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An excellent reference for most of the civil aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield is the 9 volumes of Joseph Juptner's "U.S. Civil Aircraft". The series was published by Aero Publishers, Fallbrook, CA between 1962 and 1981.

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Phoebe Omlie, 1929

Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie (1902-1975) wove her own zodiac throughout her flying career. She was 26 years old when she participated in the women’s division of the 1929 National Air Races. She was an aggressive and successful air racer, the first female aviation mechanic (her certificate, #422, is dated July 31, 1933), and a charter member of The Ninety-Nines. She landed at the Davis-Monthan Field 4 times flying Monocoupes. Besides NR8917, above, she landed with NC5877 and NC518W (twice). She flew 518W to victory in the 1931 Derby. She was flying another Monocoupe, NC5878, at an airport dedication in Paragould, AR and was involved in a crash (see below).

Who can resist “Miss Moline”? It landed at the Davis-Monthan Field on a hot Thursday, August 15, 1929, flown solo by Phoebe (transport license #199). She signed the register at 11:00AM and departed the same day at 1:30 PM for Santa Monica to begin the 1929 Powder Puff Derby to Cleveland, OH (image above from Juptner, v. 9, p. 127 at the 1929 Derby, with Phoebe resting casually on the wing strut).

Her beautiful airplane is a Monocoupe Model 113 Special, with a 110 HP Warner engine. Given “Group 2 Approval” on September 6, 1929 (it did not have an “Approved Type Certificate”), this fact was used by one male critic in an attempt to cancel the women’s race. Before arrival at the Field, NR8917 had logged about 50 hours.

Webmaster with NR8917, 2002

Today NR8917 rests near Cheney, KS, hangared among sepia wheat fields, a long way from its birthplace in Moline. The fuselage had a tree growing through it when its present owners salvaged it in 1987 from a hedgerow on the Kansas-Oklahoma border. They rebuilt the fuselage. Then a storm in 1996 blew their hangar down and bent longerons. “Miss Moline” exists today as a fuselage and tail feathers, without wings, awaiting restoration outside Wichita. They plan to rebuild her to flyable condition “soon”.

The airplane's owner and I carried the airframe out of the hangar to get this image of “Miss Moline” before wheat fields in Kansas, June 7, 2002 (your webmaster mirrors Phoebe’s pose).


Phoebe flew Monocoupe NC5877 to the Davis-Monthan Airfield on July 10, 1928 during her participation in the 1928 Ford Reliability Tour. A sister ship, NC5878 also landed at Tucson as a Tour participant (7/14/28, piloted by L.H. Atkinson). On the weekend of October 13-14, 1928 she 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 at low altitude when, she later reported, "...the controls jammed." The airplane spun to the ground and she suffered two broken legs, burns on both arms, and lacerations on her face. Her passenger 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 (see photo top of page).

UPLOADED: 5/2/05 REVISED: 6/28/05

The Register
This airframe of NR8917 is still registered with the FAA. It lives today near Wichita, KS, awaiting reconstruction.
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