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
Douglas Commercial- DC-1 DC-2 DC-3
Jack Frye is said to be the inspiration for the development of the DC series airplanes. Donald
Douglas Sr. always was firm in his credit to Frye in stating, "the most important letter I ever
received was from Jack Frye." For it was Jack Frye who changed the course of Douglas Aircraft
forever! The original letter (seen above) became known as the Douglas Commercial Birth
Certificate. TWA signed a contract with Douglas Aircraft on September 20, 1932 and nine
months later (July 1, 1933) Jack Frye and TWA had their new futuristic airliner.
TWA's test pilot Tommy Tomlinson, with Charles Lindbergh, and Douglas flight engineers,
immediately started putting the airplane through the most rigorous of tests; however, often
missed by historians was another man who vigorously tested this brand new design in passenger
transport. This was Jack Frye, known then as TWA’s most skilled pilot. Frye pushed the DC-1
to the limit with severe stress inducing maneuvers. Finally, only after he was satisfied, did Frye
(as TWA Operation's Head) submit an order for more planes. Douglas Aircraft started its
journey to the top of the airplane production world and history was forged.
|"To Jack Frye, modern pioneer, whose global achievements
in Douglas planes have helped place milestones
in the path of aviation progress"
General Background On The Companies Which Became The
Foundation And Cornerstone Of TWA Are Included On This Page
|William John Frye (known as "Jack")
Born March 18 1904 - Died February 3 1959 (at 54 years old)
Overview of the Air Transportation Concerns
which were to evolve into Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc.
On February 3, 1926 Jack Frye and partners (Walter Hamilton and Paul Richter) founded Aero
Corporation of California (with Standard Air Lines soon to follow). Jack Frye was elected to
president of the new corporation and would serve on the board of directors. There were many
other men involved in this transaction but the three men above are always the ones most cited
and were always at the operations level.
The first Standard Air Lines commercial passenger service commenced
on November 28, 1927 with Jack Frye as pilot-president.
Aero Corporation of California which is the parent company to the oldest commercial flying
school on the Pacific Coast (Standard Flying Schools) holds the Fokker Aircraft distribution
agency for the Western United States, operates an aerial photographic and survey section and
complete crop-dusting service, while through Standard Air lines (a subsidiary) it has conducted
passenger express service between Los Angeles and El Paso since 1927.
An agreement was consummated on January 20-21, 1930 to merge Aero Corporation of
California with Western Air Express (W.A.E.) to conclude and finalize on March 15, 1930 in a
move which created a powerful air express and transport company. The two companies were the
largest Los Angeles based air transport concerns of the day with well-established nation-wide
connections and infrastructure. Jack Frye was elected to the board of directors and appointed
“vice president in charge of operations” for the (new) W.A.E.
On July 16, 1930 (the most commonly publicized date) Western Air Express (WAE) merged with
the Lindbergh associated Transcontinental Air Transport (T.A.T.) to form Transcontinental &
Western Air. It must be noted this was a long drawn out ‘oft delayed merger which involved
many different parties. Rather than July 16, the date of October 2, 1930 may very well be more
accurate with operations of the new company to commence on October 15, 1930. Pittsburgh
Aviation Industries was named in the merger as well having been recently connected to TAT.
The new company (T. & W. A.) would later be reported as an equal ownership of Western Air
Express, Transcontinental Air Transport and Pittsburgh Aviation Industries. Jack Frye was the
only executive from Aero Corporation holdings (men) to be elected to the new board of directors
initially. The first 36 hr- Coast-to-Coast TWA Inaugural Flight was Saturday October 25, 1930.
Media sources noted that Frye, president of Aero Corp., Standard Air Lines, and Standard
Flying Schools had completed 10,000 flights without injury to plane or passenger and was the
youngest aviation executive in the world. Frye (25), a pilot since 1924, was said to had flown 62
different varieties of planes in the territories of Canada- Mexico- and 40 of the lower 48 states.
Frye held a Transport License issued by the U.S. Government. In addition the Aeronautical
Branch of the Department of Commerce has issued pilot Frye a Aircraft Mechanic’s License
and an Aircraft Engine Mechanic’s License.
Most prominently though it was noted Jack Frye holds aviation license “Arizona-Number 1” the
very first to be issued by the State of Arizona (the only state in the union to issue pilot’s
Source L.A. Media
Standard Flying Schools (plural) was noted as one of oldest continuously operating flying schools
on the Pacific Coast, the first in Los Angeles County to be approved by the U.S. Government,
and the first to be accredited by the United States Department of Commerce. Also it was noted
as the largest aviation training facility in the west, in business since mid-1923. Standard Flying
Schools students have arrived from every corner of the globe with men and women trained from
30-countries and 37-states. Ideal weather in the L.A. basin has contributed to a multitude of
aircraft related enterprises in the region and successful operation thereof.
On the date of October 1, 1930 Frye was appointed “vice president in charge of operations” for
Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc.
