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There is no biographical file for pilot Downs in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.

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LLOYD R. DOWNS

 

Lloyd Downs, 1932 (Source: Underwood)
Lloyd Downs, 1932 (Source: Underwood)

 

Amarillo Sun News Globe, June 22, 1930 (Source Woodling)
Amarillo Sun News Globe, June 22, 1930 (Source Woodling)

 

Lloyd Downs appears twice in the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register. His first visit was on Sunday, June 15, 1930 at 11:45AM. He flew the Alexander Eaglerock he identified as NC2789, S/N 177. Based at Los Angeles, CA, he arrived eastbound from Yuma, AZ. He recorded no destination or departure time. He carried a single passenger, Bobbie Downs, his wife (see below).

Although he gave no reason for his flight, we know what he was doing because of a news article that appeared in the June 22, 1930 issue of the Amarillo Sun News Globe (TX), right. It appears he was headed from Los Angeles to his former home in Liberal, KS. It makes sense that his wife would accompany him on this trip.

East of El Paso, their travel was not without incident, however, since, due to a fuel estimation error, he landed his airplane in a rough, remote area in New Mexico. The article describes the conditions and the field repairs affected to continue their journey. English Field was in Amarillo. Curiously, a second filler article a week later in the same Amarillo newspaper, June 29th, stated, "Lloyd Downs, whose Eaglerock biplane was given an overhaul, left for his home in Pomona, Calif." It appears that he did not reach Kansas.

 

The photograph, upper left, of Downs is shared with us courtesy of John Underwood. It is cropped from the larger photograph immediately below, which shows a dozen early aviators, some of whom are Register signers.

His second landing was two months later on Saturday, August 16, 1930 at 11:30AM. This time he was westbound to Los Angeles from Lordsburg, NM. He carried a single unidentified passenger in the Alexander Eaglerock he identified as NC 2798, S/N 125. They were headed to Pomona, CA. Note the difference in the last two digits of the airplane registration number: not a typo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lloyd Downs (L) With Other Pilots, Dycer Airport, 1932 (Source: Underwood)
Lloyd Downs (L) With Other Pilots, Dycer Airport, 1932 (Source: Underwood)

The caption, below, appeared glued to the back of the photograph. It identifies Downs at far left, and features, from left to right, Ralph Bushey, Leon Atwood, Oxnard Field pilot Lee Miles, Peterson Field pilot Riley Burrows, Davis-Monthan, Oxnard and Grand Central Air Terminal (GCAT) pilot Clarence "Ace" Bragunier, GCAT pilot Waldo Waterman, Garland Lincoln, Earl Gordon, George Hague, Charles McGrew and Dave Elmendorf.

Photo Caption, Lloyd Downs (L) With Other Pilots, Dycer Airport, 1932 (Source: Underwood)
Photo Caption, Lloyd Downs (L) With Other Pilots, Dycer Airport, 1932 (Source: Underwood)

As with many Los Angeles-area commercial pilots, Downs was documented on U.S. Immigration forms upon return from Mexico. Below, an example of one such document dated June 16, 1931, which recorded Downs' return from Agua Caliente, Mexico via San Diego. He carried Bobbie, his wife, and one passenger named Dewey E. Gowens. At some point, probably early in 1930-31, Downs married Bobbie. She appeared with him as passenger on a couple of these Immigration forms. All were from Pomona, CA. June 16th was a Tuesday that year, and this flight might have been the end of a long weekend spent in Mexico.

U.S. Immigration Form, June 16, 1931 (Source: ancestry.com)

The airplane cited on this form was NC3700, an Alexander Eaglerock model A-3, S/N 632. This airplane is recorded three times in the GCAT Register, all between April and July, 1931. Although the pilot's name was not recorded in the GCAT Register, chances are good that one or more of the GCAT landings were flown by Downs.

Another Immigration form, dated November 5,1933, cites Downs on the same itinerary with Bobbie and another female passenger. This time their airplane was Alexander Eaglerock NC6375 (cited once in the Clover Field Register, 1935). Downs was cited in that Register as the owner of 6375.

