Capsule Biographies

A : B : C : D : E : F : G : H : I : J : K : L : M
N : O : P : Q : R : S : T : U : V : W : Y : Z


Born, at Alameda CA. August 2, 1903. Died at Buttercup Valley AZ, July 8, 1965.

On July 6, 1930 in a Fleet 2 [NC725V] over San Mateo CA, Albert Paul Mantz set an international record of 46 consecutive outside loops, a most punishing trial for a pilot, which stood for almost 50 years. About that time he headed for Los Angeles, where he founded United Air Services at Burbank, and made his entry into motion pictures as a stunt pilot. There he became popular for his flying skills and dependability in a busy career that lasted until he was killed while filming the final sequences of "Flight of the Phoenix."

At United, his charter service was equally popular with the Hollywood crowd, and his legendary "Honeymoon Express" was in almost continual use by stars heading for Las Vegas marriage (and divorce) parlors. As technical advisor for Amelia Earhart, Mantz contributed his expertise to meticulously plan her pioneering flights in the '30s—sadly, to cut weight, she insisted on removing his long-range radio on her last flight.

As a USAAF Colonel in Special Service Motion Picture Division during WW2, he produced training films for aviation cadets and morale-boosting films for the public with his team of soldier-actors that included Clark Gable, Alan Ladd, Ronald Reagan, and George Montgomery. At war's end, he invested $55,000 in 475 surplus bombers and fighter planes, much to the amusement of his friends—at the time he owned something like the world's sixth largest air force! However, when he drained the fuel in their tanks and resold it for much more than he had paid for the lot, the laughter quickly faded.

Mantz's air racing career, like the man, was also legendary. He came in third in the 1938 and 1939 Bendix races with his old Lockheed Orion, than came roaring in to become the first ever to win the Bendix Trophy three times in a row, 1946-1948, with his red P-51B. In the 1960s he teamed up with another popular movie pilot, Frank Tallman, to form Tallmantz Avation at Santa Ana Airport and supply their Movieland of the Air museum with a combined fleet of working aircraft.

Notable film involvement: "Air Mail" (1932), "Blaze Of Noon" (1947), "The Bride Came COD" (1941), "Ceiling Zero" (1935), "China Clipper" (1936), "Cinerama" (1952), "Flight of the Phoenix" (1965), "Gallant Journey" (1946), "Men Against the Sky" (1940), "Men With Wings" (1938), "Spirit of St Louis" (1957), "Test Pilot" (1936), "Twelve O'Clock High" (1949), "West Point of the Air" (1935), as well as many other lesser features, serials, and short subjects.

  -- Hollywood Pilot; Don Dwiggins (Doubleday 1967)


Born at Santa Ana CA, January 17, 1886,. Died December 5, 1955.

At the time he taught himself to fly in 1909 and 1910, Glenn Luther Martin was a youthful businessman, the owner (at age 22) of Ford and Maxwell dealerships in Santa Ana CA. Although he had taken courses at Kansas Wesleyan Business College before his family moved west in 1905, he lacked a technical background. His first planes were built in collaboration with mechanics from his auto shop, working in a vacant church building that Martin rented. In 1909 Martin made his first successful flight; by 1911 he numbered among the most famous of the pioneer aviators.

Never forgetting his original business training, he was not content with simply performing. In 1912, he set up as a manufacturer, incorporating his operation as the Glenn L Martin Aircraft Co. Unlike companies launched by the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss, which soon came to be managed by people other than their namesakes, Martin Co remained for 40 years under the direct control of its founder. During these four critical decades, Glenn Martin was the senior aircraft manufacturer in the United States.

From the early years of the company, Martin hired trained engineers to design his planes and talented managers to run his factories. The Martin Company provided training and experience to a remarkable number of other aviation manufacturers who later struck out on their own. William Boeing, Donald Douglas, Lawrence Bell, and James S McDonnell founded companies that bear their names. Charles Day, chief designer for Standard Aircraft in World War I, and Charles Willard, co-founder of L-W-F Engineering in 1917, were both former Martin employees as were J H "Dutch" Kindleberger and C A Van Dusen, who ran North American and Brewster, respectively, during WW2.