However it is often stated by historians that Frye's job was really “operating” president of the
company from here on- in spite of corporate figureheads who held higher executive positions
within T. & W. A. Jack was the “man on the ground” so to speak, a seasoned pilot-executive,
who was the only management person qualified to actually direct the operations of the new
concern with proven prior experience. This is why it is sometimes noted (in error) by historians
Frye was president of TWA for (17 years) not the actual (13 years). He officially held the title of
TWA President from (December 1934 to February 1947). In the first 4-years of the new airline
(1930-1934) Frye was indeed directing all operations and this was reported prominently in the
press. This is also why, as soon as they could ease him in around the egos and financial heads of
TWA, Frye was indeed offered the presidency in 1934, a position he was likely promised early
on. I feel personally, Frye was just happy that his company survived the Great Depression and
was willing to weather the nuances of a lengthy “settling” of the new aviation concern.
The following incident was a headache the new T. & W. A.
did not need- this aside from the tragic loss of TWA passengers
At 9:15 a.m. on March 31, 1931, a Fokker Universal, single engine T. & W. A. airliner,
NC-999E, Fleet #5, 10-passenger ship, took off from Kansas City, MO., painted in W.A.E. not
the new TWA colors. (The company was using many old stock W.A.E. planes). The airliner was
bound for the TWA Grand Central Terminal (GCAT) in Glendale CA. via Wichita Kansas.
The TWA transport carried 6 passengers and 2 pilots:
Pilot: Robert J. Fry, (Kansas City, MO., L.A., and Milwaukee, WI.) not related to Jack Frye,
Co-Pilot: Herman "Jess" Mathias, (Kansas City, Missouri and San Bernadino, California)
*Knute Kenneth Rockne, (South Bend, Indiana and Coral Gables, Florida)
*H. J. Christen (Chicago, Illinois)
*John H. Happer (2037 Powell Avenue, Chicago, Illinois)
*Waldo B. Miller (312 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut)
*Spencer Goldthwaite (333 East 43rd Street, New York City, New York)
*Charles A. Robrecht (10 Oak Park, Chicago, Illinois, Wheeling, West Virginia)
This air accident is often only associated with Knute Rockne (a real loss of a great man) but I
think Rockne himself would be the first to say “let’s not forget the other passengers that too
lost their lives this sad day”. That's why they are listed prominently above. Most historians
can’t even recite the names of the fatalities and this is unconscionable.
Knute Rockne was the renowned football coach for Notre Dame University (Indiana). Rockne
was on his way to Hollywood to act as a technical advisor on a new film. The plane struggled
through rainy overcast icy weather. Within a half hour it dropped close to the ground apparently
seeking a safe emergency landing area; however, it was at this point, witnesses on the Baker
Ranch watched with horror as the right wing snapped off the Fokker. The primitive airliner
(ultra-modern at the time) plunged into the ground killing all 8 occupants.
After sifting through the tangled wreckage near Bazaar Kansas, to simplify, it eventually was
decided two things, the spar glue had deteriorated, evidently due to the intrusion of moisture in
the inner wing, and as per the final conclusion, wood rot was identified, which weakened the
inner wing structure. (This story is covered more in depth on Page 1931).
From that point on government safety inspectors decreed all of these type of Fokkers had to
undergo regular in depth inspections. This wasn't a bad decision in itself but the planes couldn't
be inspected properly without the complicated dismantling of the sealed wings. Jack Frye
(a trained airframe mechanic) decided to remove the transports from the TWA fleet as the
airline couldn't financially absorb such costly time consuming inspections and downtime.
A Milestone in Aviation History
Both letters seen here were sent to aircraft
companies by Jack Frye. (Left) is the original
Frye/TWA cover letter and (below) is the
re-creation of the original Frye/TWA specs.
Jack Frye is seen to the right in about 1937 (as
dated by the age of the plane). The plane is a
TWA (Sky Sleeper) DC-3 202, NC17314, c/n
1924, TWA fleet number #352. In service with
TWA between May of 1937 to January of 1953.
This was likely a publicity image taken at the
launch of the TWA Sky Sleeper service
(Douglas Commercial Sky Sleeper). TWA
modified these planes with berths so
passengers could sleep their way across the
country during nightly flights! TWA
inaugurates service on the first overnight
sleeper service between Los Angeles and
Newark on August 1, 1934. Photo is
well-circulated as submitted by Henry Holden
DC-3 Historian as located in Smithsonian
archives. (Likely a TWA publicity image freely
circulated by TWA.) Please click on any images
for larger files.
The well-circulated image of Jack Frye (president-pilot of TWA) (above) was submitted by
Henry Holden (DC-3 Historian) as found in Smithsonian archives. Likely TWA publicity image.
The first and only DC-1 was used as a flagship by TWA and flown around the United States as
displayed to excited early-1930’s crowds celebrating the future of aviation. The plane also was
used in limited passenger transportation (promotions) and fitted with some of the most
sophisticated monitoring and safety equipment of the day. This enabled TWA to use the plane as
a part of their Overweather Experimental Laboratory program which was implemented by Frye.
The production models of the DC-1 were designated (because of vast improvements) the DC-2.
