Pilot Eyes

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Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Breese, CB-669000-01 and CB-669000 -20, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.


The thumbnail image on this page is used with permission from the archives of the San Diego Aerospace Museum

The 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.


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Vance Breese, date unknown

Vance Breese was born in Keystone, WA, April 20, 1904. He states his education as, "Various engineering extension courses." With those, he spent his life in aviation.

He landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield five times between July 10, 1928 and April 21, 1932, once as a passenger. His first landing as a pilot was July 10, 1928, he was part of the 1928 National Air Tour, which passed through Tucson that year. He was flying a Ryan B-1 Brougham, NC5553. Breese was accompanied during this leg of the Tour by passengers Larry Gunther and J.T. Hurst. They completed the Tour, and at the finish line they placed 9th.

His second visit was in NC288W, a Lockheed Vega DL-1B on February 27, 1931. Based in Detroit, he arrived from El Paso, TX westbound to Los Angeles, CA. He carried three passengers. One passenger, Peter Beasley, was president of Detroit Aircraft Co. Another W.A. Mankey, had been a colleague at Ryan Aircraft, and became chief engineer at Breese's Michigan Aircraft.

This flight correlates nicely with his resume, since between 1927-34 he was president of Breese Aircraft Company (which went through several iterations of geographic location, name and organizational structure during those years) and the Detroit Aircraft Company.

Two of his airplanes were famous. The Breese named "Aloha" (NX914, didn't land at Tucson) took 2nd place in the 1927 Dole Race from California to Hawaii. It was painted yellow and red. The "Pabco Pacific Flyer" (NX646; didn't land at Tucson) was also a participant in the Dole Race, but crashed upon takeoff. This PDF download (491KB) provides information on these two airplanes, as well as a peek into the Breese biographical file at the NASM. Please direct your browser to this link to learn more about the Dole Race.

Less than a year after the Dole, on April 16, 1928, Breese was involved in a nightmare of an accident. Below, shared with us by site contributor Andy Heins, is a photograph of Breese shaking hands with a person off the bottom of the photo. This photograph captures the aftermath of the in-flight departure of the entire engine from his airplane, the Breese 5 NC3817 (not a Register airplane), while flying over San Francisco, CA. Aerofiles.com cites the incident had a successful outcome by Breese, "... having his passengers move forward in the cabin to shift the c/g [center of gravity], Breese was able to maintain control and land safely on an open hillside." Note the bent engine mount tubes and torn cowling. We can wonder where the engine fell.

Vance Breese, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Heins)

His final two visits to Tucson as a pilot were in an unidentified Lockheed, and a Lockheed that he identified as NC237. There is no record that I've found that identifies a Lockheed with that number. At both times, however, he was based in Detroit, MI, and was eastbound from Los Angeles, CA to El Paso, TX.

His visit as a passenger was with pilot James V. Piersol on Friday, January 8, 1932 . They were flying in the Lockheed Vega NC32M. Please direct your browser to those links for details related to that landing at Tucson.

Popular Aviation, January, 1940 (Source: PA)
Popular Aviation, January, 1940 (Source: PA)



During 1933-34 he moved to California and worked for Northrop Corporation as test pilot. He demonstrated the Northrop Navy fighter, and performed test flights for Fokker. In 1937 he worked for Bennett Aircraft Corp. as VP and test pilot. Aerofiles.com has references to the aircraft that Breese test flew during the 30s.

He was the test pilot for Vultee, and helped develop an innovative method for recording test data. The article, right, from Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, January, 1940 documents the methodology.

Breese was also the test pilot at North American Aviation when the P-51 Mustang was developed. He was its first test pilot on October 26, 1940. Earlier in 1940 Breese interacted with another Davis-Monthan airplane. See Lockheed NC117W for that story. Vance Breese flew West June 26, 1973.


Dossier 2.1.53

UPLOADED: 03/10/06 REVISED: 06/22/06, 07/12/06, 02/26/09, 03/07/09, 09/12/11, 05/23/12, 07/08/14, 12/15/21

The Register
I'm looking for information about pilot Breese and photographs of his airplanes to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.




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.


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