Dudley Steele was a frequent visitor to the Davis-Monthan
Airfield. He landed there 13 times between May 23, 1928 and
February 3, 1934. Significantly, he also landed at the Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale, CA three times during March and April, 1931.
He carried passengers on five of his Tucson visits.
His passenger on January 22, 1929 was J.T. Whitlaw who was
"traffic manager" for Standard
Air Lines. He was faithful to three aircraft: Waco NC4278,
Stearman NC6439 and Stearman NC667K.
It is noted in the remarks column of his May 23, 1928 visit
that he was "Chairman Contest Com. National Air Races"
for the year 1928. He also flew as a passenger during the
1928 National Air Tour (see chapter 6 of the Forden book downloadable
from this reference).
Steele was also on the racing committee for the Cleveland
Dudley M. Steele entered aviation during WWI in the Army
air service. He was stationed at various flying fields, and
after the war ended was assigned to the U.S. Navy stationed
at Miami, FL. He was a flight instructor.
Image, below, of Dudley Steele and his mount, Stearman NC6439 (date and location unknown; anyone KNOW?).
This Stearman (model C-3-B, serial number 179 was delivered
to Richfield Oil in March, 1928) landed at Tucson a total
of nine times between November 18, 1928 and April 3, 1929.
Steele flew it eight of those times. Note the leather jumpsuit.
Note also, on the fuel pit lid the brand name "Bowser" (hard
to read online, but very clear on the original photo). Thus
the phrase, "fuel bowser".
Dudley Steele, 1929
NC667K, his other Stearman model 4C (later 4E) was delivered
to Richfield on September 29, 1929. It was sold in 1937 when
Richfield's aviation department was shut down for a while. This airplane is still in existence and has been restored to flying condition. See the airplane's link for restoration progress and details.
Image, right, from an unidentified newspaper, courtesy of Ruth Richter Holden. This is a classic portrait of a Golden Age pilot. Note the ubiquitous cigar in his right hand.
Popular Aviation, November, 1931 (Source: PA)
Above, from Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, November, 1931, is an article describing a scrape with the Department of Commerce. It was probably NC667K that he was flying.
Regarding his post-WWI experiences, The Blue Book of Aviation
(reference, left) states, "After spending six years
as a salesman, Mr. Steele engaged successively as follows:
Purchasing agent for Nafziger Baking Co., Kansas City, and
commercial flyer, three years; salesman, two years, and publicity
and exploitation man for motion pictures, two years. In Sept.
of 1927 he entered the employ of the Richfield Oil Co., Los
Angeles, Calif., and is now  with this organization
as aviation manager.
"Mr. Steele was in charge of construction for the 1922
Pulitzer air races, held at Selfridge Field, Mich., and has
for the past three years assisted in the annual Around-the-World
Flight Commemoration Races, Santa Monica, Calif. In 1928 he
was a director of the National Air Races, held in Los Angeles."
He was also an author. Early during his term of employment
with Richfield, he published this
article (PDF 1.8 MB) in Western Flying, May
1931. Titled, "Searching from the Air", the article
is a common-sense directive on how to search for downed aircraft.
Below, courtesy of Andy Heins, we have an image of Dudley Steele taken shortly after he published his article.
Dudley Steele, Left, June 1, 1931
The reason why "X" marks the spot was unidentified. This image is from Bettie Lund's album. She was the wife of Register pilot "Fearless" Freddie Lund. Note Steele's jacket and compare it with that in the link to NC667K. Comparing to that link, the airplane in the image above appears to be NC667K. Friend of dmairfield.org John Lyon identifies the gentleman on the right, "I think that he may be Arrigo Balboni, the Flying Junkman, unusually well-dressed but wearing his characteristic plus-fours, and a sweater instead of his more common wifebeater undershirt, with his wristwatch worn just above the elbow." Balboni is pictured several times at the link (scroll 1/2-2/3 of the way down the page). Even if the person in the photo above is not him, Balboni is an interesting read in his own right.
From 1933-47 there was a radio program called The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen. Mr. Lyon says about the program and its spinoffs, "The Jimmie Allen Flying Club was a great promotion, originally by Skelly Oil and later joined by Richfield. It was based on a radio program, The Air Adventures of Jimmy Allen, which was very popular afternoon listening for youngsters returning home from school. To capitalize on the [program], there was a club. Membership was free; the only catch was that you had to apply at the friendly neighborhood Skelly or Richfield station. And there was a weekly newsletter, which you had to get at the same place. So every car of every family with kids 6 - 16 had a chorus in the back seat saying 'Dad, dad, let's go to the Richfield and get some gas!' At its peak the Club had about 150,000 members, including Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney." A Wikipedia article describes the program, as well as premiums, promotions and other money-making "opportunities." Note the photo in the upper right at the link. It is Steele, who impersonated the teen-age Allen well into his forties.
In 1937 Steele left Richfield and assumed the responsibility of airport manager at the Union Air Terminal, Burbank, CA. He held that position into the 1940s. An article in Flying and Popular Aviation, May, 1941 featured Steele and his work at Union. This article, courtesy of Mr. Lyon, is available (4pp.) as a PDF download (743kB). At the time Steele took control in December, 1937, Union's terminal building had a small bar and coffee shop. The parking garage for transient automobiles was small, and the on-site service station pumped 4,400 gallons of fuel per month. According to the article, as of 1941 Union was the fourth busiest airport in the nation in air traffic count (behind the good company of LaGuardia, Chicago and Cleveland). And the terminal had a respectable restaurant, the auto parking facility doubled in size and auto fuel delivery quadrupled. The article describes other changes at Union, as well as provides a nice biographical sketch of Steele on the final two pages.
In the late 1930s, Union was purchased by the Lockheed Company. Although I have not seen any direct evidence, it would be unusual if Steele did not have contact with fellow Register pilots Marshall Headle, Tony LeVier, Elmer McLeod, Moye Stephens and Milo Burcham, all of whom worked for Lockheed just before and during WWII.
Dudley Steele was born May 18, 1892 and died during July, 1968 at Palm Desert, CA. He was 76 years old.
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