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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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OTHER BOOKS FOR YOU

"Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936" is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-2-5.

"Art Goebel's Own Story" by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-1-8.

"Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race" is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. What was it like to fly from Oakland to Honolulu in a single-engine plane during August 1927? Was the 25,000 dollar prize worth it? Did the resulting fame balance the risk? For the first time ever, this book presents the pilot and navigator's stories written by them within days of their record-setting adventure. Pilot Art Goebel and navigator William V. Davis, Jr. take us with them on the Woolaroc, their orange and blue Travel Air monoplane (NX869) as they enter the hazardous world of Golden Age trans-oceanic air racing. ISBN 978-0-9843074-3-2.

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View Register page signed by Bill Piper.
 
Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register
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WILLIAM T. PIPER, JR.

It is with a sense of great personal loss that I share with you notification of the passing of William T. Piper, Jr. on August 24, 2007. I had the real pleasure of calling him a friend since March, 2001 when he welcomed me to his home so we could discuss details surrounding his signature from 1934 in my copy of the old Davis-Monthan Airfield Register. Thereafter we met at least annually to socialize and talk of the "old days" of aviation. These sessions were invariably accompanied by his favorite "Sapphire" martinis (on the rocks; olives).

I have two favorite recollections of Bill. The first has to do with the pilot log image and itinerary you can see on his original Web page, below. At his invitation, I attended the Piper Fly-in ( "Sentimental Journey") at Lock Haven during June, 2001. I recall him striding into the Piper Museum waving something in his hand above his head. He called out to me, "You're going to like this!"

And sure enough, it was his pilot log book from 1934 covering the period of his travels across the US and to Tucson. The log book image and his itinerary derived from it are, as I said, shown below.

My second recollection involves his visit to my home early in 2005. I fired up Microsoft Flight Simulator on my computer, projected the image on the wall and set Bill up in a chair with the joy stick. Incongruously, I loaded the P-51 for him to fly (well, it IS a tail-dragger). After a little instruction about joy stick controls, I watched him push the throttle forward and the Mustang started to move.

Now, this was the great part. When the airplane reached "about the right speed" I watched his right hand almost imperceptably push forward, ever so slightly on the stick, to get the tail wheel up. I remember thinking to myself, "His hand has grown wizened, but he hasn't lost that 'touch'! It brought tears to my eyes.

The P-51 accelerated and he pulled back the stick a little to get it airborne. He flew it around the wall for a good long while as I watched. Gentle banks; climbs and turns. As I silently watched his hands and face and the look in his eyes, I could visualize his voyage across the United States in 1934. Same concentration and skill; same joy in his eyes.

Bill was a gentleman's gentleman. Each time we met was a precious experience for me, as he would review everything from his flying experience to his golf game and fishing tales. His wife, Beth, was a patient, gregarious and pleasant partner in the whole thing.

For me, dmairfield.org is more than just a Web site. Bill Piper is one of the reasons why.

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Following is sent to us by the Piper Museum, Lock Haven, PA:

"William T. Piper Jr., scion of the aircraft family that made the Piper Cub world famous, died Aug. 24, 2007 at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. He was 95.  He was a resident of Marco Island, Fla., and spent summers in Lock Haven and Coudersport. 

In early aviation history, William T. Piper Jr. ranked with such luminaries as Howard Hughes, Gen. James Doolittle, Glenn Martin and Donald Douglas.  A pioneer in general aviation, Bill Jr. upon his graduation from Harvard University in 1934, joined the company founded by his father William T. Piper Sr. He became president in 1968 when the company’s worldwide sales reached $96 million annually. In 1970, he was named chairman of the board, by which time Piper had manufactured 86,000 planes, many of them during World War II when many of the planes and pilots did heroic service as spotters of enemy artillery. He remained chairman until 1973 when the company was sold and moved to Vero Beach, Fla. 

Mr. Piper was born in Sharpsburg, Pa., on Sept. 8, 1911, the eldest of five children of William Thomas Piper Sr., a civil engineer, and Marie Van de Water Piper.  He represented his company as an officer and director of the Aircraft Industries Association and served as a director of Utility Aircraft Council of the AIA. When general aviation manufacturers decided to break away from the large airline and military manufacturers, he helped organize the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.  He was awarded distinguished service awards from Utility Aircraft Council, the General Aircraft Manufacturers Association and Wings Club of New York. He was a member of the Newcomen Society, an international organization for the study of the history of engineering and technology and was its guest of honor in 1970. 

