Medford Airport Notes
LANDING SITES SELECTEDEUGENE, Or., May 28.--Having selected landing sites in a number of cities in Southern Oregon for the squadron of aeroplanes that will make the flight from Mather Field, Sacramento, to Portland during the Rose Festival. Lieutenant Colonel Lewis P. Campbell, John F. Risley and Lieutenants Seth T. French and L. R. Mullineaux, sent out by the Rose Festival management, arrived in Eugene this afternoon on their way back to Portland.
Resting Fields for Rose Festival Airmen Secured in South.
They selected a site at Roseburg, which is already used by the government as a rifle range, and found suitable sites at Glendale, Grants Pass, Ashland and Medford. At Medford a field of alfalfa was chosen, and the business men there promised to buy the crop if it is necessary.
Morning Oregonian, Portland, May 29, 1919, page 6
MEDFORD WILL BE AEROPLANE BASE, FORMULATE PLANSMedford Mail Tribune, June 22, 1920, page 6
While Hugh B. Rankin, supervisor of the Crater National Forest, is ignorant of the details as yet, it is known that Medford will be placed on a par with Eugene as a base for the forestry airplane fire patrol services which begins June 25th, and that a crew of about 18 men will be stationed in Medford. A government airplane officer is expected here this week to complete the local plans.
Two aerial forest patrols will be maintained out of Medford instead of one as originally planned. One of these routes will extend south to Red Bluff, Cal., while the other will cover the territory north of Medford to Eugene.
Six observers have been employed to assist in the work of the patrol. Two of these, E. T. Saunders and I. E. Kerr, will be stationed at the Medford base and the other four--Jack Benefiel, Elmer Pendell, Don Davis and Jay Jacobson--will be stationed at Eugene. The observers will receive a salary of $200 per month.
FOREST PATROL PLANES, TRUCK REACH MEDFORDPreparations are going on rapidly in getting the landing field and headquarters of the forest aviation patrol of the Medford base equipped and ready for that service which begins on July 1.
Four planes, including two big De Havillands, under command of Captain L. H. Smith, arrived here at about 6:30 o'clock p.m. Monday from Mather Field, Sacramento, and landed at Gore field, as the new field on the county fairgrounds is not yet ready. The huge Liberty aviation service 8-ton motor trucks and crews arrived last evening, one of which with part of the crew left for the Eugene base this morning.
William F. Osborn, Jr., of Portland, of the U.S. Forest Service, who is in charge of the details of the forestry plane patrol in the state, is here today conferring with Captain Smith, Forest Supervisor Rankin and President Walther of the Chamber of Commerce regarding the details of the service from this base.
Among the men who either arrived with Captain Smith or on the motor trucks are Sergeants M. Winall, John McGinn and Frank Waskin, Master Electrician E. L. Cornish, Corporals F. Martin, H. E. Blake, F. A. March, and L. Burman, Cadet Flyers T. J. Fowler, Cecil B. Geile and John Narzon.
Sergeant McGinn was the companion of Lieutenant Webb when the latter lost his life by the falling of one of the forestry patrol planes near Gold Hill last summer. The sergeant was badly injured, but soon recovered and resumed duty.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 29, 1920, page 7
Lieutenant Goldsborough of the Medford aviation field tried out the wireless outfit last night and picked up messages all along the coast, one being a telephone wireless from Los Angeles to Cataline Island. The local field is in splendid shape now, representing a high degree of orderliness and neatness. Lieutenant Goldsborough is one of the best-known aviators on the coast, took part in the transcontinental flight last year and had a narrow escape when his plane collided with a mountaintop in the Rockies. Goldsborough escaped with a few minor injuries, but his companion was killed.
"Local Briefs," Medford Mail Tribune, August 7, 1920, page 2
AVIATION FIELD TO BE NAMED FOR MEDFORD HERO
The board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce have decided to have the Medford aviation landing field known officially as the "Barber Field" in honor of Newell Barber, a Medford boy, who lost his life in the air service in France.
The Medford field is one of the best north of Sacramento and is closer to the center of the business district than any field on the coast, it being one mile from Main Street. It is approximately seven hundred feet to the east of the Pacific Highway, and at present four hangars for the four planes now stationed there are directly east of the take-off section.
The dedication of the Barber Field and the ceremony of giving it its official name will take place on Labor Day, September 6th, at which time the citizens of Medford will be called upon to participate in a patriotic parade, which will end at the field where the ceremony will take place. The Medford post of the American Legion are cooperating, and during the evening they will furnish a part of the entertainment of the occasion.
Col. Arnold, department air service officer of San Francisco, and Captain Smith of Eugene have been extended invitations to participate, and assurances are given that the department will cooperate in making the dedication a notable success.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 14, 1920, page 3
Aviation Field To Be Dedicated.
Medford will be the mecca of one of the largest gatherings which this community has seen in years on Labor Day, September 6th, as at that time the aviation landing field will be dedicated and given its official name.
Some time ago the air service requested the Chamber of Commerce to officially name their field in order that the same may appear upon the list now being prepared by the government of all landing fields in the United States. The board of directors have had this in hand, and within a day or two will announce the name which has been selected.
Action was taken by the members of the Chamber of Commerce at the forum meeting yesterday to have the board of directors plan for the dedication of the field by cooperating with the air service and the Medford post of the American Legion.
As a tentative plan, a patriotic parade in the afternoon of the 6th is scheduled which will end at the aviation landing field where the services will no doubt be held. It is anticipated that Col. Arnold and Captain Smith of the air service will be the honored guests, and before definite plans can be announced they will be consulted as to their wishes as to the part of the dedication they will participate in.
The entertainment to be furnished visitors in Medford on the 6th will include a dance given by the Legion at the Natatorium in the evening, and this will undoubtedly be a feature that will attract many visitors to the city.--Mail Tribune.
Jacksonville Post, August 14, 1920, page 3
TEN DE HAVILLAND PLANES HERE FOR FIELD DEDICATION
The executive committee in charge of the dedication of the Newell Barber Field, appointed by the Chamber of Commerce and consisting of P. M. Janney, George A. Codding and C. E. Gates, have formulated plans which it is expected will be one of the most successful affairs of its kind ever participated in by the air service.
The program, roughly outlined, calls for a parade of automobiles decorated in patriotic colors which will start in the city of Medford at two-thirty in the afternoon and terminate at the aviation grounds where the dedication ceremony will take place. The parade will be under the direct supervision of E. H. Janney and Ralph Cowgill.
It is anticipated that there will be thousands of automobiles in Medford on Labor Day, bringing in people from every corner of Jackson County, as well as many from Josephine County, and that an orderly system of parking cars may take place on the grounds. Captain H. A. Canaday and a corps of assistants will have charge.
A communication from Major Arnold advises that complete cooperation may be expected from the air service and no less than ten De Havilland planes would be here at that time and possibly several planes of lighter type. After the ceremony of dedication the planes with make flights.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 26, 1920, page 6
END FOREST FIRE SEASON GREAT AID TO AVIATION MEET
There has been a keen interest displayed by the officers and men connected with [the] air service stationed here in connection with the forest fire patrol to assist in making the program for the dedication of the Newell Barber Landing Field a greater success of any event of its kind heretofore participated in.
There has been a splendid spirit displayed by these men toward the committee of the Chamber of Commerce in assisting and advising them as to the best arrangement of the automobiles which will be parked at the grounds on that day, and in so doing it is going to give everyone who attends an opportunity to view the taking off and landing of the airplanes.
It is natural that the automobiles which are to be decorated and that participate in the parade will be given the choice of location and not permit those who could decorate their machines crowd out the ones who have shown the proper cooperation.
The rain on Friday has put out most of the fires and has left conditions such as to make fires difficult to start from now on, and therefore the planes will be relieved from patrol duty, unless the most unfavorable circumstances present themselves, which is not looked upon as possible.
