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OTHER RESOURCES

Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Omlie, CO-054000-01, -20, -99, 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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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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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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An excellent reference for most of the civil aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield is the 9 volumes of Joseph Juptner's "U.S. Civil Aircraft". The series was published by Aero Publishers, Fallbrook, CA between 1962 and 1981.

 
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PHOEBE FAIRGRAVE OMLIE

PHOEBE, NR8917 AND THE 1929 "POWDER PUFF" AIR DERBY

Phoebe Omlie, 1929

Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie (1902-1975) wove her own zodiac throughout her flying career. Early on, in the early 1920s, she was a barnstormer, parachutist and wing walker.

She was 26 years old when she participated in the women’s division of the 1929 National Air Races. She was an aggressive and successful air racer, an early female aviation mechanic (her certificate, #422, is dated July 31, 1933), and a charter member of The Ninety-Nines. She landed at the Davis-Monthan Field 4 times flying Monocoupes. Besides NR8917, above, she landed with NC5877 and NC518W (twice). She flew 518W to victory in the 1931 Derby. She was flying another Monocoupe, NC5878, at an airport dedication in Paragould, AR and was involved in a crash (see below).

Who can resist “Miss Moline”? It landed at the Davis-Monthan Field on a hot Thursday, August 15, 1929, flown solo by Phoebe (transport license #199). She signed the register at 11:00AM and departed the same day at 1:30 PM for Santa Monica to begin the 1929 Powder Puff Derby to Cleveland, OH (image above from Juptner, v. 9, p. 127 at the 1929 Derby, with Phoebe resting casually on the wing strut).

Her beautiful airplane is a Monocoupe Model 113 Special, with a 110 HP Warner engine. Given “Group 2 Approval” on September 6, 1929 (it did not have an “Approved Type Certificate”), this fact was used by one male critic in an attempt to cancel the women’s race. Before arrival at the Field, NR8917 had logged about 50 hours.

Webmaster & NR8917, 2002

Today NR8917 rests near Cheney, KS, hangared among sepia wheat fields, a long way from its birthplace in Moline. The fuselage had a tree growing through it when its present owners salvaged it in 1987 from a hedgerow on the Kansas-Oklahoma border. They rebuilt the fuselage. Then a storm in 1996 blew their hangar down and bent longerons. “Miss Moline” exists today outside Wichita as a fuselage and tail feathers, without wings, awaiting restoration. They plan to rebuild her to flyable condition “soon.”

The airplane's owner and I carried the airframe out of the hangar to get this image of “Miss Moline” before wheat fields in Kansas, June 7, 2002 (your Webmaster mirrors Phoebe’s pose).

One of her events is commemorated in the following U.S. postal cachet shared by site visitor Joe Kranz. The cachet is postmarked August 23, 1930 and celebrates the National Air Races Women's Dixie Derby of the same date. According to the Aircraft Yearbook for 1931, Omlie took first place flying one of her Monocoupes and won $2,000 for her effort.

U.S. Postal Cachet, Phoebe Omlie, August 23, 1930 (Source: Kranz)
U.S. Postal Cachet, Phoebe Omlie, August 23, 1930 (Source: Kranz)

AN ACCIDENT WITH ANOTHER REGISTER MONOCOUPE, NC5878

Phoebe flew Monocoupe NC5877 to the Davis-Monthan Airfield on July 10, 1928 during her participation in the 1928 Ford Reliability Tour. A sister ship, NC5878 also landed at Tucson as a Tour participant (7/14/28, piloted by L.H. Atkinson). On the weekend of October 13-14, 1928 she took NC5878 to Paragould, AR where she assisted in the dedication of the West-Nash Airlines at the Paragould airport.

It is unclear what her "assistance" was, but a contemporary newspaper article states that, "Another possible feature on the program well be a young girl to swing suspended from a speeding airplane by a pair of ladies' silk stockings...." Since Phoebe was a parachutist and performed such barnstorming tricks, she may have been the "young girl."

On Sunday the 14th she was flying her Monocoupe with a passenger at low altitude when, she later reported, "...the controls jammed." The airplane spun to the ground and she suffered two broken legs, burns on both arms, and lacerations on her face. Her passenger suffered a broken leg and skull fracture.

She was flown to Memphis, TN by her husband and treated. Less than a year later she was flying again in the 1929 Air Derby (see photo top of page).

Phoebe Omlie died July 17, 1975 at age 73.

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Dossier 2.4.3

UPLOADED: 5/2/05 REVISED: 6/28/05, 03/26/08, 07/02/11

 
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WHAT'S SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THIS REGISTER ENTRY?
This airframe of NR8917 is still registered with the FAA. It lives today near Wichita, KS, awaiting reconstruction.
Phoebe Omlie was a favorite citizen of Memphis, TN. She is the subject of a small display of her artifacts in a glass case at the Memphis International Airport. Besides her pilot certificate (surprisingly, it looks like the original) and assorted photographs, there is a leather fob "mouthpiece" on a swivel that she used to hang by her teeth during wing walking exhibitions.
 
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