This will be the last blog of the year and today I want to recap a few items in aviation history that were not represented correctly as well as introduce you to the work of a gentleman who spent twelve years of his life getting the story right; however, before I proceed forward I want to give credit to the blog, where I found today’s featured image. The blog is called “My View by Silvio Canto, Jr.” and if you click HERE you will a find a quick overview of who Paul Harvey was, Paul Harvey is the man depicted in the image above with bags in hand, as well as one of his video broadcast that is well worth a listen.
Now, let’s talk about my version of “The Rest Of The Story.”
There was a company that was making aviation history flying to Havana, Nassau, Bimini, and other locations long before Pan Am came to the forefront as the USA’s preferred international carrier.
Who was that company?
The company is Aeromarine and they had a network of flying boats that operated from Miami, New York, Cleveland, and other locations. The company was created by a merger between Aeromarine Sightseeing and Navigation Company, a subsidiary of Aeromarine Plane and Motor Company, and Florida West Indies Airways who had just been awarded an airmail contract from the US Post Office for the Key West to Havana route. On November 1, 1920 the resulting company, Aeromarine West Indies Airways, began the first scheduled international passenger and air mail service in the United States.
Now I know that Pan Am has been awarded that distinction but let’s take a look at what the archives at the Smithsonian say:
“One year after Aeromarine terminated its service in 1924, aviation interest was revived when a Colombian delegation, en route to the United States to request operating authority, arrived in Havana and requested authority from the Cubans to operate in and out of their territory prior to proceeding to the US . This new air service was sponsored by the Colombian airline, SCADTA, which wished to start a trans-Caribbean air route in to Miami; however, the U.S. State Department would not grant permission. Nevertheless, the episode stimulated official U.S. interest in foreign air transport, especially for air mail, and this was to lead to the foundation of the U.S. “Chosen Instrument,” Pan American Airways.
Now I find it interesting that Aeromarine’s accomplishments remain obscured by Pan Am but there are more interesting facts to consider. Do you know who was at the controls of Pan Am’s first flight? Captain Mucick who was an Aeromarine pilot. Do you know who the first Chief Pilot for Pan Am was? It was Captain Mucick. Do you know who made the first Clipper flight across the Pacific for Pan Am? You guessed it – it was Captain Mucick. For more information on Captain Mucick click HERE.
When we think of the first powered flight we automatically think of Wilbur and Orville Wright; however, there was a third person involved whose skills were an essential part of the Wright’s success. Charles “Charley” Taylor was that man and without his help the Wright Brothers may have lost their place in history.
Charley was born in Illinois in 1868 and at the age of twelve quit school to find his place in life. He quickly learned that his hands, and tools, were almost one in the same, and America’s first aviation mechanic for powered flight started down a path in life that would have him working for the Wright brothers and building the first engine for the Wright Flyer.
Charley started to work for the Wright brothers on June 15, 1901, doing routine repairs on bicycles, so that the Wright brothers could pursue their experiments with gliders which included many trips to Kitty Hawk. After one of these trips, the brothers decided they needed more accurate information and decided they needed to build a small wind tunnel. With this, they would measure the amount, and direction, of air pressures on plane and curved surfaces operating at various angles and improve their theories based on their gliding experiences.
Building the wind tunnel was the first job that Charley Taylor did for the Wright brothers that had any connection with aeronautics. The wind tunnel was a rectangular box with a fan at one end driven by a natural gas engine. The Wright brothers did many experiments in their wind tunnel and from this data they began to make their 1902 glider with Charlie machining many of the parts.
Before the Space Race, before the fatal fire on Apollo 1 or the deaths of three cosmonauts returning to Earth aboard Soyuz 11, there was a Jet Race, whose tragedies and triumphs are now mostly forgotten. Begun in the last years of World War II, when the combatants struggled to get military jets into the skies, the competition continued into the 1950s, when the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union were scrambling to field the first passenger jets.
The British were the first to build a passenger jetliner, the de Havilland D.H.106 Comet, which was tested in 1949 and started flying scheduled routes in 1952. But two years later, when two of the airliners broke up in mid-air within four months of each other, Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the fleet grounded. The Soviets can claim the first continuous commercial jet service, which they began with the TU-104 in 1956, two years ahead of the debut of the iconic Boeing 707 and the resumption of flights by the Comet. The TU-104 also had its share of disasters, but Tupolev and the Soviets managed to learn from them and keep flying.
