Rosemead Airport

                                                                                                       by Bob Cannon


    I have written in my home page (First Flight) about my first time up in an airplane and how significant that was to me.  The fact that it was taken at the old Rosemead airport  has made that airport very special in my memory.  And now some years later I have received pictures taken in that era that embellish my memories.  On my home page I say that my first flight was in Gus Gehrig's new Luscombe Silvaire that had "Four Aces" painted on both sides of the fuselage.  I also mention that the "Four Aces" met up with the nearby KRLA radio towers one night, (I mistakenly identify them as the KLAC towers on my home page; actually on the 1950 map above they are listed as KXLA).  Here are some before and after pictures of the "Four Aces" sent to me by Dan Rhinehart.  Pictured standing next to the "Four Aces" are Bill Berry and Jim Berry.


  That airplane, the "Four Aces" and the one that was to be my second ride (a brand new 47 Stinson) belonged to Gus Gehrig, the local FBO at Rosemead.  Gus is working on the aircoupe Victor Vincent Vurpilat III and I took on a cross-country to Mohave Airport.  The Stinson is the one we flew to Brackett to visit the Pomona Fair.



    One other story that gets some confirmation is the one about 3 Stearman's pulling a single large banner.  I was visiting a fellow banner tow competitor at Torrance airport back when I was flying the Stearman's prior to 1980.  At that time Bob Marks (Marks Aviation) told me that he was towing banners in a Stearman out of Rosemead airport on a New Years day when an accident happened.  I tried to contact Bob Marks at this time (September 2008) only to find out that he passed away last year.  But his story as I recall it is that the three Stearman's were coming in for the banner drop when one of them did not "pickle" it exactly at the same time as the other two did.  Regardless of why the pilot did not accomplish the release, it would only take a nanosecond for a extra large load to immediately stall an airplane.  I know this from flying the giant COORS beer can COORS we flew with the L19.  Any reduction in power was an immediate stall.  The following pictures of the New Years day crash were forwarded to me by Dan Rhinehart (NC14881).  The pilot is identified as Wayne Clark.             

 The banner operator was Van Noble and I am told that the CAA banned flying a banner with multiple airplanes after that  accident.  I have a picture of the flight given to me many years ago by Rod Worthington, and if I ever find it I will get it on this page. 

    One of the notables when I was a fledgling was Jack Hardwick.  I had the occasion to fly with him in his Bonanza out of old El Monte.  He was quite a character to say the least.  Anyway he was one of the crowd at Rosemead at the time, and here are some pics of his operation.

                I flew with him several times in his Bonanza out of El Monte.  I still remember that he flew it with everything "to the wall"; no reduction in power or propeller.  Later on in the 70's I visited his place in South El Monte and saw among other things, two Me-109 fuselages and wings.  For some reason Walt Podolece had to do the importing because of some kind of block against Hardwick. In the 60's when I had my PT-23/26 parked at Brackett, Hardwick had 3 all black P-38's on the ramp.   

    In the late 70's I was in the habit of hiring very young kids to help me with the banners and maintenance.  I am still in contact with several of them, and one, Dan MacPherson, helped me in rib stitching new fabric on my Stearman.  Dan sent me some pictures taken in 1946 at Rosemead by William T. Larkins .


    Newscaster Clete Roberts flew into Meadowlark for lunch one sunny day, and I got into a conversation with him about Stearman's.  It ended up with him taking a flight in my two-holer after lunch.  When he saw this picture he identified it as being his Stearman at Rosemead.    Dan Rhinehart sent me the rest of these pictures.  The L19 shown parked at Rosemead was the very first one I ever flew in.  In fact, the 2nd picture is one I took as my unit received the airplane at old Camp Cooke (now Vandenberg AFB) in 1951.  I believe the pilot is Lt. Tucker Eckenrode.  A side note:  I got stuck with guarding the airstrip on the weekend while everyone else got the weekend off.  However, I made good use of my isolated position by taxiing the L19 back and forth on the airstrip.  I do believe I actually got it a few feet off of the ground once.    

    The following are more local color at Rosemead.                         

