Mature Pilot

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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. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.

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Please invoke this link for a manuscript describing Standard Air Lines and some of its pilots (PDF download, 670KB).

Review the pages on this site for Paul Richter and Jack Frye for more information about Standard Air Lines.

 
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THE HAROLD B. "HAP" RUSSELL

PHOTOGRAPH AND DOCUMENT COLLECTION

Image Grouping ID: Box Contents

What follows has to be one of the most significant insights into a Davis-Monthan pilot's private judgement about things that are important. What's in a box? Scroll on and you'll realize what I mean.

Box Exterior

Image, above, of the small wooden box found along with other artifacts and memorabilia in the cardboard carton. Image, below, shows the inside bottom of the box. It was made in 1907 by Edward G. Russell, Hap's father (and Hap's son's namesake).

The box appears to be a craft project kit, which would be bought undecorated and unfinished. A pencil wood burner was used to burn the designs and texts, color added, and the whole shellacked. The latch and hinges were of brass-colored metal.

Hap was born on March 4, 1904, so it is easy to imagine this could have been a project where a curious three-year old stood watching his father etch the box, smelled burning wood and alcoholic shellac, and maybe learned some early mechanical skills and aesthetic sense through seeing the cherry motif develop under his father's touch. While the sketch symbolism is open for interpretation, the box could very well have been a Christmas present for Hap's mother, with Cupid's arrow and a peace dove signifying the nature of the family bond.

Box Interior

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Inside the box come wonderful things. Like this image and article of Hap's school. Note the folds from being in the box...

School Article

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Like these two flood scenes at the early Dutch Flats landing field (Ryan Field) in San Diego. Hap learned to fly here in the early 1920s. Click this link to view a related news article (PDF download 749KB) from 1923. This article was tightly folded in the box. Besides images of Hap in this download, at the far right of one of them you'll see a very young Claude Ryan, who owned and operated the field at that time...

Dutch Flats Flood Scenes

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Like Hap's original transport license, number 2571, dated May 23, 1928. Since this is a "duplicate" certificate, and "American Airways" is on his cap, this is probably not the actual license he carried in his pocket when he flew for Standard Air Lines and landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield. We may never know what happened to the original...

Hap Russell Transport License, 1928

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This early (probably official) American Airways portrait....

Early American Airways Portrait

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Below, reviewing flight plan (?) during early American Airways job. Note the prop is turning! This image looks like it was taken in conjunction with this one.

Reviewing Flight Plan

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A news article from 1936 during his American Airlines career. Note the accompanying article describing telephone hookups to airplanes on the ground. It was decades later that passenger access to air-to-ground telephony was available.

"Stepping Ahead on Wings" details Hap's flight hours at 10,500 during 15 years of service. That equates to 700 flight hours per year, a considerable total for the era.

News Article, 1936

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News article: pilot at leisure...

News Article 3/10/37

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Bendix Trophy Race Ribbon
Bendix Trophy Ribbon

Left, an identification ribbon for the 1937 Bendix Trophy Race at Union Air Terminal. There is no information about whether this ribbon was worn by Russell.

The Bendix Race started at Burbank, CA. Total prize money was $25,000. The Los Angeles to Cleveland race was won in 1937 by Frank Fuller in a Seversky P-35. His speed was 258.20 MPH and he covered the distance in 07:54:26.3. He won $9,000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Below, fishing in Galveston, TX...

Fishing in Galveston, TX

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Below, a box within a box. These brand-new business cards, in protective sheath, were used by American Airlines Flagship pilots: a status symbol equal to their role in early air transport.

AA Business Cards

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Below, an inexpensive plastic slide rule, with instructions. We can see him solving wind triangles with this.

Cipher Stick

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Below, two American Airways pilots, probably during the early 1930s. Russell is at right. The other pilot is unknown (but he appears in another image on Harold Kelsey's biography page). Does anyone KNOW who he is?

Two Pilots

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Below, the lucky rabbit's foot, showing wear from the two-million miles he flew. Although the use for the keys is unknown, we hypothesize they were company locker keys. The hula fob "dances" when tilted back and forth.

Lucky Key Chain

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Below, a letter from Hal Forrest, author of the "Tailspin Tommy" pulp hero series. This letter was probably written when Russell looked like the sixth image on this page. The "original" autographed copy of "Tailspin Tommy" was not among Russell's materials.

Letter from Tailspin Tommy

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Below, the mature American Airlines pilot. A two-million miler.

Mature Pilot

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Below, American Airlines company ID from his later career. Note the employee number!

Late Career Company ID

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Below, three articles from his Standard Air Lines days in the late 1920s.

Undated Article

 

Undated Article

 

Undated Article

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These links will get you PDF downloads of various news articles (some undated) that were folded in the box. Link one (undated articles, 245KB), link two (News Article 11/21/42, 809KB), link three (News article 11/23/42, 1.16MB). These images are not high-quality, because the articles were folded tightly in the box.

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Finally, we save the best for last. Below, two views of the most significant treasure from the box. A simple charm bracelet? Not likely. Rather, it is a rare and comprehensive symbol and representation of one pilot's 35-year career with a major U.S. air transport company.

Charm Bracelet

American Airlines presented its pilots with five-year pins. The first one held a single ruby. The ten-year pin was graced with a single diamond. Fifteen years, a diamond and a ruby, and so forth. Study the bracelet and find three diamonds and a ruby. Russell had each pin attached to a blank charm, fashioned into a bracelet, and presented to his wife. A career on a wrist!

Charm Bracelet

So, you ask, what's in a box? When you can see and handle a humble guy's ego through his treasures, as a researcher of Golden Age history and builder of this Web site, it just doesn't get much better for me than this. Thanks, Ed, and thanks "Hap".

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 11/13/06 REVISED: 08/20/07

 
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Hap Russell, ca. 1929
Hap Russell

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