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I found no biographical file for pilot Dorrell during my reviews of the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC. The NASM does house The Vernon Dorrell Collection of photos, documents and artifacts at the link.




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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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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Vernon Dorrell, Ca. 1932 (Source: Link)


Dorrell was born March 8, 1906 in Huntsville, TX. He was killed in a plane crash June 26, 1949. The photograph of Dorrell, left, was exhibited in a 1933 book from the HathiTrust titled "Seventeen Days in the Mexican Jungle" written by Clarence McElroy. Refer to the link to read this full, page-turner, ripping yarn and discover on page 154 Dorrell's role in it.

The 1910 U.S. Census recorded him as an only child living with his parents, Andrew and Augusta, in Vernon, LA. His father was employed as a railroad station agent. By the 1920 Census, the family had moved to El Paso.

Dorrell signed the Tucson Register three times, the first being Wednesday, October 31, 1928 at 11:00AM. He carried four passengers in the Fokker Univeral he identified as NC1565. At the link you'll discover the airplane belonged to the Stoody Company, a welding equipment manufacturer, out of Whittier, CA. based in Los Angeles, they were westbound from El Paso, TX.

His next signature was on Thursday, May 30, 1929 at 9:15AM. This time he arrived with two passengers in the Buhl he identified as NC6816. Fellow Register pilot Tom Colby is at the link. A photograph of NC6816 is there, as well as on George Maves' page. Dorrell and his passengers were eastbound from Yuma, AZ to El Paso.

On July 7, 1931 he married Loma Alice Evans (1909-1999). Their marriage certificate is below, left, and news coverage of the event from the Browsville Herald (TX) is below, right.





Vernon Dorrell & Loma Evans, Marriage Certificate, July 7, 1931 (Source: ancestry.com)
Vernon Dorrell & Loma Evans, Marriage Certificate, July 7, 1931 (Source: ancestry.com)
Brownsville Herald (TX), July 12, 1931 (Source: newspapers.com)
















His final landing at Tucson was Sunday, January 10, 1932 at 1:45PM. He carried Mrs. Dorrell as his sole passenger in the Ogden Osprey NC150W. They were westbound from El Paso to Los Angeles.

Brownsville Herald (TX), December 26, 1933 (Source: newspapers.com)
Brownsville Herald (TX), December 26, 1933 (Source: newspapers.com)


They had son they named Vernon Andrew Dorrell, Jr. He and Loma had a second son, as announced in the Brownsville Herald (TX), December 26, 1933, left. He was named Donald Evans Dorrell (1933-2003). Note Dorrell's employment with Pan American Airways.


Emporia Gazette (KS), February 8, 1934 (Source: newspapers.com)
Emporia Gazette (KS), February 8, 1934 (Source: newspapers.com)


About six weeks after their second son was born, the Emporia Gazette (KS), February 8, 1934, announced Mrs. Dorrell's relocation to Mexico City, left. The article mentioned their two sons.

On March 12,1934, a U.S. Immigration form cited a flight by Dorrell from Mexico City to San Diego in the Northrop Delta X-ABED (not a Register airplane), below. He carried a single passenger, Luis Olaguibel, identified as the radio operator. The airplane was operated by Aerovías Centrales.

X-ABED, Northrop Delta, April 1934 (Source: Reference)


Aerovías Centrales was a Pan American subsidiary. The photograph, right, courtesy of John Underwood, allegedly shows its first international departure from Glendale. The pilot could easily have been Dorrell. Alas, the airplane had only about sixty days more to fly. It crashed on May 5, 1934. 

About a dozen immigration forms are among Dorrell's records on ancestry.com. Two, from February 26 and April 3, 1936, cited Dorrell sailing aboard the S.S. Europa out of New York to and from Southhampton, England with Loma. This was probably a business/pleasure trip, because his occupation was listed as "Aircraft Sales Representative." He was working for Lockheed at the time (short biography below).

Sydney Morning Herald, July 24, 1936 (Source: newspapers.com)
Sydney Morning Herald, July 24, 1936 (Source: newspapers.com)


In the summer of 1936, Dorrell was tasked with traveling to Australia to train Australian pilots on the Lockheed Electra. The assignnent was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of July 24, 1936, left.

