Earle Lewis Ovington (December 20, 1879 – July 21, 1936) was an American aeronautical engineer, aviator and inventor, and served as a lab assistant to Thomas Edison. Ovington piloted the first official airmail flight in the United States in a Blériot XI on September 23, 1911. He carried a sack of mail from Garden City, New York to Mineola, New York. He circled at 500 feet and tossed the bag over the side of the cockpit and the sack burst on impact, scattering letters and postcards. He delivered 640 letters and 1,280 postcards, including a letter to himself from the United States Post Office Department designating him as "Official Air Mail Pilot #1."
He was born on December 20, 1879 in Illinois. He married Adelaide in 1911 and they had two children: Earle Kester Ovington (1912–2006) and Audrey Ovington (1914-2005) He built a house in the Samarkand area of Santa Barbara, California which included an airstrip. While this airstrip wasn't the ultimate site of the Santa Barbara Municipal Airfield, it did serve in that capacity until Ovington's death. He died on July 21, 1936. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.
- "E. L. Ovington Dies. First Mail Pilot. Flew the Initial Consignment From Garden City Estates to Mineola, L. I., in 1911.". New York Times. July 23, 1936. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
From Garden City Estates to Mineola, L. I., in 1911. Covered Ten-mile Route. Studied at Bleriot School at Pau, France. Owned Air Terminal at Santa [Barbara]
- "Earle Ovington". Airmail Pioneers. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
Ovington was duly sworn in as the first U.S. airmail pilot, then handed a load of 640 letters and 1,280 postcards in a mail bag. With hardly enough room in his little cockpit to hold the bundle, he tucked it between his legs and at 5:26 p.m. took off. In flight he balanced it on his knees so he could steer with his feet. Five and a half miles later, a distance he covered in six minutes, he arrived over Mineola. His wife remembered that he had sworn to "guard and protect" the mail, and so he did to the best of his ability. He circled at 500 feet, took aim, tossed the bag over the side and hit the mark dead center, but the sack burst on impact, scattering letters and postcards thither and yon. Rapidly retrieved, they were sent on their way by regular post.
- "Earle Lewis Ovington". Early Aviators. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
Ovington took off on September 23, 1911 with a load of 640 letters and 1,280 postcards in a mail bag tucked between his legs - the first airplane carry of United States mail authorized by postal authorities. Ovington flew to Mineola, about three miles away, where, as agreed, he dropped the bag in a prearranged spot to waiting postal officials. The drop landed on time and on target, but unfortunately the bag broke on impact with the ground, scattering the mail hither and yon. After a scramble, all the letters and cards were retrieved and sent on the way via regular postal channels, all of them bearing the cancellation "Aeroplane Station No.1 - Garden City Estates, N.Y." For this feat Ovington was awarded the title "Air MAil Pilot No.1." ... Earle Ovington died in 1936.
- 1880 US Census
- Passenger list traveling from Ensenada, Mexico on 17 Jun 1931 to Los Angeles, California
- 1930 US Census
- "To Cast Ovington Ashes Into Sea". New York Times. July 24, 1936. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
His widow, Mrs. Adelaide Ovington, said she would take the ashes East at a future date in compliance with the pioneer aviator's request.
- "Ovington, First Air-Mail Pilot, Called By Death.". Los Angeles Times. July 22, 1936. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
Earle L. Ovington, 56 years of age, pioneer aviator and first airmail pilot in America, died at 4 p.m. yesterday at the Good Samaritan Hospital. For seven weeks he had made a vain effort to cheat death as he had many times before in his eventful career as naval of-...
- Ovington, Mrs. Adelaide Alexander, An Aviator's Wife, Dodd, Mead and company, 1920. Full text at archive.org.
- Campbell, Robert D., Reminiscences of a Birdman, Living History Press, 2009. ISBN 0615281885
- Earle Lewis Ovington at Flickr
- picture of Earle Lewis Ovington by photographer James Walter Collinge: last picture in gallery
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