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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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A biography of Bobbi, "Just Plane Crazy" by Donna Veca & Skip Mazzio, 1987. Aviation Book Company, Glendale, CA ISBN 0-940997-01-0, is a good read with lots of news clippings and photos. Her Web site is a great browse.

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HOW DO YOU MEET A SIGNER OF THE REGISTER?

Bobbi Trout is one of three people who signed the Davis-Monthan register whom I have met personally (the others, John M. Miller and William T. Piper, Jr., are highlighted elsewhere on this website). I have spoken on the telephone with Robert Buck.

Not knowing that she was still alive, in April, 2001 I saw an editorial in EAA's "Sport Aviation" that stated Bobbi was looking for her Golden Eagle airplane, NC223M, that she flew in the 1929 "Powder Puff Derby".

I responded to the editor that I didn't know about 223M, but that I did know Bobbi landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield on March 11, 1929 flying Golden Eagle 522.

Long story short, the editor put me in contact with Bobbi. Over the next two years we corresponded by letter, email and telephone discussing her flights and her recollections of some of the female pilots who signed the register.

She invited me to California for a visit, which I made in 2002. I landed at Carlsbad airport at 3PM and called her while still standing on the wing of my airplane. She said to hurry on over, because cocktails were about to begin.

Besides a pleasant afternoon and evening at her home, I spent the next evening as her invited guest at the Powder Puff Reunion at the San Diego Aerospace Museum. A fine reception and group of people, including another 99's charter member, Fay Gillis Wells, below sitting, in conversation with Bobbi.

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Evelyn "Bobbi" Trout

Bobbi Trout, Ca. Late 1920s (Source: Trout)
Bobbi Trout Photograph with Autograph
Bobbi Trout 1906-2003

Evelyn "Bobbi" Trout was born in Greenup, Illinois, on January 7, 1906. She passed away at 97 on January 24, 2003 in San Diego, CA (NY Times obituary, February 2, 2003). In between she lived a full life in aviation and out. I was happy to know her briefly, to meet some of her fellow pilots, and to "party" at least once with her.

With her passing, as far as I know, we have lost the last surviving female signer of the old Davis-Monthan Airfield Register: a major personal alas.

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At left, a treasured memento of my visits with Bobbi Trout. Photo signed in 2001 at age 95. Can you see why I believe pilot eyes are forces of nature? If you already looked at the register page with her signature in 1929, you'll notice that somewhere over the years she changed the spelling of her name from Bobbie to Bobbi.

Bobbi landed at Tucson on March 11, 1929. Her passenger was W.G. Mead, her mechanic and VP of Golden Eagle Corporation (see Bobbi's recollections of that flight, below). The airplane they flew, Golden Eagle 522, was an experimental model, although, as you'll see from the link to her airplane, the "experimental" registration was not assigned until well after this flight.

Bobbi Trout and Her Golden Eagle, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Trout)
Bobbi Trout and Her Golden Eagle, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Trout)

 

At the age of twelve she saw her first airplane. On December 27, 1922 she took her first ride in a Curtiss Jenny at Rogers Field in Los Angeles ( the same site that Amelia Earhart took her first airplane ride). On New Year’s Day 1928, Bobbi began her flight training at Burdett Air Lines, Inc., School of Aviation in Los Angeles with Burdett D. Fuller. Interestingly, Mr. Fuller signed the Davis-Monthan register in 1926.

She soloed on April 30, 1928. Two weeks later she completed her training and was issued license number 2613. She was the fifth woman in the USA to obtain her transport license.

For further information regarding her early flying activities and records, see Bobbi's Web site. Below, I focus mostly on information unavailable in books or articles.

For example, in a letter from her from June, 2001, she reviewed her Golden Eagle flights, including the one to Tucson [my comments in brackets]:

Seattle Daily Times, January 3, 1929 (Source:
Woodling)

 

"Mr. R.O. Bone who was building the first Golden Eagle came over to Burdett Fuller's Airport and school and offered me a job demonstrating his new plane. It had been designed by Mark Campbell and did get me my first 2 world endurance records. The second flight with the 60HP LeBlond engine helped me make about 6 world records. 17 hours 20 minutes most mileage. I was the first female to fly all nite and after the mechanics did some checking I lifted with that engine more weight per HP and wing loading than ever before with 60 HP. Mr. Bone approached me right after I landed from getting in time for my licenses. The plane was an experimental job so after I received Headlines in papers around the world Mr. Bone had designers come over from Douglas to redesign the plane so that we coud get it licensed. Among the designers was Ed Heineman the GREAT designer for Douglas during WWII. Ed was about 20 years old then when I dropped in the factory one nite to see what all was going on. Of course we wanted to be able to sell a lot of those cute wonderful planes. They designed it for a 90 HP Kinner engine.

