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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. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.


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FORD 4-AT NC5578

FORD 4-AT NC5578


This airplane is a Ford 4-AT tri-motor (S/N 4-AT-24; ATC # unidentified) manufactured June 7, 1928 by the Stout Metal Airplane Company (Ford Motor Company), Dearborn, MI.  It came from the factory with three Wright Whirlwind J-5 engines (S/Ns L 8447, R 9923, C 9057) of 220 HP each.  It was a twelve-place airplane, weighing 10,000 pounds.

It sold for $48,000 on June 23, 1928 to Scenic Airways, Inc., Grand Canyon, AZ.  The price included a 78’ wing, which cost $3,000 extra.  The longer wing was probably ordered for higher performance at the altitude of the Grand Canyon area. Register pilot J. Parker Van Zandt was founder of that company.

NC5578 in Scenic Airways Livery, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Univ. of Wyoming)
NC5578 in Scenic Airways Livery, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Univ. of Wyoming)

At left we see NC5578 in Scenic Airways livery. The distinctive rainbow on the fuselage and the registration number are visible in the original, which can be seen at the link in larger size. This photograph is posted on the University of Wyoming's American Heritage Center Digital Collections. This particular image is in the Richard Leferink Scrapbook.

We find NC5578 at Tucson twice, on November 14, 1928 and between April 14th and April 18, 1934.  Based in Phoenix, and flying for Scenic Airways, Dean W. Burford flew to the first landing, carrying five unidentified passengers from Safford, AZ to Phoenix via Tucson.

Scenic sold the airplane on September 14, 1929 to Continental Air Express, Inc., Los Angeles, CA 10 months after its first landing at Tucson.  On November 6, 1930 it was sold at a Sheriff’s sale (no details).  It was purchased on November 19, 1930 by Russell Reed and Eugene Clemm of Glendale, CA.  They continued to register it until 1937.

Site visitor Susan Torres shares with us on 10/12/10 the following three photographs of her grandmother posed with NC5578.

Gertrude Ann Steffes with NC5578, Ca. 1932 (Source: Torres)
Gertrude Ann Steffes with NC5578, Ca. 1933 (Source: Torres)


Gertrude Ann Steffes with NC5578, Ca. 1932 (Source: Torres)
Gertrude Ann Steffes with NC5578, Ca. 1933 (Source: Torres)





Ms. Torres says about her photographs, "I believe, based on some other photos my grandmother has, that these photos are dated 1933. My grandmother, Gertrude Ann Steffes, doesn't have anything indicating she went on a tour, or that she even flew in it. ... I also believe these photos were taken when she was living in Indian Wells, CA." She married Wayne Meier in 1932 (he died in 1964, and remarried in 1974 to Myles Wickler. She died in November, 1992.

The airplane would be about five years old in these photos. And the absence of the Scenic Airways rainbow livery is in line with a 1932 timing.

At left, Ms. Steffes with two unidentified men. Can anyone IDENTIFY these men? Neither appears to be Dean Burford.








Gertrude Ann Steffes with NC5578, Ca. 1932 (Source: Torres)
Gertrude Ann Steffes with NC5578, Ca. 1933 (Source: Torres)



At right, Ms. Steffes with an unidentified young man. Notice how clean and well-maintained the airplane is in these photos.


Continuing, the 1934 landing at Tucson was flown by Tom Ward, carrying two passengers, C.W. Johnson and B. Brothers. Ward only gave his home base as Glendale, CA (no destination, port of origin or dates).  The airplane was owned by Reed and Clemm at this time.

A spectacular aerial view of NC5578 is found in the motion picture "Murder in the Clouds" from 1934. You may view the whole movie for free at the link. NC5578 is shown during the first two minutes of this film, flying overhead and maneuvering for a landing. The registration number is clearly visible under the port wing. It is shown taxiing, and the film sequence includes a brief shot of the interior and exterior as passengers deplane.The six-year-old airplane remains clean and well-maintained in the film. Thanks to site visitor, "Ralph," for pointing us to this movie.

Shown from the air during the early part of the movie is an aerobatic sequence by the Travel Air NC406N (not a Register airplane) at about three minutes into the film. The airport and buildings visible on the ground during the aerobatics are those of the Alhambra, CA airport. Thanks to site visitor Kurt for identifying the airport. Visible on the ground in one aerobatic pass is the Western Air Express Terminal "Hex Hangar," a hexagonal building used for maintenance.

NC5578 sold ten more times between 1937 and 1943.  It was purchased on August 12, 1943 by Charles H. Babb, a well-known aircraft broker of the era, with offices in California and New York.  On April 7, 1945 he sold it to the Shell Company of Ecuador, Ltd., Quito, Ecuador.  It was exported to Ecuador under export license E-427 in 1945. No further information.


THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 03/29/06 REVISED: 08/04/10, 10/12/10

The Register
I'm looking for 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.

---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 a 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, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.


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