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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 Larson in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC. Other than this Web page, Larson has no Web presence that I can find.


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According to pilot Larson's son-in-law (right sidebar), Leon George "Swede" Larson was born on March 16, 1902 in Cambridge MN (note that the newspaper obituary, below, cites the year as 1903). He grew up on his family's cattle ranch near Helena , MT and entered the Navy in December, 1920.

Below, a stunning portrait of him early in his flying career. Note what appear to be brand new helmet, goggles and A-1 jacket. Although the exact date is unknown, it is probably 1927 as a new Navy flyer (see below) at Pensacola, FL.

Leon George Larson, Date Unknown (Source: Osborne)
Leon George Larson, Date Unknown


USS Langley News, 1925 (Source: Osborne)
USS Langley News, 1925

At left, an artifact of Larson's Navy service. Note that the role of mothers as "truest pals" among Navy "men" (in fact a lot of them were just boys) cannot be overestimated.

USS Aroostook, Date Unknown (Source: Osborne)
USS Aroostook, Date Unknown

As an aside, the USS Aroostook was a 3,800-ton minelayer, built in 1907. In fact, the Aroostook had interesting connections with aviation. First, she greeted in England, at the end of May, 1919, the transatlantic Curtiss Flying Boat NC-4, the only plane to complete the first Atlantic crossing by air. Aroostook then took the NC-4 on board and transported it back to the U.S.

The Aroostook's second brush with aviation was in Hawaii. Throughout the 1920s Aroostook mainly operated in the eastern Pacific, but made occasional visits to the Caribbean and U.S. East Coast to take part in fleet exercises. Aroostook steamed to Hawaii in 1925 and 1928, on the first occasion as a support ship for a pioneering attempt to fly two patrol planes from the West Coast to Hawaii. Presumably, Larson was aboard either the Aroostook or the Langley for this exercise. Too old for service during WWII, the Government sold Aroostook for scrapping in October, 1947.

The USS Langley, pictured on the cover of "The Zoom", was the first ship in the US Navy that served as an aircraft carrier. Built originally as a collier, it was modified with a wooden landing deck for aircraft use.

Below, two images from his early Navy days. Larson is in the front row, third from the right. He was assigned as Radioman First Class on December 10, 1926.

Portrait of Navy Group, Early 1920s (Source: Osborne)
Portrait of Navy Group, Early 1920s

The image below appears staged, as there appears to be no driver in the car to help move it through the sand. Larson is the rearmost sailor. From the sand, it looks like this photograph was taken at Pensacola. Staged or not, one becomes itchy thinking of pushing an automobile in the Pensacola sun in a wool Navy uniform!

Car Stuck in Sand, Pensacola (Source: Osborne)
Car Stuck in Sand, Pensacola

On January 5, 1927 he was appointed a student pilot in the Navy. He was assigned to flight training at Pensacola. He  was the first one in his class to solo (see his portrait, above). 

In 1928 he left the Navy and accepted a job as personal pilot for C.F. Lytle, of Sioux City, IA and Mexia, TX.  Below, a long shot of Larson, right, with three other people standing in front of a Ryan named the "Spirit of Progress". I cannot read the registration number on the vertical stabilizer, and could find nothing about the airplane online. Does anyone KNOW about the "Spirit of Progress"?

"Spirit of Progress", Larson (R), and Three Others, 1929 (Source: Osborne)
"Spirit of Progress", Larson, and Three Others, 1929

Below, another image of the four people taken near the time of the photo above. Larson is on the right, with his employer, Lytle, on the far left. The photo was taken in March or April 1929 in Mexia, TX. The two people at center are unidentified.

"Spirit of Progress", Larson (R) and C.F. Lytle (far left) (Source: Osborne)
"Spirit of Progress", Larson (R) and C.F. Lytle (far left)

L.G. Larson With Travel Air Mystery S, Date Unknown, But ca. 1931 (Source: Osborne)
L.G. Larson With Travel Air Mystery S, Date Unknown

Soon he resigned his job with Lytle, and in June 1929 began ferrying planes into Canada (probably for Travel Air). Later that year he became the first test pilot for what was to become the new Beech Aircraft Corp. 

We find Leon Larson at Tucson a couple of months later on Monday, August 12, 1929. He was solo flying Travel Air NC676H, a model E-4000, c/n 1233. He cited his home base as San Francisco, CA. He was westbound from El Paso, TX to San Francisco. He remained overnight in Tucson and departed the next day.

L.G. Larson Known Signature
L.G. Larson Known Signature

If you examined Larson's signature in the Register, here (lower third of the page), you probably noted that he wrote the first initial of his name to look like a "J". Note that he is identified as the Chief Test Pilot for the Beech Aircraft Company. He appears twice in the Peterson Field Register flying the Beech Staggerwing NC499N, the prototype Staggerwing. This airplane would later be destroyed in 1935 in a crash in the hands of Pitcairn Field Register pilot Dewey Noyes.

