Fahey, James C., U.S. Army Aircraft 1908-1946. New York: Ships and Aircraft, 1946.
Heat-Moon, William L., “Regarding Fokker Niner-Niner-Easy,” PrairyErth: A Deep Map.
New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1991.
Holden, Henry M., The Legacy of the DC-3. Brawley, California: Wind Canyon Books Inc., 2002.
Jones, Terry G., Wings Across the Pacific. New York: Crown Publishers, 1991.
Mersky, Peter B., U.S. Marine Corps Aviation 1912 to the Present, 3rd ed.
Baltimore: Nautical & Aviation Publishing Company.
Friedman, Herbert M., “The Legacy of the Rockne Crash.”
British Aeroplane Magazine May, 2001.
Hucker, Robert. “DV-III was it The Best Fokker?” Aces & Aircraft of the Great War, 1994.
Pisano, Dominick A., “The Crash that Killed Knute Rockne.”
Air & Space December 1991/January 1992.
Leo Bakker-Netherlands Fokker Webmaster.
James R. Casey-Deputy Executive Director Marine Corps Aviation Association.
Dorothy Corson-Notre Dame.
Marine Corps History Division, Reference Branch, Quantico, VA.
Ms. Ona Gieschen-Retired Hostess Coordinator for Transcontinental and Western Air, Inc.
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
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representing Jack and Helen Frye.
Sedona Legend is encouraged by the many friends of Jack and Helen Frye. A gracious thank
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Sedona Legend Helen Frye a.k.a. the Jack and Helen Frye Story
A Decade of Research and Presentation- Created By Randall D. Reynolds
Copyright © 2003 All Rights Reserved
The Knute Rockne Tragedy
The Event That Changed The World Of Aviation Forever!
Knute Rockne was truly an American Legend- before and after his
death. Although his fatal accident was a tragedy that paralyzed our
country, it eventually served a great and wonderful purpose! World
aviation changed, almost overnight, the first modern airliners were
created, and airline passenger safety; always a priority with Jack
Frye, became a paramount quest with Transcontinental & Western
Air, Inc. and other national airlines.
The Rockne Crash
A Tragedy Marked By Discrepancies
By Sedona Legend Guest Author- John D. Bybee
“I often think those of us who survived did so, not because we were
better than the rest, but because the combination of events that took
them never happened to us.” Alaskan Bush pilot, Harmon Helmericks
An hour beyond the red Kansas dawn on Thursday, March 26, 1931, stockmen and farmers
doing chores in the state’s northwestern counties read the dire warnings of the ragged wind and
hurried to feed their animals and complete their outside tasks. Before they had finished, a
black rainbow of boiling clouds overtopped the western horizon. Leafless trees bowed before the
wind, and sleet stung their down turned faces as they retreated from their pastures and fields to
the safety of their barns and houses. The sleet hardened into ice. Morning radio programs and
warnings were smothered by the static charged hissing voice of the gargantuan storm. Party-
line telephone conversations ended abruptly as ice-coated wires parted and telephone poles
swayed and toppled. At the forenoon, the gray sky turned into the nothingness of a whiteout.
Golf ball sized snowflakes spooled by northwest winds of forty-four miles per hour with gusts to
seventy miles per hour mounded into drifts five to ten feet deep in the western one third of
Kansas. The storm turned over trucks and stopped passenger and freight trains. The
temperature, which had stood at thirty-one degrees before the forenoon, fell to -1 F. The razor-
sharp winds killed thousands of sheep and hogs. Several persons were caught in the open, but
made narrow escapes. After sunset, the temperature plunged to -3 F. This eclipsed the 1886
record and established a record for early spring Kansas storms which still stands in 2008. The
blizzard of ‘31 roared rapidly south and east.
Five days later, and four hundred miles to the east, TWA (Transcontinental & Western
Airlines) Fokker F-10AF-1, command pilot, Robert G. “Joe-Pete” Fry scanned the mushy putty-
colored drizzle falling onto the tarmac at the Kansas City, Missouri Municipal Airport. The tall,
thirty-two year old former China Marine master sergeant-fighter pilot had learned to fly in
Guam in 1923. "Joe Pete" was designated a NAP (Naval Aviation Pilot—enlisted version of an
officer in Naval Aviation) in 1924. Prior to shipping out with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary
Force for China in 1927, he had flown all over the United States while stationed at Brown Field
(Quantico, VA) with VF-2M. Joe Pete was no stranger to bad weather flying. In 1928, while
flying Boeing FB-1 fighters with Fighting Squadron #10 out of Camp MacMurray at Hsin Ho,
China, “Joe Pete” had become lost on a recon mission over hostile territory and stumbled into a
major sand-wind storm. "Joe Pete" fought his way down to a miraculous forced landing, only to
be surrounded by rebels who considered him a foreign devil spy, deserving of being slowly
tortured and dispatched with a bullet. “Joe Pete” cunningly and convincingly explained that he
was just a lost pilot with no interest in the Chinese Civil War. The rebels permitted him to
return to the skies.
Upon his return to the states, “Joe Pete” in April 1930 hired out with WAE (Western Air
Express). “Joe Pete’s” Marine Corps recommendations stated that, “he was one of the ablest
pilots produced from the enlisted ranks.” His China fighter pilot buddy Harlan Hull also easily
exceeded WAE’s requirements and was also promptly hired. “Joe Pete” and Harlan Hull
remained in the Marine Corps reserves.
Joe Pete pushed back the left cuff of his medium gray serge TWA uniform and glanced at his
watch, 7:30 a.m., and an hour to go before the scheduled takeoff time for Wichita. The
menacing rumble of thunder from the stomach of the decaying blizzard of ’31 reached his ears.
He gave a cautionary glance at the dark, lowering clouds scudding across the broken sky, before
retreating into the cozy warmth of the operations office in the main terminal building.
8:30 a.m. The mail sacks containing ninety-five pounds of mail were delayed. Flight 5 had
missed its scheduled departure time. The small room was tense with the expectation of a
decision on whether the Blue Ribbon VIP flight would proceed to Los Angeles or be cancelled.
Joe Pete reviewed the current weather reports with his thirty-one-year old copilot Joshua Jesse
Mathias. The Kansas City ceiling was 500 feet and lowering, temperature thirty-two degrees F.,
wind from the southwest. Wichita, Flight 5’s first stop, reported sunshine, twenty-eight
degrees, and northeast winds. Barometer readings for Emporia, a hundred miles away was not
available. There were no reports available of the weather west of Wichita. (At Dodge City it was
six degrees above zero. At Kingman, Kansas, hundred miles to the east of Dodge City the
temperature was twenty-six degrees above zero.
