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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.


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 (NASM), Washington, DC.


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This airplane is a Curtiss Robin C-1, S/N 444. It appears in the Davis-Monthan Register twice, flown both times by Ruth Stewart. On her first visit August 16, 1930, she arrived from Douglas, AZ and was on her way to San Diego. On that day, she was probably on her way to Long Beach for the beginning of the 1930 Women's Class A Pacific Derby, which started on August 17th. Her second visit was on August 24, 1931. She was inbound from Phoenix enroute southeastward to Douglas, AZ. Stewart was killed in the crash of another aircraft (see her link for details) some months before the image below was taken August 3,1932.

She had purchased NC75H new as serial number 444 on July 21, 1930, so when they passed through Tucson the first time, the airplane was less than a month old. Reportedly, her airplane was painted orange and cream. She sold it on February 11, 1932 to Gentry Shelton of St. Louis, MO. Gentry did not husband the airplane well, as it apparently suffered an accident and was rejected for airworthiness May 2, 1932.

The airplane had a tarnished history after Stewart. The Department of Commerce (DOC) sought to impound it (June 30, 1932) because the manufacturer's dataplate could not be found and due to the owner's, "repeated violations including 1) low flying over a street in Garden City, LI & operating without a pilots license, acrobatics over an open air assembley of persons, cross-wind take-offs endangering other aircraft and operating a licensed aircraft without a pilot's license." The DOC also had information that Shelton was being sought by the sheriff in Beaumont, TX for stealing a propeller. The DOC referred the issue to the U.S. Attorney General.

Regardless, NC75H was sold to Arthur Rose of Miami, FL as of December 23, 1932. Its tarnish continued. It was reported that the airplane still did not have a dataplate, and that the wings were from an entirely different Robin, NC177E (not a Register airplane).

On March 18, 1933, the airplane sold to Steve Vail, who gave his address as "general delivery", Jacksonville, FL. The U.S. Customs Service seized the airplane on January 11, 1934, stating, "This plane was one well-known to the officers as being a smuggling plane. Plane brought to Miami, wings removed and placed in hangar. It had been seized previously for violations of the Tariff Act." There is no record of these earlier seizures in the NASM record.

According to the NASM record, the DOC license was cancelled as of May 22, 1933 as the, "aircraft was removed from the United States". Apparently it was last identified at West End, Grand Bahama Island. Little wonder, as West End first achieved notoriety as a rum-running port during Prohibition.

However, on May 14, 1934, we find NC75H identified and sold again to C.J. Foster of Pahokee, FL for $120 under serial number 124. The DOC inspector could not locate the airplane, and said, "...aircraft is still in rum running business." Interesting, in that Prohibition had been rescinded six-months earlier. As far as I can determine, the license was canceled for good July 31, 1934.

Photo, below, courtesy of Tim Kalina. Note there is a race number painted on the side of the fuselage ((29?). This could be left over from Stewart's use in the Pacific Derby nearly two years before.

Curtiss Robin NC75H, August 3, 1932
Curtiss Robin NC75H, August, 1932

Aligning with the history of the airplane, the men in this image comprise a rogues' gallery. The one on the left was arrested for impersonating a U.S. Navy officer. The one at center, William Lancaster, was charged with murder, and the one on the right, J.F. Russell, after the photograph was taken, served a jail sentence for smuggling aliens.

Curtiss Robin NC75H, August, 1932, Annotation
Curtiss Robin NC75H, August, 1932, Annotation

The context of this photograph and NC75H’s use by Lancaster in this instance are unknown. He never owned the plane, it was owned by an acquaintance/business partner. According to Mr. Kalina, Lancaster flew this well-used Curtiss Robin from Miami to Nogales, AZ. Lancaster soon discovered that the men who had hired him (J.F. Russell being one?) and the Robin wanted him to transport illegal Chinese and their dope across the Mexican border into Arizona. From there the Chinese would make their way to San Francisco and sell the drugs. Eventually, he flew the Robin back to Miami.

His purpose for returning to Miami was what resulted in his trial for murder. The trial and its result is summarized here. The trial took place August 2-18, 1932, which places the photo above just after his trial began.


Dossier 3.1.9


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