LOCKHEED VEGA Model 5 NC336H
EARLY LIFE IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
This airplane is a Lockheed Vega Model 5 (S/N 81; ATC #93)
manufactured June 28, 1929 by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation,
CA. It left the factory with a Pratt & Whitney
Wasp B engine (S/N 1543) of 425 HP. It was a five-place
airplane flown part of its life on floats. It was initially
flown as a Lockheed demonstrator and piloted by Wiley
Post in the 1929
Ford Air Tour. It was painted burnt orange.
Below, courtesy of Tim Kalina, we see NC336H at the Lockheed factory in Burbank. The date of the image is unknown, but it is almost certainly ca. June, 1929 when the airplane was brand new.
Lockheed Vega NC336H, ca. June 1929, Burbank, CA
Note the other Vegas in the background standing in front of their own maintenance/construction hangars. Note also the interesting and ingenious wooden jacking mechanism under the port wing. On the original photo you can see staggered holes drilled in the two upright braces extending to the wing. These holes articulated with pins that were inserted to keep the jack in position as it was levered up or down using the long wooden lever extending to the left in front of the mechanic at left. It is not clear if a pair of these jacks was used to lift the airplane completely off the ground, or if it was used unilaterally to move the wing in small increments to allow rigging.
Regardless, neither wheel appears to be off the ground. At right we can see what looks like a water supply hose to a valve about six feet up the hangar door jamb. There appears to be a drinking fountain or wash stand just below it. Does anyone RECOGNIZE any of this equipment?
Interestingly, we find NC336H at Tucson on September 23,
1929 flown by Wiley Post. He carried three unidentified
passengers. With Home Base cited as Burbank, CA, they
were eastbound from Los
Angeles, CA to El Paso, TX. The
Ford Tour of 1929 began on October 5th, so this flight could
very well be Post’s transfer of the airplane to Dearborn,
MI for the start of the Tour. According to the Air Tour link
above, Post placed 17th. See the update of 09/02/10, below, and read what it was like to fly with Post during the Tour.
NC336H sold on May 30, 1930 to Alaska-Washington Airways,
Inc. (A-WA), Seattle, WA. It was converted to floats. It
suffered an accident on September 12, 1930 at Mercer Island,
WA. It was repaired at the Lockheed factory with a
new fuselage, elevators, repainted and named “Petersburg”. It
continued flying with A-WA. See this link for
its service at A-WA.
NC336H was sold on March 24, 1932 to Nick Bez of the San
Juan Fish & Packing Co., Seattle, WA. It transferred
two years later to Alaska Southern Airways, Inc. of Seattle,
of which Nick Bez was President. A year later, on November
13, 1934, it sold again to Pacific Alaska Airways, Inc. The
business address was New York, NY, but the operational address
for the airplane was Fairbanks, AK. The airplane was
mounted on Edo 4650 floats and had Wasp B engine S/N 814
ASA flew the airplane until May 18, 1936 when it was sold
to P.F. Hotchkiss, Ft. Worth, TX. It was operated
by “Pop” Hotchkiss Charter Trips. It was
rebuilt with P&W Wasp engine S/N 1470 as of June 29,
1936, and maintained by Bowen Airlines shops.
NC336H sold again on October 10, 1936 to E.L. Taylor, Jr.,
Tyler, TX, and then to Austin Municipal Airport, Austin,
TX on April 14, 1937. The Airport sold it on June 12,
1937 to Marcos A. Gelabert, Panama City, Panama.
According to the NASM record, it was registered in Panama
as of June 1937 as RX-14. It was flown on Transportes
Aereos Gelabert y Cia., a semi-military Panamanian airline. It
flew in Panama from 1937 to ca. 1940. Its ultimate
fate is unknown.
Update of 09/02/10 The following news article and photograph are shared with us by site visitor Pam Morris Jones, whose great aunt, journalist Lucile Morris, wrote the article and is pictured in the photograph below it. These two items give us an unusual insight into a short few hours of the airplane's life, and a real appreciation for what it was like to ride along during the 1929 Ford Air Tour with Wiley Post as your pilot.
First, the article from the Springfield Leader, Springfield, Missouri, dated October 16, 1929. Ms. Jones says about the article, "Below you will find the newspaper article retyped from a poor microfilm copy. In a few places I put '?' where I could not make out the words." Your Webmaster's comments are in [brackets].
