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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.


The definitive reference for early Lockheed aircraft is:

Allen, Richard S. 1988. Revolution in the Sky: The Lockheeds of Aviation's Golden Age. Orion Books, NY. 253 pp.


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This airplane is a Lockheed Orion 9 (S/N 169; ATC# 421) manufactured during April 1931 by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, CA.  It left the factory with a Pratt & Whitney Wasp C engine (S/N 3901 or 3534, not sure) of 450 HP.  It was a seven-place airplane.  It had five fuel tanks installed with a total capacity of 122 gallons.  It also had retractable landing gear, a first for a multiple passenger, commercial airliner.

NC964Y was sold on April 30, 1931 to Bowen Air Lines, Inc., Fort Worth, TX.  It was flown on Bowen passenger air routes between 1931 and 1934. Below, the airplane in the final throes of enduring a belly landing at an unknown location and date. I captured this image off the web. It was part of a blog thread that I wasn't sure would be there reliably. I wanted to be sure to capture this spectacular photograph. The pilot was identified as Register pilot P.F. "Pop" Hotchkiss flying for Bowen. It is difficult to tell if there are passengers in the airplane. The date is probably sometime between 1931 and 1934.

NC964Y "Landing", Ca. 1931-34, Location Unknown (Source: Web)
NC964Y "Landing", Ca. 1931-34, Location Unknown

NC964Y landed three times at Tucson. Twice it was during its ownership by Bowen, and both times it was flown by Ernest Petteway.  The first landing occurred sometime between October 4 and 6, 1931 (he didn’t enter his arrival date).  The Register is hard to understand here, but it looks like he carried two passengers, Francis Bristow and the boss’ wife Mrs. Bowen.  They did not cite their itinerary.

The second landing was on October 15, 1931 at 11:05AM. Petteway carried five unidentified passengers.  They were eastbound to Ft. Worth, TX. It is not certain if the airplane visited Tucson before or after the accident above.

On February 14, 1934 the airplane was sold to C.G. Peterson of New York, NY.  Five weeks later, on March 28, 1934, Peterson sold it for $7,975.00 to Aerovias Centrales, S.A. (ACSA) in Mexico.  ACSA was a Pan American Airways subsidiary.  It was registered in Mexico as XA-BEI. 

Under this Mexican registry, we find our Orion back at Tucson for its third visit on November 3, 1934.  It was flown solo by Sterling Boller.  Based in Mexico City he was enroute from El Paso, TX to Los Angeles, CA.  He noted in the Passenger column of the Register, "Ferry" and "Pan American". Maybe this was a maintenance flight back to the factory at Burbank.

Almost a year after its last visit to Tucson, the Mexican registration was cancelled on September 19, 1935, and the Orion was returned to the U.S. and registered on September 25, 1935 to Pan American Airways, Inc., New York, NY.  It received U.S. registration NC13977 and was operated by Pan American out of Brownsville, TX 1935-1936.

The U.S. registration was cancelled as of June 11, 1936 at the request of Pan American.  It was exported to Mexico June 19, 1936 by way of Brownsville.  It was registered in Mexico as XA-BAY.

A couple of months later, on August 3, 1936, XA-BAY (nee: NC964Y/XA-BEI/NC13977) crashed against the volcano Pico de Orizaba.  Pilot Capt. Jaoquin Rivadeneyra Vasquez was killed.  No further information.


UPLOADED: 06/25/06 REVISED: 02/20/09, 11/09/09, 10/21/12

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