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Some of 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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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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This Web site provides additional information on Phenick Flying Service and this airplane.

 
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FORD 4-AT-B NC5577

FORD 4-AT-B NC5577

PAN AMERICAN HIGHWAY

This airplane is a Ford 4-AT-B tri-motor (S/N 4-AT-23; ATC # 87) manufactured May 30, 1928 by the Stout Metal Airplane Company (Ford Motor Company), Dearborn, MI.  It came from the factory with three Wright Whirlwind J-5-C engines (S/Ns L 8492, R 8486, C 8484) of 220 HP each.

It sold on June 22, 1928 to Maddux Air Lines, Inc. of Los Angeles, CA.  Just a few days later, on June 25, 1928 NC5577 landed at Tucson.  This brand new airplane was piloted by Larry G. Fritz, Chief Pilot for Maddux at the time.  He carried five passengers with him, including mechanic Mack Wiles, Mr. Fuller, Mr. Baker, Mrs. Allan Jackson and Mrs. Meyer.  This was probably the ferry flight west from the factory, perhaps with some passengers to help pay for the fuel.

Maddux sold the airplane about a year later, on July 12, 1929, for $25,000 to Curtiss Flying Service (CFS) of California. CFS used the airplane for scenic passenger hops and its use for this purpose is well-documented by 60 landings the airplane made at the Grand Central Air Terminal. Please direct your browser to the link to discover the context of these landings.

NC5577 suffered an accident with CFS at McCook Field, North Platte, NB on September 14, 1929.  The fuselage and center section were deformed.  Repairs were performed at the Ford factory.

Once the Depression struck, the airplane sold six more times through the 1930s, moving from California to Pennsylvania, Kansas and finally to Ohio.  A freak occurrence in Kansas in 1938 involved a whirling propeller from a broken crankshaft on a nearby Aeronca.  The propeller struck the tail of the Ford, requiring a new rudder and right elevator.

The final civilian owner of NC5577 was Oscar W. "Nick" Nichols of Newark, OH. He bought the airplane on February 27, 1939. Below is an image sent to me by his son, Jim Nichols, of Tucson, AZ. It shows our airplane on the ramp at Columbus, OH on a sunny day in 1939.

NC5577, ca. 1939

The image below shows two of the pilots who flew NC5577. Owner Nichols is at the far right; airplane with boarding stairs behind him; Myron Riley is the other pilot, far left. Glennen and Brant were office and line staff.

NC5577 Crew

And below are two images that show nicely the logo visible on the side of NC5577. Phenick Flying Service (see box, below) was the name of Oscar Nichols' company. The image on the right is of a souvenir passenger ticket.

Phenick Logo
Phenick Souvenir Ticket

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is another image of NC5577 on the ramp at Columbus. It was taken at 8AM on a Sunday. By 11AM the parking lot was full. Notice the uniformed gent standing under the wing. One of the four above, no doubt.

NC5577

Jim provides the following information about the work that NC5577 performed in Ohio. His dad formed the Phenick Flying Service, operating out of Newark, OH. He says,

"In 1923 my Dad, at about age 25, paid for a plane ride in a JN-4 Jenny with a barnstormer. He paid $10.00 for a 15 minute ride.  He then paid $25.00 for an hour in the air with hands on flying...no landing or take offs. He promised Dad he would return the next spring and finish teaching him with landings and take offs.

"Dad purchased a surplus Jenny and (being a natural mechanic) he completely overhauled the engine. Then he hired 16 year old Herman Phenegar and another assistant to help him re-cover the entire Jenny. Herman hung around dad from then on as an assistant. Dad taxied the JN-4 for hours until the engine was ready for flying. He waited for the barnstormer (who never returned) and one day he and Herman rolled out the Jenny.

"Dad told Herman to watch what he did and tell him what he did wrong. Dad tried six times to take off with no lift off. Finally the seventh time he bounced over the fence at the end and flew. He waved at Herman (who was scared to death). Dad tried landing four times with no success, then the 5th time he stalled about 10 feet off the gound...hard landing. Herman told him what he saw and off Dad went for his second flight. This time he landed perfectly. A rich kid in a Stutz Bearcat drove up with his girl friend and wanted a ride. Dad requested $25.00 each. Herman give them goggles and loaded them and on his third flight Dad made $50.00.

