LOCKHEED VEGA Model 5C Special NC32M
A NOSE FOR NEWS: “THE DETROIT
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,
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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
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
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 dmairfield.org 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
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)
UPLOADED: 06/06/06 REVISED: 02/05/08, 02/26/08, 07/11/09, 10/04/09, 11/16/17