Thank You For Visiting Sedona Legend-
The Jack And Helen Frye Story!
Sedona's Celebrity Love Story!
This is the official, not to mention only, web portal in the world
dedicated exclusively to the legacy of Jack and Helen Frye!
The Frye Legacy-
a Lifetime of Accomplishment!
By Randall Reynolds
The Sedona Legend Web Site is a copyrighted historical photo enhanced narrative presented for
educational and entertainment purposes. Some materials may be displayed in regard to the
United States Fair Use Act. This web portal is totally non-profit and generates no income nor
does it seek or has it ever accepted a single donation. It is an independent venture.
Sedona Legend was envisioned and created to provide Red Rock State Park visitors a
comprehensive historic overview for Jack and Helen Frye and their Deer-Lick and Smoke Trail
Ranches. This effort is now officially cited by R.R.S.P. as an indepth historical venue
representing Jack and Helen Frye.
Sedona Legend is encouraged by the many friends of Jack and Helen Frye. A gracious thank
you to the Frye and Varner families for invaluable support and Red Rock State Park staff and
volunteers for their enthusiasm.
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
L12 NC18137 "Flight Research Laboratory"
TWA Lockheed Electra Junior "Research"
In the fall of 1940, TWA president Jack Frye who heretofore had often been seen crisscrossing
the country in 2 different TWA Northrop Gammas, acquired a new (to TWA) executive plane, a
1937 Lockheed 12 (NC18137) previously owned by Continental Airlines.
TWA purchased the plane as an executive transport and experimental over-the-weather
laboratory. Because of Frye’s use of the plane and his spearheading the TWA “overweather
program” from the early 1930’s the ship came to be heavily associated with him in newspapers,
books, trade publications, and in the memories of associates. It was known as “Jack Frye’s
private Lockheed” and if you saw it landing or taking off around the United States you could be
assured Frye was out in the field conducting the business of Transcontinental & Western Air.
This twin engine Electra, over the next 5 years of TWA ownership, became Frye’s favorite
“in-the-air TWA office”. Throughout the years every owner of the plane was told that it was the
private plane of Jack Frye. This is the rich provenance of this invaluable aviation artifact.
How is this particular plane associated with Sedona?
At the onset of the Sedona Legend research I became aware of Sedona lore which stated that
Jack and Helen Frye had discovered their Sedona ranch from the air. Having always been an
aviation buff, I was intrigued by this story, as in 1941 this would have been quite a luxury! Jack
and Helen Frye were both quoted in media publications throughout the years as saying that
they were flying over the Sedona region and looked out the cockpit of their plane and “knew”
that they had found their place!
Specifically Jack related that he and Helen, from the fall of 1940, started canvassing the
Southwestern United States looking for the perfect ranch property. Jack Frye came from a
historic cattle ranching family in the panhandle of Texas. What he was looking for was a large
enough piece of property to sustain a cattle ranch with an ample water supply. Jack was heard
to state that he followed all the waterways (as seen from the air) in New Mexico and Arizona
looking for suitable ranching property.
In January of 1941, Jack and Helen started investigating a region south of Flagstaff and
Williams Arizona. One of these regions is what we now call the “Red Rock Country”. What
they found there was stunning. "It was beautiful" Helen once stated, "the clouds wormed
around the red rocks like little corkscrews. It took my breath away". Helen, who often sat in
the co-pilot's right seat recalled that she cried out to Jack, "that's where I want to live!" Jack
was unable to land, as Sedona had no airport in 1941, and the region was uncharted even at the
vast resources of Frye and TWA. So after a few passes they continued on to where they were
staying at the Ambassador Hotel, at Los Angeles, where Jack was engaged in TWA business.
As Jack had time he studied topography maps of the area and identified two locations of
interest which they had spotted from the Electra. One was the southwestern slope of Bill
William’s Mountain (Hell Canyon). This area drained into the Verde River basin. The other was
the area below the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon, this region was the area Helen liked the
most. Both areas were peppered with stunning red rock chasms and monoliths. In June of 1941,
as a surprise for Helen, Jack flew them out to Arizona where they landed at Prescott, Arizona.
They taxied off the primitive runway and parked the Lockheed in tall grass where Helen said
deer observed them curiously, as they grazed nearby. They rented a car and drove over to
Jerome and down into what we now call “old town” Cottonwood where Jack tried to locate the
realtor who was a listing agent for property in the area they desired. The right party turned out
to be Andrew Baldwin who owned the property (now Cresent Moon Ranch) where Red Rock
Crossing is (at that time called Baldwin’s Crossing). The Frye’s connected with Baldwin, who
showed them the old Armijo Ranch which was for sale several miles south of his ranch. The
Armijo property, included 80 acres, with an old ranch homestead and other ranch buildings all
adjoining a verdant ribbon of the then virgin Oak creek. Jack and Helen liked what they saw
and Jack bought the entire ranch on the spot. The rest is history! At the time, Jack Frye had a
large home on 5-acres in Kansas City but he and Helen wanted “a place of our own”.
The significance of this story is that in 1941 Sedona was so rugged and remote that only a man
like Frye, with the resources of TWA, (an airline he co-founded), would have been able to
locate this remote ranch, all from the air. If it were not for the Lockheed Electra Jack and
Helen Frye would likely never had settled in Sedona and the Frye name which is now practically
synonymous with Sedona, would never have been uttered. And Red Rock State Park which now
occupies the last remaining undeveloped tract of the original Frye Ranch, would never be. Yes,
all this thanks to the dawning of aviation, a Lockheed Electra 12A, and TWA!
The above slide (purchased by former TWA (CDG) employee Patrick Chateau) was offered to
the Sedona Legend website. The photo shows Jack Frye and TWA executive vice-president Paul
Richter in front of NC18137 at (MKC). Frye is signing off on a flight test sheet. The image was
used in a Texaco ad extolling the virtues of Texaco Oil and TWA's Flight Research Laboratory.
Patrick feels this slide was one of several likely used by TWA's Marketing Department.
The image to the right was from Jack Frye’s
personal collection. There is; however, more
than one version. The copy to the right, Jack
had cropped and gave to his sister Sunny
Thomas in Redondo Beach California. There it
hung on her wall for some 50 years. When I
visited her and she offered me this copy she
puzzled over why Jack had it cropped? The
original, a copy of which Jack signed and sent
to another friend in 1946, was the uncropped
version. I was not able to get permission to
show it here. This image is missing another
man in a suit and spats to the left holding the
other end of the fishing line with even more
trout. The man who is unidentified appears to
be a TWA airport employee, not a pilot. Jack’s
co-pilots were TWA pilots and they did not
dress in suits, rather in uniforms, when on
duty. On closer inspection you can see Jack is
wearing his trademark cowboy boots and his
wedding band (18k) weave design which he and
Helen shared (a set) from marriage in 1941.
This ring shows up often in images of Jack and Helen Frye. As for the Lockheed, the plane had
several paint schemes while with TWA. The above is the most commonly seen pattern. Another
in the early 1940’s shows the plane with flat black fuselage hood and engines. In the above
image we can see a puddle of oil below the port engine, likely the starboard is also dripping.
This was common in these radials- they threw oil in flight and dripped when on the ground. The
only other observation is that the Lockheed’s still had the forward slider window in the cockpit
which is something that was removed later in its life. One wonders how weather proof this
design was in flight. The date of this image is early 1940’s, location is likely Kansas City. The
origin of the trout are not known, but Jack loved to steal away from TWA with friends or
clients whenever he could arrange it, to relax on hunting or fishing trips.
Private Airstrip Built Near Frye Ranch
To Land Jack's TWA Electra Jr. NC18137
One of the very first things Jack did after he bought his Sedona property was start searching
for private airstrip land in and around Sedona. There was no airport in Sedona at the time and
landing locations in the Red Rock Country were primitive at best. His Sedona ranch did not
have a section of land flat enough for an air strip and there were too many navigation hazards.
Occasionally the Fryes landed at Clemenceau Airport at Cottonwood, and more commonly, the
full service TWA terminal at Winslow (the Frye Sunshine Ranch was near that location). They
also landed at the Valle Airport, as they had another ranch nearby, at Spring Valley, Arizona.
Two Sedona Locations Considered by Frye
The first location was where the current Sedona Airport is today on Tabletop Mountain. Jack
and Helen Frye considered this flat top mountain in the summer of 1941 as Jack had spotted it
from the air while searching for suitable landing locations. The Fryes walked off the perimeters
together and found it suitable for an airstrip. However, for whatever reason, Jack felt a second
location was more suitable for his needs. The Sedona Airport was eventually developed, in part,
by Joe Moser, but it can be truthfully stated, that Jack Frye of TWA was the first to survey this
location for a future Sedona Airport. This per Helen Frye (Red Rock News interviews).
