Pilot Eyes

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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Van Zandt, CV-127000-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), 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, while supplies last.


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 the 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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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.


Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936 is available at the link. This book 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. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.


Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Available as a free download at the link.


Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race is available at the link. What was it like to fly from Oakland to Honolulu in a single-engine plane during August 1927? Was the 25,000 dollar prize worth it? Did the resulting fame balance the risk? For the first time ever, this book presents the pilot and navigator's stories written by them within days of their record-setting adventure. Pilot Art Goebel and navigator William V. Davis, Jr. take us with them on the Woolaroc, their orange and blue Travel Air monoplane (NX869) as they enter the hazardous world of Golden Age trans-oceanic air racing.


Clover Field: The First Century of Aviation in the Golden State. With the 100th anniversary in 2017 of the use of Clover Field as a place to land aircraft in Santa Monica, this book celebrates that use by exploring some of the people and aircraft that made the airport great.


Publications by Pilot Van Zandt

In 1924, researched, wrote and presented a Report on British Aviation, which summarized the commercial flight activities within and between Britain and the Continent at the time. This is a short read (13 pp.), and the insight into the politics, hardware and cargoes of the developing European air transport industry is interesting. This document is from the NASA website.

Civil Aviation and Peace, By J. Parker Van Zandt. Published by Brookings Institution, 722 Jackson Place, N. Washington 6, D. C. (1944).

Geography of World Air Transport . Published by Brookings Institution, 722 Jackson Place, N. Washington 6, D. C. (1944).


Rostand, Edmond. 1924. "Cyrano De Bergerac: An Heroic Comedy in Five Acts". Henry Holt & Co. NY. 256 pp.

Thanks to Nadia Lee of the Downtowne Bookstore, Riverside, CA for donating her copy of Van Zandt's "Cyrano" to include and share with you on this page.




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J. Parker Van Zandt was a prolific visitor to Tucson, landing ten times during the four months between November 5, 1927 and March 6, 1928. Curiously, he carried mostly the same passengers with him each time (one, Louis J. Kreutz, being on six flights). For the eight visits that he identified his aircraft by registration number, he was flying Stinson SM-1 Detroiter NC1517. The following image of Van Zandt, right, with passengers for Scenic Airways, Inc., taken about 1928 is available online at the link.

J. Parker Van Zandt, right, ca. 1928


Pilot Van Zandt was the founder of Scenic Airways, which operated out of Phoenix with tours of the Grand Canyon and passenger service between Phoenix south to Nogales, AZ. Tucson was a regular stop.

In 1927, when he flew over the Canyon to deliver a plane for the Ford Motor Company, he was so impressed he established Scenic Airways. The article below, from the January, 1928 issue of U.S. Air Services magazine, describes his initial pathfinding for Scenic Airways.

U.S. Air Services Magazine, January, 1928 (Source: Site Visitor)

VanZandt was an accomplished human being by the age of 29. Note mention of Register signer Alger Graham as VanZandt's survey pilot.

Nearly simultaneous with his founding Scenic, VanZandt bought three farms on the outskirts of Phoenix and built a landing strip, a hangar and an office for Scenic. He called it Sky Harbor. The city of Phoenix kept the name when it bought the airport from Van Zandt in 1935. VanZandt was located in Manila, Philippine Islands in 1937 as documented in a letter from his aunt exhibited at Register pilot Bessie Owen's Web page. You can read the letter and the connection to VanZandt near the bottom of her page.

The first flight from Sky Harbor was aboard a Ford Tri-Motor on November 18, 1928.  Hard times fell on the airline in October 1929 when the Great Depression set in, causing sale of the company and assets to some local Arizona pilots. Below, a contemporary, unsourced article that describes the passenger routing, and the placement of the company in receivership.

Unsourced Article, Ca. 1929 (Source: Site Visitor)
Unsourced Article, Ca. 1929 (Source: Site Visitor)

Note citation of Register pilot Leslie Arnold as manager of the Nogales operations.

