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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 here. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.

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Most of this information is from the "Blue Book of Aviation", Roland W. Hoagland, Ed., published in 1932 by The Hoagland Company, Publishers, Los Angeles, CA. 292 pp.

The cover of this handsome book is deeply engraved, and the fly leaves are printed with terrific art deco accents. Inside are brief biographies of contemporary aviation figures, as well as tables of various data.

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Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register
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J.B. ALEXANDER

Jesse Bennett Alexander was a Fairchild aircraft distributor based at the Metropolitan Airport, Van Nuys, CA. He was born in Dallas, TX November 3, 1899. He was high school educated and married young in July 1917. He had two children, daughters, Ruth Elizabeth and, later, Barbara (see below).

His life in aviation was lived at many levels, and he, in turn, touched the lives of many Register pilots.

This photograph, left, is from the April 15, 1939 issue of "American Aviation". The story with the photo was related to his new partnership in an aircraft manufacturing business (Harlow Aircraft Co., Alhambra, CA).

He began his business career as field service assistant for the Lozier Motor Co. in 1914; mechanic in 1916 for Earl V. Armstrong, Inc., Chandler motor car distributors; and mechanic and shop foreman in 1918 for W.P. Herbert Co., Chandler distributors, Los Angeles, CA. Working his way up, he subsequently served this last company as superintendent, salesman, sales manager and vice president and general manager until 1924. In 1924 he turned to aviation, becoming a partner in the Los Angeles-San Diego Airline (with Claude Ryan) until 1927. This company later developed the Ryan monoplane, and became known as the Ryan Airlines.

From 1927 to 1929 he served as chief of aeronautics for Howard Hughes' motion picture epic "Hell's Angels." He reproduced the aerodrome used by Richthofen and the "Flying Circus" for this picture. Below, from friend of dmairfield.org John Underwood, a photograph of Alexander, center, with Jean Harlow on the right and R. Wark on the left. Of interest are the aircraft in the background. The 1923 Fokker C-IVA on the left is aircraft number 439 (not a Register airplane), which was to attempt a Tacoma, WA to Tokyo flight in 1930. It crashed near the point of takeoff and burned in a brush fire. It was restored and is now on exhibit at the Owl's Head Transportation Museum in Rockland, ME. On the right is a Register airplane, the Fairchild F-71, NC24K. It is painted in Hell's Angels livery.

J.B. Alexander, Center, Circa 1927-1929, Location Unknown (Source: Underwood)
J.B. Alexander, Center, Circa 1927-1929, Location Unknown (Source: Underwood)

During the organization of American Airways, Alexander served as western manager, and was identified with the extension of the company's air mail service to the Pacific Coast. Follow the link to see an American Airways pilot cap. Another photograph from Mr. Underwood, below, shows Alexander during that time. He is seated on the right in the white jump suit, among other members of the American Airways crew.

J.B. Alexander, Seated, Right, Ca. 1930 (Source: Underwood)
J.B. Alexander, Seated, Right, Ca. 1930

He then owned the J.B. Alexander Company, based at Metro Airport, western representatives for the Fairchild Manufacturing Company. He was one of the principal organizers of Pacific Air Transport. According to the"Blue Book" (left sidebar), he owned Fairchild "NC238" (not listed in the Register, but see below*). He was a member of Quiet Birdmen and the Flying Club of California (Glendale). His home address was 12137 View Crest Rd. North Hollywood, CA. A quick search on Microsoft "Streets and Trips" verifies that this address still exists.

J.B. Alexander landed twice at the Davis-Monthan Airfield. The first time solo on 9/13/1927 flying a Waco 10, registration number NC1443 (I need information on this airplane). He was headed from Troy, OH, where Wacos were made, to Los Angeles. He landed simultaneously with T.C. Ryan, who was flying Waco NC1444. They may have been ferrying the airplanes from the factory in association with their joint business interest (see above). Regardless, they remained in Tucson overnight and were both inspected by the U.S. Border Patrol during their time on the ground. The second time Alexander landed on 1/13/1932 carrying passenger Edward Sutherland. They were eastbound from Los Angeles to El Paso in an aircraft registered NC218M (no make or model was listed in the Register).

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* As follow up, according to the U.S. list of aircraft registrations, NC218M is a Fairchild KR-34C. It wouldn't be surprising to find him in a Fairchild during 1932.

Whereas "238" is listed either as a Curtiss JN-4C, Monocoupe 90A, Waco 9, or Ryan Navion F. Based on these findings, it wouldn't be surprising, either, that the "Blue Book" may have published "NC238" in error when it actually meant to print "NC218M."

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One of the great things about this Web site is that I have the chance to meet some of the people who contact me with information about the pilots and airplanes of the Davis-Monthan Register. The image below was taken on January 30, 2006. At left is Barbara Collins, J.B. Alexander's daughter, with your Webmaster after our meeting at "The Proud Bird" restaurant in Los Angeles.

J.B. Alexander's Daughter, Los Angeles 1/30/06

We had a great time sharing information and just talking about 'stuff' over dinner. I learned that J.B., which stands for Jesse Bennett, was an inventor as well as a pilot.

I learned from Barbara that patent 2,832,201 was granted to J.B. in April 1958 for his "Dual Engine Yoke" design. Interestingly, the invention paired two horizontally opposed, six- or eight-cylinder, internal combustion aircraft engines in a sandwich configuration. Through an innovative common gearbox system, each engine drove one each of a pair of counter-rotating propellers. See this file for the patent grant and engineering diagrams of his invention.

His intention was to derive the power and safety advantages of a twin-engine aircraft (without the adverse yaw during single-engine operation) with the weight saving and economies of a single-engine aircraft. The design was built, tested and flown in what appeared to be one of the aircraft manufactured by the Harlow Aircraft Co. The Harlow Co., based at Alhambra, CA, was one of J.B.'s ventures founded back in 1939.

I'm not sure of the exact timing of J.B.'s patent applications (the engineering drawings say they were filed June 22, 1956), but his "Dual Engine Yoke" design for internal combustion engines patented in 1958 seems to be a derivative of Britain's Armstrong-Siddley Double Mamba turboprop configuration of almost a decade earlier. The Double Mamba powered the Fairey Gannet AEW 3.

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Group Photograph, Los Angeles, CA, May 29, 2009
Group Photograph, Los Angeles, CA, May 29, 2009

 

 

At right, a photograph taken May 29, 2009, again at the "Proud Bird" restaurant, Los Angeles. Left to right, author John Underwood, Mary Jane Underwood, your Webmaster and Barbara Collins holding a folder of information about her father.

J.B. Alexander was born November 2, 1897. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on December 6, 1976. He had been a long-time sufferer of emphysema.

 

 

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Dossier 2.1.36

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 07/26/05 REVISED: 08/26/05, 02/08/06, 10/24/07, 11/18/08, 06/18/09, 07/08/09, 03/12/10

 
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I'm looking for additional information on the life of J.B. Alexander to include on this page. If you have any you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me.
Thanks to John Underwood for sharing the American Airways photograph with us.
 
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