Pilot Eyes

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OTHER REFERENCES

Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Beery , CB-093700-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.

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If you Google "Wallace Beery", you'll get a quarter million hits.

Narrow the search with "Wallace Beery"+aviation and you get about 600 hits.

Some of the information at right is snipped from a few of these hits.

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Newspaper download and other information on this page courtesy of Mike Gerow.

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The thumbnail image on this page are used with permission from the archives of the San Diego Aerospace Museum (SDAM)  Each thumbnail has a database number, which you can use to contact the Museum if you would like to have a full-sized, higher quality image sent directly to you.  See the Museum’s archives listings online to understand the scope of their holdings, and the procedures for acquiring prints.

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WALLACE BEERY

Wallace Beery, Publicity Still, Date Unknown (Source: Heins)
Wallace Beery, Publicity Still, Date Unknown (Source: Heins)

Wallace Beery (1885-1949) was a well-known movie actor as well as a pilot. He landed at Tucson as pilot in command twice and as passenger once. His landings as pilot were on December 18, 1928 and on March 14, 1929. Both times he flew Travel Air NC9015. His westbound passenger on December 18th was George Maves, a 22 year old pilot who managed the airplane for Beery. They had just taken delivery of the airplane at the Travel Air factory in Wichita (see below) and were headed back to Los Angeles, CA. Follow Maves' and the the airplane's links to see what happened to them. Beery carried five unidentified passengers on his second, eastbound visit on March 14th.

Earlier, he landed once as a passenger on Friday, November 4, 1927 with pilot Larry Fritz flying an unidentified Ford Trimotor. He was accompanied by a group of eight passengers including his wife and Jack and Helene Maddux, who owned the airline and the airplane they were flying in. Fritz was chief pilot for the airline.

Beery also visited twice (both on the same day) the Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale, CA. Please direct your browser to the link to learn the details of his Glendale visits.

Wallace Beery

During his career, Beery starred in several films that featured aviation. Among them is "West Point of the Air" from 1935, which features Beery as a future Navy Pilot in a training epic. The film was shot on location at Randolph Field, March Field, and Los Angeles Metro Airport. For our interest, the film starred a Curtiss Pusher and Lockheed Vega. Of interest is that Randolph Field as an Army Air Corps training field was developed by Register pilot and Brigadier General Frank P. Lahm.

At right, a studio portrait of Beery, date unidentified. Another photograph of him is on fellow Register pilot Dick Ranaldi's page.

"This Man's Navy" from 1945, featured Beery in blimp action during the WWII. It was shot at NAS's Lakehurst, Del Mar, Moffet Field, and Santa Ana. Beery actually was in real life a Naval Commander on blimps, and costar Robert Taylor became a USN flight instructor during WWII. This news article from the Syracuse Herald (PDF 668KB) of Sunday, April 16, 1933 documents Beery's assigment as Lieutenant Commander in the US Naval Reserve Aviation Corps at Long Beach, CA. Note, too, the coincidental coverage of the USS Akron crash.

Bakersfield Californian, July 21, 1927 (Source: Gerow)
Bakersfield Californian, July 21, 1927 (Source: Gerow)

 

The article, left, is among a number of low-profile pieces that show up in magazines and newspapers of the era. The Beerys were an aviation-minded family, as well as theater-minded, and had friends among the aviation community.

Between 1927 and 1939 Wallace Beery owned nine airplanes. He first purchased a Laird Aircraft Corporation, "Whippoorwill", November 1, 1927. About a year later he bought Travel Air NC9015, which he brought to Tucson. This second purchase was surrounded by press coverage.

The New York Times of December 9, 1928 reported that his purchase was, "...a monoplane type, built to carry five passengers, two pilots and 'breakfast-room equipment'". The airplane was further described by the Newark Star-Eagle of 12/24/28 as, "A two-ton limousine of the air, luxuriously appointed....It has a small wash room and many other conveniences found in a railroad coach."

From Mike Gerow's (cited, left sidebar) coming book on Continental Air Map Company and Saudi oil exploration, "While with Karl S. Twitchell's Saudi Arabian Mining Syndicate operation in the far western Saudi province of al-Hejaz (1936-37), Joseph D. Mountain flew a Bellanca CH-400 "Skyrocket" (NC-12635) once owned by actor Wallace Beery. FAA records show this aircraft destroyed in Saudi Arabia."

W. Beery, Date Unknown (Source: SDAM)
W. Beery, Date Unknown

 

Beery had his trials, too. The NY Morning Telegraph of October 29, 1929 reported that he suffered a stroke while spinning an airplane. A student pilot flying with him (fellow actor and costar in "Hell Divers", Al Roscoe) was able to land the plane safely. Although doctors feared the stroke might be fatal, Beery lived another 20 years.

From an undated article, which must be from the mid to late 1930s, Beery is cited as becoming, "...the owner of a new six-passenger Bellanca with a cruising speed of 180 miles an hour. It is his fifth plane in seven years of steady flying. Mr. Beery estimates he has at least 500,000 flying miles behind him....His fastest flight was from Hollywood to New York in 19 hours and 23 minutes." How Beery managed to maintain his pilot certification after suffering a stroke (usually disqualifying today) is unknown.

As the Depression deepened, Hollywood actors did not reduce their flying like many other pilots. To members of the Aviation Country Club in Los Angeles, which counted among its members several of the day's movie stars (including Beery, Douglas Fairbanks, Reginald Denny), flying your own airplane was a masterful public relations move.

Finally, Beery was an author of at least one magazine article that appeared in the November 1939 issue of Popular Aviation. Titled, "I Learned About Flying From That! -- No. 7", he described how he got himself into and out of a flight that coupled bad weather with fuel starvation.

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Dossier 2.1.45

UPLOADED: 03/06/06 REVISED: 07/18/07, 07/15/08, 02/13/09, 04/06/11, 09/09/11

 
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Wallace Beery, 1927 Movie Ad

Advertisement, above, from the Modesto (CA) News-Herald March 18, 1927.

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http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.

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