I FLY AGAIN!! On my 115th Birthday!!

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OTHER RESOURCES

Some of this information comes from a Web site that was active in 1999, but is no longer online. It was a synopsis of Eddie's life and business by Diann Marsh that appeared inSanta Ana, An Illustrated History. 1994. Heritage Publishing.

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A biography:

Just Call Me "Eddie" is available hardbound, 200 pages, and includes 80 photos and illustrations. Please direct your browser to the link for purchase information.

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A Web page for the current Martin Aviation Company is at the link. It provides a timeline of the Company from 1923 to today.

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EDWARD JACKSON "Eddie" MARTIN



Eddie Martin, Date Unknown
(Source: Source: Martin Collection via Gerow)
Eddie Martin, Date Unknown (Source:Source: Martin Collection via Gerow)

 

Eddie Martin landed three times at the Davis-Monthan Airfield. Portrait, left, is courtesy of Mike Gerow, and is on the cover of his biography cited in the left sidebar.

Martin was born in San Jacinto, CA, August 31, 1901. He became interested in aviation at age 15 when, in 1916, he saw a barnstormer give an exhibition flying a Curtiss Pusher (see Register pilot John Miller for an example of another youngster impressed by a Pusher). In 1921, when he was making $30 a week working as a mechanic at the Oldsmobile garage in Santa Ana, he had his first opportunity to take flying lessons. He took his lessons from ex-Army flight instructors who had purchased an airplane with an OX-5 motor.

Martin learned to fly early, about age 20, and, very importantly, he and his brothers, Register pilot Johnny and Floyd (not a Register pilot), founded an airfield in 1923 in Orange County near Santa Ana, CA (see below) at the intersection of South Main Street and Newport Blvd. Their airfield grew and became a focus of flight training and Golden Age lore through the 1920s and 30s.

In 1923 he bought his first airplane, a Curtiss Jenny, for a
motorcycle in trade and $35 in cash. He shared the airplane in a partnership with Register pilot Clarence "Ace" Bragunier.

Bragunier soon left the scene and Eddie and brother John flew the airplane until John went to work for Standard Air Lines in 1928. It was time for Eddie to find an airfield and he arranged a five-vear lease on 80 acres for $35 a month.

At his new field, he taught many local people to fly. Up until 1925, all of his pupils were males until Peggy Sacha Hall, a young Santa Ana woman, became the first woman to take lessons at the airport. She developed her talents and became accomplished at acrobatics, sometimes appearing in air shows.

Santa Ana Register, April 10, 1928 (Source: newspapers.com)
Santa Ana Register, April 10, 1928 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

In 1932 Eddie and Peggy were married. She might have been the first woman to learn to fly at Martin's air field, but she was not the last. Clover Field Register pilot Ethel Richardson also learned there ca. 1927-28. Regardless, Martin and Peggy were divorced in 1949. After she earned her Transport certificate she was never much of a home body.  In the Vi Smith book cited below, he is quoted as saying: "My biggest mistake was in teaching her to fly. After that, I rarely saw her." 

Eddie Martin has a surprisingly sparse Web presence (Google "Eddie Martin" and you get blues singers and jockeys, but no pilots). But, there are hundreds of news articles about Eddie Martin, his exploits and his airport available at news subcription services online, especially in the Santa Ana Register. One article described a business relationship between Martin and the Register, above, left.

Santa Ana Register, February 4, 1927 (Source: newspapers.com)
Santa Ana Register, February 4, 1927 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

Among the services at their airfield were flight training, air racing/meets and exhibitions, aircraft rental, charter flights, and airplane manufacturing. Martin and a group of collaborators, right, built a small parasol monoplane under the banner of the Santa Ana Aircraft company. An example of his exhibition work is the photograph below showing Martin walking on the wing of a Jenny while Peterson Field Register pilot Hadley Hershey flew the airplane. The caption says, "EJM" and "Hadley Hershey, flying." This Jenny was probably the one he bought in 1923.


