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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.


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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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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Al Gilhousen holds the honor of allegedly being the first signer of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register at the new location in 1927. It's difficult to figure this out, as he appears to have signed a scrap of paper that was inserted into the original Register at some point in time, probably near February 6, 1925. He carried at least two passengers identified as Staff Sgt. Dewey (Simpson) and Paul Gustine. They appear, below, to have arrived from Lordsburg, NM.

Al Gilhousen's "Signature" in the Register
Al Gilhousen's "Signature" in the Register

Apropos the history of the airfield and the locations of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register, it lay open at both the "old" and "new" locations (see the definitive history of the airfield is available with this download, page 16). When it was moved to the new location can be inferred from Al Gilhousen's note. Although the actual date is not clear, it was near February 6, 1927. Not only does the scrap of paper exhibited above state, "First plane to land on new Davis-Monthan Aviation Field," but an article in the Tucson Citizen of February 7, 1927 states the same, "The first ship to land on the new Davis-Monthan field,..., set down to a perfect three-point landing by Al Gilhousen, commercial pilot, carrying passengers Sergt. Dewey Simpson and Paul Gustine." So the Register, which exhibits its first signature by Les Arnold dated November 4, 1925 must have been open at the old location from at least that date until sometime in February, 1927. Then it was moved to the "new" location cited in Gilhousen's note, above.

Alfred Gilhausen, Date & Location Unknown (Source: SDAM)


Regardless, if you're not too confused, Gilhousen signed the Register earlier on Saturday January 8, 1927 (probably at the "old" location). On this date his signature lies neatly among the ranks of other signers on page 16. He carried a single passenger, L.D. Hughes. Based at Glendale, CA they were southeastbound from Casa Grande, AZ. They did not cite a destination.

I don't know much about pilot Gilhousen. A genealogy Web site created by the Gilhousen Family Association USA, Inc. documents his birth on February 4, 1898 at Los Angeles, California. He died May 6, 1973 at Medford, Oregon. He appears to have had four wives and six children. He was from a large family of six brothers and three sisters. Photograph, left, is courtesy of the San Diego Aerospace Museum Flickr Stream (SDAM).

He flew early air mail contracts, along with fellow Register signers George Allen and Vance Breese. From the genealogy site referenced above, he "Served in the US Navy during WW I. Became an air mail pilot, served in the Royal Air Force, was a test pilot for Lockheed Aircraft Corp. Ferried military aircraft to battle zones during WW II. Later became the 5th ranking pilot for United Airlines flying California/Oregon routes. Lived in Ashland and Medford, OR mostly, and retired to a pear ranch near Medford, OR."

Site visitor and frequent contributor Mike Gerow offers the following anecdote that happened about nine months after Gilhousen signed the Register for the first time. Mike says, "Here's an anecdote about Al Gilhousen ... that appears on pp. 19-20 of my uncle Gene Gerow's* 1977 memoir, 'The Umpteenth Voyage, An Autobiographical Account of a San Joaquin Valley Farmboy's Struggle to Become an Airline Pilot.' .... Kind of a long preamble, but it sets up the rest of the story. The following occurred circa Nov. 1925 in Taft, as Gene, about  age 17 at the time, was home on break from his first semester away at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Russ, my dad, was 10 years Gene's senior and Cec (Cecil), the next oldest brother, owned the Jenny. Gene writes:

"...I found college quite an exciting challenge but well along in my first semester at Oxy, Mother wrote that Russ was ready to fly a single-seater he had bought from a local pilot and Cec had taken delivery on a Curtiss JN4D Jenny and I began to get 'antsy' about flying again. When Thanksgiving vacation arrived, I hurried back to Taft and, in addition to participating in a delicious home-cooked dinner that Mom set out on a couple of tables shoved together for the family group, I got some dual time in the Jenny.

"My brothers and I drove out to the improvised cow-pasture airport where the two airplanes were tied down. It seemed like old times again when I sat in the Jenny Cec had bought, on the same makeshift landing field where Dave Matthews and I had first set down in search of a practice landing area 'eons ago' and in the same kind of 'crate' as Dave was wont to call an airplane.

"Cec 'propped' the engine and in moments we were in the air. It was really good to fly once more and the Thanksgiving dinner tasted just that much better for my having gotten off the ground again. After dinner we went out to the flying field again (this pattern was to become a routine which would eventually drive Taft wives to the brink of insanity).

Bakersfield Californian, December 14, 1925 (Source: Gerow)
Bakersfield Californian, December 14, 1925 (Source: Gerow)


"Al Gilhousen, the pilot who delivered the Jenny up from Los Angeles, was there.  He watched Cec 's flying  and appeared to be satisfied. Then he turned his attention  to the T-M Scout  which Russ had recently bought. The rotary engine was very balky: Russ had tried to start it on and off all day, but with no success. Al said what it needed was a 'good cussin' out.' He stepped up to the stubborn little WWI surplus airplane and like a bull-voiced Admiral addressing a deckload of 'swabbies,' he roared out the loudest  and most complete list of personal invectives I had ever heard. Then he hollered, 'Contact!' Russ was sitting dejectedly in the cockpit and snapped the ignition switch on. Al gave the wooden propeller a tremendous yank and the LeRhone engine 'sprang into life' as they used to say.

"Then Al jumped into a waiting airplane and returned to L.A. I remained fascinated by my brief encounter and only contact with this legendary flyer."

Regarding the Jenny, at right is a Bakersfield Californian news item (headline: "Three Are Injured When Airplane Falls at Taft") from December 14, 1925. It appears he only had the Jenny for a few months before it crashed. Mike says about the article, "I believe the article may be in error, in that the little girl who was sitting on my uncle's lap, would've been saved by his exertions, not the pilot's. From the article, sounds like George Grey stalled the Jenny at low altitude and almost killed them all."