`A side note:  In the 80's when I was running the banner towing operation out of Meadowlark I used to start my day off with a donut and coffee at the little shop on the corner of Warner and Bolsa Chica.  On one morning I was reading the front page of the L.A. Times which covered the story of a crash in which a Twin Beech hauling skydivers somewhere up near Coalinga.  Apparently they lost one engine and the skydivers panicked and ran toward the open door at the rear.  Obviously the weight and balance shift was more than the pilot could handle.  So this very well dressed guy looks over my shoulder and says "I used to fly those things".  My thoughtful and not said was "yeah, sure, we all did".  The very next day again at the donut shop the same guy was there and I got him into a conversation.  One thing led to another and he told me that he once owned two airports in SoCal.  I thought for sure that he was a BS'er.  I pinned him down asking for "what" airports were they?  And he answered "one was in Rosemead and the other was in the high desert".  Now he had my full attention.  Yes, this was the real guy, Heasley (see the "H" on the cowl of the PT19 picture).  He knew exactly every detail including the crash of the racer that left it's imprint on the taxiway.  Unfortunately I did not follow up on this relationship as at that time we were sort of speaking in the present tense.  The Heasley brothers did own Rosemead airport.

    After running an AD in the Pacific Flyer, I received more stories to add to this site.  Garey Wittich wrote:  "When I was a kid around 6 years old (1947) we had family Christmas reunions at my Aunt's house in Rosemead.  Some relative of ours had a Piper Cub and offered to take me for a ride at Rosemead.  This too was my first airplane ride like yours.  My Dad had me sit on his lap and away we went.  To this day I remember it well and it inspired me to get my Private Licence in 1972 and I have been flying ever since.  Now I am a CFI and MEI and am building a RV-8A in my garage.  Just a simple ride in 1947 changed my life.  Now I am "plane nuts".

    Don Fox and I flew model airplanes and rode motorcycles together in our teen years, but our paths didn't cross when he learned to fly at Rosemead and later on had an airplane at El Monte at the same time that I did.  Now 60 years later we are in contact.

    Ross Mayfield wrote: "My father, Lowell Mayfield, used to fly at Gus's at Rosemead and has stories of his days there.  He painted the 4 Aces logo on the Luscombe Silvaire in your photos, and also the Bugs Bunny on another Luscombe seen in the background of one of your photos.  He also painted a cow jumping over the moon on another airplane.  My father also painted the sign on top of Gus's building and also the sign for Hardwick Aircraft."  Ross sent this nice picture taken by his father on March 21st, 1948 from Navion N8906H.

The Crash of the Midget Racer explained:  Although it has been over 60 years now, the one thing I remember is standing around with a bunch of older guys looking at this perfect imprint of an airplane on what I recall as being a taxiway.  As mentioned earlier I did talk to Bob Heasley about the crash and he gave me some details most of which I have now forgotten, but I recall him saying that he and some others were standing there watching the airplane as it hit the deck.  Dan Rhinehart recalled his older friend, Joe White, telling him of a Goodyear racer crashing at Rosemead around 1948, and that the airplane was a V-tail design by Art Chester.  Dan further found that Art Chester's "Wimpy" crashed on July 25th 1948.  A friend of Dan's verified that there was a fatal crash of an Art Chester racer  in July 1948, and the pilot's name was Mike Anrander.

    Ross Mayfield wrote the following:  "My Dad was standing about 20 feet from the impact point when this crash occurred.  The plane was a V-Tailed Art Chester racer and had just been purchased by the pilot who was now doing a little showing off in it.  My Dad was going to give two of his brothers a ride and was starting a mag check when this guy flew across in front of them aligning himself with the taxiway (same heading as the P.E. tracks) and pulled up.  My father said "we might as well get out and watch the show" so they shut down and got out to stand right next to his plane and watch.  Apparently on this Art Chester racer, at certain speeds the air over the wing would blank our the elevator/rudder V-tail.  This is what happened in this case.  As you state, the plane left it's mark embedded in the tarmac.  My Dad said that you could see the imprint of each wing rib and the tires made 4" deep impressions.  After witnessing this, one of my uncles announced that he didn't really want to go flying that day.

    The interesting fact to me here is that I have always made the statement that I got my first ride when I was 16, but other than my memory there has never been anything written to prove that fact.  But now, knowing that the crash almost positively was the Art Chester racer that crashed in July 1948, and that I was there when the imprint was still fresh, then that dates my first ride as age 16!

