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Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Preston, CP-444000-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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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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EDWIN L. PRESTON

According to a couple of Web sources and his NASM biographical file (left sidebar), Edwin Lester Preston was born August 12, 1901 at Sanborn, WI. He married Winnifred Bunge, who was born about 1901. They had two children, E.L. Preston, Jr. and P. Preston.

According to Who's Who in Aviation for 1925, Preston was educated at public schools in Rosecommon, MI. He worked for the Michigan Central Railroad from 1916-17, and for the Interstate Commerce Commission during 1918. He enlisted in the Army Air Service in 1919 and remained active until 1922. He was first assigned to duty at Selfridge Field. In 1920 he was assigned to Kelly Field, TX and became a flying cadet at March Field, CA the same year. His first solo flight was on August 12, 1920, a great gift for his 19th birthday.

He returned to Kelly Field for advanced flight training late in 1920 through 1921. He practiced bombing maneuvers at Langley Field, Kelly Field , Ellington Field and Selfridge during 1921-22. In his flurry of flight activities during the early 1920s he earned civil pilot certificate No. 6379 and F.A.I. license No. 4975 in July, 1921.

With these credentials, when he left the military in 1922 he became president of American Commercial Airways of Lansing, MI and remained in that position at least through 1925. Who's Who in Aviation for 1928 cites his occupation as "test pilot for Dirggs Aircraft Corp." based at Ford Airport, Lansing, IL.

Transoceanic Mail Route Attempt, New York Times August 20, 1931 (Source: NASM)
Transoceanic Mail Route Attempt, New York Times August 20, 1931 (Source: NASM)

Preston landed three times at Tucson. His first two visits were on Tuesday, October 2, 1928, and on Sunday October 14, 1928. Both times he listed his home base as Lansing, IL. He flew the Stinson NC5683. This was probably a round-trip, cross-country voyage. He was westbound from El Paso, TX to Los Angeles, CA on the 2nd, and eastbound from San Diego, CA to El Paso on the 14th. He carried five unidentified passengers westbound, and three unidentified passengers eastbound. No reason was cited for either flight.

His third visit was on March 21, 1930. He cited his home base as Cleveland, OH and he carried a single passenger, E.G. Thompson, in the Stinson NC446H. They were northwest bound from El Paso to Phoenix, AZ. No reason was given for their flight.

During the late summer of 1931, Preston was involved with a partner in an attempt to develop a transoceanic mail route between the United States (Detroit, MI) and northern Europe (Copenhagen, Denmark). The article, left, from the New York Times, cites their departure from Detroit and landing at Sudbury, Ontario.

Transoceanic Mail Route Attempt, New York Times August 22, 1931 (Source: NASM)
Transoceanic Mail Route Attempt, New York Times August 22, 1931 (Source: NASM)

 

Their trip was of international interest. The Argus of Melbourne, Australia on August 20th, under the headline FLIGHT TO COPENHAGEN, wrote, "Messrs. Edwin L. Preston and Robert H. Collignon, of Detroit, left today on the first stage of a flight to Copenhagen to map an airmail route."

Two days later, right, the word was no word. The New York Times reported no contact with Preston and his partner. The conclusion was that it was too early to worry, given the vagaries of radio communication in that territory.

 

 

Suspense, but still no anxiety, built in the New York Times of August 23rd, below.

 
Transoceanic Mail Route Attempt, New York Times August 28, 1931 (Source: NASM)
Transoceanic Mail Route Attempt, New York Times August 28, 1931 (Source: NASM)
Transoceanic Mail Route Attempt, New York Times August 23, 1931 (Source: NASM)
Transoceanic Mail Route Attempt, New York Times August 23, 1931 (Source: NASM)

 

 

 

 

Five days later, in the New York Times of August 28th, right, the flyers show up at Port Harrison, Ontario, short of fuel and food and sharing their rations with the local populace. Fuel was on order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transoceanic Mail Route Attempt, Washington (DC) Star, September 6, 1931 (Source: NASM)
Transoceanic Mail Route Attempt, Washington (DC) Star, September 6, 1931 (Source: NASM)

 

 

At some point, the flyers decided to return to Detroit. Finally, on September 6, 1931, the Washington Star reported, left, that fog prevented their return through Sudbury and resulted in their staying there until favorable weather prevailed. I have no information whether they fulfilled their intentions to try again. It probably would have been extremely hazardous to attempt such a flight in January as stated.

I found reference to a Lt. Col. Edwin L. Preston who commanded the 437th Airlift Wing from September 1, 1954 to January 19, 1955. It is not clear if this was our pilot Preston, or perhaps a son or related namesake. Does anyone KNOW?

Preston passed away during 1964 at West Chester, IL.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dossier 2.1.129

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