Sedona Legend Editorial
On December 6, 1934 Jack Frye was appointed Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc. President,
(now he would receive official credit and pay for the job he was already doing). A wonderful
Christmas bonus for a man of just 30-years old and certainly well deserved! Newspapers on
December 6 would notate that "Frye is said to be the youngest directing head of a major air
organization in the United States." Frye would remain president and a director of TWA for a
continuous 13 years and always retain a block of TWA stock (ownership).
Frye Appointed President
Source Media (as Announced by TWA @ Kansas City)
September 25, 1934- Source: Media
Because of a Federal Postal Service investigation involving TWA president Richard W. Robbins,
he was basically removed from power by the TWA board. Jack Frye was immediately appointed
General Manager and Vice President. A quote from media sources states, "Mr. Frye replaces
Robbins as active head of the organization." Robbins retained "president" title temporarily.
Frye Is In - Robbins Out- TWA Appoints Frye New Gen. Mngr.
Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc.
(T. & W. A.) was founded on July 16, 1930. On
October 1, 1930 Jack Frye was appointed Vice
President in Charge of Operations for the new
company and served on the Board of Directors.
On September 25, 1934 Jack Frye was made
General Manager and Vice President, soon
after, he was appointed Executive Vice
President. From President of Aero Corporation
of California, and Standard Air Lines, to Vice
President in Charge of Operations for Western
Air Express, to the de facto operating head of
T.W.A., Jack Frye officially becomes President
of Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc. on
December 6, 1934 at just 30 years old. This
man truly eclipsed all his peers and associates
as the youngest and most successful man in
aviation of his day!
Jack Frye Letter
Regarding TWA Presidency
|TWA was born at the dawn of the 30’s- and with Jack Frye involved
'the man with the golden touch' this new airline was destined for
monumental and international success!
On May 14, 1934 TWA accepted the first of (40) DC-2 planes and immediately pressed them in
to service on their many cross-country routes; however, the plane underwent continual
upgrades which soon exited the production line as the DC-3. The DC-3 was the version most
favored by the all the airlines of the day and became a favorite (tried and true) design which
conquered the skies of the world for many years to come. The Lockheed Frye-Hughes
Constellation airliner (developed after 1939) was the first to replace the Douglas Commercial,
even though the Boeing Stratoliner (developed late 1930’s) was also in the initial running.
Douglas Commercial 1 "City of Los Angeles" Promo Flight
Frye Makes Public Statement
Hard times loomed for TWA when the United States government blundered and announced a
desire to cancel current airmail contracts with civilian airlines and re-assign them to the U.S.
Army. Jack Frye, vice president of operations for TWA, was well aware of the ramifications of
this decision, the mail contracts were TWA's bread and butter.
On one of several protest flights to various cities, Vice President in Charge of Operations for
Transcontinental & Western Air, Jack Frye arrived in Albuquerque New Mexico
February 10, 1934 on TWA’s new twin engine all aluminum Douglas Commercial 1 (DC1)
NC223Y. His purpose was to extol the foolishness of the U.S. Government in re-assigning all the
air mail contracts to Army personnel who Frye stated publicly were not qualified to undertake
such a hazardous operation. On this occasion, which was held on Saturday and Sunday, Frye
underlined the ability of the airlines to carry the mail more efficiently and without the loss of
pilots. Frye also discussed, candidly, the detrimental effect this move on the government’s part
would have on airports and employees all across the nation, to include ABQ, in cutbacks, etc.
Traveling with Frye was the (then) president of TWA, Richard W. Robbins, Assistant to
Robbins, D. W. Tomlinson, TWA Regional Superintendent, Paul E. Richter, and TWA special
guest Wiley Post, among other officials. The futuristic new airliner arrived from Los Angeles on
Saturday, and after completion of several exhibition flights for excited airport visitors over the
weekend, it continued to Kansas City by Sunday evening. It was not stated whether Frye was
the pilot or merely a passenger (but I would wager he piloted the ship for part of the trip).
Soon after the Albuquerque presentation Frye came up with another public exhibition idea. He
contacted his good friend Edward (Eddie) Rickenbacker, vice-president and general manager of
Eastern Air Transport, a division of Northern American Aviation (soon to become Eastern
Airlines in 1938). Jack revealed a plan to Rickenbacker, to be executed the day before the
present mail contract was due to expire, on February 19, 1934.
In a grand cross-country gesture Jack intended to prove to the United States Government that
civilian airlines could carry the mail safer and faster. On February 18, 1934 @ 11:56 p.m.
T.W.A.'s brand new DC1 was loaded to the bulkheads with the U.S. Mail. This was the very last
load of eastbound mail that TWA would be allowed to transport. Although the New York Times
stated the flight originated at Grand Central Airport in Glendale California, some sources state,
due to weather the DC1 actually originated in Palmdale California. After TWA ground crews
notified Frye that the plane was fueled, loaded, and ready to go, Frye boarded the one of a kind,
futurist-looking air ship, along with his (honorary) co-pilot Captain Edward Rickenbacker. Also
on board were a contingency of TWA pilots; to include Paul Richter and D. W. Tomlinson who
would share pilot duties on the flight. There was a group of reporters along for the event as well.
