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
Jack Frye had 2 other residences in Kansas City (according to his sister Sunny) other than the
Foster home. This included a long owned condo (229 Ward Parkway) not far from Jack Frye's
executive office on Richard's Road (Municipal Airport area), and a second large country home.
Sunny has fond memories of this 'flat' as she called it and visited her brother here often. Sunny
also stayed at the two other homes her brother owned in Kansas City, too. She has rich
memories of distinguished V.I.P. dinner guests (many senators and congressmen) yet she
remembers it was always a comfortable atmosphere, so much so, that on one occasion everyone
sat around and played games like children. Jack and Jean, and later Jack and Helen,
entertained constantly for TWA. The earliest Frye home which Sunny described as a 'country
home' was about 10 miles northeast of Jack's office in Missouri (the first Frye K.C. home).
This second property is said to have been on the (now) site of the current Ford assembly plant at
Claycomo, Missouri (northeast of Kansas City). I have not had the opportunity to investigate
the validity of this Ford claim yet but it is cited on a Wikipedia website regarding the Ford
Kansas City Assembly Plant. Nothing is known about the physical address of this home. Most
assuredly it was the first Frye purchased at Kansas City after the formation of Transcontinental
& Western Air, Inc. (about 1931). And certainly it would be the address listed in census and
City Directories from 1933 to 1938. After nearly 10-years, in the late 1930's, Jack and Jean
Frye sold this property and moved to the Foster Street estate. The Lindbergh event cited below
would have occurred at the Claycomo country house location.
Interestingly, the same Ford Assembly Plant article states that the Lindberghs visited often at
the Claycomo Frye home and reputedly spent their honeymoon here. This unfortunately is
bogus, though, as the Lindbergh honeymoon took place in 1929, before, Jack lived at Kansas
City. This proves out the fallacy of hearsay and rumors that are not verified historically.
The Jack Frye Estate @ Kansas City
Other Homes Owned By Frye In Kansas City
Merriam Kansas (Overland Park-Mission)
The Lindberghs Stay At The Jack Frye Home In Kansas City
Only 1 Frye Home Is Identified In Kansas City- Out Of 3 One-Time
Frye Kansas City Residences (TWA's Nation-Wide Homebase)
The Lindberghs stayed with the Frye's on 2 separate occasions, to include the following visit as
described below. This would have been the first Frye home (Claycomo location) as Jack moved
to Kansas City from Los Angeles around '31, perhaps without his then wife Debbie Greer
(divorced in 1932). This well-tanned beauty likely baulked at leaving her career in Los Angeles
(she managed a large Mercantile on Western Avenue and was a professional dancer with the
Los Angeles Follies at a theatre downtown). After all what sane person would want to move to
Kansas City, of all places, from beautiful southern California, in the 1930's? Debbie eventually
remarried and moved to Hawaii, if that tells you anything about this San Antonio-bred girl's
choice of climate. So, all that said, the Lindberghs were entertained by Jack and his (new)
French wife Jean LaCoste Frye on April 23-26, 1933 (as seen below).
Lindberghs Stop in Kansas City on way east and stay at home of TWA executive Jack Frye
On April 23 @ 7:33 p.m., after a leg of 239 air miles from St. Louis, Mr. and Mrs. (Charles and
Anne) Lindbergh landed at Kansas City Municipal Airport. They were met by a throng of
some-1000 well wishers, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Jack Frye. After being warmly welcomed the
travel weary couple graciously accepted an invitation to stay at the suburban home of the Fryes.
They planned to remain in Kansas City for two to three days.
The Lindbergh hop from St. Louis was approximately 1 hour and 38 minutes in duration with no
problems experienced in flight. On April 24, Charles Lindbergh spent the day in meetings with
Jack Frye, although for part of the day he toured TWA facilities and enjoyed a bit of 'hangar
flying' with the men on the ground. Anne Lindbergh spent her time with Mrs. Frye and
fulfilling other commitments.
Please keep in mind that Jack Frye did not always reside (full-time) in Kansas City. Because
TWA was nationwide he had to reside in other locations as well. One of these was a penthouse
apartment at 345 Park Avenue (the famous Hotel Ambassador) in New York City. Another was
the famous Ambassador Hotel in L.A. He and Helen Vanderbilt also lived in Washington D.C.,
where they stayed at the Mayflower Hotel and Wardman Park Hotel, later of course, they lived
at the Doubleday Mansion (see Page 1943). Lastly, they owned a Georgetown townhouse where
they moved after they closed the Doubleday Mansion. The Fryes also owned 3 Arizona ranches
(one at Sedona) and not to forget, Jack's long-owned Texas Ranch at Wheeler Texas.
