Lester J. Maitland was born before airplanes on February
8, 1899. He accumulated a long history of aviation accomplishments
before he visited Tucson. He landed five times at the Davis-Monthan
Airfield between 1927 and 1933, each time flying military
He entered the Air
Service in the latter part of 1917, completing his flying
training in Austin, TX and commissioned a second lieutenant
in May 1918. He attended gunnery school and served six months
in test work at Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, OH. In 1923 he set a world speed record by flying an Army Curtiss
racer 244.97 MPH. At that time he was the world's fastest
In June, 1927 he teamed up with Albert
F. Hegenberger to be the first pilots successfully to cross the Pacific
Ocean by air from San Francisco, CA to Wheeler Field, Oahu,
Maitland signed the Register at Tucson five times between May 23, 1927 and April 29, 1933. But, his landing on June 20th was historic. As prelude to the Pacific flight, Maitland and Hegenberger left Wright Field
in Dayton on June 15, 1927 and arrived at Tucson June 20,
1927. Albert Hegenberger was one of his four passengers. He flew an unidentified Fokker C-2 transport aircraft. Most probably it was 26-202, the one he and Hegenberger flew across the Pacific. Image, right, is from the New York Times of July 8, 1927,
which reported the details of the flight.
The photograph below, courtesy of Tim Kalina, shows Hegenberger on the left and Maitland posed in front of their Fokker on June 18, 1927, two days before they reached Tucson.
Albert Hegenberger & Lester Maitland, June 18, 1927, Location Unknown (Source: Kalina via Web)
The caption below dates the photo, but provides no suggestion of location.
Albert Hegenberger & Lester Maitland, June 18, 1927, Location Unknown, Caption (Source: Kalina via Web)
They carried as passengers civilians Fred Herman (to
check fuel consumption en route), Bradley Jones (to compute
astronomical charts and tend navigation equipment) and James
Rivers (for aircraft and engine maintenance). Please follow the link to view a brief motion picture clip of Maitland,
Hegenberger and their Fokker on the ground at Tucson.
All their passengers are dutifully signed in the Register.
They departed westbound from Tucson the same day and began their trans-Pacific
flight from San Francisco on June 28 at 7:00 AM.
They covered the 2,400 miles in 25 hours 49 minutes and
30 seconds. Coming on the heels of Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic
flight a month earlier, their victory over the Pacific Ocean
made great news.
Popular Aviation, March, 1931 (Source:
flight was interpreted as hailing great possibilities for
civil commercial flights across the Atlantic, the Maitland-Hegenberger
flight was called by the Army a great military opportunity
to bomb foes 1,000 miles off shore and return. Click this link for
another image of Maitland on this site. Maitland was a large man compared to his fellow airmen. The unusual article, left, from the March, 1931 issue of Popular Aviation magazine (PA), suggests he weighed over 180 pounds.
An interesting finding is that Maitland was involved with an early aviation-themed comic strip. He was the writer for Tim Tyler's Luck by Lyman Young (debuted August 1928). The link states that, "Maitland was a distinguished aviator having been the first (with crew) to fly to Hawaii in 1927 in a Fokker and served in many capacities with the Army Air Corps setting other important records. Maitland's name fell off the strip in 1933. Lester Maitland died at the age of 91 in 1990."
And speaking of Lindbergh, below is a postal cachet signed by Maitland commemorating Lindbergh's visit to Pittsburgh, PA after his trans-Atlantic flight. Thanks to site visitor Jeff Staines for sharing this cachet from his collection. Another is at Register pilot Wilmer Stultz's page.
Postal Cachet, August 3, 1929 (Source: Staines)
Maitland was an aide to Billy Mitchell and to the first Assistant
Secretary of War F. Trubee Davison. At the outbreak of WWII
he was commanding officer of Clark Field in the Philippines
when it fell to Japan.
He rose to Brigadier General becoming the commanding officer
of the 386th Bomber Group in the European Theater of Operations.
After the war he became a state director of aeronautics in
Wisconsin in 1949 and in Michigan from 1950-1956. He changed
careers and became an Episcopal priest in Michigan in 1957.
He died in a convalescent home in Arizona on March 27, 1990
at age 91.
Below has to be one of the most celebrity-rich images of
the Golden Age of Flight. Assembled outside the White House
sometime in 1928 we find L toR, Lester Maitland, Clarence
Chamberlin, (unknown in doorway), Art
Goebel, Charles Lindbergh,
Ruth Elder, George Haldeman, Bert Acosta, George Noville (behind in glasses), A.F.
Hegenberger, Richard Byrd, Paul
Shulter, Charles Levine, Bernt Balchen, William
Brock and Edward Schlee. Ten of the 16 signed the Davis-Monthan
Aviation Celebrities, ca. 1928
The occasion of the photograph was the presentation of the
Hubbard Medal to Lindbergh by President Coolidge.
UPLOADED: 01/13/07 REVISED: 04/02/07, 02/01/11, 02/13/12, 06/23/14, 11/28/16