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Thanks to the Hefley family for sharing photographs and information for this page.

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According to his family, Hefley donated all of his memorabilia to LSU Shreveport. The Louisiana State University at Shreveport Library Archives (LSUSLA), Noel Memorial Library Archives & Special Collections hold many documents related to Hefley's life in aviation, including photos, newspaper articles, and a pamphlet from a flying school at which he was an instructor. His collection is described by the Library as:

"134 EDWIN HEFLEY PAPERS, 1907-1947. 4 linear ft.

Edwin Hefley was an aviation pioneer and former pilot for; N. C. McGowan, Sr. of United Gas, Henry Ford II of Ford Motor Company and John D. Ewing, Sr. of the Shreveport Times newspaper. Papers include; photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and assorted additional; materials relating to aviation from the 1920's to the 1950's."

LSU also has an oral interview on tape but Hefley was starting to suffer dementia at the time and he was slow to recall.

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Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.

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EDWIN "Eddie" JOSEPH HEFLEY, Sr.

Edwin Joseph Hefley, Sr., Early Portrait (Source: Woodling)

 

"Eddie" Hefley was born July 26, 1908 in Emmetsburg, IA. The 1910 U.S. Census, his first, listed him at two years old living with his father, William (age 55), mother, Mary (49), and three older brothers, Joe (10), Maurice (7) and Hearold (5). His father's occupation was listed as "Bartender" in a "Saloon." They lived in Emmetsburg.

According to the 1920 Census, Hefley and his family had moved to Turney Township, SD and lived on a farm. Hefley was 11 years old and his father had switched occupations to "Farmer/Stockman."

Nine years later, Hefley signed the Santa Monica Register once on Friday, November 15, 1929 at 3:26PM. He was 21 years old. Portrait, right, shows him near that time.

Stinson NC460H in O'Neil Brothers Livery (Source: Hefley Family)
Stinson NC460H in O'Neill Brothers Livery (Source: Hefley Family)

 

He carried two unidentified passengers in this airplane, the Stinson he identified as NC460H (a Model SM-6B, S/N 2004). The photograph of his airplane, left, is courtesy of his family. It was painted green and red (see below). He and his passengers arrived at Tucson from Salt Lake City, UT. Hefley noted in the Register that the airplane was owned by "O'Neil Brothers" of Cutbank, MT. According to the biographical article, below, published in 1954, "Kip" O'Neil was an oil operator in Great Falls, MT. The airplane burned in a hangar fire while under O'Neil Brothers' ownership.


According to his obituary (see below), he began his aviation career early at age 15 in St. Louis, MO, where he attended the Sweeney School of Aeronautics. He studied both mechanics and piloting, and earned his pilot license in Rapid City, SD. And according to information at FindaGrave, Hefley was a veteran pilot, with wide commercial experience. A year before his landing at Clover Field, in 1927, he flew an air ambulance for Dr. F.W. Minty, as shown in the photograph below, courtesy of Hefley's family. The airline company (Rapid Air Lines) and the location of the air ambulance service (Rapid City, SD) are painted on the fuselage.

E.J. Hefley, Sr. in Cockpit of Air Ambulance, 1927 (Source: Hefley Family)
E.J. Hefley, Sr. in Cockpit of Air Ambulance, 1927 (Source: Hefley Family)

Hefley was employed by the Black Hills College of Aviation, which was operated by Rapid Air Lines. A 1929 Black Hills College of Aviation brochure described the school's business and listed the personnel, including Hefley. You may download a PDF (203kB) of the brochure at the link. You will see in the brochure that Hefley's older brother Jo [sic] was a mechanic for Rapid Air Lines. Below is a schedule of flights and fares to and from the cities served by Rapid Airlines.

Rapid Air Lines Time-Table, August, 1929 (Source: Woodling)
Rapid Air Lines Time-Table, August, 1929 (Source: Woodling)

A photograph of about the same vintage, below, shows Hefley standing in front of one of Rapid Air LInes' Ryan aircraft. On the forward fuselage is painted "Sister Ship of Lindy's." At the time almost all Ryan aircraft were "sister ships of Lindy's," building on the fame of Charles Lindbergh, who flew the Ryan NYP NX211 across the Atlantic solo during May, 1927. The rear fuselage text on the image below looks like "Rapid Air Lines, Safe and Sure xxxx."