And about two years later, on November 7, 1935, he returned from Ensenada, Mexico with three passengers in NC659K, a GCAT Stearman previously owned by the Shell Oil Company.

There are several small news articles that cite Downs' activities in aviation during the 1930s. One, from November, 1932 reports on his involvement with a solo refueled endurance flight. Downs flew the refueling airplane. Solo because the endurance pilot was testing a new automatic pilot device that allowed him to handle the refueling hose while the airplane flew itself. The flight was terminated because Downs couldn't locate his target when time came to refuel again. The flight was a success having refueled eight times, remaining in the air 37 hours up to that time. A retrospective article describing the event is at the link.

Junior Birdmen Pageant Draws Crowd
MORE THAN 25,000 persons witnessed the first Junior Birdmen Pageant at Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale, Calif., and were entertained with a full program of sport and precision flying. Among the performers were Lloyd Downs, Waldo Waterman, Ralph Bushey and Garland Lincoln. Frank Hawks, just back from China where he demonstrated a Curtiss- Wright bomber, Cliff Henderson, Dudley Steele and Major C. C. Mosely [sic] were also in attendance. The TWA Douglas airliner, Waterman's "Whatsit" and Bushey's speed plane were flown for the benefit of the crowd. A demonstration of military flying by the Army Air Corps Reserves from Long Beach featured the events of the day.

The July, 1934 issue of Aero Digest, right, cites Downs as a VIP attendee of the inaugural Junior Birdmen Pageant at GCAT. Other pilots, some fellow Register signers, joined him. As well as being a major air transport hub, the GCAT was a common venue for these types of air shows and exhibitions, especially on weekends.

In 1936, the Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun of April 24th published an article, below, that described a weekend gala hosted by Register pilot Clema Granger and others. The article identifies Downs as a pilot with Palm Springs Airlines. I linked other Register pilots cited in these articles to their respective Web Pages.

LARGE GROUP OF FAMOUS AVIATORS ENTERTAINED HERE

The old "Jenny” days, when aviators wore helmets and boots, seem to have passed, judging from the appearance of the largest group of men and women fliers ever to assemble in the village, who congregated at the home of Clema Granger, nationally prominent aviatrix, last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for they were all garbed in regular desert wear. Mrs. Granger is a member of the board of directors of N.A.A. and vice-president of the Los Angeles chapter of the 99 Club, and former governor of the 9lh district of the club. She has participated in several transcontinental and other races. The group consisted of members and officials of the National Aeronautic Association, members of the 99 Club. National Organization of women fliers, and prominent transcontinental derby contestants.

Those present were; Col. Dick Barnitz, manager of Los Angeles Municipal Airport, and member of the board of directors of N. A. A.; W. B. Baiderson, manager Pacific Scientific Company, manufacturers of Pioneer Aircraft instruments, and governor of the 9th district N.A.A., and Mrs. Baiderson; Randall Irwin, president of N. A.A. and Mrs. Randall: O. D. McKenzie, registrar, Curtis-Wright Technical Institute, Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale; Al Lay, instructor of flying at Los Angeles Municipal Airport, and transcontinental race contestant; Mrs. Ethel Sheehy, of Fontana, governor of the 99 Club at Los Angeles, and her husband. Bill Sheehy, also a veteran pilot. Mrs. Sheehy was winner in 1935 of the Ruth Chatterton Derby. Others from Los Angeles were Elliott Roberts; Nona Hansen, former secretary of N. A. A.; Esther Johnson, Mabyl Bull, Kay Van Doozen, Mary Charles, Pretto Bell, Anita Torley and Jackie Greave. Others were Carolyn West, of Seattle, third vice-president of the Women’s Aeronautic Association; Gertrude Hartman, second vice-president of the same organization, and also from Seattle; Gladys O'Donnell, Long Beach. Miss O’Donnell is a niece of Thomas O’Donnell of Palm Springs and is one of the foremost women pilots. Dorothy George and Estelle Sherman of Indio.

