There is no biographical
file for pilot Shelton in the archives of the
National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.
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.
A respectfully written book (authored by Shelton's long-time
attorney) is: Schleit, Philip. 1982. "Shelton's Barefoot
Airlines". Fishergate Pub. Co. Annapolis, MD. Photo,
right, taken in the 1960s, is from that book.
Another chapter summarizing Shelton and his "Barefoot Airlines"
can be found in: R.E.G. Davies, "Rebels and Reformers
of the Airways" p. 333.
Thanks to Ron Davies, Senior Curator for Air Transport at
NASM, for discussions on Shelton's career, and for the loan
of Schleit's book.
Two days after his death in 1965 from a heart attack in Lima, Peru,
the Miami Herald eulogized Cornell Newton Shelton by saying,
"Some men are human bridges....His unexpected death in
Lima was more than the loss of a personal friend to those shocked
by the news. Indeed, it was the loss of a tie between the best
impulses of two continents for good will and progress."
We first see C.N. Shelton as he landed at Tucson September
29, 1931 flying a friend's Fokker Universal NC8015.
He was inbound from Los Angeles, CA with his destination indicated
as Bogota, Colombia. He carried three passengers, Rodriguez,
Quayec and Poe, identified by last names only. Refer to the
above link to NC8015 to understand the airplane's chain of custody that
resulted in this flight through Tucson and beyond.
The purpose of this very flight can be pinpointed in the
Schleit reference at left. Note mention of the airplane and the mechanic. Schleit writes, on page 10 of his
book, "When [Shelton] returned to Honduras to start an
airline in the fall of 1931, ....With a six-passenger Fokker
borrowed from Bill Schoenfeldt, who became famous as a builder
of racing airplanes (the "Schoenfeldt Firecracker"), and an authorization from the Costa Rican
government, they formed a company called Empresa Nacional
de Transportes Aereos, S.A. -- ENTA, for short. Immediately,
they started regularly scheduled passenger flights with the
aid of Ken Poe, an American mechanic."
Shortly after he went to Central America, the following photograph was taken; details in the caption following this photo. Shelton is second from left.
C.N. Shelton, Waco OEC, and Others, 1932 (Source: Davies via Woodling)
The published caption reads from Davies' book on Latin American Airlines, "Waco OEC, one of only three or four built, outside the Empresa Dean hangar at Tegucigalpa in about 1932. The man on the left is believed to be Norman Scholes, an Englishman who took over the Dean operation, but would never fly. Next to him is the Chief Pilot, C. N. Shelton, who taught the legendary Lowell Yerex instrument flying and later became the promoter of low fares in Central and South America as head of TAN and other associated airlines. The center figure is R. C. Forsblade, who shared with Shelton the task of both flying and maintaining the Dean fleet. Shelton died in Miami in 1965." (photo by Robert C. Forsblade)
Shelton's niece contacted me via email and provides this very caring anecdote, "... He had a very sensitive appreciation of his nieces. He took my sister and I up in one of his 'big' planes (I was probably 7 years old.; just the three of us!) Also took us out onto Miami bay (?) in one of his planes equipped with pontoons, and landed us on the water.. As old as I am, I vividly remember staring at a vein in his head as he put the plane down. I have a visual memory of him probably more vivid than any other adult in my life. He was very quiet, but had an uncanny presence that conveyed his affection. He was, and is, 'my hero.'"
The following five photographs are shared with us by C.N. Shelton's nephew (cited, right sidebar). In 1940, Shelton joined TWA and became involved in the company's wartime contract work. During WWII, he, along with 168 other pilots, flew the South Atlantic route for 3.5 years. It may not be surprising that Shelton flew the highest number of trans-Atlantic hours of all of them. Below, during a leisure moment, he poses in uniform in front of the Washington Monument. There are hints of cherry blossoms behind him.
C.N. Shelton, Washington Monument, Washington, DC, Ca. 1940-45 (Source: Shelton Family)
In Washington, DC again, this time in civilian clothes, Shelton (L) poses on the Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol with another officer identified as his brother Kenneth.
C.N. Shelton, U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC, Ca. 1940-45 (Source: Shelton Family)
This photo is a frame from a movie film, shown in the viewer below courtesy of the Shelton family. Depending upon your version of Adobe Flash Player, you may be asked to install an update. Please be patient and do that. Pass your cursor over the film frame to activate the control panel.
This film is only 30 seconds long or so, but it shows two brothers enjoying some quiet time in Washington, DC. If you are using Apple technology, you won't be able to view this film.
An interesting assignment given to Shelton during WWII was in China flying Mme. Chiang Kai-shek. She liked Shelton, he became her and her husband's pilot on several important missions, and was invited to their home and awarded high honors. During one conversation with Mme. Chiang, he mentioned that he wanted to start a South American airline after the war, but had no capital.
Below are three photographs of TAN aircraft, probably during the late 1940s. One day in 1946 Shelton received a check for $250,000 from Mme. Chiang. He incorporated and used the money to form Transportes Aereos Nacionales (TAN). His initial work was flying charters from Honduras to Miami using a Douglas B-18 bomber and two war surplus Curtiss C-46s.
The first shows a color photo of Shelton, informally dressed as usual. Davies' chapter cited in the left sidebar states that Shelton, "... owned one suit, which he used only rarely, for going to banks or weddings. He was also part-owner of a topcoat, which he used when visiting Miami in the winter." The airplanes appear to be his surplus C-46s.
C.N. Shelton With TAN Aircraft, Ca. Late 1940s (Source: Shelton Family)
Next, a TAN aircraft with unidentified people.
TAN Aircraft, Ca. Late 1940s (Source: Shelton Family)
Likewise, another, more forward, view of the same aircraft with unidentified people.
TAN Aircraft, Ca. Late 1940s (Source: Shelton Family)
Shelton was born in 1908 in Provo, UT and died March 15,1965.
In between he learned to fly with Jack
Frye as one of his instructors, barnstormed in the southwest,
and formed several air line companies in Central and South
America in order to, in his words, "make flying affordable
to the barefoot people."
C.N. Shelton's nephew points out an interesting YouTube video of Honduras aviation through the years at the link. At about 7:08 into the film is a still image of his uncle at left, with a group of other pilots of the line. The still photo was taken ca. 1937. While most of the video is of later transport operations in the area (Toncontin, Tegucigalpa, Barandillas), their magnitude and robustness are part of the legacy of Shelton's pioneering work with his earlier barefoot airlines.
Shelton was the last of the barnstormers to be the chief executive
of an airline. Curiously, given his fame and good deeds, as well as the attention paid to him in Ron Davies' book, he has no biographical file at the National Air & Space Museum. Ron Davies passed away on July 30, 2011. His obituary is at the link. I miss him as a friend and colleague.
looking for information and photographs of pilot Shelton and his airplane to include on this page.
If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to
TheCongress 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.
Thanks to C.N. Shelton's nephew, George Shelton, for sharing photos from his family album.