Soon after (May 8, 1933) the Lindberghs again visited Kansas City and were to stay with the
Fryes at their suburban home, where Mrs. Frye looked forward to being the hostess for their
stay. But, although Jack's wife Jean waited at the Kansas City Airport till dawn, the Lindberghs
were disappointingly a no-show. The consensus was, after the plane failed to arrive at the
expected 9:30 P.M., that the Lindberghs possibly, were 'lost' in a sandstorm, and an aerial
search was soon launched. Because the Lindberghs had no radio communication equipment on
board they were out-of-touch long enough to cause this concern. The search was conducted with
6 planes, Jack Frye (Vice President in Charge of Operations for T & WA) in one, Paul Richter
(T & WA's West Coast Supervisor) in a second, with Major A. D. Smith (TWA's Albuquerque
Division Manager) in the third. The 3 additional ships were scheduled TWA transports.
Troubling, were the rumors received by T. & W.A. at 2:00 A.M., that the Lindberghs had landed
in New Mexico, at Otto Field in Moriarity. However, further investigation uncovered no such
appearance there by the Lindberghs.
That afternoon the Lindbergh ship (unbeknown to the searchers) had been forced down after
encountering a severe wind storm over the Texas Panhandle. Lindbergh found a flat area to
land for the night, north of Amarillo. They had left Albuquerque at 3:34 P.M., with 200 gallons
of fuel, but were only able to fly for 2 hours before threatening weather and high winds
enveloped their red and black monoplane. Charles and Anne hunkered down in the plane's
fuselage for the night, glad to be safely on the ground. They continued their flight the next
morning, taking off at 9:30 A.M., and landing at Kansas City, by 12:45 p.m.
The Lindbergh ship, internationally known as the "Tingmissartog" (meaning 'one who flies like
a big bird') was the same monoplane utilized on the famous Lindbergh Orient Tour of 1931. The
1929 Lockheed Sirius equipped with a single 680 horsepower Wright Cyclone engine burns
35-40 gallons of gas an hour @ 130-170 m.p.h.
Lindbergh apologized for the night-long vigil of worried greeters, and the search, stating, "I'm
sorry- people shouldn't worry- it's liable to happen anytime in the Western country." He went
on to say the plane was equipped for sleeping if needed and they had food and water on board.
Visibility around the ship the night before on the ground was a mere 100 yards. Anne
commented "we passed a very comfortable night." The Lindberghs had departed California at
9:27 A.M., enroute from Glendale, California to Washington D.C, with stops planned for
Albuquerque, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Columbus.
The Lindberghs shortly departed Kansas City by 2:08 P.M., continuing on to St. Louis, where
they landed at 4:00 P.M. After a short refueling stop, of just 20 minutes, they departed, again,
landing in Columbus at 8:32 p.m. that evening, and continued only as far as Pittsburgh. The
next day they went on to D.C.
Interesting to note: This same plane was donated by the Lindberghs to the American Museum
of Natural History at N.Y.C. in late 1933. In 1955, it was offered to the United States Air Force
Museum, at Dayton, Ohio, and in 1959, it was transported to the Smithsonian at Washington
D.C. where it can still be viewed today by aviation enthusiasts. This particular plane was
designed by John K. Northrop and Gerard 'Jerry' Vultee. Jerry, and his wife Sylvia, later died in
a plane crash north of what is now called Sedona (then very remote) on January 29, 1938. The
couple were trying to navigate through a 0-visibility snowstorm. A natural sandstone arch near
the crash scene was named Vultee Arch in his honor. Jack and Helen Frye over-flew this area 3
years later in their Lockheed Electra 12A, and soon after, purchased their famous 700-acre
Sedona Ranch which remains today after 70-some years as Red Rock State Park.
Mrs. Frye Plays Hostess to Lindberghs K.C. Suburban Home
The Jack Frye estate as currently seen Valentines Day 2009 @ Merriam Kansas, graciously
submitted by former TWA employee David Lukin. Eventually, I will be traveling to Kansas City
for research and I will at that time obtain additional images and further information.
