A strange occurrence happened over Safford on Jan. 27, 1920. A bright object was seen coming out of the south, flying in a northeasterly direction.
People gathered in the streets and called for their friends and neighbors to come and see.
It was a shiny object, barely seen at first. Many thought it was a bird or flock of birds, but it moved in a straight direction, heading right over Downtown Safford.
Some people panicked and yelled to others to get their guns. The object was getting closer to town now, and the townfolk could hear a high-pitched noise. Someone yelled, “There is something coming out of it,” and as awestruck people waited below, paper circulars began to flutter down. One man and then another picked them up and began laughing as they read out loud, “Recruits needed for the Navy.”
This was the first airplane to fly over Safford, and was on a run to Morenci from Douglas. It would take a little more than 16 years after the first flight by the Wright brothers for the airplane, or more appropriately the biplane, to make its debut over Safford skies. It was another year or so before the first plane set down in Safford.
A few local men had been around airplanes during the war, and some even flew them, but the sight of one of them over our area was really something to remember. It was like going to the circus to see the elephant, and many local young men decided that they, too, would one day own one of these airplanes.