The development of airports was nothing new to Jack Frye. In the 1920's, he owned the largest
private airport on the west coast (Aero Corporation Field) at Los Angeles. He was responsible
for the development of the 1st passenger air service, interstate and intrastate, (California to
Arizona) and later, El Paso). Frye held the 1st commercial license ever issued by Arizona and
flew the 1st commercial flight to Arizona (1927). He is officially credited with development of
the current Albuquerque Airport and was instrumental in pushing for the current location of
LAX, even to the point of stating, TWA would no longer land at L.A. if this new improved
airport was not developed. El Paso airport was also developed by Frye’s Standard Air Lines.
The 2nd Sedona location was located at the (now) stoplight of (Cornville Road and 89A) north of
Cottonwood (Bridgeport) Arizona. Frye found property here which was available (N.W. corner of
the intersection) which even today is still open land. At that time; however, this was the flattest
land close to the Frye Ranch which could serve as an airstrip. Jack secured the location and had
it graded. Improvements consisted of buildings and service facilities. Wisely, Frye developed it
as a private landing field for his Lockheeds, and, as well, a public field. Jack envisioned the
development of this location for commercial use or Army use, as stated to media.
The image to the right reproduced from a
current United States Forest Service map
clearly details the runway layout of the Frye
private airstrip. This airfield, which Jack Frye
developed and financed, was created specifically
to land his executive TWA L12 NC18137
airliner, and later, his TWA L18 NC33604
airliner. This location gave TWA president
Frye access to his nearby Deer-Lick and
Smoke Trail Ranch(s) now as Red Rock State
Park. Many TWA clients and associates were
flown into this location to be entertained as
guests of Jack and Helen Frye at their famous
ranch. Howard Hughes was said to have visited
the ranch twice and landed here, as well.
Local media covered the opening dedication ceremonies of the Frye landing field, which was
officially dedicated, on October 25th 1941, and officially christened the “Verde Valley Airport”.
On that day, over two hundred people attended the event. On this important October day
excited local people listened to the guest speaker (TWA president Frye), who not only was one
of the best pilots in the country but a national aviation celebrity, as well. In his speech, Jack
talked about the future of Verde Valley aviation, and TWA. After which he took local aviation
officials on flights over the location in his "private Lockheed plane" as a newspaper writer
coined it. Jack always shared his accomplishments, and it was only logical for him to open what
was originally meant to be his "private" airstrip, to public use, and the Army.
The photos below were offered to me in (2004) by one of the nicest people I have had contact
with through this web work. Her name is Joan LaPlace and she bought the images in a "lot"
with other Frye items from an auction in 1994. After conversing back and forth I deduced they
were originally from Jack’s personal collection and some of the many items lost by his family
after he died. Likely, the photos below were captured by Helen Frye, or maybe one of Jack’s
TWA co-pilots. The setting was captured at the semi-private Frye airstrip, located at Cornville
Road and 89A, (this by analyzing the horizons). The plane is Jack’s personal Lockheed Electra
NC18137. Jack is holding his trademark cigar and likely had just landed, judging by his
wrinkled clothes. Jack was known to be a meticulous dresser. Someday, I hope to obtain
sharper scans of these priceless images. The images were generously sent to Jack's daughter by
Joan. I can't say how much I appreciate Joan's kindness and interest in Jack and her find!
The Frye Verde Valley Airport- Today
The Frye airstrip today is a lonely place, the perimeters hard to discern, but from the air, and
satellite photos, the runways are clearly revealed. I have hiked the (now government land)
many times. The land has been reclaimed by sagebrush and scrub and no one would ever guess,
at one time, Transcontinental & Western Air (TWA) planes landed and took off from this
lonely locale. The main runway is hard to locate from the ground, but after some hiking around
I was able to find the perimeters where rocks are still graded up along the airstrip boundaries.
The runway was surprising long, over a mile in length and at least 150 feet wide, the gradient:
a slight incline to the north. Recently Cornville Road (Forest Service Road #119) was extended
west (Mingus Avenue) and was built over the southern most portion of the main runway. The
(service exit ramp) is about a 1/2 mile long. In media coverage, in regard to the Army's use of
the location, the site was said to be leased by Frye, and had 2 runways. The main runway was
said to be easily extended to three miles due to the flat terrain. Now you know what kind of
property Jack was looking for in an air field for the Verde Valley-Sedona area.
There were fueling facilities and some buildings built in the 1940’s, the ruins of which are to be
found today. A lone rusty 5 gallon fuel can still sits on the edge of the strip. Many locals insist
Jack and Helen owned the property outright, one person even thought the land may have been
leased from the school district (Jack formed an airport committee to help develop the location).
Jack flew in and out of the field regularly for the next 9 years, or so, (4 years with his L12, and
3 years with his L18). Unfortunately, because of the war, the location was never to become a
regional airport and eventually was forgotten by locals. Jack once stated that Verde Valley was
of interest to TWA because of its excellent flying weather at practically all times of the year.
Today, standing on the wind swept sagebrush flats, one can easily drift back in time and hear
the throaty roar of the Electra or Lodestar radial engines, as the Fryes landed and departed.
Jack & Helen Board a Passenger
Pre-Halloween Flight from ABQ!
Amazingly, by chance, I was able to connect the above dedication (October 25, 1941) with a
newspaper article I had filed away several years previously. The article describes yet one of
many trips Jack and Helen made out to their Sedona ranch in the Jack's Lockheed Electra
NC18137. Obviously, this time they scheduled the trip so Jack could be the "guest of honor" at
the above celebration. As was typical, Jack stopped at Albuquerque on business and to refuel.
He happened to run into an old friend Timothy Riordan from Flagstaff. Jack and Helen offered
him a flight home on their private Lockheed Electra Jr. The current airport at Flagstaff
(Pulliam) was not developed at this time, instead Koch Field was the Flagstaff main airport.
Frye first met Riordan on November 22, 1927 where he had taken him and his wife for their
first flight over Prescott Arizona in a brand new 8-passenger Standard Air Lines Fokker
airliner. Jack made 6 promo flights that day, with guests, even to the destination of early
Jerome. Frye was in Prescott as the honorary guest of the Arizona Industrial Congress meeting
and was staying at the famous Prescott Hassayampa Hotel.
See note from Riordan below:
Jack Frye, T.W.A. President, and his wife, picked me up at Albuquerque, N.M., October 24,
1941, at 10-10 a.m., and dropped me at Koch Field, Doney Park, Flagstaff, at 11:45 a.m.,
same day- Great Treat! T. A. R. (Timothy A. Riordan)
What was the flight like that Friday afternoon (before Halloween) in Jack's Lockheed 12A?
Flight miles from Albuquerque to Flagstaff: 329 miles
Time in the air: 1 hour and 35 minutes
Speed of the Lockheed twin at cruise: 226 m.p.h. (averaged)
Power plants: Twin Pratt and Whitney R-985 engines @ 450 h.p. each (combined 900 h.p.)
Without a doubt, one of the fastest most sophisticated executive planes ever designed, even by
today's standards! The Frye’s landed at Koch Field (which is now a housing development)
deplaned Riordan and took off for the Frye Airstrip at Cornville Road and 89A.
My interest in Jack Frye began 10 years ago,
when I obtained through auction, some
scrapbooks which held pictures of this man and
many other people, some named, some not. I
asked myself “who is this man who has signed a
signed photo from Eva Peron?” That one, I
treasure. Over the years, I would try and obtain
some or any information regarding him and then
lay it aside for extended periods of time. Lately,
I have found more time on my hands and began
in earnest to search, and voila, I stumbled across
your wonderful web site! You will never know
what it has meant to me to be able to read in
depth about a man who heretofore was an
enigma.... however, wonderfully captivating!
Some of the photos I have are 8 by 10 glossies,
and others, are sepia tones 11 x 9 ½ . I will try
and e-mail you a few to see how they come out
and if they are of interest to you.
The idea of giving me credit for them is fine by me. Have a million and one questions, most of
which you have covered on the website, which is richly done with obvious love and caring.
Thank you for contacting me back, and I don't want to be a pest, but if what I have lends itself
to your website, then I am so happy to have been of help! Sincerely, Joan R. LaPlace
Lost Photos and a Stranger's Generosity
Many local Sedona residents witnessed the arrival and departure of these beautiful polished to a
mirror finish TWA airliners. These flights were the VERY 1st by any major airline (TWA) into
the Sedona-Verde Valley region. However, they were not scheduled passenger service flights.
Frye Airstrip A.K.A. "Verde Valley Airport"
A TWA logo similar to that seen
below was stenciled on the nose of
Jack's Lockheed Electra NC18137
with "Research" under the circle.
Note the "Flight Research
Laboratory" lettering seen in the
image. To view other "Lost"
photos- Please see Page 1938.
To the left is Jack's
Lockheed Electra NC18137,
parked at Clemenceau
Airport at Cottonwood, AZ.
This is the only known
color image of this plane
from this time frame.
