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‘It was a big deal’: Antique planes fly from Felts in honor of Spokane Sun God’s 90th anniversary

Aug. 17, 2019 Updated Sat., Aug. 17, 2019 at 5:19 p.m.

When Nick Mamer and Art Walker touched down at Felts Field in Spokane Valley on Aug. 20, 1929, they had just become the first pilots to complete a non-stop transcontinental flight and had set a world record for longest non-stop flight.

They did it by refueling mid-air as they made their way from Spokane Valley to San Franciso and New York and back without landing.

“It was a big deal,” said Addison Pemberton, who restores and flies antique airplanes at Felts Field. “It was a Lindbergh-caliber achievement.”

On Saturday, 90 years after that flight, on that same runway, Pemberton took off in his own antique restored plane, a Waco EQC-6 Custom Cabin painted blue and red with gold trim.

Pemberton, his son and a friend each flew one of his vintage aircraft from Felts Field and over Auntie’s Bookstore on Saturday in accordance with a book signing for author J.B. Rivard’s new book “Low on Gas – High on Sky: Nick Mamer’s 1929 Venture,” which details Mamer and Walker’s flight.

Mamer’s plane, a Buhl CA-6 called the Spokane Sun God, is now lost to history, Pemberton said. Not that he didn’t try to find. He and a friend spent years searching for the original plane with no luck.

But by flying his Waco EQC-6 Custom Cabin – one of three in the world – he wanted to help Rivard tell the Son God’s story.

Mamer “put this airplane on the map,” Pemberton said as he stood in his airplane-memorabilia-clad hangar at Felts Field.

Pemberton’s plane is similar to Mamer’s mostly in terms of their engines.

“It has a really similar bark when you hear it run,” Pemberton said. “It sounds like a herd of Harleys.”

The book launch also falls in line with the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum opening a 90th anniversary exhibit about the Spokane Sun God flight. It includes photos, documents and handwritten notes that Mamer had to drop from his airplane to communicate with people on the ground during his flight.

Pemberton also owns the other two planes in Saturday’s flight: a 1931 Stearman 4DM-1 Senior Speedmail, flown by his son Ryan Pemberton, and a 1942 450 Stearman, flown by his friend Ben Littlefield.

“Let’s go make some noise over downtown,” Pemberton said before crawling into the cockpit, firing up the engine and taking off.

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