Category: The Planes!


Col. C. J. Tippett and the Beechcraft C45

The Beechcraft C-45, similar to the model pictured here, was Tip’s favorite twin-engine aircraft. He flew some amazing flights in it, and one of them is the inspiration for the book’s title.

The current leader for the idea of a title for my grandfather’s aviation biography is “When No-One Else Would Fly.”

It comes from a letter written to Col. C. J. Tippett by Dr. Gene B. Starkloff about a life-saving flight that Tip made in 1945.

Tip was living and working in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with his wife (my grandmother) and children. He had recently returned from flying a new Beechcraft C-45 from Washington DC to Rio on behalf of the US Government – the flight itself an amazing feat in that time in aviation history.

The Beechcraft was a gift, expanding the civil aviation mission in Brazil to twin-engine capability.

Dr. Starkloff was the Army Navy doctor assigned to the South Atlantic Command Headquarters in Rio, and on a dark and stormy night in June, he had received a desperate message from the American embassy in Paraguay. American personnel had been stricken with a wicked illness. They feared that it was polio, and several of the victims were children.

Dr. Starkloff needed both a pilot and a plane to fly him and his heavy load of equipment to Asuncion. There was hope if treatment could be applied soon, and Dr. Starkloff was the only doctor within reach who could deal with polio. But weather had grounded all flights; commercial, military, or private. The conditions were impossible, and the doctor could find no pilot willing to try.

The full story of Tip’s “flight of mercy” is beautifully detailed, in Tip’s own words, in the soon-to-be-released book. It is only one of the many record-setting flights that Tip made in the Beechcraft C-45 between 1945 and the 1950s.

Dr. Starkloff was able to help the children, and he credits Tip with extraordinary courage. He wrote: “We were the only airplane in or out of Rio de Janeiro that week… I will never forget that trip that you volunteered to fly – when no-one else would…”

“When No-One Else Would Fly” will soon join our cultural library of aviation history, and describe Tip’s life as an aviation pioneer.

The Westchester Press and Cloyce Joseph Tippett and The Heath Parasol Airplane

The Health Parasol was a home-built kit plane, and Cloyce Joseph Tippett flew it in 1930 – or tried to fly it. Thank you Wiki for the photo!

Before he flew a Heath Parasol home-built, Cloyce Joseph Tippett learned to fly in a Curtiss JN4 biplane in 1929. He learned from a traveling barnstormer, and by the seat of his pants, which was enough to convince him that aviation was the life for him.

Both the Great Depression, and the fact that he was only sixteen, limited his options of extending his flying ability. He had to take any opportunity that came his way to keep flying.

In 1930, Tip was headed for college and accepted his Aunt’s invitation to stay overnight on the road trip from Port Clinton, Ohio, to Detroit, Michigan.

But when Tip discovered that Aunt Daisy’s husband, Mr. Laberdee, was a mechanic with a garage full of OX5 aircraft engines, the trip to college was put on hold. Tip had his hands on the engines and was getting experience he wouldn’t find in college.

In the back of the shop, Tip found dozens of motorcycle engines that Mr. Laberdee and his fellow flight enthusiasts were putting into Heath Parasol kit planes that they were building in their spare time. It was heaven for Tip, who was considered an experienced pilot among these kit-building mechanics.

Tip’s description of his first Heath Parasol test flight in a Michigan potato field is delightful. In the soon-to-be-available book that he wrote about his flying life, he says “The home-built plane was more agile than the lumbering old Jenny and responsive to the controls. It was quite stable for the short time we were airborne.”

And then he almost crashes when the Henderson engine quits mid-air.

Tip’s perspective of the home-built planes, and the other aircraft within his reach is riveting. He was involved in a time of aviation that is a fascinating side story to mainstream aviation pioneering.

The Heath Parasol was reportedly easy to build and easy to fly, and could be assembled with materials and tools commonly found in 1920s and 30s workshops or garages. When civil aviation became organized enough to require licensing of both pilots and craft, the Heath Parasol was the only kit built aircraft that could be licensed.