House Remains Virtually Same as Frye Era
The Jack Frye estate at 5720 Foster Street, Merriam, Johnson County, (now considered
Overland Park) looks much the same today as it did in an old 1939 newspaper clipping
(according to the current long-time residents) sans the mature landscaping. One large tree
planted by Frye (which shows in the vintage photo) had to be removed because it got too big.
The home currently has 3 fireplaces (this was also mentioned by Helen Frye April 10, 1943), 4
bedrooms, and 3 baths (with one bedroom currently converted to a bar/office). The stone entry
walls are original but were repositioned when Foster Street was widened (however they were re-
constructed per original placement). At the same time the mail box was moved to the left side
of entry drive from the right (original) Frye placement. The current driveway entry lamp posts
are thought to have been added sometime in the last 50 years. The driveway drops down from
Foster and curves around to an underground garage on the left. This is where Jack would have
parked his new Pontiacs (as mentioned on Page 1948). The roof of the main house is slate (Frye
original) but the original Frye guest house has a faux asphalt roof (to match the house).
Swimming Ponds and Dogs
This grand stone three-story country chateau (partial sub-level) sits on 5 rural acres, with back
yard swimming pond (original to property and recently dug out) -the Fryes both loved to swim.
The current owners state the pond is full of snapping turtles. Raccoons and other wildlife
abound. At the 700-acre Frye Ranch in Sedona (now a beloved State Park) the Fryes had Oak
Creek excavated so the area below the House of Apache Fires could provide a deep swimming
pond for the Fryes and their many guests to include Howard Hughes. This was the same time
frame they would have enjoyed swimming at their Foster estate at Merriam. Per the current
owners, at one time, the prior owners had several dogs as there were several dog houses on the
property. Jack and Helen did own two Great Danes and Helen had a former police dog from her
Vanderbilt years. However, the dog-houses could have been attributed to other property owners,
of course. The lay-out certainly lends itself to harmonious canine ownership.
Frye House Witnesses Two Separate Marriages
The Foster Street home was associated with two Frye marriages- (Jack and Jean) and (Jack and
Helen). This was the Frye's primary residence from 1938- on. By spring of 1944, Jack and Helen
Frye took up residence at the TWA executive mansion in Arlington Virginia then known as
(Falls Church VA.). This Washington D.C. mansion is historically known as the "Doubleday
Mansion" and (currently) is called "The Cedars". The Fryes called it simply "Hillcrest Farm"
and Howard Hughes referred to it as the "Four Winds" when he visited there with Jack and
Helen (see Page 1944). It remains one of Washington’s most historic and grandest hilltop
History of Property- Rich With Indian Lore
TWA President Jack Frye renovated his Foster Street home from a small farm house, as
purchased November 15, 1938. Originally, this dwelling supposedly belonged to a Native
American Indian Chief (Shawnee?). This tribe has a colorful past in the region- within blocks.
If true, this would prove a nice fit for Jack Frye, who was part Cherokee himself. As a matter
of fact, 2 original foundation walls in the cellar are notated locally as being the oldest building
foundations in the area. These support walls would been part of an original structure (thought
to have burned at one time) dating to the 1880’s. It has also been said the property was
connected to the name “Chouteau” a prominent old French fur-trading family heavily
associated with a wide region. How this name is associated with the Frye property (or plat) is
unknown, if at all.
Frye Estate Architectural Influence
Jack hired the famous Frank Lloyd Wright trained architect, Edward Buehler Delk, to design
the new mansion around the original footprint. The project was finished in 1939, just five years
after Jack Frye became president of Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc. (December 1934).
Edward Delk was the prominent architect who designed the nationally famous Kansas City
Country Club Plaza (1922). This open-air shopping center was the first such in the nation.
Although Delk designed many other noted buildings in Kansas City, to include the famous
Starlight Theatre at Swope Park, he also designed many private homes as well. A plaque with
his initials are cemented into the back private patio of the Jack Frye House. Mr. Delk was
noted for his interest in Tudor design and likely this is the reason for this particular influence
on the Jack Frye project. The current owners say the home is thought to be French Country,
perhaps (my opinion) also a bit of a chateau-like Tudor. As well, it is not difficult to see a slight
"Storybook Home" style, quite popular in 1930's Hollywood, (Jack Frye's early stomping
grounds). The house is similar in design to Jack's Waverly Drive home at Hollywood, California.
