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Society for Aviation History

PO. Box 7081 San Carlos, CA 94070

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2010 SAH General Meetings, Tours,
and Educational Programs

December 4, 2010

A Drive in the Clouds – The Story of the Aerocar

Photographs by Rick Pisio

The Society for Aviation History held its annual holiday meeting at the Crowne Plaza in Foster City on December 4, 2010. Members brought significant donations for both our annual Food Drive for the Second Harvest Food Bank and the Crowne Plaza’s Teen Toy Drive, for which we enjoyed a champagne toast.

President Nick Veronico called the meeting to order, and Election Committee Chair Bruce Bengtson announced the election of the 2011 SAH Board of Directors: Roger Cain, Alice Hendricks, Norm Jukes, Vallarie Kilkenny-Jukes, Dan Morgan, Amjad Noorani, Rick Turner, Betty Veronico and Nick Veronico. During lunch, the new Board stepped out to elect the 2011 officers from within their ranks, and they are President Alice Hendricks, Vice President Norm Jukes, Secretary Vallarie Kilkenny-Jukes, and Treasurer Dan Morgan.

In addition to door prizes, there was a separate raffle for an airplane bird feeder, hand-built and donated by Bob Schinsing (SAH 177), a member who lives in New York. Norm Jukes (see below) was the lucky winner of this prize.

Bill Stubkjaer’s trivia contest on the topic of roadable airplanes and flying cars was so challenging that the first place winner, our speaker Jake Schultz, had one wrong answer!

“A Drive in the Clouds, The Story of the Aerocar” is the title of Jake Schultz’ book written about Aerocar pioneer Molt Taylor. Schultz knew Taylor during the last years of his life, as well as Taylor’s wife, Lillian, known as “Neil” from her middle name, Verneil. Schultz was enthralled with Taylor’s vision and passion, and wanted to document his remarkable story in a book, which he has done with the Taylor’s full cooperation.

If only a car could fly…! Since the advent of the airplane and the beginnings of the automobile, designers have been working to make that dream a reality. Molt Taylor came closer than anyone to date and author Jake Schultz told his story.

From flying cars to the world’s most advanced airliner, Jake Schultz has been involved with a diverse series of aviation interests. Beginning in 1993, Schultz worked closely with the Aerocar's designer Molt Taylor and his wife Neil to tell their story. This cooperation and research culminated in the publishing of the book "A Drive in the Clouds." This story traces the project of a flying automobile from its initial concept through full government certification – all the time sharing with readers a life being explored to the fullest. An incredibly popular and very personal story, the Aerocar has been featured in over 500 newspaper and magazine articles, yet this is the only full account of this story ever written.

Schultz is a recognized authority on the history of the Aerocar. He has been featured on Smithsonian Television, National Public Radio, KING 5 TV, Sirius satellite radio, 710 KIRO, and The Discovery Channel. He is a private pilot, an officer in a local chapter of EAA, and is building a 1931 open-cockpit Pietenpol Air Camper.

October 2, 2010

Andy Melomet Discussed "Murder in the Clouds"

President Nick Veronico opened our first General Meeting since our normal summer hiatus. Nick reminded the group that 2011 elections for the Board of Directors is coming up very soon and members who wish to run for a Board position should get their resume into the Society's Newsletter Design/Editor, Rick Pisio or SAH mail PO Box immediately as ballots will be mailed out on October 15, 2010. Nick also announced our Christmas meeting at the Crowne Plaza on December 4, 2010 and the topic will be the Aerocar by its creator Dick Schultz. Tom Johnson made a brief talk on his recent trip through the Northwest visiting new airways, lighted beacon sites that he has been investigating for a number of years.

Our usual trivia contest provided this time by Andy Melomet (SAH 57) on his movie presentation topic was sure challenging. We obviously had not done our homework based on the very low number of right answers by the group. We are all now much smarter, thanks to Andy. Many will remember that Andy had also made a similar movie presentation on the famed movie, Memphis Belle, B-17 WWII bomber in the June 2009 newsletter. After the trivia contest was over, a number of very nice drawing prizes donated by members were then awarded to lucky drawing winners.

This meeting was also at a new location for us. It was at Michaels at Shoreline Restaurant in Mountain View. Everyone really seemed to enjoy this venue. They served a very good lunch and the room was just the right size for us.

