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1956 - 2023, Celebrating over 65+ Years of Service

Excerpts from
AAHS Journal, Vol. 55, No. 3 - Fall 2010
Table of Contents 

On the Wings of Discovery: Muir Stephen Fairchild, The Life and Times of an Aviation Pioneer and Patriot

     In the annals of American aviation many individuals and personalities were familiar to the American public yet some were remarkable airmen little known outside comradeship of their colleagues. One such innovative and important pioneering aviator in the 20th century was Muir Stephen Fairchild born in Bellingham, Wash., on September 2, 1894, to Harry Arson and Georgia Ann Crockett Fairchild. His father was born near Brantford, Ontario, Canada, but moved to the United States eventually settling in Bellingham in 1884 where he became a prominent attorney. With the election of Albert Edward Mead as the fifth governor (serving from 1905-1909) the Fairchild family moved to the state capitol of Olympia when Muir’s father was appointed chairman of the state’s Railroad Commission and its successor the Public Service Commission from 1905 until his death in 1911. Before enrolling in the University of Washington in Seattle in 1913, Fairchild attended public schools in Bellingham and Olympia. While in college he enlisted in the Washington National Guard and later served as a radio platoon sergeant on the Mexican border in 1916. He never completed his degree requirements for a diploma and left the university in 1917.
     Fairchild died at his quarters at Ft. Myer, Va., on March 17, 1950. His wife, Francis Alice Rossiter Fairchild, of Omaha, Neb., whom he had married on April 24, 1924, was with him when he was stricken. He was attended by Brig. Gen. Dan C. Ogle, the Air Force Deputy Surgeon. He had recently completed a thorough physical check at the Army and Navy Hospital at Hot Springs, Ark., and was declared in good condition, yet shortly thereafter fell ill. Mrs. Fairchild wrote on her husband’s cousins, Mrs. George Bacon of Bellingham, informing her that "reports were not good" and that they were returning to their home in Virginia immediately.
     General Fairchild was honored and memorialized when the former Spokane Army Air Depot was renamed to Fairchild AFB with the formal dedication ceremonies taking place on July 20, 1951. The event coincided with the arrival of the 92nd Bombardment Wing’s (Heavy), the first B-36 Peacemakers that were stationed there until 1957 when subsequently replaced by B-52s and KC-135 tankers.
     In addition, the Muir S. Fairchild Research and Information Center at the Air University, Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Ala., was named in his memory as was Fairchild Hall that is the main academic building at the United States Air Force Academy housing classrooms, laboratories, research facilities, faculty offices and the McDermott Library with the mailing address of 2354 Fairchild Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80840-6214.

Early Military Service
     Fairchild began his career by first serving as a sergeant in the Washington National Guard from June 19 to October 5, 1916, as a radio sergeant on the Mexican border and subsequently . . .

Complete Bibliography for this article (PDF document)

Lt. Fairchild, Charles Lindbergh and Grover Loening

The Airplane Designs of Hughes Aircraft Company 

     Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. Many articles and books have been written concerning his life. Eccentric, secretive, loner, among other descriptors, have been used to describe him. In aviation he was known as an excellent pilot, who could get into a lot of trouble in following his personal whims.
     His exploits in aviation have been well documented. But the designs of the aircraft company, which carried his name, are virtually unknown. This article is a progress report. The project has a long ways to go, but I believe the new/unreported details included herein many will find interesting. As this is an ongoing project, any corrective information and/or amplifying information would be appreciated (see Author’s Note at the end of this article).

Setting the Stage
     At the ripe age of 14, in 1920, Hughes got his first ride in an airplane. By the mid-1920s he was actively taking flying lessons. At this time he had three major goals in life: to be the best filmmaker, pilot, and golfer. Aviation and movie making co-joined in the late 1920s in the epic production (years to make the film and a fortune spent) on Hell’s Angels.
     In a need for speed, Hughes bought a Boeing 100A and received it in July 1929. As with most airplanes he bought, he found a need to modify it after receiving it. First he took the Boeing airplane to Douglas in Santa Monica but was not satisfied with the outcome. Then he tried Lockheed in Burbank and was quite satisfied. The Lockheed project engineer assigned to carry out Hughes’ requirements was Richard W. Palmer, who would later work for Hughes. By mid-1932 the Boeing 100A was ready and Hughes enjoyed flying it. In March of the following year Hughes had the National Aeronautics Association (NAA) time him over a measured course at Mines Field in Inglewood, California. He was timed at 212.3 mph. In January 1934, the . . .

