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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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There is no biographical file for the pilots Brooks in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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As of the upload date of this page, there are several thousand Google hits for "Aline Rhonie".

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Taves, Isbella. 1943. Successful Women and How they Attained Success. Dutton & Co. ISBN 978-1-40677-1. This book is in the public domain and can be downloaded at the link. Refer to pp. 315ff for the text cited at right.

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Simbeck, Rob. 1999. Daughter of the Air: The Brief Soaring Life of Cornelia Fort. Grover Press. New York, NY. ISBN 0-8021-3719-1.

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Fox, James. 2000. Five Sisters: The Langhornes of Virginia. Simon & Schuster, NY, NY. pp. 393-94. This book is a biographical treatment of the lives of the Langhorne sisters, one of whom, Phyllis, was Peter Brook’s mother.

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Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register
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ALINE RHONIE BROOKS AND PETER BROOKS

"Mrs. Peter Brooks"

The signer of our Register, "Mrs. Peter Brooks", depending on your source, was known as Pat Brooks, Rhonie Brooks, Aline Brooks, Aline H. Bamberger Rhonie-Brooks and Aline Rhonie Hofheimer. This choice of names came about as follows. She was named by her parents Aline Rhonie Hofheimer. She married L. Richard Bamberger at an early age and they divorced, whereupon she changed her name to Aline Rhonie, accepting her middle name as her surname. Excellent insight into her life is found in the Aline "Pat" Rhonie Photograph and Document Collection.

Aline was born in York, PA on August 16, 1909, daughter of Arthur and Helen Milius Hofheimer. Both she and her new husband, Peter, were independently wealthy, as you may determine from their activites and family backgrounds cited below. She attended the Dalton School in New York City.

As well as being a pioneering female flyer and Register signer, Aline Brooks was a fine artist who worked under the name Aline Rhonie. Her renown reaches today. There are many Web sources that feature her works. She studied mural painting with Diego Rivera in Mexico. Several books (see those cited in the left sidebar) include her artistic and aeronautical exploits among their pages. She was an early adopter of flight technology, and an early promoter of aviation and women's places in it. As you will see below, she excelled at these things despite contemporary prejudices against women and Jews.

Th photograph below, and some others on this page, are shared with us by friend of dmairfield.org, John Underwood. The airplanes in the photograph are, right, Monocoupe NC459W, and (probably) on the left, Monocoupe NC12345. The date is probably sometime during 1933 or 34.

Peter Brooks & Aline Brooks, Ca. 1933, Location Unknown (Source: Underwood)
Peter Brooks & Aline Brooks, Ca. 1933, Location Unknown (Source: Underwood)

In 1933 Aline, with private pilot license #17023, married Peter Brooks and set off on a 17,000 mile aerial honeymoon flying their own planes, "because both liked to do the piloting." It is not certain, but we probably see them above during that journey. I have no record of just how long they spent on their honeymoon, but it was probably a good long time, given the distance they covered (if they averaged a hundred or so miles per day, they were traveling for six months or so). The Brooks landed at Tucson together in these airplanes on Tuesday, March 20, 1934 at 3:00 PM. Based at New York, NY (probably Roosevelt Field), they arrived from Mexico City, Mexico on their way to Los Angeles, CA.

Several Web sources cite her flight to Mexico City from New York as being the first ever performed by a woman. She may have been the first woman to fly that particular route to Mexico City, but Register pilots Pancho Barnes and Mildred Morgan preceded her to Mexico City by different routes, both in 1930. One source states that Aline spent six-weeks in Mexico City studying with Diego Rivera. This may have been the time she did that, but one of the quotes below suggests she might have visited Mexico earlier.

From the Taves reference in the left sidebar, we learn that she had an incident flying from El Paso to Tucson. It is probably a different flight than is logged in the Register, because no mention is made of Peter, and the route was El Paso-Tucson and not Mexico City-Tucson. Regardless, Taves captures an interchange with a male pilot that illustrates Brooks' support of female pilots, and the stereotypy she and our other female Register pilots faced every day.

“She has another pet woman-flyer story.  She was flying from El Paso to Tucson, Arizona. Just as she was ready to land, the throttle stuck—leaving her at a speed too fast to get the wheels down, too slow to climb….  She shot past the field.  She skimmed the dunes. She was considering an emergency landing in a small dirt lane….

