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The Jack And Helen Frye Story!
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The Frye Legacy-
a Lifetime of Accomplishment!
By Randall Reynolds
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Sedona Legend Helen Frye a.k.a. the Jack and Helen Frye Story
A Decade of Research and Presentation- Created By Randall D. Reynolds
Copyright © 2003 All Rights Reserved
Western Avenue and 104th Street Los Angeles
The "Glory Days" of West Coast Aviation
This page is dedicated to June
Smith (Joseph S. Smith Jr.)
June is a nickname for
Junior. Without June's knack
for having a camera
constantly handy we would be
missing the invaluable historic
images on this page. Seen
aside is Paul Richter (left) and
June Smith (right) clowning
around for the camera in 1925
at Burdett Airport. The sedan
may very well have been
Richter's private transport.
Both men are wearing Burdett
of Burdett Airport
Incredibly many were just
boys @ barely 18, yet these
'boys' were to become some of
the most revered aviation
dynamos of our country.
Below are just a few of these
'Pioneers of Aviation'!
Above, Jack Frye (left) rear position of this
Jenny (Curtiss JN4D). In the forward seat is
an unidentified passenger. Notice Jack's puppy
checking out the bi-plane (1924-1925).
Paul Richter held many officials titles in early aviation, one of which was General Manager of
Standard Flying Schools (based at Burdett Airport). Above, Paul poses with Mrs. W. E. Matlock
(Stella), husband a pilot and Hollywood Black Cat stunt man. It appears Jack Frye just landed
in the plane or is preparing for a flight (1925). The Matlocks were married in 1925.
Wiliam Ernest (Spider) Matlock (left) and Paul
E. Richter Jr. (right) in Paul's personal plane;
note the "P. E. R." on the side (1925).
A great image of Burdett 'Pop' Fuller founder of
Burdett Air Field. Burdett was a beloved member of
this early Los Angeles airport operation.
Miraculously, surviving in June's memorabilia after 85-some years, are various business cards
of June's flying pals who shared his Burdett Airport experience. Shown above is one for Paul
Richter and William (W. E.) Matlock. Both men came to be associated with the Hollywood Black
Cats, with Matlock taking on the Black Cat nickname of 'Spider'.
So you had no idea that even in 1925- Burdett Airport had the insight to encourage an airport
restaurant? Here it is in the form of a dining concession-fruit stand. Wonderful and rare image
frozen in time, which typified the California landscape of the mid-20's. One of the men is Frank
Baker, who it is thought may have owned the establishment. This refreshment stand was at the
left of the entrance to Burdett Airport. Please click on the photo for a larger file.
Some of the billboards read:
"Watch the Flyers Come and Go, Free Parking-
Burdett Airport, Sightseeing Trips, Passenger Fares"
"Genuine Barbecue Sandwiches, Hot Coffee, Etc."
"Ice Cold Coca Cola Sold Here"
"Drink Grape Special and Smile"
"Fresh Large Yard Eggs, 38 Cents a Dozen"
"Sweet Oranges, 20 cents a Basket"
"Lily Brand Ice Cream, L.A. Creamery Co."
The origin of this photo is unknown but it is similar to the image at the top of this page. Notice
the very tiny maintenance hangar right behind the offices of Burdett Airport. This image in a
remarkable manner details the simplicity of the Fuller-Frye operation before it exploded into
the largest private airport in the Western United States! (1924-1925)
The legendary Frye brothers- Jack Frye had a lot of business partners in his life but his favorite
guy was his beloved brother Don. These two brothers rode herd in Texas together, joined the
Army Corp of Engineers together, and went out to California to find their fortunes together.
According to Jack's sister Sunny Frye, Donald Frye, at 16, was one of the youngest pilots in the
United States, having been taught to fly by his brother Jack. This young boy (on the left) shown
with his idolized brother Jack, became an aviation pioneer in his own right as did other
members of the Frye family. Don helped Jack launch Burdett Airport and worked along side
him, eventually even working for Standard Air Lines. In the early 1940's Don founded the Frye
Aircraft Company. More information about Patrick Mc Donald Frye on page 1906.
'The Frye Legacy- a Lifetime of Accomplishment'.
Don Frye at a Burdett Airport air show, notice his pals all sitting under the wings of the Boeing
to escape the hot afternoon sun. Don, at about 16-17 years old, loaned Jack part of the money
needed to buy an equal partnership in the Burdett Flying operation in 1923-24 from Burdett
Fuller the then owner. This operation eventually launched Transcontinental and Western Air,
Inc., (T.W.A.) by 1930. Both men were truly remarkable aviators and entrepreneurs, remaining
close all their lives. The plane is a former war surplus model which displays a painted over
Army registration number on the fuselage (A.S. - 31271) the A.S. for USA Air Service. This
Reg. number matches that of former military Boeing de Havilland, DH-4M-1 (model 16?).
