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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 52, No. 4 - Winter 2007
Table of Contents 

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 missions. 
     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 Air

     In 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 parts.(1)
     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

Far Skies and Distant Oceans, The Waterman Airlines’ Flights to South Africa - 1946-1947

     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.[1]
     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.[2]
     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.[3]
     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.[4]  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 depression.
     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 speed airliner.
     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 . . . . . 

Douglas O-46

 Three 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 time.[1]
     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 are unpublished.
     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 identify them.
     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 collective parts.
     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 - Meyers 145

     For 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