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There is no data card for this airplane at the National Air & Space Museum, because NC21M is still registered with the FAA.



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, while supplies last.


The Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link.


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. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.


Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Available as a free download at the link.


Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race is available at the link. What was it like to fly from Oakland to Honolulu in a single-engine plane during August 1927? Was the 25,000 dollar prize worth it? Did the resulting fame balance the risk? For the first time ever, this book presents the pilot and navigator's stories written by them within days of their record-setting adventure. Pilot Art Goebel and navigator William V. Davis, Jr. take us with them on the Woolaroc, their orange and blue Travel Air monoplane (NX869) as they enter the hazardous world of Golden Age trans-oceanic air racing.


Clover Field: The First Century of Aviation in the Golden State. With the 100th anniversary in 2017 of the use of Clover Field as a place to land aircraft in Santa Monica, this book celebrates that use by exploring some of the people and aircraft that made the airport great.


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NC21M appears in the Davis-Monthan Register on May 24, 1931. It was flown solo by Gladys O'Donnell, accomplished Golden Age air racer. Based at Long Beach, CA she was southbound from Phoenix, AZ to Douglas, AZ.

Waco NC21M
Waco NC21M

Her airplane carried S/N A-151. It was manufactured in 1929. Pilot O'Donnell was a Charter member of the 99's and she was a participant in the August, 1929 National Air Races (NAR) Powder Puff Derby. She won second place in the Santa Monica, CA to Cleveland cross-country race with a time of 21:21:43. According to the Aircraft Yearbook for 1930 (REFERENCES) she won $1,950 for her effort. She did not fly this airplane, however (see below).

Waco NC21M (Source: Heins)
Waco NC21M

From the look of the cars in the background, the image above was probably taken sometime later in the 1930s or 40s.

Waco NC21M (Source: Heins)
Waco NC21M

Where is NC21M today? The following article from the WACO WORLD NEWS  MARCH/APRIL 2000, p. 4 tells about its manufacture, special features, race history and current location and fate.

Rob Lock

Gladys O'Donnell
Gladys O'Donnell

"In 1929, the first "Powder Puff Derby" was held starting in Santa Monica, Ca. and ended at the National Air Races in Cleveland. Notable pilots that competed that first year were Louise Thaden in a souped up Travel Air Speedwing, Amelia Earhart in her red Lockheed Vega, and Gladys O'Donnell in a J-5 powered Taperwing. Ms. O'Donnell finished second that year in the borrowed Waco (NC9558) and vowed to be back the next year and do even better.

"Lloyd [see the link to NC1082] and Gladys O'Donnell took delivery of NC2lM; a Wright J6-7powered Waco Taperwing on September 27th, of 1929. They knew some modifications had to be done to compete with the faster production airplanes then available. During the early part of 1930, they had the airplane modified for racing with the installation of I-struts, and a full NACA engine cowl that was made popular by the Travel Air Mystery Ship the year before. They also rounded the fuselage to fair into the large cowling and finished the airplane in an attractive scalloped red and yellow paint design. All this work finished the day before the 1930 Women's Air Derby and was approved by the CAA and Waco factory by the issuing of a Group 2 approval number (thus making it a Waco CTO Special).

"It is important to note that at the time of the first Air Derby in 1929, Mrs. O'Donnell had only been flying for a little over a year and had a mere 90 hours logged in her logbook. By the time the Chicago Air Races rolled around the following year, that figure had grown to 250 hours. To race a biplane across the country and participate in closed course events at the NAR's is an amazing feat considering her flying experience.

"Needless to say, 21M took the checkered flag in the 1930 Air Derby arriving in Chicago and beating the closest competitor by over 6 hours. It also won a few closed course events that same year with both Gladys and Lloyd at the controls. NC2IM banked $6,250 at the National Air Races that year, not bad for an airplane they had bought a year earlier for $8,525.00.

"Knowing the competition would be waiting for her yellow and red CTO Special the following season, NC21M was modified even further by the installation of a special racing gear, metal wheel pants and other smaller mods to aid in the quest for more speed. All this work made the airplane a truly one-of-a kind Waco and placed it among the elite of all Wacos ever produced.

"In a letter to H. Glenn Buffington in 1967, Mrs. O'Donnell wrote, 'I feel a pang of guilt at not keeping my old friend 21M, for that's the way I feel about the airplane. The enclosed photograph is 21M at her best, in the streamlined beauty of its heydey-l63mph, you will notice the special racing gear. It was beautiful but a bit rugged on turf fields, since it was a rigid gear. It added about 6mph to the top speed.' The O'Donnell's owned this fast biplane for a decade and won many more racing events over those years.

"Mrs. O'Donnell continued to race Monocoupes and Howards throughout the 1930's and was very successful. She, along with Lloyd established a CPT program in central California during WW2 and trained thousands of pilots for the war effort in Stearmans and Ryans. There is a plaque at Sequoia field honoring their contributions. Mrs. O'Donnell was one of the original members of the 99's and also served as president of the Women's National Republican Party.

"NC21M continued its colorful existence and was the centerpiece of many airshow routines throughout the Midwest. It bounced around from owner to owner and in need of restoration, was finally dismantled and put in storage in 1968. It passed though another owner before I was fortunate to acquire this well-known biplane in 1991. It was transported to California and is patiently awaiting restoration at my father's shop. NCM21 M (now NC21R) will once again grace the sky and be finished in red and yellow to honor the pioneer aviatrix who made her famous."


Below, an unpublished image of NC21M. This image comes to us from site visitor Zane Adams in Arlington, TX. It was taken by his father, Charles W. Adams, during the 1930 air race, as documented above. NC21M is on the extreme left.

NC21M on the Taxi Line, 1930 NAR (Source: Adams)
NC21M on the Taxi Line, 1930 NAR

What an interesting juxtaposition of technologies in this image, as well as superb foreground interest and old-time snapshot framing printed right on the image. This is an excellent photograph from both the aviation historical and the aesthetic perspective.

The second airplane from the left, race number 2, is the Pitcairn NC96W flown by Margery Doig. The third airplane from the left is the American Eagle named "Miss Chicago" flown by Jean LaRene during the race. The lettering on the fuselage is clearly visible on the original image, as is the registration number for 21M. Please follow the links for more about Margery Doig and Jean and ther airplanes.

August 26, 2016 Photos below courtesy of Tim Kalina via Web. Probably during the 1930 NAR. Note the flagman in the left background.

Waco NC21M, Ca. 1930 (Source: Kalina)
Waco NC21M, Ca. 1930 (Source: Kalina)

Below is an enlargement of the image above. Note the parachute above the cockpit, suggesting the pilot was donning it for departure. The feet, legs and shoes of the person at right, visible under the fuselage, look like O'Donnell's. Note the interwing I strut and the speed farings on the wheels as discussed above.

Waco NC21M, Ca. 1930 (Source: Kalina)
Waco NC21M, Ca. 1930 (Source: Kalina)


UPLOADED: 10/07/07 REVISED: 12/12/07, 09/30/09, 08/26/16, 06/11/23

The Register

President (as of the upload date of this page) Andy Heins of the National Waco Club sent most of the images at left. Andy  runs the day to day business of the Club, and we should all thank him for the effort he expended to help us understand better the Waco aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield way back when.

This airplane is still in existence and is being restored in California.

Another very nice image of NC21M is here in the Cosgrove Collection.


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