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Your copy of the "Davis-Monthan Airfield Register" with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.


NC3317 flew the longest for Standard Air Lines (December 1927 to December 1928), and was the poster aircraft (images, right) for a contemporary advertisement.

According to the Register, punctuality for this airplane over 95 flights to the Airfield was exemplary. For the year of the airplane’s service life the majority of flights to Tucson landed at 5:00 PM, or slightly later, and departed the next day for Phoenix and Los Angeles between 7:00 and 8:00 AM.

Unfortunately, other measures of business productivity were less impressive. Refer to the Standard Air Lines download, above right, for the numbers.


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Registration Number NC3317

A Workhorse From The Register

Fokker Universal NC3317

Like many of the aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield during the decade of the Register, this Fokker worked hard and died young.

This airplane appears in the Register 95 times between December 16, 1927 and March 4, 1930. The reason for this frequency is that NC3317 was an airliner for Standard Air Lines founded by Jack Frye, Paul Richter and Walter Hamilton. Seven Register pilots (Jack Frye, Paul Richter, Hap Russell, Harry Smedley, Jay Talbot, Charles Widmer, and Lee Willey), six of them Standard Air Lines pilots, flew the airplane. Its sister ships of the line were NC9724 and NC8011. Please direct your browser to this link to see a clear image of this airplane.

The Fokker Universal was certificated in June 1927 (A.T.C. #9). The pilot sat in an open cockpit forward of the wing’s leading edge. The 765 miles from Los Angeles to El Paso must have been a refreshing trip for the pilot. The enclosed cabin below and to the rear of the pilot held 4-6 passengers. It had a service ceiling of 12,000 feet and a cruise speed of 105 statute miles per hour. They sold new at the factory in 1927 for $14,200. The image, right, is from a Standard Airlines brochure of the era shared with us by Ruth Richter Holden, daughter of Paul Richter. See his link, above, for further information.

Specific to our aircraft, Fokker Universal NC3317 (C/N 426) was manufactured in October, 1927 by Atlantic Aircraft Corporation, Teterboro Airport, Hasbrouck Hgts., N.J. It was fitted with a Wright J-5 engine (S/N 8096). It sold on November 23, 1927 to Aero Corporation of California, the parent of Standard Air Lines. Below, a photograph of NC3317 aloft shared with us by friend of, John Underwood.

NC3317 Aloft Over Los Angeles, CA, Date Unknown (Source: Underwood)
NC3317 Aloft Over Los Angeles, CA, Date Unknown (Source: Underwood)

Image, below, of the contemporary Standard Air Lines logo. Both the logo and the brochure above feature NC3317 as Standard's "poster airplane".

Standard Air Lines Logo

NC3317 lived for six years and one month. Between November 1927 and January 1930, NC3317 changed hands five times. On July 9, 1930, with the Great Depression on the upswing, it was repossessed by the California Standard Finance Corporation and sold again on the same day to Aero Corporation of California with the, “wing being in poor condition.” Standard Air Lines had been taken over by Western Air Express the previous May.

A COLOR (!) motion picture of NC3317 is at the link (YouTube video). This is an early (1928-29) example of color film technology. The airplane appears at 5:00 minutes into the film. Allowing for color renditions by the films of the day, the fuselage shows up as a shade of green and the "S" in "Standard" is red. Regardless of the true colors, we see NC3317 in motion, and we see Register pilot Ruth Elder emerge from it modeling a coat with gold buttons. She is also featured modeling another garment at 3:00. Please direct your browser to the Fokker manufacturer page on this site for a discussion of Standard Air Lines color schemes.

After its airline duties, NC3317 went through four private owners, two of whom were Davis-Monthan pilots. It sold to George T. Westinghouse on May 13, 1932. There is no record of his use for the month that he owned it. Westinghouse sold it on June 24, 1932 to Charles H. Babb, an aircraft broker, Los Angeles, CA.

Then, on July 14, 1932 it was purchased by J. Karl Williams of Norwalk, CA, reregistered as NR3317, and used September 28-30, 1932 for a landplane endurance record (with air-to-air refueling) by Evelyn “Bobbi” Trout, herself an aviation pioneer. She signed the Davis-Monthan Register in 1929. Her 1932 endurance flight with 3317 is documented at the Grand Central Air Terminal Register Web site, where the airplane is recorded in the GCAT Register at the start of the flight.

Named the “Spirit of 76” for the record attempt, Bobbi Trout and John E. Sheasby departed Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale, CA at 2:48 PM and flew NR3317 for 40 hours before being forced down by a damaged propeller. Finally, on February 7, 1933 the Fokker sold to James R. Hadley of Los Angeles. It was wrecked in Los Angeles on November 17, 1933 (NASM records). No further information.

Refer to this link for technical information about Fokker aircraft.


THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 6/9/05 REVISED: 03/11/06, 07/07/06, 09/04/06, 02/25/09, 04/11/09, 03/09/10, 03/22/12, 08/21/13

The Register
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Aircraft records at the National Air and Space Museum for Golden Age aircraft registration numbers are rife with examples of accidents, aggressive airframe modifications that pushed the boundaries of airworthiness, stressful work duties and harrowing record attempts. Occasionally, chains of custody were long and tortuous, with airplane ownership transiting back and forth across the country, and across borders, and alternating between private and commercial duties.
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