Leader Girl Reporter Thrills At Fast, Bumpy Ride With Tour
Lucile’s First Air Adventure Lands Her In Springfield One Hour and 19 Minutes From St. Louis _?_ for Ford Trophy Inter_?_
By Lucile Morris
Enroute to Springfield from St. Louis in Lockheed-Vega plane No. 32. It is 10:23 a.m. as the checker quickly dips his white signal flag and our neat little red [burnt orange?] and cream seven passenger cabin ship mounts above the starting line in the takeoff from Lambert Field. We are off on what is to me the most important lap in the 5000-mile National Air Tour in which 27 planes still are competing for the Edsel Ford trophy for reliable flying. Ours is the next to the last plane to leave the field in the take-offs timed one minute apart.
To say that I am thrilled to be riding in one of the racing planes is putting it mildly. It’s my first airplane ride. Only the fact that we come in first among the competitors one hour and 19 minutes later at Springfield municipal airport thrills me more.
Fliers Are Good Scouts
It was about an hour before time to start when I reached Lambert Field this morning after a 20-mile drive from my hotel in St. Louis. I pause at that thought to congratulate Springfield on having an air field so near the business district.
Mechanics and pilots were looking over the array of airplanes of all sizes and types. Passengers were arriving with traveling cases. St. Louis hosts of the air tour participants were greeting people here _?_ the planes and _?_ of the tour. It didn’t take long to decide I liked the participants in the tour. Good scouts, anyone would pronounce them. I strolled over to the large Firestone trimotor Ford in which a group of representatives of news associations are making the trip. Of course I would hunt up the press ship the first thing. Then I observed with admiration the sleek, shining Lockheed plane the Detroit News has sent on the tour. The two men in it are both pilots and reporters -- a modern combination of newspaperdom. These ships are among the 15 which are accompanying the racers.
She Flies With Veteran
But to return to my ship -- as we mount above the airport and start on our way to Springfield, I realize that I have been fortunate in finding pleasant company. Our pilot is Wiley H. Post, a veteran of the air who I am told has followed aviation since the days when barnstorming was the chief career for aviators. He was pleasant and friendly as we chatted beside the plane before the takeoff, but once at the controls of the ship that is the last he speaks until we have reached earth again.
Our mechanic is O.Y. Fetterman, a tall handsome young man, whom they call “Fred” although that isn’t his name. With us in the ship also is T. Foye Shoemaker [Foye T. Shumaker], representative of the Lockheed factory, and Mrs. Stanley [Billie] Stanton, a pretty bride for whom the air tour is a honeymoon trip. Her husband [Register pilot Stanley T. Stanton] is the pilot of the bright red Cessna plane, No.34 [Register airplane NC632K]. For this morning only she is riding in our plane, and I find her delightful company. She watches for her husband’s ship until we have passed it, then looks back to report that he is keeping close to us.
Only Novice In Plane
Everyone in the plane except for myself is a pilot. I wouldn’t admit for anything that this is my first time in an airplane. Mrs. Stanton asks me if I have ever taken a long trip before. I reply in the negative -- and don’t elaborate upon my answer. “I hope you won’t get airsick,” she says kindly, “there’s a strong head wind this morning.”
I already had been told that the plane in which I was riding was considered the fastest in the race. I find that it really can -- and does make around 167 miles plenty of the time. With a 420-horsepower motor the plane has power behind it. It isn’t “in the money” in total elapsed time, but it nevertheless demonstrates its speed.
Straps Come In Handy
Mr. Shoemaker invites me to use one of the portable typewriters in the cabin as we get underway. I consider it -- then there is a great bump that almost throws me from my seat. I grab a strap at the side of the cabin and am relieved to see my companions do likewise, it doesn’t make me out too much of a landlubber. Thereafter I decide that my writing will be done with pencil, for I will have one hand free to hold the strap.
Mrs. Stanton is telling me from the front of the cabin what an impetus has been given to aviation by the air tour. At least four cities have developed air fields as a result of it she said. With the great number of varied planes landing on a field a city immediately realizes what is needed for their airport and thus better landing fields are being developed as a result.
Learns About Hedge-Hopping
“We’ll be doing hedge-hopping most of the way,” Mr. Shoemaker says to my companion. She understands the lingo and replies that she is very fond of that sort of flying. Then they explain to me what they mean by hedge-hopping, flying low. A strong wind is keeping us low, they say.
