Pilot Eyes

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Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Babb, CB-000830-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), 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, while supplies last.


http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org 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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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.


Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936 is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.


Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Available as a free download at the link.


Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race is available at the link. What was it like to fly from Oakland to Honolulu in a single-engine plane during August 1927? Was the 25,000 dollar prize worth it? Did the resulting fame balance the risk? For the first time ever, this book presents the pilot and navigator's stories written by them within days of their record-setting adventure. Pilot Art Goebel and navigator William V. Davis, Jr. take us with them on the Woolaroc, their orange and blue Travel Air monoplane (NX869) as they enter the hazardous world of Golden Age trans-oceanic air racing.


Clover Field: The First Century of Aviation in the Golden State. With the 100th anniversary in 2017 of the use of Clover Field as a place to land aircraft in Santa Monica, this book celebrates that use by exploring some of the people and aircraft that made the airport great.


The thumbnail images at the bottom of this page are used with permission from the archives of the San Diego Aerospace Museum

Each thumbnail has a database number, which you can use when you contact the Museum if you would like to have a full-sized, higher quality image sent directly to you. 

See the Museum’s ARCHIVES listings online to understand the scope of their holdings, and the procedures for acquiring prints.

The right-hand image shows Babb, right, with Wiley Post.


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Charles Babb, Date Unknown (Source: Heins)
Charles Babb, Date Unknown (Source: Heins)

During the 1930s, Charles H. Babb was a well-known used aircraft salesman in business at Grand Central Airport, Glendale, CA. Image, right, shared by Andy Heins.

Babb signed the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register as a military pilot once on January 27, 1926. He stayed overnight, departing the next morning at 8:30. He carried as passenger one Sgt. Butler. They flew in aircraft number 25-345, a Douglas O-2. They listed as their home base Rantoul, IL, and they arrived from San Diego, CA eastbound back to Rantoul.

Howard Hughes-Charles Babb

He became a significant member of the international flying network of the era. He did business as Babb International Aircraft Brokerage, 1140 Airway (I've also seen 1007 Airway), Glendale, CA, and later as Charles H. Babb Co. with offices on the east coast as well.

As a major sales/brokerage firm, many of the airplanes that passed through Tucson passed through his hands on their way to their owners, either as new or used aircraft (for example, NC2875). Later, he supplied aircraft for the Spanish Civil War.

San Bernardino County Sun, August 10, 1940 (Source: newspapers.com)
San Bernardino County Sun, August 10, 1940 (Source: newspapers.com)


Babb was friendly with George Westinghouse. He knew Paul Richter, and during Richter's split with TWA in the late 40s, this cordial exchange of letters occurred. He posed with the camera-shy Howard Hughes, left, in front of a Lockheed Vega, date unknown.

Hughes purchased and modified a Lockheed twin-engine transport for a round-the-world flight. After the flight, Hughes commissioned Babb in 1940 to broker the airplane to the British for war service. The sale was documented in an article that appeared in the San Bernardino County Sun, August 10, 1940, right.

Babb has a fair coverage at ancestry.com. The 1900 U.S. Census, his first, placed him at age 1 living with his father, Andrew (age 75) and mother, Louisa B. (24) in Irving, Oregon. Two older brothers lived with him. His father's occupation was coded as "Farmer." He owned the family farm. Babb's name was coded as "Clay."

By the 1910 Census, Louisa was divorced and living on the Irving farm. Her last name was now coded as "Young" and she had two additional children aged 4 and 3. Charles (11) and his brothers' last name was coded as "Bawb." The 1920 Census placed the family living in Santa Clara, OR on a farm. The brothers all worked the farm, with Babb coded as a farm laborer.

At age 19, Babb was registered for the draft on September 12, 1918. His registration card is below. We learn that he had blue eyes and brown hair. Note mention of the loss of his right hand "and other defects." These injuries to his arm, hand and jaw were the result of a hunting accident.

Charles Babb Draft Registration, September 12, 1918 (Source: ancestry.com)
Charles Babb Draft Registration, September 12, 1918 (Source: ancestry.com)


Van Nuys News (CA), October 27, 1927 (Source: newspapers.com)
Van Nuys News (CA), October 27, 1927 (Source: newspapers.com)






Despite his injuries, Babb married Hester Evelyn Drew of Wilder, ID on October 8, 1923. They were married in Canyon, ID. He also learned to fly and became well-known in southern California circles. By 1925, he was Secretary, Southern California Chapter National Aeronautic Association. His duties as secretary were numerous, among them organizing meetings and air races. The article at left, from the Santa Ana Register (CA), October 27, 1927 describes one such meeting.

