Aircraft of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Goddard Space
Flight Center (GSFC), located at Greenbelt, Md., about 10 miles northeast
of Washington, D.C., operated a variety of aircraft during the 1960s and
1970s in support of unmanned scientific satellites and manned flight
programs, including the Apollo moon missions. I was lucky enough to be a
part of this operation, and arranged a transfer from the scientific side
of the house to the Aircraft Operations at the start of the Apollo Program
in 1965. The introduction of aircraft into Goddard’s activities actually
began in 1958, when they acquired the use of a Grumman S2F-1 Tracker,
BuNo. 129151, that belonged to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL),
Washington, D.C., and used it to perform Mini-Track calibrations for
Project Vanguard. This aircraft was followed by a Douglas DC-3, actually
an ex-military C-53D-DO Skytrooper, or probably better known as a
"Gooney Bird." This aircraft was acquired in 1959 by Bendix Field
Engineering Corporation (BFEC) for Goddard and was registered as N2733A,
and used the call sign NASA 33A. The Air Force serial was 42-68709, c/n
11636. The aircraft was modified with electronic systems to act as a
Mercury spacecraft simulator. The results from the use of this aircraft
were very good, but it lacked payload and range for many of the up coming
The Douglas C-53D and all future Goddard aircraft
were based at Friendship Airport in Baltimore, Md., now named
Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Aircrews, electronics
personnel, and maintenance were provided under contract by BFEC, with home
offices in Owings Mills, Md. The Bendix Aircraft Operations were initially
headed up by Donald Gempler, and later by Howard Naslund, and the chief
pilot was William "Bill" Morgan (deceased), maintenance chief was
Marvin "Marv" Merryman, and the head of electronics was William "Bill"
Eakes. The Goddard Aircraft Operations section head was ...
NASA C-54s ready to roll
Boeing School of Aeronautics 1929 to 1943
The Air Commerce
Act of 1926 was amended February 1929 to regulate accredited flying
schools. There were 61 schools that applied and in 1929 only 20 were
approved but this increased to 44 in 1930. Boeing School of Aeronautics (BSA)
was accredited in October 1929.
In 1929 United Aircraft and Transport Corporation
Holding Company held Pacific Air Transport (PAT), Boeing Air Transport
(BAT), Boeing Airplane Company and various other aeronautical companies.
Boeing School was operated by BAT and retained that connection until 1934.
In 1934, Congress enacted the Air Mail Act which required United Aircraft
and Transport Corporation to change its management to United Air Lines Inc
(UAL). Boeing School became a part of UAL and United decided to retain the
Boeing School name. The Boeing School never had any direct connections
with the Boeing Airplane factory.
The Oakland Municipal Airport opened in 1927 with
Colonel Charles A. Lindberg dedicating it on September 17, 1929. The
airport contained 850 acres, a runway 7,020 feet long, mild weather and an
A-1-A rating issued by the Department of Commerce. Boeing Air Transport
had a long-term lease on some hangar space and was not using hangar five
and only half of hangar four. Boeing School located in these hangars and
began operations September 16, 1929.
In the original plan new classes were to start
every year, however, applications for enrollment were so numerous that it
required starting classes every three months.
On December 8, 1941, all flight operations
stopped and flight students were moved to Tracy, Calif., and fitted in
with the flight students already there under another UAL program. A few
weeks later by special military permission the school’s aircraft were
flown to Tracy. The school suspended all commercial courses on August 1,
1942, having graduated approximately 2,801 students. On January 8, 1943,
BSA was changed to United Airlines Training Center.
Building a University of the
1928, Theophus Lee, Jr., could see the aviation industry was developing
rapidly and trained personnel were going to be in short supply.
Mr. T. Lee, Jr. A.B.: during World War I had been
a flying cadet, then instructor and then officer in charge of flying at
Ebert’s Field, Ark., was minister in San Francisco, a teacher in the
Hawaiian Islands and high school principal in Los Angeles. He became an
air mail pilot with Pacific Air Transport in 1928.
He sold the operations manager on his idea of a
flying school and then toured the flying schools and universities that had
aeronautical courses in the United States and ended up in . . . . . .
Boeing School Boeing 203
Charlie Forty Six,
Part II: Some Exploits Told
In the late 40s,
U.S. military operators retained ownership of some C-46s and leased them
to qualified operators, but declared others surplus, while those retained
in military service flew well into the 1950s, before retiring. In 1948,
Claire Chennault and Whiting Willauer, founded CAT (Civil Air Transport)
using surplus C-46s and several C-47s.
