Bernt Balchen was the most accomplished 20th-century aviator, navigator and polar explorer that most people know nothing about. Among the reasons appears to be that, highly confident and self-assured about his own abilities, he did not participate in self-aggrandizement, brand marketing or credit-taking that many of his kind did during the Golden Age of Aviation.
Bernt Balchen (Source: Glines)
The decade of the 1920s was a great period for "marketing" aviation. Charles Lindbergh made
a tour around the U.S. in 1927 to do just that during the
months immediately after his trans-Atlantic flight in May. Register signers Wiley
Post and Harold Gatty would
do the same a few years later after their around-the-world
was also a proliferation of activity around record setting,
racing and barnstorming, all aimed at raising
aviation and aviators in the collective public consciousness. The photograph of Balchen at right is the official photo taken after piloting the circum-polar flight of the Byrd Antarctica Expedition in 1929.
Balchen landed at Tucson on November 9, 1926 as copilot and navigator of the Fokker F-VII “Josephine Ford” (although not specified in the Register, the number of the airplane was NX4204). The airplane was the same one used earlier by the Byrd North Pole expedition.
His pilot this day was Floyd Bennett. See Bennett's link for conjecture related to Byrd's claims regarding the North Pole.
With Bennett and Balchen when they landed at Tucson were four passengers, all of whom signed the Register. They
were Charles F. Kunkel, a representative of the Guggenheim
Fund (see below), John McPhail, mechanic, and G.O. Noville, photographer. Donald
Keyhoe was along as the resident writer for the crew.
Why were they here? Their flight was documented in U.S. Air Services magazine, appearing in the January 1927 issue, authored by passenger Keyhoe. Refer to page 13 of the article to see a listing of their itinerary. The magazine, at the link, informally explains the particulars about the flight of the "Josephine Ford."
Balchen was an arctic pilot and explorer of wide reputation. He did not sign the Register (an example, perhaps, of preferring to be the doer rather than the credit taker?), but he had important dual roles during the flight of the "Josephine Ford" as it flew around the country in 1926.
When the "Josephine Ford" and crew landed at Tucson October 23rd, they
were at the mid-point of an 8,604 mile tour around the United
had left Washington, DC on October 7th for the two-month
tour. Their tour was sponsored by the Daniel Guggenheim
Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, with the cooperation
of the Department of Commerce. The airplane was donated for the flight by its owner, Richard E. Byrd, whose name was emblazoned on the fuselage in large, white letters. Below, a photo of pilot, copilot and crew. From left, Kunkel, Bennett, Balchen, Keyhoe, Noville, McPhail.
Crew of the "Josephine Ford" Date Unknown (Source: Linked Document)
Bernt Balchen was born October 23, 1899 in Tveit, Kristiansand, Norway. Balchen flew West October 17, 1973 (aged 73) from Mount Kisco, NY.
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