I am not the least frightened, I relax to look about the country and glory in the gorgeous autumnal tints of forests and fields. Perhaps I am on a magic carpet, I muse. At my feet are billows of rich, brilliantly-hued tapestry. I float along in the air like the little lame prince of storybook fame.
The ship gives a mighty lurch. I grab the strap and hold myself in the seat and avoid getting any bumps on my head. My vision of a billowy magic carpet fades and I wonder where in the Ozarks I ever rode in a farm wagon that was half so rough.
Pass Everybody Else
We pass plane after plane. This is no race, especially, it is to prove the reliability of flying on schedule, but I get a great thrill out of passing other ships. As we come even with one of the air monsters it looks as though it were suspended in the air, moving not at all. Across the gold and brown hills is a plane like a red bird -- a majestic spectacle above the billowing tapestry.
My companions declare that the trip is exceptionally rough -- and I am willing to agree with them. Fortunately I am not air-sick. It’s a long way to Springfield yet, however -- and there’s another bump.
“Peculiar air pockets,” explains my companion briefly. “We go down about 50 feet when we bump like that -- but mount again immediately.” Still I am not the least bit frightened. The plane is like a trim torpedo shooting through the air, and it is in the hands of a capable pilot.
We talk from time to time, and watch for other planes. I am interested in the story of number 33 [Register airplane NC7107; carrying Register pilots Joseph Meehan and Earl Rowland], which has won more than $33,000 race money in the past year. It has become so famous, I was told, that everyone wanted to inscribe his name on it, and before this tour it was given a new coat of red paint. All the inscriptions except a heart and a map of the United States are covered now. It was the first winner in the Miami to Cleveland derby.
Seeing the Ozarks First
Yesterday coming up to St. Louis in the train I reveled in the gorgeous autumnal scene and remarked to Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Farmer, who were going up on the same train to the dairy show, that my only regret about the trip back was that I would not be able to see so much of the hills and trees. Yet today I am seeing colorings -- than I never could have imagined before. We pass over district schools where children look into the air, and over farmhouses where men are at work in nearby fields.
Suddenly we come to more familiar territory. I hadn’t expected it so soon, but I see the sign of a Springfield hotel painted on the top of a barn. Our plane is going at terrific speed. We shoot downward and dash across a white line that marks the close of the St. Louis-Springfield lap of the tour.
Stunting Brings Dizzy Thrill
“We’re first,” is Mr. Shoemaker’s jubilant exclamation. But we aren’t landing yet. We soar aloft immediately --1500 feet, my companions say -- and I grow dizzy. I wonder how much stunting we are going to do to give the great crowd at municipal airport a thrill. The world turns around and around, and I shut my eyes. A few more minutes and we are circling the crowd at a lower level, we come down to earth, taxi across the field and we’re home.
It’s right thrilling, too, to see the way Springfield is greeting our visitors. A group of high school girls, mistaking me for one of the tour members rushes up for my autograph. I introduce my companions to a group of our reporters, and immediately I am surrounded by another delegation of Springfieldians. Gracious, charming young women they are, inviting me to make myself at home and telling me where lunch is served. I explain -- I hope not to hastily, for I am in a hurry to get to the office, that I am only a reporter, but I am pleased nevertheless, that such is the sort of friendly welcome the visitors are receiving. That is the sort of thing which shows the true spirit of Springfield.
Ms. Jones says of her photograph, "On the back of the attached picture Lucile identifies Mrs. Stanton, the bride, and Mr. Shoemaker (Shumaker) [b. October 6, 1897; d. February 1, 1985], representative of the airplane factory. Lucile, in the light colored coat, is on the right."
Mrs. Stanley Stanton, Mr. Shumaker & Lucile Morris, October, 1929 (Source: Jones)
She says of her great aunt, "She was a newspaper journalist for more than sixty years, mostly here in town. She even continued writng for our local paper after her supposed 'retirement.'
"She was a crusader for preserving history in southwest Missouri. Many area places and events are still remembered because of her efforts. The additiion of Wilson's Creek Battlefield to the National Parks was one of her proudest achievements. She lived to be 94 years old (1898-1992) and would be amazed by the technology of today. I have no doubt she would have loved the internet."
Thanks to Ms. Jones for sharing this information with us.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 06/01/06 REVISED: 08/23/06, 08/30/07, 08/26/08, 09/02/10