Frye’s Folly- Expensive Project
The Frye home renovation project proved quite expensive as the property was isolated and
considered way out in the country at the time of construction. Local residents were said to have
called the renovation 'Frye's Folly'. However, true to Jack Frye's legendary vision and insight,
the 'folly' tag was quite unfounded and the locals who stated such were the actual 'fools'. The
neighborhood soon became popular for Kansas City residents (especially TWA employees) who
desired close-in rural acreages and large ranch home estates. Jack (and Helen) was always
interested in 'country living', a lifestyle very popular in the 1930's and 1940's. This home was a
perfect example of the ambiance he sought as it enabled him a retreat from his stressful life as
president and founding architect of Transcontinental & Western Air.
Overland Park- Becomes Popular Urban Residential Region
Interestingly, Overland Park has in the recent past been selected by CNN Money Magazine as
one of the "Top Ten Small Cities" to live in the United States with a ranking 6th place.
Overland Park is as proud of this rating, as, too, their association with Jack Frye and TWA!
1939 Profile On Frye and His New French-Country Estate
In a newspaper profile written by Jack's long-time friend, journalist J. D. Bowersock we learn
about Jack's life during this time period. The lengthy profile on the founder and long-time
president of TWA ran in the Kansas City Star, and in-part nationally. Jack, at this time, was
still married to his previous Parisian wife, Regina (Regine) 'Jean' Yvonne LaCoste (also
spelled La Coste). Helen, too, was married at this time to Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. Little is
known about this woman who was called Jean, except that she was beloved by Jack's circle of
friends and family. A vintage image of the Merriam estate, and another of Frye with his then
wife Jean sitting out on the rear terrace (which accessed by French entry doors) ran along with
a profile of Jack and TWA on Sunday, May 7, 1939. I am unable to reprint it here because of
Memories of Jean Frye- From Jack’s Sister
From Jack's sister Ople "Sunny" Frye Thomas we learn Jean was very beautiful and the
perfect corporate wife- charming, educated and a perfect fit for Jack. Sunny loved her cute
accent. Others, too, remember her as being the perfect president's wife with a lovely accent and
manner. Regina (Regine) and Jack met at Sak's Fifth Avenue in New York City where Jean
was employed as a buyer. It is thought this was about 1931-32, as they were married on
December 23, 1932 at Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Unfortunately, additional information about
Ms. La Coste has not been forthcoming. The couple divorced September 9, 1939, at
Independence, Missouri. Shortly after, Jack Frye and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. were
married at Scottsdale, Arizona. After this time, Jean disappeared from public life, but did stay
in touch with Jack’s sister for a time. She is found for about 5 years at various residences.
Noted TWA Pilot Walt Gunn Remembers the Frye Estate
One story about the house, as related to me in an interview with TWA Captain Walt Gunn, was
that early on in his TWA career he was at the airport when a call went out for someone to run
out to Jack Frye's house and give him a ride to the office. The reason given was that Jack was
having car trouble. Walt told me he jumped at the chance to help out his boss, so he rushed to
his car and raced out to the house. When he arrived (he now remembers) the house as a large
Tudor-style home which sat on a large acreage, set down from the road. He descended down the
drive with his car, parked, walked around to the front door and knocked. Someone answered
the door (he said he thought it was a maid or housekeeper) who stated that Mr. Frye had
already been picked up by someone else. Walt was so disappointed! The date was about 1942.
This lucky pilot was to shortly serve as a Frye executive co-pilot on Frye's private Lockheed
12A for at least two separate trips in about 1942-1943.
Jack had live-in help at all his homes, primarily at Hollywood, Kansas City (3 homes),
Washington (2 homes), and Sedona, with partners Debbie, Jean, and Helen. Evidence of this
comes from interviews obtained for this work and census reports. In 1940 the Foster Street
house shows a houseman-chauffeur named Edgar L. Combs and a maid named Anna Hayes. By
1942, we hear talk of a valet named 'White'. On July 28, 1942, we find a telegram sent to the
Frye Ranch house at Sedona, with the following information:
'My housekeeper and secretary driving to ranch, should arrive Friday evening or Saturday. Do
not bother to clean house, but please turn on refrigerator and have stove filled. Mr. Frye and I,
and butler, expect to arrive soon after. Best Regards, Helen Frye'
These staff members were pulled from the Foster Street house, as at that time, this was the
only one Jack owned (just previous to the Washington mansion and forthcoming staff there).