History would unfold that night with the very first Douglas Commercial plane. Jack adjusted the
throttle levers and the enormous twin Wright Cyclone 710 HP engines roared to life with a
synchronized din. Jack swung the ship into position and the airliner soon accelerated down the
runway. In moments the loaded plane was off the tarmac, banking steeply out of the Los
Angeles basin, and up through the treacherous Cajon Pass. As Jack and his passengers settled
into a night flight over our great United States, random lights of sparse desert communities
were outshone by the glory of a twinkling starry sky. The mighty airship pushed on over scrub
land, sleeping farms of the Midwest, and its eventual destination, the hubbub of the East Coast.
This flight was Jack's public statement, one well reported by the press, as a defiant message to
the United States Government, that the airlines of America, especially Transcontinental &
Western Air, would NOT be criticized and made to look inadequate. TWA had made the skies
safer for the flying public and accomplished insurmountable leaps in aviation "know-how".
Domestic airlines were the carriers most qualified to fly the United States Mail.
The DC-1's destination was Newark New Jersey, 3000 miles away. As the DC-1 passed over the
Midwest, a giant blizzard was descending from the north, slowly severing all communications.
With a deadline of 4:00 p.m. to reach the east coast the plane pushed on through threatening
weather. Shortly before noon the plane swooped in for a landing. A jubilant crowd welcomed the
plane and its pilots. An official transcontinental record was set, at 13 hours 4 minutes, the plane
was three hours ahead of schedule. Jack and Eddie made their point. After the then
inexperienced Army Air Corps started transportation of the U.S. Mail unfortunately 10 Army
pilots were soon sacrificed in mishaps. Amid public outcry, by April 20, 1934, the United States
government reversed their position and humbly asked the private sector, passenger air carriers,
to resume the mail service.
On May 13, 1934 a temporary mail contract was awarded to TWA for two daily mail runs
between Newark and Los Angeles. Jack had originally wanted that route for TWA, and there
was a specific goal to his hurriedly planned record-breaking cross-country flight. In the end the
United States Government felt TWA was the most qualified for this particular segment. Not to
disappoint, on May 14, 1934, Jack piloted the first load of newly contracted mail from Los
Angeles to Kansas City to Newark personally. Please see Page 1934. Again Frye set a coast-to-
coast speed record, this time in a TWA Northrop Gamma 2D (11 hours- 30 minutes.) This feat
was added to the list of the many air records Frye achieved in his lifetime. TWA again was the
leader of the pack, thanks to Jack Frye!
With added research, I have discovered a little known fact about Rickenbacker. He did not have
a pilot's license or driver's license. He only served on this promo flight as a V.I.P. guest, and
was not a pilot, although this was not much addressed in press accounts. The fact was public
knowledge, though, and Rickenbacker was criticized in the press by some for receiving undue
credit for this TWA feat. Eddie stated that he took the co-pilot controls for a "few moments"
during the flight. Frye was at the helm for a majority of the trip. Rickenbacker was a truly
great man, one to be greatly admired, but history has distorted this event. The above article is a
generalized version of the event, in part, based on TWA's history book "Legacy of Leadership".
Pilots on the flight were as follows: Departure: 8:56 P.M. Grand Central Airport, Glendale, CA.,
(Jack Frye) to Columbus, Ohio. (Tommy Tomlinson) TWA Chief Test Pilot Columbus-Newark.
Other pilots who occasionally took over the controls were Capt. Rickenbacker, H. Gay “Andy”
Andrews, Larry G. Fritz, and Paul E. Richter. Stops at ABQ, K.C. CHM. Source Chicago Times
These stalwart displays of leadership clearly demonstrate why it was Frye who is remembered as
the Father Of TWA. It was Frye who was always front and center, a tireless bulldog in the
preservation and promotion of the airline he helped build and nurture in those early years.
Time and time again it was Frye who stepped up to the plate, without hesitation, proving he was
the blood and the heart and soul of Transcontinental & Western Air from 1930-1947.
December 8, 1934
Mr. Jack Frye
President, TWA Incorporated
Kansas City, Mo.
Dear Mr. Frye:
Congratulations on your appointment as President of TWA Incorporated. I wish you a
successful career in this work.
Several years ago you gave Mrs. Riordan and me a most pleasurable thrill, when you took us up
in the air at Prescott, Arizona. On our first air trip, and shortly after that time I introduced you
to Mr. Henry M. Robinson in Los Angeles. It was then remarked that we could expect big things
from you in the development of air transportation and now you seem to be fulfilling our hopes!
Mrs. Riordan joins with me in all good wishes.
Timothy A. Riordan
Letter of Congratulations!
Mr. Timothy Riordan
Howard Sheep Company
December 22, 1934
Dear Mr. Riordan:
Thank you for your kind letter of congratulations and good wishes which I have just received
due to having been in the east for the past three weeks.
I often fly over Flagstaff and think of the pleasant visit I had in Prescott the time you and Mrs.
