In the early years of the 20th century, Vancouver Barracks, and its polo field, was a central place for aviation enthusiasts to gather and try out their aircraft. During these early years at the Vancouver Barracks polo field, civilian aviators like Silas Christofferson, Charles Walsh, Walker Edwards, and Louis Barin wowed crowds with aerial acrobatics and feats.Work out when and for how long to visit Pearson Field and Pearson Air Museum and other Vancouver attractions using our handy Vancouver trip site.
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the polo field became the site of the Spruce Production Division's Spruce Cut-Up Mill, where spruce logged from the forests of the Pacific Northwest was manufactured into aviation-grade lumber. The lumber produced by the Spruce Mill was used to construct Curtiss JN-4 aircraft for pilots in training, and De Havilland DH-4 aircraft for combat overseas.
In the early 1920s, the Spruce Mill was demolished, and the field once again became an air field, first known as the "Vancouver Barracks Aerodrome," and christened "Pearson Air Field," after Lt. Alexander Pearson, in 1925. Beginning in 1923, the field was home to the 321st Observation Squadron, 96th Division, commanded by Lt. Oakley Kelly from 1924-1929, and by Lt. Carlton Bond from 1929-1933 and 1938-1940.
Among the more notable aviation achievements tied to Pearson Field is landing of the Douglas World Cruisers, on their way to achieving the first aerial circumnavigation of the globe, at the field in 1924.
Another highlight in the history of Pearson Field occurred in June 1937, when the Soviet Union launched the first trans-polar flight from Moscow with a three man crew, piloted by Valery Chkalov. After over three days of flying, and while en route to San Francisco, the ANT-25 aircraft piloted by Chkalov touched down at Pearson Field due to an engine oil leak. The event put Pearson Field, and Vancouver, Washington, on the front page of newspapers around the world.
Pearson Field was decommissioned by the Army Air Corps at the end of World War II, but it remains in service as a municipal airfield.
Pearson Field and Pearson Air Museum Reviews
The Pearson Air Museum is a "must-see" for anyone interested in aviation history generally or its local history, which is extensive. Do you know who Valery Chkalov is, or that the first trans-polar..... more »
Cool little museum! And it's free! (but please donate) This place looks brand new and the exhibits are very well put together, with a load of history on the fort & surrounding area. A few beautifully restored planes and old military artifacts are on display. The huge scale model of the early fort was really interesting as well. Worth a stop!
My dad and I are both disabled but we love to go on outings. He is an old plane buff as well. After touring Fort Vancouver we went straight to the Pearson Air Museum. The air field is very active so you get the added fun of small planes taking off by the museum. The museum is indoors and very disability friendly. We stayed about an hour and had a great time. The docents are friendly and helpful. Most of the planes are very old-a real history of flight. Who knew Lucky Lindy came out to Vancouver to visit his sister!
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