Dr. Thomas C. Young of Glendale (left) also a prominent surgeon shown with his 'Marriage
Ship'. Young was president of the California Aeronautical Association in 1925 and a member of
the Sheriff's Aero Squadron. This plane, thought to be based at Burdett Airport, was utilized for
passengers who wanted to be married in the air. From left to right, Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Warren,
Mrs. Newkirk, Happy Russell, Paul Richter, Lillian, and Mildred. I don't think any of these
people are part of a wedding party, rather, just posing. It is not known what the beautiful
Lillian's connection with Burdett Airport is but she was seen in many of June's images (1925).
On one occasion, at the opening of Bell Airport (May 17 1925), the 'Marriage Ship' as June
called it was quite the talk of the town. Young took Catherine Richardson and Charles Adams
on a flight far above Los Angeles where they were married by a minister. After they landed the
plane was swarmed by well-wishers! However, before you think that Thomas Young cornered
the market on this unique pre-Vegas style wedding treatment, look no further than Jack Frye
himself. On September 18, 1926, he took off in a Fokker from Aero Corporation Field at 10:00
A.M. with prominent Los Angeles Municipal Judge Baird, who at cruise altitude, married Della
Heithcock and Olna Turnbo, high over L.A. After the 'wedding ship' landed Aero Corporation
pilot Lee Willey flew over the wedding Fokker and showered it with flowers and rice, likely yet
another service offered by the entrepreneurial pilots of Burdett Airport.
This is the very first 'Air Meet' ever to be held at Burdett Airport according to June Smith who
took this image. A wonderful view of this special event of 1925. Notice the refreshment stand is
a sidecar of the attached motorcycle and the interesting outfits of the spectators.
The photo above shows the spectators waiting for an airplane to take off, part of a panorama
shot, the image below continues the scene to the right. Notice the famous Burdett Airport
landmark water tower behind the plane. This landmark is seen in many vintage Burdett photos.
Weddings of the Air at Burdett Airport
Refreshments and a Flight
Burdett Airport's First Air Meet!
Burdett Airport Accidents- Analyzing a Near Fatal Flight
The men above are largely unidentified, except
for the first names, from (left to right) are
Freddie, Kelly, and Jack, shown the next day
as they examined the accident site. To (right)
the tangled Jenny was photographed by June's
father. (Below) the wreck was significant
enough for Burdett Fuller himself to arrive
and inspect the wreckage with Burdett Airport
maintenance men. All in all, this was a very
sobering event for Burdett Airport as both
accident victims were beloved aviators and
Burdett operation associates.
The man above (right) is Henry Rossner, nothing is known about him except that he was a
friend of June Smith and a pilot of Burdett Airport. He and his unnamed friend pose confidently
for June Smith, preflight, at Burdett Airport. His plane, a beautifully reconditioned former war
surplus Jenny (likely red) with notation on the side- (Henry Rossner- Pilot) indicates to us he is
likely a pilot for hire working out of Burdett Airport. I can only assume he is perhaps a local
Los Angeles "playboy" pilot as he looks more affluent than others on this page and likely he
saw this plane as an extension of that lifestyle. My guess is he was based at Burdett but not
employed there. The photo is dated to 1926-1927, this is blatantly apparent when one sees the
plane in the background with "Aero Corporation of California- Los Angeles" on the tail.
I think this photo is so poignant and typifies the cavalier attitude of many early American
pilots. This a stark contrast to other pilots of the day who were desperately trying to build a
business and make a living with this new mode of transportation on mere pennies. At this time,
before complicated F.A.A. regulations, any teen or adult could easily learn to fly the very
uncomplicated equipment of the day, acquire a plane for a nominal fee, and navigate the ship
indiscriminately around the area lifting off and landing from nearly any unobstructed flat
stretch of land, much like we utilize the automobile today- as long as the engine kept running.
If the plane is wrecked, a little bailing wire and spare parts could easily get it airborne again.
"Easy Come Easy Go" My guess is the photo above was taken within about an hour of takeoff.
The first image (left) Henry poses unshaken with his pal who looks more than a little shook up.
