Registration Number NC8730
A Workhorse Owned & Flown By Notable Pilots
This aircraft is a Swallow F28W, S/N 1040 (ATC 51), manufactured
in July 1929 by the Swallow Airplane Co., Wichita, KS. It was
powered by a Wright J-5A 200 HP engine, S/N B-8512. As a three-place
airplane, it weighed 2,700 pounds. It landed at Tucson four
times between 1929 and 1932.
It sold on February 3, 1930 to Ruth Elder (in the name of Ruth Elder
Camp (b: 8 September 1902, Anniston, Alabama, d: 9 October
1977, San Francisco, California) c/o James
E. Granger, Inc.,
Monica, CA. Pilot Elder was an actress and aviation
adventurer. See this link for
some of her adventures.
There is no record at the NASM of
the airplane's ownership from July 1929 to February 1930,
although it is pretty clear that it was flown by Ruth Elder
in the 1929 Women's Cross Country Air Race (the so-called
"Powder Puff Derby") from Santa Monica to Cleveland, OH.
She placed 5th behind Register pilots Louise Thaden,
Amelia Earhart and Blanche Noyes (not a Register pilot). Her final time was 28:15:14
(average speed 96.41 MPH). She won $350.
below, was taken probably near the time of that race, or just after the
airplane was sold to pilot Elder. Her name is lettered on
the fuselage below the coaming of the rear cockpit. According
to Jessen (p.
110), parts of this airplane were painted red. On the original
image you can see the remains of a race number (60?) painted
on the rear fuselage.
Swallow NC8730, ca. 1929 or 1930
We first see NC8730 at Tucson on August 7, 1929 flown by Elder (pilot
certificate number 675) carrying James E. Granger as passenger.
They were headed from El Paso, TX to Phoenix, AZ. They were
probably headed for Santa Monica, CA for the beginning of
the "Powder Puff Derby".
Below, an unusual photograph, because it shows three people who are known to have flown NC8730. And, if we guess correctly, the airplane behind them is 8730, and the photo was taken before 1933 before wheel pants and an engine cowl were installed (see below). Compare the paint scheme and the wheel design with the photo above.
Hoot Gibson (L), Ruth Elder, Jim Granger, NC8730(?), Clover Field, Pre-1933 (Source: Granger)
Notice Gibson's large belt buckle is turned off center. This is a good practice to prevent scratched paint when working near aircraft. It is a practice seen among aircraft mechanics today. Interestingly, under magnification, you can see an insect flattened on the photo near Elder's left foot. It would take considerable restoration to get it flying again. Granger smokes a cigar.
visit to Tucson by NC8730 was on August 18 or 19, 1931 piloted by Clema
Granger carrying her husband, Jim,
as passenger. They were on their way south from Clover Field,
Santa Monica, CA to Douglas, AZ on the Mexico border.
Roy Harding, a Union Oil representative, next brought NC8730
to Tucson on September 12, 1931. He was solo, on his way westbound
from El Paso to Santa Monica. Next comes Nick Galloway on
September 5, 1932. He was also solo, and making his way westbound
from El Paso to Santa Monica.
NC8730 accumulated 571:50 flight hours, and received
two new engines during Ms. Elder’s custody. She sold
the airplane on March 15, 1933 to Pacific School of Aviation,
Inc. Owners of Pacific were James E. Granger, President;
Ruth Elder, VP and Edith B. Clark, Secretary-Treasurer).
Below, NC8730 in an image dated 1933. Note, compared to
the image above, the additions of wheel pants and engine
cowling, as well as the different paint scheme.
Swallow NC8730, ca. 1933
According to the NASM record, NC8730 suffered an accident at Inglewood,
CA on July 3, 1933. There is no record of damage or the fates of
pilot or airframe in the NASM record, but, according to Norm and Tom Granger, NC8730 was used in 1933 by Hoot Gibson in a race with with fellow movie cowboy Ken Maynard and was destroyed in a race-related crash.
From the document written by Norm posted at Jim Granger's link entitled "The Golden Age of Local Air Racing", before the race there were changes to the paint scheme, as well as the addition of a full NACA cowl on the engine and wheel pants. The work was paid for by Gibson, who offered it, "... free of charge for the loan of the airplane." Compare the photograph above with the first one on this page to see these differences.
The account of this race and aftermath is quoted as follows. Webmaster annotations in brackets [ ].
"In early 1933, Hoot Gibson challenged Ken Maynard, another western movie star, to a match race. Ken liked the idea; both actors' fame was diminishing and the race could help their box office appeal. Dad [Jim Granger] suggested they ask Cliff Henderson [Managing Director of the National Air Races] for a spot on the program at the National Air Races at Los Angeles in September. Cliff was delighted with the idea, so the race was on. Ken had a J6-7 Stearman and my father had doubts that Hoot's Butler [the Butler Black Hawk NC730K] could best Ken's plane so he offered Hoot the loan of his J-5 Swallow. Hoot was ecstatic, this assured him of a win. We [the three Granger sons] shined, tuned, and cajoled our Swallow getting it ready; we knew we had a winner! Race day came and the two cowboys lined up for the flag before 20,000 people. The flag dropped, Hoot was first airborne just as we expected. He was first around the scatter pylon and came really storming down the first straightaway with a strong lead; Hoot was smothering Ken, our baby was purring like a kitten. He too a commanding lead on the second straightaway, pulling up high into a steep turn on the third pylon and dove the airplane until it hit the ground a glancing blow that tore the airplane to shreds! Hoot would live to fly another day. The Swallow was tough enough to barely save his life. There were three chrome moly tubes welded across the fuselage ahead of the instrument panel that were bent into a half circle by Hoot's body weight. Dad cut them out of the wreckage and gave them to Hoot while he was still in the hospital to show him what he had survived."
An account specifically addressing the "race," above, is shared by Tom Granger at the link (PDF 219kB).
Below, shared by site visitor Joe Kranz, is a U.S. postal cachet signed by Gibson and postmarked July 1, 1933. The cachet commemorates the 1933 National Air Races and was signed just a short time before the fateful race described above.
Hoot Gibson, U.S. Postal Cachet, July 1, 1933 (Source: Kranz)
Below, a photograph from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner ca. July 3, 1933.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner ca. July 3, 1933 (Source: Granger)
Below, from Mr. Kranz, another news photo of the wreck of NC8730.
Undated News Article, NC8730 (Source: Kranz)
The NASM record states that the registration was cancelled July 15, 1933. I have no further information regarding the fate of the damaged airframe or data plates for airframe or engine. Does anyone KNOW?
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 08/08/05 REVISED: 10/28/07, 03/11/08, 01/12/10, 04/05/11, 07/02/11
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