"The plane I was flying [i.e. Golden Eagle 522, q.v.] to show was the first experimental and Mead was the factory mechanic. I don't remember why or where we were going to when we stopped at Tucson nor do I remember why Mead was there in the same ship a little later. During that time might have been when Mr. Bone had sent the new Golden Eagle to Kinner to have a new 100 HP engine put in the ship to give me plenty of speed in the coming Air Derby in August. Mr. Bone might have sold Mr. Mead the X job for him to get around in and have fun. I missed Mead about that time too."

In her letter, she alludes to her solo endurance flight that occurred during January, 1929. At left is a news article from the Seattle Daily Times of January 3, 1929 that cites her record, and gives a status report on an Army endurance flight taking place at the same time. The Army airplane, the Fokker C-2 Transport 28-120, was a Register airplane, as were the crew, Carl Spatz, Ira Eaker, Elwood Quesada, Roy Hooe and Harry A. Halverson. Additional information about her endurance flight, and the reactions of the Army fliers, is celebrated in the postal cachet, below, commemorating the 70th anniversary of her flight.

Further, in a letter from July, 2001, she described the founding of the Ninety-Nines. Depending on what you read, there are multiple renditions of how the group was founded and originally organized. Here's one in the first-person:

"So many people get the wrong way the 99s started. I was there under the grandstand at the Cleveland Air Races [September, 1929] with Amelia and about 4 other flyers who were not known names. We all about the same time said wouldn't it be nice if we had a Club or something where we all could get together and know each other and talk. I opened my mouth and said "YES" it would be great but there is quite a bit of red tape to do and by-laws to work out etc. Amelia then just in front of me said, 'Bobbi, how about us doing all this back east?' I thought for a moment and said yes and the others OKd it. About a month later in 1929 they sent out 117 letters to girl flyers saying that if they would sign the bi-laws [sic] and send in a dollar they would be a charter member of the new Organization. 99 did and at the first meeting I am told it was Amelia who said why not name it the 99s since that many were Charter Members. Many articles as well as in my book 'JUST PLANE CRAZY' the writer put in several of the names of girls from the east but that was wrong--none of them were there but Amelia and me who were known."

Likewise, in the same letter, she described the first meeting of the 99s:

"As to the first meeting of the Gals of the final 99s it was on Long Island, and I think it must have been in the hangar. About 35 showed up and I guess Amelia named it after the 99 Charter members. There are about 13 known Charter members left [5 as of 4/18/05] that are known to be alive but several have not been heard of. Achsa [Peacock, since deceased] seems to be the oldest and I am next with Fay Wells [since deceased] just a bit younger."

Last, but not least, from her Web site I learned a toast that Bobbi, Pancho Barnes and friends used to say in 1934:

“The sexual desires of a camel
are far greater than one thinks,
for in moments of amorous passion,
he often makes love to the Sphinx.
But the Sphinx’s posterior entrance
is blocked by the sands of the Nile,
which accounts for the hump on the camel
and the Sphinx’s inscrutable smile.”

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Bobbi Trout is featured in this book by your Webmaster, right. The 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.

 

 

 

A popular activity by well-known pilots of the era was to sign and sell U.S. postal cachets which commemorated first flights, anniversaries, dedications, etc. As well as the commemoration, it made a few dollars for the pilots. Bobbi was no exception. Below, from site visitor Jeff Staines is a cachet signed by her November 14, 1929. It commemorates the Western Aircraft show in Los Angeles held from 9-16 November. Notice that she signed her name with the spelling "Bobbie" just as she did when she signed the Register the previous March. I do not know when she dropped the "e."

U.S. Postal Cachet Signed by Bobbi Trout, November 14, 1929 (Source: Staines)
U.S. Postal Cachet Signed by Bobbi Trout, November 14, 1929 (Source: Staines)

Below, a letter of solicitation for the sale of postal cachets.

Solicitation Letter for Postal Cachets, Ca. 1932 (Source: Staines)
Solicitation Letter for Postal Cachets, Ca. November , 1929 (Source: Staines)

Mr. Staines says about these two items, "Besides a scanned signed cover commemorating the 1929 Western Aircraft Show in L.A.,  I have scanned a form letter which was sent to the various Stamp Dealers and Postal Agencies throughout the country who distributed historic event covers to collectors world-wide. This letter would have been sent by Bobbie Trout's Cachet Director Earl Mills of Hollywood,CA in 1932 in preparation for 'The Flight That Never Was', Bobbie's failed solo flight attempt from Hawaii to Los Angeles.