“This was a nightmare…. She was flying farther and farther away from the airport… In desperation, Pat pumped the throttle-wildly, countless times…. But, miraculously the motor suddenly picked up a moment’s speed.  It was just a moment, but in that instant she made a sharp pylon turn, and headed back to the airport.  And not too soon. The motor died down again.  It seemed endless ages before she made the field—just missing the fence, the telegraph poles, the menacing dunes—and cut her switch, to land, shaken but in one piece….

“Afterwards they discovered that the plane’s throttle must have broken just as she was ready to land the first time—and that, when she had pumped it back and forth, the throttle had split off just at the arm of the carburetor, and that it had hit the right spot at precisely the fateful moments that she pumped.

“A few months later, she was flying the same plane from California to Phoenix, Arizona.  She had been asked by the manufacturer of that type of plane, to demonstrate to a prospective buyer.

“’My customer got in somewhat gingerly,’ she says.  ‘And I flew him around, showed him the ease and grace with which she flew, and landed.  Once again on the ground, he seemed a different person.’

“’Never thought I’d do it,’ he said.  ‘I liked the ship and I liked the pilot.  It’s the first time I’ve ever been up with a girl.  Never thought a girl was coming to demonstrate or I’d have run a mile.  You take most women—they’re crazy.  You know, I just heard about one who came into Tucson a couple of months ago.  She zoomed the field and never pulled up; then she flew crazily around the desert about five feet off the ground, almost hitting a train; after she got the airport all frantic, she disappeared from view and then reappeared at the same altitude and almost knocked the fence down coming in.  And then she didn’t even taxi her plane into the hangar.'

“’You don’t like women flyers?’ Aline asked.

“’Not that kind.  She’ll break her neck someday.  She hurts aviation.  You couldn’t get me near her with a ten-foot pole.’

“’Well,' Aline said calmly. ‘I’m that girl.’  And she went on, deliberately, to tell her story.  When she finished, he shame-facedly agreed that men sometimes took the failings of women for granted.”

Other Web accounts describe her work at Roosevelt Field in the late 1930s painting a mural on the wall of a hangar. This was a huge mural, extending over 100-feet. The subject was aviation progress in the 20th century, and there were over 300 personalities and aircraft of the period represented in her mural. Below, from the Warbird Information Exchange Web site, is a photograph of her during the mural work. Although I generally prefer to hyperlink to photos like this, I include it here (along with the one just below) because the source is a blog and I'm not sure it will be available for the long term. This link holds color photos of the mural. Her Photograph and Document Collection on this site has an entire section devoted to her mural.

Aline Brooks (Rhonie) Working on Roosevelt Field Mural, Ca. 1938 (Source: Warbird Information Exchange)
Aline Brooks (Rhonie) Working on Roosevelt Field Mural, Ca. 1938 (Source: Warbird Information Exchange)

Near the outbreak of WWII, Mrs. Brooks was the fourth woman to join the WAFS (Women's Auxiliary Flying Squadron) headed by Register pilot Nancy Harkness Love to ferry aircraft within the United States. She left the WAFS in a short time and headed to England in November 1943. She served there in the ATA until November 1944.

Below, a photograph of her dated 1940. A site visitor says about this photo, "In this photograph Aline Rhonie is standing by her Aero Club De France plane at Roosevelt Field, Garden City N.Y. in front of Hangar 'E'. This image shows Rhonie in Aero Club de France uniform  upon her return from French Ambulance Duty to raise canteen funds. Rhonie was back at Roosevelt Field N.Y. after a winter of ambulance-driving behind the Maginot Line.

Aline Brooks, Ca. 1940, With Canteen Aircraft (Luscombe?) (Source: Warbird Information Exchange)
Aline Brooks, Ca. 1940, With Canteen Aircraft (Luscombe?) (Source: Warbird Information Exchange)

Various sources document her membership in the WASP, as well as suggest she was a member of the Ninety-Nines. The Ninety-Nines book in our REFERENCES does not cite her by any of her used names. She became a WASP after the WAFS program was merged into the WASP. A photograph of her during her WAFS service is at the link. From the Simbeck reference, left sidebar, we discover the reason she made the news during her participation in the WAFS program, but may explain why she didn't enjoy the same publiciity as a member of the WASP.

