Art Carnahan is best known as an air racer, and for the
Tilbury-Fundy Flash, an airplane he raced at the National
Air Races during the 1930s.
We find Carnahan landing at Tucson on
April 1, 1932 flying Stinson NC1019. He
identified his home base as Bloomington, IL. He carried two
unidentified passengers (possibly Merwin and Williams, see the link and below).They
were northwest bound from El Paso, TX to Globe, AZ. This
may have been a ferry flight from Illinois to California.
Please follow the link to NC1019 for details.
Moving ahead a few months, photo,
left, from the New York Times, Sunday, August 21, 1932. The
small airplane is the Tilbury-Fundy Flash. It has a wingspan
of 14'8' (later increased to 17'10") length 11'10" (later
and an empty weight of 270 pounds. The 45HP Church engine
was air-cooled. Owen Tilbury was a design engineer in the employ of the Williams Company. The airplane was raced in the 1932 National Air Races by Carnahan. Owen Tilbury's grand niece sent a news article in the Lewiston (ME) Daily Sun of August 26, 1932 which makes note of, "... the diminutive Tilbury-Funday [sic] Flash, which Art Carnahan of Bloomington, Ill. will pilot in the speed dashes. Its wingspread is only 14 feet 8 inches. It is powered by a 45 horsepower four cylinder air cooled engine, and weighs but 270 pounds, hardly more than a good lift for a strong man."
The larger airplane behind the Flash appears to be a Travel Air 6000 (cf. Juptner, Volume 1, page 245) of unknown registration number. The size of the Flash in comparison is striking. Walter Williams owned a Travel Air 6000. It was used as the pace plane on the Flash's first flight.
Carnahan's record at the 1932 Race cited in the Aircraft
Year Book, while exemplary, did not include the Flash. Rather,
his race activities all involved Monocoupe aircraft.
He competed in the Cincinnati Trophy Race (Cleveland
to Cincinnati & return, 8th place in a Wright J-6 Monocoach),
the Sohio Mystery Derby (Event #21, 3rd place in the J-6
Monocoach), Event #11 for C or NC aircraft (dropped out in
third lap with Monocoach J-6), and The Precision Landing
Contest for aircraft without brakes (4th place in the August
The next reference to the "Flash" is in
the 1933 National Air Races , where, flown by Carnahan,
it won the 115 cu. in. engine event at Chicago. No mention
of the Flash or a 115 cu.in. race is made in the 1934 Aircraft
Year Book. Photo, right, of another incarnation of his airplane
parked at the Bloomington, IL airport (from this link).
Note "Tilbury F-L-A-S-H" on tail; Shell Lockheed
During the late 1930s, Carnahan was the pilot for the Bloomington Pantograph, a local newspaper. An article describing Carnahan's role and the airplanes he flew is from Popular Aviation magazine, November, 1938 (PDF 1.6Mb). I'm looking for other information about pilot Carnahan's activities
during the late 30s and beyond. Can you help?
All I know is, in 1954, a Waco primary training
glider (N887V), which was manufactured in 1930, was donated
to a local glider club by Art Carnahan, manager of the
nearby Bloomington Airport. Art was also a flight instructor
at the airport.
A site visitor, Jim Hoppe, from Bloomington, IL states on January 12, 2008, "The Flash is restored and well kept in our County Museum. Mr. Carnahan only raced the plane once. The photograph on your site [the one immediately above] was taken on October 29th, 1934 [at Bloomington]. The Shell Plane was flown in by Mr. [James] Doolittle for the opening of the Air Derby/Dedication. The Flash was named "Tilbury" after Owen Tilbury, President of the Local Chapter of the National Aeronautical Association. Tilbury went to work for Wright in St. Louis in 1935.
"Art Carnahan was the pilot for the local [Bloomington] newspaper The Pantagraph. The paper's archives are full of Art and aviation. Art took his flying instructions on my Grandfather's farm, east of Bloomington in 1925. His instructors were Basil Sims and Rogers Humphreys. He also received lessons from The Gates Flying Circus members in exchange for motor repairs.
"It is interesting that NW of my grandfather's farm was the Bedinger Farm. Eugene Bedinger was Chief of the Motor Repair Section, Air Service and was stationed at McCook Field in the early 20's. Another frequent flyer at the farm was "Shorty" Schroeder (Major R.W.) whom I assume became acquainted with Art. I knew Art as a boy, he was a friend of my dad. I met several times with Fran Carnahan, Art's second wife. I have been gathering local aviation history for nearly thirty years."
Further, on January 13 he states, "The photo of the Stinson [actually a Travel Air] & Flash [top photograph] is interesting in that the Flash does not have the cowling painted black. That was done after the first flight. Walter Williams the radio man, was an aeronautical engineer in the Air Corps during the War [WWI]. He was the president of the Williams Company and perfected the oil furnance. Much experimenting in aviation was conducted by the company up through the 50's.
"Art would have been owner of the plane in name only. His backer, and frequent passenger, was Davis Merwin, also an aeronautical engineer. His family owned several newspapers in California. Mr. Merwin took great interest in aviation law."
Another visitor, David Brazelton, states, "I first met Art when he was flying the Stinson photo plane for the Bloomington Pantagraph called "Scoop." After a number of years, I grew old enough (15 yrs old) to start learning to fly at Bloomington airport. Art was the manager and his lovely wife Fran managed both him and the rest of us. We flew Taylorcrafts and Archie Baldrich was my main instructor. Art flew many charters and sold several types of airplanes. I was elected on occasion to ride with him in the Republic Seabee as a living sandbag. That was OK because he would let me fly the airplane between demos and often I was allowed to show that even this kid could fly this plane. The worst was when I had to get out on the flat spot on the back of the hull and prop that 215 hp geared engine to show the potential customer it could be done if the battery went down.... The main thing is that every moment you flew in a cockpit with Art, you were learning. He never let up and made you do new things all the time.... Art and Fran Carnahan are still among my life's heros."
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 03/18/06 REVISED: 04/10/06, 01/15/08, 07/01/14