Eddie Hefley and Ryan Aircraft, Ca. 1927 (Source: Hefley Family)
Eddie Hefley and Ryan Aircraft, Ca. 1927 (Source: Hefley Family)

A more clear version of the photo above identifies the pilot, the airplane, and gives a view of the registration number, below. The airplane is NC5550, a Ryan B-1 Brougham, S/N 115. It was named the "Black Hills Eagle." There is a photograph of a Ryan Brougham in the brochure download above. It is unclear if the airplane in the brochure is the "Black Hills Eagle."

Hefley With Rapid Air LInes Ryan, NC5550 (Source: Woodling)

 

One Emmett Doherty, April 1, 1924 (Source: LOC)

 

 

Sometimes circumstantial evidence emerges that places a pilot at Clover Field, but there is no signature in the Register to confirm a landing. An example is the letter, below, dated February 1, 1930. Hefley was authorized by Mexican customs authorities to travel from Clover Field to Tijuana, Mexico carrying one Emmett Doherty accompanied by five unidentified people. They were at Santa Monica on February 1st, but there is no entry in the Register to document their presence. The airplane was the Stinson NC460H. We learn from this form letter that NC460H was painted green and red. February 1st was a Saturday that year, and Tijuana was a popular watering hole for thirsty Americanos during Prohibition (which wouldn't end until 1933). I did not research him, but a photograph of one Emmett Doherty from the Library of Congress (LOC) dated April 1, 1924, right, could be passenger Doherty. If you know anything about passenger Emmett Doherty, please let me KNOW. According to the form, Hefley was 21 years old and single.

 

 

 

Mexican Customs Form, February 1, 1930 (Source: Hefley Family)

From the early 1930s on, Hefley was the corporate or personal pilot (see below) for, in chronological order, the O'Neil brothers, Norris Cochran "N.C." McGowan, Sr. of the United Gas Corporation based at Shreveport, LA, Henry Ford II of the Ford Motor Company, and John D. Ewing, Sr. of the Shreveport Times (LA), for whom he worked ten years. Below, courtesy of the Hefley family, is a photograph of Hefley at left in double-breasted suit, with Henry Ford II at right with his wife. The other gentleman is unidentified. The airplane is a Beech model 18.

Eddie Hefley, Left, With Henry Ford II, Right, Date Unknown (Source: Hefley Family)
Eddie Hefley, Left, With Henry Ford II, Right, Date Unknown (Source: Hefley Family)

Near the beginning of WWII, Hefley was registered for the draft as documented in his draft card, below. He was listed as 32 years old, making his registration date ca. 1940. His employer, Union Producing Company, was a major subsidiary of the United Gas Corporation. It was one of the first distributors of natural gas in the U.S. during the 1930s. United Gas Corp. was merged with Pennzoil in 1968.

Edwin Joseph Hefley, Sr., WWII Draft Card, Ca. 1940 (Source: ancestry.com via Woodling)
Edwin Joseph Hefley, Sr., WWII Draft Card, Ca. 1940 (Source: ancestry.com via Woodling)

About this same time Hefley was married to Dorothy. They eventually had three children. Notice that the name of his place of birth is misspelled on his draft registration, and that his address was changed on March 27, 1941.

E.J. Hefley With B-24, Ca. 1940s (Source: Woodling)
E.J. Hefley With B-24, Ca. 1940s (Source: Woodling)

 

 

For the duration of World War II, Hefley was first a test pilot and then chief pilot at Ford's Willow Run factory, and as such he test-flew upon completion most of the B-24s built there. According to his family, Hefley said that he "...flew the first one and the last one made, and a hell of a lot of them in between."

 

 

At right Hefley stands with one of the B-24 aircraft he flight tested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a view of the interior of the Willow Run facility with B-24s on the assembly line.

Ford Willow Run B-24 Manufacturing Plant During WWII (Source: Hefley Family)

 

Below, a photograph of a B-24 with a group of people posed around it. The people are identified in the handwritten listing. Hefley is number 25, squatting at far left.

Ford-Made B-24, 451592, May 1, 1945 (Source: Hefley Family)

This B-24 was built in 1944. According to Joe Baugher's site, the serial number is derived by putting a dash after the first digit, prefixing a 4, and you have the serial number 44-51592 signifying that it was built in 1944. The airplane was a Ford B-24M-30-FO Liberator.

 

The Mason City Globe Gazette (IA), May 28, 1947 (Source: Woodling)
The Mason City Globe Gazette (IA), May 28, 1947 (Source: Woodling)

Its identification number does not show up in the listings at Baugher. The list stops at 51589 and continues at 51655. I do not know the reason for this, and I do not know the fate of the airplane. It may have, however, been scrapped right out of the factory, or put to civilian use, because WWII in Europe ended May 7, 1945 and in the Pacific a few months later.

