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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.

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http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the 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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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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There is no biographical file for pilot Neese in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.
 
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KENNETH WAYNE (KENNY) NEESE

Kenny Neese, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Guyer)
Kenny Neese, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Guyer)

 

Pilot Neese's granddaughter (cited, right sidebar) writes, "Kenneth Wayne Neese was born in Hamilton County, Iowa, on December 6, 1902. In 1922, his family moved to Fresno, California, where his love and enthusiasm for [aviation] took over. Under the watchful eye of Bob Martin he took his first flying lessons and later took advanced lessons from Cloyd Clevenger.

"One of Kenny’s first jobs was as an airplane mechanic.  For this job he was assigned to a factory where grapes were made into raisins.  It was Kenny’s job to keep the airplane engines running at night. While this was not a particularly interesting job it kept money in his pocket and allowed him to buy his first OX5 Jenny in 1924, and another Jenny in 1925. This also allowed him to barnstorm and appear in flying circuses throughout northern California." Photograph, right, is an undated colorized portrait shared by Ms. Guyer. It is probably ca. 1920s.

His granddaughter continues, "Kenny met Mary Morford, who later became his wife in November of 1926. An addition to the family came with little Betty Neese [Ms. Guyer's mother] the following year. 

"In 1928 Kenny became chief pilot for Consolidated Aircraft Corp. in San Leandro, California, where he gave flying lessons to students.  Flying in an Alexander Eaglerock 1854 [not a Register airplane] he helped to dedicate the new Santa Rosa Airport." Below, a photograph of pilot Neese with one of his Jennys.

Kenny Neese with Jenny, Ca. 1924-25 (Source: Guyer)
Kenny Neese with Jenny, Ca. 1924-25 (Source: Guyer)

Below, a poster announcing a barnstormer's air show at Livermore, CA. Notice that Neese is identified among, "America's foremost Birdmen..."

Poster, Air Show, Ca. late 1920s (Source: Guyer)
Poster, Air Show, Ca. late 1920s (Source: Guyer)

His granddaughter continues, "Kenny joined Varney Air Lines (predecessor of United Airlines) in August of 1929 where he flew Stearmans.  Varney had been flying air mail route CAM 5 and later was awarded a new air mail route, CAM 32, which extended the airmail route from Pasco, WA to Spokane and Seattle, WA. On September 29, 1929, Kenny flew the first air mail route out of Seattle, WA. with a, 'celebration commemorating the first flight of direct transcontinental air-mail service from Seattle Boeing Field…' Kenny was pilot of the 'Business Men’s Special' and handed a special air-mail pouch containing first-flight letters from Arthur A. Murphy, president of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce to Hon. Walter F. Brown, U.S. Postmaster General and presidents of all of the Chambers of Commerce along the route. He was the pilot of the first trans-continental mail from Seattle over the CAM 32 route." Below, an unsourced news article showing Neese accepting the obligatory last-minute letter. It is not clear if this is CAM 5 or 32 (probably 32, see below).

Kenny Neese, Ca. September 15, 1929 (Source: Guyer)
Kenny Neese, Ca. September 15, 1929 (Source: Guyer)

Below, an autographed U.S. Postal cachet dated September 15, 1929. This envelope is clearly marked CAM 32, flying Tacoma to Seattle.

Signed U.S. Postal Cachet, CAM 32, September 15, 1929 (Source: Guyer)
Signed U.S. Postal Cachet, CAM 32, September 15, 1929 (Source: Guyer)

 

Fresno Bee, November 8, 1929 (Source: Guyer)
Fresno Bee, November 8, 1929 (Source: Guyer)

 

 

 

Neese's granddaughter continues, "On November 7, 1929, while flying on the CAM 32 route, Kenny was involved in a horrific plane accident that burned his legs, neck, and face which left lasting scars.  He was pulled from the fiery plane by a farmer, but Kenny’s only concern at that time was the mail. Flying with Varney entailed flying at night over mountainous areas with no instruments.  He flew until February of 1930, when he decided air mail flying was just too dangerous and he had a family to support." The Pittsburgh Press of November 10, 1929 reported his crash and injuries." At left, from the Fresno Bee of November 8, 1929, an article describing Neese's accident, which occurred on November 8th.

