The Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register

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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Carnahan, CC-106500-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum, 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. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.


1933. 1934. Aircraft Year Book. Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce of America, Inc. New York, NY.

The Tilbury-Fundy Flash was stored in a barn in 1935, recovered in 1975 and restored by the Bloomington (IL) EAA Chapter. It is on exhibit at McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington. Note, there is no image of the Flash or Carnahan on that Web site.


A self-published book entitled "Bloomington, Illinois Aviation 1920, 1930, 1940" compiled by Marion McClure is available, with permission, as a PDF download here. At 24 MB and 86 pages it's a big one. But it contains many contemporary newspaper accounts of flight activities at Bloomington, including those with relevance to Art Carnahan (note the sign on the hangar immediately to the right).


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Art Carnahan is best known as an air racer, and for the Tilbury-Fundy Flash, an airplane he raced at the National Air Races during the 1930s.

Tilbury-Fundy Flash, 1932

We find Carnahan landing at Tucson on April 1, 1932 flying Stinson NC1019. He identified his home base as Bloomington, IL. He carried two unidentified passengers  (possibly Merwin and Williams, see the link and below).They were northwest bound from El Paso, TX to Globe, AZ.   This may have been a ferry flight from Illinois to California. Please follow the link to NC1019 for details.

Moving ahead a few months, photo, left, from the New York Times, Sunday, August 21, 1932. The small airplane is the Tilbury-Fundy Flash. It has a wingspan of 14'8' (later increased to 17'10") length 11'10" (later 12'5"), and an empty weight of 270 pounds. The 45HP Church engine was air-cooled. Owen Tilbury was a design engineer in the employ of the Williams Company. The airplane was raced in the 1932 National Air Races by Carnahan. Owen Tilbury's grand niece sent a news article in the Lewiston (ME) Daily Sun of August 26, 1932 which makes note of, "... the diminutive Tilbury-Funday [sic] Flash, which Art Carnahan of Bloomington, Ill. will pilot in the speed dashes. Its wingspread is only 14 feet 8 inches. It is powered by a 45 horsepower four cylinder air cooled engine, and weighs but 270 pounds, hardly more than a good lift for a strong man."

The larger airplane behind the Flash appears to be a Travel Air 6000 (cf. Juptner, Volume 1, page 245) of unknown registration number. The size of the Flash in comparison is striking. Walter Williams owned a Travel Air 6000. It was used as the pace plane on the Flash's first flight.

Carnahan's record at the 1932 Race cited in the Aircraft Year Book, while exemplary, did not include the Flash. Rather, his race activities all involved Monocoupe aircraft.

He competed in the Cincinnati Trophy Race (Cleveland to Cincinnati & return, 8th place in a Wright J-6 Monocoach), the Sohio Mystery Derby (Event #21, 3rd place in the J-6 Monocoach), Event #11 for C or NC aircraft (dropped out in third lap with Monocoach J-6), and The Precision Landing Contest for aircraft without brakes (4th place in the August 28th competition).

Tilbury-Fundy Flash 1933

The next reference to the "Flash" is in the 1933 National Air Races , where, flown by Carnahan, it won the 115 cu. in. engine event at Chicago. No mention of the Flash or a 115 race is made in the 1934 Aircraft Year Book. Photo, right, of another incarnation of his airplane parked at the Bloomington, IL airport (from this link). Note "Tilbury F-L-A-S-H" on tail; Shell Lockheed in background.

During the late 1930s, Carnahan was the pilot for the Bloomington Pantograph, a local newspaper. An article describing Carnahan's role and the airplanes he flew is from Popular Aviation magazine, November, 1938 (PDF 1.6Mb). I'm looking for other information about pilot Carnahan's activities during the late 30s and beyond. Can you help?

All I know is, in 1954, a Waco primary training glider (N887V), which was manufactured in 1930, was donated to a local glider club by Art Carnahan, manager of the nearby Bloomington Airport. Art was also a flight instructor at the airport.


A site visitor, Jim Hoppe, from Bloomington, IL states on January 12, 2008, "The Flash is restored and well kept in our County Museum. Mr. Carnahan only raced the plane once. The photograph on your site [the one immediately above] was taken on October 29th, 1934 [at Bloomington]. The Shell Plane was flown in by Mr. [James] Doolittle for the opening of the Air Derby/Dedication. The Flash was named "Tilbury" after Owen Tilbury, President of the Local Chapter of the National Aeronautical Association. Tilbury went to work for Wright in St. Louis in 1935.

"Art Carnahan was the pilot for the local [Bloomington] newspaper The Pantagraph.  The paper's archives are full of Art and aviation. Art took his flying instructions on my Grandfather's farm, east of Bloomington in 1925. His instructors  were Basil Sims and Rogers Humphreys. He also received lessons from The Gates Flying Circus members in exchange for motor repairs.

"It is interesting that NW of my grandfather's farm was the Bedinger Farm. Eugene Bedinger was Chief of the Motor Repair Section, Air Service and was stationed at McCook Field in the early 20's. Another frequent flyer at the farm was "Shorty" Schroeder (Major R.W.) whom I assume became acquainted with Art. I knew Art as a boy, he was a friend of my dad. I met several times with Fran Carnahan, Art's second wife. I have been gathering local aviation history for nearly thirty years."

Further, on January 13 he states, "The photo of the Stinson [actually a Travel Air] & Flash [top photograph] is interesting in that the Flash does  not have the cowling painted black. That was done after the first  flight. Walter Williams the radio man, was an aeronautical engineer in the Air  Corps during the War [WWI]. He was the president of the Williams Company and  perfected the oil furnance. Much experimenting in aviation was conducted by the company up through the 50's.

"Art would have been owner of the plane in name only. His backer, and  frequent passenger, was Davis Merwin, also an aeronautical engineer.  His family owned several newspapers in California. Mr. Merwin took  great interest in aviation law."


Another visitor, David Brazelton, states, "I first met Art when he was flying the Stinson photo plane for the Bloomington Pantagraph called "Scoop."  After a number of years, I grew old enough (15 yrs old) to start learning to fly at Bloomington airport.  Art was the manager and his lovely wife Fran managed both him and the rest of us.  We flew Taylorcrafts and Archie Baldrich was my main instructor.  Art flew many charters and sold several types of airplanes.  I was elected on occasion to ride with him in the Republic Seabee as a living sandbag.  That was OK because he would let me fly the airplane between demos and often I was allowed to show that even this kid could fly this plane.  The worst was when I had to get out on the flat spot on the back of the hull and prop that 215 hp geared engine to show the potential customer it could be done if the battery went down....  The main thing is that every moment you flew in a cockpit with Art, you were learning.  He never let up and made you do new things all the time....  Art and Fran Carnahan are still among my life's heros."


Dossier 2.1.68

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 03/18/06 REVISED: 04/10/06, 01/15/08, 07/01/14

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I'm looking for photographs of pilot Carnahan to include on this page. If you have one or more you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me.
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