Seely, Jeannine Dixon. 2012. Nightmares and Day Dreams. iUniverse.com. 241 pp.




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


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 It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders.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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


the register


I'm looking for information and photographs of Patty Willis and her 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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Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.



Patty Willis was born in Moline, IL January 5, 1910. She attended public school in Moline, then Belmont High School and Otis School of Art in Los Angeles. She took her first flight sometime when she was in art school. That first flight changed her life interest to aviation. According to U.S. Census data, she attended one year of college. But, she was in the right place at the right time to become one of the female stars of Golden Age aviation.

The 1920 Census placed her (age 3-months) with her parents living in Moline. Her father was listed as a "Tin Smith" in his "Own Factory." The had a servant living with them, Minnie Wilson, age 18. The 1920 Census placed her at age 10 again living with her parents, Roland, age 39, and Florence (40) in Moline. Neither of her parents were employed at that time. During the 1920s, the family moved to Los Angeles from Moline. Her father was employed as an "Overseer" in a "Sheet Metal Parts" shop. They owned their own home, valued at $10,000 at 2721 Bellevue Avenue. Patty, at age 20, was listed as unemployed.

Patty Willis, Pilot Certificate 6481, June 16, 1929 (Source: Web)


Her first flying lesson was on November 9, 1928. Grand Central Air Terminal pilot Howard Batt was her primary instructor. She was a fast learner and soloed December 27, 1928. In the Clover Field Register, she noted she held pilot certificate 6481. A copy of her pilot identification card is at right, as issued six months later on June 16, 1929. It is not clear what class of certificate this was, Private, Commercial, or Transport. At 19 years old, she was a diminutive woman.

Even before receiving her certificate, Willis joined the sales force of Angelus Aero Corporation, Los Angeles Metropolitan Airport, during the spring, 1929. The company became Aeromarine-Klemm's west coast distributor when the Angelus Aero Corporation acquired the company. Coincidentally, Davis-Monthan Airfield Register pilot Boots LeBoutellier was chief pilot for Aeromarine at the time. The next year, Willis landed solo at Clover Field on Friday, May 9, 1930 flying an unidentified Aeromarine-Klemm. She identified "Metropolitan" as her point of departure. "Metropolitan Airport" was listed as the owner of her airplane.

Below, unrelated to her visit at Santa Monica, she is posed with the obligatory biplane of the era. According to the lettering on the fuselage, the aircraft is a Stearman owned by Roy T. Minor who operated a Stearman dealership at Metropolitan Airport.

Patty Willis, Ca. 1930, Probably Metropolitan Airport (Source: Web)
Patty Willis, Ca. 1930, Probably Metropolitan Airport (Source: Web)


WAR Meeting, The New York TImes, April 26, 1931 (Source: NYT)


Just a couple of months after she acquired her pilot certificate, Willis joined the group of elite, and more experienced, female flyers who participated in the first National Air Races (NAR) in which women were allowed to compete. The NAR that year were held at the municipal airport at Cleveland, OH. I could find no record that Willis competed with her sister pilots or flew in any other event of the NAR. However, she appeared in a news film that documented the beginning of the 1929 women's race at Santa Monica. The film has sound, and the description of the action on the film, which occurred on August 18, 1929, is as follows.

Film description: Coverage of the beginning of the Women's National Air Derby from Clover Field, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. Aviators line up for a photo opportunity. An unidentified man introduces Frank T. Copeland, Louise Thaden, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Elder, Evelyn "Bobbi" Trout, Marjorie Crawford, Vera Dawn Walker, and Patty Willis. Blanche Noyes, Elder, and Trout examine trophies. Many scenes of airplanes taking off, including ones piloted by Gladys O'Donnell and Walker. Earhart, standing before a Lockheed Vega, is presented with a flower bouquet. Various scenes of crowds of spectators with J.E. Granger Hangar in the background. More scenes of airplanes taking off; pilots include: Claire Fahy, Florence "Pancho" Barnes, Mary von Mach, Earhart, Ruth Nichols, Elder, and Walker. Final segment is a partially edited story, titled "Women Flyers in Air Derby," with inter-titles, where Nichols describes her forced landing. Also includes take-offs by Earhart, Thea Rasche, and Trout, and aerial views of airplane in flight piloted by Elder.









Note that the film shows a sweep of the J.E. Granger hangar, and the crowd assembled. NC672E (an Avro 594 Avian IV; not a Register airplane) is shown on the ground at 12:00 minutes as the camera sweeps by.

In 1931, Willis was part of the group of women who formed the Women's Air Reserve (WAR), which proposed to serve their country during times of national emergency by flying military aircraft from point to point in the U.S., aerial ambulance, forest fire relief, VIP carriage and any multitude of tasks that would free males for combat or other roles. The fine points of the organization were documented in the article at left that appeared in The New York Times of April 26, 1931, left.

