LOCKHEED VEGA Model 2 NC858E
VEGA 2 to VEGA 5B to VEGA 5C
This airplane is a Lockheed Vega Model 5B (S/N 66; ATC #140)
manufactured in May 1929 by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation,
CA. It left the factory with a Wright Whirlwind
J-6 engine (S/N 10495) of 300 HP. It was a five-place
It sold on September 22, 1930 to Van De Mark Flying Service,
Lockport, NY. A month later, Lockheed converted it
to a Vega 5B (a seven-place airplane) under ATC #227, with
a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine. Mr. Van De Mark flew
it until 1933 and had it converted to a Vega 5C under ATC
#384 sometime during that year.
We find NC858E landing at Tucson on February 25, 1931 flown
by Allan Van De Mark. He carried three passengers,
Mr. & Mrs. William H. Lee and their son (what a trip
it must have been for that young man!). They were westbound
from Amarillo, TX to Los Angeles, CA. This might have
been a charter flight in their newly modified Vega 5B.
Van De Mark sold it on November 11, 1935 to Columbia Airways,
Bloomsburg, PA who flew it for about a year and a half. They
sold it to Beech Aircraft Corporation, Wichita, KS on April
12, 1937. Beech turned around and sold NC858E on May
1, 1937 to Standard Aerial Surveys, Inc., Hackensack, NJ. It
was modified as of May 12, 1937 to receive a camera installation.
NC858E in Standard Aerial Surveys Livery, ca. Sometime
Image above, from friend of dmairfield.org Tim Kalina, shows
858E under the ownership of Standard Aerial Surveys of Newark, NJ (company
name and city painted on the side is clear in the original). The airplane
was either being readied for fueling or freshly fueled (note
the subterranean Bowser gas refueler in the foreground). The link will download (PDF 620kB) a 1928 technical brochure which describes the Bowser refueler. Photo location unknown.
The image below was taken during our airplane's service
with Standard Aerial Surveys. Neither the pilot nor the photographer cited in the accompanying article signed the Davis-Monthan
In the picture we see the INTERIOR of NC858E after it was
modified for aerial photography. The article describes the
airplane as being, "...similar to the planes used by Wiley
Post on his world flights and by the late Amelia Earhart..."
The son of photographer Charles H. Dean shared this article
from the Providence [Rhode Island] Journal of May 16, 1939.
Our thanks to Mr. Douglas Dean. Compare the seating position of his father with the motion picture of sister Vega NC898E. Note the positions of the windows. The view is forward, with the passenger door just behind photographer Dean's right shoulder.
A year or so after this article was published, a motion picture film of the airplane and photographer Dean was made. This home movie was taken at Winslow, AZ ca. 1940-41. It is shared with us by the son of Charles H. Dean. You may view the film of NC858E on the Motion Pictures page at the link. Scroll down and click "NC858E_Lockheed_Vega." Mr. Dean says about the film, "Besides the brief clip of the Vega, it has a couple of shots of TWA DC-3's, including one taken from above (possibly from the Vega).
"There also is a brief shot of James Stewart. His filmography does not show any westerns between his first in 1939 and 1950. But since he was an accomplished pilot, he might have been just flying through. The on-line Wiki write-up on his military career states that he was trying to get into the Army Air Corps during 1940-1941, but was being rejected because he was too thin. That's the way he looks in the clip!
"Then the shot of the Vega with my father walking toward the camera.
"Finally, two pilots greeting each other. I have no idea who they are. Perhaps you can identify them."
On September 8, 1943, the Charles
H. Babb Company, New York,
NY acquired NC858E and in three-month’s time sold it
to Harold E. Curran, Syracuse, NY. In 1944 Curran “sold” the
airplane to Les Mauldin, Brownsville, TX. There was
no bill of sale, and Curran’s agent took money from
Mauldin and disappeared!
Final sale was in 1944 to Jimmie
Angel and Jack Baker, Managua,
Nicaragua. It was registered AN-ABL under their ownership. It
suffered an accident at Boaco, Nicaragua on February 19,
1945. No details on the fate of pilot, passengers or
airplane. The airplane was "written off".
I never know from where or when interest might be expressed for one of our Davis-Monthan aircraft or pilots. On August 11, 2009 I heard from a scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture based in Vermont. She asked, "In reference to the article about flying the aerial coverage of RI in 1939 - do you know what focal length was used? Trying to georectify aerial photos shot from the VEGA." This question is answered in the 12/22/09 update below.