Martin had a penchant for large planes, and his company came to depend on military orders—this meant bombers. The vast majority of the more than 11,000 planes built by the company before it ceased producing aircraft in 1960, Martin bombers pioneered the doctrine of airpower in the '20s and '30s and served in all theaters in World War 2. (— Glenn L Martin Aviation Museum)

  -- To Ride the Wind; Henry Still (Messner 1964)

Enshrined in National Aviation Hall of Fame 1966.


Born 1885. Died 1956.

James Vernon Martin, aviator and inventor during the pioneering days of aviation. He joined the merchant marine (1900) before attending the University of Virginia and Harvard (graduate degree, 1912). While at Harvard he organized the Harvard Aeronautical Society (1910), served as its first director, and through the Society organized the first international air meet in the US (1910). He traveled to England in January 1911 for flight training and received FAI license #55.

Returning to America in June 1911, he traveled in exhibitions (1911-13) before rejoining the merchant marine as commander of USS Lake Frey in 1914. During 1915 he performed flight tests for the Aeromarine Co. In 1917, he formed the J V Martin Aeroplane Co on the strength of nine aeronautical patents, including his automatic stabilizer (1916) and retractable landing gear (1916). In 1920 he moved the company to Dayton as Martin Enterprises and offered free use of his patents to the American aeronautical industry.

In 1922 he moved to Garden City NY and renamed the company the Martin Aeroplane Factory. Two years later he sued the government and the Manufacturers Aeronautical Association, claiming that they conspired to monopolize the aviation industry. The suit was dismissed in 1926, but Martin continued to press his claims of collusion through the '30s. During WW2 he again went to sea, commanding a troop transport in the Pacific. Afterwards he tried unsuccessfully to raise industry and public interest in a large catamaran flying boat, the Martin Oceanplane. (— K O Eckland)






Born 1896. Died 1980.

Alexis Brenier McMullen. Pilot and administrator involved in the development of American aviation at state, local, and national levels. He learned to fly during WW1, became a flight instructor and Base Engineering Officer. He barnstormed with Mabel Cody after the war and owned or operated flying schools, aircraft distributorships, and other aviation-related companies. As Florida's first State Director of Aviation (1933-36) he planned and implemented the first state-wide aviation development plan in the US.

He joined the Bureau of Air Commerce, Airports Section (Chief, 1936-41), retaining his post when this office joined the CAA as the Airports Division. During and after WW2 he served in the USAAF in several capacities related to Air Traffic Control (1941-47), both in the continental US and in North Africa. After retirement from military service, McMullen founded the National Association of State Aviation Officials in 1948 and remained with the association until he retired in 1970. He also was active in the Air Reserve Association of the US (Executive Director, 1949-53), CAP (National Flight Safety Committee, 1953-58), and Aviation Employees Insurance Co (AVEMCO; Director, 1960-65).


Born at Iuka MS, 1894. Died at Lake Elsinore CA, October 31, 1982.

The Merrill family descended from the frontier's famous Daniel Boone, so it was small wonder that Henry Tindel "Dick" Merrill would be an aviation pioneer! As a commercial pilot for Eastern Airlines from 1928 to 1961 he logged 44,111 hours* in over eight million air miles during his career, equal to a distance to the moon and back 16 times! Eddie Rickenbacker labled him, "The best commercial pilot in the USA"

In 1936 he first attained fame as the first commercial pilot to cross the Atlantic and return in a single trip, accompanied by singer-actor and amateur pilot Harry Richman, at whose suggestion the wings of the modified Vultee V1, Lady Peace, were stuffed with 41,000 Ping-Pong balls for flotation in case of a ditching at sea. Forced to land in Nova Scotia on the return flight because of fuel starvation, while short of his goal, he had set a record that only he would soon break. That adventure was made into a 1937 feature film "Atlantic Flight," starring Merrill as himself. (SEE more info at the Early Aviators website.)

He was hired by Hearst Publishing in 1937 to make another record-breaking round-trip in a Lockheed Electra dubbed Daily Express. Hearst wanted to scoop other American newspapers by acquiring photos of the coronation of King George VI after the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, while Merrill carried fresh photos (not newsreels, as often reported) for England of the Hindenburg disaster, which had occurred shortly before his takeoff. Hearst papers on both sides of the Atlantic published the first pictures of each event and Merrill earned the Harmon Trophy for 1937 for his achievement.