Planes from the local station and those of Eugene will be here. It is expected that Major Arnold will come from San Francisco with a number of them, and it may be that planes from other stations will be here at that time, conditionally upon favorable chances of no fires in their districts.
It may be safely predicted that ten DeHavillands will be on the Newell Barber Field that day and two planes of lighter make. These planes will make flights immediately after the dedication ceremony, and they will be interesting to those who have never seen the planes take off and land.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 28, 1920, page 6
There is only a very short period left now before the dedication of the Newell Barber Field takes place, and therefore an intensive advertising campaign should be conducted by the citizens of this city. Every automobile owner can assist in this respect by his displaying a windshield sticker advertising the event on his car. These stickers may be obtained at the Chamber of Commerce headquarters, and their use by cars going into the country districts is especially desired.
"Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, August 30, 1920, page 8
THRONGS AT DEDICATORY EXERCISES
2000 Autos in Labor Day Parade--P. J. Neff Delivers Eloquent Address--
Legion Commander Thanks Community--Parachute Jump Thrilling--
10,000 in City for Dedication of Newell Barber Field--Air Circus in Feature Event.
Beautiful in its sentiment, spectacular in its thrill features and record-breaking locally in its immense assemblage of humanity and autos, the dedication of Medford's army aviation field and the christening of it as Newell Barber Field yesterday afternoon was successful beyond the most sanguine expectations.Medford Mail Tribune, September 7, 1920, page 1
Not an accident, not a hitch and not an unpleasant feature marred the big occasion, by which the name of Medford's high school aviator here who lost his life while flying over the German trenches in France is permanently perpetuated and honored. It was a day of significance and bigness.
It is estimated that from 8000 to 10,000 persons, with all parts of southern Oregon represented, were assembled at the dedication exercises on the aviation field or in the surrounding vicinity. The parade, led by a band, was over two miles long, and the first mile of it leaving the city for the aviation grounds one mile south consisted of cars decorated with flags, bunting and flowers.
Parade with 2000 CarsAnd parked on Newell Barber Field and on the roads and fields nearby were 2000 cars, the greatest number of cars ever assembled in Jackson County and probably southern Oregon.
Well may the chamber of commerce be congratulated on the planning of such a day and carrying the program out so successfully, thanks to the perfect cooperation between the chamber and people.
When the auto parade started no one conceived that it would become so immense, but car after car joined in until one wondered how there could be any more--and still they kept coming. It was a spontaneous outpouring in memory of one of Medford's heroes, and in honoring him everyone felt that they were honoring all the boys who parted with their lives during the war for their country.
The air circus by the army aviators of the Oregon forest patrol service which wound up the afternoon's program, with its spectacular and dangerous flying stunts, was an appropriate ending for the program much enjoyed by the thousands assembled and other thousands watching at their home in Medford and other parts of the valley.
The day's events wound up with a band concert in the city park last night and the American Legion ball and midnight cabaret at the Natatorium.
The Dedication ExercisesThe dedication exercises were simple, and the speeches were short, snappy and full of meaning. They were held in about the middle of the field, the members of Company D, National Guard, under Captain H. A. Canaday, keeping the crowd back in the safety zone and acting as guides and guards at the entrances to the field and other strategic points.
Harry L. Walther, president of the chamber of commerce, presided and in his opening speech gave something of the history of the field, how it came to be purchased, developed and named. It is the best dirt landing field on the Pacific coast, the aviators say. The band played "America," and Rev. D. E. Millard made the dedicatory prayer. The next speaker was Mayor Gates, who spoke feelingly but briefly, and created a heart thrill by his announcement that the field, which is now owned by the county, would shortly be taken over by the city to ensure its being a perpetual memorial to Newell Barber.
Gus Newbury then recited that ever-heart-touching, soul-thrilling and blood-arousing World War poem, "In Flanders Field."
Neff's Inspiring AddressThen came the orator of the day, Porter J. Neff, who has won local fame as a speaker a number of times, but never spoke so eloquently, feelingly or more patriotic as on this occasion.
A striking feature of the exercises was the presence of Dr. and Mrs. M. C. Barber, parents of Newell Barber, in an auto with friends, near the speakers' stand. They were outwardly composed, seemingly, during the program, even the tears stood in the eyes of the other occupants of that car and in many other eyes in the big throng in sympathy with the stoically repressed grief of the parents--even when Mr. Neff [illegible--so movingly?] called attention to the last words of their beloved soldier son written home to his mother from France in his last letter, when he wrote:
"If I should go, I want you to know that I go as a true American. I am not a slacker and I am not afraid."
The next speaker was George A. Codding, commander of the Medford post of the American Legion, who said in part:
Legion Expresses Gratitude"On behalf of the American Legion, I wish to thank you, the citizens of Jackson County, today, for two things: First, the arrangement of this great day, a landmark in the patriotic life of our community; it is such occasions that draw from our people the best expression of community spirit, and a reiteration of their love of country.
"Second, your desire to assist us in the preservation of the memories and incidents of our service in the great war, the dedication of this field to the memory of one of our fallen comrades."
Then came the speech accepting Newell Barber field on behalf of the army air services by Captain Lowell H. Smith, commander of the army air forest patrol in Oregon. The exercises proper were then ended with the band playing the "Star Spangled Banner."
Air Circus CommencesThen the air circus began, which consisted of maneuvers with six big DeHavilland planes by Lieutenants Goldsborough, Kiel and Conley, Cadets Fowler and Guile, and Captain Smith. The flying program carried out was as follows:
1st. Five ship-formation.
2nd. At the finish of the formation flying Lieutenant Coney landed, and Lieut. Goldsborough led the other three ships over the air starting line for a race of four laps.
3rd. At the conclusion of the race and before the planes landed, Captain Smith and Lieut. Coney flew away up in the sky to prepare for Coney's parachute jump, and Lieut. Goldsborough after the finish of the race remained in the air and gave an imitation aerial combat with Captain Smith.
Now came the parachute jump, the most daring and thrilling feature of the circus. Lieutenant Coney is known as the daredevil of the Oregon army air patrol service, and nothing seems too risky for him to undertake. Therefore his parachute jump was expected to furnish a spectacular sight. It did, and more so than anyone expected.
Crowd Is TerrorizedWhen almost up out of sight, at an elevation of from 3500 to 5000 feet he cut loose from his plane and dropped swiftly almost 1000 feet without the parachute opening, the crowd gripped with horror. Even the experienced aviators thought Coney was a "goner" and held their breaths, turning pale. Coney himself was scared for once.
But finally the parachute opened out, to the great relief of everyone, and a second or so later another parachute opened out, it was a double parachute, and Coney still rather swiftly, but gracefully, descended, buoyed up between the two parachutes until he reached the earth in the plowed ground of the old aviation field across the Pacific Highway from Newell Barber field. In landing he sprained one of his ankles but otherwise escaped without a scratch except a lacerated hand through his efforts to get the parachute loose when he first began to descend.
It was the most spectacular parachute drop ever seen by anyone among thousands of onlookers.
Following this event the crowd was permitted to view the airplanes of the Medford base, which were lined up on the aviation field.
FOREST AIRPLANE, LANDING BARBER FIELD, WRECKEDThe first accident of the air Forest Service patrol on the Medford aviation field occurred this noon vhen the four planes and men from the Eugene base arrved at Barber field to depart at 2 o'clock this afternoon for Mather Field, Sacramento, this being the last day of the forest patrol service in Oregon.
The third of the planes to arrive from the Eugene base was a big De Havilland with Cadet DeGorma as pilot and mechanic Luddy, which in making the landing because DeGorma was flying too low struck the trees at the east end of the field, took a nose dive and completely overturned, badly wrecking the plane. Fortunately neither man was hurt beyond a few minor bruises.
