OTHER RESOURCES

Some of this information comes from the biographical file for pilot Loening, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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Loening, Grover. 1935. Our Wings Grow Faster. Doubleday, Doran & Co. Garden City, NY. 203pp.

This book is listed in the REFERENCES, with a period book review and a photograph of Loening. It covers, "... the yesterday of aviation."

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GROVER CLEVELAND LOENING

"BUDDING YOUNG GENIUS"

Grover Loening, Date Unknown (Source: Loening)

 

Grover Loening landed twice at Willow Grove. His first visit was on Wednesday, June 11, 1930. His second, on Saturday, October 4, 1930, was with a single, unidentified passenger (but, see below). Both times he was flying an unidentified Curtiss Robin (but, see below). They identified their home base as New York, NY. That's all we have from the Register for pilot Loening.

Portrait, right, from the fly leaf of his book, cited in the left sidebar. His book, "Our Wings Grow Faster," was authored by him in 1935. The book was not a biography. Rather, it was a series of extended anecdotes about early aeronautics and personalities, his early flying experiences, and the development of his business. Actually, this was the third book to-date published by Loening (see below). He would publish four more before his death.

My research at the Smithsonian (left sidebar, top) uncovered his pilot logbook for June, 1930. Below is an image of the page that includes information for his first visit at Willow Grove on June 11th (see the 3rd & 4th lines). From it we learn that the Robin he flew was NC8365, S/N 222.

He was also providing, "Transportation G.L. & Marka." This was in reference to himself, and his fiancée Marka Truesdale of New York. The weather was "Fine" that day. According to his log, he arrived at Pitcairn Field from "ACC" and returned to ACC on the same day. I can find no information about "ACC." If you know anything about it, please let me KNOW.

Grover Loening, Pilot Log, June, 1930 (Source: NASM)

A couple of explanations for "ACC" might be that Loening was the first president of the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce (ACC) in 1922, the year the new trade organization broke away from the Manufacturer's Aircraft Association. However, he was not the president in 1930, but he might have been flying on behalf of Chamber business, since he was still on the Council of Past Presidents for the organization. Another explanation is "Aviation Country Club." The Hicksville, LI, NY Club was the first one in the country (dedicated ca. 1928-29). Loening was a member. You will find mention of him at the link, as well as an interesting history of a swank airplane hangout for its socially elite members (membership fee was $250; annual dues were $150). Take some time to explore the Web site at that link. It presents a lot of interesting aviation history.

What is interesting about this log book page is that, at age 48, it captures Loening's wedding trip. He married Marka Truesdale in Pittsburgh soon after they visited Willow Grove, on June 28, 1930. On line 7, dated June 30th, he notes, "M. & G.L. on wedding trip. BAG pilot." It is not clear what "BAG pilot" means. Perhaps someone with the initials B.A.G. flew them in their 3-place Robin to their honeymoon destination. Regardless, Loening was back to work on July 19th flying an unidentified Teal. Both Loening and Truesdale were high on the social register, and they were paired in their ranks. It is clear that Marka liked to fly. She is recorded on flights in June, as well as in October.

His October landing was also documented in his pilot log, below. Again he and his passenger(s) flew NC8365. The purpose of the flight, "Transportation...," for himself and his new wife was the same. The weather was, "N wind."

Grover Loening, Pilot Log, October, 1930 (Source: NASM)

 

Loening Pilot Log, 1930s, Address Information (Source: NASM)

 

 

Note that he had accumulated 278 flight hours by the middle of October, 1930. He would be termed a low-time pilot.

Another piece of information from his pilot log was his street address during the early 1930s. It was 25 East 67th Street, New York City. This address today appears to be the same brick apartment building on the northwest corner of 67th and Madison Avenue, as pictured below in Google Earth. The green canopy, in mid-morning sun, has the address written in words. The location is a block east of Central Park.

 

 

 

 

 

Grover Loening Street Address, Early 1930s (Source: Google Earth)

 

Grover Loening, Ca. 1922 (Source: Ancestry.com)

 

Photograph, right, from his U.S. passport application, December 12, 1922, age 34. Grover Loening was one of the more well-known aviation entrepreneurs of the Golden Age who left his mark on civil and military aviation as a pioneer aeronautical engineer. Apparently, he was anything but modest. The first line of his 1935 volume gives us an example: "Like that of many a budding young genius of the present day, my story involves the customary, almost classic, beginning of aviation careers." He went on to reflect on his building of airplane models, hanging around at airfields and his first flights.

Loening was born September 12, 1888 in Germany at the American consulate in Bremen. His father was United States consul there in the administration of President Grover Cleveland, for whom he named his son. Loening had two older brothers, Rudolph and Albert, who were also aviators and aviation entepreneurs during the Golden Age and beyond. Born well-off, Loening was educated at the Cutler School in New York. Later he entered Columbia University where he was graduated with his engineering degree in 1911. Immediately out of school, he published his first book Monoplanes and Biplanes: Their Design, Construction and Operation (New York: Munn & Co. 331 pages).

