Continuing one of my favorite blog series that support my book “When No One Else Would Fly“, the aviation pioneering biography of Colonel C. J. Tippett… I introduce Roscoe Turner.
Roscoe Turner was a self-taught automobile mechanic who fell in love with flying but was prevented from joining pilots in the sky by his lack of education and connections. He persevered throughout WWI and bought his own barnstormer at the end of the war. Turner made his way up in civil aviation, by flight racing and stunt flying. He built himself a name and place in commercial flight through his own efforts.
His speed racing set flight records and he caught the attention of the Gilmore Oil Company, which would one day be absorbed into the Mobil Oil Company. The Gilmore Oil Company’s logo contained a lion, and so, as a publicity stunt, the company gave Roscoe Turner a lion cub to fly with – and he did. Roscoe and Gilmore, the lion cub, flew all over the United States until the cub grew into a lion and became a flight hazard in the cockpit. Gilmore stayed on the ground, and Roscoe grew in fame and set up training programs during WWII.
Roscoe Turner was 60 years old when he traded letters with Tip in 1955, discussing a commercial aviation opportunity in South American aviation – when Tip was the Director of the South American Office of the International Civil Aviation Organization. They enjoyed a friendship and professional connection, as well as similarities in their aviation backgrounds. Turner expressed admiration, and some envy, over Tip’s transition from conventional to jet aircraft as Tip qualified in the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star.