Now, the articles above are just a few of the events in history that you need to look at more closely because as you can see things are not always the way they seem. To finish up, however, I want to talk about one more event in history that I find extremely interesting and I have wrote about on numerous occasions. My most recent article, “Howard Hughes Played The Aviation Chess Game Brilliantly But Lost,” tells part of the story but there is a gentleman who I have become acquainted with recently who has the rest of the story on………
The gentleman I speak of is Mr. Randall Reynolds and he has spent twelve long years getting the story right. The name of his book is, “The Jack and Helen Frye Story,” and in his book you will go back and explore what I refer to as the “Golden Years of Aviation.” Mr. Reynolds will tell you in great detail why Howard Hughes was not the man at the helm of TWA and why it was Jack Frye who kept Howard Hughes out of trouble.
I have an abundance of information that Mr. Reynolds provided me but what I want to highlight today is an interview he had with Robert Serling. Robert is the brother of Rod Serling who created the series Twilight Zone, which was the original Sci-Fi series on television which was also provided social commentary, and Robert is an Aviation Historian. That which follows is an interview that Mr. Reynolds had with Robert Sterling:
Three years ago I had the great honor of meeting Robert Serling at Tucson Arizona (now passed
away) who was (is) the most renowned (perhaps the most qualified) airline historian ever. Bob
has always been especially fond of Jack Frye in my dealings with him and as well in his visits
with Jack’s daughter Nevajac Frye. In regard to my work on Jack Frye, Bob gave me his own
“future project” notes which addressed Frye, stating to me, that I could use the information in
any way I desired as he doubted at his age he would be able to finish many future projects. The
pages addressing Frye are current (2008) as opposed to his writings about Frye in his 1983 book
“Howard Hughes’ Airline; an Informal History of TWA”. Bob conveyed the following sentiments
in his notes as reprinted below and in person he basically stated similar sentiments to me
personally about Frye, and I quote:
“Jack Frye of TWA: “He may very well have been the most underrated and unappreciated
airline president of them all. He was a pilot himself, smart and as likeable as he was capable,
but was also saddled with the fact that he was overshadowed and subservient to TWA’s majority
stockholder, who controlled TWA and happened to be Howard Hughes.”
“Frye was a true visionary, far more so than Hughes who was not as farsighted as the film “The
Aviator” portrayed him. (Bob was especially adamant about this film being grossly inaccurate
historically and maligning Frye’s accomplishments and reputation). It was Frye, not Hughes who
actually ran TWA from an operational standpoint and who truly belongs in the ranks of civil
aviation’s most significant pioneer contributors. For example, he was the airline chief who
convinced Donald Douglas to design and build an airliner that could out-perform Boeing’s new
247. The eventual result was the DC-2 which begot the DC-3.”
“Hughes had no cause to quarrel with Frye, but Jack had the misfortune to run afoul of Noah
Dietrich, at the time Howard’s financial advisor. He was jealous of Frye, viciously bad-mouthed
him to Hughes, and Jack was brutally fired. There is no doubt that Dietrich deliberately
orchestrated the ouster of one of the industry’s most far-sighted and charismatic leaders.”
“What cost Frye his job, and also cost TWA dearly, was an ill-timed 25-day pilot’s strike in
1946, just when TWA was getting its postwar international service into full operation, and about
the same time Hughes was recovering from near-fatal injuries suffered in a plane crash
(Beverly Hills). Dietrich managed to convince Hughes and TWA’s board of Directors that the
strike was Frye’s fault, and that Jack’s mismanagement had put the airline in a precarious
“Both these claims were outrageously false, but Dietrich timed his campaign against Frye to
coincide with the post-crash trauma Hughes was experiencing. Howard was in no shape either to
judge or grasp what really was happening at TWA in those difficult months, and foolishly
believed what Dietrich was telling him.”
“The cold-blooded execution of one of the airline’s most brilliant presidents was unnecessarily
cruel in the way it was handled: a terse one-sentence announcement to all TWA officers and
employees that “Jack Frye is no longer associated with the Company.”
“This was the official epitaph for the man largely responsible for elevating TWA to its
leadership position as one of the nation’s five most influential air carriers. If Hughes hadn’t
personally authorized that humiliating final slap-in-the-face, he certainly did nothing to stop it.
Yet to his dying day, Frye refused to blame Howard for his ouster and would scold anyone who
criticized Hughes.” -Robert J. Serling-
Now, for those who are not familiar with Robert Serling please click HERE.
While Mr. Reynolds has certainly done his homework on the subject of Jack Frye, Howard Hughes, and TWA there is no way that I can do justice to what he has done in his book. So I encourage you to explore the following links and then click on the image of Mr. Reynolds book and invest in aviation history. I think Mr. Reynolds has it right when he says: “History is Meaningless- Unless Shared!”
I hope you have enjoyed the article today, as well as others that I have presented this year and I wish, for each and everyone of you who enjoys the freedom of the “Third Dimension,” that your efforts, and energy, in this life bring to you only the best that life has to offer and to everyone I wish a ……….
December 18, 2015