The front office of a B-24 was not spacious, as shown in this photograph below supplied by Hefley's family. He spent many hours in the left seat.

Cockpit of the B-24 Aircraft (Source: Hefley Family)

Post-WWII Hefley continued with his executive flying. When he flew for the Shreveport Times, he, his employer and their airplane made the news because of a freak snowstorm in May, 1947, left.

Note that employer John D. Ewing was active in national and Louisiana Republican politics, as well as in journalism and corporate advisory positions. The late Louisiana governor Huey Long, a staunch, progressive Democrat, referred to Ewing as "Public enemy No. 1," most likely because of the coverage he received by the Shreveport Times.

An interesting artifact of Hefley's flights in the southwest is the postcard, below, postmarked October 12, 1950.

Penny Postcard from El Paso, TX Airport, October 12, 1950 (Source: Hefley Family)

The manager of the El Paso Municipal Airport saw fit to thank Hefley for his business. The card was sent on the occasion of Hefley purchasing the millionth gallon of fuel at the airport.

Penny Postcard from El Paso, TX Airport, October 12, 1950 (Source: Hefley Family)
Penny Postcard from El Paso, TX Airport, October 12, 1950 (Source: Hefley Family)

A nice biographical piece was written about Hefley in his hometown newspaper, the Emmetburg Reporter (IA), October 19, 1954, below. The article describes his employers and a couple of accidents he had along the way.

The Emmetsburg Reporter (IA), October 19, 1954 (Source: Woodling)
The Emmetsburg Reporter (IA), October 19, 1954 (Source: Woodling)

The Shreveport Times' (LA) Beech, "Newsboy," August 10, 1945 (Source: findagrave)

 

The Emmetsburg Democrat (IA), June 18, 1936 (Source: Woodling)

 

The article, right, from the Emmetsburg Democrat (IA), June 18, 1936, describes his harrowing 1936 accident in more detail.

His work with Ewing continued into the 1950s. For the Shreveport Times, Hefley was the pilot for theBeech twin D-18 named "Newsboy," pictured, left, with Hefley beside it. This photograph is also in the LSUSLA, cited in the left sidebar.

Edwin Joseph Hefley, Sr., Ca. 1950s (Source: findagrave)
Edwin Joseph Hefley, Sr., Ca. 1950s (Source: findagrave)

 

Hefley's family does not have his pilot log books, but recall him remarking that he "had 10,000 hrs in a D-18." The biographical piece, above, cites 14,000 hours total time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beech D-18 "Newsboy" was NC80206, a Model D-18S, S/N A-183, manufactured in 1946. It is pictured below. The location is Shreveport, LA.

Beech D-18, NC80206 (Source: Woodling)
Beech D-18, NC80206 (Source: Woodling)

From what I can determine, the airplane is still registered with the FAA and lives with its owner in Dallas, TX. According to the FAA record, the last FAA annual inspection of the airplane occurred in July, 1954 and its airworthiness status is listed as "revoked," thus it is not airworthy. If anyone has contemporary photographs to share on this page, please let me KNOW.

E.J. Hefley, Sr. Obituary, Shreveport Times (LA), August 28, 1993 (Source: findagrave)

 

The Shreveport Times' (LA) Beech, "Newsboy" (Source: Hefley Family)
The Shreveport Times' (LA) Beech, "Newsboy" (Source: Hefley Family)

 

 

 

Another, undated, photograph of Hefley with "Newsboy" is at left. The location is unknown.

Another photograph of Hefley from 1954 is below. The remains of any burns from his 1936 accident are not evident in this photograph.

Edwin Joseph Hefley, Sr., 1954 (Source: Woodling)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hefley's obituary, above, identifed him as an early proponent of executive flying. Interestingly, other Register pilots and passengers were early adopters of aviation for private business. Among them were Harry Ashe, Harry Culver, James B. Dickson, William McAdoo, Wiley Post and many others. Hefley might have been "among the first pilots" in executive flying as stated in the article at right, but he was not the first.

 

Hefley died August 25, 1993 at Shreveport, LA. His obituary from the Shreveport Times (LA), Aug. 28, 1993, is above. Hefley flew West carrying Transport pilot license T2960.

 

About a year after his visit at Clover Field, Hefley flew the same Stinson to the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ and signed the Register on November 7, 1930. His daughter said of him, "...my dad was a man of limited means and formal education. But, he was a prime example of what a person is capable of, when they follow their passion and dreams."

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