Air Racing!

View products that support


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.


There is no data for NX6239 in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

---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 the 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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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.


Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register
CulturalMotion PicturesFriendsNon Profit statusProducts and services
ReferencesPublicationsCollectionsGuest EditorsPress Coverage

TRAVEL AIR D-4000, NX/NR6239


This airplane is a Travel Air D-4000, S/N 690, manufactured August 9, 1928. It was purchased new on August 20th for $9,866 by Paul R. Braniff, Braniff Building, Oklahoma City, OK. It left the factory with a Wright J-5 engine, S/N B8961, of 200HP and a Hamilton steel propeller, S/N 7519-200. It was originally named the "White Cow," and had three known owners through 1939; the rest is a mystery.

What we are pretty sure of is that it landed twice at Tucson flown by Maurice Marrs. But even that is conjecture. Refer to Marrs' link for that discussion. NX6239 landed first on Tuesday, September 11, 1928. That year the National Air Races, "On to Los Angeles," ran the Class B race from New York to Los Angeles. Marrs placed 10th in the event. But, again, refer to Marrs' Web page for confusion surrounding the type and registration number of the airplane he was flying.

The second landing for NX6239 was on Monday, September 17, 1928. Marrs was probably returning east after the races. Solo on his first landing, he carried Milton Mullins as his single passenger the second time.

Back to the airplane, Braniff purchased it with the "Speedwing" modification, which the Air Regulations Division of the Department of Commerce (DOC) termed "special racing wings," which caused the airplane to wear the "NX" (experimental) prefix. Images, below, courtesy of site visitor Terry Bowden. First, an early photo of the "White Cow" in Braniff livery. Mr. Bowden notes, "... the left main wheel has a nasty ding as if it had suffered a hard landing."

NX6239 in Braniff Livery (Source: Vic Stuhr, via: Fred Roos Via T. Bowden)
NX6239 in Braniff Livery (Source: T. Bowden)

The official FAA record states that Braniff intended it for his own personal transportation. We can see, however, that less than a month after its purchase it was on the race circuit with Marrs. Braniff sold NX6239 to VonHoffman Aircraft Company on March 15, 1929. On March 23rd, in what appears to be a brokered deal, VonHoffman sold it to Sydnor Hall (Transport License #6406). He had the registration converted from "NX" to "NR."

Hall raced the airplane in the 1929 Gardner Trophy Race. The Gardner was an event conceived and sponsored by the Parks Air Lines, Inc. of St. Louis, MO. It was an event of several smaller races that led up to a final race. One of the smaller races followed the route from Jacksonville, FL to St. Louis. This race was won by Hall and described in an unpublished article by Mr. Bowden as follows: "Sydnor Hall, of St. Louis, was next to arrive in his Travel Air Speedwing dubbed 'The White Cow', at 9:22 a.m. With a N.A.C.A.-type cowing and crudely fashioned wheel farings, his airplane averaged 143 m.p.h. for 1st place in a non-stop flight from Jacksonville, Fla. Hall, the local boy who was a mail pilot for Robertson Flying Service was well received by the crowd."

Sydnor Hall, Ca. 1929 (Source: Parks College Archives, J. Wecker Collection Via T. Bowden)
Sydnor Hall, Ca. 1929 (Source: T. Bowden)


At left is Hall with a smile of victory on his face. In the photograph below, Hall can be seen emerging from or entering the cockpit. If I push the contrast of the original in PhotoShop I can just barely make out "6239" on the top wing. Hall was in a frustrating correspondence with the DOC near the time of the Gardner Race regarding the appropriate prefix. Evidently the "Speedwing" modification was in the throes of being certified and acceptable by the DOC for use on the model 4000.

Finally, the airplane was satisfactorily registered "NR" for the Gardner Race and Hall installed a NACA engine cowl, long-range fuel tanks and a J-6 engine to replace the original J-5. The paperwork for these modifications was filed on May 26th, almost coinciding with the beginning of the Gardner.

Mr. Bowden says about the image below, "This photo was taken by Jim Peterson on May 29, 1929 at Parks Airfield.  This was the day [of] the Final event of the Gardner Trophy Race. ...  The original box-camera print came to me from Arthur Berry Ease, Alton, IL.  This was in the same collection along with 20 or so other photos from that same day.  Berry received the photos from his friend, Mr. Peterson.  Both had attended the race."

Sydnor Hall in the Cockpit of NX6239, May 29, 1929 (Source: Jim Peterson via Arthur Berry Via T. Bowden)
Sydnor Hall in the Cockpit of NX6239 (Source: Anonymous Site Visitor)

Below, the modification of the engine cowl and the addition of "crudely fashioned" wheel pants are visible.

Travel Air NX6239, Ca. 1929 (Source: Vic Stuhr, via: Fred Roos Via T. Bowden)
Travel Air NX6239, Ca. 1929 (Source: T. Bowden)

A brief accident report shows up in the FAA record that states on June 15, 1929, without passengers or fatalities, put a "slight bend in prop blade." Interestingly, Hall indicated "no" in the blank on the form that asked if it was the owner's intention to rebuild. Another accident record placed in Cleveland, OH shows up dated September 2, 1929. Therein damage is noted as "Broken propeller and rudder bent, also bent motor mount." The National Air Races were held in Cleveland that year from August 24-September 2. This accident sounds like it could have been an embarrasing noseover event in front of departing crowds. The airplane was repaired with a new propeller and signed off on November 12, 1929.

There is no record of the airplane's use over the next seven months, but when it came time for its inspection in June, 1930, eight inches had been cut off of each wing. There were also noted by the inspector various items having too much side play (control stick), being loose (ignition wires) or excessive lost motion (ailerons). The clipped wings left it certified "NR" restricted only for racing.

Likewise, there is no record of the airplane's use between June, 1930 and June, 1934. Things finally caught up with Hall on June 2, 1934 when he received letters from the DOC requesting engineering drawings for the wing and engine modifications he had made, and calculations to demonstrate the margins of safety for the structural effects of same. It was January, 1936 before the data were submitted and seemingly accepted by the DOC.

Plane Crash that Killed Sydnor Hall, Danville (VA) Bee, November 13, 1939 (Source: Anonymous)
Plane Crash that Killed Sydnor Hall, Danville (VA) Bee, November 13, 1939 (Source: Anonymous)

According to the FAA records, Hall owned the airplane as a registered craft from 1929 to June 1, 1936. There are a couple of additional entries in the airworthiness section of the FAA record, but they do not resolve whether the accepted data were ever acted upon, or if the airplane ever flew again. The last document in the registration section of the FAA record records the license cancelled as of June 1, 1936 when its license expired. This document is also stamped under Sydnor Hall's name "DECEASED 11-12-39". At left is an announcement of Hall's accident from November 13, 1939. I understand that Hall had the airplane in his possession until he died and that his wife sold it sometime in 1939 or 40.

One could conjecture that NX/NR6239 languished in a hangar or barn somewhere due to the lack of interest or funds to bring it back to inspectable and certifiable condition. If you know anything about this airframe, please contact me in the manner specified above in the right sidebar. Sydnor Hall, II is interested in the fate of his grandfather's airplane.




The Register
I'm looking for photographs and information about this airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me.

I'm especially interested in knowing if this airplane still exists somewhere. Hall's last known address was West Memphis, AR.

Thanks to Terry Bowden for sharing his photographs and information about this airplane.

Contact Us | Credits | Copyright © 2008 Delta Mike Airfield, Inc.
This website is best enjoyed in a 1024 x 768 screen resolution.
Web design by The Web Professional, Inc