Hughes D-5 Bomber concept

Visitors to Parks Air College

     Following his service in the U.S. Marine Corps during WWI, Oliver Lafayette "Lafe" Parks began taking flying lessons from a pilot at Robertson Aircraft Corporation. He received his first pilots rating in January 1926. The certificate, No. 6373, was signed by Orville Wright. Six months later, Parks earned his transport rating. He then bought two planes - a Standard and an Eagle Rock. Parks enjoyed taking visitors for rides over the St. Louis area. Sometimes he earned $300 a day on these flights. The Standard that Parks flew was less than reliable, and he encountered several incidents that brought him to the realization that his flight training had been too short, too fast, and too narrow.
     In May 1927, Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight over the Atlantic Ocean to Paris got people thinking about aviation in general and aviation careers in particular. Parks was among them, since he loved to fly.
     But aviation at that time was more daredevil than serious business. Most civilians engaged in aviation were "barnstormers" that were usually flying veterans from the war, who flew around the country displaying their skills and giving rides. Most people considered a career in aviation to be a risky venture. Nonetheless, on August 1, 1927, Parks opened up his air college in a rented hangar at Lambert Field, near St. Louis, Missouri. He still had two airplanes – his old Standard and a Laird Swallow. Harvey Glass became his first student pilot. He gave a free ride to the young man and his girl friend in his Swallow, but it crashed.
     In the spring of 1928, Parks bought some acreage in Cahokia, Illinois - just the other side of the river from St. Louis. He had found his school site. He added charter services, educational courses, and sightseeing flights.
     Only two years after its opening, Parks Air College made history when it became the nation’s first federally approved flying school. Parks has Certificate Number 1. With this distinction in hand, Parks weathered the Great Depression and . . . . 

Northrop A-17A at Parks Air College

Braniff International Airways 1930-1982, Part 2 - Jet Aircraft 

      While Braniff International Airways may be faulted for a number of things, including those that eventually led to its demise, the airline was a noted innovator during the 1960s and 1970s. It was one of the first airlines to standardize its fleet in order to reduce maintenance and operating costs. It was one of the first to hire professional designers to create wardrobes for its cabin crews. It was one of the first to engage Wall Street advertising agencies to help shape its public image. It was the first to hire well known professional artists to create a unique paint scheme for several of its jets – this influence is echoed today in the variety and sometimes wildly outlandish paint schemes that can be found on commercial
aircraft today.

Flying the Colors
     With the appointment of Harding L. Lawrence to the presidency of Braniff in 1965 there was a new direction on image building of the airline. New Mexico architect Alexander Girard and fashion designer Emilio Pucci were brought in as consultants to launch the "End of the Plain Plane" marketing campaign. Girard recommended painting the planes in a single color selected from a palette of bright hues, which were eventually selected as beige, ochre, orange, turquoise, baby blue, medium blue, lemon yellow and lavender (the latter of which was shortly dropped because lavender and black are considered bad luck in Mexico). These seven basic colors were modified in the late 1960s to include two-tone schemes of red over Aztec gold, orange over ochre, dark green over light green and dark blue over light blue. The mid-1970s saw the introduction of the "New Ultra Look" paint schemes of sparkling burgundy, terra cotta, mercury blue, metallic blue, chocolate brown, Peresus green and light blue.
     Braniff engaged well known artist Alexander Calder in 1973 to paint an aircraft. The result was a DC-8-62, N1805, which became known as "Flying the Colors" and was showcased at the 1975 Paris Air Show. Calder was subsequently commissioned in 1975 to design a paint scheme for one of their 727-200s, N408BN, based on a U.S. bi-centennial theme, another paint scheme with a Latin American (contract called for Mexican theme and 50 original gouaches to be adapted for painting tail assemblies (a la the new Frontier Airlines and British Airways). Calder passed away before the Mexican theme was completed and Braniff never implemented the tail art.
     Braniff International Airways, as seen in Part I, could trace its roots back to the 1920s. One criticism of the airline was that during the 1950s and 1960s it was slow to evolve with changing technology. Braniff didn’t begin to add jets to this fleet until the late 1950s and really didn’t embrace jet aircraft on its routes . . . 