It is a matter of congratulation that the only accident happened on the last day, which not being a serious one, makes a clean record here for the season.
Included in the group from Eugene which arrived in the four De Havilland planes were W. C. Boyce, liaison officer, Captain Lowell H. Smith and Lieutenants Kiel, Miller and Batten.
Mrs. Goldsborough, wife of the lieutenant who has been in command of the Medford base, left last night by train for Sacramento. The lieutenant will fly with the remainder of the squadron which expected to leave this afternoon for Mather Field.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 21, 1920, page 8
The October 15th issue of the American Legion Weekly contains a good picture of the dedication exercises of Newell Barber aviation field Labor Day and a write-up by the post correspondent of the events of that day in Medford. The photo was made by John B. Palmer.
"Local Briefs," Medford Mail Tribune, October 15, 1920, page 2
ARMY PLANE IS WRECKED LANDING MEDFORD FIELD
The two army airplanes, which have been in Medford since last Wednesday, waiting for the clouds to go away before resuming their flight from Mather Field to Camp Lewis for target practice there made a start this forenoon, but on reaching the Umpqua divide ran into a snow storm and were forced to come back to the Medford aviation field.
On making the land here Lieutenant Gardner's plane was practically wrecked. It was rolling along fast over the field when one of the wheels dished, bringing the big plane to a stop so suddenly that the propeller and practically everything else about the craft was broken.
It was the second plane to be disabled since leaving Mather Field last Wednesday forenoon, as when the third of the three planes making the flight was about 12 miles north of Rogue River, its engine became disabled and Sergeant Andert, the pilot, was forced to make a landing in a field where this plane has since been, and will be for some time until a new motor or engine arrives from Mather Field by auto truck.
It was not known how much longer the other aviators will be delayed here by the accident of today.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 23, 1921, page 8
FOREST PLANES TO ARRIVE MEDFORD FOR SEASON SOON
The airplanes to be used in the forest fire patrol will arrive at Medford on the 20th of this month and will operate with a personnel and equipment similar to last year with the exception that the personnel and operations will be slightly increased. This is the advice that has been received by the Medford Chamber of Commerce from Captain Lowell H. Smith of the 91st Squadron, who is now located at Mather Field, Sacramento.
The enlisted personnel, consisting of approximately thirty men, will leave Mather Field for Medford some time between May 15th and 20th. The present plan is for the equipment and supplies to leave on the 15th and the airplanes on the 20th. According to these plans the airplanes will reach Medford on the afternoon of the 20th and the equipment and supplies, which are undoubtedly being sent by truck, will reach this city several days in advance of the airplanes.
The Newell Barber Field, which will be the Medford base for forest fire patrol of this district, is on land purchased by the City of Medford. The Medford Chamber of Commerce last year spent $1,178.96 of its funds in leveling the ground and to make this field one of the best on the western coast. Very little work is necessary on the field this year and this will probably be done by the Air Service men themselves.
Because of the Newell Barber Field being so close to town and because of the character of the soil, the aviators last year preferred this field to any others along the coast. Residents of Medford are anxious to see the members of the Air Service return and will give them a hearty welcome.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 3, 1921, page 3
LOCAL FOREST PLANE BURNED AFTER LANDINGWithin fifteen minutes after De Havilland plane No. 25 had started up this morning on its daily mission of searching out forest fires it was on the ground in the field adjoining the local aviation field totally destroyed by fire.
De Havilland Plane No. 25 Is Totally Destroyed at Barber Field This Morning--
Engine Trouble Forces Landing--Gas Tank Explodes.
This is the second accident at the aviation field within 10 days, which leaves only two De Havilland planes at the local base. The first accident was the result of a landing, which put the other plane out of commission.
With Lieutenant Carter as pilot and Sergeant Burman as observer No. 25 was just starting on the Eugene trip shortly before 9 a.m. and had only risen to a height of about 75 feet when because of engine trouble Carter decided to land at once, and succeeded in doing so in the field about 200 yards south of the aviation field. He and Burman got out of the plane and discovered that it had caught fire in some way, probably from the exhaust tank.
A few minutes later the small tank exploded and the plane was enveloped in flames. The Medford fire department was summoned by phone but all the apparatus was out at the time except the chemical engine, and the informant had simply phoned that there was a fire at the aviation field. Had he phoned that a plane was on fire, D. T. Lawton, who was alone at the engine house, could probably have rushed there in time with the chemical apparatus to have extinguished the flames before the plane was totally destroyed.
Medford Mail Tribune, July 9, 1921, page 1
AIRPLANE PATROL STARTS IN AGAIN
The roar of a De Havilland airplane was heard by Medford citizens for the first time in several weeks yesterday morning and was heard again this morning. It is probable that this satisfying and assuring sound will be heard from now until September 15, if not later.
The Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, is now supplying the gasoline necessary to operate the planes until a carload of gasoline now on its way from the East arrives.
Regular visits will be made to Medford from the Eugene base until the end of the forest fire season.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 22, 1921, page 2
NO AIR PATROL FOREST FIRES ON COAST THIS YEAR
WASHINGTON, April 3.--Appropriations for the airplane forest patrol in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere definitely killed Saturday when the senate subcommittee on appropriations, considering the agricultural bill, concluded its work and announced that no money has been included for the purpose.
Senator McNary, who has labored to have the forest air patrol continued, explained that he was unable to make headway because Secretary of War Weeks and the budget director are against maintaining the patrol this year in the face of a demand for reduction of [the] army. The army will cut the aviation force to a skeleton limited to performance of strictly military duty.
Major General Patrick, air service chief, favors the forest patrol, but the army appropriation bill will not permit such activities, according to Secretary Weeks, and the Forest Service is dependent on the army to supply planes and aviators.
In part compensation for abandonment of the airplane patrol, the commission added $80,000 to the amount the house had allowed for lookouts and rangers in the national forests. Twenty-five thousand additional will be reported for roads, trails and bridges in the forests, and $12,000 more for appraisals of timber and grazing permit expenses.
The subcommittee also voted to add $7500 under an amendment by McNary to send an expert to Manchuria to investigate and report upon the area planted, varieties and general conditions of walnut culture; to study the marketing of broccoli, which is extensively produced around Roseburg, and to investigate methods of waxing and wrapping pears and apples for market. They are all purposes in which Oregon producers are interested.
The subcommittee increased by $1,300,000 the sum proposed by the house for eradication of tuberculosis in cattle, and added $107,000 for collecting and publishing agricultural data, including crop and livestock estimates.
McNary, chairman of the appropriation subcommittee in charge, says he is assured the full committee will accept the figures named, which will carry the bill to the senate floor with these provisions intact.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 3, 1922, page 3
NO PLANES TO BE STATIONED MEDFORD FIELDMedford Mail Tribune, July 24, 1922, page 6
Owing to the fact that no forest patrol planes have landed here since they passed through going north two or three weeks ago, this office wrote Capt. Lowell H. Smith, asking if any planes were to be stationed here and if not would this be a landing base, and if one of the three radio stations they were to establish in the state would be put in at Medford. This is his reply:
"There will be no planes permanently stationed in Medford, nor will a radio control station be established there, during the present forest patrol season.
"This year we are patrolling state forest principally, and only go over national forests during a fire crisis. We intend to use the Medford field for the purpose of taking state foresters stationed at Medford over their territory whenever desired. This, however, will be delayed somewhat pending the conditioning of the Medford landing field. At present it may be necessary for the Medford forester to go to Roseburg or Grants Pass to meet patrol planes.
"Our radio stations will be established in Salem, Eugene, and Roseburg. These three stations will receive messages from planes over any part of the state forests."
