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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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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Steele, CS-861400-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

Some of this information, and the image, is from the "Blue Book of Aviation", Roland W. Hoagland, Ed., published in 1932 by The Hoagland Company, Publishers, Los Angeles, CA. 292 pp.

The cover of this handsome book is deeply engraved, and the fly leaves are printed with terrific art deco accents. Inside are brief biographies of contemporary aviation figures, as well as tables of various data.

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The article on search and rescue (cited bottom of center column) and another image of pilot Steele, are viewable at the Charles Cooper Photograph and Document Collection.

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DUDLEY M. STEELE

Dudley M. Steele, ca. 1932

Dudley Steele was a frequent visitor to the Davis-Monthan Airfield. He landed there 13 times between May 23, 1928 and February 3, 1934. Significantly, he also landed at the Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale, CA three times during March and April, 1931.

He carried passengers on five of his Tucson visits. His passenger on January 22, 1929 was J.T. Whitlaw who was "traffic manager" for Standard Air Lines. He was faithful to three aircraft: Waco NC4278, Stearman NC6439 and Stearman NC667K.

It is noted in the remarks column of his May 23, 1928 visit that he was "Chairman Contest Com. National Air Races" for the year 1928. He also flew as a passenger during the 1928 National Air Tour (see chapter 6 of the Forden book downloadable from this reference). Steele was also on the racing committee for the Cleveland Races, 1939.

Dudley M. Steele entered aviation during WWI in the Army air service. He was stationed at various flying fields, and after the war ended was assigned to the U.S. Navy stationed at Miami, FL. He was a flight instructor.

Image, below, of Dudley Steele and his mount, Stearman NC6439 (date and location unknown; anyone KNOW?). This Stearman (model C-3-B, serial number 179 was delivered to Richfield Oil in March, 1928) landed at Tucson a total of nine times between November 18, 1928 and April 3, 1929. Steele flew it eight of those times. Note the leather jumpsuit. Note also, on the fuel pit lid the brand name "Bowser" (hard to read online, but very clear on the original photo). Thus the phrase, "fuel bowser".

Dudley Steele & NC6439

 

Dudley Steele, 1929
Dudley Steele, 1929

 

 

 

 

NC667K, his other Stearman model 4C (later 4E) was delivered to Richfield on September 29, 1929. It was sold in 1937 when Richfield's aviation department was shut down for a while. This airplane is still in existence and has been restored to flying condition. See the airplane's link for restoration progress and details.

Image, right, from an unidentified newspaper, courtesy of Ruth Richter Holden. This is a classic portrait of a Golden Age pilot. Note the ubiquitous cigar in his right hand.

Popular Aviation, November, 1931 (Source: PA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above, from Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, November, 1931, is an article describing a scrape with the Department of Commerce. It was probably NC667K that he was flying.

Regarding his post-WWI experiences, The Blue Book of Aviation (reference, left) states, "After spending six years as a salesman, Mr. Steele engaged successively as follows: Purchasing agent for Nafziger Baking Co., Kansas City, and commercial flyer, three years; salesman, two years, and publicity and exploitation man for motion pictures, two years. In Sept. of 1927 he entered the employ of the Richfield Oil Co., Los Angeles, Calif., and is now [1932] with this organization as aviation manager.

"Mr. Steele was in charge of construction for the 1922 Pulitzer air races, held at Selfridge Field, Mich., and has for the past three years assisted in the annual Around-the-World Flight Commemoration Races, Santa Monica, Calif. In 1928 he was a director of the National Air Races, held in Los Angeles."

He was also an author. Early during his term of employment with Richfield, he published this article (PDF 1.8 MB) in Western Flying, May 1931. Titled, "Searching from the Air", the article is a common-sense directive on how to search for downed aircraft.

Below, courtesy of Andy Heins, we have an image of Dudley Steele taken shortly after he published his article.

Dudley Steele, Left, June 1, 1931
Dudley Steele, Left, June 1, 1931

The gentleman on the right is unidentified, as is the reason why "X" marks the spot. This image is from Bettie Lund's album. She was the wife of Register pilot "Fearless" Freddie Lund. Note Steele's jacket and compare it with that in the link to NC667K. Comparing to that link, the airplane in the image above appears to be NC667K.

From 1933-47 there was a radio program called The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen. Friend of dmairfield.org John Lyon says about the program and its spinoffs, "The Jimmie Allen Flying Club was a great promotion, originally by Skelly Oil and later joined by Richfield.  It was based on a radio program, The Air Adventures of Jimmy Allen, which was very popular afternoon listening for youngsters returning home from school.  To capitalize on the [program], there was a club.  Membership was free; the only catch was that you had to apply at the friendly neighborhood Skelly or Richfield station.   And there was a weekly newsletter, which you had to get at the same place.  So every car of every family with kids 6 - 16 had a chorus in the back seat saying 'Dad, dad, let's go to the Richfield and get some gas!'  At its peak the Club had about 150,000 members, including Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney." A Wikipedia article describes the program, as well as premiums, promotions and other money-making "opportunities." Note the photo in the upper right at the link. It is Steele, who impersonated the teen-age Allen well into his forties. 

In 1937 Steele left Richfield and assumed the responsibility of airport manager at the Union Air Terminal, Burbank, CA. He held that position into the 1940s. An article in Flying and Popular Aviation, May, 1941 featured Steele and his work at Union. This article, courtesy of Mr. Lyon, is available (4pp.) as a PDF download (743kB). At the time Steele took control in December, 1937, Union's terminal building had a small bar and coffee shop. The parking garage for transient automobiles was small, and the on-site service station pumped 4,400 gallons of fuel per month. According to the article, as of 1941 Union was the fourth busiest airport in the nation in air traffic count (behind the good company of LaGuardia, Chicago and Cleveland). And the terminal had a respectable restaurant, the auto parking facility doubled in size and auto fuel delivery quadrupled. The article describes other changes at Union, as well as provides a nice biographical sketch of Steele on the final two pages.

In the late 1930s, Union was purchased by the Lockheed Company. Although I have not seen any direct evidence, it would be unusual if Steele did not have contact with fellow Register pilots Marshall Headle, Tony LeVier, Elmer McLeod, Moye Stephens and Milo Burcham, all of whom worked for Lockheed just before and during WWII.

Dudley Steele was born May 18, 1892 and died during July, 1968 at Palm Desert, CA. He was 76 years old.

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Dossier 2.1.20

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 01/09/06 REVISED: 01/23/06, 04/20/06, 08/20/06, 01/15/08, 02/26/08, 03/07/08, 04/16/08, 06/19/08, 05/27/11, 07/09/13, 06/24/14

 
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I need information about and images of his aircraft, NC4278, NC6439 and NC667K. If you can help, please use this FORM.
 
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