Pilot Eyes!

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Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Rankin, CR-067000-01, -40, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum, 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.


New York Sun. August 13, 1929. Flies From Vancouver to Mexico in 13 Hours.

New York Times. February 24, 1931. Plane Loop Record Set By Tex Rankin on Coast.

Washington, DC Evening Star. June 12, 1933. Portland Aviator in Air Loop Record.

Herald Tribune. June 1, 1937. Tex Rankin is Winner in St. Louis Aerobatics.


Another image of pilot Rankin with his Ryan Sport Trainer is at the Charles Cooper Photograph and Document Collection available for view elsewhere on this web site.

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Tex Rankin, December 22, 1935 (Source: NASM)
Tex Rankin, December 22, 1935

Tex Rankin landed solo at Tucson September 9, 1928 flying Waco NC4331 (S/N 1189 mfg 1927). Based at Portland, OR, he was westbound from Lordsburg, NM to Los Angeles, CA.

His visit was amidst the flurry of landings made that day by competitors in the 1928 cross-country event "On to Los Angeles" that was part of the National Air Races that year. Ultimately, Rankin placed 5th in the Class A race in 29:36:29. He competed in both the '28 and '38 air races.

Born in Texas in 1894, Rankin was well-known as an aerobatic pilot, flight instructor and as an air racer who scorned fate by numbering his airplanes like the one at left that he used to compete in the 1935 Miami All-American air maneuvers. Truth known, he reallly wasn't solo for his visit to Tucson, above, in 1928. He carried a black cat in the cockpit with him (see image below, courtesy of Andy Heins).

He began flying in 1913, when airplanes and pilots were still rare and odd (airplanes aren't so odd anymore, but pilots continue that tradition to this day).

In 1916 he was ordered to Mexican border duty while he served in the Washington State National Guard. When WWI broke out, he was pulled into the army immediately after the declaration. He served in the Aviation Section of the U.S. Signal Corps until 1919. He was posted in England for several months, but never saw air combat and returned to the U.S. late in the summer.

He opened a flying school at Walla Walla, WA May 4, 1920 with his total assets listed as one old Standard airplane. Business boomed and he added a JN4D with instruction flights priced at one dollar per minute ($60 per hour for flight instruction is about what is charged as of the upload date of this page!)

Tex Rankin, Black Cat and "13", 1928? (Source: Heins)
Tex Rankin, Black Cat and "13", Date Unknown

He moved his flying school to Portland, OR where he purchased the defunct Oregon-Washington-Idaho Airplane Corp. The purchase added four more aircraft, spare engines and spare parts.

As head of the Rankin Flying Service of Portland, OR, and he was probably Oregon's best known pilot. By continuous boosting and by working at his trade he was a strong force in aviation growth both in Portland and the state at large. He established a profitable and growing business.

Tex Rankin, 1929 (Source: NASM)
Tex Rankin, 1929

In August 1929, Rankin flew an airplane the newspapers called a "mosquito" on what was known as a "Three Flags" flight from Vancouver, BC to Agua Caliente, Mexico. He covered the 1,350 miles in 13:7:49.

Upon landing at 5:48PM, his first request was for, "a bottle of beer and a bath". A reasonable request because it was, after all, August in Mexico. He had five gallons of fuel left in his 100 gallon fuel tank. As far as could be determined at the time, Rankin was the first flyer to take off in Canada and land in Mexico on a non-stop flight. No one challenged the claim. Image, right, shows Rankin near the time of his "Three Flags" journey.

His flying school conrtinued to grow, such that 1928 saw it listed as the largest civilian flying school in the world with more than 610 students enrolled for flying lessons at one time. He published texts and workbooks for his students to buy, thus building another income stream for his company. Below, from 1934, the cover of Book IV in a series of VIII books. A few pages from this book are shared with us by site visitor J. Goettsch. I have put the pages together in a PDF file (cover plus 7 sample pages; 413kB) that you may download at the link or simply click the cover of the book, below. Check out the glossary, which goes from Aerobatics to Zoom, and the simple, easy to understand graphics. The entire book is 90 pages. Some lucky, hard-working student named Boyd Swanson (signature on cover) owned this book. Does anyone KNOW Boyd?

Ranking Flying School Text, 1934 (Source: Goettsch)
Ranking Flying School Text, 1934 (Source: Goettsch) Rankin School of Aviation Training Book, 1934



Through the 1920s and 1930s his school taught some 3,500 students to fly with no serious injuries. Many Hollywood stars took lessons from him.

On January 10, 1930, Rankin established an official record (National Aeronautic Association) for completing 19 consecutive outside loops. After his 19th he continued with 15 more, but they were not part of the record, because he didn't exit the loop on the same heading as he entered. A little over a year later, on February 23, 1931, Rankin claimed a new world record for outside loops after he completed 78 consecutive loops in 88 minutes. Eventually, he escalated his record to 131 at Charlotte, NC later in 1931.

In the midst of his loop records, we find Rankin at New Orleans, LA participating in an airshow October 11, 1932. Below, shared with us by site visitor Jeff Staines, is a U.S. airmail cachet commemorating the event.

Mr. Staines says of the envelope, "The cachet is that of the "Famous Flyers, Inc." with Tex Rankin as one of the performers at the New Orleans 'Carnival of the Air' back in ' 32 at Wedell-Williams Airport."


U.S. Airmail Postal Cachet, April 11, 1932 (Source: Staines)
U.S. Airmail Postal Cachet, April 11, 1932 (Source: Staines)

On May 31, 1937 in a stock model low-wing monoplane (a Ryan Sport-Trainer with a 125 HP Menasco engine, see below), Rankin won the international aerobatic contest and $2,000 in prizes at the St. Louis Air Show. Below, a cartoon rendition of his accomplishment.

Tex Rankin, 1937 (Source: NASM)
Tex Rankin, 1937


Tex Rankin (L) and Son, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Wiener via Woodling)
Tex Rankin (L) and Son, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Wiener via Woodling)



Besides flying, Rankin's hobbies were fishing, golf and hunting. He was married with four children (two of each). You may view another image from 1938 of Rankin with one of his sons here on this site.

Photograph, right, shared with us by site visitor Bob Woodling, shows Rankin pinning wings on his son. The photo caption states, "J.G. 'Tex' Rankin, President of Rankin Aeronautical Academy, Tulare, CA, proudly pins Army silver wings he won in World War I on his son Dale, twenty, at graduation of advanced cadet class at Williams Field, Chandler, Arizona."

Rankin was killed at Klamath Falls, OR in a plane crash at age 53 on Sunday February 23, 1947. The amphibian craft suffered a power failure at takeoff. Two of Rankin's passengers were killed and one was injured. Rankin's passing is cited in the pilot log of R.W. Henderson. Please direct you browser to his page and explore his log book #2, pp. 14-15.


Dossier 2.1.132

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 10/25/07 REVISED: 03/08/08, 03/25/08, 01/16/11, 10/18/11, 01/06/12

The Register
I'm looking for photographs of Rankin's airplane, Waco NC4331, 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 a 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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