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Most of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Wood, CW-854000-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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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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The definitive reference for early Lockheed aircraft is:

Allen, Richard S. 1988. Revolution in the Sky: The Lockheeds of Aviation's Golden Age. Orion Books, NY. 253 pp.

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JOHN P. WOOD

John P. Wood, ca. 1929 (Source: NASM)
John P. Wood, ca. 1929

John Perry Wood was born May 28, 1897. His father was Dr. Harry Almon Wood. He had a younger brother  named Northup who was killed in a train wreck, and two sisters named Lucy and Dorothy. According to a copy of his WWI registration card shared by a site visitor, he was born in Buffalo, NY and was attending Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, PA when he filled out his card. He was 21 years old and had brown eyes and dark brown hair.

I have no information about his military service, but his registration card was dated June 5, 1918, so he probably didn't make it to Europe.

Wood was an air racer and winner of the 1928 National Air Tour. You can learn more about all the tours at the Ford Air Tour link. At 32 years old he was president of the Northern Airways Company based in Wausau, WI.

Note the news photo at left has his middle initial as "T." This is understandable, as his signature in the Register shows his middle initial flourished with a sweeping cross loop defining the "P", which is easily mistaken for a "T." The headline on the photo foretells his fate, which you will learn below.

John Wood landed at least three times at Tucson. The first time, on July 10, 1928, he did not sign the Register. But we know he was there because his airplane, painted "Baby Ruth" appears in this motion picture film taken that day in Tucson when all the Air Tour planes descended on the old Airfield at about 11:30AM. Please note that Wood's airplane number cited at the Air Tour link above is in error. His airplane was NX5533 (see below), not 5633 as in the citation.

 

Below, from friend of dmairfield.org Andy Heins, is John Wood in "Baby Ruth" (NX5533). He appears to be carrying a case for navigational charts. It is hard to tell, but one surface appears to be transparent, allowing him to fold and carry the charts on his lap for easy readability, protected from prevailing cockpit winds.

John Wood and Waco NX5533, "Baby Ruth" (Source: Heins)
John Wood and Waco NX5533, "Baby Ruth"

For his second landing on September 11, 1928 he was westbound from New York to Los Angeles, CA competing in the Class B transcontinental event in conjunction with the1928 National Air Races. He flew Waco NX5533 (S/N A-7, manufactured in 1928). He placed third (24:31:08) behind the winner John Livingston (22:56:59) in Waco NX7527.

Below, courtesy of Andy Heins, we see the Waco with John Wood. He sports a blazer, bowtie and knickers.

John P. Wood and Waco 5533 (Source: Heins)
John P. Wood and Waco 5533

The location of this image is unknown. Can anyone identifiy the place, or the automobile? Here, from the Web, is another image of Wood and his winning Waco. Blazer, bowtie and knickers are evident again in that photograph.

His third landing was on September 22, 1928. Wood arrived late in the afternoon and remained overnight at Tucson, departing the next morning at 6 AM eastbound for Wausau, WI, his home base. He noted in the Remarks column of the Register, "return from races".

Below, two images from author Terry Bowden. This first image, taken during the Gardner Race, East St. Louis, IL, May 30, 1929, appeared in his article at the link (p. 225). This closeup cockpit view is from the Parks College Archives, Henry Schnittger Collection.  The Airplane is a modified ATO "Clipped" Taperwing Waco NR736E (not a Register airplane). The device above his head is identified as being, "...some sort of closable windscreen."

The caption on the image "Fargo to St. Louis" is referring to one of 5 preliminary qualifying races held the day before as a prerequisite to the Gardner.  He placed 4th in the "final" which was held from East St. Louis to a pylon at the Indianapolis 500 racetrack in Indianapolis and return to Parks Field in East St. Louis.  This happened on Memorial Day, the same day as the Indy 500 race, but author Bowden can find no reference in Indy 500 history that mentions the Gardner airplanes flying overhead.

John Wood, May 1929 (Source: Bowden)
John Wood, May 1929

Image, below, was also taken at the May 1929 Gardner Race. It is a print provided to Mr. Bowden by Drina Welch-Abel with the credit "Photo by Fred O'Kobernuss via Larry Ladd".  This is the same airplane with the Gardner Race number 4 on the side. We wonder what he had in his pocket.

John Wood, May 1929 (Source: Bowden)
John Wood, May 1929

Alas, after the Gardner Race, Wood had about 90 days remaining in his life.

John P. Wood, Obituary, September, 1929 (Source: Jenkins)
John P. Wood, Obituary, September, 1929 (Source: Jenkins)

A few months later, his racing successes were tested again as he competed in the 1929 trans-continental National Air Races from Los Angeles, CA to Cleveland, OH. Intimations of his results are in the headline of the image at left from the New York Sun of Tuesday, September 3, 1929, exhibited at the top of this page.

After being forced to restart their race due to fuel problems, Wood and his mechanic, Ward Miller, disappeared soon after the beginning of their second attempt eastward. The New York American of Wednesday, September 4, 1929 solved the disappearance.

Ward Miller was found by a prospector in a daze wandering alone in the desert near Needles, CA. All he was able to remember was an explosion which hurled him from the roaring airplane and that he then lapsed into unconsciousness just as he pulled the ripcord on his parachute.

When he regained his senses, Miller said, he found himself prostrate in the desert. He saw bits of the wing of the airplane, but could not find pilot Wood or the airplane, NC859E (S/N 67), a Lockheed Vega (not listed in the Register). Parties on foot, horseback and automobile were dispatched from Needles to search for Wood. It was hypothesized the airplane could have been struck by lightning, as a severe storm raged the morning of their flight.

The New York Times of Sunday the 5th reports on the end of the search. The Lockheed with Wood aboard was found by an airplane flown by Register pilots E. Burrill Smith and Bobby Loutt. They were probably in an Alexander Eaglerock airplane, as that is the preferred mount of Smith. They found the airplane and landed near the wreckage on the desert floor.

They found Wood's body directly behind the engine. The airplane had not burned, but a wing was gone. The Times states, "Smith and Loutt expressed the belief that Wood had driven his machine into the heavy electrical storm that struck the district Monday. Apparently, they said, the ripping crosswinds unbalanced the ship and when the wing exploded, threw it into a tail spin. Helpless, the plane probably dropped crazily to earth and was demolished. There were indications the motor had been running when the ship struck."

At right, his obituary from an unidentified Kentucky newspaper, dated September 9th. Register pilot Loutt accompanied Wood's body from California to Kentucky. John's mother's family was from Louisa, KY, that's why his funeral and interment was held there.  Wood was unmarried.

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Dossier 2.1.180

UPLOADED: 01/31/08 REVISED: 02/25/08, 04/16/08, 12/19/09, 03/11/10

 
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Images on this page are courtesy of Andy Heins and Terry Bowden (please see the links in the center column).

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