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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Bunch, CB-860000-01, 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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The following group of artifacts is available at the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, MO (link):

“A0203

Bunch, Clare W.Collection, 1939-1974.

1 box (0.2 linear ft.)


Clare W. Bunch was a pilot-engineer during the early days of aviation and president of the Monocoupe Corporation in St. Louis during the 1930s. He served 30 years in the Air Force until his retirement, as a colonel, in 1958.
Single issues of several aviation newsletters, clippings, and photographs pertaining to Clare W. Bunch.


Cite as: Clare W. Bunch Collection, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.”

 
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CLARE WESLEY BUNCH

At the time of his landing at Tucson on February 12, 1936, flying Monocoupe NC11759, Clare Wesley Bunch was President, General Manager and Sales Manager of the Monocoupe Corporation. He was 32 years old. His itinerary that Wednesday (check the calendar) was from El Paso, TX to Phoenix, AZ. He carried no passengers. There is no indication as to why he was in Arizona. You can see another photograph of Bunch at Peter Beasley's page.

According to Aero Digest, February 1937, he was born on March 18, 1903 in Linn Creek, MO. According to his daughter, who emailed me through this page, he graduated at the age of 19 from the California, MO, high school. He spent his junior and senior years there. Then he studied electrical engineering at Washington University, St. Louis, MO, and graduated in 1926 with a B.S. degree. He stayed at the University as a graduate student with a research fellowship, leaving in 1928 with a M.S.

He began his career with the Pioneer Instrument Co. in May 1928. He worked for them until 1931 as service engineer, in the production, research and sales departments, and became branch manager of the Wichita office from 1929-1931.

He learned to fly in Wichita in 1930 and went into private enterprise from 1931-33, including private and commercial flying. He joined the Monocoupe Corporation in December 1933 and worked until September 1934 as a salesman. He was sales manager for three months in early 1935. Then he became General Manager and President beginning in May 1935, about eight-months before we find him in Tucson. He took an active part in the design and engineering of several Monocoupe models, and conducted all the engineering test flying for new aircraft over the period 1935 to 1941. See E.E. Aldrin, Sr. to view correspondence between Bunch and Aldrin.

The photograph below is shared with us by friend of dmairfield.org, John Underwood. It shows Bunch and a woman identified as Marjorie Gage in an embrace in front of a Monocoupe aircraft. The date and context of this image are unknown, but it looks celebratory. The "17" on the vertical stabilizer appears to be a race number.

Clare Bunch & Marjorie Gage, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Underwood)
Clare Bunch & Marjorie Gage, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Underwood)

He paralleled his business life with a military life. He was in the R.O.T.C. from 1922-1926 while in college, the Coast Artillery, 1926-28, and the Army Air Corps Reserve, 1932-40. He resigned his business responsibilities on March 3, 1942 to enter full-time military service. He remained in the service, retiring as a colonel in the 1950s. He was a member of Scabbard and Blade, and of the Dubsdread Country Club (the club is still in business today at 549 West Par Street, Orlando, FL).

Along the way, he set records with his Monocoupe airplanes. The New York Times of October 13, 1935 reported an altitude attempt made by Bunch on the 12th. It reports that Bunch reached 19,500 feet, believed to be a new record for light aircraft.

He set a new coast-to-coast (Los Angeles to New York) nonstop record for light planes on April 2-3, 1939 in a Monocoupe. The N.Y. Herald Tribune of April 3rd reported him departing Burbank, CA at 10:41AM; he arrived at Roosevelt Field the next day at 1:07:10PM. The duration of his flight was 23 hours 27 minutes and 10 seconds, beating the previous record of 30 hours 37 minutes set just five months earlier. He carried an overload of about 690 pounds at takeoff, most of which was fuel. His greatest speed was 130 MPH between Albuquerque and Amarillo. He flew at 12,000 feet for about 17 hours. The image below, from friend of dmairfield.org, John Underwood, captures him at the end of that cross-country voyage. The police officer is assisting because of fatigue. It must have felt good to have the help of a supporting arm after that long in the air.

Clare Bunch (C) April 3, 1939, Roosevelt Field (Source: Underwood)
Clare Bunch (C) April 3, 1939, Roosevelt Field (Source: Underwood)

The N.Y. Herald Tribune of April 4th states that Bunch reported the cost of his trip was $27.50, broken down as follows: 137 gallons of gas $23.25; oil $3.90; two sandwiches 20 cents and a thermos of coffee 15 cents. Times certainly do change: he paid about 17 cents per gallon for gas. As of the upload date of this page (below), aviation gasoline is anywhere between three and five dollars per gallon!

ABER ICH DIGRESSUM

As an aside, Monocoupes were the most successful of all the stock plane racers during the Golden Age of Air Racing. Early in the company’s life, Donald A. Luscombe was president, J.A. Love was V.P., and Clayton Folkerts was chief engineer. Discontent with airport conditions at the original corporate site at Moline, IL caused a move by late 1931 to Lambert Field in Robertson, MO. Reorganized into the Monocoupe Corp., Luscombe was retained as president, and Frederick Knack replaced Folkerts as chief engineer.

In 1933, Luscombe left. By 1935, Wooster Lambert (Lambert engines were used in many Monocoupe models) was president, John Nulsen was V.P., Clare Bunch was Sales Manager and Tom Towle was chief engineer. Sometime in 1939 or thereabouts, the company was dissolved, reorganized and moved to Orlando, FL as a subsidiary of Universal Molded Products (Indeed, the "UNIV" on the fuselage of the Monocoupe in the top image may reflect that reorganization). After World War II the company was purchased by another group, also in Florida, before going out of business in the 1950s.

MONOCOUPE MARKETING

For a special treat, see this download for a look at the sleek, new Monocoupe aircraft for 1932. Pictured in this marketing brochure are Monocoupe pilots Phoebe Omlie and John Livingston, among others. Notice the last page of this brochure. One prospective buyer (I wonder who it was, and whether the purchase was made) scribbled some quick ciphers on that page, calculating the base price of the Model 90 and adding some optional equipment: steel propeller $100, left-hand throttle $25, and Townend anti-drag ring $45. These brochure images are courtesy of the Charles Cooper Collection.

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 12/23/05 REVISED: 02/07/08, 01/23/10

 
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I'm looking for photographs of this airplane and of pilot Bunch 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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