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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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Registration Number NC5878

A 1928 Ford Reliability Tour Airplane

Here we have what may be an interesting curiosity in record keeping. Although NC5878 was a valid competitor in the 1928 Ford Reliability Tour, the evidence of who was flying it (as recorded in the Airfield Register) runs counter to the NASM record and the table in Forden cited below. For comparison, see NC5877, and refer to page 46 and page 48 of the Register.

Our aircraft was a Monocoupe Model 70, S/N 58 (ATC #22), manufactured in June, 1928 by Mono-Aircraft, Inc. of Moline, IL. It came with a 45 HP M-5 Velie engine, S/N 129. It weighed 1,350 pounds. It also had dual controls, which, it was stated, “must be disconnected when passengers are carried.” It was sold on August 1, 1928 (after the Air Tour was over, see below) to Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie (transport license #199) of Memphis, TN for $2,675.

It landed at Tucson on July 14, 1928 at 9:30AM, four days after the majority of competitors landed on 7/10. Although the NASM record states that this airplane was flown in the Tour by Phoebe Omlie, according to our Register it was piloted to Tucson by Lloyd H. “Jack” Atkinson who carried passenger Phylis Bennett. He noted in the Register they were in the "National Air Tour". The airplane wore Tour #26. Below, a photo of the airplane from the Forden link below.

Monocupe NC5878, Circa 1928, Location Unknown (Source: Forden)
Monocupe NC5878, Circa 1928, Location Unknown (Source: Forden)

Follow this link for information on the Ford Tours. There is a photograph of this airplane there. Follow the choices to read the book titled THE FORD AIR TOURS: 1925-1931 by Leslie Forden. You’ll find the photo in chapter 4, page 76. You can see Phoebe Omlie in the group photo on page 83. She’s # 5 in the photo. You can also see Jack Atkinson way up in the back. He’s #24.

So what do we have? Forden's summary tables on pages 84-85 cite Omlie as the pilot of this airplane, and Atkinson as the pilot of NC5877. The NASM data cards for both airplanes, NC5877 and 5878, agree. Our Register seems to be out of line with these two sources, as it clearly identifies the opposite: Omlie flying NC5877 and Atkinson NC5878.

We could conjecture that the pilots confused the numbers of these closely related sister ships. Especially Omlie, who signed the Register among the swirl of other competitors who came to Tucson that morning on July 10th. Or perhaps they did swap airplanes for a couple of legs of the Tour. Or Forden and the NASM citations are in error. The 1929 Aircraft Yearbook offers no help. The table on page 446 that summarizes the 1928 Tour has both Atkinson and Omlie flying Monocoupe 2-place monoplanes. Atkinson placed 19th and Omlie 24th. Unfortunately, their airplane registration numbers are not cited.

Regardless, after the Tour, NC5878 had the engine overhauled and a new factory wing installed. It had 130 flight hours as of August 27, 1928. After its return from the factory, the airplane was identified as a “gift” to Mrs. Omlie. It’s not clear if cash had changed hands on August 1st when she “bought” it after the Tour.

As far as the airplane’s fate, a few months after the tour, on the weekend of October 13-14, 1928 Phoebe Omlie took NC5878 to Paragould, AR where she assisted in the dedication of the West-Nash Airlines at the Paragould airport.

It is unclear what her "assistance" was, but a contemporary newspaper article states that, "Another possible feature on the program well be a young girl to swing suspended from a speeding airplane by a pair of ladies' silk stockings...." Since Phoebe was a parachutist and performed such barnstorming tricks, she may have been the "young girl".

On Sunday the 14th she was flying her Monocoupe with a passenger (E.Z. Newsom, Jr.) at low altitude when, she later reported, "...the controls jammed" (perhaps because of them being disconnected to fly with a passenger?) The airplane spun to the ground and Phoebe suffered two broken legs, burns on both arms, and lacerations on her face. Newsom suffered a broken leg and skull fracture. She was flown to Memphis, TN by her husband and treated. Less than a year later she was flying again in the 1929 Air Derby.

Her Monocoupe was reported a, “total washout, scrap.” The registration was canceled November 13, 1928.


UPLOADED: 6/28/05 REVISED: 12/19/09

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. 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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