In the next image (right) we see Henry sitting on the wreck of his former shiny plane
displaying the appearance of a pilot who is unflappable and perhaps proud of the fact that he has
just escaped death. Likely he was up in the air again in no time at all with this or another
biplane. Below, we see the accident was not a solitary event, early aviation was a spectator sport
always drawing a crowd whether the plane comes down gently or with a deafening crescendo.
The image below is of a piece of metal which was saved from the wreck of June's Jenny which
was totalled on August 11, 1925. On the side of his plane, as was typical for the era, it was
painted "June Smith- Pilot". June Smith added this artifact to his memorabilia album along
with the photos and clipping of the accident. Because this meticulous documentation we are able
re-experience life at this famous airport some 85-years later, all thanks to Joseph S. Smith, Jr.
The only fatality I have ever uncovered in my research was at a later date of November 12,
1927. On this afternoon, Aero Corporation pilot, Al Proctor, was giving flying lessons to Elvin
C. Baker, having taken off from the company field at 9899 South Western Avenue. The pilot
and student flyer circled the air space over Western and Manchester Avenues several times and
were proceeding back to the field. Within 2 blocks of the landing strip, at 92nd and Harvard, the
plane stalled and dived nose first into the street barely missing several homes.
Unfortunately, the 27-year-old Proctor, who was sitting in the forward seat, was crushed by the
plane’s heavy engine after the 1500 foot plunge. Baker, on the other hand, was trapped in the
plane until witnesses (to include Jack Frye) were able to rush to him and rescue him. Proctor
was transported to the County Morgue and Baker was rushed to the California Lutheran
Hospital where he was treated and released.
An hour after the accident, before Frye left the field in a new giant Fokker on a scheduled
charter flight to Inglewood, with male and female passengers, reporters cornered him for
comment. The president of Aero Corporation and Standard Air Lines disclosed that Proctor had
been an employee of Aero for two years and was a native New Yorker. Frye added, that Proctor
was one of his very best flyers and lived on site, at the airport, in pilot housing quarters. Frye
stated the JND4 had been inspected pre-flight and was sound. He continued, stating the
company had experienced no accidents in 5 years (1922) since starting operations and they had
transported 35-thousand passengers.
This incident fueled the fire of local complaints against the airports of Aero Corporation and
Burdett Airlines from neighbors who felt the in and out going airplanes were a nuisance and
danger to the neighborhood. This in turn was followed up with legal maneuvers by the City
Prosecutors office in court on November 28 of which representatives of Burdett Airlines and
Aero appeared. Very intriguing as it proves that the issue of airports which exist in high density
urban areas then, as today, have always been the bane of adjoining homeowners. But it is
important to note that many airports facing this problem as in Burdett and Aero, were at one
time far removed from any residential areas. It is the developers who built around them as the
years went by. Unfortunately this is a result of our constant development of land, and property
buyers who give no thought to the land-uses adjoining their future homes.
So there you have it. A terrible tragedy and the only Aero-Burdett Airport fatality I have ever
uncovered in my research. And according to Jack, the first incident of a (company plane with
student). Of course as the air line grew there would be more unfortunate mishaps. Even Frye
once stated he had several close calls himself, although he was known to be an “expert” pilot.
One time, on (May of 1925), he stated that he had to make an emergency landing once in a
cemetery after his engine died but the plane was unscathed. Another time, he lost a wheel at
take off and had to land with one wheel, the plane faired fine though, with no more damage
than a broken propeller. Of course, later in January 1935, when flying from Albuquerque to
Los Angeles late at night, Jack experienced icing on some new carburetors he was testing and
had to make an emergency landing in Arizona. Although he was unharmed, the TWA Northrop
Gamma 2D was damaged from trees and brush, in an area where there was no clear landing
path. These are the only mishaps known of Jack Frye’s career, a man who had an exemplary
record as a pilot and never lost a plane or killed a passenger. If I had a choice of flying with any
man from Burdett, Aero, Standard, or TWA it would be Jack Frye, as he was the simply the
most skilled aviator ever associated with those companies in the early days, bar none.
Al Proctor -In Memorial- Lest We Forget
In June Smith's photo album the above images were notated 'Burdett's First Air Meet 1925'.