Riordan went for a ride with me in the old Fokker Universal. Some day I will stop in with one of
our new Douglas Planes and repeat the experience. You will enjoy these new planes as they
have all the comforts of the finest Pullman car with lots of room, large comfortable chairs,
steam heating and all possible conveniences. They are also quieter than the average Pullman
I very grateful to you for your introduction to Mr. Henry Robinson as he has been very helpful
to me every since, and I see him almost every time I go to Los Angeles.
With sincere wishes to Mrs. Riordan and yourself for a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year, I am,
I feel inclined to state firmly that I am not a TWA Historian. I am; however, a Jack Frye
historian and publicist. I prefer to write about Jack and Helen Frye only; however, in the scope
of my work, at times, I am required to address Jack Frye and his tenure with TWA. I initially
started my historical work as related to the famous Frye Ranch @ Sedona Arizona (purchased
by the Fryes in 1941) where I at one time resided and (volunteered over 1500 hours) for this
Arizona State Park. At the periods of volunteer work in 2003, and again in 2008, there was no
central historical archive available for Frye information, especially on the international web. I
am honored that this website is now officially cited on park kiosks at the 286-acre Frye Ranch
(Red Rock State Park) as an additional source of information for park visitors (regarding the
Fryes) and referenced on-line daily around the world.
Because Jack died so very young and Helen Frye was so private (toward the end of her life)
their rich historical threads are largely forgotten by our current historians. When I read
statements like “TWA History by TWA Historians” I immediately wonder what the agenda is?
As there are no such historians. TWA no longer exists and the historians who have an interest
in TWA are shaded by their own agendas and loyalties. Their information is no more accurate
then the Smithsonian, National Aviation Hall of Fame, or other disassociated parties (like
myself). No historical source is infallible- only the people who lived the history are.
In my work I go to great lengths to cross reference facts and conclusions with documentation of
the day (historical archives). I do my own research and try to resist just repeating info. I draw
the line in the sand against sources that try to belittle the Frye Legacy or steal Jack
Frye’s thunder. Jack Frye was well-documented in his day for his accomplishments, it is only
recently that historians have been blurring the lines of his aviation legacy. Because Jack died
so young (at 54) he was not able to be interviewed in person about aviation history like so many
other aviation legends who lived long lives (let's say for instance until the year 2000). This is a
tragedy and has in turn silenced his voice as heard by our current generation. This web work
attempts to insure his legacy is not erased and is presented in an informational forum (the web)
which is quickly replacing all other historical references as the new 'gold standard' of world
information and history. Jack Frye and his monumental aviation contributions deserve no less!
As seen (aside) is a wonderful photo of
aviation legend Frye standing in front of a
3-blade Hamilton Standard Propeller. It is
hard to discern but the plane appears to be a
DC-3 this due to the flat top round engine
cowling. Dressed impeccably, as always, this
man represented TWA like no other corporate
head ever did! He is rightly considered the
"Father of TWA". Interestingly, this photo
was not randomly captured, it was once
featured in a
Jack Frye of T. & W. A., as seen sometime before April of 1931, at Sulphur Oklahoma.
One of the earliest private photos to be found of Jack Frye and a T. & W. A. plane just one
year after the new airline commenced, never seen by the public except on Sedona Legend! Jack
was ferrying this Fokker from New York to Los Angeles with next stop to be El Paso. Jack is
shown with his Texas nieces and nephews who all received a ride in the Fokker single over the
Frye Ranch (Texas Panhandle). Very rare and significant TWA plane painted with logos of
Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc. and Western Air Express (W.A.E.) as seen on the under
wing. On the fuselage "Transcontinental Air Transport-Maddox Air Lines-Western Air
Express". The markings were typical for early TWA flying stock. According to Tom Frye, the
date of the image is 1931, the clothing of the persons shown indicate a mild time of year. Tom
Frye stated this was a new plane being ferried from New York (Fokker factory) to Los Angeles.
Certainly the date is after mid-1930 to 1931. Courtesy of retired Braniff Captain Tom Frye.
Rare Early 1931 Image- Jack Frye TWA Plane
Flight of "Scenic Wonders" TWA Flight- Pilot Jack Frye
Jack Frye piloted a new TWA DC-2 airliner which departed Grand Central Terminal at Glendale
California on June 26, 1934 for a 870-mile, 5-hour flight, which toured the most scenic sites of
California, Nevada, and Arizona. The airliner was the 6th DC-2 delivered to TWA. A group of
eleven V.I.P. TWA guests left at 1:40 p.m. for Kingman Arizona, soon to continue on the promo
flight, which over-flew Hoover Dam, Death Valley, Mt. Whitney, Yosemite National Park,
Sequoia National Park, to return to Los Angeles by 6:30 P.M. Later, at 10:00 p.m., the same
DC-2 departed on its regularly scheduled service route of (L.A. to Chicago). Passengers were:
Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Hoover Jr., Dr. and Mrs. Harvey Mudd, Mrs. Harry H. Culver, Allan H.
Crary, William Beck, Harry Chandler, Frank X. Pfaffinger, and H. W. Beck (Traffic Manager)
of TWA, Inc. (who helped arrange the Scenic Wonders Tour).
