Will "Billy" D. (no middle name,
only the initial 'D') Parker was born at Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma, on January 3, 1899. He's remembered widely for
building his own airplane when he was young (a pusher design),
flying before December 17, 1916, which gave him the privilege
of being a member of the Early
Birds. Follow this link to see Parker in his Pusher.
He invented the variable-pitch propeller, joined Pershing
in Mexico, and managed the Phillips Petroleum Company corporate
aviation organization. An excellent review of his life in
aviation is presented at this link.
It documents his first flights, test pilot work, Phillips
Petroleum work and flying demonstrations. It has many excellent
Parker landed and signed the Register at Tucson nine times
between 1927 and 1931. He flew Travel Air (NC89, NC3019)
and Lockheed (NC898E, NC972Y)
aircraft. On two of his itineraries he was inspected by the U.S. Border Patrol. No reason is apparent for the inspections.
The NASM dossier on Parker is also interesting. Following
are excerpts from an October 1954 biographical note published
by the Phillips Petroleum Company:
"Born in Oklahoma City, Okla., Billy Parker was bitten
by the flying bug while he was still a high school student
at Ft. Collins, Colo. He pioneered in writing aviation history
by flying in hundreds of aerial exhibitions in pre-World War
I days....He holds pilot's license No. 44 and has more than
16,000 hours flying time....
"Aviation enthusiasts are quick to recognize a number
of features found in his early plane which are coming into
modern airplane design. For example, the three-wheel landing
gear is now popular...and the pusher-type motor...
"When he began flying his pusher plane in the summer
of 1912, he was about the only pilot doing any successful
flying in the high altitude of Colorado and Wyoming, where
he was appearing.
"By 1916 Parker was in the United States Army at the
Mexican border. As the United States drew closer to entry
into the war, Parker transferred to the aviation section of
the Signal Corps as a civilian flying instructor. At that
time, the Army owned only 12 or 15 planes. There was no air
force or air corps.
During the First World War, "He was assigned as a test
pilot with the U.S. Aircraft Corporation at Redwood City,
Calif. and the Dewey Airplane Co. at Dewey, Okla., and given
the job of chief instructor at a flying school which had just
been opened at Dewey. At the close of the war, Parker spent
several years barnstorming throughout the Mid-West before
joining Phillips Petroleum Company as manager of its aviation
"Among Parker's early duties with Phillips was arranging
the stratosphere test flights of the late Wiley Post, which
provided much valuable information on high altitude flying....
"During all these years he has kept his old 1912 pusher,
which has become a sentimental heirloom. Periodically he goes
over the entire ship checking guywires, controls, cables,
and other vital parts. He flies it only on rare occasions
but proves that it is still safe and steady by taking it up
every once in a while. The old plane can still do 60 miles
an hour, take off from a small area, and climb at a good rate.
Once airborne, though, the pusher leaves the rest up to the
pilot, for it has no instruments. Not even a tachometer or
With this as lead-in, the following 1962 letter from Parker
to an officer of the Antique Airplane Association, takes the
Association's magazine to task for publishing inaccuracies
about his original pusher. The original letter is in Parker's
NASM dossier. I include a scan of it (two pages), on Phillips
letterhead, for your amusement.
He was President of The Early Birds of Aviation, Inc. January
1, 1951 to December 31, 1953. He passed away in 1981. Following
is the obituary from an unidentified newspaper:
Some words from a Phoenix, AZ friend who contacted me by
"I can speak volumes on Billy Parker. I was a pall bearer
at his funeral. I inherited his Conquistadores belt and QB
wings. For many years we did some fly fishing together in
addition to our flights together.
"We spent countless hours together at his home in Sedona
and the one in Sun City before his "Flight West"
in 1981. He never got over his wife, Cindy's, death. Otherwise,
he kept really busy in retirement. He made model replica engines
which were amazing. He had a classic white Rolls Royce with
some neat modifications.
"His two Curtiss Pusher's (one with an OX5 the other
a LeRhone Rotary) hang in the terminals at OKC and TUL."
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 01/07/06 REVISED: 10/17/07, 02/27/08