The only event I have documented which correlates with 1925 is an air show at Burdett Field on
July 5, 1925. Aerial participants were Burdett Fuller, Jack Frye, Art Goebel, Dick Grace, Ivan
Olson, and Frank Clarke. J. F. Rowe was the emcee and superintendent while Burdett Airport
provided the silver trophies and cash prices. Thousands of spectators gathered for the air meet
at 104th and Western Avenue. Exhibition races, Jenny races, and Dead Stick landings were
performed. For the main event, Dick Grace, movie stunt man, wowed the crowds by hanging
from an airborne Jenny upside down by his feet whilst another Jenny flew under him. After
three attempts and a close call in which the two planes nearly crashed, he finally succeeded on
the third try, grabbing the wing of the lower plane and climbing on board. Turbulence caused
complications with the attempts. Grace was one of the few Hollywood stunt men to live a full
life, dying in 1965, at the age of 67. The Jenny races were won by Burdett Fuller and Bon
MacDougall (both won first- a tie) while the Dead Stick event was won by Jack Frye.
One interesting story from the mid-1920’s as related by Tom Frye (Jack Frye's cousin) goes as
follows: Tom, a retired Braniff Captain as a boy with his family lived in Los Angeles for a time
near Burdett Airport. The kids would often attend many of the Burdett Air Shows which were
quite popular at the time. One event remembered vividly by Tom was a botched stunt where a
plane roared past the bleachers with a man hanging upside down on a rope ladder. What was not
part of the show was the stunt man got tangled at the bottom of the rope and couldn’t get back
up! It seems while climbing down the ladder he slipped and got his foot tangled and was hanging
helpless, upside down. Tom’s cousin, Jack Frye jumped in a plane and took off immediately
following the plane which was slowly circling the field unable to land. Jack pulled his plane
under the trapped performer and helped him into his plane. "Jack Frye saved that man’s life"
exclaimed Tom to me when I visited with him at the Tom Frye Ranch in Texas. The man Jack
saved that day may very well have been rope ladder stunt man Frank Helflng. Later, January
15, 1928, Hefling was not so lucky as to have a man like Frye rescue him. He got tangled up in
the landing gear of a plane (likely with his rope ladder) and was dunked in the ocean several
times before the plane made an emergency landing and he was dragged on the beach for 400
feet. This time Frank lucked out, yet again, and only ended up with a sprained ankle.
Aviator Stuntman Rescued By Frye-
Jack Frye was not only a frequent participant in local and national air races but was a staunch
advocate of them, as well. This famous aviator won various races all over the Los Angeles basin
for many years and flew in many races around the country. He never had a fatality or disaster
in the air as evidence of his skills as a pilot. The trophies and accolades accumulated from those
early years of flight were in the dozens! It is impractical to transcribe all these exciting events;
however, anyone sifting through newspapers of the 1920’s will find Frye’s name notated over
and over, as winner, second, or third place. He often participated in air events as a sponsor and
judge, as well. Lieut. Frye raced Curtiss Jennys, Eagle Rocks, Fokkers, Thunderbirds, and later
set records in Northrops, Lockheeds, DC’s, and Constellations. The Thunderbird, DC, and
Constellation were developed by Frye personally. The earliest days were the most exciting times
for aviators, certainly, something lost as aviation reached it's zenith. Frye, throughout his life,
never tired of extolling the virtues of aviation and was a sought after statesman-speaker and
expert on all aspects of flight. After all, he lived it, and helped create our current modern
aviation world. The Frye Legacy- a Lifetime of Accomplishment.
The 45-acre Bell Airport Grand Opening was Sunday May 17, 1925 and was attended by many
men of Burdett Airport. Several thousand Los Angeles enthusiasts attended the Air Circus and
were stupefied by the various aerial events. These included wing-walking by Frank Helfing
(youngest stunt pilot in the nation at 22) on a plane piloted by Bon MacDougall. Frank also
climbed down a ladder and hung from his foot as the plane swooped over the field at several
thousand feet. This event was sponsored by the Van Pelt Motion Picture Company. Please note-
Bon MacDougall's plane had a 13 Black Cat emblem painted on the tail. I don't know for sure if
Frank was a Black Cat, as Bon. Jack Frye (from Burdett Airdrome) excelled as the winner of
the main event; a relay race competing against 7 other planes. Frye also won the Dead Stick
landing contest, setting his ship down within 5 feet 6 inches of an official mark. Bon MacDougall
followed, winning second place. For anyone who thinks this was an easy feat, think again. At an
elevation of 3000 feet Frye shut down his engine and glided to the predetermined mark on the
airport landing field. Once shut down the plane could not be restarted so this is truly a event of
no return and no errors. Frye was a pro at this trick! As noted elsewhere on this page, often
newspaper archives contain misspelled names. Bon MacDougall is at times spelled “Rob or Ron”
as people don’t understand Bon was his nickname, but Ronald G. was his real name. Paul
Richter, spelled Paul “Lichter”, and Jack Frye sometimes spelled “Fry” or W. John Frye.