An immigration form dated August 19, 1936 documented his return to the U.S. aboard the S.S. Mariposa. The mechanic named Hixson cited in the news article was not on board.

Dorrell worked with the Naval Air Transport Command throughout World War II. He was ordered to active duty in 1942. He was released from active duty on December 9, 1946 with the rank of Commander. Below is a photograph from the San Diego Aerospace Museum (SDAM) Flickr stream showing Dorrell in his Navy Uniform bearing Commander rank markings.

Vernon Dorrell, After 1944 (Source: SDAM)











The photograph at right is autographted by Dorrell to fellow Register signer Charles Babb.

A more interesting immigration form was dated December 13, 1944. Dorrell was now a Commander in the navy reserve. He shared NC18602, a Boeing 314, the "California Clipper," with nine other military officers traveling from Honolulu to San Francisco. It is not clear if Dorrell was one of the Clipper's crew. The "California Clipper" flew for two more years and was retired after WWII in 1946. It had flown over a million miles.




V. Dorrell Biographical Sketch, 1942 (Source: Webmaster)
V. Dorrell Biographical Sketch, 1942 (Source: Webmaster)


A thumbnail biography from 1942 was found in this REFERENCE, p. 117, right. The 1940 Census placed him, Loma and their two sons living in Kansas City. His occupation was coded as "Vice President" of an airline compant.

Another biography appeared as a prelude to his collection stored at the National Air & Space Museum linked at the top of the left sidebar. It is quoted as follows.

"Vernon Dorrell (1906-1949) completed his flight training in 1924 and entered the aviation business as a commercial pilot for Lincoln Air Lines, working for flying schools including the California School of Aeronautics, and working in aircraft sales and service. In 1929, Dorrell joined Pickwick Airways as an airline captain on its Latin American routes. In 1930, he joined Pan American Airways (PAA) as an airline captain and he was assigned to their Latin American routes in Mexico and Central America. PAA promoted Dorrell to the position of Division Operations Manager in charge of affiliate company operations between Mexico City - Los Angeles, and Mexico City - El Paso.


Vernon Dorrell, Date Unknown (Source: SDAM)


"Dorrell resigned from PAA in 1936 and worked for Lockheed and Vega Aircraft companies as a sales representative and as a demonstration pilot for transport aircraft in England, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Later in 1936 he became employed by Mid-Continent Airlines as Operations Manager, where he remained, except for a leave of absence in 1938 to work with Vega Airplane Company, until ordered to active duty with the Navy in 1942. He served in the Naval Air Transport Command (NATS) throughout the war, first as the Executive Officer of NATS Squadron One, then as Commanding Officer of NATS Squadron Three (where he later was promoted to the rank of Commander) and finally as the Commanding Officer of Air Transport Squadron 13.

"When he was released from active duty on December 9, 1946, Dorrell began working for Thomas Ryan, Chairman of the Board of Mid-Continent Airlines. Dorrell then established his own firm of aviation consultants and sales representatives, the Aviation Maintenance Corporation. In 1949, Dorrell crashed his Vultee BT-13 Valiant at Thomas Ryan's ranch in New Mexico; at the time of his death he had over 12,000 flight hours."

The accident that killed him was a recreational flight in an ex-military trainer. He flew West with Transport pilot certificate T2669 in his pocket. A short obituary from the Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1949 is below.

Vernon Dorrell Obituary, Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1949 (Source: SDAM)




Even small bits of information lead to understanding just how circumscribed the Golden Age pilot club was, and how the lives of each individual rubbed up against those of the others. I discovered that Dorrell participated in the 1930 motion picture "Hell's Angels," which was directed and Register pilot Howard Hughes. Among the other Register signers that appeared in the cast and credits, besides Dorrell, were Ben Lyon, Frank Clarke (signed the Albuquerque, NM Register, which is not online yet), Roy Wilson, Leo Nomis, Frank Tomick, Al Wilson, Roscoe Turner, Bob Blair, Howard Batt, Milo Campbell, Ben Catlin, Ross Cook, Ray Crawford, Clinton Herberger, Harold Kelsey, Al Lary, George Maves, R.C. Merriam, Roy Minor, L.M. Owen, John & Tom Penfield, Bob Starkey, Julian Wagy and George Willingham.




The Register


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


Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.


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