In April of that year, Bill Boeing delivered the B-1, a custom flying boat, to his friend and test pilot, Eddie Hubbard. In an era with few airports, a plane that could land on water made sense. In possession of the B-1 Hubbard won the US Postal Service’s contract for “hydro-airplane mail service” between Seattle and Victoria in 1920. There followed an additional contract for Hubbard to deliver Orient-bound American mail to Victoria where it was loaded aboard the eastbound Canadian Pacific Steamships’ Empress Liners.
The B-1 was Boeing’s first offering in the civil market and had a very successful career. From its first flight on December 27, 1919, the B-1’s air frame outlasted six engines in eight years. Hubbard flew the B-1 563,000 kilometres between Victoria’s Harbour and Seattle’s Lake Union – a remarkable performance for both a pilot and plane in that era. With its propeller facing aft, the B-1 was a “pusher” flying boat. Her hull was constructed of laminated wood veneers, while the wing frames were of spruce and plywood. She carried Eddie and up to two passengers, as well as mail or cargo.
In February 1921 a full-page report with photos appeared in the Victoria Times celebrating Hubbard’s delivery of over one million letters in 10 months. By January 1923 Hubbard had flown 50 tons of mail between the two cities. In March 1926, an article in the Victoria Colonist noted that Hubbard flew Canadian mail destined for the American east coast from Victoria to Seattle where it was transported by rail to Pasco, Washington, and then on to New York by air.
Today, Hubbard’s meticulously restored B-1 hangs in the Museum of History and Industry on the shore of Seattle’s Lake Union, the lake that served as its base of operations during those adventurous days.
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