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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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)
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)
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)
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