Kansas City weatherman, A.M. Hamrick later observed, “A freakish weather condition caused
by a low temperature center in Dodge City, the cold air was moving eastward and would collide
with the layers of warmer air lifted by the humps of the Flint Hills and would produce
turbulence, low clouds, fog and drizzle. Jack Frye, other TWA officials and airport managers
discussed the weather situation with the flight crew and politely addressed the impatience and
apprehensions of the contingent of six male passengers headed by Notre Dame coach Knute
Rockne. Passenger H.J. Christen (Chicago) a well to do designer of dime store fixtures was on
his way to California for reconciliation with his estranged wife. John H. Happer (Chicago) an
executive of Wilson Western Sporting Goods was on his way to open a branch in Los Angeles.
C.A. Robrecht, a produce businessman from Wheeling, West Virginia, was heading to Texas;
this was his first airplane trip. Waldo B. Miller (Los Angeles) was a manager with Aetna
Insurance and was going home after an east coast sales meeting. Spencer Goldthwaite was a
young New York advertising man on his way to visit his parents in Pasadena. Knute Rockne as
always was on a whirlwind schedule. He was going to Hollywood to sign a lucrative film contract,
to be inducted into the posh LA Breakfast Club, speak to a convention of Studebaker
executives and help fellow passenger and friend J.H. Happer open his new Los Angeles sports
March 30, 1931. Knute Rockne with only two days scheduled in California was anxious to get
the balance of the trip under way. Originally Rockne planned on making the long train trip to
the west coast. On Monday, March 30, 1931, Rockne bumped into one his former 1916 track
stars, Father John Reynolds. Reynolds had just returned to the Notre Dame campus from
Chicago, where on March 27, 1931, he had testified against St. Louis mobster Leo “Buster”
Brothers in the June 9, 1930 murder of AP newsman/mob bagman Alfred “Jake” Lingle. As
Rockne chatted with Father Reynolds, he mentioned how the long train trip to California would
be a tight squeeze on his spring coaching schedule. Father Reynolds replied that he had
reservations and a ticket in his name for a TWA flight to Los Angeles from Kansas City on the
following day. In spite of numerous mob death threats against him, Father Reynolds insisted
that his former coach take his airline ticket and he (Reynolds) would take the train instead.
Rockne caught the Chicago, South Bend and South Shore Interurban for Chicago and arrived
two hours later. Rockne visited the offices of the Chicago Tribune and chatted with sports
editor Arch Ward. Two of Rock’s friends, playwright Albert C. Fuller and his personal business
manager Christy Walshin, joined the coach for supper. At Union Station, Rock caught the
Burlington’s 8 P.M. American Royal overnight sleeper for Kansas City.
An hour after Rockne’s train left Chicago, a former Western Air Express, Fokker F-10AF-1,
NC 999E arrived at Kansas City from Los Angeles. At 8:30 a.m. the next morning the airliner
would be turned around as Flight 5 and retrace its route back to Los Angeles. E.C. “Red” Long
a TWA mechanic had misgivings about the structural integrity of Fokker 999E. A few days
prior to March 31, 1931, Red had inspected the airliner and found, “The wing panels were all
loose on the wing. They were coming loose and it would take days to fix it, and I said the
airplane wasn’t fit to fly and I wouldn’t sign the log.” Red’s supervisor told him that TWA
needed the plane in service. “I don’t know who signed the plane off, but they took the
airplane…Nobody was safe in that aircraft.” (TWA was the product of a forced merger of T.A.T.
(Transcontinental Air Transport) and W.A.E. dictated by Postmaster General Walter F. Brown,
who wanted only a few large airlines to handle the mail. In Kansas City, WAE and TAT had
been bitter rivals. After the forced October 1930 merger, WAE Fokkers went to one hanger
and TAT Ford Trimotors went to another. White lines then further divided the sections of the
hangers allotted to former employees of WAE/TAT. Jerry Bridges from Indianapolis was
brought in as Kansas City Traffic Manager. Bridges had orders from his boss Joe Brennan in
Columbus, Ohio to fire any and all former WAE employees he could. Jack Frye ended this
rivalry and ordered the construction of a new TWA maintenance building.
Rock’s Pullman train arrived at the Kansas City Union Station as advertised at 7 a.m. Rock’s
sons, Billy (14), Knute Jr. (12) were returning to Pembroke School in Kansas City from Miami.
The children had spent their Easter vacation with their mother and their train was due in also at
7 a.m. Rockne hoped to have a brief reunion before heading for the airport. WAE timecards
announced that all trains arriving in Kansas City at 8:10 a.m. or before would make
connections with the westbound Flight #5. Rockne waited impatiently at the information booth
at the center of the station for news of his sons’ delayed Miami train. At about 8:15 a.m.
Rockne shrugged his shoulders and hailed a Yellow Cab. The fare was seventy cents and the
taxi delivered Rock to the Municipal Airport at 8:20 a.m. The Miami train arrived fifteen
The mail finally arrived. Jack Frye, V.P. Operations, pushed the flight’s takeoff time back to
9:15 a.m., provided that Captain Fry thought it was prudent and safe. Jack Frye’s refusal to
arbitrarily order Captain Fry to fly the revised flight schedule did not please Rockne. Rockne,
a master motivator, cornered pilot Captain Fry and insisted that since he had paid for the ticket
and Fry was paid to fly—let’s go. (Rockne wore the number thirteen on his jerseys. Rockne
had survived a train wreck, ship sinking, fire and a tornado.) Joe Pete stared at the floor,
shuffled his feet. Captain Fry had “wrangled the graft” (1920s slang for overcoming tough
flying conditions), before so he caved in and nodded his acceptance. The late Wes Bunker, who
worked in a TWA’s station operations department at Kansas City recalled, “How well I
remember that terrible day. (March 31, 1931) Rockne bullied Bob Fry into trying for Wichita
that morning—I know I was there.” Rockne was the last passenger to settle into the wicker
chairs with leather cushions and no seatbelts.
9:00 a.m. Joe Pete started the triple 450 h.p. Pratt & Whitney Wasps and warmed them up for
the 9:15 a.m. departure.
9:15 a.m. From his office window, Jack Frye watched with approval as Joe Pete expertly
executed a smooth six-hundred yard crosswind takeoff. The dark red and silver Fokker
F-10AF-1, NC-999E disappeared above the low lying muck in less than a minute.
9:30 a.m. Fifteen minutes after Flight 5 lifted off, Paul Johnson, an NAT (National Air
Transport) airmail pilot, took off and headed south towards Coffeeville, Arkansas.
9:55 a.m. The cold front knifed into the warm air over the red Flint Hills. Flight 5 was forty
minutes out of Kansas City and twenty-five minutes from Wichita when the inauspicious
weather soured and became heavier. TWA Wichita, radioed Flight 5 (message lost in static).
Mathias replied “I can’t talk now—too busy.” Wichita: “What are you going to do?” “I don’t
know,” was Mathias’ reply.
