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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Turner, CT-548000-01, -02, -40, 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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A very good biography of Turner is:

Glines, C.V. 1995. "Roscoe Turner: Aviation's Master Showman". Smithsonian History of Aviation Series. Washington, DC. 340 pp. ISBN: 1-56098-798-7. (REFERENCES)

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DAILY HERALD, Tyrone, PA, September 2, 1935.

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Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register
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ROSCOE TURNER

Roscoe Turner, Early Image
Roscoe Turner

Lion Tamer, Raconteur, Entrepreneur, Showman, Air Racer

"We race for glory and for fame and for the money we can make."

Roscoe Turner landed and signed our Register four times between 1928 and 1931. Although most of our Davis-Monthan pilots had strong personalities, Turner was one of the more flamboyant aviators of the Golden Age. Click this link and this link to see other images of Turner on this site.

As many of our pilots, Turner was born on the cusp of the 19th century, on September 29, 1895, eight years before the first airplane flew. He was the oldest of six children. However, his rural upbringing in Corinth, MS made him understand he did not want to become a farmer, preferring to work with automobiles and motorcycles. He was a natural for airplanes.

In 1917 Turner enlisted in the U.S. Ambulance Service as a private, rose to sergeant, transferred to the Air Service as a balloon observer and left the service as a first lieutenant.

After the war, he became a lion tamer in a circus (intimations of things to come? See link below), a barnstorming and stunt pilot, wing walker and parachute jumper. He moved to Hollywood, flew for Howard Hughes in "Hell's Angels" and became a technical advisor for the movies and movie stunt flyer.

From the 1920s through the Great Depression, Turner had his hand in many entrepreneurial ventures. If he had a motto at all, it might have been, "There's always a way to make a buck." He operated a tobacco store named the Edgeworth Special out of a Sikorsky S-29-A. He owned 25% interest in the Motor Glide motorized scooter firm. He ran in the great races of the era, with sponsorship by major companies. He held a number of co-marketing agreements with companies such as Heinz 57 foods.

"Sky Blazers" Model Airplane
"Sky Blazers" Model Airplane

In fact, between 1927 and 1937 the entertainment industry jumped on aviation themes with movies, comic strips and radio shows about aerial adventures. Clubs were formed to help kids learn more about aviation. Turner was involved in the Sky Blazers (premium model airplane, left).

He was the principal for the Roscoe Turner Famous Flying Corps sponsored by Heinz 57 foods (below). Kids could send in Heinz product seals to acquire pins and certificates signifying various ranks such as lieutenant, captain and major. Note, below, the escalation in the number of Heinz 57 box tops required to gain promotion!

Advertisement: Heinz 57 Flying Club for Kids
Heinz 57 Flying Club for Kids

An interesting thing about the Roscoe Turner Famous Flying Corps is the secret code used when club members greeted each other. I'm quoting from the left-most column of text, above. Specifically,

"And now the secret passwords. When you meet a wearer of our Corps Wings, salute and give the secret password -- 'Eleven-Thirty'. That stands for my East-West coast-to-coast flying time -- 11 hours, 30 minutes. If the other is a genuine member the answering secret password will be 'Ten-Four', which stands for my West-East flying time -- 10 hours, 4 minutes."

Interestingly, Turner's "10-4" is a fortuitous spin on a common police code. Police "10-code" dates from the 1920s. "10-4" in "10-code" means 'message understood.' Turner probably put his personal spin on it by tying it into his flight time.

Several U.S. postal cachets from the early 1930s commemorate his racing and other activities. Following, courtesy of site visitor Joe Kranz, are five examples of these cachets. The first commemorates his participation in the National Air Races that year.

U.S. Postal Cachet, Roscoe Turner, September 2, 1932 (Source: Kranz)
U.S. Postal Cachet, Roscoe Turner, September 2, 1932 (Source: Kranz)

The second commemorates his participation in the 1933 NAR. He was very successful this year. He notes on the envelope, "This is my old plane used in Hells Angels," referring with an arrow to the image of the biplane at the center of the stamped imprint.

U.S. Postal Cachet, Roscoe Turner, July 1, 1933 (Source: Kranz)
U.S. Postal Cachet, Roscoe Turner, September 2, 1932 (Source: Kranz)

The third commemorates his record time of 11:30 winning him the Bendix Tropy at the NAR flying his Wedell-Williams racer.

U.S. Postal Cachet, Roscoe Turner, July 8, 1933 (Source: Kranz)
U.S. Postal Cachet, Roscoe Turner, July 8, 1933 (Source: Kranz)

As stated abover, this was a big year for Turner, whose name, face and airplane made newspapers all over the country. A few examples shared with us by Mr. Kranz follow.