Bell Airport Opens
Jack Frye (above) after winning the Dead Stick trophy at Bell Airport May 17 1925. The lovely
'dish' with Jack is the beautiful 'Lillian' often seen in early photos of Burdett Airport. Before
we wonder if she was a girlfriend of Jack's we must realize he was recently married to Debbie
Greer and this is most unlikely. However Jack was always surrounded by beautiful women his
entire life. Lillian was likely just a frequent early visitor to Burdett Airport who occasionally
was seen in photos or asked to award trophies as above. Notice the plane Jack and Lillian are
standing in front of is the same plane seen above (photo of Mack) on right. The plane has tin
sheaths protecting the leading edge of the prop probably to protect it from dings and nicks. The
advertising writing on the under wings has never been identified- in part it spells- 'ZPTR'.
The photo above is titled 'My Old Sweetie'.
Is June referring to his favorite plane or his
girlfriend? Note her long black 1920's dress
under the flight coat.
A polished Burdett Fuller posing in front of a
Crawford Airport with eagle logo plane.
Frye Legacy of Flight
(Note) -The plane above and below is the same
plane. The ship has tin sheaths protecting the
leading edge of the prop probably to protect it
from dings and nicks. The writing on the
under wing has never been identified- in part
it spells- 'ZPTR'. The program guide for the
Bell Airport event was preserved by June as
seen to the left and the initial manager of the
field was C. J. Warren as seen below.
There were many mishaps at Burdett Airport during the 1920's as could be expected with such
primitive equipment at the dawn of aviation. One accident; however, involved two of the men
who were associated historically with the airport. This accident was well documented in June's
memorabilia album and need be explored here because it is a mishap which could have easily
killed these two prominent Burdett men.
On August 11, 1925 at about 6:30 p.m., June Smith decided to take his Jenny up for a spin
around the Burdett Airport region. It is not known what his destination was but interestingly he
took 1 passenger with him. These vintage planes held only 2 people (pilot and 1 passenger) the
biplane was June’s personal plane. The portion of the plane painted with “June Smith- Pilot”
has been retained after all these years by his family (image seen below).
The accident is documented by a single Los Angeles newspaper article. Additional articles have
not been located. Because the article contains a typo the significance of this accident has been
missed historically. Who was the passenger? The other occupant of the plane was said to be Paul
Lichter. This name “Lichter” is most intriguing could it actually be Paul Richter? Yes and this
is evident by the following research. (This conclusion is shared by Denis Smith as well who
offered the June Smith archive to me.)
First let me say that on a keyboard the “L” and “P” are both adjoining, I say this because this is
not the first time Paul Richter’s name was misspelled in newspapers (per typo). Research shows
that in an article from November 15, 1926, reporting on an altitude record won by Paul E.
Richter, Jr., that his name is spelled correctly and again incorrectly, as Paul “Lichter”. Further
research has not been able to document an aviator or person at the time period with the name
of Lichter, which is not a common spelling.
Back to the accident article, which stated both men lived at 816 West 78th Street, Los Angeles,
(hospital records show #817). The area is currently all industrial with no residential housing. I
would assume this address was for a rooming house, common at the time especially a place
where men, who had yet to marry, would live. Neither Paul or June were married at the time. It
was also noted in the article that both men were experienced aviators. Another clue would be
the ages listed for the men, June's age is listed as 20 years old and is accurate, but "Lichter's"
age was listed as 27. This would have been very close to Paul Richter's age at the time, thought
to be (29). It is common for newspapers to print ages incorrectly, and Richter was much older
than his associates at Burdett Airport. Richter and Smith were close friends and employees at
Burdett Airport and it is most conceivable that they would have flown together often. I have
often wondered if Lichter was really Richter, as Denis Smith suggested, but never have had the
time to investigate it further.
The plane was not a company plane but belonged to June Smith, Paul had a plane of his own.
The accident occurred, not over Burdett Airport, but nearby (125th and Western Avenue) over
the now famous and historic Chester L. Washington Golf Course, at Western and 120th
Avenue. At the time, the area consisted of recently plowed farm fields as the golf course was
not built until 1927, (two years later). This soft plowed loam was likely the only element which
saved June and Paul's life, as the Jenny plummeted 800 feet to the ground, nose first. This dive
left a tangled mass of twisted wreckage, the Jenny being a very fragile and flimsy plane. This
angle of descent was typical for a Jenny which when stalled was extremely nose heavy and this
is generally the way they descended.