Bill was a quietly gregarious, humble, and giving man. He had a broad civic interest and along with other members of his family, and through the Piper Foundation they established, he helped to support educational, recreational and cultural projects and facilities that benefit public health.  He did much to set high standards for the quality of life in Lock Haven and Clinton County. The Piper Foundation continues contributions to local organizations and college scholarships for local students. In recent years he helped establish the Piper Aviation Museum in Lock Haven.  Mr. Piper was involved with the following organizations: Trinity Methodist Church, Bald Eagle Athletic Foundation, Lock Haven University, Lock Haven YMCA, Lock Haven Hospital, Lock Haven Historic Society, Annie Halenbake Ross Library, Lock Haven Chamber of Commerce, West Branch Valley Flood Protection Assn., director of Commonwealth Bank, The Quiet Birdmen and Piper Aviation Museum.  An avid fisherman and golfer most of his life, he belonged to the Spruce Creek Rod and Gun Club, Clinton Country Club and Island Country Club. 

Preceding him in death was his first wife, Margaret Bush.  He is survived by his wife of 26 years, the former Elizabeth Wilson Talley and three children, George, William and Drew Piper; four grandchildren, Katherine, William, Nicholas and Benjamin; a sister, Mary Piper Bolles of San Francisco, and two sisters-in-lw, Helen Wann Piper of Wichita, Kans., and True Talley Fisher of Bellefonte. Many beloved nieces and nephews also survive. 

The funeral will be at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Piper Aviation Museum, 1 Piper Way, Lock Haven, Pa. Friends may call at the museum from 9:30 a.m. until the time of services Wednesday.  Private interment will be held at the convenience of the family at the Piper Mausoleum, Highland Cemetery, Lock Haven.  In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Piper Aviation Museum, 1 Piper Way, Lock Haven, Pa. 17745, or the Piper Foundation, c/o Mrs. John Bert, 516 Mawman Ave., Lake Bluff, Ill. 60044.  Arrangements are being handled by the Yost-Gedon Funeral Home, 121 W. Main St., Lock Haven, PA 17745."

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Original Web page, current to December 29, 2007, follows. This information will remain unchanged in his memory.

The Visit to Davis-Monthan Airfield by William T. Piper, Jr.
December 9-11, 1934

This vignette is a good example of why the Davis-Monthan Airfield transient log is so intriguing and addictive. Not only is it rare to be offered such an intimate window into the Golden Age, but then to be able to actually meet and speak with one of the pilots is a special experience.

In a series of exhilarating coincidences, I acquired Golden Age photos of Mr. Piper and his aircraft, as well as to visit with him and his wife. He is one of three pilots who signed the log with whom I have made personal contact (the others are Bobbi Trout, and John M. Miller).

Without the details of the coincidences, my contact with Mr. Piper started with an invitation to a reception and dinner at Oshkosh 2000 sponsored by the NASM. In the buffet line was the director of the Piper Museum, Harry Mutter. I showed Harry my copy of the Airfield register, Harry sent me the photographs below and at right, and I learned that Wm. Piper is my neighbor, living not a mile away!

William T. Piper, Jr. learned to fly in Bradford, PA in 1931-32. His instructor was the Taylor test pilot, Rensselaer Curtis "Bud" Havens, who left Taylor in 1936 to become an American Airlines pilot. R.C. Havens is not to be confused with Beckwith "Bud" Havens who was a passenger in a military aircraft whose pilot, B.R. Dallas, signed the register in March 1928. See the bottom of this Register page link for their signatures.

Mr. Piper used to fly back and forth between Bradford and Boston while in college. He has about 6,000 flight hours ("I stopped counting after a while."). His last flight as pilot-in-command was several years ago, when he carried his wife, Beth (who enjoys flying, but is not a pilot), on a short flight in a friend's Cub.