Scanned from a slide, the
image was taken by Frye
pilot Robby Robinson. This
on a trip with Frye and his
wife to Sedona, in about
1942. Frye is seen left.
One fact need be stated about Jack Frye and his career with TWA. Jack's life with TWA was
24/7. In my opinion there wasn't any man involved with Transcontinental & Western Air in
Frye's time frame who was as dedicated to the company as Jack Frye was. This is just fact. The
reason I mention this is because when Jack was in flight, as in the Vega, Gamma, Electra Jr.,
or Lodestar, he was nearly always traveling to and from TWA business meetings and
engagements around the country. He regularly, several times a week, conducted business in the
air with clients. Any occasion that Jack had the time to use a TWA private plane for personal
business was more the exception than the rule, he didn't have much of a personal life- period.
Jack Frye also flew on TWA passenger airliners regularly, at which, he was sometimes the
captain, but more than not, he was seen working in a back row seat on TWA paper work. This is
why the press called Frye the "Flying President" and why Frye always had a private plane as
provided by TWA. These planes were also officially designated as Flight Research Laboratories
as this was the way TWA justified owning planes not being used for scheduled passenger
service. When these various planes were not in use for Jack Frye's presidential business, they
were used for flight research, another paramount endeavor of Frye and TWA. Regardless of
what one might hear, these planes were not readily used by other TWA associates, except
through the permission of Jack's Kansas City and Washington D.C. executive offices.
Jack had very little private life, something all his wives were forced to accept. Jack's wives, too,
were constantly at the beck and call of TWA, with the entertaining and promotion of the
airline. Most the time, if not every time Frye visited his ranch in Sedona, or any of his other
ranches, the layovers were scheduled only as he could stop in Arizona, while in transit on TWA
business flights. Helen, on the other hand would fly out to the Sedona Ranch by herself, more
frequently on TWA airliners, landing in Winslow, with a ranch hand driving up to meet her
plane. Jack loved the ranch in Sedona but understandably his time there was spent in stolen
moments. Sadly the longest continuous time Jack ever spent at the ranch in Sedona was after
he resigned from TWA and before he took over General Aniline and Film (GAF-ANSCO) in
New York City (from the period of March to June of 1947). Helen lived with Jack at Manhattan
up until 1950; however, she balanced this between managing their Sedona property.
Letter From Joan:
Back Story to Image Above- Surprise!
In a modern world where photos of planes associated with the Fryes personally are extremely
rare, occasionally, there is a breakthrough!
In the beginning of my Sedona Legend work I became aware of a pilot-historian named Ruth
Reinhold who had done quite a bit of research and documentation of Standard Air Lines and
Transcontinental & Western Air. Her name (well known in Arizona aviation circles), she is
widely respected for her early aviation pioneering and knowledge of aviation history from an
era she herself lived. Not only did this lady know the people she wrote about but she flew with
One person she notated in her writings was Jack Frye. Ms. Reinhold left behind a considerable
photographic archive, part of which, is addressed at the Arizona State Library-Arizona
Historical Foundation. Filed in this archive is a rare image of Jack’s personal Lockheed
NC18137. It is not possible (in regard to copyright guidelines) to reproduce the image on this
page so please click this link. The link will connect you with a page which displays a photo of
Jack Frye's Lockheed Electra research plane, as seen parked at the Clemenceau Airport, now
Cottonwood Arizona Airport in about 1942.
The plane was parked there because Jack had flown out to host the commencement of the
Arizona Civilian Pilot Training Program. This is no surprise, as during the war, the training and
housing of said men was conducted at the Frye Airport, at Cornville Road. Jack often attended
such local air events, when he was traveling, and in this case, was staying at his nearby Sedona
ranch. The description from Ruth Reinhold's photo states the following:
"TWA Flight Research Laboratory- At Clemenceau Airport after the commencement of the
first Civil Pilot Training Program, TWA Lockheed Electra 10E (sic.) The aircraft was used for
high altitude experiments. NC18137 was known in Arizona as Jack Frye's personal airplane and
was frequently based at his airport north of Tuzigoot. People here are unidentified."
Wonderful documentation of the Electra NC18137- with photo. The text is incorrect; however,
only in the identification of the plane as a "10E". The 12A and 10E were both Electras. The 10-E
was Amelia Earhart's last model and very similar in appearance but larger. Jack was never
associated with any Electra other than the one in Reinhold’s photo which is clearly his 12A as
evidenced by the registration number on the tail. The men in the image are not officially
identified, although, the tall one looks similar to Jack Frye. However, with uniform, flight
glasses and bulky leather jacket it is hard to tell for sure. Interestingly, though, who else would
be posing and shaking hands in front of this particular plane? Seems kind of brazen if it is not
Frye, by the way, Jack always wore military style tinted flight glasses. He also was enlisted as a
Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander at this time, which would account for the uniform-like
appearance with hat. Even with the large JPEG file provided to me by the Arizona State Library
the photo is too grainy for positive identification. One clue is that Jack towered above most
men with his staggering 6 foot 2 inch frame.
The most intriguing element to the archive photo is that it shows the cowling of the plane's
engines painted flat black up to the leading edge of the wings. I have never seen this paint
pattern before on this particular plane. Jack always kept the engines free of paint and polished.
Within a year or so, this paint scheme was gone from subsequent images. Perhaps, this photo is
evidence of a different set of engines, but more likely, is just an early TWA paint pattern.
Typically, the plane was photographed with altered TWA markings and polished aluminum
Now for the “rest” of the story. A stunning discovery!
As notated on page 1942, a page dedicated to TWA Pilot Robby Robinson (Jack Frye’s personal
executive pilot) we see another (color) image taken, remarkably, at the exact same time frame
and location as Reinhold’s image (see color photo above). This conclusion is derived by the
position of the plane within the parking markers, background, and the unusual markings of
the plane. To locate and identify 2 photos of one of Jack’s planes taken within days of each
other, after 70 years, from 2 vastly different sources, well, in my opinion, is one in a million.
Especially, for a plane where only about 12 early images have survived to this day!
Amazingly, Robby, who took many color photos and slides of his trips with Jack and Helen
Frye, has left us with this rare treasure. There is NO OTHER color photo (slide) of this plane
known from this period of TWA ownership (1942)! We find from documentation of Robby’s
TWA notes that the date of the photo is either, November 19th through November 24th 1942,
or another trip to Sedona, January 8th through January 13th 1943. This means that Reinhold’s
image would be the exact same date.
A Memory Never Erased
Harry S. Truman- Future President
As a V.I.P. Passenger on TWA Lockheed NC18137
A Weekend Adventure- New Wardrobe- Poker- The 21 Club
Yes, Harry Truman was a passenger on Jack's Lockheed Electra Jr. several times over. Most
the trips were hunting and fishing and not "official", therefore, I have had a difficult time
documenting them. Jack Frye was one of the most influential men in the Democratic Party in
the 1940's. It is not at all surprising that he and Harry became friends, let alone the fact that
they both hailed from the same region of the country, in regard to business (Missouri). Jack
was considered a mover and shaker within the hierarchy of the party and if you needed a favor
or wanted something done you picked up the phone and called Jack Frye. In July of 1944,
Truman became the nominee for Vice President of the United States. It was shortly after this
nomination that Truman and other Democratic officials flew in the Frye's Lockheed Electra
NC18137 (with Jack as pilot) to New York City for Truman's vice-presidential "make-over".
Recently, I came across a transcript of an oral interview done for the Truman Library with
Edwin W. Pauley, then Director of the Democratic National Convention, and a friend of Jack
Frye's. Truman Library Interviewer: J. R. Fuchs, Date- March of 1971. (Public Record)
Question to Pauley:
"I've been told that after the nomination, you thought that Mr. Truman ought to spruce
himself up a bit as the vice-presidential nominee?"
Pauley- "I think that was the unanimous concern of all of us. We persuaded him to go to New
York and flew him up. Jack Frye had a plane at the time, and it was available, so we flew up in
that and he went to my tailor and shirtmaker and dolled himself up as a vice-presidential
candidate should look."
Question to Pauley:
"Are there any events that stand out in your memory, sidelights on history, after the
nomination of Mr. Truman?"
Pauley- "When we flew the vice-president-to-be to New York, we used a suite I kept at the
Sherry-Netherland Hotel. Another fellow and I owned most the bonds in the Sherry-Netherland
and as a result, we kept one of the top suites there all during the war because I was back and
forth on lend-lease. It occupied a whole floor; the Sherry-Netherland is very narrow at the top
and there were only three bedrooms. We got the suite below mine for Truman. As usual, when
Truman wasn't busy with official appointments he liked to play cards, and very often the game
was poker. He delighted, I think in that, more than any other relaxation he had. He used to do
pretty well at it, particularly when he played games which he invented."
Question: "How's that?" Pauley- "I don't think they have an official title, but sometimes you'd
play them with two, and sometimes three decks, and then by the time you got through naming
the wild cards, you didn't know what the hell you were playing. But he enjoyed it, and so did
Hannegan and Jack Frye and myself. When I took him down to my tailor one morning, I said,
'You've never eaten at the 21 Club have you?' He said, 'No.' I said, 'Do you want to?' He said,
'Sure, whatever you want me to do.' So we went by, you know where '21' is in New York, don't
you? Fuchs- "I've been by it sir." Pauley- "Well during prohibition it was a speakeasy, so its
reputation wasn't the greatest, although after prohibition it became quite a famous restaurant
because only famous people could get in the speakeasy when it was operating, and so it built a
top list of clientele. He enjoyed that very much. I didn't tell him until we got to it what it had
been, although I don't think it would have made a great deal of difference."
