The Air Mail Act of 1925 opened the skies for Walter T. Varney, when he purchased a fleet of Swallow biplanes and applied for Commercial Air Mail Route 5, which would carry the mail from Pasco, Washington through Boise, Idaho and onto Elko, Nevada. On April 6th, 1926 Leon Cuddeback, took off with 10 sacks of mail. History was in the making, Varney Air Lines, eventually became a part of United Air Lines.
Six Swallows were originally delivered to Varney with Curtiss K-6 150 hp 6 cylinder inline engines but when airmail service was inaugurated on April 6, 1926, from Pasco, Washington to Elko, Nevada over the Cascade mountains after a weeks operation, it was realized that a more powerful engine was needed. The Swallows were grounded for 60 days until Wright Whirlwind J4 208 hp 9 cylinder radial engines could be installed. Successful flights then took place.
In 1934, Varney Airlines, National Air Transport, Pacific Air Transport and Boeing Air Transport merged to form United Air Lines. The four companies are represented by the four stars in United's Pilot wings.
SWALLOW RESTORATION PROJECT
The United Airlines Historical Foundation undertook a fund raising effort to support the Experimental Aircraft Association's restoration of an original 1927 Swallow bi-plane. We provided a Continental W-670 engine to replace the original OX-5 and we then mounted a fundraising campaign to support the purchase of cockpit instruments, flying wires (to hold the wings together), radios, brakes, and an exhaust system.
Now that the restoration is complete, visitors to the EAA’s Pioneer Airport can view the plane and periodically are offered an opportunity to fly in a vintage open cockpit air-mail plane. To learn more, go to this link.