He and Herman 'celebrated' on the $50.00 and started PHENICK FLYING SERVICE [Phenick is a combination of their two last names]. Dad instructed everyone in central Ohio how to fly (as a business) and hauled passengers from Newark, OH until about 1934. He then moved to Port Columbus (KCMH) with a trimotor Stinson (NC11177, still flying in Flordia). He purchased the Ford from the Inman Brothers and flew until WW2 when KCMH was closed to civilian traffic. The government bought NC5577 for work in South America."

Indeed, according to the NASM record, as WWII spooled up, the airplane was sold on November 30, 1942 to the United States of America (with spare parts) for $11,000.  It was used on the Pan American Highway project by U.S. Army Engineers.  NC5577 was cleared for foreign flight along the highway route to San Jose, Costa Rica where it was based.

The Pan American Highway project was discontinued in late 1943 and NC5577 was offered for sale locally.  According to the NASM record, it was probably transferred to Costa Rican registry.  According to Jim, NC5577 became  TI 61 in South America. It was flown by Eddy DeLarm, 7-days a week, from November 1942 to December 1943 in Costa Rica. There are no records of Mr. DeLarm known to exist. Final disposition of the aircraft is unknown, other than the possibility that it is still flying. Does anyone KNOW?

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Finally, below is the two-page NASM datasheet for NC5577 provided by Jim for his father's Ford. It contains the entire chain of custody for the airplane, as well as the record for accidents and final disposition.

NC5577 NASM Datasheet, page 1

 

NC5577 NASM Datasheet, page 2

Note on the page above that the airplane was purchased June 26, 1934 by Arthur Inman of Coffeyville, KS. Inman used NC5577 with his brother for an airshow business. Below, courtesy of site visitor Alan Radecki, is a photo of the airplane in Inman Brothers livery.

NC5577 in Inman Brothers Livery, Ca. 1934-1939 (Source: Radecki)
NC5577 in Inman Brothers Livery, Ca. 1934-1939 (Source: Radecki)

Mr. Radecki published an article about the airplane (68Mb PDF) at the link. Refer to page 6 of the downloaded magazine. No guarantee of future availability. If you find this link broken, please let me KNOW. You may download just the article at this link (1.2Mb PDF). This link won't go away.

Below, another photo of the airplane from the Web. The Inman Bros. staff is posed in front of the airplane. Purchaser Art Inman is 3rd from right.

NC5577 in Inman Brothers Livery, Staff in Front, Ca. 1934-1939 (Source: Web)
NC5577 in Inman Brothers Livery, Staff in Front, Ca. 1934-1939 (Source: Web)

Another photograph of the Inman crew in front of their Ford is below, from Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, December, 1935. Note Register pilot Roscoe Turner and his pet lion, Gilmore, posed with the troupe.

Inman Brothers in Popular Aviation Magazine, December, 1935 (Source: PA)

Found on the Web is this photograph of a poster advertising the Inman Flying Service. In small print at the bottom left of the poster it states, "NOTE: INMAN BROS. OPERATING AIRPLANE NC5577." This poster would date from after June 26, 1934, when the airplane was sold to Inman Brothers.

Inman Brothers Flying Service Poster, Post 1934 (Source: Web)
Inman Brothers Flying Service Poster, Post 1934 (Source: Web)

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UPLOADED: 03/29/06 REVISED: 05/16/06, 05/17/06, 06/15/06, 09/21/11, 02/19/14, 06/30/14, 06/04/15

 
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And someone did help with photographs and anecdotes. Jim Nichols, Tucson, AZ, son of the last civilian owner of the airplane, sent the images you see on this page.

Many thanks to Jim for helping us understand our airplane better, and for adding a valuable human dimension to our history of it.

Jim says of NC5577, "“She was a super plane, flew like a truck of course (all Fords did), but I spent hours cleaning her with BON AMI and a brush, inside and out. It kills me to think of her all beat up in South America ... still flying I understand ….  

"If I was rich I would go find her and bring her home to the Pima Museum for sure and do the BON AMI thing on her again....

"And I thank you so much for the memorial to my sweetheart NC5577. I loved that plane and spent at least 150 hours in her with my Dad. ”

If you have information about the whereabouts of this airplane in Central or South America, or other photographs to include on this page, please use this FORM to contact me.

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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