The wings were constructed of wooden spars, and the airplane cover was fabric. It was powered by the Henderson motorcycle engine, or equivalent, producing 25 hp and 19kW.

Tip found that the glide path, after that engine quit, was adequate for getting back down to a potato field if required. If you’d like to read more, contact us to sign up for the book release notification. We never share your information, and we have a lot of fun aviation stories!

 

 

 

Col. C. J. Tippett flew the C-47 Skytrain

Col. C. J. Tippett trained pilots to fly the Douglas C-47 Skytrain over the Himalayan Mountain route in 1942. The pilots were Flying The Hump.

World War II pushed aviation pioneering hard.

Safety did not come first, because people were already dying on the front lines, and beyond.

War changed the rules, and aviation history is full of flights that today, would be considered recklessly irresponsible. But the flights were unimaginably heroic.

The Hump was a name that WWII pilots used for the Himalayan Mountains, and flying it in 1942 without adequate navigation, information, weather reports, and technical support was an aviation nightmare.

But American pilots, in conjunction with other Allied pilots, flew it every day for almost three years at President Roosevelt’s request.

The US had been sending American pilots and aircraft to China to fight the Japanese invasion for years on an unofficial basis. The Flying Tigers had been mercenaries, flying combat air missions against the Japanese over the Chinese mainland, until the US joined WWII and Roosevelt was able to officially recognize their efforts.

America was directly fighting the Japanese in the Pacific and supporting Chiang Kai-shek’s battle in China.

By 1942, Japan had blocked the Burma Road in addition to coastal China, and the only way to get supplies to the Chinese forces was to fly them in, over an air route that is, even today, considered extremely dangerous.

The civil aviation infrastructure was called on to provide pilots with the skill to fly this route, and the newly-formed Civil Aeronautics Administration Standardization Center in Houston, Texas, was a natural source for training.

Cloyce Joseph Tippett, then a First Lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve, was the Senior Advanced Flight Instructor at the Houston Standardization Center, and he also had plenty of flight time in the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, the aircraft assigned to the effort.

Tip trained pilots specifically for the conditions they would encounter on the route, and certified them for mulit-engine flying in the C-47.

Tip had been flying a CAA owned DC-3 for years and he was already known for his commitment to flight safety. Tip believed that preparation and training were the key. If the risk had to be taken, then the pilots had to be certified in instrument flying, multi-engine flight, and every kind of navigation possible. So he got to work.

The C-47 Skytrain was a version of the Douglas DC-3, the most reliable aircraft of the age. The C-47 had a reinforced floor and cargo door, making it more suitable for supply runs. But even so, the altitudes that pilots had to fly to get through and over the Himalayan Mountains were pushing the C-47’s design limits.

Additionally, the aircraft were often overloaded at take-off, and unpredictable weather forced pilots to push fuel ranges to skip flooded landing strips.

The crash rate was heartbreakingly high, but the pilots continued to fly the route, and the C-47 Skytrain performed admirably until finally replaced by larger, more suited aircraft.

In today’s aviation world of GPS navigation, constant radio communication, and multi-layered safety protocols, the conditions that routinely faced pilots flying the Hump were astounding… and unacceptable.

But not only did the pilots, crew, and support staff of the 1940s accept the conditions, they met the challenge and paid the price.

Some of the most courageous aviation pioneering took place there, and their stories are riveting. Tip was proud of the pilots he met and trained, and considered them his personal heroes.

 

 

Col. C. J. Tippett owned a Curtiss JN4

The Curtiss Jenny was Tip’s first plane. He learned to fly in 1929, when he was sixteen years old.

Like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, Cloyce Joseph Tippett learned to fly in a barnstormer that landed in his hometown. Unlike them, he lived his life of record-setting aviation accomplishment away from public attention. Until now.

Tip wrote a memoir of his aviation life and passed it to me to turn into a book, which is getting close to being ready to read. It’s currently a completed draft that I’ve sent off to an agent with great hopes of traditional publication… but if not – self publishing remains a viable option!