Our correspondent was gracious enough to share the following. Below, one of the spectacular images taken by photographer Dean from NC858E on May 16, 1939.
Aerial Photograph of Rhode Island Number 970, May 16, 1939
Notice the date of the photo in the upper left and the serial number at upper right. Where in the state of Rhode Island is this photograph located? Please direct your browser to this link at the University of Rhode Island and you will be able to locate image 970 near the center of the map of northern Rhode Island. If you look carefully, you'll notice that image 970 slightly overlaps image 984 to the west. Further, this link continues coverage of southern RI, and this link covers eastern RI.
Update of December 22, 2009. Douglas Dean (cited, right sidebar) provides this sharp photograph of NC858E. He says about the image, "The four men in the ... photo are (from left to right) Charles H. Dean (camera man), Sam Barnitt, Del Snyder and "Ned" Smith (all three pilots). I am quite sure that Ned Smith is the Edward F. Smith identified in the Providence Journal article." And, "Notice the name Standard Aerial Surveys, Inc. above the paint stripe and Hackensack, N.J. below the stripe. The arrangement seems a little different from the Tim Kalina photo [above]. Standard Aerial Surveys operated out of a factory building in Hackensack, New Jersey from about 1931 (or 32) to 1938, when it was moved to Newark, New Jersey. If the Kalina photo shows Newark, N.J. just above the paint stripe - as it appears to, then it dates to 1938 or later while the one I am enclosing would be shortly after Standard purchased the Vega in March of 1937."
NC858E Prior to 1939, Teterboro, NJ (?)
He states further that the photograph, "... was taken prior to the 1939 Rhode Island mapping. Note the aerial camera in the foreground and that it is not the same as the one shown in the newspaper photo! The one in the 1939 Providence Journal photo appears to be new, with a different housing and does not have the handle extensions." See the articles below, which place the airplane and its service in the context of a long-lived aerial survey business.
Below, an article (cited, left sidebar) that outlines the early history of Standard Aerial Surveys. This is a 4-page article. I exhibit only the first page here. The entire article, in a more readable size and form, is available as a PDF download (1.2MB).
Article From Photogrammetry Engineering and Remote Sensing, 1984 (Source: Dean)
Contributor Dean says about the article that it, "... concerns George J. DeGarmo, Jr., the founder of Standard Aerial Surveys. It contains some details of the acquisition and modifications done to the airplane shortly after purchase. For example, contributor Dean quotes from the article, "DeGarmo equipped the engine with a 10:1 blower, or supercharger and a stainless steel exhaust manifold. The Vega achieved an efficient operating ceiling of 26,000 ft, a record of sorts at the time (1939). Much contract work was accomplished at over 20,000 ft altitude. For improving flight line tracking, DeGarmo acquired a British-made Aldis Camera Aiming Sight. ...."
He states further about the Aldis equipment, "That is important as it is a clue to the camera equipment used in the 1939 Rhode Island activity. In 1946, Standard Aerial Surveys was purchased by C. S. Robinson Aerial Surveys, of Ithaca, N.Y. This is documented in the second PE&RS journal article. Here it is stated that in 1937, Robinson also purchased an Aldis sight in England, and in 1938 purchased four Fairchild Camera Corp. K-3B cameras with 8.25-inch focal length. That was state-of-the-art for the time and DeGarmo was keeping step with the technology as well. I believe the new camera shown in the Providence Journal article is also a Fairchild K-3B with 8.25-inch focal length."
Below, a contiguous article that further positions our airplane and people in the context of the Golden Age aerial survey business.
Article From Photogrammetry Engineering and Remote Sensing, 1984 (Source: Dean)
The final paragraph of this article hints at the massive impact and reach implicit in all the people and aircraft of the Davis-Monthan Register. The present adaptation of this aerial survey operation, Robinson Aerial Surveys, which had its origins in the late 1920's, is still a going concern.
Thanks to all our correspondents for helping us understand the duty and product of this workhorse airplane from the Golden Age. This page is a great example of what contributions from diverse people can do to help define the significance and compose a coherent exposition of the meaning of a single line handwritten in an old Airport Register.
Dossier 3.1.24 (DVD)
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 04/19/06 REVISED: 06/19/07, 10/26/08, 09/18/09, 12/22/09, 01/30/14, 09/07/16