorcycle. Low points of the trip included a June snow storm in the Rockies, and a South Dakota pheasant that flew straight into the side of my dad’s head. At the time, dad was traveling down I-90 at about 80 miles an hour. I have no idea how fast the pheasant was going.Motorcycle Night Light

The result of the accident? Dad kept on truckin’ and the bird paid the ultimate price. My dad said he was awfully glad he had more than a bandana on his head. Now every helmet out there with a DOT sticker on it can boast that it is “Pheasant safe at 80”. Truth be told, dad wasn’t completely unscathed. Later in the day, he did experience a little stiffness in his neck, but that’s all. Tough old bird.

Fortunately not every aviator my dad encountered on his trip was as reckless and unfriendly as the pheasant. While dad was in Spokane, dad was able to check out the Boeing 40C Airplane that has been restored by Pemberton and Sons Aviation at Felts Field.Mountain Wilderness Theme Night Light

The story behind this plane is incredible. The 40 series was Boeing’s first airliner, transporting mail and passengers on a regular basis. This particular plane was flying a mail route with a single passenger in 1928 when it crashed in the Oregon wilderness, near Canyonville. The pilot survived, theWhiskey Flask with Diamond Design passenger did not. As it happens, the passenger was a jeweler, transporting diamonds in a satchel. Over the next decade or so, treasure hunters would scour the site for the treasure. Reportedly, some but not all of the diamonds were found. There are anecdotes of women all over Oregon who swear that the diamond on their finger was taken from the wreck site. Over the years, the location of the site became a bit of a mystery.

Fast forward to 1993. The wreck is found, and in 1996 extracted by a group of aviation enthusiasts, who each store pieces of the wreck in their barns and sheds.

Biplane Design on Business Card CaseFinally, Addison Pemberton comes into the story. He buys the wreck, and begins the 8 year process of painstakingly reconstructing the plane. Along the way, Pemberton had a little help. Boeing supplied Pemberton with the 40C’s original blueprints, which included nearly 900 drawings. InWorld Design Money Clip addition, a core team of 9 other people worked on the plane, including his two sons. Because of the condition of the wreck, there were only about 50 pieces from the original that were used in the reconstruction.

The result of the team’s efforts is the world’s only airworthy Boeing 40C. Pemberton took it on it’s first flight in February of 2008, and described the stability of the plane as “like a rock”.

Later this year, Pemberton plans to fly the 40C 1,400 miles to the 2008 AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, July 28th through August 3rd. After that, he plans to go to the Antique Airplane Association
in Blakesburg, Iowa and then to Brodhead, Wisconsin. Then it is on to New York, the starting point for his plans to retrace the Pacific Air MailOriginal 40C Mail Route Route all the way back to San Francisco. The itinerary for this is not yet public, but historically, stops may include New Brunswick, Cleveland, Chicago, Moline, Des Moines, Omaha, Cheyenne, Rock Springs, Salt Lake City, Elko, Reno, Sacramento, Concord, and San Francisco. If Mr. Pemberton stays true to the Route, the plane enthusiasts from the Livermore Airport will have to drive (or fly) the short hop to Concord or San Francisco.

UPDATE:  As of Sept 10, 2008 the itinerary is:
— Wed., Sept. 10 — Depart New York Republic Field 9:30 a.m. Arrive Bellefonte, PA late morning. Depart and arrive Cleveland, OH Burke Lakefront Airport (BKL) late afternoon/early evening. Overnight stop.

— Thurs., Sept. 11 — Depart Cleveland (BKL) 9:30 a.m. Arrive Bryan, OH (OG6) late morning. Depart and arrive Chicago, IL Lansing Airport (IGQ) late afternoon. Arrive Iowa City, IA (IOW) early evening. Overnight stop.

— Fri., Sept. 12 — Depart Iowa City 9:30 a.m. Arrive Omaha, NE (OMA) late morning. Depart and arrive North Platte, NE, (LBF) late afternoon. Overnight stop.

— Sat., Sept. 13 — Depart North Platte 9:30 a.m. Arrive Cheyenne, WY (CYS), late morning. Depart and arrive mid-afternoon Rawlins, WY (RWL). Depart and arrive Rock Springs, WY (RKS) early evening. Overnight stop.

— Sun., Sept. 14 — Depart Rock Springs 9:30 a.m. Arrive Salt Lake City, UT (U42) late morning. Depart and arrive Elko, NV (EKO) late afternoon. Depart and arrive Reno, NV (RNO) early evening. Overnight stop.

— Mon., Sept. 15 — Depart Reno 9:30 a.m. Arrive Hayward, CA (HWD) late morning. Depart Hayward mid-day for San Francisco (SFO or Chrissy Field). Return to Hayward. Overnight stop.

Due to possible weather-related or other delays, Itinerary may change.

Be sure to check local airports for details on public views and access.  Also, you can follow the flight on a daily basis via the following link:  Smithsonian Airmail Odyssey.

End of update

There are several detailed accounts of this story. For more information on Pemberton and the 40C, check these links to the Air And Space Magazine, the Southern Aviator, the Spokane Journal of Business, the Spokesman Review, and the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission.

If you are looking for gift ideas for a pilot, aviator, airplane lover, jet lover, or vintage plane and biplane enthusiast, be sure to check out the selection at Kyle Design. Any of the items you see pictured here, including money clips, business card cases, night lights, christmas ornaments, hip flasks, and pill boxes, can be purchased online.

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