Paul and June were extracted from the wreck and June, at least, was transferred to Los Angeles
Receiving Hospital where he was processed at 7:25 P.M., and released. Interestingly, one of the
items recorded on the hospital admitting slip for June was a pair of dice. Neither pilot was
seriously hurt and no reason was given for the crash. It is assumed though the crash was due to
engine failure which was common at the time. These primitive planes did not have a means of
restarting the engines in the flight.
All early men at Burdett were trained to handle a plane with a dead stick. This feat was
performed often by pilots at air shows to demonstrate to the public that flying was indeed safe
and even a heavy plane with motor failure and passengers could be landed safely. This need be
related as this was an invaluable skill that could and did save lives. The knack to the skill, one
assumed, was having engine failure at a high enough altitude to glide the heavy plane smoothly
down for a landing. With engine failure at a lower altitude a stall was imminent and landing
safely was much more tricky.
This was not a Thirteen Black Cat related crash yet it was related by Fronty Nichols in an
interview about the Black Cats in regard to Paul Richter. However, in Fronty’s story some of
the facts are wrong. Nichols states that Richter said he had taken a student flyer up for a flight,
had him in the front seat, was teaching him how to use the controls, and the crash resulted
when each pilot thought the other was flying the plane. This version is not backed up by facts
and it is not known how Fronty came by the telling. The reality was both pilots were
experienced, and both received their licenses about the same time; fall of 1924. June first and
Paul second. The plane was June’s plane as evidenced by the fuselage piece which his family still
retains. The reason for the accident is unknown but I would wager that it was neither pilot’s
fault- it just happened. Likely it can be attributed to engine stall. Paul was not showing June
how to fly (June’s) plane, as both pilots had equal experience in both seats and both pilots were
instructors at the Burdett School of Aviation. More information about mishaps of early Burdett
associates is discussed on Page 1926 under the Black Cat heading.
Serious Accident- Pilot & Passenger Survive
As seen above (left) Bon MacDougall's plane sits close to the marker after landing in the Dead
Stick competition. He won second place, after Jack Frye, who won first. Notice 'Bon
MacDougall- Pilot' on the side of the plane (click image for enlargement) and the Burdett
Airport ground crew members swinging the tail around. The aviator on the right is titled in
June's scrapbook simply 'Mack', but his last name is unidentified. The date on the image is
May 17, 1925, so this places it the day of the Bell Airport opening. Mack is wearing ground crew
overalls (with wings pinned) which may say Burdett, on the back. For some time, I didn’t think
it was Bon, but now with the help of Bon MacDougall historian (Terry Cumming) I think it is
truly Bon MacDougall, and makes sense when you see his plane to the left.
At one point, I thought the image looked like a photo I have of Lt. William V. 'Bill' Davis of
the famous Navy aerial stunt team (the Sea Hawks) a.k.a. 'the Suicide Trio' ( 1926-1929). Other
team members were founder-leader D. W. (Tommy) Tomlinson and (Putt) Storrs. Tomlinson
went on to become a test pilot legend with TWA. Davis flew the Woolaroc with Arthur Goebel
winning first place in the famous Hawaii-Dole Race. The Sea Hawks are a direct predecessor to
the Navy Blue Angels which I went to see when I was a kid. Davis would have been in the Navy
serving on the U.S.S. Idaho when the above image was taken and did not receive his Navy
Wings (pilot's license) until January of 1927- so that ruled him out.
Jack Frye Records (with related winning participants) 1924-1929
Please note: As you can see by the list below, events, air races, and jamborees were held several
times a month in Southern California where Jack Frye of Santa Monica resided in the 1920’s.
This was a immensely popular weekend activity for aviators and state residents. If Jack and his
peers could arrange the time they would appear at as many shows as they could schedule. This
participation was 3-fold- It was great fun, prizes were often cash, and promotion of your
services was paramount and invaluable! Thus, Frye never missed an opportunity to publicize his
airport, flying school (with associated ventures), and his (eventual) airline. Air shows offered
the perfect promotional venue at the infancy of aviation (which Jack Frye helped develop).
The following events are just a fraction of air competitions Frye participated in, as many were
not reported in newspapers. The following have been documented from a variety of media
sources available in the day and many were reverified several times for accuracy.
