PANCHO'S (et al.) AIRPLANE, STILL REGISTERED
This Travel Air D-4000 is S/N 379, manufactured February 25, 1928, and
purchased in March from the factory by Howard Hawks, a Hollywood
movie director. It came with a 220 HP Wright J-5-C, S/N 8286.
Hawks registered it as NX4419 (experimental, see below), flew it 156 hours for movie
work, and sold it in October to Register pilot H.C. Lippiatt, an aircraft broker and dealer. Below, a photograph of 4419 when it was registered "NX.'
"Speedwing" Travel Air NC4419, Ca. 1928 (Source: Barnstormer's Workshop)
Barnes bought NC4419 from Lippiatt on November 24, 1928. She paid $2,500,
plus her old Travel Air in trade. According to the current FAA record, Barnes bought it initially for, “photography and motion
picture work”. However, in 1929 she registered it as
NR4419 and flew in the Powder Puff Derby that year. She did
not finish due to a collision with an automobile on the runway
in Pecos, TX on August 22.
Pancho was the third owner and
flew NC4419 about three years. On July 3, 1930, she registered her airplane as NC4419 after
the factory made, “…changes in fittings to correspond
with approved type”. She flew it 359 hours, over
half of her 618 total hours before her last use on March 8,
1931 for a 30-minute hop from Glendale to Mines Field.
All totaled through the years, NC4419 changed hands 23 times, including nine times during the years of WWII. It was owned by four Register pilots (Lippiatt, Barnes, Gilbert Budwig and Ross Hadley) and flown to Tucson by at least one more (see below). It is presently being restored by the staff of Barnstormer’s Workshop
in Williamson, GA. Your Webmaster published an article in Sport Aviation in 2004 that describes NC4419 (PDF, 1.6MB).
NC4419 visited Tucson at least three times. The first two landings were made by Leo Nomis. Nomis was a personal friend of Barnes, and a member of The Motion Pictures Pilots' Association. He was killed in February, 1932. He is cited in at two Barnes biographies, Cf. Barbara Schultz' "Pancho" p. 106 and Tate's "The Lady Who Tamed Pegasus" p. 49.
Nomis' first visit was on Tuesday, August 21, 1928. Based at Santa Monica, CA, Clover Field, he carried Bob Moore as his sole passenger. They were on an itinerary westbound from El Paso, TX. Curiously, they cited their destination as New York. They noted in the Remarks column of the Register, "Ferrying." Note that he identified the airplane as registered "NC." According to the FAA record, it was NC until October 5, 1928 when it was changed by Howard Hawks.
Nomis' second visit was on Tuesday, September 11, 1928. He identified the registration as "NX" this time, which precedes the official date for the conversion to the experimental classification. This could simply be due to the lag in U.S. mail at the time, with the date of conversion tied to the date the correspondence was logged in by the Department of Commerce. Regardless, he carried Bob Moore again as passenger, westbound from El Paso to Yuma, AZ.
The third and final landing at Tucson by NC4419 was flown by Pancho Barnes. She carried Bert White as her single passenger. They were westbound
to Los Angeles and home after a harrowing east-west journey. Please direct your browser to Barnes' biography page for a description of the circumstances surrounding this flight, and for a chart of her and White's itinerary. According to her pilot log, she landed at Tucson October 15, 1930. The dates in Barnes' pilot log and the ones in Schultz' book do not agree. Cf. pp. 82-83 of "Pancho" by Schultz (op. cit.).
On January 6, 1933, Pacific
Airmotive Corp. confiscated NC4419 to satisfy a $1,649.38
material and labor lien for repairs that Pancho defaulted. They must have had it for sale for a while, and it was purchased by Register pilot Gilbert Budwig on May 9, 1934. He applied for an "R", restricted, license for "sky writing operations." The FAA record states, "Oil tank installed in front cockpit and lines running therefrom to exhaust pipe." Budwig next sold it on March 26, 1937 to Register pilot Ross Hadley (6th owner), who used it for sky writing. The airplane was reacquired by Pacific Airmotive Corp. on September 16, 1942 for satisfaction of a labor and materials lien of $1,546.10 against Hadley. This is odd, because at one time in the early 1930s Hadley was president
of Pacific Aeromotive Corp.
Between then and 1963, NC4419 was transferred via numerous sales from California to Colorado to a number of locations in Texas. On May 13, 1963 it sold to Arthur V. Whidden of Cochran, GA, then to Lowe Aviation, Macon, GA on February 16, 1966, and then to its current owner who registered it on June 15, 1994. Below, three views of the restoration project as of November 15, 2002 when I visited with the airplane. The first view is of the bins containing individual original parts.
NC4419 Parts Bin, November 15, 2002 (Source: Webmaster)
The second view is of the steel tube fuselage frame.
NC4419 Fuselage Frame, November 15, 2002 (Source: Webmaster)
The third view is of the original wing structure.
NC4419 Original Wing Structure, November 15, 2002 (Source: Webmaster)
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 03/23/10 REVISED: 08/25/11, 09/14/11, 09/02/12, 01/06/23