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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.


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.


"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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Registration Number NC8730

A Workhorse Owned & Flown By Notable Pilots

This aircraft is a Swallow F28W, S/N 1040 (ATC 51), manufactured in July 1929 by the Swallow Airplane Co., Wichita, KS. It was powered by a Wright J-5A 200 HP engine, S/N B-8512. As a three-place airplane, it weighed 2,700 pounds. It landed at Tucson four times between 1929 and 1932.

It sold on February 3, 1930 to Ruth Elder (in the name of Ruth Elder Camp (b: 8 September 1902, Anniston, Alabama, d: 9 October 1977, San Francisco, California) c/o James E. Granger, Inc., Santa Monica, CA. Pilot Elder was an actress and aviation adventurer. See this link for some of her adventures.

There is no record at the NASM of the airplane's ownership from July 1929 to February 1930, although it is pretty clear that it was flown by Ruth Elder in the 1929 Women's Cross Country Air Race (the so-called "Powder Puff Derby") from Santa Monica to Cleveland, OH. She placed 5th behind Register pilots Louise Thaden, Gladys O'Donnell, Amelia Earhart and Blanche Noyes (not a Register pilot). Her final time was 28:15:14 (average speed 96.41 MPH). She won $350.

Image, below, was taken probably near the time of that race, or just after the airplane was sold to pilot Elder. Her name is lettered on the fuselage below the coaming of the rear cockpit. According to Jessen (p. 110), parts of this airplane were painted red. On the original image you can see the remains of a race number (60?) painted on the rear fuselage.

Swallow NC8730, ca. 1929 or 1930 (Source: Granger)
Swallow NC8730, ca. 1929 or 1930

We first see NC8730 at Tucson on August 7, 1929 flown by Elder (pilot certificate number 675) carrying James E. Granger as passenger. They were headed from El Paso, TX to Phoenix, AZ. They were probably headed for Santa Monica, CA for the beginning of the "Powder Puff Derby".

Below, an unusual photograph, because it shows three people who are known to have flown NC8730. And, if we guess correctly, the airplane behind them is 8730, and the photo was taken before 1933 before wheel pants and an engine cowl were installed (see below). Compare the paint scheme and the wheel design with the photo above.

Hoot Gibson (L), Ruth Elder, Jim Granger, NC8730(?), Clover Field, Pre-1933 (Source: Granger)
Hoot Gibson (L), Ruth Elder, Jim Granger, NC8730(?), Clover Field, Pre-1933 (Source: Granger)

Notice Gibson's large belt buckle is turned off center. This is a good practice to prevent scratched paint when working near aircraft. It is a practice seen among aircraft mechanics today. Interestingly, under magnification, you can see an insect flattened on the photo near Elder's left foot. It would take considerable restoration to get it flying again. Granger smokes a cigar.

The second visit to Tucson by NC8730 was on August 18 or 19, 1931 piloted by Clema Granger carrying her husband, Jim, as passenger. They were on their way south from Clover Field, Santa Monica, CA to Douglas, AZ on the Mexico border.

Roy Harding, a Union Oil representative, next brought NC8730 to Tucson on September 12, 1931. He was solo, on his way westbound from El Paso to Santa Monica. Next comes Nick Galloway on September 5, 1932. He was also solo, and making his way westbound from El Paso to Santa Monica.

NC8730 accumulated 571:50 flight hours, and received two new engines during Ms. Elder’s custody. She sold the airplane on March 15, 1933 to Pacific School of Aviation, Inc. Owners of Pacific were James E. Granger, President; Ruth Elder, VP and Edith B. Clark, Secretary-Treasurer). Below, NC8730 in an image dated 1933. Note, compared to the image above, the additions of wheel pants and engine cowling, as well as the different paint scheme.

Swallow NC8730, ca. 1933 (Source: Granger)
Swallow NC8730, ca. 1933

According to the NASM record, NC8730 suffered an accident at Inglewood, CA on July 3, 1933. There is no record of damage or the fates of pilot or airframe in the NASM record, but, according to Norm and Tom Granger, NC8730 was used in 1933 by Hoot Gibson in a race with with fellow movie cowboy Ken Maynard and was destroyed in a race-related crash.

