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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.

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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.

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http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.

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BOEING MODEL 95 NC397E

Boeing Model 95 NC397E

“BOEING-HORNET SHUTTLE” AND THE NITTANY FIRE

This airplane is a Boeing Model 95 (S/N 1057; ATC #106), manufactured in February 1929 by the Boeing Airplane Company, Seattle, WA.  It left the factory with a Pratt & Whitney Hornet C engine (S/N 266) of 500 HP. It was a large, single-place airplane, weighing 5,840 pounds.

NC397E was used by the Boeing Company as a demonstrator by none other than Erik Nelson. Nelson was pilot of the Douglas World Cruiser, Chicago. He and his team of other pilots and aircraft won the Mackay Trophy for the very first around-the-world flight, April 6th to September 28, 1924.  After resigning from the military, Nelson joined Boeing as a corporate officer.

After a flight test by L.R. Tower, the airplane was ferried south to Oakland, CA and “south” on March 2, 1929 by Nelson. Below, from the San Diego Aerospace Museum Flickr stream (SDAM), is a photograph of NC397E (lower airplane) flying in formation with another Boeing, NC381. We know from the Flickr stream that the pilot of the upper airplane is Mike Doolin.

NC397E in Formation With NC381 (Source: SDAM)
NC397E in Formation With NC381 (Source: SDAM)

NC397E landed at Tucson three times, on March 4th, March 19th and March 28, 1929.  Each time it was flown by Erik Nelson.  On the 4th he was southeast bound from Phoenix, AZ to San Antonio, TX. This was undoubtedly a continuation of his flight to Oakland begun on March 2nd. On the 19th, he was westbound from El Paso, TX to Yuma, AZ.  And on the 28th he was eastbound from Los Angeles, CA to El Paso.

The airplane was returned to the factory on July 10, 1929 and modified to a two-person airplane with Hornet C engine S/N 505 installed. It was changed to “NR” registration.  Continuing as a Boeing demonstrator, it was ferried “south” again by pilot B.F. Thompson on August 24, 1929.

It acquired the name “Boeing-Hornet Shuttle” about this time, and was used in September 1929 by USAAC pilot Capt. Ira C. Eaker for endurance and refueling flights.  Unfortunately, the airplane was wrecked in a storm and returned to the factory on September 20, 1929 to be rebuilt as a single-person airplane.  There was no injury to the crew from the wreck. It is not clear from the record if the “NC” registration was returned to the airplane after the rebuild. Note in the photograph above that NC397E is a single-cockpit airplane. We can deduce the photograph was taken either before July 10, 1929, or after September 20, 1929.

On October 16, 1929, 397E was transferred to Boeing Air Transport Corp. of Seattle, WA. There is no record of what the airplane was used for over the next year or so.  It sold on June 13, 1930 to National Air Transport, Inc. of Chicago, IL and assigned N.A.T. #85.

On May 4, 1931, during a run of C.A.M. 17 between Newark, NJ and Chicago, IL, the “Shuttle” struck a mountain (Nittany Ridge) near Bellefonte, PA. Pilot James D. Cleveland was killed. The airplane, “struck big Nittany Mtn. & [was] completely destroyed by fire.”

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UPLOADED: 03/28/06 REVISED: 10/13/07, 03/22/14

 
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OTHER BOOKS FOR YOU

Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936 is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-2-5.

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Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-1-8.

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Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race is available at the link. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. What was it like to fly from Oakland to Honolulu in a single-engine plane during August 1927? Was the 25,000 dollar prize worth it? Did the resulting fame balance the risk? For the first time ever, this book presents the pilot and navigator's stories written by them within days of their record-setting adventure. Pilot Art Goebel and navigator William V. Davis, Jr. take us with them on the Woolaroc, their orange and blue Travel Air monoplane (NX869) as they enter the hazardous world of Golden Age trans-oceanic air racing. ISBN 978-0-9843074-3-2.

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