Who gave me my first ride explained:  Lloyd Duke, his younger brother Ernie and family lived nearby the Rosemead Airport and both Lloyd and Ernie got their first ride there.  It was a natural follow up that upon entering high school Lloyd and his brother got into the "airplane washing" business and had a steady business all through the high school years keeping Gus Gehrig's airplanes clean.  Lloyd told me a very interesting fact that I had no comprehension of.  When the stranger asked me if I wanted to go for a ride I just guessed that he owned the airplane.  As Lloyd tells it, the 4 Aces was Gus's personal airplane and not a rental, and he only let one other person fly it; the guy that gave me my first ride.  I hope to find someone who will recall the fellows name.

    Lloyd tells this interesting story about the crash: 

Gus loved his Four Aces.  He kept it washed, waxed and wiped off.  Eventually that was my job.  Four aces was a shiny unpainted aluminum-skinned airplane with a big hand of the four aces painted on each side of the fuselage.

One afternoon a guy showed up with his girlfriend.  He was a friend of Gus.  I listened to their conversation.  The man worked at the Los Angeles Police Department as a radio repairman.  He was also a pilot (the fellow who gave me my first ride wore a military shirt and Officers cap; I presumed that he was an ex-military pilot).  He wanted to take his girlfriend for a ride, and he was also the only one Gus let fly the Luscombe 4 Aces beside himself.

He and Gus did a preflight and when that was completed the man and the girlfriend got in.  I noted that she was a small very pretty girl. 

They took off and about an hour later Gus got a phone call. He got very emotional. It was the police.  His Four Aces had crashed. 

Without saying anything he locked up the business, got into his car and left the field.  I waited for news, and was anxious to know what had happened.  It was getting late and I had to go home. 

There was some news on the radio that there had been a crash and two people were killed.  There was no detailed information other than that they had hit a radio tower. 

I spent a terrible night.  The next morning, Saturday, I was at the airport.  A tow truck had just delivered the wreckage to the bone yard just south of the big Quonset hut hanger.  Gus was there, not speaking to anyone, just quietly crying, a manly cry, no sniveling, just tears and rumpled chin.   

There were a lot of other people there looking at the wreckage (see Photos at beginning of site). The only thing I heard Gus say before he left was, "It's only worth 26 bucks now."  He didn't have hull insurance on the plane.  Only Public Liability and Property Damage that covered the farmers cabbage crop damage.   

The story going around was that the pilot was apparently showing his girlfriend the KRLA  radio towers that were located in the Whittier narrows area, southwest of Rosemead Airport.  There were three 415-foot towers in a row there at that time.  Witnesses said they were seen to be weaving a sashay between the towers, when the plane collided with the third tower, about four feet from the top.  The left wing sheared off at three feet from the cockpit.  The wing piece fluttered to the ground, while the remainder of the plane spun violently into the ground.  The engine was buried three feet deep.   

I would have probably been crying too, but I was shocked at the condition of the plane, and the gore that remained after the bodies were removed.  The plane did not burn, so every thing was quite vivid.  The instrument panel was about 6 inches from the cabin rear bulkhead.  All the instruments were broken.  I guess the prettier the girl the more stupid a man acts.  Lloyd Duke

    I guess I was lucky as on my first ride the pilot also did some stunts, again just south of the airport, but didn't tangle with the radio towers.

    Since Lloyd spent his high school years at Rosemead, he has lots of stories to tell, and some of them are already on Paul Franklin's website, so I won't duplicate them here.  One story that sticks in my mind is one I recall reading about in the newspaper; an on-going story about two brothers, twins, who had this ex-military airplane with dubious ownership, and how they were hiding it from the Government.  This goes to show one how one can recall things incorrectly.  I recall that the airplane was a C-46 and that the brothers had an Irish name.  However I cannot quarrel with Lloyd's version because he was there.  Here is his story: 

The Heasleys were characters.  They were twin brothers and It was fun to be close to them.  They owned the airport.  I experienced one intriguing afternoon there when one of the brothers flew in, in a C-47 Goony Bird.  He parked at the fuel pits and the brothers were jumping around hugging each other.  The plane had been in litigation over the ownership.  From the conversations going on there, this conflict had not been completed and the plane was going to be hidden some place in the desert.  Quickly after re-fueling, they departed for the mystery place in the desert (remember, Bob Heasley had told me in my meeting him in the 80's that they owned 2 airports, Rosemead and one in the high desert).  I had never seen such a big plane up close.  It was huge.