From the document written by Norm posted at Jim Granger's link entitled "The Golden Age of Local Air Racing", before the race there were changes to the paint scheme, as well as the addition of a full NACA cowl on the engine and wheel pants. The work was paid for by Gibson, who offered it, "... free of charge for the loan of the airplane." Compare the photograph above with the first one on this page to see these differences.

The account of this race and aftermath is quoted as follows. Webmaster annotations in brackets [ ].

"In early 1933, Hoot Gibson challenged Ken Maynard, another western movie star, to a match race. Ken liked the idea; both actors' fame was diminishing and the race could help their box office appeal. Dad [Jim Granger] suggested they ask Cliff Henderson [Managing Director of the National Air Races] for a spot on the program at the National Air Races at Los Angeles in September. Cliff was delighted with the idea, so the race was on. Ken had a J6-7 Stearman and my father had doubts that Hoot's Butler [the Butler Black Hawk NC730K] could best Ken's plane so he offered Hoot the loan of his J-5 Swallow. Hoot was ecstatic, this assured him of a win. We [the three Granger sons] shined, tuned, and cajoled our Swallow getting it ready; we knew we had a winner! Race day came and the two cowboys lined up for the flag before 20,000 people. The flag dropped, Hoot was first airborne just as we expected. He was first around the scatter pylon and came really storming down the first straightaway with a strong lead; Hoot was smothering Ken, our baby was purring like a kitten. He too a commanding lead on the second straightaway, pulling up high into a steep turn on the third pylon and dove the airplane until it hit the ground a glancing blow that tore the airplane to shreds! Hoot would live to fly another day. The Swallow was tough enough to barely save his life. There were three chrome moly tubes welded across the fuselage ahead of the instrument panel that were bent into a half circle by Hoot's body weight. Dad cut them out of the wreckage and gave them to Hoot while he was still in the hospital to show him what he had survived."

An account specifically addressing the "race," above, is shared by Tom Granger at the link (PDF 219kB).

Below, shared by site visitor Joe Kranz, is a U.S. postal cachet signed by Gibson and postmarked July 1, 1933. The cachet commemorates the 1933 National Air Races and was signed just a short time before the fateful race described above.

Hoot Gibson, U.S. Postal Cachet, July 1, 1933 (Source: Kranz)
Hoot Gibson, U.S. Postal Cachet, July 1, 1933 (Source: Kranz)

Below, a photograph from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner ca. July 3, 1933.

Los Angeles Herald Examiner ca. July 3, 1933 (Source: Granger)
Los Angeles Herald Examiner ca. July 3, 1933 (Source: Granger)

Below, from Mr. Kranz, another news photo of the wreck of NC8730.

Undated News Article, NC8730 (Source: Kranz)
Undated News Article, NC8730 (Source: Kranz)

Below, courtesy of site visitor Joel Russell, are two additional photos of the wreck of NC8730. These original photographs were discovered in an album. Note the engine with bent propeller sticking up i the right foreground.

Swallow NC8730, July 3, 1933 (Source: Russell)
Swallow NC8730, July 3, 1933 (Source: Russell)

Below, a close up of the engine. Note the propeller with mud or oil-soaked soil on the blade.

Swallow NC8730, July 3, 1933 (Source: Russell)

The NASM record states that the registration was cancelled July 15, 1933. I have no further information regarding the fate of the damaged airframe or data plates for airframe or engine. Does anyone KNOW?


Dossier 3.1.35

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 08/08/05 REVISED: 10/28/07, 03/11/08, 01/12/10, 04/05/11, 07/02/11, 12/11/13

01/12/10 This page enjoys Google ranks #1, #2 and #3.

The Register
Images courtesy of Jim & Clema Granger's son, Norm Granger, and grandson Tom. Please follow the links to learn more about the Grangers.


The Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of and the 10th year of effort on a 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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