Jack and Helen Frye were often seen at the 21 Club, as was Jack throughout his life. Harry
Truman was a guest at the Frye's Kansas City home and the Frye Hillcrest Farm at Arlington
VA., also known as The Cedars (the Doubleday Mansion). One might wonder why Truman
needed wardrobe advice in light of the fact that he was a haberdasher by trade. The inference to
me is that the Democratic Party was trying to dress the future vice president in a more
conservative manner rather than the typical more flashy previous Senator Truman style. Jack's
sister Sunny Frye Thomas once told me that when she attended the dedication of the Jack Frye
Training Center at Kansas City, April of 1962, after her brother's tragic death, Truman, who
was the speaker of honor, nudged her and kiddingly said, "I liked Jack because he'd let me win
at poker". Truman was heard to state another time, in regard to his good friend Jack Frye,
"he had imagination, which damn few businessmen have!" An accurate description to be sure!
The above excerpt is reprinted with permission and can be found in its entirety on the official
Truman Library Website. Jack Frye, and his wife Helen, were close friends with Robert E.
Hannegan, and his wife Irma, (Robert) a Democratic Powerhouse and Chairman of the National
Democratic Committee (1944-1947).
Lockheed 12A NC18137 (seen below) appropriately called
"Research" as displayed with Chester Calkins in a TWA
employee publication photo (Skyliner Magazine). Jack
worked at the TWA executive office in Washington D.C.
and lived with Helen at the official TWA residence,
Doubleday Mansion, Arlington Virginia. Jack's L12 was
often seen parked at the DCA TWA Terminal. To the right
is a photo of Mrs. Jack Frye after a flight on the 12A from
DCA to W. VA. to see her family. Both images about 1942.
No one has conducted as much research into Frye’s association with the TWA L12 than Sedona
Legend, indeed, it was I who discovered and documented this historic Lockheed and its TWA
provenance. Yes, this plane was "officially" a TWA corporate plane, but it was always
considered Frye’s personal executive plane and was used by other entities only when available.
Frye was in the air with this Lockheed so often, that the engines barely had time to cool before
it was up in the air again. This is evidenced by the flight logs that have survived for short
periods of the plane's life with TWA. The plane served as a monumental corporate tool in the
development of TWA from 1940-1945, with business as conducted, and directed by Frye.
As far as TWA’s pioneering Flight Research Program? This was always ongoing. but not so
much with the L12 or L18. These planes were officially designated as flight research ships, but
the real breakthrough in flight research was completed by TWA in the 1930’s, by test pilots
Tommy Tomlinson, Frye, and Richter. The research being conducted in the 1940’s was more so
with larger equipment like the Douglas Commercials, Stratoliners, and Constellations. As for
instance, the only time that the F.A.A. shows a re-registering of the NC18137 to (NX)18137 for
experimental status was from 12-31-1941 to 02-23-1942. Interestingly, during this official
testing period, the plane was still in constant use on executive flights by Frye. Jack Frye was
once quoted in the newspapers as saying that he used the former TWA 12A for observation
purposes and testing various gadgets. Of course, this is a generalization by Frye, but more
likely what flight research entailed with the 12A, by the 1940’s. This use pales in comparison to
the earlier TWA Northrop Gamma test ship(s), which also, incidentally, were dual-purpose Frye
executive planes (and) research ships. One was nearly always designated as (NX) 13758.
Throughout the last 70 years flight logs have disappeared and witnesses have died. Certainly, at
just 5 years, TWA’s use of this plane was short lived. This, in regard to a plane that is now 73
years old. However, that said, we can still piece together a partial list of TWA flights utilizing a
variety of sources to include newspapers. In doing so, I have been able to compile a general
overview of untold Frye flights, excluding the Lodestar (that is a separate tabulation). I have
also compiled testimony from Frye associates who traveled on the plane with Frye as adults, not
children. I have found testimony from children to be most unreliable. This list comes to about
50 flights, which is a paltry amount, compared to how often Frye flew in the plane. The list is
adjusted for accuracy and added to as new information is revealed. We will never discover all
the flights as too much information has been lost through the years and all the documents from
Frye's estate were lost in the late 1970's.
Above is the Lockheed Electra 12A NC18137 after landing on Catalina Island off the state of
California. Photo to the (right) shows pilot Jack Frye as he steps down from his plane. Frye is
greeted by attendants of Wilmington Catalina Airlines. Frye's planes were usually staffed by a
co-pilot (a coveted position within TWA). This was the infancy of Catalina Island land flight
service and field. Date of images are between 1942 to 1945. They may have been from a milk
run Jack made around California in January of 1943. The above photos are thought to have
been taken by Walter Seiler of Wilmington Catalina Air Lines; however, all attempts at tracing
the provenance of the images has failed.
It is stated in the American Aviation Historical Society Journal that Jack Frye landed the very
first "land plane" on Catalina Island (a date was not cited). What were Jack Frye's connections
with Catalina Island? Jack Frye had a contract with Los Angeles newspaper (Los Angeles
Herald) to deliver newspapers to the island in the late 1920's. Caption from the Los Angeles
Public Library Website states, "Jack Frye, the L.A. Herald's aerial newsboy, carries "extras" of
the Sharkey-Dempsey fight to Catalina and makes the paper "first with the latest" on the
island (date was July 21, 1927). Other associations are 1927-28 (Aero) and 1932 (TWA). Both
companies had flight agreements for Catalina Island air service. One event was described in the
Los Angeles Times (January 15, 1927) and accompanied 3 photos. Pilot Jack Frye was
mentioned as flying a photographer out to document the Catalina Channel Ocean Derby where
contestants from around the world swam from Catalina Island to Los Angeles. Jack piloted an
Alexander Eagle Rock biplane that day. Several of the news photos were taken from the ground
so Jack Frye did land the photographer on the island. Jack would have set down on the beach as
there was no real airport. Catalina Island was served only by flying boats from the early 1920's
but by the mid-1940's a land-based airport was finally developed.
Catalina Island- Off the State of California
Although my historical focus with
NC18137 is "as associated" with Jack
Frye I recognize the plane was beloved
by other owners as well. The first photo
(above) is from when the plane was
owned by Andy Hotton, taken at
Newark Airport (1965) New Jersey.
Interestingly, a TWA terminal hangar
can be seen behind the plane. Andy’s
son Randy has very fond memories of
his father’s Electra Jr. The photo to the
right of N18137 was captured thirteen
years later on March 11, 1988. Owner-
Doan Helicopter Inc. The former TWA
Electra Jr. was captured at the T.I.C.O. Air Show in Titusville Florida. Completely stripped,
polished, and restored, the plane is a closer reflection to TWA Electra #240. Sedona Legend
owns the original 25 ASA slide of this image. Courtesy of Dick Phillips.
Lockheed Aircraft Corporation Specifications:
1937 Lockheed (L12) Electra Junior
Build Number 1229
(Original) Lockheed configurations:
2 pilots and 6 passengers
Twin engine- (2) 450 H.P. Pratt and Whitney power plants.
Cruise speed better than 200 m.p.h. (210 m.p.h. @ 7000 feet) as noted on a Frye flight by
co-pilot Robby Robinson.
The following details have been lost for over 70 years by all NC18137 owners. At the onset of
TWA ownership the Lockheed 12A was retrofitted by either Lockheed Aircraft or TWA, as
ordered by Frye. First two passenger seats removed- in this space (2) auxiliary (48) gallon fuel
tanks were mounted. Increased fuel load- 298 gallons- resulting in “a safe 6-hours of flight
time." This made it possible for President Frye and passengers to fly non-stop from Kansas
City to Washington DC and Kansas City to Winslow, AZ. Passenger capacity was reduced from
6 to 4. (2 pilots and 4 passengers). This configuration was thought to be for the duration of
TWA ownership and was necessitated by Frye's Washington obligations and Sedona ranch.
Technical notes and details as seen above are documented in the Robinson letters as found on
Page 1942. The information is a stunning discovery. It solves the mystery of known passenger
loads on various trips and makes this 12A very unique! According to Robinson, the only (TWA)
Transcontinental & Western Air personnel qualified and officially trained to operate the
Lockheed NC18137 were:
TWA President: Jack Frye
TWA Captain: W. R. “Bill" Hendenquist
TWA Division Chief Pilot: Mr. Roby
TWA Frye Pilot: Russell (Robby) Robinson
Please note- Paul Richter also flew the 12A, primarily, at its onset with TWA. This information
was not mentioned by TWA pilot Robinson but was likely unknown to him because Richter was
serving overseas in the military and on leave from TWA while Robby was employed there.