In 1924 Eddie began the Santa Ana Air Club to promote flying in Orange County . The organization was active for several years, eventually changing its name to Eddie Martin's Pilot's Association. He acquired another airplane ca. 1925, a surplus Nieuport 28 that was a favorite.

Mr. Gerow knew Eddie Martin during the 1980s and remembers him saying about the Nieuport, "...it was the fastest civilian ship on the West Coast at over 155 mph." He also states that his father, "...remembers seeing Eddie flying it at Clover Field in the 1920s. He approached the field like a flying corkscrew, in a low-altitude, high-speed pass performing continuous barrel rolls from the time you first clapped eyes on him until he had flown out of sight." Please direct your browser to the Russell T. Gerow Photograph Collection to view more. Eddie with his Nieuport 28 is below, ca. 1925, from page 44 of "From Jennies to Jets: The Aviation History of Orange County" by Vi Smith, Sultana Press, Fullerton, CA, 2nd Edition, 1975.

 

Eddie Martin's Nieuport 28, Ca. 1925 (Source: Gerow)
Eddie Martin's Nieuport 28, Ca. 1925 (Source: Gerow

Below is a photo of the sleek Nieuport aloft.

Eddie Martin's Nieuport 28, Ca. 1925 (Source: Source: Martin Collection via Gerow)
Eddie Martin's Nieuport 28, Ca. 1925 (Source: Gerow)

Martin also had a Thomas-Morse Scout, below.

Eddie Martin in Thomas-Morse Scout, Date Unknown (Source: Martin Collection via Gerow)
Eddie Martin in Thomas-Morse Scout, Date Unknown (Source:  Martin Collection via Gerow)

 

It was in 1926 that Eddie was finally able to acquire a hangar for his airport. It was a portable wooden
building which sold for $350. Eddie traded a motorcycle for it. Later another portable hangar and two large permanent hangars were built. Eddie and Johnny both took full-time jobs in aviation, and left the running of the airport to Floyd Martin, their younger brother.

 

Eddie Martin Wing Walking, Early 1920s (Source: Martin Collection via Gerow)
Eddie Martin Wing Walking, Early 1920s (Source: Martin Collection via Gerow)

 

Eventually, as with many early airfields, the Eddie Martin Airport was moved ca. 1940 and the area became what was Orange County Airport and then, in 1979, John Wayne Airport. The three-letter identifier that pilots know it by (SNA) came from its adjoining incorporated area, Santa Ana.

Martin's first visit at Tucson was on Tuesday, January 29, 1930 at 6:00PM. He carried two unidentified passengers, plus his copilot, in the Fokker F-10A, NC586K, S/N 1057. The airplane was operated by the R.S. Macmillan Petroleum Company and Eddie was a corporate pilot for the company.

Photographs of this large transport airplane are at the link. A more close-up view of the airplane is below, date unknown, courtesy of Mike Gerow. Eddie Martin stands at right and Sol Spiegel is on the left.

Eddie Martin (L) & Sol Spiegel, Ca. 1930 (Source: Martin Collection via Gerow)
Eddie Martin (L) & Sol Spiegel, Ca. 1930 (Source: Martin Collection via Gerow)

Another photograph of Spiegel is at the link. He was a mechanic. Note the decorative machine turning on the engine nacelles, struts and forward fuselage. A 1998 biography of Martin is available from the source cited in the left sidebar. The text below is from the blurb for that book.

Orange County, California owes much of its prestigious aviation image to the talents and business acumen of one man: Eddie Martin.

Eddie Martin's imagination, vision, and determination provided the foundation for the present-day John Wayne Airport.

Unlike most of his contemporaries in the 1920s and 1930s, Eddie wasn't interested in getting headlines in the newspapers for speed records, racing, or stunt flying. From the beginning of his early barnstorming days, he saw aviation as a business.

In Just Call Me "Eddie," he chronicles his adventures as a barnstormer dedicated to keeping his planes flying and earning money. He weaves his journey from that of a shy farm boy - influenced by seeing a race between pilot Lincoln Beachey and auto racer Barney Oldfield - to that of an internationally known pilot and airport owner.