 

 

"In March of 1930, Kenny joined Monarch Air Service where he flew, competed in races, and taught students under the auspice of Dorothy [sic] Guinther Waldorf [she was the owner of Travel Air NC647H that Neese flew through Tucson]. Guinther was one of the original Amelia Earhart’s 99s [Guinther was not a charter member] and a celebrated aviatrix in her own right. During his three years with Monarch, Kenny was the chief pilot and competed in several commercial races as well as barnstorming, in Nevada, Utah, and California."

 

Below, copies of Neese's FAI annual sporting licenses for 1929 and 1930. Both were signed by Orville Wright. His nose appeared sunburned in 1929; it was a long time before SPF would be invented. His fur collar looks similar to the one in the portrait at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

Kenny Neese, FAI License, 1929 (Source: Guyer)
Kenny Neese, FAI License, 1929 (Source: Guyer)

In 1930, below, he didn't sign his license, rather he entered two numbers, one of which could be his cumulative flight hours.

Kenny Neese, FAI License, 1930 (Source: Guyer)
Kenny Neese, FAI License, 1930 (Source: Guyer)

She continues, "Kenny competed in the 1932 Cord Cup Race which was a featured transcontinental sweepstakes handicap air derby of the 1932 Cleveland National Air Races.  Starting in Los Angeles on August 21, Kenny took off for the 2,500 mile race.  He stopped over in Tucson at Davis-Monthan on August 22 and took off for El Paso the same day."

Indeed, Kenny Neese landed with NC647H at Tucson Monday, August 22, 1932. Although he didn't enter a date in the Register, he was preceded and followed by pilots who did on the 22nd. Most of these signers that day were involved in the Cord Cup transcontinental event held as part of the 1932 National Air Races (NAR). Among them were Jean LaRene, Robert Cantwell, Bob Buck (placed 24th), Cecil Allen (placed 12th) and George Haldeman, who all signed the same day. Cantwell and Haldeman were "Riding herd on the Cord Cup Race" and weren't competing. LaRene was not in the money. Neese placed 14th and won $100.

Below, courtesy of his granddaughter, is an image of the pages from his pilot log book that include his flights just before and after his visit at Tucson. I boosted the contrast of this image in PhotoShop for easier reading. These pages cover the period August 5th to August 31, 1932. He flew 48 hours and 47 minutes during those three weeks.

K. Neese, Pilot Log, August, 1932 (Source: Guyer)
K. Neese, Pilot Log, August, 1932 (Source: Guyer)

He flew two Travel Airs exclusively that month, including the one he brought through Tucson. The other one was NC440W (not a Register airplane). His flying time included some student training and cross-country flights, as well as his start to finish participation in the Cord Cup Race from Los Angeles to Cleveland, OH. About halfway down the page we see logged his landing at Tucson.

Based at Oakland, CA, Neese arrived at Tucson from Oakland, but did not cite a destination that day (from his log we see his destination was El Paso, TX). He was solo in his Travel Air. We learn that his voyage through Tucson began at Los Angeles on August 21st with a stop at Yuma, AZ before he arrived at Tucson. He then made eleven additional eastbound stops before he made it to Cleveland on the 27th in 14th place.

According to The Aircraft Yearbook for 1933, Neese did not compete in any other events of the 1932 NAR. Now we know why: he began his return trip west on August 30th, just three days after the NAR started in Cleveland (running to September 5th).

Below, courtesy of his granddaughter, is NC647H informally parked on what appears to be a street. The sign over the starboard wing says, "Hawthorne Pool Hall." A man in helmet and goggles stands by the port horizontal stabilizer, but it is unknown if he is Neese.

Travel Air NC647H in Front of the Hawthorne Pool Hall, Date Unknown (Source: Guyer)
Travel Air NC647H in Front of the Hawthorne Pool Hall, Date Unknown (Source: Guyer)

Below, another view of NC647H, person, date and location unknown.

