Pilot Eyes

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Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Bennett, CB-115400-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), 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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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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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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The four framed images of the arctic Fokker "Josephine Ford" were provided courtesy of the Hudgin Family Collection.

These images are of the "Josephine Ford" as it was admired, fueled and oiled on the ground at Tucson, November 9-10, 1926.

If you transfer these images to a viewer and enlarge them, in the bottom photo, the pilots and passengers are visible under the nose of the airplane. In the top photo, two young men are wearing bellbottom trousers with net-like inserts in the bell. A fashion of the times in the southwest?

To my knowledge, these photos were taken by Al Hudgin, and have not been published elsewhere.

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FLOYD BENNETT

Floyd Bennett, Ca. 1928 (Source: Web)
Floyd Bennett, Ca. 1928 (Source: Web)

Floyd Bennett was born October 25, 1890 at Warrensburg, NY. He landed at Tucson on November 9, 1926 as pilot of the Fokker F-VII “Josephine Ford” (although not specified in the Register, the number of the airplane was NX4204). His copilot and navigator this day was Bernt Balchen, himself an arctic pilot, navigator and explorer of wide reputation. Balchen is not signed in the Register, but he was the copilot of the "Josephine Ford" as it flew around the country in 1926 (see below).

According to the Register, they carried four passengers. They were eastbound, arriving from San Diego, CA on to 9th, staying overnight, and making their way to El Paso, TX at 8:15 the morning of the 10th.

Fellow passengers, all of whom signed the Register, were Charles F. Kunkel, a representative of the Guggenheim Fund, John McPhail, mechanic, and G.O. Noville, photographer.  Donald Keyhoe was along as the resident writer for the crew.

 

 

Bennett & Balchen, ca. 1928

Bennett and Balchen (image right) were Richard Byrd's pilots during his attempts to reach the North and South Poles in1926 and 1929, respectively. The “Josephine Ford” was Byrd’s North Pole expedition airplane.  Whether the self-aggrandizing Byrd ever actually made it to the North Pole with the airplane is in doubt, but that’s another story (see also the right sidebar).

The image at right was taken in April 1928 just before an attempt to rescue personnel of the German airship, Bremen (see below).

 

 

 

Joesephine Ford 11/9-10/26 Boys in Bells

The decade of the 1920s was a great period for "marketing" aviation. Lindbergh made a tour around the U.S. in 1927 to do just that during the months immediately after his trans-Atlantic flight. Wiley Post and Harold Gatty would do the same a few years later after their around-the-world adventure. There was also a proliferation of activity around record setting, racing and barnstorming, all aimed at raising aviation in the collective public consciousness.

When the "Josephine Ford" and crew landed at Tucson, they were at the mid-point of an 8,604 mile tour around the United States. They had left Washington, DC on October 7th for the two-month tour. 

 

 

 

Joesephine Ford 11/9-10/26 Fueling

Their flight was organized and sponsored by the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, with the cooperation of the Department of Commerce.  The airplane was loaned by Byrd for the tour. Surely aviation would be promoted by the presence of this grand aircraft, with its name and "BYRD ARCTIC EXPEDITION" painted large in white upon its fuselage.

Perhaps more than any other aviator of his era except perhaps Lindbergh, Floyd Bennett left an indelible mark on aviation history. Like many of his day, he did not have a strong educational background. What he lacked in formal training, he made up for in interest, dedication and innate ability.

 

 

 

Joesephine Ford 11/9-10/26

He left school at 15 and worked at the automobile trade for ten years. He enlisted in the Navy in 1915, trained as a pilot and served as a flight instructor during WWI.

While in the Navy, he was selected by Byrd as one of the pilots for the McMillan Expedition to the Arctic in 1925. They did not make it to the pole and the expedition was scrapped.

After returning to the U.S., Byrd and Bennett worked out plans for another attempt. Bennett took leave from the Navy and they arrived at base camp (Spitzbergen) on April 29, 1926. On May 9, 1926 they took off for the pole, over 700 miles away. Did they get to the pole? Do the math and follow along with the discussion in the right sidebar.

 

 

Joesephine Ford 11/9-10/26 Crew in Beneath Nose

Bennett was named chief pilot of Byrd's planned trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, but was injured in a crash of the Fokker "America" and was unable to go. Balchen did.

The following year, on April 19, although ill with a cold, he agreed to take part in the aerial rescue mission of the crew of a German airship, the Bremen, which had gone down in Newfoundland. His illness worsened and he was forced to leave the mission in Quebec.

Floyd Bennett died of complications from pneumonia, April 25, 1928 in Quebec, Canada.

Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, NY was named in his honor.

 

 

 

Below, from site visitor Joe Kranz, is a U.S. postal cachet from June 26, 1930 commemorating the dedication of Floyd Bennett Field. It is signed by Bennett's widow.

U.S. Postal Cachet Commemorating the Dedication of Floyd Bennett Field, June 26, 1930 (Source: Kranz)
U.S. Postal Cachet Commemorating the Dedication of Floyd Bennett Field, June 26, 1930 (Source: Kranz)

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Dossier 2.1.50

UPLOADED: 03/08/06 REVISED: 05/01/06, 02/13/09, 06/28/11, 05/16/12

 
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THE TRUTH ABOUT THE BYRD NORTH POLE FLIGHT

Quoted from the same source (aerofiles.com) as "another story" link cited in the center column:

"Airplane over the North Pole - May 8-9, 1926 - Adm Richard E Byrd, pilot Floyd Bennett, and crew in Fokker BA-1 Josephine Ford. There is controversy over Byrd's claim of a world record, with expressed doubts by Bernt Balchen (who also piloted Byrd on the 1929 South Pole flight) and others, and more recent research suggesting that he was well short of his goal when he turned back — most damning was an admission by Bennett shortly before his death that they had, indeed, not made it to the Pole. Reconciling the plane's average true speed of about 77mph and its fuel consumption with the 15.5 hours flight time (plus 12 minutes Byrd had claimed to have circled the Pole) for the measured distance of 1,535 miles also showed that it was not possible to make it all the way at less than 100mph average ground speed. Honors should instead go to Umberto Nobile and Roald Amundsen, who flew from Spitzbergen over the Pole to Alaska a few days later."

This revelation should in no way subtract from the fine piloting and navigation skills of either Bennett or Balchen. The mendacity was all Byrd's.
 
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