Braniff BAC 111-203AE, N1544

The CAF Arizona Wing’s B-25J "Maid in the Shade" 43-35972

     The Commemorative Air Forces (CAF) Arizona Wing’s B-25J, 43-35972, later named "Maid in the Shade," was in very sorry shape when it arrived at the Arizona Wing’s hangar at Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona, in 1981. But after 28 years of restoration work this WWII combat veteran airplane has again taken to the skies.
     The B-25J "Maid in the Shade" is one of two aircraft that are the cornerstones of the Arizona Wing. The other cornerstone aircraft is the B-17G "Sentimental Journey," 44-83514, (AAHS Journal, Summer 2007). "Maid in the Shade," 43-35972, is the only CAF Arizona Wing airplane that has a known combat record. During late 1944 of WWII this aircraft flew out of Serraggia Airbase on the east coast of Corsica. It was with the 57th Bomb Wing, 319th Bomb Group, 437th Squadron where it was assigned Battle Number 18. It flew 15 bombing missions over Italy and Yugoslavia. This aircraft has been undergoing restoration for 28 years by the CAF Arizona Wing, culminating in returning it to its original WWII configuration. On May 29, 2009, it took its first flight in 28 years.
     But, starting at the beginning, this B-25J, 43-35972, was manufactured (construction number 108-32762) at the North American Aviation plant in Kansas City and delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force on June 9, 1944. It was then flown to Hunter Field, Savannah, Ga., on June 24, then onto Morrison Field, Fla., where it was readied for deployment to the Mediterranean Theatre of Operation.
     On July 7, 1944, the aircraft departed Morrison Field and followed the southern route over Brazil, then across the Atlantic to Africa. Records are missing until October 22, 1944, at which time the plane was delivered to the 3rd Air Facility Depot and then picked up by the 319th Bomb Group, 437th Squadron at Serraggia Airbase, Corsica. There it was assigned the Battle Number 18. The plane proceeded to fly 15 combat missions over Italy. Her combat mission history is in the table on the next page.
      On December 31, 1944, the 319th Bomb Group received orders to halt combat operations in Europe and prepare for redeployment to the Pacific. The 319th operated B-25s for just two months as an interim between B-26s and A-26s. During those two months 43-35972 flew 15 combat missions including the 319th’s first and last B-25 mission. 43-35972 was then returned to the 3rd Air Facility Depot on January 10, 1945. In July it was flown back to the U.S. and placed in storage.
      The plane was recalled in 1946 for utility and transport duty. During this time it served with MATS at McCord AFB, Tacoma, Wash.; TAC 62nd Aerodrome Group Continental Air Command at Mitchell Field, N.Y.; 1002nd Inspector General Unit at Norton AFB, Calif.; and the 1005th Inspector General Special Investigations Unit at Andrews AFB, Maryland. Afterwards the Air Force began to phase out the B-25s so in . . . 

Restored B-25J "Maid in the Shade"

N1596V and N1597V, the Last of the Aussie Mossies

     It was at Camden, New South Wales, Australia, and it was mid-1958 when Morry Lawrence finally had his two Mossies stripped of useful components and burnt. I once asked him why he did it and in his typical gruff voice replied "because I promised to!" He hesitated and then added "and I didn’t like it." The de Havilland Mosquitoes that Morry reluctantly destroyed were the last to operate in Australia.
     At least five ex-RAAF Mosquitoes flew commercially and three of them made it to the U.S. civil register. The five were PR Mk41 A52-319 (VH-WAD), bought by the well known Australian pioneer aviator Jimmy Woods for the 1953 London to Christchurch International Air Race (it never made it to the start) and that now resides on permanent display in the Australian War Memorial Canberra; PR Mk41, A52-324 (VH-KLG), bought by Aubrey ’Titus’ Oates DFC as his entry in the same race and which he crashed in Burma enroute to the London start; an FB40, thought to be either A52-55 or A52-177, purchased in 1953 by Morry Lawrence of Sepal Pty. Ltd. on behalf of Aviation Export Co. (AEC) of Los Angeles and registered as N4928V2; and, the subject of this article, the two PR Mk41s, A52-306 and A52-313, sold in 1954 to the American company World Wide Surveys Inc.3 All PR Mk41 Mosquitoes were Australian built.
      In early 1954 World Wide Surveys Inc., an aerial survey joint venture between Aero Service Corp. of Philadelphia and Fairchild Aerial Surveys Inc. of California was awarded a high altitude (36,000 feet) contract by the U.S. Army Map Service to photograph previously unmapped portions of Sarawak and Sabah, Borneo. The survey was to operate from the island of Labuan. The contract terms were lucrative but at that time there was a problem - there was a dire lack of aircraft either capable or available to fly the work.
      Aero Service Corp., and others, had for a number of years been using P-38 Lightnings to fly high altitude photography and the Canadian company Kenting, since 1952, had been operating two ex-RCAF Mosquitoes. So prompted by this, Aero Service, on behalf of World Wide Surveys, decided to check out the condition of the Mosquitoes known to be available in both New Zealand and Australia. They contacted Morry Lawrence of Sepal Pty. Ltd., a Sydney-based dealer in new and used aircraft parts (with whom both Aero and Fairchild had had previous dealings) and he advised them that fully serviceable Royal Australian Air Force PR Mk41s, ex-No. 87 (PR) Squadron, were on the market "at a price." They were not perturbed by this.
     After checking out the New Zealand FB.VI Mosquitoes, Joe Mullen, the operations manager for Aero Service, arrived in Melbourne in early May 1954 where, at RAAF HQ, he identified the two most suitable aircraft then available (i.e., the two with the least hours). He promptly wrote out a check
. . .

de Havilland Mosquito N1596V (A52-306)

      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. 

Colonial Aircraft Corp. Skimmer IV brochure