It is very rare when you can find a motion
picture of one of the aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan
Airfield. In this film we can see clearly how the airplane
moved in the air and how it behaved when taxied. For a brief
second, as it sits in profile and the camera pans through,
we can see that it has a "US MAIL" marking on the
vertical stabilizer, the registration number and a few other
numbers, including 218, and what looks like AM 12 and AM 33.
As it moves, we see the paint finish gleam in
the sun. We see a few bystanders keeping their distance. We
see the people involved with loading the aircraft, probably
with a bundle of mail. We see the location of the cargo door.
We see the good-humored, uniformed pilot in command. There
is a general spirit of relaxed urgency in the footage that
gives us a feeling of how it must have been to greet a Golden
Age airliner. The shiny automobile is a model A Ford. Site visitor Lt. Col. Alan Thomas says, "In the Fokker clip, the car is a model A Ford. Cannot see the body type but the headlights and engine cover are dead give-aways. I owned one in high school days. It cost me $35 dollars down and five a month til paid."
How did we come by this footage? The sharp eye
of one site visitor noted the registration number of this
airplane caught on film by his grandfather over 75 years ago.
It appeared on old family 16-mm movies which were in the process
of being transferred to videotape. He "Googled"
the registration number, and came up with this website. In
fact, as of the upload date of this page, this website is the ONLY hit you'll get if you Google
What we know about the airplane is limited so
far to the records of aircraft registrations maintained at
the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC (see the
image of typical NASM aircraft registration information at
the end of this page). It is clear that NC126M was manufactured
in September 1929 by the Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America
(S/N 865; ATC 52), based at Teterboro Airport in Hasbrouck
NC126M came from the factory with a Pratt &
Whitney Wasp engine (S/N 1391) of 410HP. It was certified
as a seven- place airplane, weighing 5,150 pounds. It sold
on October 7, 1929 to Aero Corporation of California, Inc., a brokerage
and air transport company operated by Jack
Frye. The airplane had been under contract to Aero for
this sale since July 22, 1929.
Now the Market Crash of October 1929 occurred,
and Aero sold the airplane to Mid Continent Air Express, Inc.
of Los Angeles a few months later on April 20, 1930. Mid Continent
flew it for two years. It sold again on April 16, 1932 to Western
Air Express, Inc. of United Airport, Burbank, CA. Western
Air Express operated it for another two years. There were
no monetary values given for these sales. Likewise, although
it is common among the NASM documentation of many other aircraft,
there is no record that NC126M ever suffered any accidents,
or underwent engine changes or repairs.
So when was this footage taken by Mr. Parker?
If you look closely at the film, you'll notice NC126M was
in the distinctive Western Air Express livery when it was
filmed by Mr. Parker. Therefore, he probably filmed it sometime
during the two-year period between April 16, 1932 when Western Air bought it, and June
25, 1934 when it was again sold to a private owner, G.J. Atwater
of Phoenix, AZ.
All totaled, NC126M led a fairly "clean"
life for a transport aircraft of the era. It had only four
owners, and there were no recorded accidents or repairs (although
it probably did have some; they just weren't recorded). There
is no record of total flight hours.
The airplane was about six-years old when it
landed at Tucson on March 9, 1935. It was piloted to the Davis-Monthan
Airfield by C.E. Powell. He carried two passengers, identified
simply as Middleton and Williams. Based in Los Angeles, they
arrived at Tucson from Phoenix and their destination was El
Paso, TX. Soon the airplane would be in Mexico, never to be
seen again in the U.S.
According to the records from the National Air
and Space Museum (paperwork for NC126M, below), on June 18, 1935
the owner advised the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Authority (precursor
of the FAA) that the airplane was sent to Mexico to be used
on an airline based at Chihuahua. The owner requested cancellation
of its U.S. license so that a Mexican license could be issued.
That's all that is known about the final disposition of this
beautiful, workhorse airplane.
One last note. According to the film archivist
at the National Air & Space Museum, this film is a rare
animal indeed. Although there are, in the National Archives
and other databases that we checked, references to moving
pictures of Fokker Universals and Super Universals, you can
count their numbers on one hand. Most examples are news films;
none are of the "amateur photography" type.
You better go back up to the top of this page
and enjoy the film clip again; you are seeing one of the very
few examples in the world of this aircraft type in action,
and perhaps the only one filmed on 16mm by an amateur photographer. That said, I'm informed by the Webmaster of www.aeromovies.fr that NC126M appeared in at least one Hollywood movie. He states, "You can see it in the serial 'Tailspin Tommy' (1934) chapters 9 and 12, landing and taking off, and you have close views of it when it stops in front the terminal of United Airport and at the Wilson airport (Chapter 12)."
Another last note. Below is an image from the
San Diego Aerospace Museum (reference in left sidebar). Although
the date ot this image is unknown, it is probably between
1932 and 1935 while it was flying for Western Air Express.
Note the WAE livery.
And another last note. The images below are
from the Saturday Evening Post of September 7, 1929. They
depict a double-wide magazine advertisement for Parker Duofold
Pens. Note the aviation connection featuring Michigan's "Lady
Lindy" Bertha Flo (not a Register pilot) standing in front of an Arrow Sport. This advertising could be the influence
of Kenneth Parker, who, in 1928, developed an advertising
program for the company that was based on aviation.
The facing page, below, features a fountain pen as a productivity
tool, saving motion and time by not having to dip!
Interestingly, the month this magazine ad appeared
is the same month that NC126M was manufactured (September
As happens sometimes, I get special chances to meet with the people who contact me through dmairfield.org. One occasion was August 10, 2009 when I met Geoff Parker who contributed the great film footage of NC126M. Below, your Webmaster (L) with Geoff. I hold a vintage Parker Duofold fountain pen from Geoff's collection (like the orange one in the advertisement above).
Your Webmaster (L) With Geoffrey Parker, August 10, 2010 (Source: Webmaster)
NC126M also landed once and is recorded in the Peterson Field Register on August 13, 1930. It was flown by Hadley F. Hershey.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 10/19/05 REVISED: 12/22/05, 03/23/06,
04/20/06, 06/15/06, 04/04/07, 1/9/08, 12/07/10, 05/23/17, 04/21/19
As of 04/21/19 This page is Google rank #1.