Lt. Lee Gehlbach
Pilot Lee Gehlbach signed the Davis-Monthan Register on
August 24, 1931. He was solo flying Waco INF NC11452 (S/N
3450 manufactured in 1930). Based in Detroit, MI, he did
not indicate his itinerary. His airplane was registered to
the Michigan Aeronautical Corp., Ypsilanti, MI, so he may
have been on company business.
Gehlbach was born October 6, 1902 near Lincoln, IL. He graduated
as an engineer (aeronautical) from the University of Illinois
(Go Illini!) in 1924. He enlisted as a flying cadet in the
U.S. Army on September 14, 1924 and graduated from the primary
flying and advanced pursuit schools. He was commissioned
September 8, 1926 and spent three years with the First Pursuit
Group, Selfridge Field until September 30, 1929.
He left the Army and entered test work, including engineering,
with various companies (Michigan Aeronautical among them).
From 1933-35 he was chief test pilot for Great Lakes Aircraft
Corp. His racing experience included the All American Air
Derby of 1930 (winner, see left sidebar), the 1931 National
Air Tour, the Wedell-Williams Team, 1933 (several 1st, 2nd and 3rd places flying the W-W racer NR536V), and Granville Team during the National Air Races (NAR),
Below, a signed U.S. postal cachet from July 4,1933 that commemorates the NAR that year. This cachet comes to us courtesy of site visitor Joe Kranz. Mr. Kranz has shared numerous cachets with us that are distributed across the site. See, for example, Ruth Nichols, Eddie Bellande and Amelia Earhart.
U.S. Postal Cachet, July 4, 1933 (Source: Kranz)
Below, shared with us by site visitor Jeff Staines, is a U.S. postal cachet commemorating the 1934 NAR. It was signed by Gehlbach on the first day of the NAR. Mr. Staines says about his cachet, "This cover is signed by Lee Gehlbach when he was flying at the 1934 National Air Race.... Lee Gehlbach (# 77) finished third place in the Bendix Trophy Race after experiencing engine cowl trouble flying the Granville Brother's R6H Q.E.D."
U.S. Postal Cachet, August 31, 1934 (Source: Staines)
Lee Gehlbach's GeeBee #77, "Q.E.D." (Source: Staines)
The Granville Brothers "Q.E.D." flown by Gehlbach is at left.
On May 20, 1935 he made headlines in the NY Herald Tribune for a flight he made for Grumman in one of their new
pursuit aircraft (see video cited in left sidebar). During a dive test the airplane went into
an uncontrollable spin. Gehlbach rode it down to 2,000 feet
before going to his parachute and watching the airplane crash
into trees. The Tribune states, "His only response to
congratulations on his narrow excape, it was said, was a
shrug." Such is the stuff our Davis-Monthan Register pilots are
Paths cross between and among Davis-Monthan pilots. An example
is this publicity shot of Gehlbach with Joe
Lewis (date unknown,
but probably after 1936).
Gehlbach in Publicity Shot with Joe Lewis, Left
UPLOADED: 02/27/07 REVISED: 03/24/07, 11/24/08, 02/23/11, 07/01/11