NOTE: Besides this biographical page, an extensive collection
of images and memorabilia owned by "Hap" Russell is available
for your view on this Web site at this link:
Harold B. "Hap" Russell Photograph and Document
The information that follows was acquired during my meeting
with Russell's son, Ed, during October 2006. Please follow
the link above for credits. Born March 9, 1904, Hap Russell passed away at age 59 on November 15, 1963.
Hap Russell is a very special pilot to us, because he holds
the record for most landings at the Davis-Monthan Airfield
during the period that the Register was in existence there.
According to the database, he landed 83 times between July 12, 1928
and June 20, 1930. He landed year-round, in good weather and
bad, with his landings pretty evenly distributed among the
months of the year.
He landed with at least 7 different aircraft (he did not
identify by number a couple of the Fokkers he flew to the
Airfield). Most of his landings were as Chief Pilot for Standard
Air Lines. Most of his landings were made in four
Fokker liners (NC3317,
NC7888) used by Standard for service between Los Angeles,
Phoenix, Tucson, Douglas and El Paso. He also flew a Fokker F-10A, NC456E.
The photo, right, is a vignette from an advertisement for
the flying school operated by Aero Corporation of California
(see image below) founded by Jack
Richter and Walter Hamilton.
Harold B. Russell, Date Unknown (Source: Specht)
Russell was Chief Pilot for Standard Air Lines. When Standard was merged with Western Air Express (WAE), he worked for that company (his landing with NC456E was during that time). He then went to work for American Airways and then, after another exhilarating corporate merging and readjustment, American Airlines (see below). He remained with American for 35 years as employee number 11. His career map would be Standard Air Lines, WAE, American Airways and American Airlines.
At left is a portrait of Russell from the 1930 Quiet Birdmen's book. This photo comes to us from site visitor Bob Specht, who has written a book about Roy Alton "Pat" Patterson who was a fellow pilot of Russell's at American (left sidebar). Russell is featured in the book. Note that this photo is autographed to Patterson.
In case you are wondering, the "next one" was a girl, and she eventually became visitor Specht's wife.
The excellent photograph below from 1929 shows most of the
key players of the short-lived Standard
Air Lines, including our pilot Hap Russell (third from
Left to right, President of Standard Air Lines Jack
Frye, Pilot William Kingsley, Chief Pilot Hap Russell,
Vice President Operations Walter Hamilton (signed the Register
twice as a passenger), Pilot Johnnie Martin, Pilot Donald
Cornell (did not sign the Register), Pilot Harold
Kelsey and Vice President & General Manager Paul
Richter, Jr. Officers Frye and Richter were also pilots
of the line. Missing from this lineup is another Standard pilot, Lee Willey.
The airplane is a Fokker trimotor, probably the
one the company called "The Arizonan". Note the
automobile at rear (anybody know the make/model?) with fire
extinguisher and observer. Photo loaned to us by Ruth Richter
Holden, daughter of Paul. See her Web site about her father
03/11/10 The photograph below is shared with us by friend of dmairfield.org, John Underwood. It shows Captain Russell at top, left rear, as pilot of an American Airlines DC-3. His copilot with the white scarf is Register pilot Paul Carpenter. The date, location and circumstance of this formal photograph are unknown. Does anyone KNOW?
Hap Russell, Top, Left, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Underwood)
02/03/11 Below, a postal cachet shared with us on February 3, 2011 by Jeff Staines. Dated June 4, 1931, it was carried and signed by Russell when he was working for American Airways.
Airmail Route A.M. 33 Cachet, June 4,1931 (Source: Staines)
And from 3/28/11, this earlier cachet from Mr. Staines. It was carried by Hap Russell on October 15, 1930 for the First Flight from Tucson to Phoenix over Airmail Route 33. This envelope was cancelled at 3PM at Tucson. You might ask, how do we know, in the absence of a signature, that it was carried by Russell?
U.S. Postal Cachet, October 15, 1930 (Source: Staines)
The answer lies at a Web site specializing in first flights. If you scroll down the first listing about half way, you'll see Russell's flight from Tucson to Phoenix was in an westerly direction, hence the I.D. of Contract Air Mail Route # 33, traveling west to the 9th stop of the route, or ninth leg,( 33W9).
Below, the reverse of the cachet.
U.S. Postal Cachet (Reverse), October 15, 1930 (Source: Staines)
Interestingly, this envelope was addressed to Egon Bernet who was an ardent collector of first flight cachets. He developed a business around his collections, which exists today at the Newark Stamp & Coin Exchange, Irvington, NJ. To a collector, this cachet is worth about $6.00.
An unusual artifact from Russell's American Airlines career, shared with us by a site visitor, is below. It is an advertisement featuring Russell and an American Airlines DC-3.
Hap Russell in Hamilton Wrist Watch Advertisement, Ca. 1935-36 (Source: Site Visitor)
Our visitor states, "I found a wonderful piece used in jewelry stores circa 1935 from the Hamilton watch company that featured 'Hap' Russell. ... I collect animated window displays from a company in South Pasadena, CA called Baranger Studios. They used this hand painted pic in displays for Hamilton Watches. I searched his name and found your site. ... The picture is 11.5 by 9.5."
Russell had a passion outside of flying airliners and that was building model aircraft (and fishing). Below, from Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, November, 1939, is a photograph of Russell at his workbench with a model on floats.
Hap Russell, Popular Aviation, November, 1939 (Source: PA)
Hap Russell, Popular Aviation, December, 1938 (Source: PA)
He was captured in the photograph at right in Popular Aviation, December, 1938, posing with two balsa stick and paper gas model airplanes he built. Both models have a curious resemblance to the Fokker Universal types he flew for Standard Airlines. Contemporary issues of Popular Aviation were full of model plans, building tips and vendor sources.
Russell continued with American for his entire career. What was it like to fly American Airlines in 1933? Follow the link to a motion picture that gives an example from Chicago to New York. This is a YouTube video, so I'm not certain of its long-term availability. Please let me KNOW if the link doesn't work. For sensitive visitors, please note this film contains sexist and racist remarks characteristic of the United States during that era.
An article from the El Paso Herald Post of June 27, 1935 features a full-page spread of American Airlines pilots (PDF, 4.3Mb). Russell is at the far right. Other American pilots featured in the article who were Register signers are J.D. "Ted" Lewis, John Martin, David Doty, Leland S. Andrews and Ira M. McConaughey.
Hap Russell Obituary, November 15, 1963, Paper Unknown (Source: Specht)
At left, Russell's obituary from an unidentified newspaper. The track of his flying career is nicely followed and illustrated by the articles and photographs found at his Photograph and Document Collection.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 6/29/05 REVISED: 01/03/06,12/21/07, 03/11/10, 02/03/11, 04/05/11, 04/24/12, 07/02/14, 07/08/14, 05/28/15