The VIPs in attendance, James Fechet, and the list of members, are a who's who of Golden Age aviators and Register signers. Besides Fechet, Opal Kunz, F.L. "Pancho" Barnes, Mildred Morgan, Gladys O'Donnell, Bobbi Trout, Lillian Porter and Melba Gorby all signed one or more of our Registers.

Many references to Willis in various sources refer to her participation with the WAR. In 1934 she was part of a three-airplane publicity flight from Los Angeles to the east coast with side trips to the NAR in Cleveland, Washington, DC and Philadelphia along the way. She was a passenger with Register pilot Mary Charles in her Travel Air NC684K. The story of the voyage, and the disappointing but safe ending, is at the Charles link over at the Davis-Monthan Airfield Web site at the link. Willis is present in several of the photographs on Charles' Web page. Another photograph of her is at Aline Miller's Web page on this site.

In 1940, Willis, now married at age 30 with the name Patricia Ann Seely, lived at 4053 West Avenue in Los Angeles. She and husband Earl(e?), age 30, had a son Lee Morton Seely (b. 11/29/1935) aged 4. They owned their home, which was valued at $4,500. His occupation was listed as "Machinist" for a "Steam Railroad." He was educated through the 3rd year of high school. The Census did not indicate that she was employed. Her parents, Roland and Florence, still lived at the Bellevue Avenue address in Los Angeles. The effects of the Great Depression showed in the value of their home in 1940. It was valued at $1,950. Roland, however, was now a "Plant Manager" in a "Sheet Metal" factory. He earned $2,500 per year.

Earl, Lee and Patty Seely, Ca. Mid-1940s (Source: Seely Book)


At right, a photograph of Patty, her husband and son, Lee, probably taken during the mid-1940s. This photograph is from the book cited at the top of the left sidebar.

Patty and Earl divorced sometime during the 1940s, because Earl was remarried February 12, 1950 to Suzanna E. Silvester. Earl died in September, 1982 at San Diego, CA. Suzanna died a few years later. I do not know if Patty remarried, but I doubt it. A biography of her son, Lee, published in 2012 by Lee's wife, suggested that Patty was attracted to women as well as to men, which led to her amicable divorce from Earl. The book is cited at the top of the left sidebar.

About 1945 when Lee Seely was 10 years old, his biography states (page 15), "When I was around ten years old, Mom told me she was attracted to Mary Wiggins, more than she had been to anyone else before." Wiggins was a pilot (not a Register signer) and Hollywood stunt performer. Wiggins has a good Web presence. As well (page 22), sometime in 1947, Seely reports in the biography, "My world was rocked beyond belief when Mom 'lost interest' in Dad." And on page 23, "Dad was gentleman enough to say okay to the divorce, and Mom did a complete turnaround once they split up....All Mom ever wanted was to be loved by someone she found interesting. She was not gay but diversified." Then, circa 1952, she placed Lee in a foster home and was living with a woman named Eileen. This was the same year her father passed away, as reported in the Long Beach Independent of October 20, 1952.

The Mountain Democrat, Placerville, CA, September 28, 1979 (Source: Woodling)


There are many gaps in my information for Patty Willis. If you can help fill in the blanks, please let me KNOW. A few years before her passing an article, left, appeared in the Placerville, CA The Mountain Democrat searching for Patricia Ann Seely. The article is self-explanatory. Patrica Ann Willis (Seely) passed away August 1, 1985 in Los Angeles, CA. She was 75 years old. I do not know if she connected with the Society for the Blind.

UPDATE of November 9, 2019. The Shasta Historical Society reached out to us and donated two original photographs of Patty Willis dated 1930. The first shows Willis posed in front of an unidentified biplane. She wears the typical pilots' uniform of the era: leather helmet and goggles, leather jacket and jodhpurs and boots. She also clutches a cigarette in her left hand.

Patty Willis During 1930, Location Unknown (Source: SHS)
Patty Willis During 1930, Location Unknown (Source: SHS)

The second photograph is extremely unusual, because it captures four people and one airplane, all recorded at different times in the Clover Field Register. All these women were pilots. The airplane, a workhorse Aeromarine-Klemm, NC9176, appeared from the Register to be a well-used trainer. The location could be Clover Field.

L-R Katharine Truett, Edith Bond, Patty Willis (in front cockpit) and Hilda Yarmuth With Aeromarine-Klemm NC9176 During 1930, Location Unknown (Source: SHS)
Katharine Truett, Edith Bond, Patty Willis (in cockpit) and Hilda Yarmuth During 1930, Location Unknown (Source: SHS)

Dossier 2.4.32



THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 01/08/15 REVISED: 02/02/16 11/10/19