Vance Breese was born in Keystone, WA, April 20, 1904. He
states his education as, "Various engineering extension courses."
With those, he spent his life in aviation.
He landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield five times between
July 10, 1928 and April 21, 1932, once as a passenger. His first landing as a pilot was July 10, 1928, he was
part of the 1928 National Air Tour, which passed through
Tucson that year. He was flying a Ryan B-1 Brougham, NC5553.
Breese was accompanied during this leg of the Tour by passengers
Larry Gunther and J.T. Hurst. They completed the Tour, and
at the finish line they placed 9th.
His second visit was in NC288W,
a Lockheed Vega DL-1B on February 27, 1931. Based in Detroit,
he arrived from El Paso, TX westbound to Los
Angeles, CA. He carried three passengers. One passenger,
Peter Beasley, was president of Detroit Aircraft Co. Another W.A. Mankey, had been a colleague at Ryan Aircraft, and became chief engineer at Breese's Michigan Aircraft.
This flight correlates nicely with his resume, since between
1927-34 he was president of Breese Aircraft Company (which
went through several iterations of geographic location, name
and organizational structure during those years) and the
Detroit Aircraft Company.
Two of his airplanes were famous. The Breese
named "Aloha" (NX914, didn't land at Tucson) took
2nd place in the 1927 Dole Race from California to Hawaii.
It was painted yellow and red. The "Pabco Pacific Flyer" (NX646;
didn't land at Tucson) was also a participant in the Dole
Race, but crashed upon takeoff. This PDF
download (491KB) provides
information on these two airplanes, as well as a peek into
the Breese biographical file at the NASM. Please direct your browser
to this link to learn more about the Dole Race.
Less than a year after the Dole, on April 16, 1928, Breese was involved in a nightmare of an accident. Below, shared with us by site contributor Andy Heins, is a photograph of Breese shaking hands with a person off the bottom of the photo. This photograph captures the aftermath of the in-flight departure of the entire engine from his airplane, the Breese 5 NC3817 (not a Register airplane), while flying over San Francisco, CA. Aerofiles.com cites the incident had a successful outcome by Breese, "... having his passengers move forward in the cabin to shift the c/g [center of gravity], Breese was able to maintain control and land safely on an open hillside." Note the bent engine mount tubes and torn cowling. We can wonder where the engine fell.
Vance Breese, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Heins)
His final two visits to Tucson as a pilot were in an unidentified Lockheed,
and a Lockheed that he identified as NC237. There is no record
that I've found that identifies a Lockheed with that number.
At both times, however, he was based in Detroit, MI, and
was eastbound from Los Angeles, CA to El Paso, TX.
His visit as a passenger was with pilot James V. Piersol on Friday, January 8, 1932 . They were flying in the Lockheed Vega NC32M. Please direct your browser to those links for details related to that landing at Tucson.
Popular Aviation, January, 1940 (Source: PA)
During 1933-34 he moved to California and worked for Northrop
Corporation as test pilot. He demonstrated the Northrop Navy
fighter, and performed test flights for Fokker. In 1937 he
worked for Bennett Aircraft Corp. as VP and test pilot. Aerofiles.com has
references to the aircraft that Breese test flew during the
He was the test pilot for Vultee, and helped develop an innovative method for recording test data. The article, right, from Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, January, 1940 documents the methodology.
Breese was also the test pilot at North American Aviation when the
P-51 Mustang was developed. He was its first test pilot on
October 26, 1940. Earlier in 1940 Breese interacted with
another Davis-Monthan airplane. See Lockheed NC117W for
that story. Vance Breese died June 26, 1973.
UPLOADED: 03/10/06 REVISED: 06/22/06, 07/12/06, 02/26/09, 03/07/09, 09/12/11, 05/23/12, 07/08/14