FLEET AIRPLANES WILL TAKE PART IN JACKSON CO. FAIRMedford Mail Tribune, August 24, 1922, page 3
Through the courtesy of Lowell H. Smith, in charge of the airplanes that are patrolling the Oregon and Washington forests, arrangements have been made to have the government airplanes here during the Jackson County fair, September 13 to 16. This will be welcome news as it adds another feature to the already splendid program arranged for the entertainment of the thousands of people that will be present from all over Oregon and California.
Capt. Smith does not say how many planes he can send here but has promised the maximum number consistent with patrol duties.
Part of the credit for securing these planes is due to Senator Chas. L. McNary, who secured permission from the chief of the air service in Washington, D.C., on request of a representative of the fair board.
Medford Mail Tribune, September 15, 1926.
Medford Airport Is Important Station on Pacific Coast Air Lines
The day when the drone of an airplane motor high in the air over Rogue River Valley will attract as little attention as the put-putting of the one-lung motorcycles on Main Street in Medford is fast approaching, and indeed in some parts of the valley is already here. The future of aviation in Oregon, like its past history, will be largely written in the sunny skies of Rogue River Valley.
At the beginning of the war, nearly a decade and a half ago, when the government became active in linking its land and sky forces up and down the Pacific coast, was the beginning of aircraft in our midst. The government recognized the unsurpassed advantages of Rogue River Valley for the use of the airplane, and laid the foundation for present and prospective aerial supremacy.
Medford, being situated favorably between the government's base of supply at San Francisco and Vancouver, logically became the airport of aircraft [sic] in the flight between these two points. Thus, the great van has served to bring Medford into its remarkable position in the forefront of the aerial world.
With the passing of the war and the thoughts of men turning to the paths of peace, Medford has come still more prominently to the foreground. The Pacific Air Transport has the government air mail contract from Los Angeles to Seattle, the longest air mail route in the United States, [and] has signally honored Medford with the terminal station of the great transcontinental and coast airways, and Medford had the only air mail port in Oregon until just recently.
Medford Airport, 1928 Copco Volt Annual
It was on September 15th, 1926 that a speedy airplane of the Pacific Air Transport, then a new concern, glided down from the northern skies on the Newell Barber air field at Medford carrying the first cargo of the United States mail on the new Los Angeles-Seattle air mail route. With a capacity load of letters bearing greetings and letters sent by stamp collectors, the plane from the south soon joined the first arrival at the hangars of the P.A.T., exchanged mail with the plane from the north, and both planes were soon off on their way to respective terminals.
On September 15, 1927, the day of Medford's Jubilee of Visions Realized, the people celebrated, among scores of noteworthy achievements, the first birthday of the "PAT," the completion of a year of the Pacific Air Transport's successful air mail service which has linked Medford more closely than ever before with the other cities of the Pacific Coast and the East. Everything considered, the initial year of the PAT organization was a success to a marked degree.
In spite of the fact that the route traveled daily by these mail planes is over the Siskiyou, Umpqua and Calapooya mountains, said to be the most dangerous on the coast, scheduled flights for the company are declared by the government officials to be 98 percent perfect, the only trouble encountered in the winter in these mountains due to storms and fogs. During the summer months flights were given credit for being 100 percent perfect.
During the first year, the volume of mail carried by the planes has doubled, and passenger and express business increased to such an extent that it is an important factor of the company. The records of the PAT show a consistent increase in business which evidence the success of the coastal air mail venture. The accompanying table of mail and passenger cargo is imperative for part of the years 1926 and 1927:
September, 32,021 pounds, no passengers.
October, 5,523 pounds, no passengers.
November, 4,924 pounds, no passengers.
December, 5,925 pounds, no passengers.
January, 5,161 pounds, 2 passengers.
February, 4,380 pounds, 13 passengers.
March, 5,317 pounds, no passengers.
April, 5,330 pounds, 46 passengers.
May, 5,317 pounds, 75 passengers.
June, 5,152 pounds, 178 passengers.
July, 6,179 pounds, 208 passengers.
August, 6,477 pounds, 216 passengers.
September, 7,372 pounds, 213 passengers.
October, 7,759 pounds, 170 passengers.
November, 7,223 pounds, 47 passengers.
Vern C. Gorst of Marshfield, Oregon, formerly of Medford, organized and is the president of the Pacific Air Transport. A. K. Humphries of San Francisco is the vice president. The company operates several planes on the route between Los Angeles and Seattle, and has five men on the payroll at Medford including two pilots, Ralph Virden and Russell Cunningham, one radio operator, George Johnson, one mechanic, William Rosenbaum, a traffic agent and a director of the company, Seely Hall, all popular with the public.
The airport at Medford is undergoing changes to enlarge it to meet growing demands and requirements of the government. It is being lengthened from 2300 feet to 3000 feet and its width being enlarged from 150 feet to 600 feet. There are 50 acres in the tract. In addition to these improvements the government is establishing auxiliary landing ports every thirty miles along the Los Angeles and Seattle route for safety in case of a forced landing in flight by the mail airplanes.
The local airport also affords service to transient airplanes as well as for the local companies who are training pilots and are doing a cross-country flight service for hire.
The Pacific Air Transport operates nine planes, two of which are Ryan monoplanes, constructed by the firm that built Lindbergh's famous "Spirit of St. Louis," and the most recent two planes added to the fleet are Fokker five-place cabin jobs. All planes are equipped with the famous Wright Whirlwind motor, which performed so creditably in the transoceanic flights of this year.
Two companies have recently announced passenger and express airplane routes from Seattle to Los Angeles and will make Medford an important part on their lines.
The Newell Barber field was named in honor of Newell Barber, a Medford boy who lost his life early in the war in the service of his country. He was among the 13 Medford youths who enlisted in the aviation service for three years, 30 days before this country joined the allies by declaring war.
Rogue River Valley itself is probably the most thoroughly mapped and photographed region on the Pacific Coast as far as airplanes go. This is due to the fact that the valley is surrounded by high-forested mountains, and this service is done by the flyers in the Forest Service in protecting the forests from summer forest fires, which use the Medford airway as a base.
One of Rogue River Valley's chief missions in the future would seem to be that of a training ground for flyers. The climatic conditions are such that the piloting of an airplane over the valley is no feat at all. Thousands of square miles of level land with the accompanying splendid emergency landing places, provided by nature, only add to the convenience and safety of this country for the purpose of training.
The additional feature of a year-round climate free from snow and wintry blasts makes Rogue River Valley specially adapted to the use of the airplane. While eastern centers of aviation are smothered under snow and slush, hail, sleet and thunderstorms, making air unsafe for flying and the cold weather cracking radiators and interfering seriously with the work of the motor, our balmy climate from January to December urges aviators and airplanes to greater and better efforts every day.
The exact future of aviation no one can guess, for the reason [of] the marvelous advances made in aerial transportation since the war which have brought the airplane from a "stunt" machine, in which foolish exhibition flyers risked their lives, to a "ship" of consistent usefulness and safety.
Just what will happen when the minds and hands which have conceived and built the marvelous battle planes of the war period are turned to the production of peacetime aircraft no person can well foretell.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 1, 1928, page B6
Medford Mail Tribune, March 21, 1929
Medford Mail Tribune, March 25, 1929
Airport Views on Display
Photographs of Medford's new airport, taken from the air by J. Verne Shangle, local photographer, upon request of city officials, are now on display in the window on North Central at the entrance of the Medford Center building.
"Local and Personal," Medford Mail Tribune, March 11, 1930, page 2
MEDFORD'S AIRPORT IS COMPLETED
Cost of Project to Date is $114,000--Local Airport One of Finest on Coast--
Aviation School To Open During January.
With the first mail flight taking place October 2, 1929 [omission] witnessed the completion of Medford's new municipal airport, a $120,000 bond issue for which was voted April 2 by a majority of nearly 13 to one. The completion of the field is the realization of one of Medford's fondest ambitions and ensures the position of the city as the leader of aviation in the state.