Bell Airport Grand Opening- Air Circus
Florence and Atlantic Avenue
May 17, 1925
Barrel Rolls, Immelman Turns, Wing Overs, Whip Stalls, Loops, Wing Walking,
Mid-Air Ladder Hanging, In-the-Clouds Wedding On Plane
Relay Race, Pylon, 7 planes
1st Place, Jack Frye
Dead Stick Competition
1st Place, Jack Frye (Burdett Airdrome), likely his Curtiss JN4
(From a height of 3000-feet Frye killed the engine and vol planed to within
5 feet 6 inches of a designated line for thousands of spectators)
2nd Place, Bon MacDougall (Burdett Airdrome)
Long Beach Airport Air Show
(Daugherty Field) California
May 30, 1925
Dead Stick Competition
1st Place, Jack Frye- Alexander Eaglerock? (trophy can be seen on Page 1960)
Burdett Airport Air Circus
104th and Western Avenue
July 5, 1925
Dead Stick Landing Competition
1st Place, Jack Frye- Curtiss JN4?
Relay Race- Pylon- Jenny
1st Place, Bon MacDougall and Burdett Fuller (tied)
Hollywood stuntman, Dick Grace performed plane to plane transfer without ladder or ropes for
thousands of spectators, with Ivan Olson, Art Goebel and Frank Clarke (aerial stunts)
Pacific Coast Altitude Test
Calpet (California Petroleum Air Meet)
Clover Field Santa Monica (further info Page 1926 under "Events In and Around Burdett...")
November 7, 1926
Prizes to include cash, silver cups, and 100-gallon allotments of Calpet fuel,
all entry planes will be fueled with complementary Calpet 'Special Test'
Entries- Doc Whitney and Frank Clarke- Waco plane, Paul Richter- Eagle Rock plane,
Jack Frye- ThunderBird speedster, W. D. Waterman- Boeing, Burdett Fuller- Swallow
1st Place, Paul E Richter- Alexander Eaglerock @ 17,846 feet, prize $200.00, perpetual silver
trophy and 100-gal. winter Calpet (See Page 1926 "Events in and Around Burdett Airport")
(Record for Ox-5 type plane- less than 100 H.P.)
Exceeded 12,000 feet:
2nd Place, Art Burns- Waco @15,878 feet, (pilot for Fred Whitney)
prize $150.00 and 100-gal. winter Calpet
3rd Place, Jack Frye- ThunderBird @ 13284 feet, prize $100.00 and 100-gal. winter Calpet
November 14, 1926 (delayed from Nov. 7 because of fog, re-scheduled) See Page 1926
1 and ½ mile course, 10 laps
1st Place, Jack Frye- ThunderBird @ 11 minutes, 12 seconds
2nd Place, Frank Clarke- Waco @ 11 minutes, 20 seconds
3rd Place, Paul Richter
4th Place, Art Goebel
Parachute Jump- Al Johnson- from height of 1500 feet deployed at 500 feet before 5000 people
(nearly died in tragic mishap Nov. 7. See Page 1926 "Events In and Around Burdett Airport")
Award presentation and honors @ the Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles
Santa Ana 3-Day Air Jubilee Carnival
(street address not noted)
July 4th, 1927
Dead Stick Contest
1st Place, Jack Frye (Santa Monica) 10 feet 6 inches from designated mark
2nd Place, Dick Romaldi (Clover Field)
3rd Place, Frank Clarke (Clover Field)
Relay Race, Pylon-30 mile, (restricted- 100 H.P. or less)
1st Place, Lieutenant Burrows (Clover Field)
2nd Place, Paul Richter and Leo Nomis, Tied, (both Clover Field)
3rd (not noted)
4th Place, Harry Spears (Venice)
Balloon Strafing Contest-
1st Place, Frank Clarke (Clover Field)
2nd Place, Leo Brest (Clover Field)
3rd Place, Paul Richter (Clover Field)
Silent film actor and pilot John Bowers, and his movie-star wife, Marguerite De La Motte,
were a sensation in their brand-new futuristic ThunderBird speedster
Parachute Jump- Al Johnson- from height of 1500 feet deployed at 500 feet
Hawthorne Air Circus
(Kelly Airport @ Inglewood Avenue and Broadway) Hawthorne
November 12, 1927
Two 'Guest of Honor' ships were Jack Frye in 8-pass. Fokker (Burdett Airdrome)
(Unknown pilot) Travelair “Colleen” from Long Beach. Planes dropped “lucky”
numbered balloons- redeemable @ Hawthorne department stores
National Air Races (Moved to Page 1927)
Felts Field @ Spokane Washington
September 21-25, 1927
Western Flying Trophy Competition
Pylon- free-for-all 10-mile laps
1st Place, ($1000.00) Eugene J. Detmer- Travel Air 2000
(with passenger Lieut. Jack Eiseman) @ 102.55 m.p.h.
