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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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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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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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There is no biographical file for pilot McLeod in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

 
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ELMER C. McLEOD

The private life of Elmer McLeod is a mystery vs. his life in aviation. There is only one Elmer C. McLeod listed in the Social Security Death Index online. He was born April 30, 1902 and died at Los Angeles March 18, 1994 at age 91. As evidence that this is our pilot, his Mexican pilot license issued in 1930 cites his age as 28: simple math.

How do we know he had a Mexican pilot license? The good news is, we have extensive raw materials from across twenty years of pilot McLeod's life in aviation. As sometimes happens, the materials were at auction during February, 2011. McLeod's artifacts were let go by a museum and made their way to eBay. Friend of dmairfield.org, Tim Kalina, found, bid, won and donated all the items to Delta Mike Airfield, Inc.

E.C. McLeod, 1930, Age 28
E.C. McLeod, 1930

We owe Tim great quantities of thanks for generously sharing these artifacts with us. They provide a remarkable window into the flying life of one Register pilot, and, rather than being encased at a museum, they will enjoy global exposure on dmairfield.org in the form of the Elmer C. McLeod Photograph and Document Collection. Please direct your browser to the Collection link to learn more about this prodigious aviator. Please note, all the images on this page that do not have a specific Source cited are from McLeod's Collection.

This biographical page for McLeod is nothing if not unbalanced. From his logs, photos and documents I know a lot about his early aviation life: what he flew, where and when. I know very little about late flying life or his personal life. What did he do for fun? Hobbies? If you can fill in any of these details, please let me KNOW.

He married Hazel Leona Williams and they had one son Warren, born September 7, 1930. He later married Mary Louise Dickerson on May 25, 1956. They had no children.

From his Collection, we can determine that he flew dozens of different aircraft, mostly Lockheeds. He flew two airplanes for a number of years, Register Ryan NC132W (a Register airplane, but not signed in by McLeod) and DC-3 NC63250 (landed at Tucson, but after the period of the Register). He rubbed shoulders and was colleagues with several illustrious Register pilots and passengers including Amelia Earhart (see below), Marshall Headle, Tom Morgan, C.W. Gilpin , L.J. Holoubek, Milo Burcham and Carl Squier.

Elmer C. McLeod, above right, held Transport pilot license number 3485. He signed the Register once at Tucson, Thursday, April 11, 1929. He carried two passengers, identified as H.H. Hobi and Ross Smith. They were flying in NC8849, a Travel Air S-6000-B with a J-6 engine of 300HP. Based at Eugene, OR, they were westbound from Wichita, KS to Seattle, WA. Theirs was a ferry flight with a brand new airplane from the factory in Wichita. Mr. Hobi was the operator of an air transport service in Seattle.

Less than six-months after he landed at Tucson, he suffered an accident with a Pickwick Airways trimotor aircraft. Below, from the Berkeley (CA) Daily Gazette for Wednesday, August 7, 1929, is an article that describes the accident.

10 ESCAPE WITH SLIGHT HURTS
AS PLANE CRASHES

By United Press
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 7.—Eight passengers on a tri-motored plane of the Pickwick Airways miraculously escaped death or serious injury today when the craft turned over in making a forced landing near the Los Angeles river bed. Motor trouble was said to have made it necessary for Pilot John Woods to bring down the plane, one employed on the regular Los Angeles to San Diego run of the Airway.

When it touched near the bank of the river bed, the carrier was said to have nosed over on its back.
The six women and two men passengers were badly shaken but were not seriously hurt.

