Pilot Eyes!

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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.


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


Aircraft Year Book. 1930.


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James E. Granger was born on March 22, 1890, in Webster, MA, and died October 4, 1934 at Santa Monica, CA.   He held pilot’s license #395 and mechanic’s license #814. A brief biographical sketch, which includes a description of the circumstances around early life, business experiences and his final flight, is at the link (PDF, 1.4 MB), courtesy of Norm and Tom Granger and author Barbara Hunter Schultz (cited, right sidebar).

Further, this biographical sketch by Granger's son, Norman, entitled "The Golden Age of Local Air Racing" (PDF 416 KB) If you read nothing else on this page, please download and read this account. It is one of the best things that has come through my monitor since I started this project.  It has veracity and passion that are missing from your common news clips, articles and such.  How great to read something written in simple, un-hyperbolic language by an eye witness.  Especially by the kin of two of the best-known players (I refer to Granger's wife and fellow Register pilot Clema) in west coast Golden Age flying.  In case you don't realize it, we have been given on this page and the links therefrom some very special gifts by the Granger family. You won't find these things in text books.

Image, below, of Jim Granger with his first OX-5 JN4D2 Jenny. This airplane was purchased from Waldo Waterman at Ontario, CA in 1926 for $350. The plane was in its original crate as war surplus. Jim trucked it to Clover Field in Santa Monica and hired Ken Montee to teach him to fly it. Jim promptly opened "Granger's, Incorporated" at Clover Field. By 1928 he changed the name to "Pacific School of Aviation" and replaced the Jenny with several Swallows, most with OX-5 engines (one of which was NC8730 with a Wright J-5A).

Jim Granger With His First Jenny, 1926 (Source: Granger)
Jim Granger With His First Jenny, 1926

Notice the ID number on the side of the fuselage, CF22 (Clover Field #22). As far as is known, there was no federal registration number on the airplane. Granger operated a flight school at Clover Field, and taught Clema Baxter how to fly. She became his wife and Register signer Clema Granger.

Below, a photograph of the Granger hangar at Clover Field showing the busy ramp. "Pacific School of Aviation" is lettered on the side of the hangar, dating this image post 1928. Behind the Granger hangar is the one of Mutual Aircraft Corporation. The other hangar cannot be read, but it was used by the Douglas Aircraft Company to store finished aircraft. The Douglas manufacturing facility is farther west, just off the top left edge of the photograph. The very left-most building has "ELD" visible, probably announcing to airborne visitors "CLOVER FIELD".

Granger Hangar at Clover Field, Santa Monica, CA, Date Unknown (Source: Granger)
Granger Hangar at Clover Field, Santa Monica, CA, Date Unknown (Source: Granger)

Notice the two windsocks on the lighting poles in the background, and the nearer, white-painted rotating beacon tower which appears to be on top of the Granger hangar (see next image).

Below, a view Clover Field from the west with the Granger hangar at top. Note the checkerboard pattern on the floor, and the tower on the roof. There appears to be an aviation event taking place, with most of the crowd, as usual, congregated in front of the Granger hangar.

Clover Field, Santa Monica, CA, Date Unknown (Source: Granger)
Clover Field, Santa Monica, CA, Date Unknown (Source: Granger)

James Granger landed at Tucson four times between 1930 and 1932. He flew Butler Black Hawk NC730K (twice), deHaviland Moth NC574N and Swallow NC6180. You will learn at his biography link (above) that he distributed both Black Hawk and Swallow aircraft. His landings at Tucson appear to be routine, perhaps ferrying new aircraft. He visited solo only once.

Below, Granger (L) with Black Hawk owner and screen cowboy "Hoot" Gibson. Gibson purchased NC730K from Granger. Although the registration number (or serial number on the data plate) is not visible in this photograph, chances are very high that it is NC730K. Compare the paint stripe on this airplane to that of the airplane at the link for 730K. The closure for the baggage compartment is directly over Gibson's left shoulder.

Jim Granger (L) With "Hoot" Gibson and Black Hawk, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Granger)
Jim Granger (L) With "Hoot" Gibson and Black Hawk, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Granger)


A Digression: Below, Granger with French pilot Charles Nungesser's Hanriot HD-1. Nungesser flew this airplane in France during WWI. He brought it to the U.S. and he flew it barnstorming and in several early motion pictures including "Sky Raiders" in 1925. In one photo on the Web, the civil registration number "N1895" appears on the rudder. The Hanriot is not a Register airplane.

Jim Granger With Charles Nungesser's Hanriot, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Granger)
Jim Granger With Charles Nungesser's Hanriot, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Granger)

Granger owned the Hanriot. He acquired it after Nungesser's disappearance during a trans-Atlantic attempt May 9, 1927 days before Charles Lindbergh's successful flight in the Ryan NX211. Notice the skull and black heart logo on the fuselage and compare it with the one in the photograph of NC730K at the airplane's link.

According to a couple of Web sources, Granger bought the Hanriot at auction, probably a year or so after Nungesser disappeared.  He flew it in a couple of movies: “Wings” and “Hell’s Angels”. This airplane also makes an appearance on Pete Reinhart's page, also in the movie role.