The 1930 Census placed him (age 30) at 822 1/4 N. Hayworth Avenue, Los Angeles. He lived with Hester E. (28). They rented their home for $45 per month. Babb's occupation was coded as "Department Manager" at an "Aviation Company."

By 1940, Babb and Hester had moved to 3028 Ingledale Terrace, Los Angeles. That neighborhood today on Google Earth is one of modest whitewashed homes with xeric landscaping. They still rented, but their rent had gone down to $35 per month. This Census recorded that both Babb and Hester had enjoyed one year of college. Babb's occupation was coded as "Broker" for "Aircraft."

An immigration for dated February 2, 1941 documented his travel from Mexico City, Mexico to Los Angeles, below.










Immigration Form, February 2, 1941 (Source: ancestry.com)
Immigration Form, February 2, 1941 (Source: ancestry.com)

XA-BKQ was a Douglas DC-2-172, S/N 1408, manufactured in March 1936. It was initially flown by TWA registered as NC14978, then Pan American before moving to Mexico where it wore XA-BKQ and XA-GEE. Note the full listing of the Mexican crew.

Oakland Tribune December 11, 1936 (Source:
Oakland Tribune December 11, 1936 (Source: newspapers.com)


Babb's company was at one time incorporated in Arizona with offices in many other major U.S. cities as well as in Europe and Latin America. Aircraft flown by many famous aviators (including Register pilots Howard Hughes (above), Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post, and Francisco Sarabia) were purchased from Babb. Some sources list him as Charles H. Babb and others as Charles E. Babb. The former is correct.

Other than news and magazine articles, not much has been formally published about him. His Web presence is sparse. However, as of early 2007, this link was established at the San Diego Aerospace Museum featuring a new collection of Babb's business and family history, images and artifacts donated by Babb's son, who was six years old when he died. The text describing the collection is below at the **.

C.H. Babb Grave Marker, 1952 (Source: findagrave.com)
C.H. Babb Grave Marker, 1952 (Source: findagrave.com)









I found information that suggested that Babb was once an Air Corps pilot (an "Ace"). This was hard to reconcile, given that his draft registration at age 19, above, listed his handicaps from the hunting accident. The fact that his showed up in some news articles with the title "Captain" adds to the confusion.

Van Nuys News (CA), August 10, 1948 (Source: newspapers.com)
Van Nuys News (CA), August 10, 1948 (Source: newspapers.com)

Regardless, Babb used his inside contacts to build his aircraft brokerage empire based mainly on the acquisition and sale of surplus military airplanes. The news articles above and left gives a sense of how lucrative the market was for used aircraft. After WWII ended, Babb built his organization into a major international "holding company," selling aircraft to airlines and governments worldwide.

The American Aviation Daily, in 1948, published Babb's quest for older aircraft to build a collection to be used for exhibition purposes. He had acquired a 1912 Curtiss Pusher, and a de Havilland once used for passenger work. He was still looking for, "...a razorback Fairchild of the type flown by Cy Caldwell for Pan American on its first route, and a Sikorsky S-38."

Charles Babb Wife #2, Blanche Babb (source: SDAM)

Born in Eugene, Oregon January 30, 1899, Babb died of a heart attack November 15, 1952 at the age of 53. His and his wife's grave marker is above right. Note that her name was Blanche, right. He married Blanche in 1945. Babb's friend Jimmy Doolittle gave the bride away. There is a color photograph of the wedding at the SDAM linked in the left sidebar. I have no photographs of Hester. Babb's obituary from the Ottawa Journal, November 17, 1952, is below.

Babb Obituary, Ottawa Journal, November 17, 1952 (Source: ancestry.com)
Babb Obituary, Ottawa Journal, November 17, 1952 (Source: ancestry.com)








A couple of other articles say the Babb Co. was purchased by the Atlas Corporation in October of 1952. It was later sold to Linden (of Linden Trucking and Air Freight) in 1957 for $10 million dollars.

