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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.


The definitive reference for early Lockheed aircraft is:

Allen, Richard S. 1988. Revolution in the Sky: The Lockheeds of Aviation's Golden Age. Orion Books, NY. 253 pp.


This link will get you A LOT of photographs and technical information about Lockheed Sirius, Altair and Orion aircraft, including some great images of NC117W.

This link shows a view of the airplane from the Klein Archive of Aviation Photographs on this site.

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This airplane is a Lockheed Sirius 8A (S/N 151; ATC #300) manufactured April 18, 1930 by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, CA.  It left the factory with a Pratt & Whitney Wasp C engine (S/N 3103) of 450 HP.  It was a two-place airplane, weighing 4,600 pounds.  It was painted white with red trim, fitted with wheel pants and a NACA cowl, and had two fuel tanks of 145 gallons capacity.


NC117W sold on July 10, 1930 to Air Services, Inc. Roosevelt Field, Mineola, NY. Shortly, on July 17, 1930 we find the airplane at Tucson flown by R.G. Lockwood carrying passenger O.E. Scott.  Lockwood is interesting because he held pilot certificate #3.  They are eastbound from Los Angeles, CA to Dallas, TX.  Perhaps this is the ferry flight from Burbank to the airplane’s new owners. Can you picture this beautiful airplane taxiing at the Davis-Monthan Airfield in the July dust? Below is an image of NC117W on the ground in New York. See the right sidebar for more information.

NC117W went through four owners in the New York area between 1932 and 1934, then it moved west.  It sold on October 15, 1934 to Paramount Productions, Inc., Jersey City, NJ.  During its Paramount duties, between 1934 and 1936, it was featured in the film 'Wings in the Dark' which starred Gary Grant and Myrna Loy. The scenes of the Sirius are worth buying the DVD. Below is a publicity still from the film. Grant is in the front cockpit; Loy on the ground. I do not know who owns the copyright for this image, or the one just below it. If you do and want me to remove them, please let me know. Alternatively, and better, I'd be happy to give you credit for their use.

NC117W With Paramount

Below, placed online December 11, 2008, another image from Mr. Kalina showing Cary Grant standing in the cockpit with leather helmet. For what it's worth, look at the shadows on the left side of the image, behind the extra in the fedora standing with his hands on hips.  Don’t they look like shadows cast on a perpendicular flat surface just behind him?  Could the scene of the hangars and lights in the distance be painted on a backdrop?  Mr. Kalina says about the image, "This is Sirius NC117W as used in the movie ‘Wings in the Dark’. This is an old, original movie photo lobby card." If you would like to watch "Wings in the Dark," it is available on YouTube at the link. Please let me KNOW if the link goes away. The movie has advertisements in it that you can skip after a few seconds. Also in the film, near the end, is Lockheed Vega NC48M.

Lockheed NC117W in "Wings in the Dark"
Lockheed NC117W in "Wings in the Dark"

It then moved, on August 8, 1936, to United Air Services, Ltd., Burbank, CA, owned by Paul Mantz.  It was modified to take wing cameras as of August 24, 1937.  As shown in the image below, it also had a swiveling cockpit camera and was used for motion picture work.

NC117W in Motion Picture Work
NC117W in Motion Picture Work

Now painted red (sometime after April 1937), below is a color image of NC117W as it was used for filming. Mantz is the person on the right facing us in goggles and helmet. Images above, and below from July 1938 Popular Aviation magazine, shared by Tim Kalina.

NC117W in Motion Picture Work
NC117W in Motion Picture Work

Further to its movie roles, site visitor Christian Santoir provides the following information about 117W, "As to 117W, it appears at the end of 'Sky Giant' [1938] taxiing in front of the Grand Central Air Terminal of Glendale. It has no camera mount but a sliding canopy; Richard Dix and Chester Morris come out of the forward cabin. It is apparently in regular Mantz colors (red and white) and decoration.

In 'Flying G men' [1939], the Mantz plane is piloted by the 'Black Falcon' a masked hero who fights against a spy ring. The plane is equipped with a machine gun fixed just before the windshield. It has no sliding canopy, the back seat hole having been closed by a sheet of metal. We can see it on the ground, landing, taking off, but, in flight, it is replaced by a model. Mantz's decoration, but the rudder is all red (black on the screen)."

NC117W was destroyed on May 9, 1940 in an alfalfa field northeast of Downey Airport, Downey, CA.  Mantz company pilot Walter Quinton and two passengers were killed after a mid-air crash with Vultee NX21755 piloted by Register pilot Vance Breese.  Breese’s plane landed safely. A news article describing the crash is posted at Mantz's page at the Peterson Field Register Web site at the link.