10:22 a.m. Paul Johnson overtook and passed above Flight 5. The Fokker was capable of
154mph, but was droning along at its optimum maneuvering speed of 102-103mph and well
below its 126 mph cruising speed. Copilot Jess Herman Mathias radioed the TWA station in
Wichita that they were on course and thirty-five miles north of the Cassoday beacon light (near
Emporia). TWA operator G.A. O’Reily responded that the sun was shining in Wichita. Mathias
responded through the static, “The weather is getting tough. We’ve been forced too low by
clouds. We’re going to turn around and go back to Kansas City.” Joe Pete Fry banked the
Fokker to the right. Flight 5 picked up a northwest heading and deviated ninety-degrees and
five or six miles off the direct course. The F-10AF-1’s thick chord wings rocked in the
turbulence. Rockne and his fellow passengers anxiously watched dense clouds, intermittent
sleet and snow showers sweep by their windows. Ice drummed against the taunt fabric fuselage
covering. Joe Pete and Jess grimly noted the freezing rain was coating the wings and props.
10:35 a.m. Station operator O’Reily responds to Mathias’ request for Wichita weather.
O’Reily reported to Flight 5 that the Wichita is still sunny and calm. “999E, the ceiling is
unlimited.” Copilot Mathias responds that they would turn around and again try to reach
10:40 a.m. Mrs. E.S. Chartier, wife of the Emporia federal airmail weather observer was
puzzled by a dramatic drop in barometric pressure. The sun was shining everywhere but in the
southwest quadrant of the sky. She looked southwest toward Bazaar some twenty five miles
away and noted that a black pendant of a condensation funnel was hanging from an isolated
dark black cloud base. The horizontal vortex gives no sign of being in contact with the ground
and the apparition dissolved before her eyes.
10:45 a.m. Mathias contacts O’Reily, “We’ve headed back but it’s getting tighter. Think we’ll
come on to Wichita, it looks pretty bad.”
O’Reily answers, “999E do you think you’ll make it? Can you get through?" Copilot Jess
Mathias answers in a worried voice, “Don’t know yet, don’t know yet!”
Flight 5 was no longer flying low over the flat Kansas prairie and following the shine of the
ATSF rails reflected in the glare of the Fokker’s landing lights. The overcast had lowered and
masked the hilltops of the Flint Hills. Captain Fry was on the bottom shelf of the atmosphere
and was trying to go lower.
Rain and hail smothered the windshield and hail hammered the fabric of the fuselage.
Turbulence rocked the plane. Ice began chocking off the venturi for the turn and bank and
airspeed indicators. Joe Pete and his copilot struggled to keep the wings level as the Fokker
drifted wildly in the unpredictable violent air currents. NC-999E’s ailerons, in response to a
factory ordered modification to correct a tendency towards wing flutter and tail heaviness, had
been rigged to ride an inch above the trailing edges of the broad wing. The dead turn and bank
indicator showed the wings level in spite of the ship’s wild gyrations. Small control inputs of the
aileron modification produced quick banks and turns, but required major inputs to recover. The
F-10A had a small rudder and vertical stabilizer to reduce drag—with no crosswinds the aircraft
was neutrally stable in yaw. When ball was full left, the pilot would release rudder and
ailerons—the aircraft stayed in left bank. Lateral stability was gone.
Airspeed indicator was inaccurate. Joe Pete depended on the tachometers and the howl of the
engines to judge airspeed and attitude. Flight 5 was being squeezed between the treeless Flint
Hill tops and the overcast. At this altitude (200-300 feet) a simple 180 degree turn was suicide.
Joe Pete rammed his three throttles forward and climbed for safety. At 1,500 feet banked left.
The Fokker never completed its arc for sunny Wichita. The struggling F-10A nosed into the
tailings of the funnel cloud. The F-10A lurched and sank with a thud into an aerial pothole
which tossed the six passengers into each other. Disoriented passengers and Joe Pete looked
out past the left engine and were horrified to see the left wing begin wagging up and down.
Captain Fry reacted instantly by pulling the throttles back in an effort to slow down and dampen
out the aileron induced wing flutter. The wing flutter continued after they escaped the
turbulence. The outer left wing flexed more violently, the left wingtip flapped in cycles that
reached eight inches. The eight men aboard Flight 5 heard the “boom” of a small explosion.
The outer left wing folded back and upwards and tore itself from the plane. Captain Fry had the
presence of mind to cut the ignition switches as the Fokker tumbled from the sky. (Transport
Canada in 1996/1997 conducted tests to determine the influence of fluid type, precipitation and
wind on the location and time to fluid failure initiation, and on failure progression on service
aircraft. The study revealed that in “hard wing” aircraft—which had no slats or spoilers on
leading edge of the wing, precipitation would cause an initial failure of the ailerons. Wind
direction was also a factor. Crosswinds would cause the downwind wing to fail before the upwind
wing. NC-999E had endured a 180 degree shift in wind direction, the left (downwind) wing failed
first (as the 1996 Canadian studies predicted).
Below and southwest of Flight 5’s chaotic flight path, Robert Blackburn and his son John were
feeding their cattle. The Blackburn’s craned their heads upward towards the sound of an
airplane’s engines missing and backfiring. A mile away from the Blackburn ranch, Seward
Baker and his sons Edward and Arthur, while tending to their chores, heard the raspy buzz of a
circling plane. Rancher Charles Carpenter raised his hands to shield his eyes as he looked
upward into the cold (35-40F.) wet mist for the source of the coughing engines. A mile and a
half to the south, 13 year old Easter Heathman, his two brothers and parents were shelling seed
corn by hand in their warm kitchen. Easter got up and went out towards the barn to get
another sack of corn. Outside a roaring reached his ears, the ATSF tracks behind the house
were empty, and he decided it must be two cars racing down nearby Route 13 (Route 177 now) to
the north of the farmhouse.
Easter called for his brothers and a cousin to come outside, but the cars never showed up,
instead the phone began ringing. Their Uncle Clarance McCracken was calling to say that a
plane had crashed west of his place. All of the witnesses saw a red and silver airliner erupt
from the low clouds. The nose was down slightly and the plane was in a medium bank, as if the
pilot was looking for a place to land. In short seconds the engines roared to life and the airliner
climbed and leveled at about 500 feet. The engines missed again and the plane trailed oily
smoke. A short bang was followed by a loud thud and to the horror of the witnesses the left
outer wing separated from the plane. The airliner continued forward and level for a few scant
seconds, then fell over to the right, rolled beyond the vertical and entered an end over end
plunge towards the ground. Halfway down from the sky, five passengers were hurled from
inside the disintegrating plane. The Fokker impacted three miles southwest of Bazaar, Kansas.