January 19, 1935
Jack Frye arrives at the Los Angeles Municipal Airport on the TWA airliner ‘City of Kansas
City’ for the official dedication of the half million dollar renovation of the busy landing field
with ceremonies conducted by L.A. Mayor Shaw and airport director Col. Richard Barnitz.
(Mines Field is now known as LAX).
TWA Airliner- "City of Kansas City" - Lands at Los Angeles
I like to include original images on this website as I can, so as an example of a DC-3, I include
this image submitted by Gerry and Carol Landry. The photo was captured during the career of
Carol’s father-in-law, TWA Captain Kal Irwin, who served with TWA from the 1930’s to the
1960’s. The TWA transport is DC3-209, NC17324, C/N 1970, TWA fleet number 374. Shown at
N.Y.C. likely LaGuardia. The plane was in service with Transcontinental & Western Air
between August of 1937 to February of 1952. All Rights Reserved by the Landry Family.
The above drawing was found in the career memorabilia of TWA Captain Kal Irwin who served
with TWA between the 1930’s to the 1960’s. The drawing was submitted to Sedona Legend by
Gerry and Carol Landry. The drawing is a rendition by Henry Clark (who one might assume
was a TWA artist). The plane displayed is a TWA DST DC-3B 202 Skysleeper, NC17317, C/N
1932, TWA fleet number 355 in service with TWA between June of 1937 to June of 1942.
Aviation Milestones- Jack Frye and TWA
TWA Executive Frye Flies To Crash Site With Tony Fokker
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, Jack Frye and Tony 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 Tony 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 accident and wreck site.
Other Frye Events and Flights as Found in Media Materials:
March 15, 1931
Jack Frye, Vice President of Operations, represented T. & W. A. today (Sunday March 15,
1931) at Glendale California for the opening of new Transcontinental & Western Air passenger
service at an official inaugural celebration. Prior T. & W. A. service originated from the
Alhambra Airport a former Western Air Express hub. (Alhambra Airport does exist today).
Among dignitaries at the celebration with Frye were Vice-President of T. & W. A. (Jack L.
Maddux), Western Region Traffic Manager for T. & W. A. (Harris W. Beck), Glendale Mayor
(Clarence E. Kimlin), Glendale City Manager (John W. Charleville), and Chamber of
Commerce Aviation Chairman (H. Parke Arnold).
The new terminal overflowed with flowers while additional floral sprays were transported on the
first flight of the day from (GCAT-San Francisco) @ 10-A.M. to share the celebration.
On April 2, 1932
Jack Frye vice president of operations for TWA arrived at the Albuquerque Airport Saturday
enroute to Los Angeles on business. Frye stayed the night and departed on Sunday morning. He
was flying his private Lockheed Vega with the origination of his trip at Kansas City.
October 23, 1932
TWA's Jack Frye landed in his TWA Fleetster mail plane, Saturday, October 22, on business
and departed for El Paso Texas the next afternoon (Oct. 23). Paul Richter (superintendent of
operations for T. & W. A.) also arrived at ABQ on a scheduled TWA airliner. Richter was in
Albuquerque on inspection work for the line.
August 22, 1931
You can bet that any time Jack Frye landed “in the day” it was usually covered by media
sources. This due to Jack’s public popularity and fame. On the occasion of (Saturday night
August 22, 1931) Frye was enroute to Los Angeles (piloting an unidentified T. & W. A. private
plane) when he was forced down by violent thunderstorms at the railroad town of Vaughn, N.M.
(presumably at the time a very primitive air strip). After the weather cleared enough for
departure Frye took off again for Los Angeles landing briefly at the Albuquerque T. & W. A.
terminal for refueling (Sunday morning August 23). Departing for Los Angeles, Frye
encountered no further delays. His passenger was fellow TWA executive, T. & W. A. president,
Richard W. Robbins. Frye, at that time, was Vice President of Operations for the airline. It is
not noted historically if the flight originated at New York City or Kansas City. Today, Vaughn
boasts 500-some people and is found S.E. of Albuquerque in very rural farm country. The
unidentified plane mentioned, possibly, was Frye's Lockheed Vega 5. Source- ABQ Media
Grand Central Air Terminal (GCAT) Glendale New Service
Jack Frye Arrives @ ABQ in his Private Lockheed Vega
TWA Executives Forced Down @ Vaughn New Mexico
Jack Frye Lands at ABQ in a Consolidated Fleetster Mail Plane
For many years, I have been searching for more information on Jack and one of his earliest
executive planes. I finally found it in an article by an employee of Fryes (G. E. Everett)
(February of 1933). TWA Lockheed Vega NC624E. (Courtesy TWA "Line Squalls")
"Mr. Frye & His Lockheed
Coast To Coast Commuters-
Jack Frye in his almost continuous flights over the TWA system has his eye on the entire
working of the line and does not limit himself to the actual flying operations. On a recent trip,
Mr. Frye took time to notice the way Bill Hottel (DTA at St. Louis) takes care of his passengers.
