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Up in the Air, Junior Birdman

The recent centennial of the end of World War I got me to wondering how the war effort affected our region. It was, of course, the impetus for the Boeing Airplane Company, which started in 1916 and by 1918 was building airplanes for the military. Few appreciated that air power would prove instrumental in ending the war that, unfortunately, didn’t end all wars. But one man did, and he set out to show all of Seattle, back in the day before the FAA. What follows is an abridged account from

July 18, 1914

[Silas] Christofferson took John Evans, a reporter for The Seattle Times, on the ride of a lifetime. War had just broken out in Europe, and aircraft (a relatively new phenomenon) would soon redefine the way wars would be fought. To illustrate this, the two men spent an hour bombing Seattle.

They did not want to use explosives, of course, so they used flour bags instead. The nice white impact bursts would be visible from the air, indicating the accuracy of their bombing raids. They loaded up the plane [a Model D biplane] with 21 three-ounce flour sacks, with which to rain terror on the city below.

Taking off from Lake Union, Evans dropped a few test bombs over the water in order to gauge how far the bags would drift due to the wind. Throughout the flight, Evans acted as bombardier, while Christofferson pointed out targets. Once Evans was comfortable estimating where the sacks would land, the junior birdmen bore down on the city.

Bombs Away

The first bomb was dropped over a vacant lot, but forward thrust carried it a half-block further where it burst open in the doorway of a home. Evans mentally added 150 feet to his calculations as the plane moved closer to downtown.

Flying over the regrade area, they spotted a carnival. They deployed another bomb and it hurtled to the ground, exploding very near to a Ferris wheel. Christofferson grinned fiendishly as they flew on towards the Washington Hotel. They dropped another bomb, but this one hit a vacant lot behind the hotel.

From there, they deviated off course a bit and flew out over Elliott Bay. Evans tried bombing a passing ship, but