Pilot Eyes

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Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Carr, CC-118500-01, 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.


Photograph, right, shows Carr ca. 1933 with ever-present cigars in his shirt pocket. Image from Pauley, Robert F. The Walter Carr Racer. Skyways. 60: October 2001. pp. 43-50.


Some information is from the "Blue Book of Aviation", Roland W. Hoagland, Ed., published in 1932 by The Hoagland Company, Publishers, Los Angeles, CA. 292 pp.

The cover of this handsome book is deeply engraved, and the fly leaves are printed with terrific art deco accents. Inside are brief biographies of contemporary aviation figures, as well as tables of various data.


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"Boy what a town!!! I was thirsty!!! Some airport."

W.J. Carr ca. 1933

That's what Walter J. Carr wrote in the Remarks column of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register upon landing on August 24, 1931. Born January 15, 1896, Carr was 35 years old when he visited Tucson solo in his Cessna, NC8416.

At this landing he was based in Detroit, MI. He was eastbound from Los Angeles, CA to Cleveland, OH. He was undoubtedly on his way to the National Air Races, which were held in Cleveland from August 29 to September 7 in 1931. He competed there in Event No. 36A, "Speed and Efficiency Contest for Single Motored Planes." He took second place flying his Cessna with a Warner engine and won $450. He probably had this in his airplane with him.

He had considerable flying experience before he visits us in Tucson. He soloed on June 15, 1914 in a Curtiss Pusher. This qualified him for the Early Birds fraternity. He barnstormed around Michigan and surrounding states before WWI. He gave fireworks exhibitons with a Kirkham-motored Curtiss Pusher.

When The Great War broke out, he joined the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps and taught military pilots to fly. After discharge in January 1919, he continued to barnstorm from 1920-1927. During this period (1922) he organized the first aerial police unit in Florida. In that same year he located a lost motor caravan in the Florida Everglades, missing for nine days without food or fuel. He found them, dropped food, then returned and landed with fuel, returning to Miami with two members of the caravan who were stricken with fever.

In the early 1920s he designed and built at least two personal aircraft. One, built in 1919, was a 3-place cabin biplane pusher powered by an OX-5 engine. The other was the "Maiden Saginaw", a 3-place cabin monoplane with cantilever wings (1924). He helped found the Paramount Aviation Company in Saginaw, MI in 1928. At that time he was also manager of the Saginaw Airport.

His visit to Tucson introduces him to us early in his competitive flying career. Besides the 1931 National Air Races, which brought him to Tucson, he had participated in the 1930 National Air Tour and placed 15th flying a 165HP Wright-powered Cabinaire. Below, courtesy of site visitor Jeff Staines, a souvenir of the 1931 Air Races in the form of a U.S. postal cachet signed by Carr and stamped with the handsome official race logo. Carr signed it as an Early Bird. Thompson Trophy winner Lowell Bayles (not a Register pilot) also signed.

1931 National Air Races U.S. Postal Cachet, September, 1931 (Source: Staines)
1931 National Air Races  U.S. Postal Cachet, September, 1931 (Source: Staines)

Now comes the 1932 National Air Races in Cleveland. During 1931-32 Carr built another aircraft, especially for this race, named variously the "Carr Special", "Saginaw Junior", "Carr Racer" or "Blackhawk". Image, below, from reference in the left column, is of the "Carr Special" with Carr at rear. It was OX-5 powered.

At the 1932 race, he entered, but did not finish, Event No. 4 "Free-for-All" (he pulled out voluntarily after being lapped by all but one of the other racers). He also entered Event No. 34 "Precision Landing Contest" but placed 9th out of the money. This ended his efforts at National Air Racing. He entered a few local races with his airplane, but Carr and his racer were never major contenders in the air racing scene of the mid-1930s.

"Carr Special" ca. late 1933

The image above was taken after the airplane was modified for smoke writing (long exhaust pipe) late in 1933. "Carr Special" was often called the "World's Ugliest Race Plane", perhaps partly due to the "eyeball engineering" used during its construction. It was painted white and blue, with black numbers and black duck hawk on the vertical stabilizer. Image colorization by your Webmaster.

Walter Carr During WWII, Location Unknown (Source: Gau)
Walter Carr During WWII, Location Unknown (Source: Gau)

"Carr Special" was used briefly for skywriting. Then it changed hands and was modified several times before finally being destroyed in a crash at Southfield, MI in 1937.

Late in the 1930s Carr was test pilot for the Barkley-Grow Aircraft Corporation. He also ferried Stinsons to China and helped form a commercial transport line between Canton and Hanoi, a distance of 525 miles over rugged terrain. In the 1940s he went into active military duty with the Air Transport Command, which was formed by another Davis-Monthan pilot, Paul Richter.

At right we see him with what are probably captain's bars and the round insignia of the Air Transport Command. This photograph and the article below come to us courtesy of pilot Carr's granddaughter, Jill Gau.

He left military service as a major in 1947 and went to work for the Michigan Department of Aeronautics, where he supervised the inspection of airports and flying schools, and investigated accidents. He also supervised the licensing of aircraft and flew state officials and executies around the state. He retired from the state in 1962.

Walter Carr held pilot license number 442. Through his life he accumulated over 25,000 flight hours in aircraft ranging from the Pusher to business jets. Below, a news article from 1963 that shows Carr with his ever-present cigars receiving a "trophy" for having flown the longest distance to attend a meeting.

News Article, Unsourced & Undated (Source: Gau)
News Article, Unsourced & Undated (Source: Gau)

When he died on June 19,1970 in Lansing, MI he was 74 years old. In addition to the Early Birds, he was a member of the Quiet Birdmen and the OX-5 Club. Below, an couple of obituaries. The first is is only a partial account from The Great Lakes Flyer, but it does show the Curtiss Pusher that he soloed on June 15, 1914.

Walter J. Carr Obituary (Source: Gau)
Walter J. Carr Obituary (Source: Gau)


Walter J. Carr Obituary (Source: Gau)
Walter J. Carr Obituary (Source: Gau)

Carr was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame in 1993. The article, below, summarizes the induction and provides further information about his life and achievements. It mentions the "Carr Special."

Article, Great Lakes Pilot News, Feb-Mar, 1993 (Source: Gau)
Article, Great Lakes Pilot News, Feb-Mar, 1993 (Source: Gau)


Dossier 2.1.30

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 02/12/06 REVISED: 03/18/06, 10/08/07, 12/21/09, 01/12/11, 04/16/11

The Register
I'm looking for information about and images of his airplane, Cessna NC8416. Please use this FORM if you have any information to share.

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 a 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, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.


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