The image above is from his pilot log book for December 9-30, 1934. Mr. Piper landed at 5:00 PM on December 9th at the Davis-Monthan Airfield. He was inbound from El Paso enroute to Phoenix. He had departed Bradford in NC14707, a Taylor Cub E-2, with a 40 HP Continental engine, a tailskid and nine gallons of fuel. He said he made many stops along the way for gas. The Cub had no radio. Navigation was by dead reckoning, road maps and the aviation charts of the time.

He was fresh out of college (Harvard, economics), 24-years old, and on his way to the west coast to establish a distributorship for Taylor aircraft manufactured in Bradford (this was before the Piper name was associated with the Cub). He stayed briefly in Tucson and continued his trip, according to the Register, on December 11th.

The chart below reconstructs his itinerary from information recorded in his pilot log book. This part of the itinerary brings him to Tucson. He had departed Bradford in October and headed west. You can see where the weather started getting cold, and he headed southwest through Texas

His father's instructions were to go forth on the continent and give demonstration rides in his new airplane. Preferably he was to sell the aircraft before he returned to Pennsylvania. His itinerary west of Tucson is tortuous, flying up and down the west coast from San Diego to Washington state. His last pilot log entry for this Cub was May 11, 1935, when, he noted, he sold the airplane in Long Beach.

Photo Courtesy of Harry Mutter

Wm. T. Piper, Jr. (right) and Harvey Martin. Mr. Martin was with Aircraft Associates, Long Beach, CA, the organization that became the Cub distributor on the west coast. This important organizational development is documented in Juptner, Volume 7, pages 78-79. Note in Bill's pilot log, above, that he traveled to Long Beach on the 30th. He recalled the photo at right being taken near that time.

He remained on the west coast from 1934 to 1936 developing the distributorship with Aircraft Associates. New, disassembled Taylor airplanes were shipped by boxcar (six planes per car) to Aircraft Associates for final assembly and sale. The airplanes were called the "Western Cub".

According to the Register, two Cubs landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield. Mr. Piper's NC14707 was not the first. Joe Woolfolk, flying Cub NC137W based in Los Angeles, landed on September 18, 1930 at 4:30 PM. He was inbound from Hobbs, NM and did not list a destination. Mr. Piper's hunch is that Mr. Woolfolk's airplane was one of the earliest Taylor Cubs (manufacture began in 1930), probably flown west by the individual who bought it. This was not the case, as you'll see at the airplane's link.

At left, your Webmaster and Wm. T. Piper, Jr. in his den, March 7, 2001, 66 years and three months after he landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield in December, 1934. Photo by Beth Piper.

Yellow "Cab," Popular Aviation, July, 1940 (Source: PA)

 

I asked him whom, among the pilots who signed the Airfield Register, he met while he was in California. He said he met Amelia Earhart, "... a couple of times. She used to keep her airplane at a field north of Los Angeles [probably Union Air Terminal]. She was young, with tousled hair." Wiley Post was seen frequently, as was Roscoe Turner. He did not meet Clyde Cessna. However he did meet Dwayne Wallace who, in 1936, became president of Cessna Aircraft Company, a job he would hold for over 40 years. Among fellow manufacturers who signed the Register, he never met Claude Ryan, Eddie Stinson or Donald Luscombe. He met Walter (and Olive) Beech, and they, along with the others who would finally become the "big three" small plane manufacturers, had long relationships over the years at GAMA meetings. In 1936 he moved back to Bradford. The manufacturing plant there had suffered a fire, and the facility was moved to Lock Haven in 1937. Above, right, from Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, July,1940, a misunderstanding that speaks for itself. For more on Pennsylvania Central Airlines, please follow the link to Register pilot Clifford Ball's page.

Below, an aerial photograph of the Lock Haven facility from Popular Aviation, December, 1940. Yellow "Cabs" stand for delivery. Unfortunately, their numbers are not readable.

Piper Factory, Lock Haven, PA, Popular Aviation, December, 1940 (Source: PA)

Below, a photograph dated 1941 from the Smithsonian online photos. Left to right are Bill, sister Elizabeth " Betty"  Piper Harford, brother Tony, brother Pug and father Bill Piper, Sr. The context of the photograph was the successful testing of the Cub as a Grasshopper utility/observation aircraft for the Army Air Corps (note the grasshopper graphic on the fuselage).

