the time of his landing at Tucson on February 12, 1936, flying
Monocoupe NC11759, Clare Wesley Bunch was President, General
Manager and Sales Manager of the Monocoupe Corporation. He was
32 years old. His itinerary that Wednesday (check the calendar)
was from El Paso, TX to Phoenix, AZ. He carried no passengers.
There is no indication as to why he was in Arizona.
You can see another photograph of Bunch at Peter Beasley's page.
According to Aero Digest, February 1937, he
was born on March 18, 1903 in Linn Creek, MO. According to his daughter, who emailed me through this page, he graduated
at the age of 19 from the California, MO, high school. He spent his junior and senior years there. Then he studied electrical
engineering at Washington University, St. Louis, MO, and graduated
in 1926 with a B.S. degree. He stayed at the University as
a graduate student with a research fellowship, leaving in
1928 with a M.S.
He began his career with the Pioneer Instrument Co. in May
1928. He worked for them until 1931 as service engineer, in
the production, research and sales departments, and became
branch manager of the Wichita office from 1929-1931.
He learned to fly in Wichita in 1930 and went into private
enterprise from 1931-33, including private and commercial
flying. He joined the Monocoupe Corporation in December 1933
and worked until September 1934 as a salesman. He was sales
manager for three months in early 1935. Then he became General
Manager and President beginning in May 1935, about eight-months
before we find him in Tucson. He took an active part in the
design and engineering of several Monocoupe models, and conducted
all the engineering test flying for new aircraft over the
period 1935 to 1941. See E.E. Aldrin, Sr. to view correspondence between Bunch and Aldrin.
The photograph below is shared with us by friend of dmairfield.org, John Underwood. It shows Bunch and a woman identified as Marjorie Gage in an embrace in front of a Monocoupe aircraft. The date and context of this image are unknown, but it looks celebratory. The "17" on the vertical stabilizer appears to be a race number.
Clare Bunch & Marjorie Gage, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Underwood)
He paralleled his business life with a military life. He
was in the R.O.T.C. from 1922-1926 while in college, the Coast
Artillery, 1926-28, and the Army Air Corps Reserve, 1932-40.
He resigned his business responsibilities on March 3, 1942
to enter full-time military service. He remained in the service,
retiring as a colonel in the 1950s. He was a member of Scabbard
and Blade, and of the Dubsdread Country Club (the club is
still in business today at 549 West Par Street, Orlando, FL).
Along the way, he set records with his Monocoupe airplanes.
The New York Times of October 13, 1935 reported an altitude
attempt made by Bunch on the 12th. It reports that Bunch reached
19,500 feet, believed to be a new record for light aircraft.
He set a new coast-to-coast (Los Angeles to New York) nonstop
record for light planes on April 2-3, 1939 in a Monocoupe.
The N.Y. Herald Tribune of April 3rd reported him departing
Burbank, CA at 10:41AM; he arrived at Roosevelt Field the
next day at 1:07:10PM. The duration of his flight was 23 hours
27 minutes and 10 seconds, beating the previous record of
30 hours 37 minutes set just five months earlier. He carried
an overload of about 690 pounds at takeoff, most of which
was fuel. His greatest speed was 130 MPH between Albuquerque
and Amarillo. He flew at 12,000 feet for about 17 hours. The image below, from friend of dmairfield.org, John Underwood, captures him at the end of that cross-country voyage. The police officer is assisting because of fatigue. It must have felt good to have the help of a supporting arm after that long in the air.
Clare Bunch (C) April 3, 1939, Roosevelt Field (Source: Underwood)
The N.Y. Herald Tribune of April 4th states that Bunch reported
the cost of his trip was $27.50, broken down as follows:
137 gallons of gas $23.25; oil $3.90; two sandwiches 20
cents and a thermos of coffee 15 cents. Times certainly
do change: he paid about 17 cents per gallon for gas. As
of the upload date of this page (below), aviation gasoline
is anywhere between three and five dollars per gallon!
ABER ICH DIGRESSUM
As an aside, Monocoupes were the most successful of all the
stock plane racers during the Golden Age of Air Racing. Early
in the company’s life, Donald A. Luscombe was president,
J.A. Love was V.P., and Clayton Folkerts was chief engineer.
Discontent with airport conditions at the original corporate
site at Moline, IL caused a move by late 1931 to Lambert Field
in Robertson, MO. Reorganized into the Monocoupe Corp., Luscombe
was retained as president, and Frederick Knack replaced Folkerts
as chief engineer.
In 1933, Luscombe left. By 1935, Wooster Lambert (Lambert
engines were used in many Monocoupe models) was president,
John Nulsen was V.P., Clare Bunch was Sales Manager and Tom
Towle was chief engineer. Sometime in 1939 or thereabouts,
the company was dissolved, reorganized and moved to Orlando, FL
as a subsidiary of Universal Molded Products (Indeed, the "UNIV" on the fuselage of the Monocoupe in the top image may reflect that reorganization). After World
War II the company was purchased by another group, also in
Florida, before going out of business in the 1950s.
For a special treat, see this download
for a look at the sleek, new Monocoupe aircraft for 1932.
Pictured in this marketing brochure are Monocoupe pilots Phoebe
Omlie and John
Livingston, among others. Notice the last page
of this brochure. One prospective buyer (I wonder who it was,
and whether the purchase was made) scribbled some quick ciphers
on that page, calculating the base price of the Model 90 and
adding some optional equipment: steel propeller $100, left-hand
throttle $25, and Townend anti-drag ring $45. These brochure
images are courtesy of the Charles Cooper Collection.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 12/23/05 REVISED: 02/07/08, 01/23/10