FORD 4-AT-A NC1781
This airplane is a Ford 4-AT-A tri-motor (S/N 4-AT-12; ATC
# GR 2-9) manufactured October 1, 1927 by the Stout Metal
Airplane Company (Ford Motor Company), Dearborn, MI. It
came from the factory with three Wright Whirlwind J-5CA engines
(S/Ns L 7542, R 7543, C 8130) of 220 HP each. It was
a twelve-place airplane, weighing 9,300 pounds.
It sold on September 28, 1927 for $43,000 to J.L. Maddux
for Maddux Air Lines, Inc. Los
Angeles, CA. This was
the second Ford placed in service with Maddux. It was
to be used for the San Diego-San Francisco, CA route. On
May 2, 1928, Maddux transferred it to his Air Lines
On January 16, 1929 the airplane was sold to the Pacific
Finance Corporation of Los Angeles, CA for $25,000 (an exhilarating
depreciation for an airplane a little over a year old). The
designated use was, “for scenic passenger flights”.
We find NC1781 landing twice at Tucson, on January 29, 1929
southeast bound from Los Angeles, CA to Douglas, AZ, and
on June 10, 1929 northwest bound from Douglas, AZ to Los
Angeles, CA. Both times our pilot was Clarence “Ace” Bragunier. He carried two passengers
in January (Henry Jack Rowe; Lynn Berkenkamp) and one in
The image above, courtesy of George Monthan, is of NC1781
on the ground at Tucson, date unknown, but sometime during
its service with Maddux. We can see the legs of many
people standing on the starboard side of the ship. We
can also see well the condition of the Airfield surface during
the late 1920s. Compare the hangar in the background with
that in the image near the bottom of this page.
NC1781 suffered an accident at Sherman, TX on March 31,
1929, just a couple of months after its visit to Tucson. It
was on a barnstorming tour as “Golden State Airline,
Inc.” Pilot Bragunier (transport pilot license #1440)
and ten passengers were uninjured. The airplane had
the, “fuselage caved in between #8 and #10 station”. It
was repaired at the Ford factory after an unapproved repair
at Dallas, TX.
On May 16, 1930, the airplane was cited in a U.S. Customs
violation (Case #2215 in Los Angeles, CA) and seized by the
government. On June 6, 1930 it was sold to Mary and
Harold J. Flaherty of Los Angeles. Its registration
was cancelled on January 16, 1932 at the request of its owners. It
was acknowledged that it was to be flown in Mexico “for
a few months.”
A letter dated May 9, 1933 from the Ford Motor Company states, “We
understand that this plane was badly damaged in an accident
in Mexico last year.” Its registration in Mexico,
S-BAFF was cancelled in 1933. No further information.
A few weeks after I put this page online, I was contacted
by Ron Morgon of Long Beach, CA who offers the images below
of a picture post card from a collection owned by his grandmother.
It shows NC1781 in profile, with a copy of the Maddux Los
Angeles to San Francisco route schedule. For an example of
what it was like to fly this schedule, see NC4532.
Many thanks to Ron for making dmairfield. org a better site for
Below is another view of NC1781 found on the Flickr stream of the San Diego Aerospace Museum (SDAM). It shows NC1781 on the gound at Ryan Field, San Diego, CA. Notice that the port engine is turning.
Ford NC1781, Ryan Field, San Diego, CA, Ca. 1929 (Source: SDAM)
UPLOADED: 03/29/06 REVISED: 04/21/06, 12/29/07, 07/18/19