The engines buried themselves two feet into the wet sod. Thirty seconds later, the severed left
wing drifted down from the laden sky and landed intact about a half mile away from the
shattered fuselage. There was no fire and no life in the pile of rubble in the hilltop cow pasture
on the Baker Ranch.
Arthur Baker mounted a horse and galloped to the crash site. Edward Baker sprinted two miles
to the nearest phone. At 11:15 a.m., the first vehicle on the scene was the 1930 Chevy pickup
carrying the Heathman menfolk. Easter and the other witness saw that five bodies were lying
twenty-five to thirty-feet from the tail topped eighteen foot pile of broken wood and torn fabric
which smelled of gasoline and hot oil. The bodies of the flight crew and one passenger (John
Harper) were still within the crumpled nose. Wicker airchairs and mail ripped from the canvas
sacks were scattered eighty to ninety yards from the plane’s wreckage. Towards noon two
ambulances and their attendant doctors arrived from Cottonwood Falls. The medical party had
to trudge on foot the final one-fourth of a mile to the crash site. No one recognized the body of
the famous Knute Rockne lying ten yards to the left of the shattered airliner or the other seven
men. Onlookers and witnesses helped in extracting and loading the eight bodies and gathering
up the mail.
In the course of the grim trip to the office of Chase County Coroner Dr. Jacob Hinden in
Cottonwood Falls, the first tragic news of the fatal crash was telephoned and telegraphed to
Emporia and Kansas City. Within a few hours, Dr. Hinden summoned William White (Rockne
friend and editor of the Emporia Gazette) and nearby Bazaar rancher Jess Harper (former ND
coach resigned in 1918, Rockne replaced him) to Cottonwood Falls to make a positive
identification of Rockne’s body. The three position switchboard at Cottonwood Falls was
swapped with calls from UP, AP and INS reporters. By 3:30 p.m. EST, a Rockne friend in
Annapolis read the news of the crash. Flight 5 passenger John Happer had five children. Nine-
year old Andres Happer got off a Chicago streetcar after school, and learned of his father’s
death from a newsboy hawking newspapers which announced the news of the crash.
Jack Frye and Anthony Fokker flew to the crash site. Government crash investigations prior to
this crash had been kept secret. Coach Rockne was a national sports hero and the public
wanted answers. Department of Commerce Aeronautics Branch Director Col. Clarence M.
Young sent field investigators to the Kansas crash site. Airline passenger ridership has risen
from 173,000 in 1929 to 417,500 in 1930 and Director Young was concerned that Rockne’s
demise in the Fokker had to be rapidly explained to a nervous public.
When investigators arrived the following day, all they found was two wings and three engines.
“No attempt was made to secure the accident site, and souvenir hunters had carted away
anything that could be carried by hand, including two propellers and the fuselage.” On April 2,
1931, the initial conclusion was pilot error. Joe Pete had lost control of the F-10A in the
turbulent air. On April 4, 1931, based on the small amounts of u-shaped ice found at the crash
site, the verdict was that the ice had broken loose from a propeller hub, struck a broken
propeller blade and the ensuing vibration had imposed a 100,000 lbs load on the wing and engine
mount, which busted same off. On April 5/7, 1931 the propeller in question was dug up intact,
indicating the props had been barely turning over if at all at impact. April 8, 1931, it was
decided that Joe Pete in an extreme effort to reach Wichita had pulled up into the clouds,
encountered icing which shut down his flight attitude and airspeed instruments. The Fokker
had entered a “steep dive” (graveyard spiral) and upon emerging from the clouds, Joe Pete had
pulled up abruptly and wrenched the left wing off the airliner. The general public viewed the
barrage of causes as giving the investigations the flavor of incompetence and conspiracy.
Chicago newspaper headlines recounted, “Claim Rockne Plane Bombed by Gang to Get Lingle
Witness” and “Rockne Death Laid to Bomb; Rockne Crash Probed by U.S.” and “Bombing
Story is Scouted at Notre Dame.” In 1934, Father Reynolds told a youthful James Bacon and
Kitty Gorman of his fatal exchange of tickets. Father Reynolds told the two youths, “Did those
people plant a bomb on the plane for me? I don’t know. I know if I hadn’t given Rock my
tickets, he would be alive today.”
On April 16, 1931, TWA VIP Flight 5, finally arrived in Wichita. The insurance company had
sold for scrap what remained of the once proud Fokker F-10AF-1 airliner to the Kamen Iron
Metal Company. A grimy convoy of trucks delivered the remains of NC 999E to the junkyard at
618 East Murdock Street. Workman piled the twisted metal and shattered engines onto a heap
of metal awaiting the smelter’s flames.
On May 4, 1931, Director Young issued an order which prohibited Fokker F-10 and F-10As built
in 1929 from carrying passengers on domestic air routes. The Fokkers could still carry mail,
providing the pilot wore a parachute. Young stated his grounding order was based on reports
from the Rockne crash field investigators “and developments resulting from that inquiry.”
The Fokkers would be inspected by the Aeronautics Branch and representatives of the Fokker
Company at the Fokker factories in New Jersey and West Virginia. “There is no reflection of
any kind upon Fokker aircraft or its basic design and original construction. The only point
involved is the actual maintenance of the particular ships.” The grounding was first in the
nation’s aviation history and the New York Times pronounced that, “The announcement of the
department’s decision came with a suddenness that left aviation authorities in Washington
dazed.” The grounding order sidestepped the issue of the F-10/F10As suspect wing structure
and the instability of the aircraft, data on which had been collected by the military and the
Department of Commerce prior to the Rockne crash. Forty F-10/10As belonging to AA, TWA,
Pan American and Universal were idled and schedules went into chaos.
December 16, 1930, Dillard Hamilton, an inspector for National Parks Airways, wrote a letter to
Gilbert G. Budwig, Director of Air Regulation of the Department of Commerce Aero Branch, in
which he expressed his concerns about the safety of the wooden-winged F-10s. “The plywood
covering checks in very good shape,” Hamilton said, “but I always worry about the spars (made
of spruce and birch) and internal bracing. That is covered up where one cannot check.”
Hamilton continued that a Fokker factory representative had suggested that rigging the F-10’s
ailerons to ride an inch above the trailing edge of the wing would “relieve tail heaviness.”
Hamilton was concerned that such a modification to the ailerons might cause a pilot to lose
control during a turn in heavy weather.
Director Budwig replied, “we are not familiar with the factory recommendation…and do not
believe that such rigging will correct tail heaviness. In view of the turning characteristics which
you describe it would be advisable to rig the ailerons in the normal manner.” In reference to
Hamilton’s concern about the difficulty of inspecting the internal structure of the sealed
Fokker wings, Budwig continued, “no need to worry as long as the plywood skin stayed glued to
the internal trussing.”