Andy then was on for his feature Murder in the Clouds (1934) presentation. He first started with some narrative background on making early Hollywood movies that high-lighted how difficult and risky this was to the stunt pilots. Due to the severe risks involved with stunt flying, the stunt pilots formed an association called the "Black Cats" and they established pay rates scaling upwards for more difficult stunts such as bailing out of an exploding airplane! He also covered a couple of early airfields in Southern California where early movies were filmed.

Members in attendance were then treated to a couple of great warm-up clips before the feature presentation. This included clips of the Wright Brother's first flight on December 7, 1903 at Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina and followed by the very early Los Angeles Air Meet in 1911 and a number of 1934 Hearst Metrotone News clips which I am sure many of us remember always proceeded the main movie presentation in movie theaters in the 'olden days.' Andy then followed this by an absolutely hilarious and very clever, amusing and creative Mickey Mouse cartoon, The Mail Pilot (1933). Mickey performed some terrific and heroic animation flying in getting the mail through by battling with 'bad guys'. Mickey was rewarded by getting a kiss from Minnie Mouse for his extraordinary exploits and flying skills.

Andy then played the full length version of Murder in the Clouds. Basically, the story line was the star pilot's, who was nick-name Three Star, had three stars tattooed on his chest and also three stars painted on the side of the fuselage on his Travel Air biplane. A secret airliner flight using a Ford Tri-Motor was to transport a 'new secret bomb mixture' on a flight from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. that was set to blow up in-flight. Three Star was originally scheduled to fly the flight but he went to a bar, only to drink sodas, but was lured into a fight with three of the 'bad guys' and he was knocked out. This situation prevented him from flying the plane to Washington D.C. Another pilot, acting as Three Star's replacement, then took off and headed for Washington D.C. Shortly afterwards, it was discovered that Three Star had been knocked out and he was not the pilot of the plane. In the meantime the plane exploded in flight with the "villain" pilot parachuting out of the plane. This plot was discovered and Government agents began a high speed ground pursuit ending up at a mountain cabin where the 'bad guys' were hiding out. The 'bad guys' escaped in an airplane with Three Star's girlfriend as a hostage.

Three Star then hitched a plane ride with a pilot that had not flown for several years and was very rusty. Three Star intercepted the flight and forced it to land after much great stunt flying action. The theme was further spiced up with car race scenes to rescue the 'heroin'. Three Star and his girlfriend were then safely reunited and they live happily thereafter in typical Hollywood fashion. A very enlightening Q&A session with Andy then followed.

Nick then closed the meeting by reminding everyone again that the next General Meeting will be on December 4, 2010 in Foster City.


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Society for Aviation History Mothball Fleet Tour

was Saturday, July 24, 2010

(group photo credit: Paul Schwafel)

We viewed up-close the USS Iowa, and the tugboat Hoga that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor and more!

This tour was launched from the Martinez Marina with excellent weather.

The tour included beverages, appetizers, and our captain discussed the ships seen on the tour.

Our June 5, 2010 Meeting

Ryan Airlines & The Spirit of St. Louis; The Real Story

Report by Rick Turner (SAH 008), Meeting Photograph by Rick Pisio (SAH 146)

T he Society for Aviation History held its June General Meeting on Saturday June 5th at Francesco’s Restaurant in Oakland. Our guest speaker for this meeting was Chris Mahoney, PhD, the grandson of Benjamin F. “Frank” Mahoney the co-founder of Ryan Airlines and the company’s sole owner when it built the Spirit of St. Louis .

President Nick Veronico called the meeting to order and introduced the members of the Board, who were present, to the members and guests. Robert Miller, a new SAH member, was introduced and welcomed to the group. President Veronico then announced that PayPal is now available for paying dues, paying for meetings and for making donations to the Society. The PayPal link is located on the membership application page of the SAH website.

Our President had further announcements before the meeting broke for lunch. The Society phone number will be disconnected as of July 1st. If members need to contact members the Board, their numbers are listed in the newsletter. It was announced that there would be a "Mothball Fleet" tour on July 24th. The cost is $38 each and there are 38 seats available. Checks may be sent to the SAH for the tour. It also was mentioned that the SAH now has a Facebook page up and running. Additionally, the Society is in need of a video camera to record our meetings.

After lunch Bill Stubkjaer presented his usual challenging trivia contest. This one was titled "T. Claude's Other Company" which was about aircraft produced by the Ryan Aeronautical Co. The high score went to Robert Nishamura (SAH 124) and Rick Pisio (SAH 146) who both got 13 of 14 correct! Next we had the drawing for door prizes put together by Lee Scales and Ron Strong.

