Floyd Bennett, Ca. 1928 (Source: Web)
Floyd Bennett was born October 25, 1890 at
Warrensburg, NY. He landed at Tucson on November 9, 1926
as pilot of the Fokker F-VII “Josephine
Ford” (although not specified in the Register, the number
of the airplane was NX4204). His copilot and navigator this
day was Bernt Balchen, himself an arctic pilot, navigator and explorer
of wide reputation. Balchen is not signed in the Register, but he was the copilot of the "Josephine Ford" as it flew around the country in 1926 (see below).
to the Register, they carried four passengers. They were
eastbound, arriving from San
Diego, CA on to 9th, staying overnight, and
making their way to El Paso, TX at 8:15 the morning of the
Fellow passengers, all of whom signed the Register,
were Charles F. Kunkel, a representative of the Guggenheim
Fund, John McPhail, mechanic, and G.O. Noville, photographer. Donald
Keyhoe was along as the resident writer for the crew.
Bennett and Balchen (image right) were Richard Byrd's pilots
during his attempts to reach the North and South Poles in1926
and 1929, respectively. The “Josephine
Ford” was Byrd’s North Pole expedition airplane. Whether
the self-aggrandizing Byrd ever actually made it to the North
Pole with the airplane is in doubt, but that’s another
story (see also the right sidebar).
The image at right was taken in April 1928 just before an
attempt to rescue personnel of the German airship, Bremen
The decade of the 1920s was a great period for "marketing" aviation. Lindbergh made
a tour around the U.S. in 1927 to do just that during the
months immediately after his trans-Atlantic flight. 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 in the collective public consciousness.
When the "Josephine Ford" and crew landed at Tucson, 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
Their flight was organized and sponsored by the Daniel Guggenheim
Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, with the cooperation
of the Department of Commerce. The
airplane was loaned by Byrd for the tour. Surely aviation would
be promoted by the presence of this grand aircraft, with
its name and "BYRD ARCTIC EXPEDITION" painted large
in white upon its fuselage.
Perhaps more than any other aviator of his era except perhaps
Lindbergh, Floyd Bennett left an indelible mark on aviation
history. Like many of his day, he did not have a strong educational
background. What he lacked in formal training, he made up
for in interest, dedication and innate ability.
He left school at 15 and worked at the automobile trade
for ten years. He enlisted in the Navy in 1915, trained as
a pilot and served as a flight instructor during WWI.
While in the Navy, he was selected by Byrd as one of the
pilots for the McMillan Expedition to the Arctic in 1925.
They did not make it to the pole and the expedition was scrapped.
After returning to the U.S., Byrd and Bennett worked out
plans for another attempt. Bennett took leave from the Navy
and they arrived at base camp (Spitzbergen) on April 29, 1926. On
May 9, 1926 they took off for the pole, over 700 miles away. Did
they get to the pole? Do the math and follow along with the
discussion in the right sidebar.
Bennett was named chief pilot of Byrd's planned trans-Atlantic
flight in 1927, but was injured in a crash of the Fokker
"America" and was unable to go. Balchen did.
The following year, on April 19, although ill with a cold,
he agreed to take part in the aerial rescue mission of the
crew of a German airship, the Bremen, which had gone down
in Newfoundland. His illness worsened and he was forced
to leave the mission in Quebec.
Floyd Bennett died of complications from pneumonia, April
25, 1928 in Quebec, Canada.
Bennett Field in Brooklyn, NY was named in his honor.
Below, from site visitor Joe Kranz, is a U.S. postal cachet from June 26, 1930 commemorating the dedication of Floyd Bennett Field. It is signed by Bennett's widow.
U.S. Postal Cachet Commemorating the Dedication of Floyd Bennett Field, June 26, 1930 (Source: Kranz)
UPLOADED: 03/08/06 REVISED: 05/01/06, 02/13/09, 06/28/11, 05/16/12