1927 National Air Races at Felt's Field

The 1920's heralded a gripping intrigue in aviation amongst Americans. With new, dangerous demonstrations in flight occurring each year, by 1927 aviators were becoming as popular and idealized as a star athlete in the NFL today. In that same year Charles Lindberg made his famous transatlantic flight, riveting the nation and sparking interest in aviation. With the craze in full swing, Spokane Valley's own Felt's Field was chosen as the finish line of one of the most successful and popular National Air Races in the country's history--the National Air Races.

The decision for Spokane, rather than say, a larger city like Los Angeles or San Francisco to host the races surely generated some skepticism. However, there had never been so much public enthusiasm before 1927 for aviation and Spokane "had in that day a live-wire business community that was willing to put its money where its mouth was and an active Chamber of Commerce." A key driving force behind the orchestration of the event was Major John "Jack" Fancher, who enlisted the help of local newspaper companies, investors, hoteliers, and various other organizations to gain financial support and influence for the occasion. The results would be unprecedented.

Newspaper articles from September 19-25th documented the festivities which attracted some 91, 989 attendees, with a grandstand that held 33, 421. Trains and automobile traffic flooded the roadways to Felt's Field, people even dusted off their outdated horse-drawn stagecoaches to reach the show. The main event was the $10,000 prize awarded to first to arrive of twenty four pilots who departed from New York on twenty four hour flight to Felt's Field. Spokane Valley's population increased by almost ten-fold as spectators gathered to observe not only the conclusion of the transcontinental race, but a host of other events that lasted days.

Precision air acrobatics, parachute drops, and local closed-course speed races kept audiences entertained for the week. One must not forget that this was a most perilous time in aviation, performing stunts was subject to stunting one's lifespan. Of the twenty four pilots departing New York, only sixteen would reach Spokane, the other's forced down by mechanical failures and adverse weather, a common occurrence at the time. The $10,000 grand prize went to Charles "Speed" Holman, who smashed the predicted time of twenty four hours finishing in nineteen hours and forty two minutes.

The success of the National Air Races remain unparalleled today as the largest event to ever occur in the Spokane Valley. As a result of the races, "Spokane became known as a leader in our nation for aviation activity for the first time. In years that followed they were successfully held in Cleveland and Los Angeles and the country went forward into the air age. Spokane has been a part of it."