Registration Number NC5878
A 1928 Ford Reliability Tour Airplane
Here we have what may be an interesting curiosity in record keeping.
Although NC5878 was a valid competitor in the 1928 Ford Reliability
Tour, the evidence of who was flying it (as recorded in the
Airfield Register) runs counter to the NASM record and the table in Forden cited below. For
comparison, see NC5877,
and refer to page
46 and page 48 of the Register.
Our aircraft was a Monocoupe Model 70, S/N 58 (ATC #22), manufactured
in June, 1928 by Mono-Aircraft, Inc. of Moline, IL. It came
with a 45 HP M-5 Velie engine, S/N 129. It weighed 1,350 pounds.
It also had dual controls, which, it was stated, “must
be disconnected when passengers are carried.” It was
sold on August 1, 1928 (after the Air Tour was over, see below) to
Omlie (transport license #199) of Memphis, TN for $2,675.
It landed at Tucson on July 14, 1928 at 9:30AM, four days after
the majority of competitors landed on 7/10. Although the NASM
record states that this airplane was flown in the Tour by
Phoebe Omlie, according to our Register it was piloted to Tucson by Lloyd H. “Jack”
Atkinson who carried passenger Phylis Bennett. He noted in the Register they were in the "National Air Tour". The airplane
wore Tour #26. Below, a photo of the airplane from the Forden link below.
Monocupe NC5878, Circa 1928, Location Unknown (Source: Forden)
Follow this link
for information on the Ford Tours. There is a photograph of
this airplane there. Follow the choices to read the book titled
THE FORD AIR TOURS: 1925-1931 by Leslie Forden. You’ll
find the photo in chapter 4, page 76. You can see Phoebe Omlie
in the group photo on page 83. She’s # 5 in the photo.
You can also see Jack Atkinson way up in the back. He’s
So what do we have? Forden's summary tables on pages 84-85 cite Omlie as the pilot of this airplane, and Atkinson as the pilot of NC5877. The NASM data cards for both airplanes, NC5877 and 5878, agree. Our Register seems to be out of line with these two sources, as it clearly identifies the opposite: Omlie flying NC5877 and Atkinson NC5878.
We could conjecture that the pilots confused the numbers of these closely related sister ships. Especially Omlie, who signed the Register among the swirl of other competitors who came to Tucson that morning on July 10th. Or perhaps they did swap airplanes for a couple of legs of the Tour. Or Forden and the NASM citations are in error. The 1929 Aircraft Yearbook offers no help. The table on page 446 that summarizes the 1928 Tour has both Atkinson and Omlie flying Monocoupe 2-place monoplanes. Atkinson placed 19th and Omlie 24th. Unfortunately, their airplane registration numbers are not cited.
Regardless, after the Tour, NC5878 had the engine overhauled and a new
factory wing installed. It had 130 flight hours as of August 27, 1928.
After its return from the factory, the airplane was identified
as a “gift” to Mrs. Omlie. It’s not clear
if cash had changed hands on August 1st when she “bought”
it after the Tour.
As far as the airplane’s fate, a few months after the
tour, on the weekend of October 13-14, 1928 Phoebe Omlie took
NC5878 to Paragould, AR where she assisted in the dedication
of the West-Nash Airlines at the Paragould airport.
It is unclear what her "assistance" was, but a
contemporary newspaper article states that, "Another
possible feature on the program well be a young girl to swing
suspended from a speeding airplane by a pair of ladies' silk
stockings...." Since Phoebe was a parachutist and performed
such barnstorming tricks, she may have been the "young
On Sunday the 14th she was flying her Monocoupe with a passenger
(E.Z. Newsom, Jr.) at low altitude when, she later reported,
"...the controls jammed" (perhaps because of them
being disconnected to fly with a passenger?) The airplane
spun to the ground and Phoebe suffered two broken legs, burns
on both arms, and lacerations on her face. Newsom suffered
a broken leg and skull fracture. She was flown to Memphis,
TN by her husband and treated. Less than a year later she
was flying again in the 1929 Air Derby.
Her Monocoupe was reported a, “total washout, scrap.”
The registration was canceled November 13, 1928.
UPLOADED: 6/28/05 REVISED: 12/19/09