I soloed in January of 1921 after I had bought an army surplus OX5 Standard from Oakley-Askew of Ardmore, Okla. with the understanding that Askew would teach me to fly. This was after I had gone up with Earl (Bugga) Witten in his Canuck.
I went to Ardmore packed for a few days, had four hours the first day and Askew said I was ready to solo. However, since it was late in the day I decided to wait until the next day at which time I was put thru stalls, wingovers, spins, etc. He then gave me the signal to head out and I flew to Pauls Valley.
I barnstormed for the next six years around Oklahoma with intermittent breaks in 1926 and 1927 (buying cotton for Ben Mosley, Pauls Valley) putting on or helping put on “shows" at designated and most usually pre-advertised towns.Wiley Post did parachute jumps from my plane before he learned to fly. It is best described from an excerpt of his book "Eight Days Around TheWorld".
Tip Schier did wing walking and other acrobatics for me on several shows. Tip later flew for the original Braniff Airlines, Safeway and lastly for Delta Airlines.
At some time during my barnstorming days I was approached by the Ku Klux Klan to make a night flight over their parade at Pauls Valley (and later at Ada and Sulphur) with a big red cross of battery operated lights across the bottom of the plane. My extreme aversion to the KKK was overcome by my dire need of the offer of $100 per flight.
Since this would be my second night landing (the first being in a knee-high alfalfa field, bouncing thither and yon) EarlWitten and I rigged up a system for lighting the "landing strip" by stationing a number local lads along the way with railroad flares to be set off by signal from Earl by setting off his own flare. While discussing how much room to take off in the tall alfalfa, Earl drove his car down to the fence and set off his flare to show me how much room I would have. Before I could take off, the boys assumed that was their signal and immediately all flares went off.
After doing my thing over the parade, back and forth, my only aid in landing was the lights of Earl's car stationed at the barbed wire fence.
Some time during my barnstorming I was approached by a young girl from the country to fly her for a dive into Byars Lake. I was reluctant to do this and tried to discourage her from making the dive. However, she was very adamant, as were her mother and father. I agreed but gave her very explicit orders to follow my instructions. She was to sit on the leading edge of the bottom wing and to watch me until I gave her the nod when to dive. I flew down to about ten to 15" feet, cut the gun and pulled up into a stall at which time I gave her the nod. She left the ship and went into a perfect dive, came up and gave the wave that she was all right. Friends on shore estimated that she was about 40 to 45 feet when she left the ship. Later that afternoon she wrestled a milk calf at the rodeo.
When the devastating tornado hit Shawnee, about 1924 or 1925 the Daily Oklahoman wanted pictures of the damage. Their choice of the photographer hired me to fly over the town, which I did for quite some time. The town was almost leveled but there were some unusual and weird sights too, such as a lone door and frame from an otherwise demolished house standing upright apparently untouched and a grand piano standing upright amidst what seemed to be tons of rubble.
Up to the end of my barnstorming I had flown Standards, Jennies and Canucks. I kept no log of my barnstorming days and it wasn't until August of 1928 that I was required to apply for a license. At that time an oil man of Sapulpa bought a Swallow bi-wing and hired me to fly it. I was checked out on it by L. S. Turner of Swallow and R. B. Quick, Department of Commerce Inspector. My license number was 4167 and my barnstorming time was estimated at 1200 hours.
I flew for Mr. Stiver of Stiver-Billings until January 15, 1929. Taught his son and several other young men to fly during that time. In March of 1929 I started flying for Texas Air Transport, Fort Worth. This was near the end of their operations which consisted of mail, ferries, charters, training pilots and selling planes. I Flew Travelairs, Fairchilds, Challengers, Pitcairn Mail Wings and OX5 Robins. They used cabin planes for charters and open planes for mail and other operations.
In 1929 I started flying for the Southern Air Transport, Dallas, which with Texas Air Transport eventually and circuitously became American Airlines, ha ving had to be divorced from the Aviation Corporation of America, a holding company. I was based at the Southern Division at New Orleans flying to Houston, Gulfport, Baton Rouge, Grand Island, Mobile, Atlanta and Birmingham, flying mail.We flew much the same equipment as T. A. T. as well as Stearmans and more Pitcairns.
In December I went back to Dallas headquarters. I was one of two pilots who spent two months flying an aerial photographic survey of the Mississippi and the Red Rivers.We used a Fairchild with a hole in the floor directly behind the pilot. We had a very sensitive altimeter, flew 12,000 feet with oxygen. The photographer directed me by touching my shoulder, right or left.
I flew the Dallas - Houston run and the Dallas - Ft. WorthWaco - San Antonio - Brownsville run, in Stearmans and Travel Airs. I flew the Dallas - El Paso run for almost almost a year, Fokker and Super Universals.
July 1, 1931 I started flying for Bowen Airlines, Ft. WorthDal1as - Tulsa-Oklahoma City, Ft.Worth - San Antonio and Houston; later to Brownsville and still later to Chicago. We flew Wasp Lockheed Vegas and in 1935 we flew some Cyclone Vultees leased from American Airlines. I Flew with Bowen five years.
Sometime during that period Urschel was kidnapped and the only clue he could give the FBI after his rescue was that every day a plane flew over at the same time and he once casually .asked the time, and when the plane missed one day due to weather he asked the date. From that clue the FBI, in a study of the airline schedules and weather reports deduced it to be the schedule to Amarillo. The FBI man asked for me to fly for him back and forth over the line and through their calculations they were able to pinpoint the house as being near Wichita Falls which enabled them to eventually close in on the kidnappers.
Bowen took out bankruptcy on February 14, 1936 after losing their bid for a mail contract. After Braniff got the mail contract they contacted me in March, 1936 to fly for them but since their projected schedules would not be in operation for about a month they paid me to act as a dispatcher until I started flying as Captain April 19, the last pilot hired as captain (with the exception of two or three familiarization flights) without having had to fly as a regular copilot.
I flew all the runs on Braniff except the South American run, but did fly the Dallas - Havana, Cuba - Panama passenger run after the war, 1949-1950. I flew Wasp Electras DC2 Cyclone 5-27-39 DC3 - 1-1-40 DC4 - 4-30-46 D06 - 4-10-48 DC7-10-20-56
Early in 1944 the Germans were sinking so many ships in the Caribbean Sea the government contracted with Braniff to fly cargo to the Panama Canal. Some twenty crews, mostly top seniority men were stationed at Brownsville for the almost two years we operated the run. The Army assigned several selected pilots to serve as copilots to get the experience from time to time.We flew C-53's C-47's C-49s The CAA law requiring pilots to retire at age 69 caused my retirement March 21, 1961 - allowing me to pursue my dedicated time to trout fishing in the Northwest, hunting and traveling.
I was with Braniff 25 years and 18 days.
I flew airlines 32 years. Total hours 29,710