The barnstormer, named George, who landed in Tip’s town, was flying a Curtiss Jenny and offered Tip the chance to buy it… for $700.

That’s wasn’t a great deal for Tip, but he didn’t pay attention to that. He was focused on how he could get the Jenny, given that  – as a sixteen year old, he didn’t have $700.

It was also 1929, and within a month, the Great Depression would begin, and within a couple of years, the Curtiss JN4 would be considered unsuitable for general flight due to safety considerations. But it was a plane and Tip had the flying fever. He did get the Jenny and he did learn to fly.

And went on to join aviation history… and live a life of celebrity and adventure… all starting with his Curtiss Jenny, JN4.

The Jenny was a World War I training plane. It had two cockpits, one behind the other, so that the student could fly while the teacher was present and watching. But there would still come a day when the teacher stepped out and the student flew solo. Tip remembered his first solo for the rest of his life.

There were so many surplus JN4 aircraft after the war, that it became the most common aircraft in US skies. If an airmail letter was delivered in the late 1920s and early 1930s, it was probably flown in on a Jenny.

In the course of his aviation career, Tip flew over 98 different aircraft – a stunning number of ships, even by today’s piloting standards.

The book, as well as magazine articles about his story, are coming out soon… and I’ve got a mailing list building for people who want to be notified when the stories come out. I never, ever, use that mailing list for any emails other than my own, and you can sign up here.

 

Fairchild PT-19A and Colonel C. J. Tippett 1943

Col. C. J. Tippett flew over 11,500 miles solo in this Fairchild PT-19A, setting the record for the first and longest single-engine solo flight from North America to South America in January, 1943.

In the history of aviation that covers Col. C. J. Tippett’s time as an aviation pioneer, records were set and broken so often that I had to give up trying to track them all as I did the research for Tip’s biography, working titled “When No-One Else Would Fly.”

While Tip did not intentionally try to set a first-in-flight record, he did it… in the course of his duties.

In January, 1943, Tip was ordered to bring down a brand-new Fairchild PT-19 for the training program he was building in Argentina at the State Department’s request. Tip’s civil aviation contacts in the Argentine government had hinted, in the form of a written request, that the gift of such an aircraft would be a nice goodwill gesture. The State Department agreed and requisitioned the plane, then informed Tip that he had to come up to the United States and bring it down in person because German submarines were sinking too many ships to risk sending it by sea.

Tip whipped out a map and pencil and quickly calculated that this flight would be the longest single-engine flight from North America to South America… and since he would have to have an extra fuel tank installed in the second cockpit, he was obviously going to have to do it solo.

And during wartime.

And over some of the most challenging terrain in the world.

And rely on pin-point navigation to locate the landing strips isolated in jungles and mountain tops.

With nothing but a radio and a compass.

But, he did it!  At the Fairchild factory in Hagerstown, Maryland, he had a hatch cover installed over both tandem cockpits, which turned the ship into a PT-19A. He borrowed a parachute from a fellow officer, made sure he had his fuel-filtering chamois cloth close by, and took off for Buenos Aires.

The story of his record-setting flight, written in the first person and enhanced by notes from his flight logs and letter archives, is one of the highlights of “When No-One Else Would Fly.” Tip details every landing site, flight time, and how he navigated. His story of the one in-flight engine failure is riveting. The journey comes alive through his recount.

The book is almost ready for publication. I’m in the process of submitting to traditional publishers in case they want to join me in this way-cool project before I self publish it. Sign up here to join the email list announcing when the book is available, and any other events related to Tip’s story.

It was the first and longest solo single-engine flight from North America to South America, and Tip did it only because the plane was needed in Argentina and the Fairchild factory did not offer delivery. The crowd that met him on arrival included the American Ambassador to Argentina, Mr. Norman Armour, and Dr. Samuel Bosch, the director of Argentina’s civil aviation department, and Rear Admiral Marcos Zar, as well as numerous representatives of Argentina’s civil aviation establishment.

The ensuing asado was legendary.

 

 

Copyright 2012 Corinne Tippett & The Westchester Press
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