Enlisting in the USAAC in 1939, he was in Brazil as air attaché, and in 1940 with the British and Australians in the Pacific. When war began, he was considered too old to fly combat and settled for service with the Air Transportation Command. He was with the first group of U S aircraft assigned to England, then flew transports in North Africa and CBI theaters. In 1952 he was presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower's personal pilot.

He logged more air miles and flight hours in his long career than any pilot before or since. With current restrictions for maximum flying hours and distances put on commercial pilots, thanks in part to Merrill's lobbying efforts on behalf of the Commercial Pilots Assn in setting FAA standards, his record is thought to be unbreakable. After forced retirement at age 65, Merrill set several world records for jets in 1966 with entertainer and fellow pilot, Arthur Godfrey, and was awarded a gold medal from the Intl Federation of Aviation in 1970 for outstanding achievements.

Merrill neither smoked nor drank and was a devout Christian. His only "vice" was an occasional craps game or a horse race—he kept a pair of green dice with him at all times for good luck. At age 44 Merrill married movie actress Toby Wing, who was almost half his age. Despite predictions in gossip columnists' headlines, "It Won't Last!" they remained happily married for 43 years until his death. (— Christian Evans)

* This figure might include personal and military flight time, or it could be a mistranscription, because several Merrill references show the total as 36,650 hours, which is still impressive.





Born at Nice, France, December 26, 1879. Died at NYC, February 10, 1936.

William "Billy" Mitchell. Pilot, aviation and aerial bombing advocate. As an officer in the Army he served in the Philippines, Cuba, and on the Mexican border, and on the Army General Staff (1913-16). During and after WW1 he held a number of command and staff posts in the Air Service, both in France (1917-19), and in the U S (Director of Military Aeronautics, 1919; Chief of Training and Operations, 1920).

As Assistant to the Chief of Air Service (1921-26), he advocated the creation of an independent Air Service. He arranged demonstrations illustrating the utility of air power through the historic bomber vs. battleship trials (1921), the group flight to Alaska from the continental US (1923), and the Army's Around-the-World Flight of 1924. Mitchell's public criticism of government policies, in defiance of Army regulations, resulted in his court martial for "conduct prejudicial of good order and military discipline" and insubordination in Oct-Dec 1925. Found guilty and suspended for five years, Mitchell resigned his commission in Jan 1926. He continued to promote aviation and decry government inefficiencies until his death.

Enshrined in National Aviation Hall of Fame 1966.
  -- Billy Mitchell: America's Eagle of Air Power; Arch Whitehouse (Putnam's Sons 1962)
  -- Billy Mitchell: Crusader for Air Power; Alfred F Hurley (Watts 1964, Indiana 1975)
  -- Billy Mitchell: Founder of Our Air Force and Prophet Without Honor; Emile Gauvreau & Lester Cohen (Dutton 1942)
  -- The Billy Mitchell Affair; Burke Davis (Random House 1967)
  -- The Billy Mitchell Story; Burke Davis (Chilton 1969)
  -- General Billy Mitchell; Booth Mooney (Follett 1968)
  -- General Billy Mitchell; Helen Woodward (Duell Sloan Pearce 1960)
  -- General Billy Mitchell: Champion of Air Defense; Roger Burlingame (McGraw-Hill 1952, Signet 1956)
  -- Memories of World War I; BrGen William Mitchell (Random House 1960)
  -- Mitchell: Pioneer of Air Power; Isaac D Levine (Duell Sloane Pearce 1943)
  -- My Brother Bill: The Life of General Billy Mitchell; Ruth Mitchell (Harcourt Brace 1953)
  -- Outlines of the World's Military History; BrGen William A Mitchell (Military Service Publ 1940)
  -- Skyways: A Book On Modern Aeronautics; Gen William Mitchell (Lippincott 1930)
  -- Winged Defense; BrGen William Mitchell (Putnams 1925, Dover 1988)


Born at Yuba City CA, February 15, 1858. Died near San Diego CA, October 31, 1911.

John Joseph Montgomery's family moved to Oakland in 1863 when he was five years old. As a toddler he would lie on a pillow and "pretend to fly," his mother said. He watched birds, and he studied clouds, wondering if he could somehow fly by catching one. He flew kites of all shapes and sizes and drafted his brother, James, to help in crude flight experiments. At age 11 he joined a Fourth of July crowd to watch Frederick Marriott pilot a steam-propelled hydrogen balloon, then returned home to build a model of the craft.

