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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Woodring, CW-878000-01 , 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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"Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936" is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-2-5.

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IRVIN ALBERTA "BERT" WOODRING

Irvin A. Woodring, ca. 1930 (Source: NASM)
I.A. Woodring, ca. 1930

CURSED PILOTS; CURSED AIRPLANES

Irvin A. Woodring was one of the "Three Musketeers of Aviation" (with J.J. Williams and W.L. Cornelius), valued by the Army for their daring aerial feats.

Williams and Cornelius signed the Davis-Monthan Register, too. However, there are no dossiers for them at the NASM. Although both of them died early in aviation accidents, that's not the reason, because Woodring also died early and he has a record at the NASM.

The square-jawed Lt. I.A. Woodring landed at least three times at Tucson. Each time he flew Boeing PW-9D airplanes (28-28, 28-32 and one unidentified). He landed first on Monday June 17, 1929 at 9:00 AM. He was westbound from El Paso, TX to Rockwell Field, San Diego, CA. He must have left El Paso early, as it was about a 3-4 hour flight from there to Tucson.

A few months later he landed again on October 4, 1929 at 2:10 PM eastbound from San Diego. He returned west on Wednesday October 9th. There was no reason given for his roundtrip, although he did note in the Remarks column of the Register on October 4th simply "OK".

Regarding his aircraft, all the Boeing fighters from 28-26 to 28-41 were PW-9Ds with S/Ns ranging from 1011 to 1026. Parenthetically, Boeing 28-37 landed at Tucson on Friday July 27, 1928 flown by a different pilot. That airplane was involved in a famous midair collision with Maddux Air Lines Ford 5-AT-B NC9636 (not in the Register) at San Diego, CA on April 21, 1929, barely a year after its Tucson visit.

I.A. Woodring was born in Enid, Oklahoma February 1, 1902 and died January 20, 1933 at Wright Field, Dayton, OH. He was a hot shot pilot during his brief life. He attended Oklahoma A&M College from 1920-23 in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He entered the Army flying school at Brooks Field, San Antonio, TX and graduated in February 1924 from the Pursuit class. Then followed three years of civilian barnstorming. In 1927 he returned to active duty and received his commission in the Regular Army and was ordered to Selfridge Field, MI with the 1st Pursuit Group.

While stationed at Selfridge, he won the Mitchel Trophy Race held in Dayton, OH. He also served to escort Charles Lindbergh during part of his national tour after his trans-Atlantic flight in May 1927. In 1928 he transferred to Rockwell Field and became a member of "The Three Musketeers", who performed their hair-raising aerobatics at the National Air Races (NAR) at Los Angeles, CA that year (Mines Field, Sept. 8-16). Next, Woodring was a member of the refueling crew for the Army endurance airplane, the "Question Mark" during its record-breaking flight in January 1929. Along the way he picked up transport pilot license no. 1867.

Below, shared with us by site visitor Roger Holden, is a photo of Woodring in front of a Boeing P-12. Holden says about the image, "His A-1 flying jacket bears the 'Kicking Mule' insignia of the 95th Pursuit Squadron."

I.A. Woodring, October 4, 1929 (Source: Holden)
I.A. Woodring, October 4, 1929 (Source: Holden)

Several interesting news articles, notably one from the New York Times dated November 9, 1929, appear in Woodring's NASM dossier. They cite a high-altitude incident on November 8, 1929. He departed Rockwell Field in a supercharged Boeing P-12 with special oxygen tanks and other apparatus for high-altitude testing. He was scheduled to rendezvous with another airplane at 25,000 feet. Upon reaching that altitude he was over Tijuana, Mexico cruising at 130 MPH heading for Rockwell again. After cruising for 30 minutes he found that he had not moved from over Tijuana due to high wind velocity. I wonder if this obscure news article in his dossier is one of the first observations of the high-altitude prevailing winds that came to be known as the Jet Stream.

Below, from friend of dmairfield.org, John Underwood, a signed photograph of Woodring with a Boeing P-12. It is unknown if this P-12 is the one used above, or the one used in the adventure that follows these images.

I.A. Woodring and Boeing P-12, Glendale, CA, Date Unknown (Source: Underwood)
I.A. Woodring and Boeing P-12, Glendale, CA, Date Unknown (Source: Underwood)

Below, the caption on the back of this photograph.

Caption: I.A. Woodring and Boeing P-12, Glendale, CA, Date Unknown (Source: Underwood)
Caption: I.A. Woodring and Boeing P-12, Glendale, CA, Date Unknown (Source: Underwood)

In 1930 he became a member of the Caterpillar Club when he had to take to his parachute when the airplane he was dog-fighting with broke up during Air Corps Maneuvers at Sacramento, CA. On October 15, 1930 he carried the Japanese ratification of the London Naval Treaty from Vancouver, BC to New York City. He won the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism during that flight.