The Navy, interested in the F-10A as a transport, conducted tests on the aircraft at Anacostia on
the January 15, 1931. The Fokker was determined to be unstable with a tendency for aileron
induced wing flutter at high speed. The F-10A was returned to the Fokker factory in Teterboro,
NJ for modifications. A second test was conducted after the Rockne crash on April 9, 1931. The
results were reviewed on April 18, 1931, the trial board found that the modifications were
“relatively ineffective” and the Fokker was determined to still be unstable. On April 21, 1931
the Navy told the War Department of the Fokker’s failure on its tests. The following day, the
Fokker was returned to the Fokker factory for more modifications. On May 4, 1931, the day
the Department of Commerce Aeronautics Director Young grounded the F-10/F-10As, Admiral
William A. Moffett, Chief of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, asserted that the Navy had
notified the Department of Commerce and the Army of the results of both of its Fokker tests.
Prior to the May 4, 1931 grounding order, Army and Department of Commerce engineers at
Wright Field, Ohio had extensively tested the F-10/F10A wing and reached the conclusion there
was a structural/glue problem with the long-winged F-10As built in 1929 at the Glen Dale,
West Virginia Fokker plant with Wheeling people. (NC-999E was the last of thirty-five F-10A’s
at Glen Dale) In England aircraft engineer H.J. Stieger retained the external shape of the
F-10A wing, but modified the inner construction. Stieger claimed the wing was now thirty-eight
per cent stronger than the original.
Leonard Jurden, the Department of Commerce Aeronautics Branch supervising inspector at
Kansas City Municipal Airport, sent a memo on April 7, 1931 to the chief of the Department of
Commerce Inspection service. The Jurden memo countered all of the so far established
“probable causes” as being incorrect. National Air Transport pilot Paul Johnson recounted that
he had encountered Flight 5 over Emporia and that the weather was turbulent with rain, snow,
ice and low clouds which forced him to fly close to the ground. Jurden was also aware of the
rumors the F-10A’s wings tended to flutter in rough air.
Johnson’s testimony also included that pilots encountered turbulence on the Kansas City to
Los Angeles route at least sixteen to twenty percent of the time. NC 999E was the last F-10A
built and WAE’s ninth F-10A. A tenth had been planned and was to be built at the proposed
new Fokker plant in LA—the Wall Street Crash of 29’ ended those plans. NC 999E was
eighteen months old and had 1,887 hours on the airframe-that meant the airliner’s wings had
been subjected to more than 300 hours of continuous flexing. Jurden inspected the wreckage
himself. He concluded that the left wing spars revealed dramatic evidence of compression
breaks and poor gluing in the upper and lower laminated portions of the box spars. Some glue
joints broke loose very clean—no cohesion, others showed that the glue joint were ok. Jurden
concluded that, “the wing broke upward under compression, which turned the ship upside down,
in which position it hit.”
Jurden also interviewed several anomalous TWA pilots about the rumors of the F-10A’s
tendency for wingtip flutter. One pilot reported, “I encountered this flutter condition every
time I allowed the plane to gain speed in bumpy air, the flutter was very rapid, the tip of the
wing traveling up and down six to eight inches. The only way to stop the flutter was to throttle
down the engines. The entire one piece wing did not flex, but the flex points were at the ends of
the cockpit center section where the engine attachment points were located. NC-999E’s left
wing fractured outboard of the left engine maple block attachment point. Additional TWA
pilots said that, “none of us would allow the plane to exceed more than cruising speed being
afraid of the roof (the wing overhead coming off”.) Another pilot mentioned that on one flight
the aileron began to vibrate so badly that it tore loose from its moorings on the wing, and on
another occasion vibration shook the control wheel out of the pilot’s hands. Jurden explained
that all of the pilots he interviewed said they never discussed these matters with their superiors
as the feared reprisals and being black-balled from all airlines. Jurden’s conclusion, Flight 5
had entered a sharp left turn at 102mph, when it encountered heavy turbulence. A portion of
the wing covering loosened directly beyond the left engine attachment point, where 300 hours of
constant flexing had weakened the wing. The strain on the weak glue line was too much, the
veneer skin alone could not take the stress and the wing snapped upward and away.
On May 5, 1931, a three day heated discussion was held between Anthony Fokker and his
colleagues and Director Young, other Department of Commerce people. Anthony Fokker
insisted that the aircraft should have never flown in such weather; Captain Robert G. Fry was
lacking in instrument skills and had ripped the wing off with his rapid pull-up. Fokker
continued, “The condition of the planes used on commercial lines is a responsibility of the
owner and not the builder” and asserted that “the United States will not see Fokker planes
blown from the sky merely by the error of maintenance of one operator “TWA”.
On May 7, 1931, a compromise agreement was concluded. A corrective aileron counterbalance
was to be installed on all F-10/F10A’s. All aircraft would be returned to the factory for costly
and complete wing inspections. On June 15, 1931 the grounding order was quietly expanded to
include the five four-engined Fokker F-32s which possessed a wing construction similar to the
F-10’s. Jack Frye had always been edgy about this plane and never let them fly beyond
California. Back on December 9, 1929 test pilot Marshall Sutherland Boggs, fearing the F-32’s
alleged weak wings had refused to fly an F-32 carrying sand bags to simulate passengers on a
test flight from Roosevelt Field. By the end of June, 1931 thirty-three of the thirty-six
F-10/10As involved had passed their inspections. It was alleged that three of the former five
WAE F-10s/F-10As revealed hidden wing cracks and evidence of wood rot. (KLM FVIIA/3M
H-NADP on Feb 1, 1928 after accumulating 672 hours, mechanics noted cracks inside the
wings. The aircraft was returned to Holland via ship and a new larger wing was installed.)
Shortly, the remaining F-10/10As were repaired and returned to their owners.
Jack Frye, blindsided and bypassed concerning the suppressed faults of the luxury F-10A
airliners, was equally furious with Anthony Fokker and the Department of Commerce.
Regardless of how many inspections were required and assurances thereof, Jack Fry and TWA
were through with wooden winged F-10/10As. The two four-engined F-32s inherited by TWA
from WAE never flew again. One F-32 became a tamale-beer parlor on Hollywood Boulevard.
A few of TWA’s F-10As were sold to private buyers, the remainder Jack Frye ordered stripped
of engines and the airframes and burnt at the Kansas City Municipal Airport. The public,
unsatisfied with the multiple government explanations, refused to fly in the Fokkers. Anthony
Fokker never sold another trimotor in the United States. Jack Frye struggled to maintain
schedules with a handful of Fokker look-alike metal Ford Trimotors. Jack Frye and TWA
needed a new queen of the skies. Rebuffed by Boeing, Jack Frye expressed his innovative ideas
and specifications for a newer and safer metal airliner to five manufactures. Douglas responded
with the DC-1 and thence the DC-2 and DC-3.
