I Fly Again!

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Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and airplanes is available here.

This link leads you to a book that describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. The Curtiss P-1 Hawk flown by pilot Stoner and his fellow officers is also pictured and described.

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Rex K. Stoner, ca. 1918
Rex K. Stoner, ca. 1918

Rex K. Stoner was born January 8, 1897. At left, we see him as a pilot in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during WWI (and see below).

He landed twice at Tucson. His first visit was on Friday August 7, 1928 at 9:30 AM. Based at Selfridge Field, Detroit, MI, he was westbound, solo from El Paso, TX to San Diego, CA. He was part of a flight of ten Curtiss Hawk aircraft, all headed for San Diego. You may view a video here of one Curtiss Hawk that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield.

As happens sometimes when you study the big picture of the Register, you discover the reasons pilots and airplanes come to Tucson. Stoner and his flight were part of the 1st Pursuit Group on their way to the 1928 National Air Races (NAR) in Los Angeles, CA held September 8-16 that year.

He and some of his companions competed in event No. 7, the John L. Mitchel Trophy Race of 120 miles, held at Mines Field. Stoner placed 8th in the event at 47:47:42, average speed 150.923MPH. Interestingly, he flew Curtiss Hawk #13, which was flown by Robert L. Schoenlein when it landed at Tucson. Schoenlein flew #2 (and placed 6th) that landed at Tucson with Wm. H. Doolittle (2nd place) at the controls. This all gets very confusing, but it shows how the pilots moved from airplane to airplane without a problem.

Of the ten pilots who landed at Tucson, all but two took part in the Mitchel race. Among them, besides the three listed in the previous paragraph, were Lt. Frank H. Robinson (3rd place), Capt. Victor H. Strahm (4th place), Lt. Julian B. Haddon (5th place), Lt. Frank G. Irvin (7th place), Major Ralph T. Royce (9th place), and Lt. Frank.D. Klein (10th place).

We find Lt. Stoner and his fellows again landing at Tucson on Tuesday, September 18, 1928 1:00 PM. The NAR were over and they were eastbound back to Detroit, MI. Stoner must have taken over airplane #13, as he was flying it east. So much for his visits to Tucson. He was much more than just a signature in our Register.

Below, an image of a letter written by Rex Stoner from Europe during WWI on January 8, 1918. The photo above, left, was cropped and enlarged from the American Expeditionary Forces identity card overlayed at the bottom of the letter. From the typeface and regularity of the lines, it appears his letter was transcribed from the (probably handwritten) original. It was certainly not typed by Stoner on the typewriter technology of that era.

Rex K. Stoner, Letter, ca. 1918
Rex K. Stoner, Letter, ca. 1918

Nonetheless, his words give us insight into how he thought and what flying an airplane meant to him. Indeed, his prose could hold its own against the likes of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, or perhaps Richard Bach. We wish we had more.

His nephew (refer to the right sidebar) reports as follows, "He was the second oldest of five children, born in 1897, in Kansas, I believe, although he pretty much grew up in Portland, Oregon.  My mother, long passed, was his baby sister.  His gravestone in the Arlington National Cemetery [see below] has that birth date wrong.  The other attachment is a scanned picture of his American Expeditionary Forces ID card which has been donated to the air museum in Palm Springs, California.  The other image is taken from a letter he wrote home on his 21st birthday from somewhere in France in 1918.

Rex K. Stoner, Arlington National Cemetery
Rex K. Stoner, Grave, Arlington National Cemetery

"Rex was a career air guy.  After the Great War, Rex did a lot of pioneer work in aviation.  I guess his most notable achievement is that he flew up under a dirigible and hooked his plane to it.  It was at Langley Field in 1923.  This information can be found on the internet under his name.  From what I've been told, he also worked with landing on skis and refueling from the air .  In time he became drinking buddies with Billy Mitchell and a lot of the old fly guys.  I think he even knew Lindbergh, Curtiss et. al. I guess it was a pretty small club way back then. 

"By the time WWII rolled around he was a little old for combat duty so they gave him reconnaissance flights in the Caribbean.  I was told that he went down on some little island somewhere, got yellow fever and probably died prematurely because of it two years later in 1947.

"Rex had twin sons who were both career Air Force guys.  At one time, the Stoner boys were the highest ranking brothers in the Air Force.  One ended up teaching at the National War College...the other had some staff position in Washington, D.C. as I recall.  I believe that both of them have passed on.  He also had a daughter and last I heard, she was living somewhere on the Carolina coast...."

Indeed, on September 18, 1923 he hooked his Sperry Messenger to the Army airship D-3 for about one minute. Also, according to aerofiles.com, preceding his NAR activity cited above, on October 4, 1924 he participated in the Pulitzer Race at Dayton OH. He placed third in this four-lap race, behind Register signers Lt. H.H. Mills and Lt. W.H. Brookley. He flew an Army Curtiss PW-8A (average speed 168MPH).

Our Lt. Stoner of the Register rose to the rank of Colonel. He died August 23, 1947 and is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery. As mentioned above, interestingly, the date of his birth engraved on his Arlington headstone is in error.



The Register
Images and some texts on this page provided by Lt. Stoner's nephew, Mike Rose.
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