Roscoe Turner, Undated News Article, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kranz)
Roscoe Turner, Undated News Article, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kranz)

 

Roscoe Turner, News Article, September 25, 1933 (Source: Kranz)
Roscoe Turner, News Article, September 25, 1933 (Source: Kranz)

 

Roscoe Turner, Undated News Article, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kranz)
Roscoe Turner, Undated News Article, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kranz)

 

Roscoe Turner, Undated News Article, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kranz)
Roscoe Turner, Undated News Article, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kranz)

 

Roscoe Turner, Undated News Article, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kranz)
Roscoe Turner, Undated News Article, Ca. 1933 (Source: Kranz)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As his career developed, Turner always flew in his self-designed uniform of blue with specially designed wings. That way, regardless of the day or time of his arrival at an airfield, he was always ready for interviews, dinners or other social occasions. With his uniform, waxed moustache and politician's ready smile, he was his own best marketing team. Follow the links on this site for more information about this skilled pilot and charismatic personality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below, a photograph of Turner with two other (non-Register) pilots from Mr. Kranz' collection. Parks Field Register pilot ttp://, however, was James Haizlips wife.

L-R James Haizlip, Rich & Roscoe Turner, Date Unknown (Source: Kranz)
L-R James Haizlip, Rich & Roscoe Turner, Date Unknown (Source: Kranz)

The fourth cachet commemorates Turner's record flight from Detroit to New York in 1 hour 47 minutes.

Roscoe Turner, U.S. Postal Cachet, June 11, 1934 (Source: Kranz)
Roscoe Turner, U.S. Postal Cachet, June 11, 1934 (Source: Kranz)

The fifth cachet is simply that: an airmail envelope signed by Turner and postmarked September 17, 1934. There is no indication on the envelope of what event or record this might commemorate. By the green ink color, this envelope and the one above were probably signed by Turner with the same pen.

Roscoe Turner, U.S. Postal Cachet, September 17, 1934 (Source: Kranz)
Roscoe Turner, U.S. Postal Cachet, September 17, 1934 (Source: Kranz)

Below, we see Turner in full uniform with Lockheed Vega NC7954, the original "Winnie Mae", flying in Nevada Airlines livery. Turner was, during the late 20s, operations manager for Nevada. He flew NC7954 in the 1929 National Air Races. Although Turner never flew this airplane to Tucson, NC7954 landed three times flown by other pilots. Follow the link for details.

Roscoe Turner & NC7954
Roscoe Turner & NC7954

The airplanes Turner did fly to Tucson are Lockheed Vegas NC195E and NC7896, and the Sikorsky mentioned above, NC2756. He flew another Lockheed through Tucson, probably NR3057, his Air Express c/n 75. He didn't identify this airplane by registration number, rather he just identified it "NR," so it's a good chance it was 3057. Please follow the link to the airplane to see photographs of Turner with 3057 at various times during its flying life. Significantly, Turner landed at least once at the Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale, CA on December 14, 1930 flying NR3057.

Site contributor Tim Kalina shares the following striking image with us. During September, 1931, Turner delivered the Navy’s only Lockheed Altair, their XRO-1a. Here he is pictured beside the airplane. With derby hat, spats, kid gloves, pocket silk, necktie stick pin and watch fob he is nothing but the definition of dapper.

Mr. Kalina says about this image, "Turner personally delivered the XRO-1 to the Navy, hence his (unusual for him) formal ‘civilian’ attire. Since Turner was delivering a military aircraft to a military base I guess he figured it was best not to appear in his usual ersatz ‘military’ uniform." Scroll down to the last image on this page to see his ersatz outfit. As in many images of this era on this site, we can see the shadow of the photographer and his tripod falling on Turner. There is another observer whose shadow falls long into the wing root from the right. It appears to be of a woman in a skirt.

Turner With Lockheed Altair XRO-1a, September 30, 1931 (Source: Kalina)
Turner With Lockheed Altair XRO-1a, September 30, 1931

The color of the airplane was equally dramatic (it wasn't painted as suggested, "black and gold", on the photo caption, below). Rather, from site visitor and modeler Roger Holden (via Mr. Kalina), "If the plane was painted correctly to the Navy regulations, the tops of both wing and horizontal tail should have been 'Orange Yellow' (the official name, which is actually not orange at all, unlike the distinctly different USAAC colour), with silver undersides. Fuselage is ‘Insignia Blue’ (sometimes called 'Admiral Blue', probably a popular name...), with silver stripe/lettering on the fuselage sides.” Mr. Kalina adds, "The U.S. Star (with red center) appeared on the wings at four positions, I think." You can see part of one of the stars between Turner's right shoulder and the vertical stabilizer of the airplane.