Hottel had persuaded a prospective passenger that the weather, although apparently not
favorable for flying, would not interfere with Flight 1. The passenger, once convinced, became
an ardent booster because of Hottel’s salesmanship. Later the same day, Hottel rendered
special and courteous service to Graham McNamee, radio announcer. Mr. Frye, upon his return
to Kansas City, commended Hottel to Mr. Clement.
Incidentally, Mr. Frye and his trim Lockheed probably spend more time in inspection flights
over the line than any air line executive in the country. With new planes being built on opposite
sides of the continent Mr. Frye often finds it necessary to be in Los Angeles early in the week
and in New York or Baltimore later in the same week. He frequently makes two round trips
between Kansas City and Los Angeles in the same week.
Passengers who have had the privilege of flying with Mr. Frye, including Ye Editor, have
discovered that his manner at the controls indicates that this business of flying an airplane is
the simplest thing in the world. It is almost a pleasure to bump into some weather with Jack
Frye at the controls. His manner of evading it is pure artistry." (Both Richard W. Robbins and
G. E. Everett were passengers on the TWA Vega with Frye as pilot.) Reprinted from TWA’s
in-house publication “Line Squalls”. A picture of Frye and his Vega can be found on line.
Recap on Jack's Lockheed Vega 5, Tail Number NC-624E
Monday January 11, 1932
Observers at the Albuquerque airport witnessed the arrival of Jack Frye, Vice President of
Operations for Transcontinental & Western Air Inc., who arrived Monday (January 11) in his
private Lockheed Vega. Frye was enroute to Kansas City from San Francisco when he stopped
for refueling and business.
Frye departed with 3 passengers, T. M. Rittenour, Wichita, (Chief Clerk of the Railway Mail),
Arthur O. Willoughby, San Francisco, (Assistant Superintendent of the Air Mail Service), and
S. A. Cisler, Ft. Worth, (Assistant Superintendent of the United States Air Mail).
The purpose of Frye’s trip was to meet with speed flier Frank M. Hawks. Hawks is organizing a
10-thousand-mile westbound air tour for a variety of enterprising pilots.
(Source Albuquerque Media)
For the purpose of this profile Jack Frye’s private Lockheed Vega can be identified as a
Transcontinental & Western Air, 6 passenger, 1929 Lockheed Vega 5B. The all wood
constructed plane was completely reconditioned by TWA (1931) with special paint job, plush
interior, and a new wing (July-1931). It was utilized as an executive-charter transport and not
used for regularly scheduled passenger service. The registration number was NC624E, C/N 53,
TWA Fleet Number 251. Frye was seen in this plane regularly around the United States in the
early 1930’s, to include a rather well-circulated photo of him in the plane at Grand Central Air
Terminal, Glendale California (1931). The plane was sold by T. & W. A. by 1933.
TWA Executive Frye Arrives ABQ Eastbound
Jack Frye, Gary Cooper, T. & W. A. co-pilot Evan Lewis and Bride
Friday October 7, 1932
Jack Frye, noted TWA executive, landed his private Lockheed Vega at Albuquerque, on Friday
afternoon, followed 45 minutes later, by a Hollywood-bound plane with Gary Cooper as a
passenger. Meeting at the terminal were the youthful Frye, Cooper, and Evan Lewis, with his
new bride the former Mrs. Ernest Lubitsch (Irni Helene Krause), former wife of the famous
German born Hollywood film director, (they had just been married Thursday). Cooper stated he
knew Lewis from the movie industry where the two had worked on a couple films together.
After the gathering of friends separated Cooper continued on his way to California.
Frye who was in Albuquerque on a brief inspection trip departed for El Paso on Saturday
morning but returned to Albuquerque on Saturday afternoon. Frye then departed in his Vega
for Los Angeles on Sunday. While in Albuquerque Frye took time away from “star-gazing” long
enough to meet with his T. & W. A. Mountain Division Superintendent, Major A. D. Smith at
which Frye toured TWA facilities to include new construction and a terminal enlargement.
Other recent celebrities traveling through ABQ were Mary Pickford (who is associated with
director Ernst Lubitsch) and her close friend the Countess Dorothy di Frasso (who has been
linked to Cooper lately in society columns)
Jack had to pull a “rabbit out of a hat” and quick! Frye and his TWA committee members
worked out a plan detailing the type of transport TWA desired for its routes. This was executed
by a Technical Committee with members being Frye, Robbins, Lindbergh, and Tomlinson. Much
research was executed to try to find the right equipment for the new Transcontinental &
Western Air flight routes. Unfortunately, as is often the case with such decisions made at the
corporate level, there was much indecision as to the end result. One company considered was
Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle Washington. At the time, they were already developing an
all metal aircraft known as the B-247; however, United Air Lines beat TWA to the punch
locking Boeing into a contract for (60 planes). The heated debate of the committee was troubling
for Frye who was a ‘take charge’ kind of guy and didn’t desire this paramount decision be
bogged down at the executive level (NYC).
