BARELY FIVE YEARS OLD
This airplane is a Travel Air A-4000, S/N 818. It was manufactured in Wichita, KS, November 26, 1928. It landed at Tuscon Monday, January 28, 1929 at 12:00 PM. Newman Wadlow was flying, with M.J. Parker as passenger. They were based at Wichita, KS and westbound from El Paso, TX to Los Angeles, CA. Since pilot Wadlow worked for the Travel Air Company as a production test pilot and charter pilot, this flight through Tucson could very well have been the ferry of this brand new airplane to its owner in Los Angeles (see below).
The image below, courtesy of friend of dmairfield.org Tim Kalina, comes from the October 1929 issue of the Air Travel magazine rotogravure section. Not only do we see a spectacularly clear image of NX9017 (bottom photo), but the background pattern of repeating biplanes is very creative and attractive. The people are unidentified.
The Bellancas in the top photograph are unidentifiable by registration number, but one of them might be NC224E, which was operated by the Chicago Daily News. Compare, at the link, the airplanes as well as the two gentlemen in white jump suits. From them, and the position of shadows on the ground, it is not too much of a stretch to guess that the photos were taken at about the same time, but from opposite directions on the ramp. If that is so, then the taller gentleman on the left of the top photo is Cliff Condit, Editor of the Chicago Daily
Travel Air, NX9107, ca. 1929
There was no data card for NX9017 at the NASM, but I do have the FAA record for the airplane, which clarfies its ownership and work with Axelson Machine Company, Los Angeles. NX9017 was purchased December 11, 1928 from the Travel Air Manufacturing Company. The bill of sale is signed by Walter Beech. The new owner was the Axelson Machine Company, and one of their 7-cylinder radial, 150HP engines, S/N A-7-104, was installed at the factory. The Company paid $4,026 for this brand new airplane, which we can assume was the cost less the engine. The Company's expressed purpose of the aircraft was "demonstration and sales work."
One of its first "demonstrations" appears to be one of low-level flight. A letter in the airplane's record dated May 10, 1929 is addressed to the Department of Commerce (DOC) from the County of Los Angeles sheriff. The letter requests ownership information for the airplane, since it was observed flying at 100-feet altitude above a residential district in Huntington Park, CA (illegal after the Air Commerce Act of 1926).
Whether in response to this inquiry is not clear, but on July 1, 1929 NX9017 was moved internally, via a bill of sale, between the Axelson Machine Company and the Axelson Aircraft Engine Company. On October 30, 1929, the original engine was replaced with another, S/N A-7-124. On January 4, 1930, the registration was changed from "NX" to "NC".
On May 26, 1930, ownership changed from Axelson to Roy D. Deaton of San Mateo, CA. The resulting inspection report stated, "Ship in very good shape." Unfortunately, six months later the airplane suffered an accident at Turlock, CA on December 19, 1930, and its license was suspended January 3, 1931. Although there are no drawings of the damage or repairs, the airplane was relicensed June 24, 1931. The wings were constructed new by the Hawke Crop Dusting Co. at Modesto, CA.
And again, according to the record, its license was cancelled August 10, 1931 and reinstated July 15, 1932 after the airplane sold to the Associated Air Services, Ltd. of Palo Alto, CA on May 2, 1932. It had been repaired, "fuselage repaired and recovered; wings redoped; J5 motor mount installed; J5 Wright Whirlwind motor installed." Thus it became a certified model B-4000. Below, a copy of the semi-annual registration card for the airplane dated May 15, 1933. It was owned by Associated at this time. Note that the license was signed by Register pilot Clarence Young.
NC9017 License, May 15, 1933 (Source: FAA)
The Department of Commerce issued a letter October 14, 1933 regarding the inspection status of 9017. The letter has written across the front of it, "Washed out 10/12/33." There are no details in the record as to where or how the "wash out" occurred, or who was flying the airplane.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 02/27/08 REVISED: 03/19/10