Also Grace Prescott, San Diego, winner of the Ruth Chatterton Derby. Local pilots were Peggy Gilliland, participant in the 1932 transcontinental derby and member of the N. A. A. and 99 Club, and local correspondent for the Los Angeles Times; Lloyd Downs, pilot for Palm Springs Airlines; Andy Anderson, Gus Parrish, manager of Palm Springs Airport and Mrs. Parrish and Bernardino Clark of New York. Other local guests were Joe Schobe, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Evans and Zaddie Bunker. Upon arriving at Palm Springs the pilots shed their wings and flying togs, and donned the garb of the desert in shorts and slacks. Saturday afternoon, they took to horseback and ancient stage and went for a long jaunt to Palm Canyon where they had dinner by the side of a bonfire. Later, upon returning to the village, they drove through the streets and serenaded the villagers with cowboy songs. That night they held a big party at the Barn. They visited the old swimming hole on Sunday morning, and were invited by Mrs. Zaddie Bunker to have lunch at her ranch at Idyllwild, and as her guests attended the Palm Springs Theatre.

 

The New Kelvinator Refrigerator, Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun, April 24, 1936 (Source: Web)

 

 

 

For fun, the same Desert Sun of April 24th offered this advertisement for the new, 1936 Kelvinator refrigerator, right. We could imagine in the dry desert air that the automatic defrosting switch would be little-used.

Lloyd Downs was born during 1905 at Nabisco, OK. The 1910 U.S. Census, his first, places him, at age 5, living in Nabisco with his father, John D. age 29, his mother, Lata, 25, and his sister, Edna 3. His father was a farmer.

The 1920 Census places Downs at age 15 living in Justice Precinct 2 in Parker County, Texas. His father was now widowed and "Manager" of a farm. Two additional siblings were added to the family over the decade, Clarence, age 9 and Ralph, 5. Also living in the house was Dora Wallace, 29, whose role was unspecified.

The 1930 Census, his last, places him, age 24, single, living as a lodger at 173 West 7th Street, Pomona, CA. That location today is a parking lot across the street from the public library. His fellow lodger was his brother, Clarence now 19 years old. Both of them were employed as dishwashers at a cafe. We can roughly estimate the date of his marriage to Bobbie, because he was single in 1930 as shown on the Census, and he was with Bobbie in June, 1931 as indicated in the Immigration form, above. Regardless, there was no indication he enjoyed an aviation career in any of the Census documents I found for Downs.

 

According to the California Death Index, Downs died May 8, 1938, age 33, at Colusa, CA. The circumstance of his death appeared in The San Bernardino County Sun (CA), Tuesday, May 10, 1938, below.

Investigation Made In Two Air Crashes

ARBUCKLE, Cal., Two airplane wrecks in two days involving the Willows Airplane service were being investigated today as funeral arrangements were made here for Lloyd Downs, 28, of Los Angeles, killed in one of the crashes. Downs was injured fatally when his plane struck a high power line while he was sowing rice on the McAreavy-Lodi Rice plantation near here. The plane nosed-dived into the ground and was demolished. Downs died In the Arbuckle sanitarium.

In what must have been a difficult task for her, Bobbie Downs drafted the letter below less than a year after her husbands death. The letter is self-explanatory, providing the briefest of testimony on behalf of the letter's subject, Behjamin H. Hadley. Thanks to the son of the letter's subject for sharing this letter with us.

 

Bobbie Downs, Reference Letter, January 31, 1939 (Source: R. Hadley)

The widowed Bobbie Downs was found in the 1940 Census living in Glendale, CA with her cousin and his wife. Bobbie was a cashier in a restaurant. Born March 10, 1906, Bobbie died on September 17, 1994 in Los Angeles. At some point she had changed her name back to Holden, her father's surname.

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 04/06/16 REVISED: 04/11/16

 
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