Mr. Osborne and I pondered this for a while. He presents the image at left of a known signature for pilot Larson. The handwriting matches, so we deduce that Larson probably didn't have his pen wet enough when he began signing the Register. Check his signature in the Register and you'll see what we mean.

At right, a news photo of Larson just before testing the new Travel Air Mystery S, which was built for the Italian government in 1931.

According to aerofiles.com, the Model, "R became S through a newspaper's abbreviation of 'Mystery Ship' to 'Mystery S.' One plane, with 300hp Wright, was bought by the Italian government in 1931 'for study'."

Below an action shot of Larson test flying for the Italian government the Mystery S (actually the Beech Model "R") near Wichita, KS in 1931. The caption on the photo identifies Larson in the cockpit. The registration number for that airplane was 11717. It is unclear if the prefix was "NC", "NR" or "NX". You can read in the photo caption below that Larson shared flight testing responsibilities with fellow Register pilot Newman Wadlow.

Beech Test Pilot L.G. Larson Flying the Mystery S (Model R), 1931 (Source: Osborne)
Beech Test Pilot L.G. Larson Flying the Mystery S, 1931

Interestingly, this airplane has a paint scheme similar to the Model R that flew for the Texaco Oil Company as Texaco 13 (NR1313), which was painted Stearman vermillion and white. Texaco 13 was flown by Register pilot Frank Hawks, who set a transcontinental speed record with it in 1929 and was, at the time, faster than any contemporary military plane. Texaco 13 continued in 1930-32 to establish numerous new intercity speed records in the U.S. and Europe.

Later in the 1930s Larson flew for the Bridgeport Machine Co. of  Wichita, KS, and the Simmons Machine Tool Co. of Albany, N.Y. Below, as of 10/12/10, we have a small window into his work with the Bridgeport Machine Company courtesy of site visitor Mike Boss. In this first view, we have Larson standing second from left with a group of unidentified people.

L.G. Larson, Second from Left, ca. 1936 (Source: Boss)
L.G. Larson, Second from Left, ca. 1936 (Source: Boss)

On the original photos, you can read "Bridgeport Machine Company" and "Wichita, Kansas" on the fuselage. Mr. Boss says about these images, "Just guessing, but they must have been taken in the Wichita oil patch area c. 1936.  Maybe Augusta or El Dorado, KS." And also, "... notice the derricks are the newer metal ones which replace the old wooden cable tool derricks.  You can see the big block in the derrick which does show rotary drilling."

WACO ZQC-6, NC16209, Ca. 1936 (Source: Boss)
WACO ZQC-6, NC16209, Ca. 1936 (Source: Boss)

NC16209 is not a Register airplane. Our resident Waco expert, Andy Heins, says about NC16209, "That Waco C-6 was originally painted Waco Vermillion with and Insignia Blue stripe trimmed in gold. "

Bridgeport Machine Company's origins date to 1929. It grew over the next decade as a result of the popularity of a high-speed milling attachment, called the Model C Head, which the company introduced in 1932. It was incorporated as Bridgeport Machines, Inc. in 1939.

WACO ZQC-6, NC16209, Ca. 1936 (Source: Boss)
WACO ZQC-6, NC16209, Ca. 1936 (Source: Boss)

Despite acquisitions, union battles and reorganizations, Bridgeport remained an international business as a producer of easy-to-use CAD-CAM milling machines with joint ventures in China and Malaysia. In 2004 Bridgeport was acquired by Hardinge, Inc. The Bridgeport name remains on the product, however.

After WWII, Larson flew for the Gulf Oil Corporation, serving as their senior pilot until his retirement in the 1960s. Photograph, below, of Larson with Gulf Oil corporate ship (appears to be a Beech 18).

L.G. Larson Obituary, Dated February 11, 1980 (Source: Osborne)
L.G. Larson Obituary, Dated February 11, 1980
Larson and Gulf Oil Corporation Aircraft, Date Unknown (Source: Osborne)
Larson and Gulf Oil Corporation Aircraft, Date Unknown










His post-flying years were spent in Colorado, where he loved to fish for mountain trout.

Leon George Larson passed away on February 10, 1980 at age 76. His obituary, right, from an unidentified newspaper, describes elements of his personal life and family. Curiously, it does not cite his Navy experience.

Likewise, he is cited as "named to" the "Aviation Hall of Fame". For some reason, his name is not among the ranks of the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Kansas branch or the National Aviation Hall of Fame.



THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 02/02/09 REVISED: 10/12/10

As of 10/09/10 this page is Google rank #2.

The Register
This information comes to us from pilot Larson's son-in-law, Jack Osborne. Thanks to him for sharing artifacts, images and anecdotes.
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