The Medford Chamber of Commerce, acting with the city council in the early part of 1928, appointed a committee for the location of an adequate airport for Medford. The committee worked with the United States Department of Commerce, the aviation department, the United States Army and the air transport lines operating through the valley, and finally unanimously decided on a site three miles from the center of Medford north on the Biddle Road. It has in the neighborhood of 280 acres and is not surrounded by obstructions.
A mile of the Owen-Oregon Lumber Company railroad tracks are on one side of the site, easily accessible to Medford.
Radio Station Established
In the latter part of 1928 the government also announced that Medford had been selected as a site for a high-powered radio station, which was completed in 1929 along the Crater Lake Highway not far from the air field. The station is under the direction of R. A. Martin and has constant 24-hour service. It was constructed at an approximate cost of $75,000.
To date, the airport, the construction of which was directed by the airport committee of the city council, composed of J. O. Grey, chairman, E. M. Wilson, Robert Hammond and Mayor A. W. Pipes, has cost the city $114,000, with practically all items of construction completed. The cost included the installation of a 2,550,000-candlepower airplane beacon, which was to have been installed by the government.
Medford Airport, circa 1930.
Hangar Is Described
The beacon is located on the roof of the administration and hangar building, housing administration officers, the United States weather [bureau] and local headquarters of the Pacific Air Transport Company.
The building is 110 feet wide and 150 feet long, has a cement floor and is sufficiently large to house 16 small ships and four large cabin planes. It includes repair shops, waiting rooms, a room destined to be a restaurant. A building for the pilots' quarters is the last to have been completed and provides quarters for air mail pilots who fly north and south out of Medford. Several oil companies have also completed the construction of service station facilities at the port and have the stations so arranged to serve airplanes with but little trouble.
Water Piped to Field
Water from Medford's new million-dollar system has also been piped to the airport and has been in use for several months. Fire hydrants have also been placed conveniently about the hangar building.
The airport runway has been completely graveled, and a drainage system, engineered by City Engineer Fred Scheffel, eliminates the question of surplus water on the field, making landing an easy matter at any time of the year.
At the old Barber Field at the fairgrounds, it had been a common occurrence for ships to become mired in the mud, and because of that, one passenger line began to make its landings in northern California, but it expected to resume its schedule here in a short time.
Hall Is SuperintendentMedford Mail Tribune, December 31, 1929, page 8
Seely Hall, local representative of the Pacific Air Transport Company, is field superintendent and is on constant duty at the airport. Mr. Hall is southern Oregon's aviation pioneer, and with Floyd Hart over ten years ago brought the first home-owned airplane to Medford.
During the past year, the government has completed the installation of airplane beacons through southern Oregon and northern California, and has several located in Jackson County to aid pilots engaged in night flying, which so far has not been done often. Regular night flying with mail is expected to begin next spring or summer. The beacons can be seen for 15 or 20 miles and, together with radio range beacons, one of which is to be installed here this year, are expected to make night flying comparatively safe in southern Oregon.
Aviation School To Open
A new aviation school, under the direction of Major Gilbert Eckerson, well-known army flier who has spent 25,000 hours in the air, is to be opened this month at the airport. The school will accept students desiring to learn flying or the mechanical end of aviation. Major Eckerson has two planes for student fliers, and for the past year had been located at Springfield, near Eugene. He will replace the Copper King Flying Service, which had been located here since last summer under the direction of W. J. Brown of Oakland, Calif.
Aviation has a big following in southern Oregon, and the next year is expected to witness several enthusiasts purchase their own planes, keeping them at the airport for use when desired. W. H. Muirhead and Henry Fluhrer already have their ship, and during favorable weather make many long trips. Visiting aviators are numerous at the airport, and it was only last month that so many ships arrived that the large hangar was unable to provide ample space. Three ships were forced to be set outside. Several of the planes were owned privately, while the remainder were the property of flying companies operating up and down the Pacific coast.
Grey Heads Committee
The fact that the construction of the airport will be kept within the $120,000 bond issue is gratifying to the people of Medford who voted the bond issue by such [a] large majority. The accomplishment of keeping the construction to such [a low] figure reflects credit on the airport committee, headed by Mr. Grey, who has practically lived with the project, at times even forgetting his own business affairs in paying attention to the construction of the port. City Engineer Fred Scheffel, in charge of the actual construction, was in constant cooperation with Mr. Grey.
Shortly after the bond issue was voted, developments came indicating the airport could not be constructed within the bond issue, but city officials held numerous conferences, cutting down on expenses here and there, saving considerable money and easily coming within the limits of the issue.
Medford now has a Class A airport and is one of the very few cities on the Pacific coast that is so recognized. Its ports is considered better than those maintained by several larger coast cities and place Medford on the aviation map.
Brief History of Medford Airport
Soon after the close of the World War, and with the return of those world war veterans who had served in the flying service, the people of Medford began to see the desirability of establishing facilities for the handling of aircraft, and realized that the industry was certain to take a prominent place in the advancement and growth of this community. The strategic location of Medford being almost halfway between San Francisco and Portland, and which was to be a vital factor in the development of air transportation on the Pacific coast, convinced the people of this district that in order to keep pace with aviation development, adequate landing and handling facilities must be provided.
As a consequence, Medford established the first airport in the state of Oregon in the year 1922, acting in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, which used the field as a landing place for forest patrol planes operating in Southern Oregon. This field was located at the Jackson County fair grounds, and was considered adequate for that period.
In 1926, the Pacific coast air mail route was established by the Pacific Air Transport Company, and Medford was selected as one of the intermediate landing fields on that route--being the only one in the state at that time. From the time of the establishment of the air mail up to October 1, 1929, this field was used by the Pacific Air Transport and by practically all of the coastwise airplane travel plying the Pacific coast airways.
The first intimation that the Medford airport was not adequate to serve the purpose for which it was intended was in 1927 when the Ford Reliability Tour visited this city. The 28 ships comprising this tour had considerable difficulty in landing and taking off, as well as the difficulty of securing adequate service and parking facilities. Thousands of Medford citizens were at the airport at the time the tour landed, and saw how difficult it was to handle this tour, and there was implanted in their minds the information that improvements in airport facilities were vitally needed.
In cooperation with the Medford post of the American Legion a Medford Chamber of Commerce airport committee immediately started a survey for the purpose of locating a field which would serve this community in its future aviation development, and after completing this survey, a site was found which it was believed by the committee would provide a field which would merit an A-1-A rating by the Department of Commerce, when improved. The entire plan was worked out by the airport committee in conjunction with the city council, and on April 2, 1929, a proposition was presented to the people of this community providing a bond issue of $120,000 for the purchase and improvement of the site selected. Following a strenuous publicity and educational campaign, the people of this community voted this issue by a ratio of nearly thirteen to one, demonstrating conclusively their confidence in the future aviation development in this community.
Construction work was immediately started on the new airport. On October 1, 1929, the field was ready for landing, and the first flight of the air mail was made from the new port on October 2, and carried 226 pounds of air mail--the largest poundage ever to leave the city of Medford.
The new Medford municipal airport is completely equipped both for day and night flying. It also has excellent service and hangar facilities, radio, weather bureau, and all of the other necessary equipment which constitutes a modern airport.
The area of the field itself comprises 290 acres, and is rectangular in shape. The long runway is at present 3300 feet long, into the prevailing wind, which is north-northwest; this runway is graveled, rolled, and bound with oil; it is expected to increase the length of this runway to 5200 feet as soon as practicable. The center of this field contains a landing circle 2600 feet in diameter which will allow for all-way landing. This circle is graded, drained and rolled, and can be utilized in any direction. There is a graveled taxi strip extending from the center of the field to the hangar and past the stations established by the various oil companies for gas and oil service.
