Check it out: History takes flight in ‘Pearson Field’



If you live in Southwest Washington, you probably know that Pearson Field is one of the oldest continually operating airfields in the nation. You might even be familiar with the story of Valery Chkalov, the Russian pilot who landed his Soviet aircraft at Pearson in 1937. But did you know that the first Chinese-American woman to receive a pilot’s license learned to fly at Pearson? Or that Pearson Field is named for Lt. Alexander Pearson, an Army Air Service pilot who became the first person to make an aerial survey of the Grand Canyon?

If you want to know more about Vancouver’s early days in aviation, check out Bill Alley’s fascinating book, “Pearson Field: Pioneering Aviation in Vancouver and Portland.” My favorite historical tidbit? At the tender age of 93, Oregon Trail pioneer Ezra Meeker rode as a passenger from Pearson Field to Dayton, Ohio, retracing his 1852 wagon route. Riding in an open cockpit must have generated some trepidation for the pioneer: He made sure to remove his dentures and put them in his pocket before taking off.

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at She blogs at