The now maligned Fokker F-10s and F-10As soldiered on. F-10A NC 801E (built May 17, 1929)
flew with American Airways until January 1933. C.R. Smith flew on this aircraft from El Paso
to Dallas on November 27, 1931. Howard Hughes, posing as Charles B. Howard, flew as a copilot
on an AA F-10A from Los Angeles to NY. An F-10A served as a flying billboard for White Café
Chain and Chrysler in Arizona during 1934. NC 5614 c/n 1003 flew on as a company executive
plane with Richfield Oil. It was destroyed by fire on the ground in Chicago during 1935.
NC 586K in private hands and with its TWA markings painted out regularly flew between
Glendale, CA and Tucson in 1935. Hybrid shorter winged Fokker Tri-motors remained in
service with the Army, Navy and Marines.
On Tuesday, October 6, 1981, a NLM Cityhopper Flight 431 (Fokker F-28 Fellowship 4000,
PH-CHI 11141) departed Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands at 5:04 p.m. for Hamburg,
Germany with an intermediate stop at Eindhoven, North Brabant, Netherlands. The twin-jet
Fokker had a crew of four and thirteen passengers aboard. Five minutes later, Flight 431’s
weather avoidance radar detected heavy rain and thunderstorms ahead. The flight crew
received clearance to deviate around the area of heavy storms. At 5:12 p.m. the F-28 was IFR
in the clouds and had attained cruise altitude and speed, when it inadvertently rammed into an
undetected tornado. Recovered black box data revealed the F-28 had endured turbulence of
positive 6.8 gs and negative 3.2gs, a total of ten gs before the right wing came off at 3,000 feet.
(0.5 to 1.5g is considered severe). A policeman saw the disintegrating Fokker fall from the
clouds. He photographed the tornado and burning plane. Flight 431 crashed fifteen miles south-
southeast of Rotterdam, all 17 aboard were killed.
Almost two years to the hour after the Rockne crash, a charted Fokker F-10A took off from
Tulsa carrying the defeated Winnipeg “Toilers” basketball team back to Winnipeg. On the trip
from Canada, two cylinders of the left engine kept cutting out. At times none of the tired
Fokker’s three engines had produced enough thrust to maintain altitude. The return to
Canada was no better. Near Neodesha, Kansas, the pilot yelled to his 14 passengers, “I’m
having motor trouble and I’m going to have to land. Everybody watch out, we’re gone!” Nose
low, the F-10A sideslipped into a ploughed field and cracked up. “It was an indescribable
picture,” said a rescue worker who propped a broken wing up with a fence post in order to drag
out passengers. “Men were crying, ‘Get me out!’ and “God, why doesn’t somebody do
something!’” Three passengers died enroute to the hospital and three afterwards. Four were
critical. The farmers of the Neodesha, Kansas no doubt had a flashback to Rockne crash as
they watched the Canadian Fokker fall from the spring sky.
After seventy-seven years the intangibles of TWA Flight 5’s crash have folded in on
themselves. We are left with a pentacle of mystery; was it a bomb, outrageous weather, a
design flaw, faulty construction or substandard maintenance that brought Flight 5 down?
NC-999E was the only Fokker aircraft of her class or sub version of the famous and reliable
FVII/3M to suffer the catastrophic loss of a wing in flight. Without clear evidence of sabotage,
perhaps it was a freak crash caused by a convergence of factors that overwhelmed the flight
crew and the aircraft? Echoing the voices of the Bazaar and Rotterdam crashes which were
separated by fifty years of technology -- fate the consort of death had moved Fokker NC 999E
and the eight souls aboard her beyond the reach of anyone’s redemptions or incriminations on
the morning of March 31, 1931.
Anthony Fokker was a man book-ended with a brilliant invocative mind and a tremendous ego.
He was a tinkerer, test pilot, pitchman and shrewd opportunist. His personal motto was “I do it
myself.” He built his first plane at age eighteen, before he had even seen an airplane in flight.
It has been said that even his “original” series (1911-1914) of Spin (Dutch for Spider)
monoplanes, were designed by Jacob Goedecker and produced with the help of Fokker’s
business partner Emil Meineckce. At the outbreak of WWI, Anthony Fokker offered his
designs and services to England, France and Italy. After his offers were turned aside by the
Allies, Fokker accepted the bid of the German Naval Air Arm for his E-1 monoplane fighter.
Fokker worked in concert with his chief designer Reinhold Platz to produce a series of brilliant
WWI successes such as the Dr-1 Triplane, the best all-around fighter of WWI, the DV-II and
what some have called the ME-262 of WWI, the futuristic parasol-winged monoplane fighter the
DV-III. All of these successes were haunted by general jealously and charges by Prussian
Army officers suspicious of the “neutral” Dutchman and his alleged long running quality
control production problems.
In December 1916, in recognition of multiple construction and production defects, all Fokker
aircraft were withdrawn from frontline service. By 1917, Fokker was immersed in creating a
“second Fokker scourge” with the company’s forthcoming V-series. The new series featured
thick, internally braced cantilever wings. (Hugo Junkers was the first to use the cantilever
wing in his all-metal J-series of monoplane fighters. Anthony Fokker had flown a Junkers J-2
in 1916 and was impressed with the lift and gentle stall characteristics of the wing.) In late
1917, the Dr-1 Triplane was flown by and endorsed by the Baron Von Richoften. Several
German aces were killed in accidents which involved the inflight collapse of the triplane’s upper
wing. Familiar complaints of faulty gluing and nailing procedures, no varnish on some exposed
wood parts, no proper venting grommets and poorly fitted components surfaced.
In November 1917, the Dr-1 Triplane was grounded and it was discovered that the aileron
attachment points were weak due to faulty glue joints. Twenty percent moisture water
infiltration was the maximum allowed. The upper wing, being the most exposed to weather,
rotted as far as the wing ribs. The general consensus was that the incompetence of Fokker
factory workers and not the design was faulty. Twelve modifications were made and paid for by
Fokker to the upper wing of the Dr-1. The phenomena of upper “wing stripping” (secondary
wing ribs) not spar failure also plagued Spads and Neiuports. Fokker designs produced by
licensed rival factories were generally deemed superior to Fokker factory products. The
Fokker fighters all possessed fuselages built of welded steel tubing which was lighter, stronger
and safer than the conventional all-wooden fuselages. The DV-II possessed a new, thicker, one
piece cantilever wing. The lack of external rigging wires offset the extra drag of the thick
wing. The new “hard” wing depended upon a series of internal glued wooden box spars for its
strength. Ailerons protruded beyond the wing tips and were fitted with horn balances. Swedish
engineer Villehad Forrsman had been building airplanes in Germany with the SSW-Forrsman
firm. Villehad provided Fokker with patent and engineering insights particularly in relation to
the new veneer plywood wing covering. Forrsman, Bruenig & Sohn, a big plywood
manufacturer, offered to build plywood covered wings for the DV-II to Fokker’s specifications.