Shortly thereafter the police showed up looking for them.  Of course nobody knew where they went. They made the front page news in the Los Angles Times for this.

Three or four days later the brothers, showed up at the Los Angles City Hall and surrendered.  They were arrested and put into jail for not telling the location of the Gunny Bird.  They stayed there for forty eight days before they gave up the location of the bird. 

    Hopefully more information on this stunt will be coming from someone. 

    Lloyd has so many stories about Rosemead that it is hard to pick and choose, but I like this one: 

Termite Snider was famous from the Channel Five television coverage of the Saturday Night Jalopy Races at Ascot Race Track, in Carson, California.  He was a winner, and Termite was also a pilot. 

He owned the weather beaten BT-13 that was tied down next to the big hanger.  Termite was a character.  It was always an event when he showed up.  He was a chunky, muscular man, who like Hardwick always had a cigar chomped between his teeth and was always joking with the people around him. 

One day he showed up with two five gallon buckets of black paint and a four inch paint brush.  He began to paint the plane using the four-inch paintbrush.  All the while he painted, everybody at the airport stopped by to comment.  He had a continuous audience.  The job was finished in about four hours.   

It looked terrible.  All black with deep brush strokes going every which way. The four hour old paint still being sticky, Termite decided to complete the drying process by flying the plane.   

I got the honor of climbing the ladder with the inertial starter crank handle, to assist with starting the engine.  The starting procedure consists of engaging the crank handle to a shaft end in the starting compartment.  Turning the crank handle clockwise starts the fly wheel to turn.  It turns hard at first, but as the RPM increases the turning becomes easier.  As the fly wheel RPM increases a magic noise, or whine, with increasing pitch, is emitted.  That sound is beyond description here.  It is a sound that to me connotes an adventure is about to begin.  A sound that, even now, just thinking about it, gives me goose pimples.  I closed and latched the hatch shut, and climbed down the ladder, backed away to the wing tip, and gave the all clear, "thumbs up."

Termite was ready to go flying.   

When Termite returned a half hour later, the paint was still tacky, but now had the added features of runs and smears.  He complained he lost six miles an hour in cruise configuration.

What I remember back in the 50's at El Monte was talking to a friend of Jerry Curl who told of flying into Rosemead with 13 BT-13's.  He got anyone he could get that could fly to go with him to bring back his "fleet", so yes, there should have been quite a few BT-13's at Rosemead.

    In writing this I have often asked myself "why was I flying with Jack Hardwick for some reason"?  I think I can put 2 and 2 together now with Lloyd's help.  Lloyd wrote the following about Jack and his Temco Buckaroo.

Jack Hardwick was a hot dog pilot, especially on this fine spring afternoon. 

He owned a very rare Temco Swift.  Called the Buckaroo it was built for training new military pilots.  It was a Globe Swift with the fuselage slimmed down and tandem seating with a jet type canopy.  The windshield of course was fixed, the forward access hatch slid back to a stop just behind the front seat.  The aft hatch was hooked to the forward hatch, and unlatches from the forward hatch to slide on back to a stop just aft of the rear seat.  I guess you would say it had a canopy consisting of three pieces, the windshield, forward hatch, and aft hatch to complete a jet type bubble canopy. 

There is a safety placard restricting take off with the aft hatch open. Jack taxied out in his beautiful Buckaroo.  It’s skin was polished aluminum with the standard red, white and blue military markings.  Real pretty.   

It was warmish so Jack had all the hatches open.  I thought he would close the hatches after his before take off run-up.  Run-up completed, flaps at 10O, he taxied onto the runway while adding take off power as he turned onto the runway centerline.  Next I am sure he hit the gear up switch.  As long as there is pressure on the wheels they will not retract.  It just looks good for a hot dog pilot for the wheels to retract as soon as you pop off the runway.

The Buckaroo accelerated down the runway, the tail rising high to keep the pressure on the wheels, reaching take off speed he rotated, the wheels popped off, with gear retracting, he apparently went into ground effect.  Gear up and three feet in the air he entered the bushes at the end of the runway.  Both flaps were spinning in the air ten feet above the Buckaroo. 

