Al Henley, Date & Location Unknown, But Probably August 1927 at Oakland, CA (Source: Kalina)
Al Henley was born the eldest of 11 kids on September 13, 1895, in Batesville, Arkansas, in Independence County. His father, Ulysses S. Grant Henley, was also born in Batesville, and married a young girl from nearby Swifton, Delia Jane King, when she was 16 years of age and he 25. Henley's father died in 1938, in Oklahoma City, and his mother lived until 1955, when she passed away in Borger, TX. Al Henley married in Arkansas at the age of 18, and had four children, the oldest being Willoughby, Jr.
Henley landed six times at Tucson during 1927-28. Among the aircraft he flew were NX3598, NC3810,
and NC7672, all Ryan aircraft. Scroll down in this link to see three additional images of NX3598 and one of Henley.
On Tuesday, July 10, 1928 he landed at Tucson as a competitor during the flurry of activity that was the National Air Tour that year, June 30th to July 28th. Notice the link from that page to a motion picture sequence of the 1928 Tour aircraft on the ground at Tucson. Although there were only three Ryans in the entourage, Henley's Ryan is not identifiable.
Henley was flying Ryan NC5547 (Tour Number 10), carrying George B. Fredell and V.N. Johns as passengers. Forden's book in the REFERENCES section is probably the best summary of the Tours by year. Chapter IV, entitled "Way Out West", is relevant to the 1928 event. According to , Forden's book, Henley and his passengers placed 7th and collected $750 in prize money. Henly's 5547 is pictured on the ground at Dearborn, MI at the Air Tours link.
Henley was a well-known WWI military pilot, barnstormer and air race contestant of the era. The photograph, right, shows him standing next to the Travel Air "Oklahoma" (NX911, S/N 160, which landed at Tucson 4/5/1927 flown by Clarence Clark), which he and co-pilot Bennett Griffin entered in the trans-Pacific Dole Race in August, 1927. Henley is about 32 years old in this photo. The Dole Race followed a track from Oakland, CA to Honolulu, HI.
Henley competed in the Dole against fellow Register pilot Art Goebel, who was the ultimate winner of the event in a similar Travel Air. See Goebel's page for details of that race. Interestingly, both Henley's and Goebel's Travel Airs were test flown at the factory by Register pilot Clarence Clark.
Henley, Griffin and the "Oklahoma" were not to finish the Dole competition. Although they were the first to takeoff near noon on August 16, 1927, they returned within minutes trailing smoke from a seriously malfunctioning engine. They landed without incident back at Oakland, CA. They attributed their misfortune to "bad gasoline", although the manufacturer, Phillips Petroleum, protested vigorously.
According to Forden, Henley was killed January 24, 1929, along with two passengers, when his Ryan crashed during a landing approach to San Angelo, TX. He was about 34 years old.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 10/30/08 REVISED: 11/27/09