In December 1949, CAT Commandos and Skytrains
escaped the Communist seizure of mainland China by evacuating all
personnel and aircraft to bases in Hong Kong, Formosa, and Tachikawa. CAT
fought legal battles concerning ownership of their grounded aircraft in
the Hong Kong courts, but eventually shipped their corroded transports to
a salvage yard in Santa Barbara, where they were sold piecemeal as spare
In America, the War Assets Administration
decision to surplus C-46 and C-47s stymied Curtiss plans to produce their
CW-20 civil transport. The ironic twist is that surplus Commandos fulfilled
the CW-20’s planned role by flying cargo and passengers in the U.S.,
Central and South America, Asia, and Alaska, but not with the CW-20’s
planned interior appointments and "stepped windshield."
Hundreds of civilian and ex-military pilots
initiated non-scheduled charter passenger and freight lines, with surplus
C-46s, especially in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
Non-scheduled passenger and freight lines such as
Talon, MAT, the man-wife team of Arctic Pacific Inc., Skycoach Express,
All American Airways, U.S. Aircoach, Coastal and Air Transport Associates
(ATA) briefly flew Commandos before ceasing operations due to the
post-war glut of start ups. ATA charged a mere $69 to fly Seattle to
Anchorage, and only $60 southbound return.
Even Transocean Airlines folded. That airline,
the brainchild of a reported 19 mixed USN and USAAF pilots flying
operations in Okinawa prior to the surrender, was based in Oakland, Calif.
A successful but secret Transocean contract involved flying 45 tons of
Siamese gold from Tokyo, Japan, to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York,
with fuel-oil stops in . . . .
Interior Airways’ Curtiss C-46
Skies and Distant Oceans, The Waterman Airlines’ Flights to South Africa
As the American
aviation industry matured in the years leading up to the Second World War,
large, prosperous steamship companies both here and abroad inevitably
became interested in air transport. The desire to extend both their
passenger and freight business to carriage by air, paralleling their
shipping routes, was a natural evolution. This idea was not new - its
origins can be traced back at least to Panagra (Pan American-Grace)
beginning operations in South America in 1929.
However, the enormous development of air
transport operations during the war provided the impetus. After the war a
number of steamship lines put in motion long-delayed plans to establish
their own airlines. The leaders in this endeavor were American Export
Lines, Matson Navigation Company, and Waterman Steamship Company of
Mobile, Alabama, which at its peak during the wartime years operated 125
ships and was the largest American flag line.
Waterman Airlines (WAL) was the inspiration of
Caroll B. Waterman, the son of the company’s founder. A wartime naval
aviator, he used his contacts in the Naval Air Transport Service (NATS) to
assemble an organization that by late 1945 was making its first flights
from Mobile’s new municipal airport Bates Field.
The steamship airline’s existence was short;
because of opposition by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) and certain
powerful certificated U.S. air carriers. But during their brief time
aloft, these companies, particularly Waterman and Matson Lines,
established airline operations that set new standards for the
day. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in . . . .
Waterman Airlines’ first DC-4
1933 - The Year of Aviation’s Commitment to Metal
Leaving the gray towers of downtown, south along Lake Michigan during the
summers of 1933 and 1934, a visitor would see a striking cluster of
structures that was Chicago’s "Century of Progress" exposition. It
would attract some 39 million attendees exposing them to a panoply of
wonder and optimism designed to raise hopes and spirits of a populace
burdened by 25 percent unemployment and at the nadir of the great
As you entered through the avenue of flags, the
giant towers of the sky ride would loom overhead with its doubledecked
gondolas, built in Akron’s Goodyear air dock, shuttling above. Beyond
could be seen soaring modern architecture, air-conditioned halls
displaying new products of industry and concepts for the future. Further
on were large areas for entertainment and representative structures of
foreign culture, then rarely seen by the American mainstream, there was a
pervading sense of old and failing mindsets in the process of change which
would promise better lives. New social programs were already in effect
since President Roosevelt took office in March, together with his
confident assurance that the future should be faced without fear.
(Coincidentally and ironically, Adolf Hitler had assumed leadership in
Germany also in March.)