When we got there he was standing on the end of the runway like Yeager in “The Right Stuff.”  Outfitted in a flight suit, butt pack parachute outfit, cigar still champed in his teeth, hat in hand, scratching his head and very embarrassed.  The Buckaroo did not look well either.

    In 1956, at El Monte, there was a beautiful T-35 Buckaroo for sale at the south end.  It was gorgeous and I wanted it.  Because so few were made, and because El Monte was so close to Rosemead, I am assuming that I was trying to make a deal with Hardwick on the one that he had, when for some reason he had to go somewhere and invited me; no other explanation.  I would have bought the airplane except that Roy Outsen of the CAA was at El Monte and told me that if I did buy it, he would see that I never flew it (because of the restricted Licence).  I was too naive at the time to even think of thwarting the "Feds", but their BS was the same back then: Intimidate!

    Eventually Rosemead did close but I have not verified an exact date.  One fact is that I bought  Howard DGA-15P at a Sheriff's auction in 1958, so at least the runway was active.  Joe Cook, a mechanic at El Monte flew it over all the way from Rosemead to El Monte, a distance of one mile.

    Lloyd Duke wrote about the ending: 

The Heasleys sold the airport to Fletcher Aviation Company. The company built droppable aircraft fuel tanks and napalm bombs for the fighter planes used in the Korea war.  The war was still going on and their products were in high demand and they needed more manufacturing space.   

Building construction started immediately in a location just east of Hardwick's place.  Hardwick began moving his junk to a location in South El Monte.  Just a note in the moving process I was surprised to see that he had two brand new ME-109's in Spanish Air Force markings still in their crates. (I can verify that as I saw them at his place in South El Monte- B.C.) 

Fletcher's future plans were to build a Porsche powered jeep for the army, an agriculture plane and a spin-off of that plane as a small close ground support aircraft for the Army, Air Force and Marines.  The owners were two brothers, Maurie and Stan Fletcher.  They each owned Mercedes Benz 300-SL Gull Wing Coupes as personal cars.  They also owned a third Gull Wing that they raced in the Mexican Road Race.  

Fletcher wanted to get into the aircraft business with a passion.  There were several tries before my entry on the scene.  In 1951 they had partnered with an aeronautical engineer by the name of John W. Thorp. 

John Thorp had traveled far and wide as an aeronautical engineer in the aviation back ground of California, with his associations with Boeing and Lockheed.  He brought one of his ideas developed during his Lockheed time to Fletcher Aviation.  Fletcher built two planes based upon Thorps designs.  One was the FD-25, Fletcher, “Defender,” and based upon it the FU-24 Fletcher Utility, “Agwagon.”  The planes were very similar having the same engine cowling, wing, and empennage.

Of course designing and building them was just part of the problem.  Examples of each had to be taken into the sky and tested and / or evaluated to qualify the plane for flight.  The planes had to be clearly marked by the cockpit, “Experimental,”  and only Experimental Test pilots could fly them. 

Fletcher selected Bob Downey to be the Experimental Test Pilot.  There were two famous Bob Downey's flying at the time in Los Angeles and both were Experimental Test Pilots.   

One Bob Downey who was based at Vail Field in Montebello.  He built and flew Midget Racing Planes the ones they call Formula One at Reno now.  He was normal stature with a round face and balding.  

The other was Bob Downey, the Los Angeles Times Aviation Editor.  I new him from Gus’ Flying service he used to rent planes from Gus.  He was a tall lanky man, always came wearing a suit and flew in his white shirt and tie.  He had a full head of hair and as I stated before, had heard rumors that flight testing would be done by Bob Downey but I did not know which one. 

Flight testing day come, fortunately it was during summer vacation.  I was there early on testing day.  Fletcher had set up a canopy tent and parked next to it was the instrument and communications truck.  There were several of those folding directors’ chairs set around there. 

Flight testing encompasses the gathering of so much technical information.  Enough to write the pilot’s manual and assure the safety of the airplane with warnings.  The general categories of information are Limitations, Emergency Procedures, performance, Weight and Balance, Air frame stressing and performance in extreme aerobatics.  Both the Defender and the Agwagon were parked near by.  

Well it is test day and the festivities begin with the entry of Bob Downey who drives up to the tent in 1950 ford business coupe.  He is wearing a business suit and is the tall lanky Downey of Los Angles Times fame.  While he is talking to the people in the test van he was putting on his white flight suit, parachute Helmet and goggles. 

