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Pioneer Airport's Latest Addition

September 9, 2004 - EAA's Pioneer Airport celebrated the latest addition to its stable of vintage aircraft on September 2 when a 1927 Laird Swallow flew for the first time following a three-year restoration effort. After being declared airworthy by FAA Principle Maintenance Inspector Tim Anderson, longtime EAAer and test pilot Buck Hilbert flew the Swallow from EAA's Kermit Weeks Hangar. Buck returned with a very positive report of its flying qualities. The Swallow then made its public debut at Pioneer Airport's Good Ol' Days last weekend where it recreated its original role as an air mail plane by flying sacks of letters created by museum visitors.

With EAA's Ford Tri-Motor in the background, 
EAA's 1927 Laird Swallow is ready for take off.

EAA's newest airplane is not "new" at all; in fact, it's 77 years old, but had not flown in 43 years. Its pedigree dates back to 1926 when Walter T. Varney launched a contract air mail service between Pasco, Washington, and Elko, Nevada, via Boise, Idaho, utilizing a Laird Swallow biplane. This was a true milestone in U.S. commercial air transportation and led to the creation of what became United Airlines.

The Swallows are believed to be the first airplanes in the world designed and built purely for the purpose of commercial transportation.

Pilot Buck Hilbert makes a low pass by Pioneer Airport.

John H. McGeary Jr. donated the Swallow to EAA on December 28, 1976. The airplane remained in storage until the decision was made to restore it. Work was done over the past three years by the EAA maintenance staff, primarily by technicians Gary Buettner and Colin Hildebrant under the supervision of EAA Founder and Chairman Paul Poberezny. The project received generous support from the United Airlines Historical Foundation, Clay Lacy, Stits Poly-Fiber, and others.

Restorers selected a Continental 220 to power the aircraft for its reliable and serviceable benefits, especially for operating at Pioneer Airport. The first Swallows had OX-5 engines and some later ones used Wright J-5s. EAA's 1927 Swallow is painted in the same scheme as Varney's pioneering air mail airplanes.

The airplane must accrue 15 hours of test flight time prior to carrying passengers for hire. The first passenger rides and official display are scheduled for September 25 in Aurora, Illinois.

The aircraft now joins the fleet of antique aircraft at Pioneer Airport, where it will be used to support an EAA AirVenture Museum mission to preserve and share the pioneering spirit of the Golden Age of Aviation.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums
  
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