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YOUR PURCHASE OF THESE BOOKS SUPPORTS THE WEB SITES THAT BRING TO YOU THE HISTORY BEHIND OLD AIRFIELD REGISTERS

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. 375 pages with black & white photographs and extensive tables

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The Congress of Ghosts (available as eBook) is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link.

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Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936 is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.

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Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Available as a free download at the link.

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Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race (available as eBook) is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.

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Clover Field: The first Century of Aviation in the Golden State (available in paperback) With the 100th anniversary in 2017 of the use of Clover Field as a place to land aircraft in Santa Monica, this book celebrates that use by exploring some of the people and aircraft that made the airport great. 281 pages, black & white photographs.

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I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Phillips and his airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.

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THOMAS J. CHESTER "Tex" PHILLIPS

Tex Phillips enjoyed only a short life. He was born in 1903. He died tragically on February 24, 1938 in a late afternoon plane crash at San Simeon, CA. Details of the crash are documented below and at the page for the crashed airplane, NC14250.

I could not locate the 1910 U.S. Census form for Phillips. The 1920 Census placed "T.J." (17 years old) living with his parents at 140 Rose Street, Poolville, TX (NW of Ft. Worth). That location today is a shopping center. His father, Arthur (41) was listed as a farmer and his mother, Josephine (46) was not employed outside their home. An older brother, Theron (18), a younger brother, Herman (13) and two younger sisters, Evelyn (9) and Pauline (7) lived with him. T.J. was listed as a "Driver of Taxi" for a "Transfer Company." His other brothers were farm laborers on their father's farm. The 1930 Census placed him at Monrovia, CA living as a boarder with five others at 306 South Canyon Avenue. His occupation was listed as "Policeman."

Tex Phillips landed and signed the Santa Monica Register once, Wednesday, July 1, 1931 at 12:30PM. He carried one unidentified passenger in the Travel Air 2000 he identified as NC4179, S/N 351.

During the same month, he traveled to Agua Caliente, Mexico and back to Lindbergh Field, San Diego, CA. This border crossing was documented by the U.S. Immigration Service on their form dated Wednesday, July 28, 1931, below. Note that they flew in NC4179.

U.S. Immigration Form, July 28, 1931 (Source: ancestry.com)
U.S. Immigration Form, July 28, 1931 (Source: ancestry.com)

This Mexico-U.S. itinerary was not uncommon for Phillips. He made the same flights in October, 1931 in the Timm Collegiate TW NC945Y with one passenger, and in December, 1931 in the Curtiss Robin B NC78E with one passenger identified as a police officer, and, below, on March 8, 1934 in Stinson SM-8A NC215W with three passengers. Phillips was listed as a policeman in the 1931-32 city directory for Monrovia, CA, so it is not surprising he carried a police officer with him in December, 1931. It was not clear if that flight was on behalf of official police business. He was, in fact, a motorcycle patrol officer in Monrovia from about 1930-36.

U.S. Immigration Form, March 8, 1934 (Source: ancestry.com)
U.S. Immigration Form, March 8, 1934 (Source: ancestry.com)

Coincidentally, Phillips was married to Clover Field Register pilot Allen Russell's sister, Alice. They were divorced ca. 1935-36 and Phillips remarried Ethel Elizabeth Hannah May 22, 1936. Their marriage license is below.

Phillips-Hannah Marriage License, May 22, 1936 (Source: Russell Family)
Phillips-Hannah Marriage License, May 22, 1936 (Source: Russell Family)

 

Rockford Morning Star (IL), February 25, 1938 (Source: Russell Family)
Rockford Morning Star (IL), February 25, 1938 (Source: Russell Family)

 

 

About 1936, Phillips took a job as company pilot for the William Randolph Hearst family of publications. As mentioned above, Phillips was the brother-in-law of Allen Russell, who brought NC14250 to Clover Field on June 2, 1935. Russell had worked for Hearst for a number of years, and it's a good guess that he was instrumental in getting Phillips his job with Hearst in 1936. See further details of Phillips' relationship with the Russell family at the links for Russell and for NC14250.

Hearst built a large, private castle just east of the unincorporated coastal town of San Simeon, CA. Phillips flew mostly the route from San Simeon, CA, where Hearst lived, to the Los Angeles area. Many VIP guests visited Hearst at his castle and it was the job of Phillips and other company pilots to ferry them from Los Angeles to San Simeon and return.

On the late afternoon of Thursday, February, 24, 1938, Phillips was carrying three Hearst guests from Union Air Terminal, Burbank, CA, north to San Simeon. Although the weather was fair at Burbank, ground fog prohibited their airplane, the Vultee NC14250 linked above, from landing safely at San Simeon. Phillips flew around near San Simeon waiting for the fog to lift. It did not, he flew down to take a look and overshot the runway. Some sources say he failed to stop and crashed the airplane off the end of the runway. Other sources say the crash occurred 1-2 miles from the airport environment.

The Rockford Morning Star (IL) February 25, 1938 reported the accident, left. Besides Phillips, passengers Lord and Lady Plunket, were killed. The airplane was burned and was damaged beyond repair. NC14250 appeared in no other Registers.

T.J. Chester "Tex" Phillips, February 24, 1938 (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
T.J. Chester "Tex" Phillips, February 23, 1938 (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)

 

The aftermath of the crash was covered by newspapers across the country. Many re-reported the loss of the Plunkets and the injuries to passenger James Lawrence. Passenger Lawrence (a bobsled champion), was the son of Sir Walter Lawrence. He was the sole survivor.

The only photograph I have of Phillips is at right from the San Francisco Chronicle, February 24, 1930 (via a Russell family member). That newspaper published a detailed account of the accident, with photographs of the Plunkets.

The news didn't stop for a couple of weeks. After the wreckage was cleared, the papers reported on the movement of the dead from San Simeon to Monrovia for Phillips, and from San Simeon back to England for the Plunkets. This was a horrific event, made more famous by the principals' connections with Hearst. Lawrence was badly burned about the head, back and hands. He survived the accident and subsequent news accounts mentioned his steps toward healing. I have no information about the ultimate fate of Lawrence. If you do, please let me KNOW.

Phillips' Grave Stone, 1938 (Source: findagrave.com)

Phillips was buried at Monrovia, CA. His grave marker is above. Note the wings and propeller. He flew West carrying Transport pilot certificate T1280.

If you search for "Hearst Castle" on Google Earth and scroll to the southeast, you will see not only the castle, but also the approximate location of the old airstrip used by NC14250 and Phillips, and probably Russell at one time or another.

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