C.B.D. Collyer, Date & Location Unknown (Source: NASM)
C.B.D. Collyer landed twice at Tucson. Both times he carried two passengers in the Fairchild NX5501. On September 11, 1928 he was westbound competing
in the 1928
National Air Races that used Tucson as a waypoint in
the Class "C" race that year. He carried two passengers identified as simply "Stribner" and "Findley." Based in New York, NY, they were inbound from El Paso, TX to Yuma, AZ. Please direct your browser to the link for the airplane to learn more about the results of the race.
The second landing on September 21, 1928 was eastbound from Los Angeles,
CA to El Paso, TX. Collyer carried two passengers this time, identified
simply as "Roberts" and "Stribner". We can safely guess this is the return trip to their home base in New York
after the end of the Air Races.
Earlier, Collyer was a barnstormer (Liberty Flyers) and airmail pilot. From Aerial Age Weekly of May 17, 1920 we learn that Collyer with his mechanic flew from Daytona, FL to Savanah, GA in two hours and 55 minutes. This was an excellent time in that day, especially flying a Curtiss JN-4. Collyer was on his way to Danville, VA, where he worked for the Danville Aircraft Corporation.
The year 1928 was a busy and fateful year for Collyer. From June 28th to July 22, 1928, John H. Mears and Collyer flew around the world from New York and back in 23 days 15 hours 21 minutes to establish an FAI record (p.78 of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society Journal, “Thrills of a Round the World Flight” by C.B.D. Collyer). The airplane they used was "The City of New York," the Fairchild NX5501 that he and his passengers flew through Tucson in September. Although they didn't fly all the way around the world (they crossed the Atlantic and Pacific by ship), their circumnavigation was completed faster than a lunar cycle, which made it into the newspapers as their, "race with the moon." And they did it carrying a white terrier mascot named, of course, "Tail Wind."
For perspective on what it meant to fly around the world in 1928, Time Magazine of August 19, 1929 provided the following analysis in an article about an around-the-world zeppelin flight.
Ferdinand Magellan, first world circumnavigator, required three years (1519–22) for his sailing trip. Author Jules Verne's fictitious "Phileas Fogg" required 80 days; Nellie Bly, New York World reporter, 72 days (1889); U. S. Army planes, 175 days, of which 15 were actual flying days (1924); John Henry Mears and C. B. D. Collyer, record holders, 23 days (1928). The Graf Zeppelin expected to fly twelve or 14 days, with four-day stops for fueling at Friedrichshafen, Tokyo, Los Angeles—in all, a few days more than three weeks. The Mears-Collyer dash cost them $29,507, or $14,753.50 each. Dirigible passengers paid $9,000 each.
Mears, Collyer Book, "Around the World in 23 Days" (Source: Web)
Collyer and Mears published their own book about their flight in 1928. The cover of "Around the World in 23 Days in a Fairchild Plane" is exhibited at right.
In late 1928, Collyer attempted two speed records. From the British aviation magazine "Flight," of November 1, 1928, page 959, this, "CAPT. C. B. D. COLLYER made a non-stop record flight westwards across America on October 25 in a Lockheed 'Vega' monoplane, accompanied by Mr. H. Tucker, owner of the machine. They flew from Long Island to Los Angeles in 24 hrs. 51 mins., beating the previous record from east to west, which was 26 hrs, 50 mins., made by Lieuts. [Register pilots John] Macready and [Oakley] Kelley [sic] in 1923." The airplane Collyer and Tucker used was the Lockheed Vega NX4769 (not a Register airplane).
Next, Collyer attempted to set a west-east speed record with the same airplane early in November. The record was not to be, however, because he and his passenger, Harry Tucker again, crashed shortly after takeoff. The crash occurred some 30 miles southeast of Prescott, AZ the night of November 3, 1928. Tucker and Collyer died. Below, the "Yankee Doodle" backed up against a fence among wind-blown debris sometime before November, 1928.
Interestingly, the "Yankee Doodle" earlier held both the west-east and east-west speed records with Register signer Art Goebel as pilot.
Lockheed Vega NX4769, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Gerow)
Below, an article from The New York Times of November 5, 1928. Many other smaller, less detailed accounts appeared in newspapers around the country near the same date.
The New York Times, November 5, 1928 (Source: NYT)
The continuation of this article is below.
The New York Times, November 5, 1928 (Source: NYT)
The records set by Art Goebel are accounted for in this article, as are Collyer's and Mears' round-the-world flight and Harry Tucker's background. Register pilot Lee Schoenhair is cited. The Salt Lake Tribune (UT) reported their accident on November 5, 1928 as follows.
