Tag Archive: air attache diplomacy

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.

Col C. J. Tippett visited the Spruce Goose

The Spruce Goose was Howard Hughes answer to military transport, but it was more useful as a party ship.

During World War II, the US military realized that they needed bigger transport planes to ferry equipment and supplies across the Atlantic. The government put out the request to US aircraft manufacturers, and Howard Hughes, of Hughes Aircraft, decided to respond.

There was a catch.

The aircraft couldn’t be made of metal, due to wartime rationing.

Howard Hughes was already rich and famous by the time he started the build. He was also already known for his eccentric and volatile personality. He took up the project to build the largest transport plane in the world as a personal quest. And he did it.

He named the aircraft the Hughes H-4 Hercules, and despite rumors that it was too large to fly, it did – on November 2, 1947, two years after the war was over.

Delays in design and construction had rendered it obsolete before it ever went into service.

The public called it the Spruce Goose, and considered it a grand folly by Hughes. But it was a remarkable aircraft and revered by aviation enthusiasts.

In 1980, the California Aero Club put the Spruce Goose on display in Long Beach, California. This is where Colonel C. J. Tippett comes in.

In the 1980s, my grandfather, Col. C. J. Tippett, was hosting a series of parties on behalf of the air force and state department for the foreign air attachés. These parties were a highlight of the air attaché circles, and promoted diplomacy and communication through channels that wouldn’t have been otherwise possible.

Tip, and his wife, Liz Whitney Tippett, had a reputation for fantastic, celebrity-studded parties in wonderous venues. The Spruce Goose was the perfect setting.

The cockpit of the Spruce Goose is usually available on tour by special ticket only, but for the party, it was all open. I know, because I was there. I was in college and the invitation to join my grandfather and legions of foreign air attaches was a treat. The Spruce Goose made it even better. I couldn’t believe the size of the flying boat, designed to take off and land on water. The wingspan was incredible, and the longest in aviation history.

I saw the Spruce Goose again, about thirty years later, at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon – only an hour away from my home in Portland. I toured it again, thinking of my grandfather and that party. The aircraft looked the same. Astonishingly huge.

Sitting in place, it has flown through time… unchanged.

It is one part of Howard Hughes legacy to aviation, the most visible and tangible to me. In our family legends, Tip had met Howard Hughes, and probably had some rousing discussions with him, but unfortunately, I have no documentation to prove it.

No letters, no stories in Tip’s memoir, which is almost ready for publication, and no photographs. But in the spirit of six degrees of separation, if the Spruce Goose counts as an entity, I can get to Howard Hughes in two!


Col. C. J. Tippett at the White House for Dinner

The Col. and Mrs Tippett were invited to the 1988 White House Dinner for Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt

For the longest time, I could link myself to any major world leader in 3 of the Six Degrees of Separation. My grandfather, Col. C. J. Tippett was 1. And he knew Hosni Mubarak, which was 2. And Hosni Mubarak shook hands (or refused to shake hands) with almost every modern or recent world leader, so that’s 3!

Here’s how:

Hosni Mubarak was a pilot before he was the President of Egypt.

He served in the Egyptian Air Force and trained in the Soviet Union. In the early 1970s, he began to serve in the Egyptian government. In 1981, Hosni Mubarak became the President of Egypt when the other President of Egypt was shot to death as he sat next to Mubarak onstage.

My grandfather, Col. C. J. Tippett served in the Army Air Corps and trained in the Civil Aviation Administration. In the early 1970s, he left his civil aviation work, and retired from his work as a USAF Intelligence Officer and began to work to “open channels of communication and levels of understanding…” among Air Attaches of foreign governments. The Colonel and Mrs Tippett did this by hosting some of the most sought after parties in diplomatic circles of their day.

They invited Mr. Hosni Mubarak due to his aviation background and he came. And they partied. And in 1988, when President Ronald Regan invited President Hosni Mubarak to the White House for dinner, the Colonel and Mrs Tippett were on the guest list. So they partied some more, over Tenderloin of Veal Wellington and Port Salut cheese.

I don’t know anything about Hosni Mubarak’s politics or conduct as the longest standing President of Egypt. I don’t know anything about the US Government’s interest and support or non-support of the Mubarak regime, or the consequences of the recent political changes in Egypt.

I do know that my grandfather considered Hosni Mubarak a friend, and enjoyed his company those times they were able to spend time together, back in the 70s and 80s.

With all these world changes, and the fall of Mubarak, I feel I am losing my ability to touch our world leadership in 3 steps. I’m either going to have to become more active in community, state, or federal politics – or switch over to playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Either way, time is eroding my ability to get there in less than 4. Probably my time would be better spent investigating the good things Kevin Bacon has done with his degrees.

My story about Col. C. J. Tippett is almost ready for publication… let me know if you want to be on the release announcement list!


Copyright 2012 Corinne Tippett & The Westchester Press
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