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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.

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CONSOLIDATED MODEL 23 NC33Y

CONSOLIDATED MODEL 23 NR33Y

A FAILED OBSERVER WITH A RESTRICTED HEART (or is that corazón?)

This airplane began life as a Thomas-Morse XO-932 (Y10-41) (S/N 1; no ATC # assigned).  It was originally built by the Thomas-Morse group of Consolidated Aircraft, Buffalo, NY.  Consolidated was founded by one of our Davis-Monthan Register pilots, Ruben Fleet.

NR33Y was manufactured on May 4, 1931.  It left the factory with a Wright GV-1570 engine (S/N 62) of 600 HP.  It was a two-place airplane.  It flew with U.S. Army Air Corps insignia and, in the fall of 1934, it was used in competition for Air Corps observation aircraft.  The competition was won by Douglas, and the airplane was used as a Consolidated “dog ship”.

The NASM record states that the airplane was remodeled on September 21, 1934.  No mention is made of what the remodeling entailed.  However, on April 18, 1935, Consolidated test pilot William B. Wheatley wrote a letter that suggested what some of the remodeling might have been: “Plane was submitted in several Army Air Corps observation competitions, and built to conform with their requirements, standards and specifications.  If flew with Air Corps insignia.  Government’s equipment was returned and replaced by similar equipment.”

With that, a “NR” registration was requested, with transport restricted to executives, engineers and Consolidated company service workers.  Experimental flights were not contemplated.  At this time, the airplane was called a “Model 23 Corps Observation Biplane”.  It had an adjustable pitch propeller, two gas tanks (total capacity 125 gallons), and the government’s engine was replaced (with what is unspecified).

At the Civil Aeronautic Authority (CAA, the precursor of the FAA), officers talked about the “NR” request and concluded that the airplane was probably, “just as safe as ATC ships [i.e. those that were CAA-approved].”  The “NR” registration was approved on August 27, 1935.

In August 1935, Wheatley received permission to fly his wife as passenger in the airplane, ferrying it from Buffalo, NY to San Diego, CA at the time Consolidated Aircraft moved its facilities to San Diego. 

This is where we find NR33Y.  NR33Y landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield on September 7, 1935 flown by William Wheatley.  He carried Mrs. Wheatley as passenger.  Their home base was listed as San Diego, CA (anticipation); they were westbound from Buffalo, NY to San Diego. 

It just doesn’t get much better than this.  When you can trace the custody, correspondence and activity of an airplane to its actual landing at the Airfield, and the pilot’s signature in the Register, that’s a good day’s work.

But that’s not the end.  The airplane was involved in an accident (no details) and the NR license was suspended.  As of October 4, 1935, the airplane was in storage at San Diego.  It was repaired as of October 16th and licensed again to Consolidated Aircraft.  It stayed with them for about a year more.

In December 1936, the airplane was sold to Mexican Colonel Alfredo Lezama Alvarez.  It was exported to Mexico as of December 31, 1936 under export license E-4124, with approval of the U.S. Department of State.  In actuality, it was acquired by Lezama Alvarez as an agent for the Spanish Republican Government.  It was registered in Mexico as X-ABDX, and it is uncertain if it was ever sent to Spain.

The CAA file was officially cancelled on May 29, 1937.

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 03/29/06 REVISED: 01/05/12

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

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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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