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This information comes from the listings of Non-Prefixed and Non-Suffixed aircraft reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC.


Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available here. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.


The definitive reference for early Lockheed aircraft is:

Allen, Richard S. 1988. Revolution in the Sky: The Lockheeds of Aviation's Golden Age. Orion Books, NY. 253 pp. The image, right, as well as some interesting descriptions of the equipment and use of NC32M is found on p. 170 of this book.


This link provides an interesting review of the use of aircraft by the Detroit News from 1912 to June 1960.

This link shows a view of the airplane, sans floats, from the Klein Archive of Aviation Photographs on this site.


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LOCKHEED VEGA Model 5C Special NC32M

LOCKHEED VEGA Model 5C Special NC32M


This airplane is a Lockheed Vega Model 5C Special (S/N 102; ATC Memo #2-257 of 8/13/30) manufactured during July 1929 by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, CA.  It left the factory with a Pratt & Whitney Wasp C engine (S/N 1834) of 420 HP.  It was a 3-5 place airplane.  It was named “The Detroit News”.  You may see an image of this airplane on wheels here; on floats below.

NC32M on Floats

It sold during 1930 to the Evening News Association, Detroit, MI.  We find NC32M landing at Tucson three times, each time with its Home Base identified as Detroit.  The first landing was on August 24, 1929 (notice, before it was officially sold).  The pilot was Frank Byerley, carrying Register pilot James Piersol as passenger.  (Piersol was the aviation editor for the Detroit News and, in 1935, was instrumental in negotiations to move the Wright Brother’s boyhood home and last bicycle shop to the Ford Museum.  These were moved, reconstructed and dedicated at Greenfield Village on April 16, 1938, the seventy-first anniversary of Wilbur's birthday.) 

Byerley and Piersol were eastbound from Los Angeles, CA (probably Burbank) to El Paso, TX.  Based on the manufacture date of the airplane, this could easily be the ferry flight of the airplane to its new owners in Detroit.  Less than two months later, Byerley and Piersol would fly NC32M as an “accompanying” airplane in the 1929 Ford Reliability Tour, no doubt covering the event for the newspaper.

The second visit to the Davis-Monthan Airfield was on November 26, 1931, flown again by Byerley.  He carried a single passenger, Arthur Mankey.  They were eastbound from Los Angeles to El Paso, TX.  The third visit was a little over a month later on January 8, 1932.  The pilot this time was Piersol carrying two passengers, Vance Breese and Arthur Mankey.  They were eastbound from Burbank, CA to Detroit, MI.  The pilot noted “Fine weather” in the Remarks column of the Register.

According to the NASM record, NC32M was purchased by Detroit News and flown as a news-gathering aircraft on wheels, floats and skis.  It was elaborately equipped with photography and radio equipment.  It was initially painted red with white trim.  Detroit News traded NC32M back to Lockheed as of September 1, 1934 for a new Lockheed Orion, NC799W (did not land at Davis-Monthan Airfield; image available here and on Piersol's page).

Lockheed sold NC32M during 1934 to Richard W. Coulter, Pittsburgh Airways, Pittsburgh, PA.  It was flown between 1934 and 1935 by Central Airlines, Inc., Pittsburgh, on its routes.  It was converted to a Vega 5C under ATC 384 on August 5, 1935.

According to the NASM record, in 1935 NC32M was sold to Philip Whitmarsh, Los Angeles, CA where it was used for several years for movie-making.  It appears in movies with a false registration, NC19958.  It appears in "Flyin' Wild" starring the Dead End Kids (1941, two stars). It also appears in "Sundown" (1941), in "Face Behind the Mask" (1941), and in "The Bride Came COD" (1941) with James Cagney and Bette Davis, the only movie with Paul Mantz in a small role. Anyone know any other movie(s)?

In 1942 the airplane was sold to Charles H. Babb, Glendale, CA.  Babb sold it for $6,750 on November 13, 1942 to Lineas Aereas Mineras, S.A. (LAMSA), Mazatlan, Mexico.  At the time of sale it had 4,939:06 total flight hours.  It was brought into Mexico on December 9, 1942 via Juarez and Torreon by pilot Jose Juanes of LAMSA.  It received Mexican registration XA-DAI, issued on January 23, 1943.

NC32M suffered an accident at Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico on June 23, 1943.  While taxiing, the brakes were applied and the airplane nosed over and fire started.  Pilot Juanes and a passenger escaped unharmed.  The airplane was consumed by flames.


The image below, courtesy of friend of Tim Kalina, comes from the October 1929 issue of the Air Travel magazine rotogravure section. Not only do we see a spectacularly clear image of NC32M, but the background pattern of repeating biplanes is very creative and attractive.

NC32M, Top, October 1929 (Source: Kalina)
NC32M, October 1929

The bottom image, Fokker Super Universal, NC9778, does not appear in the Register. But its sister ship NC9724 did.

Another from Mr. Kalina, via Roger Holden’s collection, is undated, but was taken sometime between 1929 and 1934 when it was owned by the Detroit News.

Lockheed NC32M, "Detroit News", Ca. 1929-34 (Source: Holden via Kalina)
Lockheed NC32M, "Detroit News", Ca. 1929-34



UPLOADED: 06/06/06 REVISED: 02/05/08, 02/26/08, 07/11/09, 10/04/09

The Register
I'm looking for other photographs of this airplane to include on this page. If you have one or more you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me.
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