There is rumor that Babb purchased the tooling, spares and rights of manufacture for the Stinson L-5 Sentinel some time in the early 1950's when the military started phasing out that aircraft. Can anyone substantiate or defeat this rumor?

Below, courtesy of Tim Kalina, is an artifact that is probably related to Babb's business. It is a holiday greeting card probably sent to clients.

Holiday Card, Front, Charles Babb, Date Unknown (Source: Kalina)
Holiday Card, Front, Charles Babb, Date Unknown (Source: Kalina)

Mr. Kalina says about a possible date for his image, " I'd reckon the late 1930s, judging by the paint scheme on the DC-3. The twin stripes on the tail are what the TWA DC-3s carried and these entered service in late 1937 or early 1938."

Note the deckled edge. Inside the card...

Holiday Card, Inside, Charles Babb, Date Unknown (Source: Kalina)
Holiday Card, Inside, Charles Babb, Date Unknown (Source: Kalina)

Thumbnails of Babb from the SDAM (cited, left sidebar). He poses with Wiley Post at right.

Charles Babb x2


Charles Babb Collection
The Charles Babb Collection was donated by his son, Charles Jr., who was only six years old when his dad died in 1952. There are two photograph albums of airmen and historic events, many family shots and inscribed portraits of famous aviation executives, numerous news clippings and a box of documents supporting the patent for the hinged nose cone for cargo planes.

Pioneer Aviation Broker Kept 'em flying.
By John Patrick Ford, Archive Volunteer

Charlie Babb was well known as the "flying junk man" a moniker he did not like. However, that was his business. Keeping older model aircraft in the sky with his large stock of used planes, replacement parts and overhauling services.

"There's a buyer for everything," Babb was quick to tell someone who thought he was crazy to buy up scrap parts from the major aircraft factories. His headquarters at the Grand Central Airport in Glendale allowed Charlie to have close personal links to the heads of Lockheed, Douglas and Northrop where he was often seen picking through discarded aircraft parts and making offers to haul away the junk.
A major part of Babb Co. business spanning the years 1928-1952 was the used aircraft market. Flying magazine ads during those years have lists of about every type of private aircraft made from early World War I Jennys to the popular Lockheed Vega. Charlie's friendships with Howard Hughes, Donald Douglas and Reuben Fleet put him up front in the aviation market in the 1930s. His used aircraft business boomed as war clouds gathered in Europe and training craft were in demand.

As a pioneer pilot in the post-World War I period, Babb was challenged to overcome a disability from a hunting accident as a youth. The loss of his right arm below the elbow and some facial disfiguration, forced Charlie to make a career decision to overcome lack of physical skills with brain power. He was known as an excellent pilot and marksman. Frequent hunting trips to the Artic area in his favorite PBY aircraft joined him with celebrities like Wiley Post and Will Rogers. Charlie's mentors in his pioneer aviation days were Eddie Rickenbacker, Richard Byrd and Jimmy Doolittle, the latter friend almost a father figure.

Besides horse-trading in the aircraft business, Babb was an accomplished engineer who designed the cargo plane nose cone that opened for loading. His patented mechanism was used extensively by military aircraft during World War II. Patent infringement issues are still pending for collection of royalties. Another business was called the Big Fan that provided frost control for agriculture. Babb saw the potential when a friend sought his help during a freeze, and they used a reverse prop P-38 engine to blow air over the orchard and saved the crop.

The Charles Babb Collection was donated by his son, Charles Jr., who was only six years old when his dad died in 1952. There are two photograph albums of airmen and historic events, many family shots and inscribed portraits of famous aviation executives, numerous news clippings and a box of documents supporting the patent for the hinged nose cone for cargo planes. The collection is open for view at the library and archive of San Diego Air-Space Museum in Balboa Park.


Dossier 2.1.38

UPLOADED: 02/21/06 REVISED: 03/01/06, 03/09/06, 10/08/06, 03/04/07, 09/30/07, 08/24/11, 09/21/14, 11/19/17

The Register
I need images of pilot Babb. I would also like additional information about his businesses and activities. Please use this FORM to contact me.


The correspondence between Babb and Paul Richter was provided by Ruth Richter-Holden.

Image of Babb with Howard Hughes from R.S. Allen's "Revolution in the Sky". 1988 (revised). Orion Books. New York. p. 174.

To see another image Charles Babb, please follow this link to the Klein Archive of Aviation Photographs.


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