Further from Mr. Holden, "I dug out my copy of the Monogram book on painting U.S.Navy aircraft over the weekend and it gives a fairly detailed run down of the regs for painting VIP aircraft like the XRO-1. The horizontal tail is silver, top and bottom (as your photo seems to show). The wing is yellow on top, silver underneath; stars in the 4 usual positions. All the silver fuselage markings are outlined with a red pinstripe. If the plane had the shuttered cover over the crankcase [it did not], the fixed portion was Insignia Blue and the movable portion was polished aluminum with clear lacquer coat."

Below is the caption glued to the back of the image above. Turner is scheduled to depart California to deliver the airplane to Washington, DC. This airplane, piloted by Turner fully accessorized in a three-piece suit, must have made quite a scene at intermediate fuel stops.

Turner With Lockheed Altair XRO-1a, September 30, 1931, Caption (Source: Kalina)
Turner With Lockheed Altair XRO-1a, September 30, 1931, Caption

At the 1934 National Air Races (August 31-September 3), Turner placed first in the Thompson Trophy Race flying a modified Wedell-Williams Special. Below, courtesy of Jeff Staines, is a photo of Turner, center, entertaining young fans. A photographer, lower right, points his camera to record the moment. Turner was ever the self-promoter, signing autographs and making himself available to his public. Others watch the sky. The cockpit of his airplane is covered.

Roscoe Turner and Fans, Ca. August-September, 1934 (Source: Staines)
Roscoe Turner and Fans, Ca. August-September, 1934 (Source: Staines)

 

Roscoe Turner, 1934
Roscoe Turner in Time Magazine, 1934
Roscoe Turner and Gilmore
Roscoe Turner & Gilmore

Roscoe has a strong web presence. Google just his name and you'll find over 25,000 hits. Follow this link for a brief but comprehensive review of his personality and career, including his acquisition and life with Gilmore, the African lion cub who worked and flew with him for about a year until the cub grew up. Undoubtedly, as he matured the lion's demands for in-flight meals took on a different dimension!

Also in 1934, Turner placed second in the handicap division of the MacRobertson Air Race flying a Boeing 247D. This image of the cover of Time Magazine for October 29, 1934 commemorates that feat. Below, courtesy of site visitor Jeff Staines, is a photograph of Turner's Boeing. This airplane is on exhibit at the NASM today.

Robertson Race Boeing 247D Flown by Roscoe Turner, 1934 (Source: Staines)
Robertson Race Boeing 247D Flown by Roscoe Turner, 1934 (Source: Staines)

Below, the caption for the photo above showing Turners signature.

Robertson Race Boeing 247D Flown by Roscoe Turner, 1934, Caption (Source: Staines)
Robertson Race Boeing 247D Flown by Roscoe Turner, 1934, Caption (Source: Staines)

Later, Turner placed second in the Bendix transcontinental race for 1935 (Tyrone, PA news article, left sidebar). The image, below, of Turner (R) and Benny Howard, was probably taken at one end or the other of that race.

Benny Howard & Roscoe Turner, Probably ca. September, 1935 (Source: Heins)
Benny Howard & Roscoe Turner, Probably ca. September, 1935

This image is courtesy of Andy Heins. Note that Turner is dressed in his standard uniform, and that Howard wears what appears to be the insignia button of the National Air Races. They are probably discussing moustache waxes!

Below, from Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, February, 1937, Turner receives an award scroll from NBC radio for his show "Flying Time."

Turner Award, Popular Aviation Magazine, February, 1937 (Source: PA)
Turner Award, Popular Aviation Magazine, February, 1937 (Source: PA)

Another issue of Popular Aviation featured Turner on the cover, below, in September, 1939. Note mention of Register pilot Tex Rankin.

Roscoe Turner, Cover of Popular Aviation, September, 1939 (Source: PA)

 

Roscoe Turner, 1940 (Source: Web)
Roscoe Turner, 1940 (Source: Web)

 

The "Air Racing is Hell" article is available at the link (PDF 2.6Mb). It takes you in Turner's cockpit and inside his head during the 1938 Thompson Trophy Race. If you want to understand the premier Golden Age air race environment, this article is a good read.

Roscoe Turner died June 23, 1970 just before his 75th birthday. He had received from aviation a fair measure against what he put into it.

At left is a formal portrait of Turner dated 1940. Instead of his usual blue uniform, Turner wears a three-piece, double-breasted, store-bought suit with a pocket square. The badge, labeled "Kansas City, MO" reads "Roscoe Turner, Indianapolis, Ind."

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Dossier 2.1.156

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 01/24/07 REVISED: 10/31/07, 12/28/07, 04/15/08, 03/19/09, 03/28/09, 07/05/11, 09/14/11, 09/28/11, 07/09/13, 07/01/14, 01/16/17

 
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http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe 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. Order your copy at the link, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.

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