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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Gehlbach, CG-174000-01, -20, 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.


Download this PDF file (1.4MB) for fairly complete and chronological newpaper accounts (mostly from the New York Times) of Gehlbach's progress during the 1930 All American Derby. This is an interesting, detail-level exposition of this Golden Age transcontinental air racing event. Includes names and placement of other pilots, and an image of the specially-made airplane Gehlbach flew in the event.


A brief video of Gehlbach is here during his employment with Grumman (1936). His is shown testing the F3F-2. The video has his name spelled wrong.


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Lt. Lee Gehlbach (Source: NASM)
Lee Gehlbach

Pilot Lee Gehlbach signed the Davis-Monthan Register on August 24, 1931. He was solo flying Waco INF NC11452 (S/N 3450 manufactured in 1930). Based in Detroit, MI, he did not indicate his itinerary. His airplane was registered to the Michigan Aeronautical Corp., Ypsilanti, MI, so he may have been on company business.

Gehlbach was born October 6, 1902 near Lincoln, IL. He graduated as an engineer (aeronautical) from the University of Illinois (Go Illini!) in 1924. He enlisted as a flying cadet in the U.S. Army on September 14, 1924 and graduated from the primary flying and advanced pursuit schools. He was commissioned September 8, 1926 and spent three years with the First Pursuit Group, Selfridge Field until September 30, 1929.

He left the Army and entered test work, including engineering, with various companies (Michigan Aeronautical among them). From 1933-35 he was chief test pilot for Great Lakes Aircraft Corp. His racing experience included the All American Air Derby of 1930 (winner, see left sidebar), the 1931 National Air Tour, the Wedell-Williams Team, 1933 (several 1st, 2nd and 3rd places flying the W-W racer NR536V), and Granville Team during the National Air Races (NAR), 1934.

Below, a signed U.S. postal cachet from July 4,1933 that commemorates the NAR that year. This cachet comes to us courtesy of site visitor Joe Kranz. Mr. Kranz has shared numerous cachets with us that are distributed across the site. See, for example, Ruth Nichols, Eddie Bellande and Amelia Earhart.

U.S. Postal Cachet, July 4, 1933 (Source: Kranz)
U.S. Postal Cachet, July 4, 1933 (Source: Kranz)

Below, shared with us by site visitor Jeff Staines, is a U.S. postal cachet commemorating the 1934 NAR. It was signed by Gehlbach on the first day of the NAR. Mr. Staines says about his cachet, "This cover is signed by Lee Gehlbach when he was flying at the 1934 National Air Race....  Lee Gehlbach  (# 77) finished third place in the Bendix Trophy Race after experiencing engine cowl trouble flying the Granville Brother's R6H  Q.E.D."

U.S. Postal Cachet, August 31, 1934 (Source: Staines)
U.S. Postal Cachet, August 31, 1934 (Source: Staines)


Lee Gehlbach's GeeBee #77, "Q.E.D." (Source: Staines)
Lee Gehlbach's GeeBee #77, "Q.E.D." (Source: Staines)


The Granville Brothers "Q.E.D." flown by Gehlbach is at left.

On May 20, 1935 he made headlines in the NY Herald Tribune for a flight he made for Grumman in one of their new pursuit aircraft (see video cited in left sidebar). During a dive test the airplane went into an uncontrollable spin. Gehlbach rode it down to 2,000 feet before going to his parachute and watching the airplane crash into trees. The Tribune states, "His only response to congratulations on his narrow excape, it was said, was a shrug." Such is the stuff our Davis-Monthan Register pilots are made of.


Paths cross between and among Davis-Monthan pilots. An example is this publicity shot of Gehlbach with Joe Lewis (date unknown, but probably after 1936).

Gehlbach in Publicity Shot with Joe Lewis, Left (Source: NASM)
Beauty Queens


Dossier 2.1.90

UPLOADED: 02/27/07 REVISED: 03/24/07, 11/24/08, 02/23/11, 07/01/11

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


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


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