The parasol thick-winged Fokker DV-III was conceived in December 1917. At the First Fighter
Competition at Aldershof (near Berlin) in January 1918, the DVIII was the fastest fighter in
the group of competitors; it out climbed slightly the DVII and was more maneuverable. Idflieg
was impressed and ordered several more DV-III to be built for the Second Fighter Competition
to be held in June. The FV-III was the first to use an all-wood thick wing and the following
June an example’s wing was static tested with sandbags. The one-piece wing with “insert”
ailerons passed with exceptional strength. The FV-III wing was next tested by exposing half of
the wing to three days of rain. The DV-III’s rain–soaked plywood glass-like wing covering
became “wavy” and one could easily dent the perfect contours of the leading edge. After five
days of drying out, the plywood covering regained its former strength. Three more days of rain
produced cracking and blistering. Once again, when allowed to dry out, the wing would still pass
its load tests. Fokker received an order to use a better grade of varnish to provide a moisture
seal. The FV-III received the endorsements of Herman Goering and Bruno Loerzer and several
other frontline pilots.
The DV-III entered combat in August 1918. By mid August, six wing failures had killed three
pilots. The FV-III was grounded and a crash committee convened at Bernes on August 24, 1918
and at Aldershof on August 30, 1918. The initial findings blamed Anthony Fokker for faulty
construction, the use of undersized rear spar components and the use of improperly seasoned
wood prone to longitudinal compression “shake” failures. Anthony Fokker, his chief designer
Reinhold Platz and trouble shooter Director General F.W. Seakatz scrambled to find the cause
of the wing failure. The Army had required over Platz’s objections that the FV-III’s wing and
steel-tub framed fuselage conform to the standards of the conventional outside wire-braced
biplane fighters. The FV-III’s internal steel tubing had plates welded to the frame and the
wires were turnbuckled in an “X” pattern, the rear wing spar per the army specifications was
made stronger than the front spar. Static tests conducted by Platz and Fokker revealed that
the forward spar flexed normally under load, the Army Technical Bureau mandated much
stronger rear spar did not flex at all. The wing simply twisted itself off the aircraft. In addition
the construction of the DV-III’s wings had been contracted out to the Perzina Pianofote Fabrik
factory. The wing spar caps had been incorrectly made too large to pass through the ribs.
Workers simply planned away the excess wood to make the ribs fit. The improperly milled wing
components were not caught by the resident Idflieg (German Inspectorate of Military Aviation)
inspector. Personal changed and quality control began. Fokker never paid Perzina for the
faulty spars and wings. A return to the Platz’s original design solved the problem but the war
ended before the revitalized DV-III could prove itself in combat. In all, Fokker manufactured
8,000 warplanes and supervised the construction of another 6,000.
After Germany’s surrender in 1918, Anthony Fokker escaped to Holland on a special train
carrying his cash, securities, tool dies, blue prints and several disassembled fighters. In 1919,
to avoid using the name “Fokker”, Anthony established the Dutch Aircraft Company in
Amsterdam. Fokker built the F-2 for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The following year, Fokker
visited the USA and founded the Netherlands Aircraft Manufacturing Company of Amsterdam
in New York. In 1923, a Fokker subsidiary named the Atlantic Aircraft Corporation began
production of Dutch-designs at plants in Teterboro, NJ and Wheeling WV. At General Billy
Mitchell’s urging, Atlantic won a contract to modify Airco DH-4s for use as mail planes. In
1924, Atlantic Aircraft absorbed the Witteman-Lewis plant at Teterboro. (builders of Walter
Barling’s XNLB-1/Witteman-Lewis XNLB-1 bomber). Fokker/Atlantic began building the
Fokker Universal, the first American designed plane. By 1927, Fokker was reorganized as
Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America and took over Atlantic Aircraft Division, Hasbrouck
Heights, NJ. In early 1927, WAE had gained majority stock control of the Fokker Corporation.
Harris Hanshue, president of WAE also became president of Fokker Aircraft Corporation.
Anthony Fokker was downsized to chief engineer May 1927, Fokker merged with Dayton
Wright (GM). Factories at Passiac, NJ and Glendale, WV (August 1928) were acquired.
In May 1929, GM acquired 41% of the stock of the Fokker Corporation. Fokker’s company
was now a subsidiary of GM known as General Aviation Corporation. Hanshue remained
president and Eddie Rickenbacker was appointed sales director. Anthony Fokker became
director of engineering and Albert Gassner (Ju-88 fame) became chief engineer.
The F-10/F10A Super Luxury Liners was based on Fokker’s successful FVII/3m series and
enlarged and designed by A. Francis Archer and Norbert Noordyun to meet performance
specifications submitted by WAE. Designer Bertus Grase retained the “insert” ailerons of the
DV-III. The American made one piece wing had a smooth rounded look; gone was the angular
protruding ailerons of the DV-II style wings. Seven F-10s were built with Dutch built wings,
5 went to WAE, one to Richfield and one to Shell Oil. The F-10A had longer American-built
wings, 450 h.p. engines and three-bladed props and a steerable tailwheel. 65 F-10/10A were
built, 63 went to airline and private owners, the Army bought one as the C-5, the Navy also only
bought one as the RA-4. Fokker NC-999E was the only F-10A of the series and of the entire
Fokker family to lose a wing in flight. Following the crash of NC 999E on March 31, 1931,
relations between Anthony Fokker the American public and conservative leadership of the GM
went downhill. On July 10, 1931 following a decisive business meeting, Anthony Fokker
resigned and left the corporation with five years salary. General Aviation Manufacturing
Corporation (GAMC) finished the company’s backlogged orders and began new designs. The
three former Fokker factories were closed and new line GA products began in a new factory in
Anthony Fokker returned to building aircraft in Europe. In 1933, to counter the DC-2/3,
Fokker came out with the F-20 Silver Gull. The new trimotored airliner possessed an elliptical–
section fuselage rather than the rectangular form of all previous transports. Retractable
landing gear folded into the wing-mounted radial engines. The high cantilever wing retained its
wooden construction, but the casein glue was gone, the laminated wood was impregnated with
phenolic resin (bakelite) and cured in a heated mold. The Douglas series swept all competition
from the sky, only a single F-20 was built.
At age forty-nine, on December 23, 1939, Anthony Herman Gerard Fokker succumbed to
pneumococcus meningitis after minor sinus surgery in a New York City Hospital. His remains
were cremated and returned to the Netherlands for burial. His wooden wing design was retained
by his company for a year beyond his death.
1927 FOKKER F-10. Number built 65?
71 foot 2 inch wing
49 foot 11 inch fuselage
5 planes to WAE
1 to Richfield Oil
1 to Shell Oil
These first seven had wings made in the Netherlands.
May 1928, WAE three more F-10s
Fall/winter (Dec 13?) 1928
79 foot 3 inch wing. American made.