According to Who's Who in Aviation for 1942-43 (which provides biographical sketches of all three Loening brothers), Grover Loening learned to fly in 1911. He earned and flew with Private pilot certificate number 2648. He was in the right place at the right time with his engineering degree. In 1913, he was assistant engineer to Orville Wright. It appears that he was not in the military, but he was "chief aeronautical engineer" for the U.S. Signal Corps in 1915.

The same year he published his second book, Military Aeroplanes (San Diego: Frye & Smith. 17 pages). In 1917, he became consulting engineer for the U.S. Aircraft Production Board during WWI. His war work was rewarded in 1919 with the War Department Distinguished Service Award for his design of a two-seat fighter plane. Also in 1917, he became president, Loening Aeronautical Engineering Corporation, a position he held until 1928.

Speaking of "aeroplane," that word was used to describe the technology for a couple of decades during early development. The graph below, from Google N-Gram, shows the incidence of the use of the term in publications, irrespective of case, between 1880 and 2010.

Use of the Word "Aeroplane," 1880-2010 (Source: Google N-Gram)
Use of the Word "Aeroplane," 1880-2010 (Source: Google N-Gram)

The transition to the use of "airplane" in publications occurred in the 1940s, shown below (irrespective of case), as the technology gained higher public awareness during WWII, and as air transport became more accepted.

Use of the Word "Airplane," 1880-2010 (Source: Google N-Gram)
Use of the Word "Airplane," 1880-2010 (Source: Google N-Gram)

 

Loening Cabin Amphibian (OL-1?) (Source: NASM)
Loening Air Yacht (OL-1?) (Source: NASM)

 

 

But, I digress. From the mid-1920s and into the 1930s, Loening produced cabin amphibians for the military similar to the one at left. There were several different models that differed in powerplants and fuselage geometry. Loening is at center in the photograph.

In 1928, he designed the Loening Air Yacht a six-passenger amphibian airplane. He also oversaw the merger of Loening Aeronautical Engineering with the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. After the merger, he continued as director and consulting engineer for Curtiss-Wright until 1929.

Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, September 5, 1942 (Source: Ancestry.com)

 

Loening, in 1930, then became the director of Roosevelt Field, Mineola, LI, NY, and, as logged above, he married Marka Truesdale on June 28, 1930. Loening and Marka remained together for a decade until they divorced in 1940. They had two daughters and a son. Interestingly, in 1947, Marka married again, this time to Davis-Monthan Register pilot A. Felix duPont, Jr.

During WWII, in a reprise of his earlier assignment during WWI, he was aircraft consultant for the War Production Board. An interesting intersection with a Clover Field Register pilot occurred while he was in this position. The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, September 5, 1942 published the article at right. Henry Kaiser, known today for his modular ship building talents, which built the famous Liberty ships on the west coast, submitted plans for building "giant cargo planes." Part of Kaiser's logic was that large airplanes could avoid the gauntlet of German submarines that plied the North Atlantic at the time, and still carry enough cargo to make the trip have value to the war effort.

Kaiser knew nothing about building airplanes, ocean-going ships being his forté. So he teamed with Santa Monica Register pilot Howard Hughes and abdicated the design and manufacture of the cargo planes to him and the Hughes Aircraft Company.

A contract was let for three airplanes, and Hughes designed and built the H-4 Hercules, to this day the largest flying boat ever built. Due to having to build the airplane from non-strategic materials (i.e. no aluminum), as well as Hughes' legendary perfectionism, the airplane did not fly during WWII. Kaiser had separated early from the project. Hughes carried on alone and built only one airplane. The delays led to a Senate investigation that was mostly a sham, because it was politically motivated by a Hughes rival in the civil air transport business. Please direct your browser to Hughes' link to learn more about the pilot and the controversy surrounding his H-4.

But, I digress again. After WWII Loening was appointed to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the precursor of NASA. In 1950, as reported in The New York Times of December 17th, he was awarded the Wright Brothers Trophy for "significant public service of enduring value to aviation in the United States." From 1951-1969 he was a Director and consultant for New York Airways. In 1955 he published his fourth book, Fifty Years of Flying Progress (Washington, D.C. 216 pages).

Grover Loening, Date Unknown, Sketch from NASM Folder (Source: NASM)

 

In 1960, he was awarded the Daniel Guggenheim Medal. He still had three books in him, publishing in 1966 Takeoff Into Greatness: How American Aviation Grew So Big So Fast (New York: Putnam. 256 pages). Then in 1970 came The Conquering Wing (Philadelphia: Chilton Book Co. 196 pages), and in 1973 Amphibian: The Story of the Loening Biplane (Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society. 196 pages). The drawing, left, is from his NASM biographical folder.

The papers of Grover Loening are maintained at the Library of Congress (LOC). The finding aid for his archive is at the link. The content of the archive consists of, "Correspondence, memoranda, reports, minutes, plans and drawings, notes, photographs, patents, legal documents, speeches and writings, scrapbooks, clippings, and printed matter documenting Loening's career in aviation." A timeline of his professional life, from his LOC file, is at the link (PDF 16Kb).

Grover Loening died February 29, 1976 at age 87 in Miami, FL.

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