A combination hangar and administration building has been constructed, the hangar proper being 110 ft. by 100 ft., with an opening 100 ft. by 20 ft. The hangar is of wood construction, with a lamella-type roof and concrete floor. Shop and service facilities have been provided in the hangar, and hangar space is available for all ships for overnight parking. The administration building, which is a part of the hangar building, contains a waiting room, rest rooms, restaurant and kitchen, pilots' quarters, administrative office, mail room, emergency hospital, Weather Bureau quarters, and a room which will be used for school purposes.
The U.S. Weather Bureau has established a completely equipped weather department at Medford's municipal airport, with a 24-hour service and an upper-air observatory; in conjunction with this weather bureau, the Light House Service has established one of the seventeen airways radio stations in the United States adjacent to the Medford field, which broadcasts weather information hourly to airplanes flying in this vicinity. From this radio station, weather information is broadcast which has been gathered from the weather bureaus between Roseburg and Dunsmuir.
The lighting equipment of the Medford municipal airport includes border and obstruction lights completely surrounding the field, a battery of flood lights for night landing, hangar flood lights, ceiling light and projector, and a standard airway beacon which is installed on top of the hangar building.
Gas and oil service is furnished by six of the leading companies operating in this district from remote control stations, all of which have been constructed according to plans laid out by the airport committee.
The field is administered by a special committee of the Medford city council, and is under the direct control of a manager, whose office is in the administration building. The present manager of the field is Mr. Seely V. Hall. There is no charge for landing on the field, but a nominal rental is assessed for all ships remaining on the field overnight.
Pacific Record Herald, July 31, 1930, page 8
MANY ENJOY RIDE IN CLOUDS FROM MEDFORD AIRPORT
Joe Lewis, veteran pilot, who will conduct a complete air service at the Medford municipal airport, was agreeably surprised with the enthusiasm of "air-minded" Medfordites who visited the airport yesterday. The opening day of Lewis' activities at the local port was a busy one, and many people of this city soared aloft in the fine 3-passenger Stearman plane, despite the occasional showers.
The Stearman plane proved to be an unusually smooth one in the air, and Sunday's breezes caused no discomfort for those who enjoyed an air trip yesterday. Al Gilhausen and Heber Miller, Pacific Air Transport flyers, also took their friends aloft in the Stearman.
A trim little single-seater known as the "Bull Pup" was also at the Medford airport yesterday, piloted by Roger Batheldes. This little plane attracted considerable attention because of its diminutive size. The "Bull Pup" is a monoplane with a three-cylinder, 45-horsepower motor manufactured by the Buhl Aircraft Corporation.
Joe Lewis will begin enrolling for flying instruction at once, and lessons will be given in the dependable Stearman plane, according to his announcement.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 9, 1931, page 2
U.S. TO INSTALL RADIO BEACON AT MEDFORD AIRPORT
Medford is one of the six cities of the Pacific coast chosen as location for a directive radio beacon service station in the new system being installed by the Department of Commerce, it was announced today.
Work on installation of the new station, to be situated northwest of the present airways radio station, will start in the immediate future.
Under the new system pilots flying mail-passenger planes on the Seattle-San Diego airway of the Boeing System subsidiary of United Air Lines will be guided the entire length of the 1206-mile route by directive radio beacon service.
The department has authorized the installation of 30 radio beacons on the nation's network. Five will be on the coast air line. They will be located at Seattle, Portland, Medford, Shasta City, Gilroy and San Diego.
They will be installed and maintained by the Department of Commerce, the local station to be under the direction and control of the present airways station on the Crater Lake Highway.
The function of the directive radio beacon service is to provide a continuous series of radio signals by means of which the pilot is enabled to determine whether or not he is flying on his true course. When the pilot hears "dot-dash" in his radio receiver, he knows he is bearing to the left of his designated route, while if he hears "dash-dot" in his radio receiver, he knows he is bearing to the right. When the signals blend into a continuous stream of dashes, the pilot is assured that his plane is on the correct line of flight.
This government service will complement the plane-ground voice radio telephone communication system which is operated by the company. Radio stations are located at Seattle, Portland, Medford, Redding, Oakland, Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 27, 1931, page 10
MEDFORD AIRPORT IS POPULAR STOP WITH WAR BIRDS
Frequently trim-appearing single-seater pursuit planes flying in groups of from three to fifteen land at the Medford airport and refuel before continuing south. These planes are new Boeing Wasp-powered pursuits produced for the Army Air Corps by the Boeing Airplane Company of Seattle, and their passage through Medford signifies the delivery of more planes by the Boeing plant to the air corps.
The pursuits, which are designated as P-12E's, represent the "fastest standard air-cooled pursuit planes in the world," according to a statement by Army Air Corps officials. Last summer a contract was awarded to the Boeing Airplane company of Seattle for the construction of 135 P-12E airplanes, for a total value of approximately a million and a half dollars.
The P-12E marked an improvement over previous P-12 series pursuits in that its fuselage is of all-metal monocoque construction, a departure from the previous metal frame fabric-covered bodies. A more powerful Wasp engine also enhanced the performance of the new P-12E model. The plane is a single-seater built simply for the offensive and defensive maneuverings of small fighting aircraft.
The Boeing P-12E is only twenty feet in length and has an upper wing span of thirty feet. It weighs approximately 2750 pounds fully loaded, including fuel and pilot. The plane is equipped with two machine guns mounted in the fuselage directly ahead of the windshield, which are synchronized to fire through the whirling propeller blades. The guns are stationary and are aimed by the pilot in controlling the direction of flight.
The performance of the P-12E is featured not only by high speed by also by high rate of climb and high maneuverability. It is capable of climbing at a rate of approximately 2,000 feet per minute, and it is so sturdy that it can withstand the unusual strain of aerial maneuvers without difficulty.
Evidence of the stamina of the Boeing pursuit can be found in the vertical power dive of 10,000 feet to which these planes are subjected in flight tests. During these dives, with the nose of the plane pointing directly earthward and the engine turning at full throttle, the small ship attains a speed in excess of 350 miles per hour. At the end of the dive the plane is pulled out and zooms back up into the sky, its unusually strong wing construction having withstood the strain imposed on the aircraft as the pilot brings it out of the steep, speedy dive.
Deliveries of the 135-plane contract were begun the latter part of 1931 by the Boeing Airplane Company, and since that time planes of this type have been seen frequently at the Medford airport. With the exception of thirteen planes, eight of which were shipped to Honolulu and five to the Philippine Islands, the entire 135 planes will have landed at Medford when the contract has been completed.
The bulk of the planes are being flight delivered to March Field, Riverside, Calif.; Mather Field, Sacramento, Calif., and Selfridge Field, Mt. Clemens, Mich. When traveling to the latter air base the pilots fly south through Medford to Rockwell Air Depot, San Diego, and then east over the southern transcontinental route.
The largest number of planes to be delivered in a single group was made the first of February when fifteen pilots from Selfridge Field, under the leadership of Capt. R. C. W. Blessley, squadron commander, took delivery of an aerial armada of new Boeings. In addition to Capt. Blessley this group of officers included: Capt. Ennis. C. Whitehead, Capt. Vincent J. Meloy and Lieuts. John W. Kirby, John F. Egan, Geo. F. Smith, Harry E. Wilson, Paul M. Jacobs, L. O. Ryan, Louis A. Vaupre, Jesse Auton, F. H. Griswold, C. F. Hegy, N. B. Olsen and Carl R. Feldmann.
Deliveries on the current army contract will continue until the order is completed around May 1.
These planes, as they visit the Medford airport, are serviced by the Medford staff of the Standard Oil Company, under the supervision of A. F. West. Under a contract with the army and navy, the Standard Oil Company produce Stanavo gasoline, engine oil and rocker arm grease which exactly meet the rigid requirements for all types of aircraft motors.
