Jesse Bennett Alexander was a Fairchild aircraft distributor based
at the Metropolitan
Airport, Van Nuys, CA. He was born in Dallas, TX November
3, 1899. He was high school educated and married young
in July 1917. He had two children, daughters, Ruth Elizabeth
and, later, Barbara (see below).
His life in aviation was lived at many levels, and he, in turn, touched the lives of many Register pilots.
This photograph, left, is from the April 15, 1939 issue of
"American Aviation". The story with the photo was
related to his new partnership in an aircraft manufacturing
business (Harlow Aircraft Co., Alhambra,
CA). The photograph from which this one was cropped is below, from Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, May, 1939. The trio stands in front of one of the Harlow aircraft.
J.B. Alexander (R), et al., Popular Aviation, May, 1939 (Source: PA)
He began his business career as field service assistant for
the Lozier Motor Co. in 1914; mechanic in 1916 for Earl V.
Armstrong, Inc., Chandler motor car distributors; and mechanic
and shop foreman in 1918 for W.P. Herbert Co., Chandler distributors,
Los Angeles, CA. Working his way up, he subsequently served
this last company as superintendent, salesman, sales manager
and vice president and general manager until 1924. In 1924
he turned to aviation, becoming a partner in the Los Angeles-San
Diego Airline (with Claude Ryan) until 1927. This company
later developed the Ryan monoplane, and became known as the
From 1927 to 1929 he served as chief of aeronautics for Howard
Hughes' motion picture epic "Hell's Angels." He
reproduced the aerodrome used by Richthofen and the "Flying
Circus" for this picture. Below, from friend of dmairfield.org John Underwood, a photograph of Alexander, center, with Jean Harlow on the right and R. Wark on the left. Of interest are the aircraft in the background. The 1923 Fokker C-IVA on the left is aircraft number 439 (not a Register airplane), which was to attempt a Tacoma, WA to Tokyo flight in 1930. It crashed near the point of takeoff and burned in a brush fire. It was restored and is now on exhibit at the Owl's Head Transportation Museum in Rockland, ME. On the right is a Register airplane, the Fairchild F-71, NC24K. It is painted in Hell's Angels livery.
J.B. Alexander, Center, Circa 1927-1929, Location Unknown (Source: Underwood)
During the organization of American
Airways, Alexander served as
western manager, and was identified with the extension of
the company's air mail service to the Pacific Coast. Follow
the link to see an American Airways pilot cap. Another photograph from Mr. Underwood, below, shows Alexander during that time. He is seated on the right in the white jump suit, among other members of the American Airways crew. The man with the white shirt and hands in his pockets just to the right of the AA logo is Register pilot Clell Powell. If you can recognize any of the others, please let me KNOW.
J.B. Alexander, Seated, Right, Ca. 1930
He then owned the J.B. Alexander Company, based at Metro
Airport, western representatives for the Fairchild Manufacturing
Company. He was one of the principal organizers of Pacific
Air Transport. According to the"Blue Book" (left sidebar), he owned
Fairchild "NC238" (not listed in the Register, but
see below*). He was a member of Quiet Birdmen and the Flying
Club of California (Glendale). His home address was 12137
View Crest Rd. North Hollywood, CA. A quick search on Microsoft
"Streets and Trips" verifies that this address still
J.B. Alexander landed twice at the Davis-Monthan Airfield.
The first time solo on September 13, 1927 flying a Waco 10, registration
number NC1443 (I need
information on this airplane). He was headed from Troy,
OH, where Wacos were made, to Los Angeles. He landed simultaneously with T.C. Ryan, who was flying Waco NC1444. They may have been
ferrying the airplanes from the factory in association with their joint business interest (see above). Regardless, they remained in Tucson overnight and were both inspected by the U.S. Border Patrol during their time on the ground. The second time Alexander
landed on January 13, 1932 carrying passenger Edward Sutherland.
They were eastbound from Los Angeles to El Paso in an aircraft
registered NC218M (no make or model was listed in the Register).
* As follow up, according to the U.S. list of aircraft registrations,
NC218M is a Fairchild KR-34C. It wouldn't be surprising to
find him in a Fairchild during 1932.
Whereas "238" is listed either as a Curtiss JN-4C,
Monocoupe 90A, Waco 9, or Ryan Navion F. Based on these findings,
it wouldn't be surprising, either, that the "Blue Book"
may have published "NC238" in error when it actually
meant to print "NC218M."
One of the great things about this Web site is that I have
the chance to meet some of the people who contact me with
information about the pilots and airplanes of the Davis-Monthan
Register. The image below was taken on January 30, 2006.
At left is Barbara Collins, J.B. Alexander's daughter,
with your Webmaster after our meeting at "The Proud Bird"
restaurant in Los Angeles.
We had a great time sharing information and just talking
about 'stuff' over dinner. I learned that J.B., which stands
for Jesse Bennett, was an inventor as well as a pilot.
Popular Aviation, November, 1938 (Source:
I learned from Barbara that patent 2,832,201 was granted
to J.B. in April 1958 for his "Dual Engine Yoke" design.
Interestingly, the invention paired two horizontally opposed,
six- or eight-cylinder, internal combustion aircraft engines
in a sandwich configuration. Through an innovative common
gearbox system, each engine drove one each of a pair of counter-rotating
propellers. See this file for
the patent grant and engineering diagrams of his invention.
His intention was to derive the power and safety advantages
of a twin-engine aircraft (without the adverse yaw during
single-engine operation) with the weight saving and economies
of a single-engine aircraft. The design was built, tested
and flown in what appeared to be one of the aircraft
manufactured by the Harlow Aircraft Co. The Harlow Co.,
based at Alhambra,
CA, was one of J.B.'s ventures founded
back in 1939.
I'm not sure of the exact timing of J.B.'s patent applications
(the engineering drawings say they were filed June 22, 1956),
but his "Dual
Engine Yoke" design
for internal combustion engines patented in 1958 seems to
be a derivative of Britain's Armstrong-Siddley Double
Mamba turboprop configuration of almost a decade earlier.
The Double Mamba powered the Fairey Gannet AEW 3. And almost a decade earlier than that, Menasco and Lockheed cooperated on a similar project, left. This article is from Popular Aviation, November, 1938.
Group Photograph, Los Angeles, CA, May 29, 2009
At right, a photograph taken May 29, 2009, again at the "Proud Bird" restaurant, Los Angeles. Left to right, author John Underwood, Mary Jane Underwood, your Webmaster and Barbara Collins holding a folder of information about her father.
J.B. Alexander was born November 2, 1897. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on December 6, 1976. He had been a long-time sufferer of emphysema.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 07/26/05 REVISED: 08/26/05, 02/08/06, 10/24/07, 11/18/08, 06/18/09, 07/08/09, 03/12/10, 07/02/14, 12/15/21