TWA Executive transport NC18137, TWA Fleet Number 240, parked on the ramp at either
Kansas City downtown TWA terminal, or at (DCA) Washington D.C., ready for President Frye’s
use. Photo taken by TWA’s Robby Robinson, as assigned to this plane by TWA President Jack
Frye, to serve as official personal co-pilot. The Robinson family owns and retains the original of
this well-circulated image. Photo captured by Robby Robinson. All Rights Reserved.
Beloved Transport Throughout the Years
Lockheed Specs. and TWA Modifications
This page would not be complete if images of the NC18137 (as seen today) were not showcased.
Many thanks to former TWA Captain, Stan Crawford for offering the above images to Sedona
Legend, captured in Watsonville, California. Although I have flown in this plane, my images
are before it’s restoration and the TWA “makeover”. The current owners, Ruth Richter
(daughter of Paul Richter, former TWA executive vice president) and American Airlines
Captain, Rocky Walters, deserve the highest praise for their beautiful restoration of this
transport to its former TWA appearance. The plane makes regular appearances at Air Shows
nationwide to the delight of thousands of aviation enthusiasts and former TWA associates.
Another interesting experience with the Fryes and their Lockheed can be told as follows-
When Jack and Helen were in Sedona they would often throw parties for their friends at the
ranch and in turn they came to know many others who had also found and treasured the
Sedona experience. One gentleman they befriended was a fellow rancher named Kelvin “Kel”
L. Fox (now deceased) who owned the famous Foxboro Ranch above Sedona. Kel, with his wife
Patty, shared a rich association with many who were early Sedona residents.
Patty related to me a time when her husband Kel, who shared a close friendship with the Fryes,
was invited to fly back east with them on one of the times Jack and Helen departed Sedona for
Kansas City. Kel, also needed to travel to the east coast for business. The date would have been
in the early 1940’s, the plane was Jack’s Lockheed 12A NC18137. It is not remembered if there
was a co-pilot on board for the trip, but Jack, as usual, served as pilot. After departure from
Sedona, the Fryes and Kel flew an air-route to Kansas City MO. (as the first stop) on a leg that
was to continue to Washington D.C., cumulating at New York City. All three destinations were
frequent stops for Frye, who had executive offices in each of these cities, and flew between
these locations frequently, on his private planes and TWA airliners.
Now, for the entertaining element to the tale! At some point, after they departed Sedona (in
winter), the cabin heat failed in the Lockheed Electra Jr.. The plane, as one can imagine, at
cruise altitude, became quite cold and uncomfortable. Jack was piloting the plane while Helen
Frye and Kel were in the rear of the cabin shivering under the warm mink coats that Helen had
on board that day. To stay warm, one of the two broke out a bottle of Tequila. Miraculously, for
the two chilly passengers, there was also salt and a lemon on board, as well! Imagine that! As
the chilly flight droned on, Helen and Kel were polishing off the bottle to stay warm, with a
squeeze of lemon, and a dash of salt on one hand, and a shot of Tequila in the other. After a
while they became so boisterous with hearty laughing and carrying on that Jack, who was
unaware of the party behind him, turned around and shouted over the rumbling of the engines,
“what in the hell is going on back there?” Unfortunately, as pilot, Jack could not join in and get
warmed up himself! It is not widely known that Jack Frye was not a big drinker, as one might
suppose, but rather because of his intense TWA work load he had to limit his imbibing
throughout his life.
After they finally landed in Kansas City, Jack immediately ordered the plane’s heater repaired.
However, perhaps because of the war and the lack of available parts, the heating system took
three days to repair and Kel was grounded at Kansas City. During this time, he was a guest of
the Fryes and was entertained by Jack at the local “Men’s Club” in downtown Kansas City
where Jack was a popular member. Men’s clubs were common gathering places for executives
during those early years, especially in the big cities. Kel likely stayed there or with the Fryes at
their Overland Park estate. Finally, the plane was repaired, and the Fryes and Kel departed for
the east coast. Jack always offered any empty L12 or L18 seats to TWA associates or friends.
A Lockheed flight- never forgotten by Kel Fox, who treasured his friendship with the Fryes, re-
telling the tale many times to his wife and friends throughout the years. In addition to being a
rancher, Kel was also a one time president of the Coconino and Yavapai Cattle Growers
Association, executive secretary for Arizona Governor Robert T. Jones, and a member of the
Arizona House of Representatives, and the Arizona Senate.
A Frigid Flight Over the Central Plains
"It Takes a Lockheed to Beat a Lockheed!"
The Jack Frye Training Center "Eagle Nest"
Kirtland A.F. B. Albuquerque New Mexico
From 1941 forward Jack was working 24/7 with
his contemporaries toward the war effort. This
included committing all available TWA resources
to serve our troops and personally setting up
instruction centers to train U.S. service men to
fly the larger support planes of the day. Many of
the planes were air line flying stock previously
unfamiliar to military pilots. One of the most
famous facilities was the Eagle(s) Nest Flight
Center (more commonly known as the Jack Frye
Training School) at Albuquerque, N.M. The
training center became a invaluable asset for the
United States military in World War II as based
at Kirtland A.F.B. New Mexico
Jack Frye appointed chief pilot and vice president of TWA Otis Bryan (former Army pilot) to
head the Albuquerque school which became associated with many other "heavy" flight schools
around the nation. These training efforts greatly aided our military advancements in the Pacific
and European theatres. Jack’s military position during the war was Lt. Commander A-V (S)
U.S.N.R. Image shows the vice president of TWA, Otis Bryan with Jack Frye in July of 1944.
Click on photo to read the caption. Photo is courtesy of TWA Skyliner circular.
Occasionally, Jack loaned his Lockheed Electra Jr. out to TWA personnel if it involved TWA
business or a favor. One such incident was May of 1941. To paraphrase- from Robert Serling's
book, "Howard Hughes' Airline" Jack enlisted Otis Bryan to help him and his friend General
Hap Arnold locate a suitable site for a new TWA military flight training center. The training
school would eventually be called "Eagle Nest". (Interestingly.... the same name of the highest
red rock bluff at Jack and Helen Frye's Sedona Arizona ranch which they purchased in 1941.)
Jack loaned his personal plane to Bryan who used it to tour the country extensively searching
for a suitable location for the training center. Eventually Bryan located the perfect site near
Albuquerque New Mexico and personally oversaw the organization and operation of the center.
Frye also flew out to Albuquerque continually to insure the center's success. In Serling's book,
it is stated in error that the Frye’s plane was a Lockheed 14. To my knowledge, TWA never
owned a Super Electra (14) and such a plane was certainly never associated with Jack Frye. It is
well documented during this time-period that Jack's personal plane was the Lockheed Electra
12A, TWA NC18137. This is the plane Serling is actually referring to, certainly an
understandable typo as both planes are close Lockheed sisters. Howard Hughes owned a Super
Electra (14) but it was NOT used for TWA business ever. Howard kept this famous record-
breaking plane under lock down when he wasn't flying it.
Later, on December 24, 1941, as a direct connection with Eagle Nest, Jack signed into effect the
Inter-Continental Division of TWA, or (ICD). Another interesting incident with Jack's plane
came shortly after, again paraphrased from Serling's detailed research, Bryan had returned to
Kansas City from Albuquerque New Mexico, in December of 1942 where he had been overseeing
the TWA ICD. Jack's secretary met the exhausted Otis at the airport where she told him he
was to report to Jack Frye immediately. At this meeting Jack asked Bryan to help TWA launch
a program to train the Army in operating TWA Stratoliners from Cairo Egypt to Washington
D.C. Frye, in consideration that Bryan had returned to Kansas City for the holidays (and to go
quail hunting in the Ozarks), as a favor, loaned Otis his personal plane to expedite the hunting
trip so Bryan could return to Washington D.C., A.S.A.P. Bryan was left with the instructions
from Frye, "get your ass back here and start the Cairo operation, you will be based in
Washington." This is a perfect example of Jack's generosity and keen business sense in
rewarding his employees with incentives for their commitment to TWA. Actions like this, a
regular occurrence with Jack, cemented his standing as TWA's most beloved and valued leader.
In regard to Robert Serling, I had the honor of meeting him in Tucson (November of 2008) at
his office before he passed away and conversed with him several times, thereafter. When I say
honor, I mean it in every sense of the word. He was an avid fan of Jack Frye and he actually
met Jack early on in his career. Bob and I shared a passion for airline history and he wholly
endorsed my work, even to point of offering to write a forward for my eventual book pro-bono.
Very generous and gracious but I would have insisted on paying him. The offer demonstrated
his faith in my passion. I asked him why he didn’t do a biography on Frye himself? He told me
he was involved with three projects, and at 90, he was just too worn out. He also generously
offered to connect me with his brother Rod’s agent (Bob's too, at the time) for publication when
the time was right. Bob always felt that Frye had never been given adequate credit for his
involvement in aviation and my project was long overdue in his mind.