Before President Nick Veronico introduced our guest speaker he asked for a moment of silence in memory of long-time member Earl Holmquist (SAH 20) who passed away on May 2nd. Earl grew up in Oakland and was a neighbor of Bill Larkins who "corrupted" him into being an avid aviation photographer. He served in the USAF, was a member of the Air Force Reserve, and worked at United Airlines. Our next general meeting will be in October at a location to be announced. Andy Melomet will do a presentation on an aviation film from the 1930's.

The guest speaker was Chris Mahoney, PhD, the grandson of B. F. "Frank" Mahoney. For many years people have been told and it has been written, that T. Claude Ryan was involved in the building the Spirit of St. Louis. This is mainly because he started the company that built it, and that the company still carried his name. But also it is because Ryan never tried to correct this misperception and in fact worked very hard to perpetuate it.

On April 18, 1925, Benjamin Franklin Mahoney purchased a half interest in the Ryan Flying Company from its founder T. Claude Ryan for $7,500. In 1925 Ryan was giving flying lessons and taking passengers for site seeing rides in the San Diego area. In addition, the Ryan Flying Co. was converting war surplus Standard J-1 trainers into four passenger site-seeing and charter aircraft. Ryan brought in Hawley Bowlus, who he had known from the Army, from the San Fernando Valley to do these conversions.

B. F. Mahoney was already a successful businessman when still in his early twenties. Most of his fortune had been made as a bond salesman and he knew how to raise capital. Mahoney had taken flying lessons from Claude Ryan and he saw that there were more possibilities in aviation if you could just raise the capital.

After Frank Mahoney bought his half ownership of the Ryan Flying Company, he talked Ryan into starting an airline making scheduled trips between San Diego and Los Angeles. Together Ryan and Mahoney founded the Los Angeles San Diego Air Line that came into being on March 1, 1925. This was the first "year-round" scheduled passenger airline in the world. The airline lasted eighteen months and had a "perfect" safety record.

Claude Ryan and Frank Mahoney were very different. Ryan was a very conservative "penny pinching", micro-managing businessman, whereas Frank Mahoney was quite literally a gambler. By September of 1926 they were not losing money but they were not making it either. They shut the airline down that September because passenger traffic had begun to decline and concentrated on building and selling airplanes. On November 29, 1926 B. F. Mahoney bought Ryan's share of the business for $25,000 and a completed M-2.

Mahoney kept Ryan on as general manager and was planning on keeping him in that position until the end of January 1927. Apparently they were like "oil and water" when it came to running a business and by the end of December, Frank Mahoney had had enough and had all the locks changed at the Ryan plant. Ryan then acquired the U.S. sales rights for the Siemens-Halske radial engine and had one installed in his M-2. By the end January he was running his flight school and selling engines and was completely out of Ryan Airlines.

B. F. "Frank" Mahoney was now the sole owner of Ryan Airlines. Mahoney realized that although Hawley Bowlus was a great "backyard" engineer, he needed a trained engineer and designer for his company. Donald Douglas recommended Donald Hall, who he did not think too much of, and Hall started working part-time at Ryan. By the end of January, Hall had become the full-time chief engineer and designer for Ryan Airlines.

On February 8, 1927 Charles Lindbergh's St. Louis backers sent a telegram to Ryan Airlines asking if they could build an airplane for the New York to Paris flight. C. T. Ryan would later claim that he was the one who got the telegram and after consulting with Hall sent a reply that it could be built in 90 days. Lindbergh, after being rejected by several other companies, sent another telegram asking if the aircraft could be constructed in sixty days. Reportedly Mahoney wired back that it could be built in the time frame that Lindbergh wanted. Charles Lindbergh arrived in San Diego on February 23rd and after meeting with Mahoney, Bowlus, Edwards, and especially Donald Hall, recommended to his St. Louis backers that Ryan Airlines build the Spirit. The people at Ryan lived up to their commitment and completed the Sprit of St. Louis by the end of April 1927.

Frank Mahoney continued to help and support Charles Lindbergh after his company completed and delivered the Ryan NYP, as the Spirit was officially known. Mahoney was with Lindbergh in New York City the evening before he left for Paris and, along with A.J. Edwards, sailed to Europe to assist Charles Lindbergh in his business dealings. When Lindbergh was set to sail back to the U.S. with the Spirit of St. Louis on the cruiser USS Memphis, he requested that Frank Mahoney accompany him.