These petroleum products for aircraft are made to specification for the government, assuring the maximum efficiency of aviation motors in extreme variations of temperature. The Standard Oil companies of California, Indiana and New Jersey produce Stanavo products which are used by the United Aircraft Corporation, the Pacific Air Transport and other nationally known companies engaged in the commercial transportation of passengers, mail and express.
"The same exacting care is taken in the production of Standard gasolines and motor oils for automobiles as in the manufacture of famous Stanavo aircraft gasoline, oil and grease," A. F. West said Saturday. "Motorists enjoy the same protection and maximum motor efficiency in using Standard products sold at red, white and blue stations as pilots require for army, navy and commercial aircraft."
Medford Mail Tribune, February 14, 1932, page 10
Improvement on the municipal airport, for which WPA has provided $32,340, will be started Wednesday with a force of 100 men, Kenneth S. Perry, WPA engineer, said.
"Bear Creek Job Gets Under Way," Medford Mail Tribune, November 3, 1935, page 12
LEASE SIGNED TO TURN AIRPORT OVER TO ARMY AIR CORPS
After months of negotiation, and after numerous revisions, the contract leasing the Medford airport to the U.S. Army was signed at a special meeting of the city council last night. The lease will be completed after it is signed by government officials in Washington.
The lease provides that the army will maintain the airport expenses while it has the airport, and will turn it back to the city six months after the end of the war in as good a condition as it was when the army took it over several months ago.
Medford News, May 28, 1943, page 2
Medford Mail Tribune, January 29, 1956. Photo taken in 1953.
AIR-MINDED MEDFORD WAITING AIR SHOW NEXT WEEK
50th Anniversary of Powered Flight, Dedication Slated--
Event Recalls Early Aviation Progress
Medford traditionally is the air-minded city in Oregon.A Link to the World
Next Sunday it will again have a chance to prove this to be true, when the spanking new airport administration building is dedicated and an air show held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of powered flight.
It was only a few years after the Wright brothers made their historic flight at Kitty Hawk that the first barnstormers began appearing in Medford, and in the early '20s sentiment grew for the establishment of an airport here.
Largely through the efforts of a few dedicated air enthusiasts, Barber Field was opened at the fairgrounds south of Medford.
Oldtimers in Medford remember other noteworthy events in the history of southern Oregon aviation:
--Inauguration of airmail flights in the fall of 1926 from Barber Field (the first airmail flights in Oregon, incidentally, were made from the Medford field; airmail for Portland landed at Vancouver, Wash.).
--Campaign for a $120,000 bond issue to build a new, bigger airport north of the city, a campaign sparked by Seely V. Hall, now a United Air Lines executive, James Collins, Jack Thompson Sr., J. O. Grey and the Medford American Legion post.
--Opening of the airport and a big hangar-administration building after it was constructed with the bond issue funds, and an air show and dedication July 3, 4 and 5, 1930, which drew hundreds of "flying machines" to the airport.
--Gradual growth and improvement of air services to Medford during the '30s.
Use During War
--Use of the airport by the Army Air Corps during the war, and a postwar expansion of service by the three airlines serving this area.
--A gigantic air show in 1949, which drew crowds estimated at upward of 15,000 people, and which served as a preface for another bond issue election, in 1951, at which Medford voters approved $250,000 in bonds.
--Construction of the new $150,000 terminal building, which will be dedicated Sunday.
Medford, which had the first regular airport in Oregon, still is Oregon's second aviation city, topped only by Portland, which by virtue of population is a major terminal and has an "international" airport.
First in Interest
But Medford, served by United, Southwest and West Coast air lines; with one of the Pacific Coast's major weather bureaus; with a Civil Aeronautics Administration facility which is a major link in the coastwide communication system; with frequent landings by Air Force and Navy planes; with Mercy Flights in two air ambulance planes, and a top-flight Civil Air Patrol squadron, with crop-dusting and cloud-seeding pilots, and many sportsmen pilots--with all this, Medford certainly ranks first in air interest on a per-capita basis.
Almost any Sunday, hundreds of cars can be seen parked along the roads at the airport, watching the planes come and go. And if a jet fighter, or a bomber, or some other type of unusual craft lands at any time of day, crowds are on hand at the airport within minutes.
This is the setting, the background for the events at the airport Sunday.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 31, 1953, page 12
Seely Hall, Medford Airport Founder,
Recalls Early History
The Medford Municipal Airport is a vital part of the valley's economy, and a part of the lives of all its citizens, Seely V. Hall told the Medford Chamber of Commerce Roundtable yesterday.
"If you were to take air service out of this valley, it would really hurt," Hall, former vice president of United Air Lines, and a founder of the airport, stated emphatically.
Air transportation in Oregon was established first in Medford, it was noted. And through personal reflection, Hall related the story of a group of "air-minded" citizens who, through sheer intestinal fortitude and desire, obtained the post office air mail contract and succeeded in getting a $120,000 bond issue passed.
Hall was informed by Vern C. Gorst in 1925 that the federal government was opening bids for an air mail run from Los Angeles to Seattle. The cost of the basic investment was estimated at $62,000.
Medford Stop ArrangedAshland had been designated as the natural midpoint stop for refueling, but through a special effort, Medford was designated as the site.
Gorst's bid was accepted, and, needing a corporation with names, subscriptions were taken from local citizens and from the people of Marshfield, Gorst's home.
Jackson County and the city of Medford agreed to lease the fairgrounds property for four years at a fee of $1 to the Pacific Air Transport Company, formed Sept. 15, 1926. The first hangar and administration building were constructed on the Newell Barber Field.
The runway was 1,500 feet long with a graveled surface, 25 feet wide.
The Weather Bureau installed facilities for the first upper-air balloon readings on the Pacific Coast, through, in part, the efforts of Del Little. Little later became a top official of the U.S. Weather Bureau in Washington, D.C.
Two years after Barber Field was constructed, the increased traffic and aircraft development necessitated more adequate facilities than the 1,500-foot runway.
Two sites were proposed, one across from Timber Products' present location, and the existing airport. The latter was selected because it had less smoke in the air.
Bond Issue PassesThe citizens of Medford, on Seely Hall's birthday, April 2, 1929, voted an airport bond issue for $20,000 by a 12½-to-one margin, 2,248 to 182, in the largest turnout for a special election ever recorded to that time.
The airport site was 280 acres and cost about $28,000.
The Department of Commerce designated Medford as a terminal airport, and the government installed a two and one-half million candlepower beacon there.
Jackson County participated in the initial expense by providing heavy equipment to grade the runway and surface area. Hall estimated the contributed cost at $37,500.
Hall was an avid pilot, and in 1919 he formed the Medford Aircraft Corporation, along with Floyd Hart, Frank Farrell, Bert Thierolf and others.
Hart and Hall flew the first aircraft purchased by the company from Sacramento to Medford. They flew from an old stubble field carrying individuals on sightseeing tours of the valley for $5 and $10 each and "did very well."
They flew the Jenny north, stopping in Eugene and Salem and landing at the Portland golf course, as Portland had no landing strip at the time.
National RecognitionThe efforts of the Medford group were recognized in a national magazine, The Literary Digest, July 13, 1929, by the Ford Motor Company, Hall said.
The full-page commentary included, "You might never have heard of Medford, if the people of Medford had not seen a vision in the sky above the mountains of Oregon, west of Lake Klamath. . . .That was the day they realized a new map of the world is being drawn in invisible lines across the heavens! . . . That was the day they determined that Medford should be known in the skies as a harbor . . . open to the world!!
"Medford established the first municipal airport in the state of Oregon in 1922. By 1926 it was a regular port of call for the Pacific Air Transport. In 1928 a fleet of twenty-six ships arrived, including three great tri-motored Ford planes. . . . "
Asked to comment on the coming Civil Aeronautics Board hearing concerning West Coast Airlines' petition to delete air service of United Air Lines, Hall had little to say. "I consider that to be the business of West Coast and United," he replied.