When I met Bob he had just finished a book about Alaska Airlines, which was not initiated by
him, but by the airline. This shows how valued his efforts were to the airline industry. He told
me they had requested and commissioned him to do a book commemorating 75-years of the
Alaska Airline saga. Bob wrote the anniversary book in a candid manner, as is his style, and in
my opinion the end result is much more refreshing than the typical historic narrative. The
Alaska book was so frank, he related that the current Alaska C.E.O. called him, after reading
it, conveying he was quite taken aback. I guess corporate Alaska Airlines didn’t realize Alaska,
like so many other airlines, had a rather gritty sojourn. However, he accomplished what they
asked, he wrote an honest overview of the airline, not a glossy coffee-table book. He gave me a
signed copy of the book entitled, "Character and Characters; The Spirit of Alaska Airlines".
Bob Serling was a devout lover of TWA (their pioneering aviation history) and especially that of
Frye’s leadership. I was pleased to share my love of Jack Frye with him and the incredible saga
of this airline. My project seems to be endless as was Jack Frye’s life. Someday, though, when I
feel the time is right, I will roll my research and devotion toward his legacy, and that of Helen’s
into a book. My main focus and passion, though, has always been an electronic narrative which
is exactly what I do. Such a format is more productive, as facts can be changed when new
information is uncovered, insuring information is accurate and current. We truly live in an
electronic world where few people have the time or inclination to read books. Such hard copy
formats better serve as "vehicles of information preservation" in our ever changing world.
On Going Research- Lifetime Commitment
Because of Jack's involvement with TWA it seems many people who remember the Fryes
always have a story about planes. Jack Frye was all about air transportation and Sedona's early
history is forever cemented with TWA. The Frye’s ranch manager, Roy Kurtz, who worked for
Jack and Helen Frye from 1941 to 1943 fondly remembers Jack and Helen, the ranch, and
Jack’s Lockheed. One story Roy recalled when I interviewed him was a flight with the Fryes
when Jack needed to go to the valley (Phoenix) to purchase stock for the ranch. Jack, who came
from a long line of very successful cattle ranchers, kept his Sedona ranch stocked with bovines,
more so, in the early 40’s, than later. Jack and Helen, by 1948, had acquired over 50,000 acres
of ranching property in Arizona, alone. All this property was successfully operated.
Roy happened to be free this Saturday morning, so Jack asked him if he would like to fly down
with Helen, Dolly Schuerman, and himself. Roy jumped at the chance to take a flight in the
futuristic looking Lockheed 12A. Jack drove the passengers out to the Frye airstrip where Jack
had his Lockheed Electra tied down. After everyone was on board and settled into their seats,
Jack started the radial engines, one by one. After running them up, he released the brakes. The
Electra gently started rolling down the packed sod runway, smooth as silk. As the plane gained
speed, the tail lifted and the ship rose with a throaty roar. As the polished to a mirror-finish
TWA Electra Jr. climbed into the sky over the Red Rock Country, it would have been a blinding
sight in the intense early morning sun.
Keeping low in the air Jack flew northeast for about 15 miles, at which he flew low over his
Deer-Lick Ranch so they could all see it from the air. Roy was amazed at how small the
property looked from above, a fairy tale land of red rock spires and pinnacles. At Baldwin's
Crossing (now Crescent Moon Ranch) Jack banked to the south and climbed to about 10,000
feet, throttling back to cruise speed. At over 200 m.p.h. they followed a sky-route from Sedona
to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. In mid-flight Jack asked Roy to come up and sit in the right
seat of the cockpit and take control of the Electra (a seat Helen often occupied).
Roy related that he was very nervous and remembers resting his hand on the throttle levers of
the twin R-985 Pratt and Whitney radial engines. He immediately felt the vibration of the
powerful power plants and was abruptly taken aback. Jack showed him the basics of controlling
the plane and then let Roy take over. At least, Jack let Roy "think" he was flying the plane.
Eventually, Roy surrendered the controls back to Jack who navigated the 36 foot mini-airliner
on a descent into the Valley of the Sun.
In our day it takes 2 hours to drive from Sedona to Phoenix. In 1942 it would have taken more
than 3 hours on the long narrow winding Highway 89A through Jerome and Prescott because
there was no Black Canyon Freeway (I-17) at the time. On this hot summer morning it took
Jack and his passengers less than 30 minutes to reach Phoenix Sky Harbor. As one of the most
outstanding airplanes ever designed, the Lockheed Electra is still one of the fastest vintage twin
engine planes ever produced and remained one of Jack's all-time favorite private transports.
The ship’s engineering was so remarkable that both Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes, both,
chose nearly identical Lockheeds for their round-the-world flights.
As they neared the airspace over Phoenix Arizona Jack radioed the tower transmitting "this is
TWA 240 requesting landing clearance." This airport was very familiar to Jack as he and his
partners, Paul Richter and Walter Hamilton, initiated the very first scheduled passenger service
into Arizona (1927) with Jack flying the very first passenger flight! The routes between Los
Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, Douglas, and El Paso were pioneered by Standard Air Lines, with
company president Jack Frye, often the pilot. Later, Jack, along with TWA, launched the very
first Trans-Continental and Trans-Atlantic passenger service for the United States.
Roy, Helen, and Dolly visited while they watched the palm trees and burnt orange tile roofs
grow in larger and closer. As the Electra's mirrored reflection raced over the ranch estates of
Scottsdale, they gradually glided down among DC3 airliners, settling on the tarmac with the
engines rumbling lightly as the tail dropped to the ground with a slight thump. After they taxied
to a parking area, Jack went through his shut down procedures, and in a moment, he was
opening the door and setting out the steps (the 12A did not have air-stairs). Roy waited for
Helen and Dolly to be helped out of the plane by Jack, and then he too, jumped on to the hot
skillet of the tarmac. The intoxicating fragrance of citrus trees wafted all around them.
A TWA courtesy car was waiting for the President of TWA and his guests, whisking them off to
the (now famous) Tovrea Stockyards. Jack and Roy viewed cattle to purchase and made
arrangements for them to be shipped up to Sedona in a big cattle truck. These were added to the
cattle Jack had already purchased to include 20 from Roy's family ranch. (By 1947 Jack had 501
2 to 3 year old Hereford steers at the ranch in Sedona). After Helen and Dolly returned from
shopping they all had Arizona steak dinners at the stockyard’s renowned steakhouse eatery.
Late in the day, after Jack took care of some business at the TWA terminal office, they
returned to the Electra, which looked to Roy like a rocket ship, its nose pointed high into the
sky. Jack started the engines, one by one, and they took off again, soaring into the light of a
magnificent Arizona sunset. As the clearance lights twinkled far above Phoenix, Roy fell into a
hypnotic trance, staring out the port window. He imagined he could see all the way to Los
Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. Over the background of the engines, he could just barely hear
Jack and Helen visiting with each other up in the cockpit. The dim horizon lost its light to the
crimson hues of a setting sun as the executive airliner continued north to Sedona. Just as Roy
was starting to relax, Jack announced they were about to touch down in 5 minutes.
Roy watched intently as the ground quickly rose up to meet them. The engines nearly silent,
almost at idle, purred, as the plane swung in low and glided over the highway where the brilliant
flip-down landing lights illuminated the sage brush and pavement like daylight. They touched
down amid running jack rabbits and rolled to a stop near the Frye ranch car. Roy stepped down
from the Lockheed into the cool desert evening. The Arizona stars reflected brilliantly off the
mirrored surface of the Electra, and the smell of sagebrush and hot oil assailed his senses. The
only sound heard was crickets and the steady ticking of the hot radial engines.
A milestone in his young life, Roy vowed to never forget the experience! Now, after 63 years, his
memory of that special day, vivid in his 96 year old mind! Roy has now passed away but each
time I interviewed him he was a delight, and a true gentleman. He never failed to mention how
much he thought of the Fryes, and how they had “enriched” his life!
Please Note- I wrote this piece to reflect in “story-format” Roy’s recollection of his trip to
Phoenix with the Fryes. I filled in details, only as I felt appropriate. Roy did not mention
whether there was a TWA co-pilot on board that day. Jack did fly the plane alone, but more
than not, the crew of the Frye private planes were staffed by a captain (Frye) and TWA co-pilot.
Especially, when flying out west to the Sedona ranch. This extra pilot was necessitated by Frye
who always worked in the cabin on paperwork and entertained TWA clients and associates on
flights. It appears this day the co-pilot stayed behind at Cottonwood (where Jack always put his
pilots up at a local motel) and Jack flew the plane down to Sky Harbor himself. A few years
later (with Jack’s Lodestar) the flight crew included the Frye’s private TWA V.I.P. Hostess
Harriet Appelwick, who later also worked for Howard Hughes. In regard to Dolly Schuerman, it
was thought this was her first flight, and at one time that she was afraid of flying; however,
recently in 2010 I found out that she was certainly not timid about flying with Jack and Helen
Frye in their Lockheeds. At least twice, when the Fryes stopped in Sedona, on their way to
California, Jack and Helen invited Dolly on board for a flight to the west coast where she would
visit her sister. It is not known if she was able to connect with the Fryes for the flight back.
