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Some of this information comes from the listings of Non-Prefixed and Non-Suffixed aircraft reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC.




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.

---o0o--- 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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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.


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. The image, right, as well as some interesting descriptions of the equipment and use of NC32M is found on p. 170 of this book.


This link provides an interesting review of the use of aircraft by the Detroit News from 1912 to June 1960.

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


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LOCKHEED VEGA Model 5C Special NC32M

LOCKHEED VEGA Model 5C Special NC32M


This airplane is a Lockheed Vega Model 5C Special (S/N 102; ATC Memo #2-257 of 8/13/30) manufactured during July 1929 by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, CA.  It left the factory with a Pratt & Whitney Wasp C engine (S/N 1834) of 420 HP.  It was a 3-5 place airplane.  It was named “The Detroit News”.  You may see an image of this airplane on wheels here; on floats below.

NC32M on Floats

A site visitor pointed out the photograph below dated August 1929 from the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of The Detroit News. The aerial camera used by the News was shown perched on its carrying case in this very sharp photograph.

Lockheed Vega NC32M, August 1929 (Source: Link)
Lockheed Vega NC32M, August 1929 (Source: Link)

NC32M carried survival gear in the event of a water landing. It was photographed, below. In the inflatable raft were a large wool blanket wrapped around a gallon Stanley insulated, "unbreakable," thermos jug, paddles, three life jackets on the stern, an air pump and a box on the transom that is labeled faintly in pencil "Emergency Ration." Dated October 1929 from the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of The Detroit News.

Lockheed Vega NC32M, Survival Equipment, October 1929 (Source: Link)
Lockheed Vega NC32M, Survival Equipment, October 1929 (Source: Link)

It is not clear where the foot rest for the pump would rest if it was needed to inflate the raft while in the water with occupants. Three people would be hard to fit in this raft. Likewise, the snaps on the life vests would be extremely difficult to operate with cold hands in frigid water.

NC32M was also fitted for skis for winter operations, below. Dated August 1929 [sic] from the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of The Detroit News. The photograph was clearly not taken during August.

Lockheed Vega NC32M, On Skis, August 1929 (Source: Link)
Lockheed Vega NC32M, On Skis, August 1929 (Source: Link)

NC32M was also equipped with floats for water operations, below. The photograph is from the Detroit News Archives at the link. The photo captions states, in part, "Detroit news employees load a plane with copies of the newspaper in July, 1930."

Lockheed Vega NC32M, On Floats, July 1930 (Source: Link)
Lockheed Vega NC32M, On Floats, July 1930 (Source: Link)

NC32M sold during 1930 to the Evening News Association, Detroit, MI.  We find NC32M landing at Tucson three times, each time with its Home Base identified as Detroit.  The first landing was on August 24, 1929 (notice, before it was officially sold).  The pilot was Frank Byerley, carrying Register pilot James Piersol as passenger.  (Piersol was the aviation editor for the Detroit News and, in 1935, was instrumental in negotiations to move the Wright Brother’s boyhood home and last bicycle shop to the Ford Museum.  These were moved, reconstructed and dedicated at Greenfield Village on April 16, 1938, the seventy-first anniversary of Wilbur's birthday.) 

Byerley and Piersol were eastbound from Los Angeles, CA (probably Burbank) to El Paso, TX.  Based on the manufacture date of the airplane, this could easily be the ferry flight of the airplane to its new owners in Detroit.  Less than two months later, Byerley and Piersol would fly NC32M as an “accompanying” airplane in the 1929 Ford Reliability Tour, no doubt covering the event for the newspaper.

The second visit to the Davis-Monthan Airfield was on November 26, 1931, flown again by Byerley.  He carried a single passenger, Arthur Mankey.  They were eastbound from Los Angeles to El Paso, TX.  The third visit was a little over a month later on January 8, 1932.  The pilot this time was Piersol carrying two passengers, Vance Breese and Arthur Mankey.  They were eastbound from Burbank, CA to Detroit, MI.  The pilot noted “Fine weather” in the Remarks column of the Register.

According to the NASM record, NC32M was purchased by Detroit News and flown as a news-gathering aircraft on wheels, floats and skis.  It was elaborately equipped with photography and radio equipment.  It was initially painted red with white trim.  Detroit News traded NC32M back to Lockheed as of September 1, 1934 for a new Lockheed Orion, NC799W (did not land at Davis-Monthan Airfield; image available here and on Piersol's page).

Lockheed sold NC32M during 1934 to Richard W. Coulter, Pittsburgh Airways, Pittsburgh, PA.  It was flown between 1934 and 1935 by Central Airlines, Inc., Pittsburgh, on its routes.  It was converted to a Vega 5C under ATC 384 on August 5, 1935.

According to the NASM record, in 1935 NC32M was sold to Philip Whitmarsh, Los Angeles, CA where it was used for several years for movie-making.  It appears in movies with a false registration, NC19958.  It appears in "Flyin' Wild" starring the Dead End Kids (1941, two stars). It also appears in "Sundown" (1941), in "Face Behind the Mask" (1941), and in "The Bride Came COD" (1941) with James Cagney and Bette Davis, the only movie with Paul Mantz in a small role. Anyone know any other movie(s)?

In 1942 the airplane was sold to Charles H. Babb, Glendale, CA.  Babb sold it for $6,750 on November 13, 1942 to Lineas Aereas Mineras, S.A. (LAMSA), Mazatlan, Mexico.  At the time of sale it had 4,939:06 total flight hours.  It was brought into Mexico on December 9, 1942 via Juarez and Torreon by pilot Jose Juanes of LAMSA.  It received Mexican registration XA-DAI, issued on January 23, 1943.

NC32M suffered an accident at Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico on June 23, 1943.  While taxiing, the brakes were applied and the airplane nosed over and fire started.  Pilot Juanes and a passenger escaped unharmed.  The airplane was consumed by flames.


The image below, courtesy of friend of Tim Kalina, comes from the October 1929 issue of the Air Travel magazine rotogravure section. Not only do we see a spectacularly clear image of NC32M, but the background pattern of repeating biplanes is very creative and attractive.

NC32M, Top, October 1929 (Source: Kalina)
NC32M, October 1929

The bottom image, Fokker Super Universal, NC9778, does not appear in the Register. But its sister ship NC9724 did.

Another from Mr. Kalina, via Roger Holden’s collection, is undated, but was taken sometime between 1929 and 1934 when it was owned by the Detroit News.

Lockheed NC32M, "Detroit News", Ca. 1929-34 (Source: Holden via Kalina)
Lockheed NC32M, "Detroit News", Ca. 1929-34



UPLOADED: 06/06/06 REVISED: 02/05/08, 02/26/08, 07/11/09, 10/04/09, 11/16/17

The Register
I'm looking for other photographs of this airplane to include on this page. If you have one or more you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me.


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