He attended Santa Clara University when it was still a college, then transferred to St Ignatius College in San Francisco to a Masters of Science degree. In 1883 the family moved to a ranch near San Diego. His father, Zachary Montgomery, distinguished as a lawyer, journalist, and politician, took up farming and publishing a weekly newspaper. Young Montgomery, as foreman of the farm, wasted no time in setting up a workshop in the barn, complete with a lathe. His sister, Jane, pumped the bellows on a steam boiler for heat to help shape ash strips into parabolic, cambered wing ribs resembling wings of birds he had studied.

In August 1883 he and James carried the parts to a mesa on the ranch and assembled a glider with wings shaped like a gull's. They waited until breezes picked up, then James tied a rope to the front of the craft and waited down the slope for John's signal. He pulled the rope and ran a few steps until the glider rose. At a height of about 15', Montgomery soared 600' to a graceful landing. It was the world's first controlled heavier-than-air flight, and it preceded Orville Wright's engine-driven flight by 20 years.

"[We took my] apparatus to the top of a hill facing a gentle wind," he later described the event. "There was a little run and a jump, and I found myself launched in the air. A peculiar sensation came over me. The first feeling in placing myself at the mercy of the wind was that of fear. Immediately after came a feeling of security when I realized the solid support given by the wing surface. And that support was of a very peculiar nature. There was a cushiony softness about it, yet it was firm. When I found the machine would follow any movement in the seat for balancing, I felt I was self-buoyant..."

Montgomery's feat and subsequent flights did receive some mention by the local press, and later experiments in the 1890s around Santa Clara were publicized, but for years he was largely unrecognized as an aviation pioneer. Even today many aviation history books still ignore him, even though a 1946 feature film, "Gallant Journey," dramatized his story, as did a 1967 biography by Arthur D Spearman, John J Montgomery: Father of Basic Flying.

He continued to study and test his theories of flight between college teaching assignments and earning a PhD from Santa Clara College in 1901. One day a circus daredevil, Daniel John Maloney, who parachuted from balloons, approached him with a plan. "I will have a balloon hoist me in your aeroplane to the 4000' level, then I'll cut it loose and glide to the ground." Maloney's first flight was a 20-minute graceful descent, but a second attempt, in 1905, proved fatal when a dangling balloon release cable tangled above him and caused the glider to crash.

During this period as a mathematics teacher at St Joseph's College, he built a wind-tunnel to experiment with wing shapes and flight controls, patented his "Improvement in Aeroplanes" in 1906, and in 1909 even built an electric typewriter and patented an alternating-current rectifier, which he sold to a San Francisco company and invested the money in aircraft designs.

During two weeks in October 1911, Montgomery had made 55 successful flights at a camp at Evergreen, near San Jose. Despite a doctor's advice that at 53 he should stay on the ground, Montgomery wanted to make one more test flight to evaluate some changes made in his latest craft. It was a fateful decision, for soon after he became airborne the plane stalled, slipped off on a wing, and crashed. A protruding stove-bolt penetrated his brain and he died before a doctor could reach the scene.

John J Montgomery's findings and airplane designs have earned him a well-deserved place with Octave Chanute and Samuel Pierpont Langley as American pioneers in controlled flight before the Wright brothers accomplished their Kitty Hawk milestone. (— adapted from "San Diego Originals" by Theodore W Fuller (California Profiles Publications 1987))

Enshrined in National Aviation Hall of Fame 1964.


Born at Denver CO, April 12, 1906. Died May 7, 1986.

In 1925 Albert W Mooney was a red-haired, energetic 19-year-old who signed on as a draftsman in the newly formed Alexander Aircraft Co in Denver. A serious student of aircraft from age 12, he quickly established a reputation as an aeronautical "engineer."

Within a year he became chief engineer and had designed his first plane, the Eaglerock, a handsome three-place, open-cockpit biplane. In 1928 his design pencil put Alexander into the monoplane business with the Bullet, a sleek low-wing cabin monoplane with innovations like retractable landing gear (Mooney holds one of the four basic patents on retractable gears) and shatterproof glass.

