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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Fahy, CF-013000-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC.

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Images from the New York Times and other newspapers as cited in the text.

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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 here. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.

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HERBERT J. “HUB” FAHY

HERBERT J. “HUB” FAHY

Lockheed Test Pilot

Herbert “Hub” Fahy was a test pilot for Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, CA.  His wife, Claire, was also a pilot and air racer.  Both flew airplanes to the Davis-Monthan Airfield and signed the Register.  The wonderful image below is from the Hudgin Family Collection, shared with us by Louis Hudgin, nephew of Al Hudgin, one of our Register pilots. Hub is on the left, then Claire. Unknown gentleman on the right. The photograph is signed at bottom left, "Regards to you, Ed. Hub Fahy." It could be the gentleman's name, Ed. The interesting item in Fahy's right hand is a sun visor, which consists of a visor that he holds between his fingers, and an open framework that slips over the head. It was a ball cap without the cap.

Hub, Claire, ?, date Unk.

Mr. Fahy landed six times between May 6, 1929 and March 3, 1930.  Not surprisingly, five of his landings were in Lockheed aircraft (three different Vegas, NC194E, NC536M, NC868E, and twice in Sirius NC349V).  Interestingly, Claire was one of his passengers on all these visits.

Below, courtesy of Tim Kalina, is an image of Fahy and his wife in front of an unidentified Lockheed Vega. This photograph was taken March 6, 1930, three days after their last landing at Tucson.

Claire and Hub Fahy, March 6, 1930 (Source: Kalina)
Claire and Hub Fahy, March 6, 1930

Below, the caption on the back of the photograph.

Claire and Hub Fahy, March 6, 1930, Caption (Source: Kalina)
Claire and Hub Fahy, March 6, 1930, Caption

 

Washington Post, June 3, 1922
Washington Post, June 3, 1922
New York Times, May 22, 1922
New York Times, May 22, 1922

Pilot Fahy had earlier military experience, and earned the rank of lieutenant.  He had a jocular relationship with at least one member of Congress, as cited in the article at left.

Unfortunately, he had a well-intentioned, but tarnished, experience in the military. He was a lieutenant in the reserve when, in 1922, he made a low pass over a crowd in Washington, DC and was summarily dismissed from the service. The article at right from the Washington Post, June 3, 1922 provides details. This flight couldn't have been more public, or in front of less sympathetic people.

He flew low over the solemn memorial ceremonies held during the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial by President Harding. Harding was not amused and used his Executive powers to see that Fahy was summarily stripped of his commission and dismissed from the military.

The example of Fahy's flight was taken to law makers who developed early rules governing aircraft flying over crowds or populated areas. The local news stated, "...the wheels of legislation set in motion to draw up and adopt a set of laws regulating air traffic over the city." These basic rules live in the Federal Aviation Regulations of today.

The spring and summer of 1922 were not good for Fahy. The Washington Post of July 26th reported an accident involving Fahy and passenger Lewis Swan, who was killed. Fahy, Swan and another colleague had just, "...finished overhauling" the plane, and it was up for a test flight. Fahy was pilot; Swan the passenger. The airplane was in the air five minutes before it crashed from low altitude. Fahy was severely injured. No cause was specified for the accident.

Today, after maintenance, good mechanic's practice suggests that an airplane be taken aloft solo by a qualified pilot who evaluates the systems on which work was performed. Only after thorough testing, and the OK from the pilot, are passengers taken up.

While Chief Pilot for Lockheed, after two sequential attempts in late May 1929, he broke the world’s record for non-refueled endurance when he flew a Lockheed Vega from LA Metropolitan Airport and remained aloft for 36 hours, 56 minutes and 36 seconds. 

Hub & Claire Fahy, ca. May, 1929

His first attempt departed on May 26th.  As well as 435 gallons of gasoline, the New York Times of May 26, 1929 states, “Plenty of sandwiches and coffee were taken.  Also one rabbit’s foot went along.  It was the same good-luck charm used on the army plane Question Mark when it broke the world’s endurance record for all aircraft.”  This attempt was terminated by fog after a little more than 21 hours aloft.

Finally, on May 30th, circling the field at 1,500 feet, he set his new record.  The times he beat were previously set by Charles Lindbergh in May 1927 (about 33.5 hours), Royal V. Thomas at Roosevelt Field, NY on May 3, 1928 (35:24:59), and by Martin Jensen at Roosevelt Field on February 6, 1929 (35:33:21).  The image, right, from the New York Times of June 9, 1929 shows Fahy and wife Claire at the end of his flight.

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Barely a month later, Fahy was set to challenge the coast-to-coast record set by Frank Hawks of Los Angeles.  Hawks held the one-way LA-NY record of 17:36:16, the NY-LS record of 19:10:32, and the round trip record of 36:38:48 (these numbers don’t exactly add up, but are cited in the Newark, NJ Sunday Call of July 14, 1929).

The airplane he chose was the P&W Hornet-powered Lockheed Air Express named the “Black Hornet”.  According to the New York Times of July 15, 1929 (image below), he departed Los Angeles at 12:06:52AM on July 14th and flew for the next 6.5 hours.  He developed oil system problems over Kansas and the sides of the airplane were covered with oil.  Although the engine was running well, he made a precautionary landing at Kiowa, KS at 8:45AM (Central Time).  He had traveled approximately half-way on the great circle route from Los Angeles to New York. The story is also covered in the Los Angeles Times of July 15th.

He checked his airplane carefully, took on 15 gallons of oil, offloaded 200 gallons of fuel, and flew the Lockheed to Wichita, KS for repairs, arriving at 3:30PM.  Although his company and backers wanted him to continue the flight from Wichita, Fahy decided to return to Los Angeles to try another day.  He did not, and the “Black Hornet” (not cited in the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register) was sold, eventually becoming noteworthy as flown by Roscoe Turner.

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Herbert J. Fahy, ca. June, 1929

Unfortunately, after Fahy’s last visit to Tucson on March 3, 1930, he had only 55 more days to live.  This is the story of how he died. 

In late April 1930, he and Claire flew a new Sirius (NC12W, a Model 8, not a Register airplane) to a small grass strip in Roscommon, MI, where they were to demonstrate the plane to a potential buyer, Cliff Durant, son of William Durant, founder of General Motors.  Cliff was a wealthy aviation enthusiast who had owned a number of airplanes since 1919 when he started a flying service and built Durant Field in Oakland, CA.

The Fahys acted as sales agents for Lockheed and the deal was Durant agreed to buy the plane if Fahy could prove that the Sirius could land and takeoff safely from Durant’s personal strip.  Herb and Claire got the plane on the ground without incident, but as they took off, one of the wheels of the Sirius hit a partially hidden stump, which flipped the plane over.

According to reports in the Herald Tribune for April 26 and 28, 1930, Fahy suffered a fractured skull and a severe concussion while Claire survived uninjured.  Rescuers had to cut away part of the plane's structure to extricate the fliers.  Fahy was rushed to a local hospital where he died early on Sunday morning, April 27, 1930 without regaining consciousness. The Washington Post of April 26 & 28, 1930 also reports the accident and Fahy's death therefrom. He was 33 years old.

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Dossier 2.1.85

UPLOADED: 07/19/06 REVISED:

 
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I'm looking for additional photographs of pilot Fahy and his airplanes to include on this page. If you have one or more you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me. Does anyone know who the person is on the right side of the top image?
 
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