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There is no biographical file for pilot Gower in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), 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.


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Lew Gower landed once at Tucson, Monday, April 1, 1929 at 2:40PM.  He carried four passengers, including his wife, H.G. McGrath, B. Knapp and H.E. Wendt.  They were westbound from El Paso, TX to San Diego, CA.

Portland (OR) Morning Oregonian, May 11, 1929 (Source: Woodling)
Portland (OR) Morning Oregonian, May 11, 1929 (Source: Woodling)

They flew a specially rigged Fokker F-7, NC1661. Please direct your browser to the airplane to learn about its installation of sound equipment for aerial advertising. The article at left, from the Portland (OR) Morning Oregonian of May 11, 1929, describes Gower's work when he and his crew reached the northwest.

I have no good photographs of pilot Gower. If you do and would like to share, please let me KNOW. He has a brief online biography at the Colorado Aviation Historical Society Web site. It states, in part, "John Herbert Lewis Gower was born in Sutton, Surrey, England [and came to the United States March 15,1908 at age 9 years 11 months] but was reared in Denver. At the age of eight [in England], he was much publicized as a piano prodigy, and in his teens, he was an outstanding golfer, becoming Denver City golf champion. He attended East High, and was prominent in athletics there.

"He had a very inauspicious beginning to his aviation career. He crashed on his solo flight on September 25, 1917 in Toronto, Canada, where he had been training as a Royal Flying Corps Cadet. Not to be dissuaded, he took two more instructional flights, that same day, and soloed safely at sunset. He was sent overseas into combat, with the Royal Flying Corps at the age of twenty. He flew 28 night combat missions over Germany, and on one such flight over Mannheim, he caused the Kaiser, who was visiting the city, to seek shelter in a basement.

Springfield (MA) Daily Republican, April 8, 1931 (Source: Woodling)
Springfield (MA) Daily Republican, April 8, 1931 (Source: Woodling)

"Gower gained fame as a barnstormer in the early 20's in Colorado, and states to the East. He also did aerial exhibitions, aerial photography, sales and instruction. Just before the depression, he flew a Fokker Trimotor [our NC1661] for two years in New York for radio programs, as the 'Voice of the Sky' [VOTS]. For a dozen years before World War II, he was the personal pilot for John Hay Whitney and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. After that, he flew for the Gulf Oil Corporation.

"For two years during World War II, he flew in the Army Air Forces, based at Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He returned to Gulf Oil after the war, as their aviation representative in New Orleans, until his retirement in 1962."

Indeed The New York Times of July 21, 1932 reported that Gower and his partner placed second in the Long Island Golf Association's best ball tournament at the Lido Country Club at Long Beach, LI, NY.

Gower was also a test pilot with the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, which was headed by Charles Lawrence, who was also a director of the Plane Speaker Corp. News articles from the period track VOTS activities across the U.S., beginning with demonstratrions in 1926 to the visit at Tucson, to an airport hangar dedication in Seattle, WA during May, 1929.

Earlier, in July, 1927 the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, Lawrence and Gower hosted Register pilot Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh was recently returned from his May, 1927 trans-Atlantic flight and was visiting the Wright Corporation because the Whirlwind engine that powered the "Spirit of St. Louis" (Register airplane NX-211) was manufactured there. The article, below, from The New York Times of July 20, 1927 documents the visit and the activities engaged in by Lindbergh during his visit to the New York City area.

He flew a couple of different makes and models of aircraft manufactured in the greater New York area, including a Fairchild and a Fokker Universal.

Lindbergh was on the eve of his departure for his grand U.S. tour that took him to landings in all the states, including a visit at Tucson, AZ on September 24th. Besides Gower, Register pilot Philip Love and Register passengers Anthony Fokker and Donald Keyhoe are mentioned in the article.

The New York Times, July 20, 1927 (Source: NYT)
The New York Times, July 20, 1927 (Source: NYT)


The Daily Gleaner, December 10, 1931 (Source: Woodling)
The Daily Gleaner, December 10, 1931 (Source: Woodling)


The use of airplanes for broadcasting advertisements drew criticism from the public in the early thirties, which seems to be the last time period in which the devices were used in the US. The article from a Massachusetts newspaper at right is an example of that criticism.

Eight months later, Plane Speaker sold equipment to the British to deliver propaganda against rebels in Iraq. The news article at left documents the interest shown by the British, and hints at the proposed uses of the equipment in the Near East and India.

An article from The New York Times, below, describes that proposed use.

The New York Times, December 2, 1931 (Source: Woodling)
The New York Times, December 2, 1931 (Source: Woodling)

Note that the equipment was installed in a British airframe. The article headling is not exactly correct. It wasn't "radio" but, rather, the actual sound from loudspeakers that was used in the "fight."

New Orleans (LA) Times Picayune, April 29, 1962 (Source: Woodling)
New Orleans (LA) Times Picayune,April 29, 1962 (Source: Woodling)

Gower entered the military during WWII and held several piloting jobs afterwards. He retired in 1952 from his last position with the Gulf Oil Company. The New Orleans (LA) Times Picayune for April 29, 1962, right, documents his retirement and provides an overview of his working life.

Gower passed away May 28, 1971. The article below announced his death in the Trenton (NJ) Evening Times.

Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, June 2,
1971 (Source: Woodling)
Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, June 2, 1971 (Source: Woodling)


In an aviation career that covered more than 40 years, Gower flew nearly 10,000 hours as a pilot of everything from Jennies to helicopters. He held commercial license #977, and a transport rating which was issued in 1927. He rubbed shoulders with at least one of the legends of Golden Age aviation, Lindbergh. Doubtless, he knew or was friends with many more, probably including many signers of our Register.

He lived in Longmont, CO from 1962 until his death in 1971.


THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 03/14/13 REVISED: 03/28/13

The Register
I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Gower and this airplane 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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