Along the way, he recalls his days as a renowned flight instructor, owner of Martin Aviation, an airplane mechanic and designer, a corporate pilot for a well-known oil magnate - and the founder of Eddie Martin's Airport.

He relates how he began his aviation business in 1923 flying a Jenny (Curtiss JN4D) - a World War I surplus plane - from an unused portion of the Irvine Ranch and how his airport grew as an important link in Southern California between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Over the years, Eddie met Howard Hughes, Eddie Rickenbacker, Roscoe Turner, Wallace Beery, Will Rogers, astronaut Charles "Pete" Conrad and many other famous people.

Perhaps most memorable are his accounts of his narrow escapes from death as a test pilot of both civilian and military aircraft, especially the P-38.

It is also an intimate personal memoir about Eddie Martin. He discusses his youthful days of self-doubt about his worth, his growing confidence through his flying abilities, his two marriages and divorces, and how he found his true love much later in life. He also reveals his relationships with his brothers, Johnny and Floyd Martin, and his own philosophies of life.

Eddie Martin, who insisted on being called by his first name by strangers and friends alike, lived in what he described as a perfect life cycle in aviation - giving us an autobiography that proves fact is more fascinating than fiction.

Regarding his airport, the Santa Ana Register for September 25, 1928 gave a five-year retrospective, below.

Santa Ana Register, September 25, 1928 (newspapers.com)
Santa Ana Register, September 25, 1928 (newspapers.com)

Not a month after the above article appeared, the following event was held at the airport. The festivities were photographed by Martin from the air, below. A longer article was printed beside this photograph, which reported that the event, a fly-in breakfast attracted 1,500 people and 35 aircraft. Six-hundred breakfast tickets were sold and all 600 people ate in the hangar in the distance. It was the largest event of its type ever held.

Fly-In Breakfast at Eddie Martin Airport, October 22, 1925 (Source: newspapers.com)
Fly-In Breakfast at Eddie Martin Airport, October 22, 1925 (Source: newspapers.com)

Notice the cars parked along the roadway and on the ramp, and the aircraft in rank. The writing on top of the hangar reads "Eddie Martin Airport Santa Ana Calif." Attendees at breakfast formed a who's who list of Register pilots and other dignitaries. Among them were H.W. "Beauty" Martin, Dudley Steele, I.A. Woodring, Ruth Elder, the Martin brothers, T.C. Young, Earl Daugherty, Maurice de Mond, entertainers and elected officials.

Santa Ana Register, August 11, 1928 (Source: newspapers.com)
Santa Ana Register, August 11, 1928 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

In another article, Charles Lindbergh visited Eddie Martin Airport on April 6, 1928. He was in town to inspect the Zenith Z-12 Albatross aircraft at the Zenith factory at Midway City Airport. A photograph of the Z-12 is at Jimmie Angel's biography page at the link.

The July 8, 1929 issue of the Santa Ana Register reported on Martin's parachute jump to save himself when the Golden Eagle aircraft he was testing for certification went into an unrecoverable flat spin. This was a harrowing few seconds, since the induced G forces from the spin made it very difficult for him to exit the cockpit. It took him three tries to finally get free. The airplane crashe 100-feet from where he landed.

And, as reported in the August 11, 1928 Register, right, Martin competed in the 1928 National Air Races (NAR) held at Los Angeles. He entered the San Francisco to Los Angeles, California Class "A" Race. He flew an Alexander Eaglerock aircraft (registration unknown). The article at right states that he was forced down at Kingsburg, CA, a few miles southeast of Fresno, with engine problems.

The $1,000 first prize for the Class "A" Race eventually went to Register pilot H.S. "Dick" Myrhes flying a Simplex Red Arrow (NC7649?). The "A" Race was one of two local California races that were part of the NAR that year. Register pilot H.C. Lippiatt won the Class "B" Race flying a Travel Air.

Likewise, in another adventure, on August 29, 1928 he and his brother Johnny hunted coyotes at the airport from the air with the following results.