3 From Bay Region
The passengers and the extent of their injuries were: Mrs. T. L. Warner, 32, Los Angeles, three broken ribs. Miss Merle Richardson, 24, East Highlands, Cal., dislocated shoulder. Edward A. Hunta, 31, Michigan Central Railroad, Detroit, sprained right leg. C. L. Taylor, 41, Los Angeles, cuts and bruises. Ray Sullivan, 26. San Francisco, cuts and bruises. Miss Sadie Snyder, 23, Oakland, cuts and bruises. J. E. Patterson, 32, Oakland, cuts and bruises. Mrs. H. D. Tompkins, Los Angeles, minor cuts.
John Woods, 32, pilot, Glendale, cuts. Elmer C. McLeod, 29, assistant pilot, Glendale, cuts.

Further, his flight log book for August 7th logs the accident as follows. Notice that he meticulously recorded his time in the air as 5 minutes and the length of the flight three miles. The official cause of the accident was chalked up to "engine failure due to gas-line stoppage."

E.C. McLeod Flight Log, August 7, 1929
E.C. McLeod Flight Log, August 7, 1929

The airplane was the Bach trimotor NC539E (not a Register airplane). His notation states, "Cracked up after take off from Glendale. I was ass't pilot. John Wood 1st pilot." The news article spells the pilot's last name "Woods." All of McLeod's flight log books are available in their entirety at his Collection link, above. This page is from his book #1. I don't believe the pilot was the same person as Register pilot John Wood. Does anyone KNOW?

July 25, 1929, Chehalis (OR) Bee-Nugget (Source: Gerow)
July 25, 1929, Chehalis (OR) Bee-Nugget (Source: Gerow)

 

As small insight into his personal life, site contributor Mike Gerow shares the news article at left. It describes McLeod's flight to the Eugene, OR Air Derby in 1929. Whether he participated in any events, or was part of the northwest aerial tour, is not stated. It cites H.H. Hobi and a Travel Air, probably NC8849 he and McLeod flew through Tucson a few months earlier. The photograph alluded to in the article was not on the page from which the article was cropped. This article mentions Register pilots Carlton Bond and Tex Rankin. Phil Oberg is cited in one of McLeod's Log Books (#7).

Interestingly, we know from several of his his flight logs, all of which you may review in the Collection, that McLeod landed at least nine more times at Tucson during the period of the Register. Besides April 11, 1929, he also landed April 28 and May 11, 1931 flying Ryan NC132W. He landed May 27, 1934 during a journey, "Nogales to Burbank via Tucson," and on November 21 and 29, 1934 flying a Travel Air 6000-A, NC377M (not in the Register). On January 3 and November 10, 1935, March 11, 1937 and March 20, 1937 he landed flying Lockheed Electra 10A, NC14946. He did not sign the Register during any of these visits.

It remains, however, that we should be grateful that he signed the Register just this once, or else we would have no reason to look at his trove of memorabilia, logs and photographs you can review at his Collection link. A frustrating corollary to this is that one can just imagine the number of pilots who landed at Tucson and didn't sign the Register at all.

Not signing during his May 11, 1931 visit might be understandable. If you look at pages 158-59 of the Register, you'll see that nearly 30 Army aircraft landed en masse on that day (including ten large B-2 Condor bombers). The ground and fueling operations may have added so much time to his turnaround that he neglected to sign. The same can't be said about his April 28th landing, however, when hardly anyone signed the Register.

We also know his flight through Tucson when he did sign the Register was a ferry flight, because from the first of the seven flight logs (May 9, 1928 through August 7, 1929, q.v.) we can track his entire two-week itinerary from his initial test flight of the Travel Air on April 1st at the factory to his landing at Eugene, OR on April 15th (see below).

Below are the pages from his flight log that record his itinerary that brought him from Wichita through Tucson with NC8849 and his passengers (you'll find them as pp. 9-10 in the log PDF). Note that his last flight at Eugene was on March 27, allowing him and his party about four days to travel from Oregon to Wichita (by train?).

He received the new airplane on April 1st and proceeded with, "testing new ship at Wichita, Kans." Testing took three days between April 1-4. Note that it was windy and 38-40° this early springtime, and that he spent from 70 to 120 minutes performing his testing across eight flights.