Piper Family, Bill is at Left, 1941 (Source: NASM)
Piper Family, 1941 (Source: NASM)

A contemporary video of Bill performing a walk around description of a J-2 Cub is at the link at the top of the right sidebar. A separate page on this site for the Piper Aircraft Corporation is at the link.

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Try this sometime. Take a guy out for dinner who not only signed our Davis-Monthan Register, but also whose company manufactured some of the premier general aviation aircraft of the 20th century. Do a little hangar flying over cocktails and snacks at home first. Bring up this Web page on the wide-screen. Get the story told to you again, first-hand, of all the pictures and itineraries above. It'll make your eyes blur over, and make you wish you lived in a different era.

Bill Piper & Friends, 3/21/06

Above, Ms. Webmaster, William T. Piper, Jr. and Your Webmaster, in Florida March 21, 2006, 71 years and three months after he landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield and signed our Register in December, 1934.

Yes, a good time was had by all! Thanks, and long life, Bill! Photo, again, by Beth Piper.

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Below, Bill Piper, Jr. flanked by Mr. & Mrs. Webmaster. The book in front of Bill is a copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register (available for purchase here). It is opened to page 206, where Bill signed it on December 9, 1934.

February 28, 2007
February 28, 2007

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Thanks to Beth Piper for the following from Lock Haven, PA, The Express, June 27, 2014.

J3 Cub now 'official Pa. aircraft’

June 27, 2014
LOCK HAVEN - It's official: The historic Piper J3 Cub is now the official aircraft of the state of Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Corbett has signed into law the legislation, known as Act 73.

State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, who has spearheaded the campaign, said he is elated.

"At long last, the exploits of the Piper Cub, and the people who made the engineering marvel, receive their just recognition," said Hanna, whose H.B. 1989 made the designation official. "Let the world know that Lock Haven gave birth to the plane whose popularity in peace and war remains unparalleled 77 years after it first began production."

Hanna said the bill's signing on Thursday as Act 73 comes on the heels of the successful 29th Annual Sentimental Journey to Cub Haven Fly-In, which concluded last week in Lock Haven.

"There will be an extra spring in the steps of local residents and flying enthusiasts," said Hanna, whose efforts to win the official designation spanned several years. "Clinton County knows how to build things and build them right."

Hanna said the region's manufacturing prowess amazes to this day.

"It is hard to fathom the dedication and professionalism that it took to produce the 20,000 Piper Cubs built between 1937 and 1947," Hanna said. "Lock Haven and the Piper Cub prevailed through the Great Depression and the tough years of World War II."

The local workforce crafted a new Piper Cub every 20 minutes, and 80 percent of all American World War II pilots received their initial flight training in the plane with its trademark yellow fuselage and black trim.

"Lock Haven showed what it was made of and put that pride and passion into building a light-but-durable plane that earned its fighting wings as a 'hedgehopper' during reconnaissance missions over the bloodied hedgerows of France," Hanna said.

"The Piper Cub has one impressive lineage: Born in Pennsylvania, proven in battle and flying high and proud to this day."

Air & Space Magazine (A&S), September, 2014, below, included an article announcing the Piper Cub as Pennsylvania state airplane.

Piper Cub State Airplane, Air & Space Magazine, September, 2014 (Source: A&S)

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UPLOADED: 05/05 REVISED: 04/03/06, 04/25/07, 08/28/07, 12/29/07, 07/13/14, 01/22/15

 
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Photo courtesy of Harry Mutter

Wm. T. Piper, Jr. standing by his Taylor E-2 Cub NC14707 in 1934. He recalls this photograph being taken in Long Beach a short time after landing at the Davis-Monthan Airfield on December 9th.

He is holding a business card and a handkerchief. When I asked what was in his pockets, he said, "Might have been a sandwich!" A copy of this photograph hangs on the wall of the den in his home.

CREDITS

Thanks to Beth Piper for providing us, as of October 23, 2009, with a copy of a video that shows Bill performing a walkaround of a Piper J-2 Cub. You may view the video at the link. Invoke the film by clicking in the menu to the right of the video screen at the link.

dmairfield.org now offers over a dozen movies of people and aircraft relevant to the Register. Take some time to explore the others at the link.

 
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