“Despite the expansion of their role, the WAFS would not, as they hoped, become part of the military, with the added benefits that status would bring.  On Saturday, December 12, the ninety-day civilian appointments of … of the original WAFS were extended.  The exception was Aline Rhonie, who had complained once too often about the way the WAFS and the base were run, and who had delayed her return to the base after one trip so she could visit her family.”

The Brooks were divorced in 1937. Aline Rhonie Brooks died in Palm Beach, FL on January 7, 1963.

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"Peter Brooks"

The signer of our Register, "Peter Brooks", was Reginald Langhorne Brooks, New York socialite, flying enthusiast and nephew of British M.P. Lady Nancy Astor. He visited Tucson with his wife as described above, but he also visited and signed our Register a few years earlier. According to the New York Times of May 26, 1933, he became interested in aviation at Harvard University, from which he was graduated in 1926. He learned to fly in London from Sir Alan Cobham and made frequent flights between London and Paris.

He arrived solo a Tucson Tuesday, February 1, 1928 at 12:30PM. He was flying in Waco ASO NC1382 (S/N 823, manufactured in 1927). Based in Valley Stream, NY (probably Roosevelt Field), he was westbound from El Paso, TX to Los Angeles, CA. He remained in Tucson overnight, continuing his journey the next day at 8:00AM.

Peter Brooks, Date Unknown
Peter Brooks, Date Unknown

 

From the Fox reference in the left sidebar (p. 397), we find this description of Peter's living quarters about the time he was married to Aline.

“Peter’s apartment was not the sort of place Winkie [Peter’s brother, David] could have brought his friends, or indeed, one would have imagined, a new bride.  It had been turned into an aviation museum: the curtains were made from parachute silk, the bar from the side of a biplane, the wastepaper basket from a fuel tank, the desk supported by propellers, the ashtrays from cylinder heads and lamps from a crankshaft.  He had a sound system that produced the noise of engines roaring and idling, even a device to put out different smells, ‘dear to the heart of a flier.’  Suspended from the walls and ceiling were pictures of the dogfights of Richthofen’s flying circus.”

 

His was an extraordinary "man cave."

Peter Brooks and Aline were married ca. May, 1933. From the Fox book (cited, left sidebar), these were the immediate family circumstances around that time. "Phyllis" is Peter's mother.

Peter Brooks, Date Unknown
Peter Brooks, Date Unknown

“In the same month, May 1933, Phyllis received a cable from Peter telling her that he had married his girlfriend, Aline Rhonie, whom Phyllis had met only once.   She was the daughter of Arthur Hofheimer of Warrenville, New Jersey, who owned the Bamberger department store.  Aline, too, was a high-profile flier and something of a star.  She was also a painter, who had spent some time as a pupil of Diego Rivera, and had painted a mural in the clubhouse at Roosevelt Field aerodrome in the Rivera style, an homage to aviation and progress.

“’I was swept off my feet by Peter’s cable,’ Phyllis wrote, in shock and disapproval ….  ‘I can’t say it was exactly a surprise as that is the sort of thing Peter would do, but to this particular person I am surprised, as he told me he would never think of marrying her as she was a Jewess… Poor Pete—I hope he hasn’t married because he was lonesome … I hope and pray he has done the right thing.  There was something independent about the girl that I liked and she was certainly very pretty, and she must by now know Peter.’

"Aline then wrote to Phyllis, ‘Peter is the most wonderful person—I’ve tried for two years to find every reason for not getting married.  Now I’m the happiest girl in the world.  Have been worried a long time about bringing my Jewish blood into your family, but Peter and I have the same views on this subject.  As it hasn’t been in my life he doesn’t want it to seem important….’

“Their honeymoon was an aviation publicity stunt with major news coverage—a seventeen-thousand-mile flight around the American continent in their separate planes, communicating to each other, in the absence of radios, with flapping wing signals.”

Brooks' obituary from Time Magazine, November 6, 1944, states, “Died. Reginald Langhorne (Pete) Brooks, 42, New York socialite, flying enthusiast, nephew of British M.P. Lady Nancy Astor; in his Miami Shores, Fla. home, presumably by suicide. In 1933 he married Aline Rhonie Bamberger, set off on a 17,000 mile aerial honeymoon flying his own plane, his bride another ‘because both liked to do the piloting.’ They were divorced in 1937.”


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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 01/23/10 REVISED: 09/07/10

As of October 19, 2010, this page is Google rank #4.

 
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I'm looking for photographs of the Brooks and their airplanes to include on this page. If you have one or more you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me.

 

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