It is still unclear to this day why this flight never took place, though some speculate that funding was the main issue. It was scheduled to take place during the Great Depression, and financial backing may have been difficult, as this letter demonstrates."

Another refueled endurance attempt was started on September 28, 1932. She and copilot John E. Sheasby flew the Fokker Universal NC3317 for 40 hours before propeller trouble forced them to land.

Bobbi has seven contemporary commemorative cachets today available at her Web site. Below, are illustrations of the seven from your Webmaster's collection. The document below each cachet is included in the envelope.

Cachet 1, 70th Anniversary, Solo Endurance (Source: Trout)
Cachet 1, 70th Anniversary, Solo Endurance (Source: Trout)

 

Cachet 2, 70th Anniversary, 2nd Solo Endurance (Source: Trout)
Cachet 2, 70th Anniversary, 2nd Solo Endurance (Source: Trout)

 

Cachet 3, 70th Anniversary, High Altitude Record (Source: Trout)
Cachet 3, 70th Anniversary, High Altitude Record (Source: Trout)

Below, Cachet 4 commemorating the September, 1929 National Air Races, which first allowed female pilots to compete in the cross-country race from Los Angeles to Cleveland.

Cachet 4, 70th Anniversary, National Air Races, 1929 (Source: Trout)
Cachet 4, 70th Anniversary, National Air Races, 1929 (Source: Trout)

 

Cachet 5, 70th Anniversary, Refueling Flight, 1929 (Source: Trout)
Cachet 5, 70th Anniversary, Refueling Flight, 1929 (Source: Trout)

 

Curtiss Carrier Pigeon, NR35, Ca. November 1929 (Source: Site Visitor)
Curtiss Carrier Pigeon, NR35, Ca. November 1929 (Source: Site Visitor)

 

A public relations motion picture film of the preparations for the November, 1929 endurance flight is at the link (10 Minutes).

The "Pigeon" Bobbi referred to below was a Curtiss Carrier Pigeon, NR35. A photograph of the Pigeon is at right. The registration number is readable in the original. Thanks to a site visitor for sharing his photograph. The pigeon was unreliable with its Liberty engine, and failed to make more than a couple of refueling flights before making a forced landing.

Cachet 6, 70th Anniversary, Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena, 1930 (Source: Trout)
Cachet 6, 70th Anniversary, Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena, 1930 (Source: Trout)

 

Cachet 7, 70th Anniversary, Endurance Flight, 1931 (Source: Trout)
Cachet 7, 70th Anniversary, Endurance Flight, 1931 (Source: Trout)

I left these cachets without description, defaulting to the envelope inserts.

 

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 04/18/05 UPDATED: 04/09/06, 01/08/10, 03/09/11, 08/20/13, 10/28/15, 08/24/16

 
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CONVERSATIONS WITH BOBBI TROUT

Below, in Carlsbad, CA, your webmaster and Bobbi Trout, September 19, 2002. The yellow shirts were purely coincidental that afternoon.

Over the two years I knew her, Bobbi discussed with me her sister pilots who landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield. What a pleasure to share letters, phone calls, emails and visits. When you listen to history in the first person, you pay attention!

She did not know personally many of the female pilots who visited the Davis-Monthan Airfield, but she shared flying adventures, social events and competitions with most of them.

She spoke of Pancho Barnes [my comments in brackets]. "Pancho I saw often at our WAR [Women's Air Reserve] meetings and when the King of Romania sent my cross she had his rep. give it to me at her home where she had a house full of movie people, etc. The cross was given to Lindbergh and Amelia, the three of us only."

"Pancho had many planes while her money lasted and had the Happy Bottom Riding Club as well as being married to a minister soon out of school in Pasadena which was not for her. She flew over his church while he would be preaching."

"Pancho and I flew to New York in our J5 Stearmans and stayed at Phoebe's for a week after Pancho had to give all of the money the Gilmore Oil Co. gave for 3 [the third pilot was Mary Charles] of us ships to go to [NY] and home. Pancho kept us in the St. Francis Hotel overlooking Central Park for a month while she tried to get Duncan Rinaldo [Pancho's love interest at the time, also known as the 'Cisco Kid' in the movies] released from jail for over stayin' his time here in the USA. That month cost us the rest of the $500 Gilmore Oil gave her for the trip. We lost one plane [Mary Charles'] at the meteor Crater before we got to Winslow, AZ. She ran out of gas...."

About Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie she said: "Phoebe Omlie was flying around helping get Roosevelt elected so after that he got a job for her at Wright Field, doing ??? [an airway marking project]. She would come to the west now and then and we would see each other."

About Amelia Earhart: "Amelia wanted to go on my first refueling flight but GP [Amelia's husband, George Putnam] had her tied down with too many luncheons, etc."

 
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