With the nation riding the crest of an economic boom, he left Alexander in 1929 to form Mooney Aircraft Corp in Wichita. With him came his brother, Arthur, master mechanic and right-hand man, to begin production of the Mooney A-1, a four-place, low-wing monoplane of wood and fabric with a fully cantilevered wing—a rarity in light planes at the time. Only a few A-1s were built before the company closed down in 1931 in the Depression.

Next Bellanca hired Mooney as chief engineer in charge of all commercial production, notably several variations of the Skybus and its military version, C-27. In 1935 Mooney moved along to try his hand as a consulting engineer in Washington DC but was soon enticed by a vice-presidency as chief engineer with Monocoupe Aircraft Corp in St Louis. There he developed the Dart and the twin-engine Monocoach.

In 1938 Culver Aircraft Co bought the design of the Dart, and Mooney joined them to design the popular Cadet, a fully aerobatic, single-place low-wing plane. During World War 2 the Cadet was redesigned as one of the first radio-controlled target drones and given the designation PQ-8; a later version as PQ-14 flew faster and higher. In all, 3,000 units of the PQ-8 and -14 were built by Mooney and Culver.

In 1946, partnered with C G Yankey and W L McMahon, Mooney Aircraft Inc opened shop to get in on the expected post-war aviation boom with their new M-18 Mite featuring the now famous "backward" Mooney tail and a 25hp Crosley Cobra that cruised it at 85 mph. At $1995 it was the cheapest, smallest aircraft ever built in quantity, and operators could make money renting them for as little as $5 an hour. During the next six years Mooney Aircraft produced 200 Mites but rising labor and production costs pushed the price up to $3900, and the little Mite's major selling point was gone.

To prevent other Wichita aircraft builders from raiding his work force, Mooney moved the plant to Kerrville TX in 1953, where 50 more Mites were built, but the firm began to lose money on them and soon they were priced out of the market. The rising demand for a more comfortable airplane with greater utility outweighed the advantages of economy and spirit that had made the Mite a darling of ex-military flyers.

Two years later Mooney bounded back with the Mark-20, a four-place, 150hp grown-up version of the Mite. Retaining some of the most advanced features of its little brother, the Mark-20 won Mooney a foremost place in the ranks of aircraft designers.

After Yankey's death in 1953 and corporate problems, he disposed of his holdings in Mooney Aircraft Inc to accept a top design post with Lockheed Martin at Marietta GA, retiring in 1967. (— based on an article by Frank J Clifford, FAA Aviation News)




Born at St Louis MO, August 3, 1894. Died near Samoa, January 11, 1938.

After learning to fly at Venice CA, young Edwin Charles Musick survived the crash in 1911 of a home-made Curtiss clone built with help from a pal, Harry Reynolds. While the plane was a total loss, it led to an illustrious career in aviation starting in 1913 when he made a living as a barnstormer until 1917.

After losing a close friend in a tailspin accident, Musick began studying and analyzing aerial spins, back then quite fearsome and not fully understood, testing his theory of stick and control movements until he found the way to master spins. Because of his findings, inadvertent tailspins lost their deadly charm and became a popular staple in aerobatics.

First commercial job came as a civil flight instuctor with the USAAC in San Diego, then he switched roles and services in 1918 by enlisting as a USMC pilot. In 1920 he resigned his commission to fly for Aeromarine Co and Aeromarine Airways and, subsequently, a few other commercial airlines, finally settling on an offer from Pan American Airways in 1927.

As chief pilot for their Caribbean Division, Musick trail-blazed new routes there and over the Pacific, also set 10 world records while flying his Sikorsky S-42. But his star shone brightest when he inaugurated scheduled transpacific flight on Sept 22, 1935 by flying the air mail in PAA's Martin China Clipper from San Francisco to Manila, via Hawaii, Midway, Wake, and Guam islands, for which he was awarded the Harmon Trophy and made the cover of Time magazine, That was followed by establishing a South Pacific route to New Zealand in 1937.

One of the first pilots to log 10,000 hours of flying, Musick made his last flight on January 11, 1938 on the way to New Zealand in the Samoan Clipper. Shortly after leaving Pago Pago he radioed a report of an engine oil leak, then made a fateful decision to lighten the plane for an emergency landing by dumping fuel, which collected on the wings and made the S-42 a flying bomb. It exploded in mid-air, and neither plane nor survivors were found, only floating wreckage.

Biography: From Crate to Clipper by William S Grooch, Longmans, Green and Co 1939.