49 foot 11 inch fuselage
58 built at Glen Dale. 65 a/c, 63 civil, 1 C-5, 1-RA-4, 1 converted to bomber?
One new F-10A was produced every 12 days.
April 19, 1929-May 3, 1929
WAE 12 trimotors? Jack Frye and Richter picked up first two F-10As from NJ factory.
9 F-10As, 1 more to come from LA factory-not built.
TWA got 9 F-10A from WAE.
1929/1930 Townsend Rings added to engines. Cruise up 4 mph, top +9 mph.
Military Fokker Atlantic Transports:
C-2 (F7B/3M -1926
71 foot - 2 inch wing.
Reported outboard wing turbulence.
Center engine – had 3-bladed prop.
26-202,P463 wing 71’—10 years service
203, P464 converted to XC-2
Wing: 72 foot -11 inches
126 converted to XC-7
119,120,123, 125 converted to C-7A
Last four aircraft modified, vibration-flutter. To correct move engines 21 inches outboard. XC-
7 Wright engines.
C-5 (F-10A) Spring 1929
29-405 c/n 1023
wing 79 foot -3 inches.
C-7 (C-2A with 300HP engines)
Wings 71 foot- 2 inches
Parts of C-2A, C-7, F-10, F-10A
Wing C-2A/CF, 72 feet - 11 inches.
F-10 fuselage with tailwheel.
29-407, c/n 1501.stabilizer-rudder too small, used tail of F-10A bomber X-9165, XLB-2
Scrapped Nov 1, 1934, San Antonio.
408, c/n 1502. Scrapped Oct 22, 1934, Middletown, PA.
409, c/n 1503 Scrapped Aug 20, 1934 San Antonio, TX.
410, c/n 1504 Scrapped Aug 20, 1934 Brooks Field, San Antonio, TX.
411, c/n 1505 wrecked Jan 1936, scrapped Aug 22, 1936
412, c/n 1506. Last seen Scott Field, IL 18 April 18 1933 fate unknown.
F-10A RA-4 A8841
Atlantic TA-1 (RA-1, RA-3) A7561-7563
FVIIA/3m USMC Nicaragua.
A8018 TA-2, FVIIA/3M (RA-2, RA-3)
May 2, 1923: Fokker T-2 (F.IV airliner), U.S. Army. First non-stop flight across United States.
Long Island to San Diego. 2,650 miles in 26 hours and 50 minutes.
October 1, 1924: Holland to Jakarta. Single-engined F-VII.
May 9, 1926: Fokker F.VIIa-3M. Richard Byrd, circle North Pole. 16 hours.
June 28, 1927: Fokker C-2, “Bird of Paradise” U.S. Army. Oakland, California to Hickam
Field, Hawaii. 2,407 miles, 25 hours, 50 minutes.
June 29, 1927: Fokker C-2. Richard Byrd. New York to Ver-sur-Mer, France. 46 hours.
May 31, 1928: Fokker F.VIIb-3M. “Southern Cross” San Francisco to Honolulu 27 hours.
Suva, Fiji, 34 hours in storms. Suva, Fiji to Brisbane 21 hours, heavier storms.
June 17, 1928: Fokker F-VIIb-3M. Amelia Earhart. Transatlantic 25 hours.
June 25, 1929: “Southern Cross” Australia to England. 12 days and 18 hours.
September 15-17, 1929: Fokker F-10. Jack Frye/Paul Richter.
Commercial aircraft altitude records, 22,680 feet, 23,200 feet.
June 24, 1930: Fokker F.VIIb-3M. “Southern Cross” Transatlantic east to west. 32 hours.
March 14, 1934: Former WAE/TWA Fokker F-14 NC-331-N “Blue Blade”
with Admiral Byrd’s Second Antarctic Expedition.
August 23, 1937: Fokker F-14/C-14 (Last American built Fokker design)
Army- first automatic landing at Wright Field.
06-13-29: F-10 PanAm NC9700 Santiago de Cuba
12-26-29: F-10 WAE NC5358, WAE Fleet #3, Oakland, CA
02-21-30: F-10 WAE NC591E Alhambra, CA
03-31-31: F-10A TWA NC999E Bazaar, KS 8/8 killed
07-08-31: F-10 Mexicana X-ABCR Miami
02-08-32 F-10A TransAmerican NC812M Detroit
03-19-32 F-10A American Airways Inc. NC652E, c/n 1027, crashed in orchard after
striking power lines in fog. Calimesa, CA 7/7 killed.
09-08-32 F-10 American Airways Inc. NC9716 9AM., Salt Flat, TX 3/4 killed. Bad weather.
11-24-32 F-10 Aerouias Centrales X-ABEA Leon, Mexico
12-11-32 F-10 WAE (Western Air not TWA) NC39N Lynndyl, UT.
1927- (5) Marine Atlantic Fokker/Fords Trimotors (VMO-6 squadron) flew 20,000 troops, tons
of ice, water, payroll and pack donkeys in supporting ground troops in Nicaragua. 8 soldiers,
2,000lbs cargo. Sandinistia guerrillas. The Fokkers made the trip from Managua to Ocotal in
an hour and forty minutes—the ox cart or mule train took ten days to 3 weeks.
"The Rockne Crash, a Tragedy Marked by Discrepancies" is the sole property of the writer
John D. Bybee. The story appears on this web page as a courtesy with permission.
Copyright 2008- All Rights Reserved
No reproduction of the page/story is permitted without expressed permission from Mr. Bybee or
the Sedona Legend administration. John Bybee's additional aviation research appears on the
www.yellowplane.com specifically John's B-24 Liberator Webpage.
To clarify- It was Jack Frye's firm policy that all Transcontinental and Western Air pilots had
total discretion, based on their own aviation experience as to depart or cancel a flight faced with
hazardous weather conditions. This is why Frye did not intervene with the Rockne flight
or the decision of the pilot to depart Kansas City on March 31, 1931. -Sedona Legend
TWA Executive Frye and Fokker Arrive at Accident Scene
Shortly after the T. & W. A. Knute Rockne accident on the morning of (April 2, 1931) Jack
Frye personally flew to the accident scene in a TWA Northrop Alpha mail-plane with passenger
(Tony) Anthony Herman Gerhard Fokker landing on a rocky scrub patch adjoining the wreck.
After evaluating the wreckage Frye and Fokker took off again for Wichita.
Frye had spent the entire afternoon before (April 1, 1931) at Bazaar, Kansas evaluating the
accident scene (returning to Wichita in the evening to meet with Fokker) whereas Tony
Fokker arrived at Wichita, Kansas from Los Angeles by a commercial F-10 Fokker Tri-motor
airliner (TWA?) with 7 other passengers on the evening of April 1 to meet with Frye and
investigate the wreck site.