In March 1919, Boeing delivered the first international airmail in North America.

All photos and video courtesy of Boeing Archives

March 14, 2023 in Our Commitment

C-700 afloat with Eddie Hubbard (center) and Bill Boeing (right).

The Model C two-place training seaplane was the first "all Boeing" design and the company's first financial success. Following its first flight on Nov. 15, 1916, the U.S. Navy bought 51 of the trainers, and the U.S. Army bought two landplane versions with side-by-side seating, designated the EA.

The final Model C, outfitted as a mail plane, was built for William Boeing and called the C-700 (the last Navy plane had been Navy serial number 699). The company was facing difficulties due to the cancellation of military contracts after World War I. The airmail market was developing and a delivery contract with the government would provide a good stream of income for the company.

On March 3, 1919, Boeing and lead test pilot Eddie Hubbard flew the C-700 from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia. On the return flight they carried a bag of 60 letters to Seattle, recording North America’s first international airmail flight.

Here is Boeing’s recollection of that flight:

That successful effort did eventually lead to an airmail contract for the Boeing test pilot. The B-1 Model 6 was designed by Boeing engineer Claire Egtvedt shortly after World War I. The B-1 designation indicated the first commercial design for Boeing.

The B-1 Model 6 was a "pusher-style" flying boat, with its 100-horsepower Hall-Scott A-7A engine at the rear. It could carry a pilot and two passengers, as well as mail or cargo. The hull was laminated wood veneer and the wing frames were spruce and plywood.

Although a good airplane, the B-1 did not sell well because the market was overwhelmed with cheap war-surplus aircraft. The only B-1 built was sold to Eddie Hubbard, who was awarded one of the first airmail contracts.

The lone B-1 Model 6 outlasted six engines in eight years of international airmail runs between Seattle and Victoria, B.C. Flown by the now post office employee Eddie Hubbard, the B-1 covered 350,000 miles (560,000 kilometers), remarkable for the time.

(Note this video has no sound.)

B-1 Model 6 air mail service scenes.

By Kevin Kelly