He and wingman W.W. Caldwell, flying Boeing P-12Cs, received orders to fly this document of international importance to New York for delivery by October 18th. They ran into foul weather in Wyoming but, in pursuit aircraft not fitted for instrument flight, they persisted in their task. Campbell crashed to his death. Woodring arrived at Newark at 7PM October 16th and delivered the document.

His experiences with "The Three Musketeers" received the most press in his NASM dossier. They performed, along with the analogous Navy team named "The Three Seahawks" (see Register pilot D.W. Tomlinson), at the 1928 NAR in Los Angeles. J.J. Williams was the first Musketeer to perish during an early performance at Mines while flying inverted at a very low altitude. Charles Lindbergh took Williams' place for the final five days of their NAR performances.

Cornelius was killed a couple of weeks later at Rockwell Field during regular daily formation practice maneuvers when his airplane crashed into another one while airborne. Cornelius' parachute became entangled in the descending wreckage and he went down with it. So ended "The Three Musketeers".

A little over a year later, on April 23, 1930, Woodring took to his parachute again. This time he was dog fighting with Hugh Elmendorf (signed the Register four times), performed an unusually stressful maneuver (from the newspaper description it sounds like he made a very fast load change from positive to negative Gs) that caused his aircraft to go out of control. He parachuted successfully from about 2,000 feet.

News Account of Woodring Demise, ca. January 20, 1933 (Source: NASM)
News Account of Woodring Demise, ca. January 20, 1933

On Friday January 20, 1933 he was at Wright Field, Dayton, OH. The news account states, "Lieut. Woodring was killed in a mid-air explosion while testing a new airplane..." The airplane he crashed in is cited at Joe Baugher's site as the Consolidated Y1P-25, "32-322 completed as Y1A-11 attack aircraft. Crashed Jan 20, 1933, killing pilot 1st Lt. Irvin Woodring."

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Below are text and images provided by site visitor John Lyon (cited, right sidebar).

I.A. Woodring, ca. 1930 (Source: Lyon)
I.A. Woodring, ca. 1930

"Irwin A. Woodring,  was a second lieutenant in the Air Reserve in 1927.  In that year he went to Selfridge Field, Michigan, and there was relieved from extended active duty to accept regular appointment, being assigned to his old outfit, the 27th Squadron.   (On the same day Jimmy Doolittle made the same transition, but to the 95th Squadron).

"On the third of May he was pilot of one of a flight of 19 P-1 pursuits which made a flight from Selfridge to Ft. Riley, Kansas, between 7:00 a.m.and 5:15 p.m, with a stop at Chanute Field in Illinois.   Next day they went on to Fort Sill.  This was a pretty good cross-country for the times.   In September [1927] he placed third in the 'Free-for-All' race at the National Air Races, flying his [Curtiss] P-1-B at 153.660, about a mph out of first [the Aircraft Yearbook reports his second-place speed at 155.046 MPH; about 3 MPH slower than the winner at 158.412 MPH].  He went on to win the Mitchel Trophy Race at 158 mph [158.968 MPH; October 12, 1927].  

"On June 27, 1928, he transferred to the 95th Pursuit at March Field, the same outfit as Doolittle.   It bounced back and forth between March and Rockwell for some years.  During this time the Nasal Radiators [sic; naval aviators] formed the first U.S. service aerial demonstration group, 'The Seahawks', which did tied-together aerobatics.  Not to let the Navy get by with this kind of uppity behavior, the Army did likewise, founding the 'Three Musketeers.'  

Cornelius, Lindbergh and Woodring, NAR 1928 (Source: NASM)
Cornelius, Lindbergh and Woodring, NAR 1928

"The original members were Lts. Cornelius, Williams and Johnson.  Johnson was killed while escorting Lindbergh on a Canadian tour, and Woodring took his place.  This group gave demonstrations all over the country.  Williams was killed while stunting solo in front of a huge crowd at the National Air Races in September, 1928.  Lindbergh substituted for him for the remainder of the Races...."

Lindbergh appears at center in the photo at right, probably taken shortly after Williams' crash.

With Cornelius' and Williams' deaths, the "Three Musketeers" ended as a performance group. With Woodring's passing, all three members had perished inside of five years. The airport at Enid, OK is named the Enid Woodring Municipal Airport on May 30, 1933. Woodring also held a civilian pilot certificate. He flew with Transport pilot certificate, T1867.

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Dossier 2.2.189

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 01/29/08 REVISED: 04/04/08, 03/15/10, 05/12/10, 07/13/12, 11/28/13

 
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I'm looking for better photographs of pilot Woodring to include on this page. If you have one or more you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me.

CREDITS

John Lyon of Flabob Airport, Riverside, CA provides us with better images of pilot Woodring, below, as well as biographical information. Thanks to John.

 
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