Santa Ana Register, August 29, 1928 (Source: newspapers.com)
Santa Ana Register, August 29, 1928 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

Santa Ana Register, September 12, 1936 (Source: newspapers.com)
Santa Ana Register, September 12, 1936 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

 

Martin's second landing at Tuscon was on Sunday, May 24, 1931. He again was in Macmillan's Fokker NC586K with no identified passengers. His home base was cited as Los Angeles, and he arrived at Tucson from Houston, TX westbound to Los Angeles. No other details were provided in the Register.

His final record in the Register was on Sunday, August 23, 1931 at 8:05PM. Martin carried as his single passenger his boss R.S. Macmillan in the Stearman NC793H. This airplane was also owned by the Macmillan Petroleum Company. Based at Los Angeles, they arrived at Tucson from Los Angeles eastbound to El Dorado, AR and beyond. Please direct your browser to the airplane's link for more on El Dorado, AR.

 

 

 

Santa Ana Register, October 14, 1939 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

He worked for Macmillan for a number of years. The Register for September 12, 1936, left, reported on a 10,000 mile business trip to be made by him and his boss. They were going to fly a new Waco, hopefully a cabin model for a journey that long.

Santa Ana Register, November 19,1938 (Source: newspapers.com)
Santa Ana Register, November 19,1938 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

Two years later the Register of November 19, 1938 cited him traveling to Detroit to pick up a new Stinson Detroiter aircraft for his company, right.

Even though Martin had abdicated his responsibilities at the airport to his brother Floyd, his airport still attracted events, such as the Pacific Western Air Races. The Register for October 14, 1939 reported on the Race, left. About the same time, he sold his interests in the airport to Floyd.

The 1940 Census placed him at age 38 living at 1145 South Ross, Santa Ana, CA with his wife Sacha (38) and a cousin Betty Skoyvank (16). They owned their home, which was valued at $10,000. His occupation was identified as "Aviator Pilot" in "Aviation." He made good money for the time, estimated at $5,000+ for the previous year.

In 1944, Martin worked for Lockheed Aircraft testing P-38 Lightnings fresh off the assembly line. Below is a photograph from that time.

Eddie Martin, Lockheed P-38, 1944 (Source: Martin Collection via Gerow)
Eddie Martin, Lockheed P-38, 1944 (Source: Martin Collection via Gerow)

I don't have much information for Martin after WWII. According to the Register of October 2, 1977, with his interests in the airport long sold, he moved to a ranch in Imperial Valley. Other news articles focused on the relocation of and retrospectives and history of the Eddie Martin Airport. Below, From the Tustin News (CA) of October 19, 1978, is an example.

Tustin News (CA), October 19, 1978 (Source: newspapers.com)
Tustin News (CA), October 19, 1978 (Source: newspapers.com)

The four people identified on the photograph are George Leonard, Eddie Martin, Johnny Martin and Howard Maish, all Register pilots. I'm looking for information about Leonard and Maish. If you can help, please let me KNOW. The continuation of the article follows.

Tustin News (CA), October 19, 1978 (Source: newspapers.com)
Tustin News (CA), October 19, 1978 (Source: newspapers.com)

Reflecting the manner of many Golden Age aviation entrepreneurs, tne article stated, "Eddie said the Martins never dreamed they were starting something that would end up being what the Orange County Airport is today. '"We did it for ourselves. We had no visions, no sense of history in regard to aviation or how we might further it. We did what excited us and what made money for us.'" And, reflecting the fates of many old airfields, as time, populations and city councils progressed, the Eddie Martin Airport/Orange County Airport/John Wayne Airport faced the traditional "not in my backyard" arguments every step of the way. See also the similar battles documented on the home page of our Clover Field Web site at the link.

Martin also landed once at Peterson Field, Colorado Springs, CO on April 16, 1932 at 11:15AM. He flew the Ryan B-1, NC3648.

Eddie Martin Flew West on March 27, 1990, age 88. He carried Transport pilot certificate T2507. Sacha passed away June 25, 1990 at age 89.

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 08/31/16 Happy 115th Birthday!! REVISED:

 
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