LOCKHEED TEST PILOT
Marshall Headle was born March 21, 1893 at Winthrop, MA. He
attended the Massachusetts Agricultural College and graduated
with a B.S. in 1913. He
served in WWI, learned to fly in Tours, France in 1917 and
served as a flight instructor until 1919. His resume
tersely cites “misc. flying” between
1920 and 1924 (although the Blue Book of Aviation,
1932 cites him as serving with the U.S. Embassy in Paris,
France between 1919 and 1922), and “U.S.
Marines” from 1924 to 1929.
Beginning in 1929 he resigned from the Marines and flew
for the Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank,
Wiley Post as test pilot. He became Chief
Pilot in Charge of Flight Operations in 1930 and served in
that capacity throughout the decade. This article from The Van Nuys News of April 9, 1931 describes one of his duties as Lockheed test pilot.
Headle flew Lockheed’s airplanes to Tucson three times. He landed
with Orion NC960Y (twice) and Sirius NC167W. See the
links to those airplanes for dates and other information
around his visits to Tucson, and for images of his aircraft.
Beginning in 1935, he essentially toured the world for Lockheed,
providing new aircraft orientation and training to global
article about him in Popular
Aviation, January 1940, titled “He Gets Around” highlighted
his global travel on behalf of the company (cited, left sidebar). Image, left,
is from that article. Over the years he worked for Lockheed,
his role evolved from test pilot, “old style” to
a sort of international business diplomat: Chief Test Pilot, “new
An image of Headle next to the YP-38 is about 2/3 of the
way down this page.
He has a fairly good Web presence, with 161 Google matches
as of the date this page was initially uploaded.
In the November 4, 1929 issue of the Bakersfield (CA) Californian, below, we find Headle piloting a business trip. (Note: Image quality is the best I can do. I find if I magnifiy it to 150% in my browser it's easier to read.) This trip was unique at the time, because it was an example of executive transport that, because of the airplane, was made quickly and efficiently within the confines of a single day. Such service was highly newsworthy, with the executives, pilot and airplane sharing almost equally in the coverage. Note in the last paragraph the record set with a Lockheed Vega by fellow Register pilot Hub Fahy.
Bakersfield (CA) Californian, November 4, 1929 (Source: Gerow)
As an aside, Headle's relationship with Fahy was close. After both Fahy and his wife Claire Fahy were killed in separate airplane accidents in 1930, Headle and his wife took responsibility to raise their 10-year old son. Please direct your browser to Claire's link to learn more.
Marshall Headle held Transport Pilot license #7274 and was
a member of the National Aeronautic Association, Professional
Pilot’s Association and the American
Legion. His test pilot duties with Lockheed were captured in photos of the era like the one below shared by Tim Kalina.
Marshall Headle and Lockheed Altair NR15W, May 29, 1931 (Source: Kalina)
Below, the caption on the back of this photograph. The Crusaders would have to wait for December, 1933 before Prohibition is rescinded.
Marshall Headle and Lockheed Altair NR15W, May 29, 1931, Back (Source: Kalina)
As of mid-1941 he had accumulated 7,200 flight
lived at 914 Cypress Ave., Burbank, which, according to Google
Earth, is still there. He also landed once at Parks Airport, on Thursday, April 23, 1931. He was flying a Lockheed Vega.
He died May 4, 1945 of a heart attack at Burbank, CA. His obituary is highly understated in this article in the Oakland Tribune of May 6, 1945 (195KB PDF download).
Mike Gerow (cited, right sidebar) says this about the article, "Attached is a very short obit for Marshall Headle, who died in 1945 at age 52. This is the only one I was able to find, which surprised me given his stature in the aviation community of the day. His love of baseball earned him the nickname of "Babe," and that's how he was known around Lockheed. My understanding is that his early retirement was brought about by an accident in the high-altitude chamber that Lockheed was using to study the effects of stratospheric flight in conjunction with the development of the P-38. In my conversations with Eddie Martin back in the early 1980s, I was given to understand that D-M pilot Lester Holoubek succeeded Headle as chief pilot, but Holoubek quickly and thoroughly alienated the pilots around there with his imperious behavior and crazy directives like 'after sundown keep your gear extended as a safety precaution.' Things got so bad that Martin told Holoubek off to his face and another test pilot, Lewis Dabney "Swede" Parker, actually went over to Holoubek's house one night and put a couple rounds from a deer rifle through the window. Martin said that after Burcham was elevated to chief pilot, things settled back to normal. Interestingly, John Underwood had heard the same story about someone taking potshots at a Lockheed bigwig, but didn't know who the intended victim was. Belated thanks to Eddie for setting the matter straight."
That said, please direct your browser to this interdepartmental memo in the Elmer C. McLeod Photograph and Document Collection. It clearly states that McLeod took over the role of Assistant Chief Pilot from Headle in June, 1942. The altitude chamber incident described above probably explains why Headle was on medical leave, and probably soon to retire. It is not known if his early death three years later was influenced by his accident.
Likewise, McLeod's appointment in January, 1943, as described in this this interdepartmental memo, might be the result of the dust up with Holoubek. No details were given in either memo, which is not surprising. The memos were written during WWII and, if found by an enemy agent, might be used to their advantage. Note there is no mention of Holoubek in either memo, either in text or distribution list. Register passenger Carl Squier is cited in the distribution list of both memos. And note in the first memo cites L.D. Parker.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 06/25/06 REVISED: 07/11/08, 07/15/08, 03/18/11, 04/05/11, 01/30/14, 08/07/14