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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Conrad, CC-533-000-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.


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.

---o0o--- Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of and the 10th year of effort on a 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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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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Max Conrad passed away in 1979 at age 76. He had flown airplanes for more than half a century, had crossed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans nearly 200 times, and set many distance and endurance records for light planes. With more than 50,000 flight hours, near the end of his flying career he was considered the foremost light plane pilot in the world. Read more, below, about this prodigious pilot.

Conrad signed the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register once on March 18, 1931. He was flying a Ryan aircraft, NC354K, on what looks like either a round-robin from Carlsbad, CA back to San Diego, CA, or a westbound trip from Carlsbad, NM to San Diego. Unfortunately, he did not mention the state he arrived from. He carried four unidentified passengers, and cited Winona, MN as his home base, which is, in fact, where he was born in 1903, and where he lived.

In 1929 he had suffered a skull fracture, from which he was still recovering when he came to Tucson (see this link for some of his biographical and aeronautical history, and images). While this link focuses on his pole flight, he accomplished many other light plane flights and set numerous records. For a review of some of them, please download this article that appeared in AOPA Pilot in November, 1999. Further, this link takes you to a site managed by a Conrad aficionado, which, as well as reporting on his flying activities, includes music about flying that Conrad composed and recorded.

Max Conrad worked for the Piper Aircraft Corporation (see Register pilot William T. Piper, Jr.) and ferried small planes around the world for a living. But, his avocation was putting airplanes and himself to tests of endurance. He also wrote songs, poems and short stories, played several musical instruments and was an athlete in his younger days (he was an American entry in the 1932 Olympic high jump contest). Below is an image which appeared in the December 2002 issue of Flying Magazine, which recalled Conrad’s 1952 trans-Atlantic flight in a Piper Pacer.

Max Conrad on Flying Magazine Cover, 1952


Below is the text of a press release prepared in 1958 for the Piper Aircraft Corporation, Lock Haven, PA by a public relations firm. It documents a ferry flight made in a Piper Comanche, and I share it with you because it provides a nice summary of what it was like to ferry an aircraft across the Atlantic in the late 1950s. While the flight described below was not for the record books, the following year, in 1959, he set two world non-stop records flying Comanches from Casablanca to Los Angeles, CA and from Casablanca to El Paso, TX.


“Max Conrad, trans-Atlantic ferry pilot, landed a single engine, 250 horsepower Piper Comanche at Bocca di Falco Airport, Palermo, Sicily, on Monday, June 23, after a 4,440-mile, non-stop[ flight from Idlewild Airport, New York. The flight, a routine delivery, was made in 32 hours, 53 minutes – seven minutes less than the 33-hour flight time Conrad had estimated when he left Idlewild shortly after dawn on June 22.

“The Comanche flown by Conrad was the Super Custom model, standard in all respects except for the installation of extra gas tanks and a long range radio. The 325 gallons of gasoline carried aboard the Comanche enabled Conrad to fly from Idlewild to Palermo, then a second leg from Palermo to Rome and a third leg from Rove to Cannes before refueling. At Cannes, Conrad figured he still had enough gas remaining to carry him to Paris.

Longest Flight to Date

“The flight from New York to Palermo was the longest hop to date for Conrad, who had previously made 39 trans-Atlantic crossings in light aircraft. His first two round trips were made in 1950 and 1952 in a 135 horsepower Piper Pacer. In 1954 he ferried a twin engine Piper Apache non-stop from New York to Paris. Since then he has delivered 31 Apaches to Europe, as well as several other types of planes. A native of Winona, Minn., Conrad at present makes his home in San Francisco.

“For the New York-Palermo crossing, Conrad followed a Great Circle route which took him over Sydney, Nova Scotia and Argentia, Newfoundland, and south of weather ships Charlie and Juliette. His landfall in Europe was the border of France and Spain. He chose to fly across Spain south of the Pyrennees, across the Mediterranean Sea to Sardinia and thence to Palermo.

“Altitude assigned for the flight was 7,000 feet, though as he crossed Spain and headed out over the Mediterranean Conrad climbed to 16,000 feet in order to get above bad weather and take advantage of winds forecast to be favorable aloft.

“Heavy rain and severe thunderstorm activity caused radio interference as the Comanche approached Sicily, and Conrad held over the water for an hour waiting for conditions to improve. The landing was made in clear weather shortly after nightfall.

“Several thousand persons, including participants in the GIRO, Sicily’s annual sports plane tour, waited at the airport to welcome Conrad. The Comanche, owned by Jonas Aircraft and Arms Co., Inc., Piper export distributor, was turned over to Robert Goemans, Jonas representative in Europe.

Radio Contact All the Way

“In the course of the 33-hour flight, Conrad established radio contact with U.S. and Canadian stations, the two North Atlantic weather ships, a TWA trans-Atlantic flight, and radio stations at Shannon, London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona as well as a consul station at Lugo, Spain. He lost radio contact for a few hours as he neared the coast of France, then discovered that his foot had accidentally disconnected the lead to his long range Sunair radio. He was quickly able to re-establish the connection and except for this incident his radio equipment, including Narco Omnigator and low frequency radios and Lear ADF, worked perfectly.

“On his return to New York June 27 by commercial airliner, Conrad was asked how he had managed to stay awake throughout the long flight. ‘I had no trouble at all,’ said the 55-year old flier, father of 10 children and grandfather of two. ‘After the busy days that preceded the flight, and particularly the three hours spent gassing the plane in the rain at Idlewild, the flight was the first real rest I’d had in quite a while.’

“The New York to Palermo flight did not in itself set a record for aircraft of the Comanche’s power and weight. It did, however, provide Conrad and Piper Aircraft Corporation with a great deal of long range cruise information which may prove useful in future record attempts.”


November 9, 2009 update. The following article appeared in the June, 2009 issue of Sport Aviation, published by the Experimental Aircraft Association. The Association holds some of Conrad's records. The article suggests reading Conrad's diary (PDF 3.7MB), which covers the period January 20-June 1, 1928. It's an interesting read.

Max Conrad in Sport Aviation, June, 2009
Max Conrad in Sport Aviation, June, 2009


Dossier 2.1.8

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 12/30/05 REVISED: 11/09/09, 12/12/10

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