This would have been complicated, as Jack's flights were 'oft delayed due to TWA business, and
as well, he would often have to fly different routes, due to business engagements. Stories of
early flights in Jack's private planes are treasures and much sought for addition to this work!
Roy didn't take any pictures the day he flew to Phoenix
in the Electra Jr., but he did take one of the best
pre-flight photos of the Fryes (together) to have survived
some 70-years later. So few images of the Fryes at the
Sedona Ranch exist. As seen (right) Helen and Jack were
waiting for Roy to drive them out to the Frye airstrip to
board Lockheed 240 outbound to TWA corporate offices
in Kansas City MO. Jack is wearing his flight glasses and
holding his trademark cigar and as always is dressed in
suit and tie. Helen, in western duds with cowgirl boots,
western cut jacket, and slacks. Jack is holding his sport
jacket and Helen's silver fox coat. This image was
captured at the old entrance (low water crossing) to the
Frye Deer-Lick Ranch. You can see the bumper of the
car, which was being loaded, in the right of the frame.
This ranch is now known as Cross Creek Ranch Estates
and but originally was the Frye Smoke Trail Ranch.
There is a new bridge and entrance farther south to this property currently. Interestingly,
Helen is holding a piece of Zierold flight luggage which was heavily promoted and tested by
TWA. This luggage was designed and manufactured by Jack Frye's personal friend Herman
Zierold. It is said that in 1920's Los Angeles, Jack and Herman both struggling to get a
foothold, were once roommates, after which they remained life-long friends, both the same age.
Frye spends equal time on the ground and in his flying TWA office
National Aeronautical Association- “No swivel chair executive- Frye still flies his company ship
frequently (Lockheed 12) and it is no trick for him to schedule an early lunch in Kansas City
(his headquarters) and keep a dinner engagement in Washington D.C. where he spends much
of his time in connection with the war effort; all in a day’s work for this executive-pilot.” 1942
The article below appeared in the publication TARPA
which stands for The Active Retired Pilot's Association of TWA.
The story is a wonderful testament to Jack Frye and his relationships with his contemporaries,
and as well, a wonderful narrative of one of Jack and Helen's coveted trips out west to their
beloved Smoke Trail Ranch. Certainly one of the most beautiful tributes I have ever read it was
written by the retired TWA (now late) pilot.
The following story was written by Walter Gunn and is used with permission. I had contact with
Walt Gunn several times before he passed away by telephone and E-Mail.
"In TARPA, members are encouraged to write of their more memorable flying experiences. The
tales are captivating. In searching nearly 40 years of cockpit assignments, it is difficult to sort
out any one situation which may qualify as a "most unforgettable" event in my career;
however, one early and lasting impression persists. It follows:
Early on as a novice, I was privileged to serve as TWA president Jack Frye's co-pilot on his
private Lockheed 12A. On each trip, Jack enjoyed chatting about how things were going "on the
line for his men." On each fuel stop, he would seek out crews for chit-chat or check on any
employees who may have needed a ride where we were going. A personable interest and concern
for others might best describe Jack Frye. Physically, he resembled a defensive end, but with an
affable, infectious smile for others. Pondering aviation matters, he assumed a pensively, more
serious facial expression. Most corporate leaders today, fall painfully short by comparison.
To paraphrase a popular cliché, "I knew Jack Frye... he was a friend of mine... etc." Few, if any,
airline leaders today can be likened to Jack Frye! Two trips with Jack Frye stand out unfaded by
the nearly five decades of time and myriad changes in TWA's destiny-
The first trip left Kansas City at dusk, en route to Amarillo for Boulder City (serving Las Vegas
at the time.) We had five passengers (see note following article) of whom two were TWA
executives (names missed) and three businessmen who were hurriedly introduced. After several
minutes at cruise, Jack mentioned that he had some business to discuss in the cabin and left me
to manage things; radio checks and traffic advisories, etc. Lacking an autopilot, I delighted at
being in control, if only for the moment. In retrospect, trust (in me) was perhaps the real
source of my delight.
Some minutes later, Frye led a man to the left seat, and asked that I, "let Mr. Yerex look over
things." "Sure, my pleasure," I replied. The first question by the stranger was, "What model
airplane is this?" "Lockheed 12A," I responded. The guest gazed around the cockpit and replied
with a puzzled tone in his soft-spoken voice, "I don't know if I have any of these or not." My
immediate impression was, what kind of clown is this character? For sure, I would know if I had
any airplane, especially a sleek L12A, the sister ship to Amelia Earhart's record-setter. I
accepted the unlikely remark, deciding it could be possible for him to not know what airplanes
he owned. I then learned that Mr. Yerex was President of TACA Airlines, the major freight
carrier in Central and South America.
It was on this trip that Jack Frye concluded purchase control of TACA for TWA's future
expansion beyond the U.S. to Central and South America…. considered a bonanza for TWA, and
an example of the fertile-minded leadership of Jack Frye. Later, the deal was never finalized
due to the war conditions and major postwar changes in international route awards. Still, the
attempt reflects Jack Frye's dream of expanding TWA internationally at such an early time.
Pursuing his lifelong goal, Jack Frye accomplished a much greater feat at war's end by
expansion in to what was to become Trans World Airlines as a major international carrier.
Another trip offered a broader view and insight into the charismatic charm and visionary focus
of Jack Frye. (Granted the perception is that of a fledgling copilot!) The occasion for the flight
was his recent marriage (second or third time, but unimportant) and subsequent honeymoon to
his ranch in the Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, Arizona. The flight was uneventful except he
had Helen, his bride, join me by taking his left seat in the cockpit while he did some work in the
cabin. After a fuel stop again at Amarillo, we then proceeded to a primitive, sod-surfaced
landing strip at Cottonwood, Arizona. (Note: Jack used both Clemencea Airport, now
Cottonwood Airport, and his own landing strip.) On final approach, Jack noted a Lockheed
Ventura B-34 bomber parked on the field. He surmised the crew must have had an emergency
to get that plane in on such a limited runway. And, right he was!
As we secured the plane, Jack explained that he would be at his ranch "for a few days" and I
would be staying at the only motel in Cottonwood. He also asked that I try to locate the bomber
crew if they were in town as he would like to meet them. Even honeymoon plans failed to divert
his interest in the pilots skillfully managing the emergency landing on such marginal turf.
The three or four day stay in Cottonwood grew into nine days. The bomber crew was at the same
motel (only one) when I checked in. First Lieutenant Bill Reynolds was pilot, with a warrant
officer copilot, staff sergeant engineer, and corporal radioman. We became close friends at
once. They were intrigued with my job as airline pilot and more so, that I was flying copilot for
the president of the airline! The bomber landing was an emergency as a result of engine failure
(fuel pump) while they were en route Nellis A.F.B. in Las Vegas, to Luke Field, Phoenix. As
Frye stated later, "a helluva good job... getting into a postage stamp field!" Reynolds and his
crew were a delight to know and we spent three days whiling away our time in the limited one
restaurant, one movie house (Mexican films) and one oasis (bar) in town. Boredom was offset by
helping the motel owner stack lumber in his adjacent lumber yard and building supply
enterprise. I was warmly received by all the townspeople, which I credited to their admiration of
Jack Frye. With little activity in Cottonwood, the motel/lumber yard owner offered his Lincoln
Zephyr (and wartime fuel ration stamps) to his only motel guest, for a trip up to Prescott.
Dinner and a Clark Gable movie filled the bill.
After four days, the crew and I were in the local restaurant/bar with the Budweiser distributor,
exchanging flying tales and the recent state of the war. The "Bud Man" was quite generous with
a constant flow of cold mugs for the "grounded airmen." The setting typified an old west saloon,
but with one exception... we were the only customers rather than a raucous gathering of
cowhands, bar maids and town cronies. A stately figure caught my eye entering the door... Frye
in person... his tall stature was reminiscent of John Wayne as he shuffled to our table. His
western wear only lacked a holstered six-shooter dangling from his waist; leather jacket, jeans,
boots and cowboy hat could have come from the costuming department for a shoot-em-up
western movie. Since he had left word he was extending his stay, it was obvious he was not
planning to fly out for several days. By imbibing with Reynolds and his crewmen, I was merely
carrying out his wish to meet them... sure! Jack joined in and insisted on picking up the tab.
After a brief negotiation, he deferred to the Bud distributor who mentioned it was a rare treat
for him to host such honored customers. To the locals in the Oak Creek Canyon area, Jack
Frye was highly revered. After introducing Jack to Reynolds and his crew, he made note of each
of their names, giving them his card as he praised their feat of landing on such a limited
airstrip. With a warm, confiding tone of voice, he stated, "When the war is over, we'll need each
one of you on TWA... so let me know when you're free... I've got jobs for you!" How more
personable can one be? He was serious! I sensed the pride felt by Reynolds and his men. They
beamed with such approval, and from an airline president no less! Later, Bill Reynolds likened
the career offer from Frye to having the Air Medal conferred on him by his commanding
officer. A full round of "hangar flying" lasted for more than an hour. Jack went on to say he
had come to town to meet the crew and to bring in a load of apples for the local grocer to
market. His eyes gleamed as he described harvesting the crop from his ranch. I never figured if
he found more pleasure in ranching than in flying.
