Robert W. Cantwell was a frequent visitor to the Davis-Monthan
Airfield. He landed eleven times between June 17, 1928 and
August 22, 1932. As well, he is cited in the Blue Book of
Aviation for 1932.
On all but two of his flights he carried passengers, some
famous; some not. Three of his landings were in conjuction
with, respectively, the 1928 National Air Tour (Ford Reliability
Tour), and the 1928 and 1932 National Air Races. See also a photograph of his landing at Indianapolis, IN during the 1928 Air Tour at the link.
His aircraft of choice was the Lockheed Vega (8 of 11 landings).
he flew to Tucson while it was a Lockheed Company demonstrator,
before it was purchased by Amelia Earhart and flown to numerous
Cantwell was born in Magnolia, AR on March 5, 1900. He was
fast-tracked in his education. He was educated at grammar
and high schools in Ft. Worth, TX until age 16, then went
to Oklahoma A&M College, 1916-1918 graduating in 16 months,
then to Baylor University for law, graduating in 1922. On
August 28, 1923, he married Mary Ardena Robnett of Oklahoma
During WWI he was trained in small arms in 1918, and was
discharged in 1919 without seeing European service. In 1925
he was commissioned 2nd lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve
and promoted to 1st lieutenant in 1930.
Bob Cantwell With Unknown Woman, Date Unknown, From Charlie Short's Office Wall, Tulsa, OK
From 1922 to 1927
he engaged in general flying in Oklahoma and Texas. In 1927
he became manager of the aviation department of the Erle
P. Halliburton Co., Duncan, OK. From 1928 to 1930 he was
operations manager for Halliburton's newly formed SAFEway
OK. SAFEway linked St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City
and Fort Worth. In 1931 he became general manager of Century-Pacific
Lines, Ltd., with headquarters in Glendale, CA, as well
as managing SAFEway until it was acquired by American Air
Lines in 1936.
In 1936, he resigned SAFEway and accepted a flight captaincy
with Pan-American Airways. He made 258 round trips between
Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires along the high-altitude
route over the Andes. He returned to the U.S. in 1939 and
joined Consolidated Aircraft as flight captain. He made nonstop
flights from southern California to New York and Ottawa,
Canada. He also made several transoceanic flights for the
delivery of Consolidated airplanes.
During WWII, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram of April 19, 1942
announced Cantwell's appointment as contract administrator
at Consolidated Aircraft Corporation's new assembly plant.
His job was to keep the U.S. government "happy" with Consair's
It is during the late 1920s and early 1930s that we find
Bob Cantwell at Tucson. His first and second landings were
made with Lockheed Vega NC4097,
owned by Erle Halliburton. The second visit, on July 10, 1928,
was as a participant in the 1928 Ford Reliability Tour (see
brief biographical quote, below, from this link).
Follow this link for a short moving picture of NC4097 taxiing
to the flight line during the morning of July 10th.
|"Robert W. Cantwell served with the
Infantry in the Great War, learned to fly in the Air
Service Reserve, and was personal pilot for Oklahoma
oilman Erle P. Halliburton. It was Halliburton’s
first Vega that Cantwell and Lee Schoenhair [sic, the
correct spelling is "Shoenhair"] flew in the
1928 tour. Later model Vegas served Halliburton’s
air line, “Southwest Air Fast Express.” SAFEway
was an aggressive organization, with Fords and Lockheeds
fanning out in all directions from the airport at Tulsa;
in 1929, called the world’s busiest air terminal.
But Halliburton was unable to get a mail contract and
sold out to American Airways. SAFEway vice president
[Larry Fritz] tried
to hold the gang together for another airline venture
on a Canada, USA, Mexico route but the depression ended
those dreams. Bob Cantwell worked for Century Pacific,
then later he was back with his old boss, selling Halliburton
Luggage, a trade name publicized by Erle’s globe-trotting
writer cousin, Richard Halliburton. Cantwell worked for
Douglas [Consolidated?] during the Second World War,
died in Houston in 1967."
He made three landings with NX7429. This Vega is S/N 18,
built on August 27, 1928. Painted yellow, it was raced by Cantwell
in the 1928 National Air Races, plane #22, and won class
He made one landing each with Lockheed Vegas NC624E and
NC658E. Both of these airplanes were bought by Erle Halliburton
for SAFEway Airlines. His visits to Tucson on July 29, 1929 and
April 10, 1930 with these airplanes were solo.
Cantwell landed three times flying Stinson aircraft. The
last visit, on August 22, 1932, he was flying Stinson trimotor
NC432M. An image of this beautiful airliner is available here.
The context of the visit was related to the 1932 National
Air Races from Burbank,
CA to Cleveland that year.
belonged to Century-Pacific while he worked for that company.
He remarks that he is, "Riding
herd on Cord Cup Race" "Natl Air Races". Interestingly,
his passenger list includes "4 modocs". In
the slang of the day, "modoc" was a
pilot who talks about flying, but rarely flies (know any
The Cord Corporation were manufacturers of the Cord, Auburn
and Duesenberg automobiles. The
Cord Cup winners of the Atlantic and Pacific "wings" were
fortunate indeed. Roy Hunt (Atlantic wing winner) walked
off with an Auburn 12 Custom Speedster as well as a cup.
And S.C. Huffman (Pacific wing winner) walked off with an
Auburn Straight 8 Custom Speedster.
I saw one reference that Cantwell was "Business Management
Representative, Manned Spaceflight Center, 1962", but could
find no other information on that. Anybody know?
As, mentioned above, he passed away in Houston in 1967.
I have no evidence that he ever put
his law degree to use, and every bit of evidence that he
followed his passion for aviation.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 03/17/06 REVISED: 09/29/07, 06/26/09, 12/01/10