The first plane he goes for is the Defender, FD-25.  In my research there is controversy as to which engine the Defender was tested with.  The test fly area is the Whittier Narrows.  At the time there was nothing there but river and swamp where the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo Rivers meet.  This are is just three miles south of Rosemead airport.  It was close enough for a power out glide, dead stick landing distance from the flight test altitude to the airport property. 

My recollection it was “November 91316,” the 260 horse power Lycoming with a constant speed propeller as it was shown in the pictures of it setting at Fullerton Airport in the late ‘60’s.  The two pictures following show the plane, November 90802,” configured with the 225 horse power fixed pitch propeller





The actual flight testing involved a lot of radio conversation between Downey in the plane and the engineers on the ground.  Every thing went nicely and boringly until the high speed dive.  There was a flutter in the horizontal stabilizer at a speed that should have been well with in the yellow arc.  He landed and a long discussion ensued with the engineers.  The next morning the engineers had mounted some aluminum arms adjacent to the inboard hinge at the bottom side of the leading edge on the elevator with lead torpedo weights riveted to them.  He went back up and into the high speed dive.  The flutter was eliminated.  I think the elevator was replaced with a stronger one because the next time I saw the Defender the weights were gone. 

The Agwagon also was tested with the same engine and augmenter setup as the Defender.



Later on Fletcher had a show and tell and Flight Demonstration that I was lucky enough to witness.  There were a lot of military people in attendance.  Actually there were Generals from the Air Force, Army and the Marines, as well as lower officers, all pilot or Aviators as the case may be. The highest General was three stars.   This picture was taken of that event at Rosemead Air Port.  The display was setup in front of the CAP hut.  In this picture at the background 1/3 from the left, is the Agwagon Next to a C-47 to the right of it.  Some of the generals came in the C-47. 

I was present when this picture was taken.  Fletchers laid out some Astroturf and placed the display on it.  This was laid out in front of the Civil Air Patrol Hut. 

Of the two planes the Agwagon was the most successful.  The military apparently did not want a cheap, utility, close ground support spotter plane.  In that I was disappointed.  I thought it was a great idea.  Fletcher sold the Agwagon to Cable Price Corporation, A New Zealand Company.  

At this same show Fletcher showed its “Jeep” offering.  It was an amphibious four place small car powered by a Porsche engine.  They built a muddy water pit for it to drive through, they ran it down the runway and turned it on a dime, and they ran it down in the river with generals riding to demonstrate its rough abilities.  This was all to no avail.  No jeeps were sold to the military.  It was a neat combination in my opinion.  Would have been better than the Humvee and a lot cheaper.

Update Feb. 2010:

I received an interesting email from a person who was researching an aviation project and stumbled across the newspaper accounts of the crash of the 4 Aces.  He did a "Google" on the "4 aces" and came up with this site and forwarded me the information with some pictures of the crash site.

Now I know the name of the pilot who gave me my first ride.  His name is Albert J. Woodcock, and his passenger was Marion Metzler (corresponds to Lloyd Duke's comment that a lady passenger was on board).  The crash occurred on June 18th, 1951.          

I will never forget that first flight and Mr. Woodcock.  Thanks to the power of the Internet such history is now put into a perspective for the history of my first flight. 


Update 8/1/2010:

I have received email from two sources that add detail to a couple of the Rosemead incidents.  Regarding the crash of the banner towing Stearman: Dave Bean has quite a bit to offer as he was one of Van Noble's pilots and did the 3-airplane tow on New Years day in 1950, and there was no crash and the flight was out of old Vail Field.  It is not unlikely that either I forgot the exact date that Bob Marks told me of the crash, or that Bob had it wrong.  But he did say that understand idly that the CAA stopped any more of the 3-airplane tows.   That would then make 1951 as the probable date of the accident at Rosemead.  That has to be the date based upon this note from Ross Mayfield stating that his father and mother had gone to Rosemead to go flying in the 4 Aces and saw the remains of the crashed Stearman.  Since the 4 Aces crashed later in 1951, that makes 1951 as the latest date of the crash, and it couldn't have been earlier since Dave Bean started flying with Van Noble in 1949 and would have known about any past problems.

