Oliver "Boots" LeBoutillier,
EARLY FLYING LIFE
Oliver “Boots” LeBoutillier
was born May 24, 1894 at Montclair, NJ. He was educated
through Columbia University. During WWI he served from
July 1916 to April 1919 in the Royal Naval Air Service, attached
to Squadrons 3, 9 and 209 on the Belgian front and the Somme. He
received the British Distinguished Flying Cross and accumulated
Image, left, from the "Blue Book
cited in the left sidebar. Image, below, from Chicago Tribune
"Boots" LeBoutillier, WWI
After his military service he pursued aviation through the
1920s with the Curtiss Airplane & Motor Company, barnstorming
his own planes, and with a sky-writing firm from 1923-1927. He
was western manager for Sky Writing Corp. of America with
headquarters at Metropolitan Airport, Van Nuys, CA. He
held Transport Pilot license no. 710.
In the late 1920s, he worked in the movie industry and was
a member of the Motion
Picture Pilots Association. In
that capacity, he was friends with Pancho
Barnes, Art Goebel and Al
Wilson. He “dabbled” in
air racing, but was uniformly unsuccessful in his attempts.
participated in the September 1928 National Air Races “On
to Los Angeles” event. He flew a Bellanca
Star” owned by Mrs. James Stillman. LeBoutillier
and copilot George King (not a Register signer) did not finish. Image, below, from
the New York Evening
Graphic, September 12, 1928.
George King (L) & "Boots" LeBoutillier
LeBoutillier's NASM dossier holds several news clippings
from late December 1928 describing his preparations, with
navigator Lewis A. Yancey, to fly the “North Star” from
Roosevelt Field, LI, NY to Brazil via France Field, Panama
Canal Zone. Their intent was to arrive at Pernambuco,
service the airplane, and then attempt a non-stop return
from there to Roosevelt, a distance of about 5,000 miles.
After several delays and an abandoned initial take-off run
(soft runway), they finally took off from Roosevelt at 12:14PM
on December 31. Alas, after only three minutes aloft
they dumped their fuel and made a wide circle back to land
at Mitchel Field at 12:17PM. LeBoutillier attributed
his abort to “engine trouble”.
On February 14, 1929 a news item in the Newark
Star-Eagle announced Leboutillier’s intention to fly the Bellanca
to Montreal, Canada, thence to Latok in the north woods to
visit Mrs. Stillman. The airplane was to be fitted
with skis at Montreal.
interest regarding his military flying is that he served
in air combat with the unit that shot down Baron Manfred
von Richthofen (the “Red Baron”) on April 21,
1918. In his later life (1970s) he was interviewed
for at least two news articles reminiscing about his experience
on April 21.
THE RED BARON
The Chicago Tribune of Sunday October
25, 1970 published one such interview where LeBoutillier
sides with the theory that fellow Pilot, Captain Roy Brown,
was responsible for the shooting of von Richthoven, rather
than Australian ground fire.
LeBoutillier & The Red Baron
LeBoutillier's Sopwith Triplane, WWI
He used as evidence his eyewitness view of the incident
(from his airplane immediately above). 1) He observed
fire entering von Ricthoven’s fuselage in the area
of the cockpit, 2) the shuddering and hesitation of von Richthoven’s
airplane as a result of the blast of fire, and the resultant
uncoordinated (flat) turn and wobbly glide into the ground. LeBoutillier
hypothesizes that von Richthoven was dead before he hit the
earth. 3) The post accident analysis of the Red Baron’s
wound suggests that might have been the case, as the bullet
entered his right armpit, proceeded transversely across his
chest and exited under his left nipple. 4) The angle
of the shot agreed more with an aerial source for the bullet,
rather than a ground source. But, see this link for
the opposite view. In a 1973 article, LeBoutillier was hailed
then as the only living participant in the Red Baron’s
last dogfight. Two images above courtesy of A.P. LeBoutillier. He also provides us with an article from 1981 available here. This article further explores the Red Baron shoot down. This animated simulation of the shoot down, which cites LeBoutillier, is worth a look (YouTube video; 6 min).
LeBoutillier landed solo at Tucson on August 16, 1929 flying
Aeromarine-Klemm NC39K. Based at Curtiss
Field, Valley Stream, NY, he was westbound from El Paso,
TX to Los Angeles,
CA. Image, below,
of his airplane from the Juptner reference in the left sidebar
(this airplane is c/n 2-44; cf. Juptner volume 3, p. 18).
He identified his purpose with NC39K as a "ferry",
probably from the manufacturer on Long Island to its new
owner in California. From the sign in the background ("West
Coast Air Transport") this photo was taken after Boots'
visit to Tucson. Does anyone recognize the location?
Below, courtesy of the San Diego Aerospace Museum Flickr Stream (SDAM), is an informal, undated photograph of LeBoutillier.
O.C. LeBoutillier, Date & Location Unknown (Source: SDAM)
As happens sometimes on dmairfield.org, site visitors
find relationships between and among the people, airplanes
and images that are not apparent to me when I build the individual
Web pages. Here's an example that is simply conjecture, but
which might be historically interesting. Consider the Klemm
above. It's a low-wing airplane, two-tone paint scheme (light
wings; darker fuselage) with squared-off vertical and horizontal
stabilizers. Site visitor Mike Gerow got out his loupe and
put two and two together. He suggests that this image may
capture NC39K landing at Long
on the same day LeBoutillier left Tucson. Bear with us on
I opened the Long Beach image in a separate window for you.
Slide that image next to the one below and follow along. In the
image of the Long Beach airport you can see a tiny airplane
on the ground with a dust plume behind it just beneath the
word "Reserved" on the image. Now, Mr. Gerow provides the
image below, which is an enlargement of that airplane from
the original photograph in his possession.
Klemm NC39K at Long Beach?
While it is impossible to know for sure if this airplane
is NC39K, it definitely looks like a Klemm, and the paint
scheme, as well as the broad vertical stabilizer, are suggestive.
Further, there weren't that many Klemms around (a few dozen
were built), and the timing is right: LeBoutillier was in
Tucson in August, 1929, and the image of Long Beach Airport
is dated "late
Mr Gerow notes, "...we can further date the Long Beach
image to after May 10, 1928 (when the U.S. Naval Reserve
facility was dedicated) but before May 1930, when the City
of Long Beach opened a similar facility for the Air Service."
FLYING IN THE 1930s
From 1932, we have two articles and images from two unidentified newspapers of LeBoutillier doing things that made the Golden Age such a spectacular era of flight. Articles shared by A.P. LeBoutillier. Below, LeBoutillier takes an airplane off from the roof of a speeding automobile.
Flying Off an Essex Automobile
Below, a month later, and with a different airplane, LeBoutillier delivers a passenger to the roof of the same speeding Essex Terraplane.
Delivering a Passenger to an Essex Automobile
NASM records are sparse for LeBoutillier’s activities
during the 1930s-60s. Below, courtesy of A.P. LeBoutillier, we find him serving as a Civil Aeronautics Authority inspector in the west. He is pictured in the second row, center, with the faint circle around him.
O.C. LeBoutillier as Air Inspector, 1939
He was, as of the early 1970s,
operating a Las Vegas, NV pharmaceutical distribution company.
O.C. LeBoutillier, Chicago Tribune,
Pilot LeBoutillier left us in May, 1983. I have no NASM
information about his airplane, Aeromarine-Klemm NC39K. If you can help, please let me KNOW.
UPLOADED: 06/05/07 REVISED: 06/11/07, 11/01/07, 04/14/08, 05/05/08, 12/17/12, 12/05/14