Until the early 1930s, transportation by auto,
rail and air was essentially in modified boxes with flat-surfaced front
and sides, and an array of juttings that churned the wind. By 1933, cars
were using rounded steel body panels, deep drawn "pontoon" fenders,
and raked wind shields and radiator grills. The aeronautical term, "streamlining,"
an early Great War aviation term, was now describing toasters and a
variety of other stationary products.
Since the mid-1920s, a new aesthetic from Europe
known as art moderne (now called art deco) had been influencing
American design in architecture, sculpture, graphics, and furnishings.
Especially of note were automobiles. On view at the Chicago Fair were the
Chrysler and DeSoto Airflows, the Pierce Silver Arrow, the Cadillac "aerodynamic"
V-16, William Stout’s Scarab, and Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion. On
rails, the diesel-electric Burlington "Zephyr" and the Union Pacific
"City of Salina" were side-by-side for public inspection and referred
to as "airplanes without wings" by the media. Displayed on
pylons in the Travel and Transport hall was a factory fresh United
Airlines Boeing 247 viewed from a walkway over the right wing. Its
aluminum skin was anodized, giving it a gray, rather than silvery, sheen
and introduced the public to a new mode of air travel: the all-metal high
A further demonstration of progress in aviation
came during July 1933 when an armada of 24 Italian Macchi-Castoldi S-55x
twin-hulled seaplanes arrived over Chicago after a 12,000 mile flight. Led
by General Italo Balbo, he and . . . . .
New Historic Aviation Photograph and Document Collections
The collections described here
were introduced initially on the Web site www.dmairfield.org during
late fall 2006. The Web site analyzes, documents and brings to life the
people and aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Municipal Airfield,
Tucson, Ariz., between 1925 and 1936. The people and aircraft are recorded
in the Register from the Airfield that lay open for signature during that
The collections today are owned and carefully
preserved by the primary authors of this article, who are the sons of the
original collectors. Many images in the collections are relevant to flight
activities at Tucson. The three owners (authors Cosgrove, Gerow, Russell)
contacted the webmaster (Hyatt) through his Web site and offered their
images to enhance the historic value of the Web site. Two of their fathers
(Cosgrove, Russell) were pilots who signed the Airfield Register
celebrated on the Web site. Author Gerow’s father photographed on the
west coast many of the same people and aircraft that passed through
Tucson. Working together preparing the images for the Web, and further
discussions, led us to believe the collections might have wider interest
and value if made available to historians in their entirety. This article
serves to introduce the rest of the collections.
The collections contain thousands of items,
including photographs, letters, brochures, cards, ribbons, jewelry, flags,
awards, certificates, technical manuals and other aviation memorabilia and
artifacts. The majority of items are from United States sources from the
1920s and ’30s. A sample of over 300 items from the collections appears
on the Web site. Whereas the Web sample is relevant exclusively to the
people and airplanes of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register, there are
many more items in the collections not on the Web site that are germane to
other aspects of aviation beyond the Golden Age (e.g., WWI, WWII, later
military and civil air transport).
Most of the items are black and white photographs
of people, places and aircraft taken from just after the birth of aviation
through the mid-to-late 20th century. The majority can be dated during the
1920s and ’30s. Among the people of the collections are the movers and
shakers of aviation’s Golden Age. Maitland and Hegenberger, the pilots
and passengers of the "Josephine Ford" and the pioneer pilots of
Standard Air Lines are a few examples. Early aircraft manufacturers (e.g.,
Donald Douglas, Claude Ryan, Eddie Stinson) are represented, as are other
pilots and staff of early airlines, air racers, barnstormers and
entrepreneurs. Some previously unpublished images of female pilots are
among those of the Cosgrove collection.
Aircraft photographs include the "Spirit of St.
Louis," early Lockheeds, record-setting military craft of the period,
including the "Question Mark" and "Bird of Paradise" and the
Pitcairn autogiro flown on a record-breaking cross-country by Johnny
Miller in 1931. Southwestern airfield photographs of Tucson, San Diego,
Long Beach, Bakersfield, and Los Angeles’ Mines Field are included as
well. The 1928 Ford Reliability Tour and many air races are remembered
with preserved documents and photos. Much of the collections’ contents
A good number of the images were taken by the
namesakes of the collections; some were not. The sample photos presented
are all identified one way or the other. For the collections as a whole,
some of the images are identified as to time, location, people or aircraft
shown. Other images have no such information. But that does not reduce
their usefulness to researchers who otherwise may be able to place or
The documents of the collections include numerous
newspaper clippings featuring the original collectors and newsworthy
descriptions of their aviation careers as they progressed. Personal and
business letters, certificates and pilot certificates are also
represented throughout the collections.
