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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.

You may explore the exterior and interior of a Lockheed Vega real time by clicking on the MOTION PICTURES button, center column above, and watching the "vegamovie."

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LOCKHEED VEGA Model 5 NC869E

LOCKHEED VEGA Model 5 NC869E

THE “CENTURY OF PROGRESS” DOPPLEGANGER

This airplane is a Lockheed Vega Model 5 (S/N 69; ATC #93) manufactured May 16, 1929 by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, CA.  It left the factory with a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine (S/N 1677) of 420-450 HP.  It was a five-place airplane, weighing 4,033 pounds gross.This PDF download (144KB) gets you the one-page NASM record for this airplane. It lived one life, then became an alter ego.

S/N 69 sold on June 1, 1929 to Schlee-Brock Aircraft Corporation, Detroit, MI, distributors for the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation.  They sold it to Cromwell Air Lines, Inc., San Angelo, TX on January 20, 1930. 

We find NC869E landing at Tucson on August 2, 1930.  It was flown by Jimmie Mattern, carrying a single passenger identified only as “Henshaw”.  Based in San Angelo, TX they were westbound from El Paso, TX to Los Angeles, CA.  Mattern worked for Cromwell Air Lines at the time.

On January 29, 1931, NC869E was transferred to Carl G. Cromwell of San Angelo.  Later that year, Mr. Cromwell was killed in an automobile accident in Pennsylvania on September 26, 1931.  Luella L. Cromwell, executor, sold NC869E on November 21, 1931 to James J. “Jimmie” Mattern, Dallas, TX.

Mattern had NC869E rebuilt and fitted for a round-the-world flight.  It was named “Century of Progress” and was painted blue with cream trim. A new cockpit was fitted behind the wing and dual controls were installed.  He and Bennett Griffin began their journey by flying from New York to Newfoundland to Ireland to Berlin, beginning July 5, 1932. At this link, Mattern and Griffin are filmed at Berlin with their airplane. Note that the airplane wore the "NR" registration.

Below is an image of the airplane essentially as Mattern flew it through Tucson in 1930. The photo was taken in Berlin on July 6, 1932. This Vega crashed in Russia after leaving Berlin. Parts were salvaged and shipped back to the USA.

Original "Century of Progress"

Back in America, the fuselage and tail surfaces of a former Standard Oil Vega, NC106N (c/n118, not a Register

NC106N, Circa June, 1930 (Source: Kalina)
NC106N, Circa June, 1930 (Source: Kalina)

Airplane, left) were used with the wing and landing gear of NC869E (c/n69) in a rebuild at Lockheed (Phoenix arisen, see NC7440). Even though the majority of the rebuilt plane was NC106N, Mattern kept the NC869E registration and the same constructor's number (c/n69). Since the fuselage of NC106N was painted with the Standard Oil Stanavo Eagle paint scheme, Mattern simply elaborated on it during the rebuild.

This rebuilt "Eagle"-scheme Vega (converted back to standard flight controls) was the one he used on his solo around-the-world attempt in 1933. And, once again, the plane was named "Century of Progress".

The "new" airplane was flown solo by Mattern, taking off on June 3, 1933, and arriving June 4 in Norway. Image, below, from unidentified contemporary newspaper.

Below, courtesy of Tim Kalina, is a photograph of Mattern's second version of NR869E (left). Mattern stands in white by his airplane, accompanied by an unidentified gentleman. An added feature of this photograph is that Wiley Post's airplane, the "Winnie Mae," NR105W, stands in the background.

NC869E & Jimmie Mattern; NC105W & Wiley Post, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kalina)
NC859E & NC105W, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kalina)

Mr. Kalina says about the image, "Shown are Mattern's second Vega 'Century of Progress' NR869E and Post's Vega NR105W. Given the date written on the back of the photo this would have to be before June that year as Mattern departed NYC on June 3 on his second round-the-world attempt. And this would also be before Post's solo round-the-world flight which started in July that year." Below, the back of the photo above.

Back of Mattern/Post Photograph, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kalina)
Back of Mattern/Post Photograph, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kalina)

Alas, the global flight was not to be.  A couple of different sources cite different outcomes. Both outcomes involve a crash of the airplane, but neither the cause nor the location are agreed upon.

Regardless, on the next leg of the journey, NC869E suffered an accident (result of a frozen oil line or bad fuel) at Borisov, in the western USSR (or Khabarovsk, in the western USSR, depending on your source). Mattern was missing for weeks, but he survived. After no small diplomatic juggling, a Russian pilot carried him to Nome, Alaska. Mattern flew another plane from Nome back to New York.

The"Century of Progress" was badly damaged. No further information.

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UPLOADED: 04/19/06 REVISED: 4/20/06, 04/29/06, 05/01/06, 01/16/07, 12/10/09, 01/13/10, 06/02/10

 
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I'm looking for other photographs of Mattern with his airplane(s) to include on this page. If you have one or more you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me

Top image and video link courtesy of Tim Kalina. Thanks also to Tim for clarifiying some of the details around the two lives of NC869E.

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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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