Travel Air NC647H, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Guyer)
Travel Air NC647H, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Guyer)

His granddaughter continues, "With the Depression in full swing  Alaska needed pilots.  Al Monsen (an Oakland pilot who shared with Neese the barnstorming handbill exhibited above) asked Kenny to come up north and fly with McGee Airways. Making a living in the states was becoming increasingly difficult so Kenny did not hesitate. He arrived in January of 1933 with only a suit and dress shoes. No winter clothes! When he got off the train in Anchorage he ran all the way to Merrill field where he met Linious 'Mac' McGee and Al Kenny, part of a group of Oakland pilots who made their way up to Alaska during the Depression.  Among these were Johnny Moore (who Kenny taught to fly in 1928), Al Monsen, Jack Elliot, Harry Blunt and Joe Barrows. [none are Register pilots]

Kenny Neese in Alaska, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Guyer)
Kenny Neese in Alaska, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Guyer)

 

"Kenny was one of the most respected flyers in Alaska at that time and while flying for Star Airlines he held the record for hours in flight. From the Anchorage Daily Times: 'Leads All Alaskan Pilots With 6,150 Hours in 14 Years.'  From the Alaska Daily Times March 14, 1942: '…L. McGee, owner of the pioneer air firm in Anchorage, recalls that Neese was so popular and such an efficient pilot that he always drew the toughest assignments. ‘When competition got tough on any run, we put Kenny on it and our competition faded‘, McGee said. It was also noted: 'Not a few interior residents and other pilots remember Neese as their rescuer when they faced death in the wilderness.  He participated in many spectacular rescues and on many occasions risked his own life and safety.'”

Kenny Neese in Alaska, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Guyer)
Kenny Neese in Alaska, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Guyer)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For example, the Poughkeepsie (NY) Eagle-News of September 6, 1935 cites his involvement in a harrowing mission of mercy while in Alaska. He flew through fog and dense clouds to bring the Alaska game warden, who was suffering a kidney ailment, from Kanakanak to Anchorage for treatment.

The Fairbanks Daily News reported on January 20, 1936, through a snowstorm, flying for Star Airways, Neese flew from Anchorage to Iliamna and brought back to Anchorage one Gust Affes who had frozen his hands.

Above and at right are two photographs of Neese during his Alaska duties. The airplane at right appears to be a Bellanca Skyrocket on skis. Compare the strut and window geometries with the Skyrocket pictured at the link.

His granddaughter continues, "In order to build up fleets in Alaska, purchasing trips to the Outside were required.  On one such trip Kenny went to Kansas to buy a Beechcraft Staggerwing for the price of $16,000.  Flying from Seattle to Anchorage Kenny was accompanied by his wife, daughter, and sister-in-law.  The flight was made in record-setting time and the Star fleet was on hand to greet and accompany the pilot and his “crew” in to Merrill Field.  People sat on rooftops and cheered when the new aircraft was in sight.  Kenny earned the nickname of 'Buck Rogers' for the speedy flight, and the name was painted not only on the plane, but batteries, warming pots and any other apparatus associated with the ship.

"Star Airlines seemed to be always short on capital and couldn’t invest in equipment they needed.  When Star needed the Ford Trimotor Noel Wien was selling, Kenny saved the day by putting up $9,000 for the plane.  With the merger of McGee and Star Air Service (Star Air Lines) Alaska Airlines was formed in 1944.  So, Kenny (as did many others) helped in the formation of Alaska Airlines, not only as manager of Star and chief pilot, but also with the loan."

Below, a copy of a magazine cover from 1982 showing (L-R) Neese, Johnny Moore and Oscar Winchell in a much earlier photograph of Alaska pilots. The magazine commemorated the 50th anniversary of Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines, 50th Anniversary, K. Neese (L), 1982 (Source: Guyer)
Alaska Airlines, 50th Anniversary, K. Neese (L), 1982 (Source: Guyer)

Neese's granddaughter continues, "In 1941 Ralph Savory talked to Kenny about flying for Pan American Air Ferries.  Pam Am was ferrying bombers from Miami to the Middle East and Africa during WWII.  The Neese family left Alaska and moved to Florida where Kenny took the necessary training to fly the B-25s.  From my mother’s records Kenny died in a crash on take off in Natal, Brazil on March 13, 1942.   This was supposed to be his final flight before he was going to quit flying and take a ground job where he would be in charge of checking out other pilots.

"Kenny Neese was a true pioneer of the golden years of aviation and the early  years of Alaskan aviation.  He, along with many others, opened the way for commercial aviation in Alaska."

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 12/24/11 REVISED: 01/03/12

 
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I'm looking for information and other photographs of pilot Neese and his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.
Many thanks to pilot Neese's granddaughter, Joy Guyer, for sharing information and photographs on this page with us.
 
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