Dave Bean wrote:

Each a/c has its own tow line that is  attached to the signs one pole.  I can assure you that there was no Van Noble crash on Jan 1, 1950 as at that time he only had 3 Stearman's; one with a 300 Lycoming and canopy as in the article and two with 220 hp Jacobs.  I flew all of them at different times. These two we flew from the front seat as it trimmed up better with the sign on. We made many formation flights where each a/c carried its own sign and where they collectively made a message.  Sometimes Noble enlisted other outfits to join us in these efforts. He may have had more a/c before I joined him in 1949. I remember once we had a five-ship message where each carried part of the overall message."


   Ross Mayfield passed along this information from his father:

  "I just read your e-mail and asked my dad about the crash.  He says he and my mom had gone out to Rosemead that day to go flying in the 4 Aces and got to the airport after the crash had occurred. He doesn't remember the date off the top of his head, but will look it up in his logbook, which is at our shop.  He said that the pilot of the crashed Stearman's last name was Clark, an instructor with Heasley. A tall red-headed fellow who apparently had been out tending bar the entire night before the crash.
Another of the banner pilots was named Jack Ferman, and Jack tried to pull Clark out of the wreckage, but Clark's legs were too entangled to enable Ferman to remove him. A fire started in a quick, explosive manner, which singed the side of Jack Ferman's face. Unable to be freed, Clark was badly burned and died in the wreckage. 

When my dad had talked about this crash in the past he described that the 3-plane formation had been making a turn in such a manner that one of the Stearman's ended up with a majority of the load of the banner, to a point where it could not sustain flight."

"We looked in my Dad's logbook today and there's nothing to verify the date. He thinks 1950 but thinks 1951 is a possibility. He remembers being at the Rose Parade and seeing the 3-plane banner tow, and then going over to arrive at the airport after the crash. He thinks that he and my mom must have decided not to go flying after seeing the crashed plane. So, unfortunately, we have no written verification."

Dave Bean had an article published in the August 2000 issue of the Pacific Flyer describing the New Years day flight of the 3-airplane tow and some of the problems that occurred.  From my perspective the 3-airplane tow would be a juggling act with a lot of room for error.  If the banner load was large enough to warrant the use of 3 airplanes to make the tow, then any malfunction by any one of the three would jeopardize the others as it did in the crash at Rosemead.  Bob Marks said that the 3rd pilot was "late" in releasing his rope and that the load caused him to stall, and that the pilot had been up late the night before "celebrating".

  3 Stearman banner tow from Dave Bean: 

Regarding the ex-military Twin engine airplane caper: 

Lloyd Duke maintains that the Heasley's got some jail time for not divulging the location of a C-47 they had bought under some not allowed Government laws.  I kept on saying to myself that the name of the "twins" that had the airplane in question was somewhat like some nationality.  Thanks to John Underwood I now have that name.  John wrote: 

"Hey, Bob! 

A good friend, Fred Austin, steered me to your site.    I learned to fly at Grand Central, age 16, in the middle of the last century.   Maj. "Mose" Moseley, who owned the place, gave me my first real job   The upshot of all that was two books on Grand Central Air Terminal.    I'm currently working on one tentively titled the "101 Airports of Los Angeles."   Unfortunately, I now have 105 file cards on airports in LA County, which spoils that title. 

You mentioned the disastrous buzz job of Art Chester's "Wimpy", NX8001H.   The pilot was Mike Argander who I seem to recall was an ex-fighter jock.   He had been involved in racing Rod Nimmo's  Special.   Art himself was killed in a race at San Diego a year later.  

I think your friend Lloyd is wrong about the Heasleys being twins and making off with a C47.   This is off the top of my head, but around here somewhere I have the obit of one of the twins involved in an escapade with a C46.   I think they were the Finn brothers.   Anyway, they got the C-46 from a school somewhere, like Fresno, and the hang-up over the title had to do with a prohibition clause in the transfer of ownership to the school, which permanently grounded the airplane and prevented its re-sale.    

I could easily be mistaken and maybe the Heasleys were twins and maybe they did have a C47 escapade.   It would not surprise me, because they had a lot of airplanes. 

Incidentally, I found a list of what the Heasleys, Bob & Jack, had as of Jan. 1947.   They had the Swift agency for Southern California and owned four or more Interstate Cadets and several Vultee BTs.    I also have listed three Swifts, a Luscombe Phantom, NC278Y, an F 24C8E, NC16357; a PT26, NC57153; a J3F65, NC29041; a Tcraft B12-65, NC34079, and probably a lot more.  