Medford Mail Tribune, February 2, 1965, page 14
Medford Airport Name Is Changed
The name of the Medford airport was changed by the Medford City Council last night to Medford-Jackson County Airport.
The council voted the change based upon a recommendation made by the City Of Medford, Jackson County Airport Advisory Committee.
Since Jackson County is now participating in administration of the airport and in financing of improvements, the change of name was proposed.
Medford Mail Tribune, August 5, 1966, page 1
"The Medford-Jackson County Airport is a vital link to the outside (world)," insists Gunther Katzmar, who directs its operation.
"The airport is one of the biggest assets the Rogue River Valley has," says Col. Tom Culbertson, who served through the 1930s as the airport's second superintendent and has watched it develop for more than half of Medford's 100 years.
"I'd do anything I could to help the airport," he says.
Local aviation and airport facilities indeed have come a long way since the first airmail and U.S. Forest Service flights from a community field south of town.
Medford was just being established as a vital West Coast airways link when Culbertson was an air-minded schoolboy in the 1920s.
Katzmar says the self-sufficient modern-day airport north of the city returns almost $1 million in revenue annually and serves almost 500,000 people in seven southern Oregon and northern California counties.
With approximately 200 people working in airport operation for various businesses and for federal agencies at the 980-acre installation, Katzmar says the airport is "almost like a small city." and with 260,000 people per year flying in and out of the field, the installation has a multi-million-dollar impact on the region that is hard to measure exactly, he maintains.
Oldtimers tell of seeing their first plane here in 1909. The then-recognized landing field was on the Gore Ranch west of Medford. Culbertson's photo album shows a frame-like pusher plane flown from the Cox Ranch at the first aviation meet in southern Oregon in June of 1910.
Up to 1919, however, few valley residents had seen airplanes in flight except at county fairs. Those planes, capable only of short flights, were brought in by rail that year, says the Aug. 3, 1930 Mail Tribune. Six government craft, being flown from California to the Rose Festival in Portland, landed at the Gore alfalfa field west of town.
The flight aroused valley interest in aviation and attracted residents by the thousands.
In 1919 Seely Hall and Floyd Hart, just back from Army Air Service duty in World War I, financed purchase of a Curtiss Jenny plane by selling $100 shares. It was the first airplane owned in Medford, and Hart did a brisk business flying people over the valley. In 1920 Hart, a wartime ace, and Hall established the Medford Aircraft Corporation.
Prompted by the Army's need for a base from which to patrol for forest fires in the area, Medford and the county purchased land adjacent to the fairgrounds south of town in 1925. The strip was named Newell Barber Field after an Air Service man from Medford who died in the war.
Hall and Vern Gorst obtained a contract to fly airmail between Los Angeles and Seattle, and Pat Patterson flew the first mail out of Medford on Sept. 15, 1926. This was the beginning of Pacific Air Transport. The Postal Service questioned the financial status of PAT, so Hall sold stock to numerous downtown merchants.
Medford was the first Oregon city with official airmail service.
But Newell Barber Field, squeezed between Bear Creek and the fairgrounds, had no room for expansion.
Early in 1928 the Medford Chamber of Commerce and City Council appointed a committee to recommend a new airport site. These men met with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Aviation Department of the Army and air transport lines. Then they proposed a 280-acre site three miles north of Medford on Biddle Road.
A $120,000 bond issue received almost unanimous approval from Medford residents. The municipal airport was completed on Oct. 2, 1929, and officially dedicated on August [omission] 1930. Famed stunt flyer Tex Rankin and his troupe were on hand for the occasion, along with a fly-in group of a large number of planes and pilots.
City Superintendent Fred Scheffel's staff did much of the construction. Hall was the first superintendent of the new field.
The pilots of PAT flew only mail out of Barber Field. From the new airport they began flying passengers as well. Culbertson says the firm flew Boeing 40-B4 biplanes. The four passengers sat in [the] cabin and the pilot in an open cockpit behind them.
Culbertson says airport traffic and activities provided much news for the Mail Tribune. He says he received daily calls from reporter Lester Fox during the '30s.
Interest in the airport continued high. In Medford's earlier years, the comings and goings of railroad passenger trains occupied the curiosity of residents. But when rail service dropped to a couple of trains a day, members of the community became airport watchers.
The airport still is part of the City of Medford. However, the city transferred ownership, operation and maintenance to Jackson County in 1971. No tax money has been required for operation and maintenance over the past three years.
Usage of the field has varied yet grown over the years. Presently three airlines serve southern Oregon out of the installation. They are United, Horizon and Cascade. The field is one of the busiest general use airports in the state and continues to serve military craft passing through.
In 1984 the airport recorded 8,833 air carrier (United and Horizon) flights in and out of Medford plus 5,989 air taxi (including Cascade and smaller Horizon planes and Federal Express) flights. Four fixed-base operators offer air taxi and charter service, air patrol, flight instruction and aircraft sales and rental. Mercy Flights air ambulance service also is based at the field.
The National Weather Service, Forest Service and Federal Aviation Administration have operations at the field.
Katzmar says the airport leases air hangars, and additional hangars are needed to replace outdoor tiedowns. Under a present plan, aircraft owners would finance construction.
Much of the expansion has occurred in recent years. A larger terminal building replaced the original and outdated hangar and has since been expanded. The main north-south runway was lengthened to 6,700 [feet] to accommodate jet airliners. Katzmar says the long-range master plan includes lengthening the main runway to 9,000 feet and constructing another runway parallel to it.
While Culbertson acknowledges that Medford is fortunate to have an airport of the caliber it has--"one of the nicest on the West Coast"--he says there's room for improvements. He says automobile traffic flow into and away from the terminal building is confusing and needs improvement. He says airline service needs upgrading, with United again providing through flights from California points north to Portland.
The traffic flow issue is now being addressed.
Culbertson says he agrees with the expansion plans for the airport. Both he and Katzmar agree that, as southern Oregon grows, the airport needs to grow.
Medford Mail Tribune, June 6, 1985, page 28
Grounded Jet Finds Medford Home
By ALBERTO ENRIQUEZ
An F-16 that last few at the Medford Air Show in August will return here for permanent display.
The fighter is one of two Air National Guard planes which developed stress fractures during the course of the air show. Both were airlifted back to Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, where it was hoped they could be repaired. However, only one plane was judged repairable.
"As soon as we learned that they might not be repaired, we were hearing from people in the community, saying, 'You know, we ought to try and get one of those for display,'" airport director Bern Case said Friday. "They have one mounted beautifully at Kingsley."
Case said officials immediately applied to Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, which mothballs military aircraft at the Davis Monthan Air Base in Tucson, Ariz.
"We'd hoped to get it done quick enough that we could get the plane before it left for Klamath Falls, but with the bureaucracy things always take time," Case said. "We were lucky to get it before it left the region."
Case said the airport was exploring options for transporting the plane back to the Rogue Valley. It could be trucked with the wings removed, but there's also a possibility that it could fly back the same way it went out--dangling from a heavy-lift helicopter.
"We're hoping [the Air National Guard] can do it as part of a training mission," Case said.
If so, the F-16 may be the first plane to make a round-trip flight between Medford and Klamath Falls not under its own power.
Lt. Col. Bill Eaton, vice-commander of the 173rd fighter squadron at Kingsley Field, chuckled at the thought.
"That's not likely," he said when contacted Friday. "It's considered the property of the airport now."
The plane, which had been recently painted prior to the air show, should make a beautiful display, Eaton said.
It will bear the eagle emblem and other insignia of the Oregon Air National Guard. However, it has yet to be determined which Guard pilot will be honored by having his name on the plane.
Case said it would be mounted on a post 10 to 15 feet high across from the terminal near the flagpole.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 25, 1998, page 3
Last revised July 20, 2021