Shortly after the movie work, “... the airplane was kept in a hangar at Clover Field for several years, where the kids and other curious could walk up to it and speculate on its past history.” And further, it was, “…placed in storage by Mr. Granger in 1933, where it remained until February, 1951.”  See the poster and texts below for counter-arguments to these statements.

Below, a complete profile of the airplane from the Granger family album. The civil registration number is not on the rudder at this time, which probably dates this photograph before 1926. A brief history of the airplane written by Granger's son, Norman, is at the link (PDF 350kB).

Nungesser's Hanriot HD-1 (Source: Granger)
Nungesser's Hanriot HD-1 (Source: Granger)

Today, as of the revision date of this page, the Hanriot still exists. It is on exhibit at the Chino Planes of Fame Museum. Below, a similar, more recent profile of the Hanriot shared with us by Mike Gerow. This shows the airplane at Chino as of May, 2007.

Nungesser's Hanriot HD-1, May 19, 2007 (Source: Gerow)
Nungesser's Hanriot HD-1 (Source: Gerow)

An interesting piece of Golden Age memorabilia is this handbill or poster, below, which markets the Hanriot as an attention-getting attraction for various scheduled events. I also provide this poster as a PDF download (438 kb) should you want to magnify its many details. I spliced this poster from two halves that appear to have been stored separately in a three-ring binder. Why three holes were punched on both margins of each page is unknown.

Marketing Poster for Nungesser Hanriot, Ca. 1938 (Source: Granger)
Marketing Poster for Nungesser Hanriot, Ca. 1932 (Source: Granger)

A close-up analysis of this poster is instructive, and you might want to open the PDF in a separate window, magnify it to, say, 250%, and follow along. Besides the obligatory statement about the airplane's history at the upper left of the poster, there is the photograph of Granger with the Hanriot that is also displayed separately above. Note, however, that Granger autographed and dated it on the right-hand margin(1932, you can see this detail better in the PDF). Did he sign the original photograph or the poster?

Chances are good that he signed the photo and the photo was then incorporated into the poster later. The reason I say this is because of the testimonial letter from Robert C. Cannon of the Fox Theater, Pomona, CA which overlaps the lower edge of the photo. The letter thanks Clema Granger (not Jim) for display of the Hanriot during the playing of the film "Men With Wings" at his theater. "Men With Wings" was released in 1938, four years after James Granger passed away.

Continuing, below the testimonial letter is a portrait and brief biography of Nungesser. Center, bottom is a photo of what appears to be Granger wearing coveralls in front of the airplane. The eyes of the gentlemen standing in the background are cast skyward, suggesting an airshow in progress.

To the left of Nungesser's biography is a brief article describing the Hanriot, authored by Fred L. Westlake. This article, from page 333 of the May, 1935 edition of Popular Aviation (PA), states that Nungesser used Clover Field for his base of operations while he was in the U.S. It further states that, after Nungesser's disappearance, Mrs. Nungesser, "... presented the Hanriot to Mr. Granger as a tribute of friendship between the two men." Compare this with the auction/purchase version from the Web sources cited above. You may download a copy of the PA article at the link (PDF 406kB).

Author Westlake further states about the airplane, "For a while it was on exhibition but the vicious souvenir hunters became so obnoxious that the plane had to be put in a roped-off area in the hangar. It may still be seen if Mr. Granger can be assured that you will not tear fabric off the wings or steal the prop." This last sentence, referring to Mr. Granger in the present, dates the article before he passed away on October 4, 1934.

On October 3, 1934, Granger suffered an accident test flying a new racing aircraft. Below is an undated and unsourced news article documenting the crash. His prognosis was good for survival, but that was not to be.

Undated & Unsourced News Article, Ca. October, 1934 (Source: NASM)
Undated & Unsourced News Article, Ca. October, 1934 (Source: NASM)

Next day he passed away on account of a skull fracture. This is documented in the news as follows.

Undated & Unsourced News Article, Ca. October, 1934 (Source: NASM)
Undated & Unsourced News Article, Ca. October, 1934 (Source: NASM)


Update of 11/2/10 The following photograph, shared by site visitor Tara Tona, shows Granger at left. Ms. Tona says about the image, "The only thing written on the back of the photo are the following names:  James Granger, Register pilot Ruth Stewart, Ruth Lilyien (her last name is difficult to make out, though.  Could be Lilygien). No date stamp."

James Granger & Passengers, Location Unknown, Dated From Before January 1932 (Source: Tona)
James Granger & Passengers, Location Unknown, Dated From Before January 1932 (Source: Tona)

Ruth Stewart is in the dark clothing. If you follow the link to Stewart, you will discover that she was killed in an airplane accident in January, 1932. This dates the photograph to before then.


Dossier 2.1.176

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 10/28/07 REVISED: 12/31/09, 01/07/10, 11/02/10, 09/26/12, 10/04/16

The Register

Images courtesy of Jim's son, Norm Granger, and grandson Tom.

Biographical link courtesy of author and friend Barbara Hunter Schultz, whose 1996 biography of Pancho Barnes is an excellent read.


I'm looking for photographs of his airplanes to include on this page. If you have one or more you'd like to share, please use 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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