Although some historians try to state that Jack was merely the errand boy (glorified secretary)
in this transaction, I beg to differ as this conclusion doesn’t fly. Frye had a history of plane
design before and after 1932 and even though he conferred with his peers at TWA previously (to
include Lindbergh) he did have a specific design he desired and held firm to this ideal. This fact
becomes even more obvious as research reveals Jack Frye took action, he went out on his own
to formulate a letter and sent it. This move was outside of the Technical Committee, but, of
course, Jack was an anchor member. So, now we have firmly established rumor is fact and it
was indeed Frye who got the ball rolling, as usual, not, TWA advisors and associates.
With this (now famous) Frye solicitation letter Jack initiated communication with available
airplane manufacturers. Aircraft companies who responded to Frye’s solicitation, which were
actually able to proceed on development, were General Aviation (formerly Fokker), Douglas,
Donald Douglas with incredible vision seized on this great opportunity to design a totally new
passenger transport plane. Out of a proposal for a three-engine Fokker-like transport came an
advanced futuristic dual engine airliner which was light years beyond anything else flying. This
is not to imply the Boeing 247 (the only other contender at the time) did not have favorable
merits, it was just that nothing could hold a candle to the new prototype to be named the
Douglas Commercial or DC-1. The DC was truly a monumental leap in the advancement of
aviation, certainly, something akin to the transition from prop to the jet age of our generation.
The DC1 development was a lengthy process which involved many agencies, TWA employees
and flight engineers, but, as is the scope of this website, my interest is to concentrate on Jack
Frye’s involvement, motivations, and nurturing of the project. Tomlinson was originally
technical assistant to the TWA president Richard W. Robbins, who incidentally, was a business
man not an aviator. After the launch of the Douglas Commercial Tomlinson was reassigned as
top TWA representative and test pilot on new aircraft transport development for TWA.
Original DC1 Frye Solicitation and Specification Requirements
Donald Douglas Sr. and Jack Frye
The Douglas Commercial Evolution
Douglas Commercial 2
Various Douglas Commercial Flights as Associated with Frye
Portraits of an Aviation Legend
|From Douglas Aircraft Company of Santa Monica California
to Jack Frye (as engraved on a plaque attached to a model of a
quad-engine Douglas C-54) Presented to Jack Frye personally
by Donald Wills Douglas Sr. (1944)
The above image was submitted by Glenn Porter who found it in an old family photo album. You
will note it is the same plane as the preceding ship, NC17324, Fleet Number 374. However this
image was captured at Phoenix Sky Harbor (likely PHX-LAX or PHX-SFO). Passengers and
freight are being loaded. Glenn grew up in Phoenix and stated the circumstances of this image
was a family flight. Thanks to Glenn for this image- All Rights Reserved by Glenn Porter.
Just for our edification on this "Robinson" (actually Henry Mauris Robinson 1868 -1937). He
was an investment related connection and president of the Security First National Bank of Los
Angeles. Jack was in contact with him likely for TWA investment purposes. He was introduced
to Jack by Timothy Riordan from Flagstaff. As in the promotion of TWA services and
equipment, Robinson and his partners were offered promo rides in the new Douglas
Commercial 1 at Los Angeles on two dates, November 26, and the week of December 4th, 1933.
A couple early DC-1 promo flights were as follows: November 26, 1933 over Los Angeles, this
flight was not attended by Frye, who had a previous engagement, but passengers included
several Security First National Bank of Los Angeles executives (see following this page). A
second L.A. flight did include Frye during the week of December 4th, 1933.
Credit: The image above was originally used by a media-news agency. It is a vintage wire-photo
or what we would categorize today as a copy of an original used for various news publications.
The image was not owned by news service agencies (in the field) who reproduced (published) the
image, rather it was on loan. The original photographer is unknown and this image is not
thought to hold a renewed (current) copyright. This original vintage wire-photo from 1935 is
owned by Sedona Legend. Further information regarding photos seen on Sedona Legend can be
found at the bottom of Page 2010.
Newsphoto (above) possibly captured at Chicago Municipal Airport shows TWA maintenance
crew member polishing the front of a Douglas Commercial 2 from nose access 'hood'. The
amazing thing about this image is it shows the large landing lights of the DC 2 and center red
collision warning light. Stunning photo which is testament to TWA's legendary maintenance
program. Unfortunately there is no way to identify the plane other than it is a DC-2.
TWA Sky Sleeper Service-- Glory Days of
Two unidentified people (likely TWA employee
and his wife) shown aside a TWA DC 2 being
serviced in a hangar (likely Kansas City) in
late 1930's. These planes were specially fitted
with berths so passengers could board at night,
sleep their way across the U.S., and arrive in
the morning fresh and ready for business
full page TWA ad from 1939 titled the "Flying President". Jack Frye was the only airline
president of his day to hold a Transport Pilot's License and often flew scheduled passenger
flights. This photo is from Jack Frye’s own personal files and because of its provenance it is
rare. Submitted by Joan La Place.
Frye Arrives On Douglas Commercial 2 (Desert Sun-P.S.)
Friday January 03, 1936
Jack Frye, President of TWA, accompanied by a party of nine friends, arrived at the Palm
Springs airport yesterday in a dual-motored DC2 Douglas Transport, captain of the ship was
Lamar Nelson, and his brother, Bobby Nelson as co-pilot.