If betting, I would have to toss a coin, his enjoyment of both activities brought him such great
pleasure. On leaving, he briefed me on his plans. Apologetically, he had a few more days
"work" at the ranch.... lots to do. He would let me know the day before we were to leave. My
only duties called for checking the airplane and seeing that it was serviced for our departure.
From boredom, I did run-up the engines, checking all of the systems and radios. A real treat,
since even engine-starting was not a copilot duty on regular line schedules.
Tragically and ironically, Jack Frye was killed in a car accident near Tucson, Arizona. In a
fitting tribute to their revered leader, the TWA pilots established a "Jack Frye Memorial" with
donations directed to purchase aeronautical engineering text books for leading universities such
as MIT, Ohio State, Cal Tech, Purdue and Kansas University. Frye held these schools in high
esteem for vital research in aviation, his "first love!" The books were given a special section in
their libraries labeled as the "Jack Frye Memorial" collection, and were the earliest
publications in "aerospace engineering" as chosen by the various schools. What more fitting
tribute would Jack Frye have wished?
As a pioneer in aviation, Frye envisioned safer, faster, and higher performance aircraft for man
to develop. Recognized in aviation text books as "father of the DC series of air transports,"
Jack Frye's visions led to the famous Lockheed Constellation series with pressurized comfort
and valuable transoceanic ranges. As a team, Howard Hughes and Jack Frye built the TWA
dynasty by developing the famed Lockheed Constellation. Frye pressed on, clinching
international routes, challenging the venerable Pan Am under Juan Trippe's forceful leadership.
The TWA story internationally soon decimated Pan Am's monopoly of foreign air travel...
fulfilling Jack Frye's dreams of TWA being known as truly the leading TRANS WORLD
The last tribute from TWA to Jack Frye involved naming the training center in Kansas City
after him. Since the training move to St. Louis, the Jack Frye Training Center is no more. The
premises have been sold. Several "concerned" TARPA seniors have suggested that a fitting
recognition of Jack Frye be considered by the present TWA leaders. I agree. (As you know,
TWA is now defunct.) Unfairly, fate deprived him an active role in the jet age when conflicts
arose with the eccentric, unpredictable Howard Hughes, major stockholder of TWA. However,
Jack Frye's contributions to aviation continue to enhance today's air transport industry and he
will long be remembered by those privileged to have known him. Aviation history will be sadly
lacking if his rightful role as a pioneer is not given full recognition and his visionary leadership
given full credit."
Retired TWA Captain
Footnotes and Comments by Sedona Legend-
The date of the trip with Yerex possibly was the week of October 13, 1943 (per a October 18,
1943 Time Magazine article). The stated passenger load of 5 may be in error as stated by Gunn.
As documented on Page 1942, this Lockheed 12A was reconfigured by Frye (early on) to
accommodate only 4 passengers and 2 crew (pilots). This was done so Frye could use the plane
non-stop from Kansas City to Winslow (the Frye Ranch) or Kansas City to Washington D.C.
The latter, was where Jack had an office and spent most of his time during the 1940’s. This
configuration is well documented by Robby Robinson (Frye TWA executive pilot and Assistant to
Jack Frye). Not only did Robinson service the plane and fly it in the early 1940’s but he also
trained other TWA pilots with the plane and documented his 12A association methodically in
letters written at the time. Without this documentation we would not have such detailed
accounts of this plane, with flights. In stating this, I think Walt may have been mistaken at the
number of passengers remembered on a flight after 50 years. I conversed with Gunn many
times and found that he was “remembering” his stories about Frye as opposed to Robinson who
wrote down his experiences in notes as the plane’s pilot and caretaker on the dates they
occurred. This 12A was Frye’s executive plane from 1940-45. I think one of Gunn’s flights was
late 1942 (just before Robinson came online) and the second (Yerex) was perhaps ‘43 just after
It is interesting to note the bar Walt spoke of is now called Kactus Kate's Saloon at 929 N. Main
Street, Cottonwood. Our favorite restaurant, Nic's is right next door. The motel was Frank
Eden's Motor Court just up the street. Eden also owned the local lumber yard. Every time I walk
past this old-time saloon I visualize the aviation legend Jack Frye standing in the doorway in his
western attire! The "load of apples" Jack transported to market described in this article would
have come from the orchard where the Twin Cypress Ramada is now at Red Rock State Park.
Helen and Jack called the area "Long Meadow". This little clue tells us the date of the visit was
more into fall than late spring, simply because that is when apples mature around Sedona. The
Smoke Trail Ranch apple trees died and had to be removed in the mid-1940's.
In the process of pulling this website together I have met some pretty terrific people. Ron
Hazelton, for instance, of whom I have had contact with through E-Mail and phone was able to
contact Walt Gunn for me and helped arrange an interview. Ron is a retired TWA pilot, DC 6/7
Flight Instructor who also worked for United, among other airlines throughout the years. By the
time he retired he had accomplished great things and was one of TWA's finest.
Walt Gunn, on the other hand, had a similar career serving TWA for 39 years as a pilot, from
DC-3's to Boeing 747's and many other planes in between. For instance, flying the Lockheed
Electra 12A and Constellation as a professional pilot. He was not only a friend of Jack Frye but
many other notables from the airline industry, as well. Both these men are the best of the best,
stellar pilots and pioneers, who would well serve our aviation youth as role models today.
I desired to run the above article written by Walt Gunn strictly on it's historic merit and the
association with Jack and Helen (and Sedona). Upon interviewing Walt, I realized that the
excerpt (above) was actually from his book which has even more information about his
experiences with Jack Frye and other notable events in his career. It would greatly behoove
those out there with interest in the glory days of pilots and airlines to purchase his book, you
won't be disappointed. It weaves tales of life in the air as only a seasoned veteran airline pilot
can relate it.
Synchronicity plays an intricate role in our lives and that became apparent when talking to Russ
Hazelton. My great uncle, Yale R. Nelson, was a United Airlines co-pilot and Captain from the
early 40's on. He had a illustrious career that spanned decades of change and exciting events. By
the end of his career he was the Chief Test Pilot (Flight Manager and Line Captain) for United
Airlines. This entailed testing and troubleshooting all new planes that United committed to fleet
service. He also trained all the new pilots hired for United and coordinated the flight simulators.
Yale flew out of ORD SFO HNL for many years. I grew up listening to his wonderful stories of
the glory days of UAL. He flew them all, Constellations to the biggest jets in the world. He even
told me once he was offered a chance to fly the Concord which he declined. I was so fascinated
by these stories that I too was to eventually become an employee of the same great company.
Recently I have found out that my great uncle actually knew Jack Frye! Blew me away, as I
never thought to ask him before, and it never came up. I have been able to get him and Russ in
touch so they could share airline stories, experiences, and the acquaintances of many of the
same co-workers. In the end, I have found out they had similar positions, just with different
My interest in all of this comes full circle with my fascination all my life with the beautiful
Lockheed Electra 10E that Amelia Earhart flew into oblivion. Many hours, as a teen, I would
read and re-read every aspect of the mystery, spending hours going over every detail of that
beautiful plane. Dreaming and wishing I could travel to the South Pacific and solve the puzzling
mystery. Of course, Amelia Earhart's disappearance, it appears, will never be solved. The
summer of 2003, and again in 2008, as I worked as a volunteer at Red Rock State Park in
Sedona I became interested in Jack and Helen's story. No one knew what kind of plane they
flew in to and from the ranch and to be frank no one had given it much thought. In time, after I
started the project, I came to realize that it was the Lockheed Electra 12A (smaller sister ship
and almost identical to Earhart's). Coincidence, perhaps, but the plane definitely has drawn me
deeper and deeper into the Frye story. At the same time I feel I am providing a public service.
The Frye saga was just aching to be told. Shadows and memories- whispers of imprints- fading
more and more each decade- have now been brought back to life on the Sedona Legend
Website. In the long run, aviation buffs and everyday readers, people who just love to hear
other's stories, have been united through these pages!
I want to recommend this wonderful new book enriched with stories of one of the world's
greatest airlines: TWA. It is called: "A Life Aloft -from DC-3 to 747"
by Capt. Walt Gunn, TWA, (Retired). Order through any bookstore: ISBN 0-9611817-1-2
Yet Another TWA Co-Pilot's Memory of Frye
The following article respectfully
dedicated to TWA Captain Walt
Gunn who passed away on
September 15, 2006
The photo of Jack Frye
(right) shows him in
western duds very
similar to the image
Walt reminisces about
below. The photo was
taken at a
Cielo gathering in New
organization Jack Frye
A Very Famous TWA Lockheed Electra 12A