Pilot Log Page Recording Acceptance Testing of Travel Air NC8849, April 1, 1929
Pilot Log Page Recording Acceptance Testing of Travel Air NC8849, April 1, 1929

Below, he and his passengers leave Wichita for parts west. Their trip was not without delays. On April 7th near Santa Rosa, NM they were involved in a "forced landing." It is not clear from his log or the record for the airplane (linked above), if the forced landing was because of mechanical or meteorological reasons. It may have been the latter, because on April 10th when they departed Santa Rosa, they returned to Santa Rosa because of "wind."

Pilot Log Page Recording Itinerary With Travel Air NC8849, April 1, 1929
Pilot Log Page Recording Itinerary With Travel Air NC8849, April 1, 1929

You'll note that he remained at Eugene for a week or so before heading for Seattle, which he cited as his final destination when he signed the Register. He went to Seattle on April 23rd and remained there while performing daily flights through May 3rd when he returned to Eugene with the airplane. He was employed by Hobi Airways Co. of Eugene.

Below is a chart of McLeod's et al. itinerary from Wichita, KS to Eugene, OR and on to Seattle, WA. The abbreviations on the chart represent the modern FAA identifiers for McLeod's airports, e.g. KELP stands for El Paso, and KDMA is the present day Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. He made a few demonstration and testing flights in the Los Angeles area, as well as the 24 local flights in and around Eugene before heading for Seattle on April 23rd.

McLeod, et al. Itinerary With NC8849, April 1-23, 1929 (Source: Webmaster)
McLeod, et al. Itinerary With NC8849, April 1-23, 1929

His itinerary reads: Wichita, KS, Waynoka, OK, Amarillo, TX, Santa Rosa, NM (forced landing there, and return because of wind), Vaughn, NM, El Paso, TX, Tucson, AZ, Yuma, AZ, Clover Field, CA, Metropolitan Airport, CA, Fresno, CA, Corning CA, Medford, OR, Eugene, OR, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA. His total one-way distance was 2,115 nautical miles over 23 days.

McLeod's Chief Pilot Badge,
Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Ca. 1940s
McLeod's Chief Pilot Badge,

 

Sometime during 1935 (summer?), McLeod changed jobs and began working for the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Burbank, CA. His flight log books record in great detail his career with Lockheed during the 1930s and through WWII. His progression through the ranks as a test pilot is documented by intra-company memos exhibited in the Letters section of his Collection. At left is his badge that identified him as Chief Pilot for the Lockeed Vega division of the company. His logs cite hundreds of test flights in various civil and military Lockheed twin-engine aircraft.

One of the airplanes he tested was the Lockheed Electra NX16020. This is the airplane that carried Register pilot Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan to their doom July 2, 1937. Below, from the Los Angeles Times of July 22, 1936, is an article describing Earhart's early evaluation of her Electra. Note in the second paragraph, the first flight she took in the airplane was as copilot with McLeod in the pilot seat.

Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1936
Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1936

McLeod's fourth flight log perhaps recorded the first flight with Earhart. Below is that page from his log. I say "perhaps" because for some reason he signed his log as "First Test A.&E." We might assume he meant to write Earhart's initials, commonly cited as "AE." But "A.&E." also meant "Airframe & Engine," and the abbreviation A.&E. was commonly used to denote a mechanic certificated by the government to maintain aircraft. If this flight was with Earhart, they flew from "Lockheed to Lockheed" for an hour and 50 minutes making four landings and traveling 280 miles. Note that he flew the airplane over the following five days. It is unknown if Earhart was with him on any of these flights. He also flew it at the beginning of August. The registration was changed from NX to NR (note NR on the wing in the news article above, suggesting the registration might have been changed sooner rather than later), and he cites "A.&E." again on August 7th.