Each collection is a treasure for historians. The
photos were taken generally with great informality regarding framing and
timing. Photographic techniques ranged from box camera snapshots and
corporate portraits to high-resolution, large format portrait and aerial
photographs of great clarity and rich depth. The spontaneity of many of
the photos, and the ability to discern details in their backgrounds, makes
the individual pictures add up to much more than the sum of their
In this article are presented six sample images
from each collection. They provide an exclusive introduction to this
valuable pictorial cross-section of civil, commercial and military
aviation. The documents, memorabilia and artifacts that comprise each
collection are unique to the birth, development, practice, lore and
outcomes of aviation during the 20th century.
The collections are available for qualified
research purposes. Individuals interested should contact the collection
owners (references 2-4) for access and collection content details.
Adm Byrd’s Fokker F.VII
"Josephine Ford" on tour
The Life of Douglas DC-2-118B, S/N 1368
At age 72, the last flyable
commercial DC-2, now located at the Museum of Flight in Seattle,
Washington, may have made its last flight. Departing from Van Nuys airport
in late June 2007, where it had undergone interior refurbishment and
addition of a Transcontinental &Western paint scheme at Boeing Field.
Having survived for many years as the sole flyable commercial DC-2 in the
world, it will now rest among other historic airplanes for the public to
enjoy. There is actually one other flyable DC-2 in Amsterdam, originally
built for the U.S. Navy as the R2D-1 staff transport, but much later used
as a civil aircraft transport and still later by a private owner until
purchased by the Aviodrome Museum in The Netherlands.
DC-2 S/N 1368, the 77th off the production line,
was originally delivered to Pan American Aviation Services on March 16,
1935, registered as NC14296. Title transfer to Pan American Airways, Inc.,
took place on April 9, 1935. Available records fail to disclose where the
airplane spent its first two years but it is known that on October 26,
1937, it was transferred to Compania Mexicana de Aviacion, S.A., with the
registration of XA-BJL. Juan Trippe, president of Pan American Airways,
who was rapidly expanding Pan American, had acquired 51 percent of the
stock of Mexicana and sent several airplanes to Mexico to update the
airlines’ equipment, DC-2 S/N 1368 being one of them.
As Pan American continued to expand southward,
Trippe moved into Guatemala and on October 11, 1940, established the
airline Aerovias de Guatemela. He then transferred two . . .
Restored Douglas DC-2
Remember When -
those of us who recall the period, a boom in general aviation was to take
place following World War II. It was anticipated that returning airmen
would trade their wartime aircraft, flown in hostile skies, for light
planes flown over peaceful American terrain. The return of many veteran
pilots, aviators and airmen was to be the catalyst behind the figurative
statement "an airplane in every garage," and it gave impetus to
artists’ conceptions of smiling families flying to vacation destinations
in futuristic light planes. Aviation magazines of the day reinforced this
vision by depicting modern-day housing developments with a runway and
individual taxiways leading up to each new home.
Aircraft companies and subcontractors shared this
optimism as they converted their wartime facilities into the manufacturing
of general-aviation aircraft. Soon their drawing boards were busy as they
transitioned from the manufacturing of bomber and pursuit aircraft of war
to the postwar pursuit of building light planes. In some cases, and for
expediency, their aircraft were prewar or updated designs. Other
companies, however, capitalized on wartime knowledge and transferred newly
developed technology into modern and innovative aircraft designs.
New light-plane designs and prototypes from major
aircraft manufacturers, including Douglas, Grumman, Lockheed, North
American and Republic, entered into development. Additionally, new light
planes from many other aircraft companies entered the developmental stage
at the end of the war (see listing of aircraft). Concurrently, production
was resumed on prewar aircraft, including the ERCo Ercoupe, Globe Swift,
and the Luscombe Silvaire.
However, the aviation boom was not to be. Many
war-weary pilots turned their vision from the sky to earthbound goals,
including home, automobile, family and peacetime employment. Also, the
exigencies and economic conditions at the time helped to fuel the death
knell of the aviation boom.
Meyers 145 brochure
In the News | Book Reviews | Links | Store
| Members Only | Membership | About AAHS | Contact Us | Site Map
Copyright © 2002-2021 American Aviation Historical Society