TWO FLIERS DIE IN WRECKING OF YANKEE DOODLE.
MONOPLANE, RACING FOR NEW AIR RECORD, SMASHES INTO CANYON WALL IN ARIZONA.
COLLYER, PILOT, AND TUCKER, OWNER, PERISH IN TERRIFIC EXPLOSION OF GASOLINE.
Prescott, Ariz., Nov. 4 (AP) -- The monoplane Yankee Doodle, holder of two transcontinental records, caught in a blinding rain and fog in the Bradshaw mountains last night, struck against the side of a wall in Crook Canyon, twenty-three miles south of here, and sent Captain C. B. COLLYER, pilot, and HARRY TUCKER, passenger-owner, to their deaths.
The plane was en route from Los Angeles to New York on a nonstop flight. Scattered bits of airplane wreckage strewn along the canyon today told searching parties the story of the wreck and resulted in positive identification of the aircraft and the bodies of COLLYER and TUCKER.
It is believed by members of the sheriff's searching party which found the strewn wreckage late today that the craft had struck the canyon side with a tremendous force and that the heavy load of gasoline exploded with the impact. The open parachutes of the pilot and the passenger indicated that the pair, realizing their plight too late, had made an effort to jump. Their landing flares had also been released.
J. B. TOMLINSON, manager of the Storm Cloud mines, was the only eyewitness of the crash. He said he heard the plane come down through the canyon, sputting as if the motor was failing, and after it had scraped the tree tops for a distance, crashed. He said a loud explosion immediately followed the crash.
The rugged character of the terrain did not enable searchers to reach the scene of the tragedy until late today, when a 20 year old youth, FRANK SHIELDS, found the scattered remains of the proud cross continent record-holding monoplane.
The Bradsaw mountains where the plane fell previously proved a barrier to the Yankee Doodle in a nonstop flight less than two months agao. With ART GOEBEL, famous transoceanic aviator, at the controls and TUCKER as a passenger, the Yankee Doodle was forced down twenty miles north of Prescott when the gasoline supply became exhausted.
The Yankee Doodle took off from Mines field, Los Angeles, yesterday at 3:20 p.m. for a continuous journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic. While the pilot, COLLYER, had stated that pressing business engagements demanded his presence there, he admitted that he would attempt to better GOEBEL'S mark or less than nineteen hours for the trip.
After establishing a new east-to-west record recently in their Lockheed Vega craft, COLLYER and TUCKER said they would set to make a whole revision of aviation records. The plane had just been released from the factory, where it underwent a complete overhauling after the record trip from New York.
Only the fact that the rocks were plowed away at the spot where the plane hit enabled the searchers to fix the exact location of the crash, for parts of the craft were scattered for more than a quarter of a mile along the mountainside.
Letters and photographs, along with a few personal effects of the fliers, served to identify them as the two who hopped off at Mines field, Los Angeles, yesterday afternoon at 3:20 with the intention of keeping a business engagement in New York City today.
Pack mules were expected to bring the bodies down to the highway, where they will be brought here. There was no part of the Yankee Doodle worth salvaging. One strip of the fuselage bearing the name served to help identify the plane.
The fatal crash which snuffed out the lives of two of aviation's most prominent figures apparently took place between 7:30 and 8 o'clock last night. A monoplane was reported seen over a little cluster of mining prospectors cabins about five miles from here about 7:30. At that time it was said that the motor apparently was not functioning properly. In this crippled condition it was swallowed up in the mist and rain of the night, which authorities here believe was responsible for its becoming lost in the mountain vastness.
Eight photographs of the NX4769 accident are exhibited online at the link. The wreck rested two rugged miles from the nearest road. The coroner rode a burro to the site of the accident and formed a coroner's jury of two Prescott morticians, a deputy sheriff and three cowboy-packers. They, and one unidentified other, are pictured in the photograph below from the link. The coroner, Gordon Clark, is shown at far left.
Collyer and Tucker Searchers, Ca. November 3, 1928 (Source: Link)
The other seven photographs at the link illustrate the force of the impact and the devastation that took place.
C.B.D. Collyer, Grave Marker, Arlington (Source: findagrave)
Collyer was born August 24, 1896. I have no information about Collyer's military experience and airmail work, or the ultimate life of his fiancée. If you can help, please let me KNOW. His full name was Charles Bascom Drury Collyer.
His grave marker is at right from findagrave.com. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, VA.
Despite his short life, Collyer, his collaborators and his flights and airplanes all have a good presence on the Web. There are over 300 Google hits for "C.B.D. Collyer" +flight as of the upload date of this page.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 12/25/11 REVISED: 05/16/16, 05/30/16