Elmer McLeod's Flight Log Book for July, 1936
Elmer McLeod's Flight Log Book for July, 1936

McLeod also delivered new Lockheed aircraft around the world. During 1937-1939, on behalf of Lockheed, McLeod traveled from the United States through Central and South America and South Africa and Asia. We have several artifacts from these trips. First, below left, is a brief article from New York Times of December 21, 1938. Another article from June, 1939 is at the link. At the same link are letters of reference supporting his flights to Central and South America. There are photos of Lockheed 12s being loaded on shipboard, and on the ground in Capetown, in the Photographs section of his Collection.

New York Times of December 21, 1938 (Source: NYT)
New York Times of December 21, 1938 (Source: NYT)
The Lockheed Star, August 16, 1940
The Lockheed Star, August 16, 1940

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During December-January 1937-38, McLeod was a guest of the 36th Maharaja of Jodhpur to whom he delivered a Lockheed aircraft (the Lockheed 12A, VT-AJN). This trip is well-documented in his 4th flight log book in the Log Books section of his Collection.

Lockheed 12s seemed to be popular among the royalty of India, because, during 1940, McLeod traveled to India again as documented in this article from the The Lockheed Star from August 16, 1940, right. His job was to deliver a Lockheed 12 to the Maharaja of Jaipur. This flight is also documented in his pilot logs. Shortly before, the intention of the Maharaja's purchase was published in Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, October, 1939, below.

Popular Aviation, October, 1939 (Source: PA)

On a personal note, your Webmaster (left, below) had a chance to "party" with the current Maharaja of Jaipur (right) in 2011, along with about a thousand other people..

Your Webmaster With the Maharaja of Jaipur, November, 2011 (Source: Webmaster)

 

At the outbreak of WWII, McLeod remained with Lockheed. Below, a newspaper advertisement from the April 16, 1943 Wisconsin Rapids (WI) Daily Tribune.

April 16, 1943 Wisconsin Rapids (WI)
Daily Tribune
April 16, 1943 Wisconsin Rapids (WI)

Although McLeod is posed beside one of Lockheed's P-38 Lightning fighters, there is no evidence from his log books that he flew them, because there is a gap in his flight records between May 18, 1942 and April 5, 1946. As well, this 1943 article, from "The Town with the Grotto," illustrates some of the jingoism characteristic of the war period.

Pilot, 47, Arrested For Drunk Driving
Elmer Cecil McLeod, 47, pilot residing in Burbank, was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving after
Officer T. Thordson observed McLeod's driving.
Thordson said he halted McLeod at San Fernando Road and Osborne St. after observing the flier's car going from the curb lane to the center lane and across the driving line.

His flight record after WWII is documented only in his Log Book #9. He flew the Douglas DC-3C NC63250 from April 3, 1946 to March 31, 1948, logging close to 700 flight hours with it. He took this airplane to numerous destinations in California and other western states and Alaska (twice), as well as cross-country to Florida, Washington, DC and New Jersey. In late 1946 he flew it to Mexico and South America, returning via the Caribbean and Cuba. He flew the airplane through Tucson February 15-16, and December 8, 1947. His final flight in the records in his Collection was on March 31, 1948 when he flew the DC-3 from Seattle, WA to Burbank, CA in 5 hours and 15 minutes. I have no other records of flights past this date, although he undoubtedly continued flying well beyond. If anyone has evidence of his flying life beyond the 1940s, please let me KNOW.

An incident he can't have been proud of was cited in The Van Nuys News of Wednesday, December 7, 1949, above. I think we can forgive this one indiscretion.

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 05/07/11 REVISED: 04/23/12

 
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I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot McLeod and his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.
Credit for this page goes out to site contributor Tim Kalina. Mr. Kalina bought a collection of pilot McLeod's memorabilia and artifacts and donated them to Delta Mike Airfield, Inc. specifically to help build this page. Some of that collection is displayed on this page. The rest is exhibited at the Elmer C. McLeod Photograph and Document Collection on this site.
 
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