The first commercial air tour of the Grand Canyon was on October 3, 1927, making his visits to Tucson significant in that they are only months after Van Zandt founded his business. As with many businesses, when the Great Depression came along Scenic Airways fell on hard times. VanZandt left the company in the hands of several local pilots who continued to operate it. The company changed its name to Grand Canyon Air Lines (two words). A short while later the name was changed to Grand Canyon Airlines. The company still operates today as the Grand Canyon Airlines from the south rim of the Canyon.

Next we find VanZandt in Europe on behalf of the Ford Motor Company. He participated in a European tour of one of Ford's 5-AT trimotors, NC8412 (not a Register airplane). The tour was publicized in several aviation publications of the day. The one below is from the January, 1930 issue of U.S. Air Services magazine.

U.S. Air Services Magazine, January, 1930 (Source: Site Visitor)

In addition to the information above, VanZandt began flying as an officer with the Signal Corps in World War I and remained an Army pilot until 1926. Through his flying career Mr. Van Zandt was a consultant for the Civil Aeronautics Board, director of aviation research at the Brookings Institution and, in the late 1940's, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force. He wrote widely on aviation (references, left). He lived in Washington almost 40 years before moving to Santa Barbara in 1976. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, where he also earned a doctorate in physics.

The Ford never came back to the United States. It was sold to a "Czecho-Slovakian" airline, as indicated in the Ford advertisement, below. Note the map showing the routing of the European tour. Interestingly, Spain and Portugal were not visited or overflown.

Ford Trimotor European Tour, January, 1930 (Source: Site Visitor)
Ford Trimotor European Tour, January, 1930 (Source: Site Visitor)

Below is a photograph of the airplane and three individuals. Comparing hairlines with the known image of Van Zandt at the top of the page, I believe that Van Zandt is at center in the photo below. If you can corroborate this, please let me KNOW. The photograph is signed at upper right by Van Zandt. Compare the signature with the one below from one of the books in his personal library. Note the hangar in the background painted Lufthansa.

Ford Trimotor, NC8412 in Germany, Ca. 1929-30 (Source: Site Visitor)


J. Parker VanZandt Obituary, Tucson Citizen, Thursday June 7, 1990 (Source: AHS)





Born in Chicago, VanZandt led a full life. He died June 3, 1990 at La Casa Dorinda retirement home in Santa Barbara, CA. His obituary, right, appeared in the Tucson Citizen on Thursday June 7, 1990, which I found in the Arizona Historical Society archives at the University of Arizona campus, Tucson, AZ.




















Now, in February, 2009, comes a find that gives us insight into Van Zandt as a person. Clearly an educated man, we rarely think about what might have been on the private bookshelf of one of our pilots.

Then we find a book with his signature, right, dated April 25, 1924, that tells us a little more. The book containing the play, "Cyrano De Bergerac" (cited left sidebar), would have been owned and signed by him when he was still in the military, as he remained an Army pilot until 1926. He would have been 30 years old. Interestingly, the longest Broadway run of the play had been in 1923.

He bookmarked and dog-eared page 147, and made two vertical marginal lines there next to Cyrano's riff on the meaning of a kiss, which, as you recall, he spoke from under the balcony to Roxane, in the guise of her shy suitor, Christian. To wit:

"And what is a kiss, when all is done?

A promise given under seal -- a vow

Taken before the shrine of memory --

A signature acknowledged -- a rosy dot

Over the i of Loving -- a secret whispered

To listening lips apart -- a moment made

Immortal, with a rush of wings unseen --

A sacrament of blossoms, a new song

Sung by two hearts to an old simple tune --

The ring of one horizon around two souls

Together, all alone!"

Let's hope Van Zandt's Roxane appreciated the sentiment more than the response given by the original Roxane to Cyrano/Christian in the play: "Hush!"


Dossier 2.1.29

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 02/11/06 REVISED: 03/01/06, 02/09/09, 01/21/14, 02/20/14

The Register

I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Van Zandt and his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.


I'm looking for information on passenger Kreutz. Please use this FORM if you can help.


This link shows contemporary photos of the original Grand Canyon Airport.
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