HIS AIRLINE IS IN OPERATION TODAY
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.
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.
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)
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)
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!"
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 02/11/06 REVISED: 03/01/06, 02/09/09, 01/21/14, 02/20/14