Among your pictures were several taken by Bill Larkins of the airplanes the Heasleys wanted to manufacture.   A gent by the name of Wilbur Bartlett had acquired the manufacturing rights to Vern Babcock's side-by-side shoulder wing monoplane known as the Taubman LC-13 built in 1930.   The project came with the open cockpit prototype, NC998W, and a couple of improved versions, which had bubble canopies over the cockpit and improved streamlining known as the Blue Zephyr which had been approved by the feds for limited production.    I remember seeing one of them unfinished on a trailer, but I never saw the complete airplane as photographed by Larkins, except for 998W. 

998W ended up with a character at San Fernando Airport dba the Lazy Mary Flight Service, who I think owned the airport and got tossed in the pen for reasons unknown.    Anyway, a friend of mine rented it once, went flying one day in his shorts and the old Rover engine backfired on the approach, belched a 6-ft tongue of flame that shot back and singed all the hair off his legs.    It was a real dog but quite distinctive in appearance and guys used to rent it for $5 an hour just to be able to say they'd flown the thing.  I wonder if anybody remembers the bird and knows its fate. 

I didn't know Hardwick personally but well remember his P-38s and his marvelous profanity.   I think I have pictures of the P-38s, but can't remember where they were taken. 

I used to hang out on weekends at 6-S Ranch airstrip, which is now Santa Clarita.    That was probably the first place I ever saw a homebuilt airplane.  Parked next to it was a Rose Parakeet with a flat tire.   It was for sale but the $700 price tag was far beyond my means.   All I could afford was $300, which is what I paid for a '41 Aeronca 65TC, and later for a PT23 for the same amount.   We got to fly the PT for a couple of hours before they red-tagged it for a rotten center section.    Had to buy a derelict PT26 to get a good c/s.   Anyway, that Parakeet is the one Doug Rhinehart up rated to 65 hp (it had a Cont. A-40) and close kin to the Dan's N14881.   

You also mentioned the Mosquito at WHP.   We used to park the PT next to it.   I went to school with Marvin Whiteman, Jr.    We were probably the only kids at Glendale High with pilots licenses.    The difference was that Marvin had a brand new Piper Clipper pepped up by John Thorp and all I had was a '30 Harley VL and a half interest in a Velie-Monocoupe, which Tony Le Vier later breathed new life into as a retirement project.   It's aloft in the Museum of Science & Industry at Expo Park."

I can say with certainty that the name I recall reading about in the newspaper was the "Finn twins" and the picture I recall seeing of the airplane was that of a C-46.  As to whether or not the Heasley's were involved in a similar caper with a C-47 will remain as Lloyd Duke has stated, but that would seem like a rare coincidence.

Dave Bean added a few more notes on Rosemead:  "

This is all I have on Rosemead.   They are extracts from the pages of 'Western Flying' magazine, which lasted into the '60s and had a lot of newsy stuff about what was going on in L.A. County as well as elsewhere in the West. 

WF March '41, page 68.   Under Alhambra Airport: Western Air College is opening another airport at Rosemead, located at Ramona & Rio Hondo. 

WF 9/41, 93.   Western Air College has inaugurated flying at Rosemead Airport.  Walt Cotchett, newly certificated with a PPL, has a Culver Cadet.   Ref to Lee Bartlett story of flight into High Sierras with Tcraft, encounter with gunmen, etc.   Lt K.C. Hawkins has personally taken over management of WAC.   Cotchet is having fun with his Cadet on his days off, works graveyard at Lockheed. 

Not much but gives some insight into what was going on and when the airport started.   The WAC was both flying school and mechanics school, which I think participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program.   Not sure about that, but I have pictures of their operation at Alhambra.  


    For more information on Rosemead, see Paul Freeman's site:

 Rosemead Airport

I only hope this site will help uncover more pictures and history of Rosemead airport. If anyone has any old pictures or story's to tell, please email me at:


The SkyAd Story

Meadowlark Airport

Airplanes I have owned

Flying Trips to Baja

My Favorite Airstrip in Oregon

These other sites are non-aviation related but are a part of my history.

Old Cars

Oregon Beaches

Moving Old John


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