Mike says about the article, " I believe the article may be in error, in that the little girl who was sitting on my uncle's lap, would've been saved by his exertions, not the pilot's. From the article, sounds like George Grey stalled the Jenny at low altitude and almost killed them all."


Below, a photo shared by Mike Gerow that showsGilhousen on the right. He was a big man, and his identity is confirmed by his grandson, who contacted me on December 7, 2011. According to Mike the date of the photograph is about 1925 and the location is Taft, CA.

Thomas-Morse Scout With Russ Gerow (L) and Al Gilhousen (?) (Source: Gerow)
Thomas-Morse Scout With Russ Gerow (L) and Al Gilhousen (?) (Source: Gerow)

Mike states about this photograph, "I strongly suspect that the large gentleman next to my dad’s Thomas-Morse S4C is Al Gilhousen, D-M signer number one, as per the description by my Uncle Gene Gerow.... The reason I believe this is because [the] T-M was in its early pre-restoration configuration, which would’ve coincided with the time period of the Gilhousen visit to Taft. [Russ Gerow] was soloed in this machine in Taft in June 1925 by Santa Barbara barnstormer and instructor, Lt. Dave Matthews (1894-1926), USAS reserve. Also, the incident described in my Uncle’s narrative “The Umpteenth Voyage,” was memorable enough to a young man of 18 at the time to be included in his memoir written some 40 years after the fact. It would not be a stretch to imagine that that incident was memorialized by a photo. Obviously I have no proof yet, but have been pretty lucky with my hunches [hunch proven 12/7/11, as above]."

*Note: Eugene Gerow (1907-2000) retired in 1972 as a senior TWA captain with 32 years service and 27,000 hours flying time. If he ever flew into Davis-Monthan during his long and varied career, he failed to sign the Register. However, early in his professional career, he did fly co-pilot with Register signers Walter L. "Si" Seiler (Wilmington-Catalina Airline, Ltd) and Eddie Bellande (TWA). Gene was a younger brother of Russell T. Gerow, whose photograph and document collection may be accessed here. Another anecdote from his book can be found at pilot Bellande's Web page.


Gilhousen had a modest presence in local newspapers of his day. Below, some fun on the air mail routes. A similar article appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal of Tuesday, April 12, 1932.

LeGrande (IA) Reporter, May 13, 1932 (Source: Gerow)


Big Spring (TX) Daily Herald, May 1, 1931 (Source: Gerow)
Big Spring (TX) Daily Herald, May 1, 1931 (Source: Gerow)


As with the items above, thanks again to Mike Gerow for researching and sharing these articles. The article, left, from the Big Spring (TX) Daily Herald of May 1, 1931 records an observation that many pilots can relate to. That night, the straight-line distance to Reno from his position was about 180 miles, a good distance to see on a clear night.

Fresno Bee December 28, 1929 (Source: Gerow)
Fresno Bee December 28, 1929 (Source: Gerow)

Your Webmaster had a similar experience some years ago on a dark February night during a commercial descent from the west into Cincinnati, OH. The pilot came on and pointed out a half dozen lights spread out like a string of pearls off to othe north. The lights twinkled and moved a bit. They were the landing lights of aircraft in the queue for landing at Chicago O'Hare, a distance of about 250 miles to the north. These meterological events are rare.

Gilhousen's air mail flying was not without incident. Right, from the Fresno Bee of December 28, 1929, he struck a power pole cross arm and lived to continue his flight.

Nor was his air transport career. Below, from the Oakland Tribune, November 6, 1936, an incident that would bring to mind the more contemporary spillage of hot coffee into a lap by a woman at a fast food establishment.

Oakland Tribune, November 6, 1936 (Source: Gerow)
bune, November 6, 1936 (Source: Gerow)

From the Morning Herald, Uniontown, PA of Thursday, May 25, 1944 gives a comprehensive picture of the test pilot duties at Lockheed Aircraft in California. It describes flight testing and lists some of the flying personnel by name with brief biographical sketches. Among those listed, besides Gilhousen, are Register pilots Milo Burcham and Jimmy Mattern. Below, a segment of the article that describes some of Gilhousen's qualifications. We learn that he spent time in the south Pacific and China, and that he had accumulated a whopping 16,000 hours of flight time. The complete Morning Herald article is at the link (PDF, 2.1Mb).

Uniontown (PA) Morning Herald, May 25, 1944 (Source: Gerow)
Uniontown (PA) Morning Herald, May 25, 1944 (Source: Gerow)


Finally, from September 11, 1933, the article below from the Van Nuys (CA) News describes the establishment of the southern base of United Air Lines Pacific Coast Airways at United Airport, Burbank, CA. The change brought pilots and copilots into the area, and resulted in a cash infusion for the local economy.

Van Nuys News, September 11, 1933 (Source: Gerow)
Van Nuys News, September 11, 1933 (Source: Gerow)





Among Register pilots cited in the article are E.L. Remelin (name misspelled in the article), Eddie Brooks and George Allen. The citation of, "... United's new Boeing all-metal multi-motored liners..." refers to the Boeing 247, which entered service during 1933.

Popular Aviation, December, 1931 (Source: PA)


A more obscure citation is from the December, 1931 issue of Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, left. Atmospheric conditions were just right to allow a view of 175 miles east across the mountains.


Your Webmaster one cold night in January was descending for a landing in Cincinnati, OH and could look north and see the landing lights of aircraft on approach into Chicago O'Hare Airport, a distance of 295 miles.


UPLOADED: 06/18/08 REVISED: 12/27/11, 01/08/14, 11/21/14

The Register
I'm looking for photographs of pilot Gilhousen 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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