Mr. Kalina provides this image on March 5, 2008. He says about the image, "It’s a wonderful, original photo, printed on heavy paper with the photographer’s stamp on the back along with his name and city embossed (very tiny) in the lower right corner."

NC117W in Pennsylvania, Date Unknown

Further, "The photographer was Samuel W. Kuhnert of Harrisburg, PA., who was an aerial photographer of some renown. His personal photo collection (along with some personal belongings) are in the Pennsylvania State Archives. I think this photo may have been taken at the Harrisburg Airport, as Kuhnert took a lot of photos there. He seems to have worked primarily in the Harrisburg area.

"The 'official' lettering on the fuselage probably denotes that it was used as a steward or clerk of the course plane in some sporting event. Possibly one of the cup races at the NAR. There is further lettering aft on the fuselage and the first two letters seem to be 'LE_'....

"The hat on the man in the photo (who I assume was most likely a mechanic) reads (Dean’s)? Pure Milk."

Image, below, of the back of the photograph showing photographer's information.

Back of Image
Back of Image


Mr. Kalina provides this image on July 29, 2008. He says about this image, "The location is Mantz’s hanger [see the sign on the office behind the airplane] at Union Air Terminal, Burbank. Someone knowledgeable with cars could probably date this photo by that streamlined auto next to the Sirius. This photo is unusual in that it shows the Sirius without the rear cockpit camera and also with the standard canopies." See the image on the magazine cover above for and idea of what the cockpit camera fitting looked like. Although the date is unidentified on the image, it is probably before 1938.

NC117W, Date Unknown
NC117W, Date Unknown

Mr. Kalina provides the following two images on November 17, 2008. Below, NC117W at Floyd Bennett Field, NY. Although no date is given on the image, it is probably during 1930-31 as the airplane is still painted white with red trim as it came from the factory (see top of this page).

Lockheed Sirius NC117W at Floyd Bennett Field, Date Unknown
Lockheed Sirius NC117W at Floyd Bennett Field, Date Unknown

Below, a partial picture of NC117W. Mr. Kalina says of this image, "The photo in the hanger with Explorer NR101W ‘Blue Flash’ is taken, most likely, at Roosevelt Field."

Lockheed Sirius NC117W at Roosevelt Field, Date Unknown
 Sirius NC117W at Roosevelt Field, Date Unknown


These three images are provided by Mr. Kalina on August 31, 2010. He says about the first one, "The caption on the back of the photo reads... ‘Beauty in aviation architecture. Roosevelt Field, L. I. Architecture and aviation, oldest and newest of arts, effected an imposing alliance to bring the utmost beauty and utility to these hangers at the now ultra-modernized Roosevelt Field. 9-16-30’."

NC117W, Roosevelt Field, September 16, 1930 (Source: Kalina)
NC113W, Roosevelt Field, September 16, 1930 (Source: Kalina)

The second photograph is taken in front of the same hangar (note the architectural details over the windows).

NC117W, Roosevelt Field, Date Unknown (Source: Kalina)
NC113W, Roosevelt Field, Date Unknown (Source: Kalina)

This third image, dated 1937, shows the camera mount in place as in the magazine cover above.

NC117W at Cleveland Air Races, 1937 (Source: Kalina)
NC117W at Cleveland Air Races, 1937 (Source: Kalina)

Mr. Kalina says about this photograph, "This is the motion picture camera installation on NC117W when owned and operated by Paul Mantz. This photo comes from the MGM archives and was taken at the 1937 NAR in Cleveland. That appears to be a P-35 rounding the pylon in the background. Two P-35s competed in the 1937 Bendix, which finished at Cleveland, one flown by Frank Fuller and the other by Seversky test pilot Frank Sinclair. Fuller won the Bendix and flew over the finish line and went on to Floyd Bennett Field to set a new cross-country record. Sinclair came in fourth."


UPLOADED: 06/06/06 REVISED: 06/12/06, 08/23/06, 04/28/07, 03/05/08, 07/29/08, 11/17/08, 12/11/08, 09/30/10, 06/01/15

The Register

Images courtesy of site visitor Tim Kalina, who has provided many other images you'll see on this site. See also NC13W.

He says about the image at left, it, " a photo of Sirius NC117W when owned by Roosevelt Flying Service. The plane was being used by James Goodwin-Hall after the loss of his Altair NC15W. The 'Crusaders' was an anti-prohibition organization funded by wealthy Wall Street financiers. They were connected with the American Liberty League." The image is from Lockheed-Martin.

If you have other images you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me.

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