2nd Place, ($600.00) Jack Frye- Fokker Universal @ 100.065 m.p.h.
3rd Place, ($400.00) Paul E. Richter- Alexander Eaglerock (speed not noted)
National Air Races and Aeronautical Exposition
Mines Field Los Angeles
Opening: Saturday September 8, 1928
Also headlining with Frye were Amelia Earhart, Ruth Elder, Tommy Tomlinson and 'The Three
Sea Hawks', Col. Charles Lindbergh and many other famous aviators
Relay Race- Pylon-40 miles
1st Place, ($800.00) Jack Frye- Alexander Eaglerock
speed @ 79.748 m.p.h., time @ (37 minutes, 37 seconds 11 milliseconds)
2nd Place, Burdett D. Fuller- Swallow
speed @ 78.975 m.p.h., time @ (37 minutes, 59 seconds, 19 milliseconds)
3rd and 4th Place, Jack Frye- Alexander Eaglerock
Carnival of the Air Summer 1928
Burdett Flying Field-
9401 Western Ave, Los Angeles
Double Parachute Jumps (numerous participants)
Demonstrated by Lee O’Meara, Cherie May, performing out of a plane owned by Jeff Warren
Dead Stick Landing Competition
Demonstration from 1100 feet, as won by Dale Page
Stunt Flying Acrobatics
Performed by Harold A. Speer (Eagle Airport 92nd and Western Ave) and various other pilots
Bombing Target Event
Performed by aerial 'police' cruisers
Enthusiasts were entertained by as many of 20
planes in the air at the same time. Spectators
who were lucky enough to catch 'Dodgers'
(lucky red footballs) thrown from passing
planes were the recipient of free airplane rides
over the region.
At one point the crowds (estimated at over 15-thousand people) rushed the field in a mob of
excitement and delayed the carnival until the next day.
On this page you will find a unique window into the Burdett Aerodrome operation found no
where else in the world. Images found in an old album never seen by the public until now, all
displayed for the sole purpose of bringing to life the glorious beginnings of west coast aviation.
Occasionally I am offered such historic materials; however, many times these materials are
offered with uncomfortable strings. Refreshingly, the Smith archive has been offered to Sedona
Legend just to get it "out there" with no shading or agenda. Gracious thanks to Denis Smith for
his insight and efforts!
The showcase is oriented around Jack Frye's association with Burdett Airport, as before he
came on the scene in 1922-1923, Burdett Field was just another dusty Los Angeles landing strip,
initially just an empty lot. Although Burdett Fuller founded the air field, I daresay, he himself
would agree it was Jack Frye’s association which launched it to stellar heights. After meeting
Frye, Burdett almost immediately offered him a 50/50 partnership. Why? Because he recognized
in Jack a successful drive toward the development and future of aviation. Certainly, one of the
smartest moves Fuller ever made, to be sure. The Burdett-Frye partnership is legendary and
the aviation school borne at this time on Western Avenue at Los Angeles (Inglewood) became
the West Coast’s finest!
With great men there comes great change, for it is these men of vision, charisma, and
perseverance who are the catalysts who change our world. Burdett Airport is remembered as a
shining example of all things stellar regarding the west coast's immersion into an exciting new
world of aviation. Because of this accomplishment the imprint of this flight operation has
reached historic heights in the collective aviation memory of our country. Jack Frye was the
hub at which this wheel of accomplishment spun. Not only did the experience enable him to
branch into numerous related ventures and associations, but in time he became the most
valuable founding force of Aero Corporation, Standard Air Lines, and T.W.A., not to mention
his association with Western Air Express. Great men gravitated toward him and monumental
milestones were accomplished. With the essence of a true visionary and entrepreneur Jack Frye
affected the lives of millions of people. Yet, in barely 50-years, he was gone from our planet.
Thankfully, though, his legacy of flight will continue for an eternity!
The person responsible for this archive is an energetic young aviator named June Smith. This
pilot, in his early to mid-twenties, through a close association with Frye and Fuller, captured
some of the earliest images which exist of this era (1924-1929). June flew with the men of
Burdett Field, worked along side them and socialized with them. In time, he came to know a
young Paul Richter, as well, (this after Richter came to be associated with Fuller and Frye in
'25). It was Frye and Fuller who taught June how to fly (September of 1924). Later, by 1925,
Frye also taught Aero and T.W.A. founders Richter and Walt Hamilton to fly too. By 1927, June
was working for Standard Air Lines, and eventually, by 1929, he took the position as manager
and Chief Pilot for the Golden Eagle School of Aeronautics, at Glendale Arizona.