Boeing Model 40

c179E oakland

Rhein-Main Air Base, 1952-53

A few photos from a USAF air policeman during his tour at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, during the early 50s. The Ceskoslovenské Aerolinie DC-3 was flown by Mira Slovak when he defected to the West in March 1953. Later, a famed air racer, champion hydroplane skipper, and all-around dare-devil, Slovak was piloting this DC-3 on a routine flight when he locked his copilot out of the cockpit, dove beneath radar coverage, and slipped into West Germany. The aircraft sat at Rhein-Main while the diplomatic niceties were worked out before returning home to Czechoslovakia. (It crashed a few years later.)

The photos of aircraft wreckage are sad reminders of a fateful day in May 1953, when an F-84 of the 22nd Fighter Bomber Squadron plowed into a formation of C-119s, causing two of them to crash as well as the F-84. Although the Thunderjet pilot who caused the mayhem parachuted to safety, eight of the 10 crewmen in the two C-119s were not as fortunate. 

North to Alaska

Climbing out of Seattle-Tacoma Airport on its scheduled late afternoon departure time in the Spring of 1959, Pacific Northern Airlines Constellation wings its way over downtown Seattle. Its final destination is Anchorage, but with a few stops along the way: Ketchikan, Juneau, Yakutat, and Cordova. Cost of the ticket from Seattle to Anchorage: $165.

Peter O. Knight Airport, 1938

Still busy today with general aviation, Peter O. Knight opened in 1935 as Tampa’s principal airport and remained so until 1945. One of many airports built under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the field boasted multiple paved runways, could handle seaplanes, and had a very nifty art-deco terminal seen in the foreground (unfortunately, now long-gone). When this photo was taken in March of ’38, the main attraction was the bevy of Air Corps planes dotting the field: B-18s, P-26s, P-35s, and a lone B-10.

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Record setting flight!

Peg Ham

Back in the 1920s, almost any routine event was automatically far more interesting when it was done in an airplane. Take a fashion show for instance. Appealing as such a venue would be on terra firma, it became much more newsworthy when it happened 5,000 feet in the air. That brings us to the photo. The aircraft is, of course, a Ford Trimotor. The location, Hollywood (also, of course). The woman is famed fashion designer Peggy Hamilton – and famed she was: Hamilton was the designer for all the big movie studios and top names in the film industry.

So, why is Madam Hamilton about to board the Trimotor? According to the photo’s caption, she is going to perform the “World’s first” fashion show in an airplane. Once airborne, she will model eight “gorgeous gowns” to an appreciative audience of club presidents from various organizations. Given that Hamilton was married at least 6 or 7 times (no one is exactly sure which) the gowns in question might be leftovers from her numerous matrimonial endeavors. Whatever the case, I am sure the club presidents were vastly entertained.

Note: Given the Trimotor’s low altitude and lack of insulation, I would venture to say that this event also set the record for the world’s bumpiest and noisiest fashion show.

The Boeing 247-Y



A one of a kind aircraft if there ever was one. When this Boeing 247 began life with United Airlines, I doubt many believed it would end up being converted into a warplane but that is exactly what Boeing itself did. NC 13366 earned money for United until they retired the 247. Boeing then reacquired the aircraft in order to fulfill a rather unusual request to turn it into a militarized airliner for China. This Boeing obviously did.

American Airlines, 1949 (2)

Super Connie NC90926 (“Star of Tunis”) heads an all-star ensemble of American Airlines heavies.  B-377 Stratocruiser (NX1023V, “Clipper Golden Gate”) is next. It was the second prototype of the 377 and, judging by its lack of company markings plus the sizable crowd, had probably just arrived. Sadly, it crashed in Manila on 2 June, 1958. Last in the line is the stalwart DC-6.

Alaska aviation in days of yore (3) (2) (1)

Naturally, the true test of an aircraft’s load capability is the amount of beer it can get airborne. A rough count of the number of beer cases x the 24 cans (12 oz. each) they hold makes this load approximately 2,000 pounds. Easily enough done, but the trick is finding a pilot who won’t help himself to the cargo while en route. Wherever this aircraft is bound in Alaska, the people there will be happier for its arrival.

The aircraft, a Pilgrim 100-B (N709Y), belongs to Star Air Lines and is, believe it or not, still in existence today. Comfortably housed in the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, N709Y is still in flying condition. It has been a few years since it hauled a ton of beer, but it’s still a pretty good old aircraft.

Pioneer Alaska Bush Pilot John W. “Johnny” Moore poses with a ski-equipped Travel Air BW. With that open cockpit for an office, Moore’s furry ensemble will serve him well in the skies of Alaska.

DC-6’s of United Airlines (3)

With all four turning, Dad looks things over from the right seat in the late 1950’s. He was giving a check ride to a new captain. (2)

Aloha for gaily colored shirted and lei bedecked “Air Tourists” as they deplane during an early evening arrival in Honolulu. I say “Air Tourist” because that is the logo next to the door. This DC-6 (N37544) was delivered in 1950 and flew many a mile for United. (1)

United Flight 2609 is readied for another load of revenue. (Note the “Flight 2609” sign in the rear window.

Let’s all go to Havana (4) (3)

A jolly group of passengers about to embark on a PAA (Pan Am) Sikorsky S-38 at Key West for a weekend frolic in sunny Havana. I do believe Pan Am boss Juan Trippe is in both these photos. Havana was a hot spot for travelers in Prohibition-era America. Take the train south to Key West, hop aboard PAA, and voilà: you were in boozeville. This planeload of flappers and their Beau Brummells are in for a heck of a good time. F. Scott Fitzgerald would approve.

The Clipper

End of an era. Two Pan Am 314’s sit quietly at their mooring buoys as a shiny-new DC-4 takes off over San Francisco bay. Both of the 314’s will have a lease on life with new owners. 18612  in the foreground (the Capetown Clipper) will go to American Intl. Airways in 1947 and be christened the “Bermuda Sky Queen.” That won’t last long – in November, 1947, she will ditch in the North Atlantic. All rescued by the US Coast Guard, but the aircraft was then sunk as a danger to navigation. (2)

18602, the California Clipper on the servicing ramp. (1)

18606, the American Clipper is readied for an overnight flight to the Territory of Hawaii.

“Mainliner Arizona” readies for takeoff at Boeing Field, 1949 (5)

Dad was at the controls when this photo was taken way back when. His logbook shows that he flew this aircraft numerous times between 1947 and 1956, but he’s pretty sure this was 1949. SeaTac opened in 1947, but United didn’t shift its operations there until a few years later. Dad didn’t mind; Boeing Field was closer to our house. (7)

Same aircraft (N37511) on the United ramp at Chicago.

Syd Chaplin Aircraft Corp. (5)

Sydney “Syd” Chaplin was an all-around man: Actor, aviation pioneer, and business manager to his younger half brother, Charlie. (Yes, that Charlie Chaplin) But it was in aviation where he made history in 1919 when he bought a plane and hired pilot Emery Rogers and thus begun the first privately owned domestic American airline.

Things were looking good for Chaplin, but when the pesky government began requiring things like pilot licenses, he got out of the business. The aircraft is, of course, a Curtiss Jenny.