T. Claude Ryan was not involved in any way in the building of the Spirit of St. Louis and this ate at him for the rest of his life. He even had a publicist who tried to perpetuate the myth that he was involved. In 1953, when Lindbergh published his Pulitzer Prize winning book The Spirit of St. Louis, he did not mention Ryan at all. Charles Lindbergh did however send a leather bound autographed copy to Donald Hall.

B.F. "Frank" Mahoney renamed Ryan Airlines as B. F. Mahoney Aircraft and in September of 1927 he sold the company to a group in St. Louis, which included some of the Spirit backers, for one million dollars. They later renamed the company Mahoney-Ryan Aircraft. This later became Detroit Aircraft, which folded after the "Great Crash." Frank Mahoney was also financially damaged in the "Great Crash" and passed away in 1950 in New York. Donald Hall, who Chris Mahoney feels was probably the real hero in building the Sprit of St. Louis, designed and built his own airplane called the Hall X-1, and later worked at Consolidated on the design of the B-24. After World War 2, Hall went to work for the Navy at North Island and retired from there in 1963. Donald Hall remained friends with Charles Lindbergh and they frequently corresponded. Hall passed away in 1968 in San Diego.

After Chris Mahoney took questions from the members and guests attending the meeting, the meeting was adjourned. See you in October!


Our April 10, 2010 Meeting

Operation Deep Freeze: Flying at the South Pole

Husband Chris Englahl, Cdr. Margaret "Peg" Stephan, and parents Nancy and Dick Stephan.

Cdr. Margaret "Peg" Stephan has had an interesting career. Born in Santa Rosa, Calif., she graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1984 with a Bachelor's degree in Microbiology and Immunology. Following a civilian career in the biotechnology field, she earned her commission as an Ensign at Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Fla., in September 1989. She completed Navy Pilot Training at Whiting Field and Pensacola, and Corpus Christi, Texas.

After training at Naval Air Station Miramar, Calif., to fly the C-2 Grumman Greyhound, Cdr. Stephan joined the Foo Dogs of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron Fifty (VRC-50) at NAS Cubi Point, Philippines, where she provided logistical support for Commander Task Force 77 in the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf. From 1994 to 1996, Cdr. Stephan flew with the Providers of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron Thirty (VRC-30), completing a six-month cruise aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and numerous shorter deployments throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Cdr. Stephan reported in September 1996 to Antarctic Development Squadron Six (VXE-6) to fly the LC-130 in support of Operation Deep Freeze and the U.S. Antarctic program. She completed two six-month deployments to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and was released from active duty in 1998.

In the Reserve community, Cdr. Stephan served with Tactical Support Center 887 from November 2001 until her command tour in 2004-5. She currently serves as Commanding Officer of the Volunteer Training Unit at Navy Operational Support Center San Jose, and as coordinator of the Pro Bono Financial Planning Assistance Program, which links volunteer Certified Financial Planner practitioners with sailors in the San Jose area. She been married since 1998 to Chris Engdahl. They reside in San Jose with their daughters, Robin and Haley.

Meeting Location:  Moffett Field Museum, CA, April 10, 2010

An excellent lunch was again provided by Emergency BBQ!

Our February  6, 2010 Meeting

F-106 Delta Dart

Gela DePutter (presided over the meeting) and speaker Larry Rinek

The Convair F-106 Delta Dart served our country well for almost 40 years, first for the USAF's Air Defense Command (ADC), then the Air National Guard (ANG), and finally NASA. The F-106, successor to the slower F-102 Delta Dagger, had one mission: intercepting airspace intruders (especially Soviet bombers) quickly and with lethal force.

SAH Member and historian Larry Rinek brought us the development and operational history of the Convair F-106 Delta Dart. Rinek, is a Senior Technology Consultant, Technical Insights Division at Frost & Sullivan in Mountain View, California. SAH members will recall his previous panel sessions on famous Cold War USAF bombers: B-36, B-47, B-52, B-58, and F-111. He is a recognized aviation historian with a number of publications to his credit, former USAF officer, former student pilot, trained engineer, and veteran of the U.S. aerospace industry. addition, Larry has been a guest lecturer in aero engineering (focus on historical technical lessons learned) for 3 universities since 2000.

Our meeting was held at Francesco's Restaurant next to the Oakland Airport.

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2003 and earlier

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