One must understand, the Fryes often maintained several residences at once, were gone all the
time, and had to have people to help because of all the upkeep of the properties and the
constant entertaining required of Jack as president of Transcontinental and Western Air.
Rumors From Current Owners
In my interview with the current owners of the Jack Frye House I heard several interesting
stories. The most plausible was that Howard Hughes (at one point) sketched out some designs of
the H-4 Hercules (or as the press batted about the 'Spruce Goose') in the guest house that Jack
had built. This story likely would be impossible to prove one way or the other. I did visit and
later contacted the Evergreen Aviation Museum which now owns the Spruce Goose but found no
information as to where the famous project was hatched. Howard did, on occasion, stay at Jack
and Helen's mansion in Washington D.C., and their famous Smoke Trail Ranch near Sedona.
At the ranch it has been said Jack and Howard secretly worked on the Lockheed Constellation
plans. So, it certainly is plausible, that Howard may have visited the Merriam mansion as well
and certainly would have stayed in the guest quarters. Hughes would have loved the isolation
and the privacy. Jack Frye was not officially involved with the Spruce Goose but he and Howard
were working closely together on other projects during this time period.
Jack and Helen Frye Sell Foster Street
The Overland Park estate was supposedly sold by Jack and Helen Frye on October 28, 1943
when they moved to Arlington, Virginia. However it went through some complicated deed
transfers during the divorce from Jack and Regina. For a time, it was even deeded to Jack's
personal long-time secretary Meriam L. Furse Filkins. However she was thought to never have
actually lived at the house. Eventually, she deeded it back to Jack and Helen Frye. About 20
years later another mystery resident of the Merriam house was Charles Tillinghast (TWA
President and CEO) May of 1961 (as listed on an old utility bill) but not title (according to
current house owners). An interview with the homes occupants unfortunately raises more
questions than answers. It is not known exactly when the Fryes association with the house
ended. Obviously more thorough research is needed in the region- something difficult and time
consuming, especially, from the remote locale of Sedona Arizona, but eventually it will get done.
Many Frye Properties
Boeing Stratoliner B-307 Airliner- 1939
Straight Out of the Sunday Comics
As an example of a TWA Boeing Stratoliner I wanted to include this original 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 a Boeing 307, NC19909, C/N 2001, TWA fleet number 404. Location Pittsburgh, PA.
The plane was in service with Transcontinental & Western Air from 1940 and 1941- then
surrendered to the USAAF. Returned to TWA service from 1944 to 1951. The Stratoliner was a
sure hit with aviation enthusiasts as evidenced by the passengers taking photos at the gate. The
plane represented TWA with a futurist flare. All Rights Reserved by the Landry Family.
The Stratoliner was a futuristic looking Boeing- a
pressurized 4-engine airliner which started
service for TWA in 1940. TWA "sponsored the
development" of this plane, according to
American Aviation magazine (1940). The plane
was described as 'cartoon-like', 'a zeppelin with
wings', and as an 'elongated teardrop'. Eventually
this plane was replaced by the more favored
Douglas Commercial and Constellation. Jack
personally assigned TWA's entire Stratoliner
fleet to the war effort before they could see much
service with TWA but after the war they resumed
service. The Stratoliner was a striking airliner
for the day but small by today's standards!
No doubt a poor design feature of this early
airliner was the "slot" cockpit windows, as
mentioned to me by pilots, TWA, and my Uncle,
(a U.A.L. Captain). Pilot seating was set back and
this made for poor visibility from the flight deck
in spite panorama bank of blocked windows.
TWA initiated a war-time program named the
I.C.D. (Intercontinental Division of TWA) for
operation of its fleet for war-assist. One of the
TWA Stratoliners drafted into the program was
the "NAVAJO" (NC19909 c/n 2001) USAAF
42-88627 (image below). Jack Frye was
photographed with this plane and crew in a image
not seen here. It initiated its overseas duties on
February 26, 1942 when it took off from Bolling
Field (Washington D.C.) for Cairo Egypt. The five
TWA Stratoliners drafted into the I.C.D. program
were named: the Navajo, Zuni, Comanche,
Apache, and Cherokee.
Transcontinental and Western Air Fleet
NC19906 NC (NX1940 promo) (Cherokee)
C/N 1998 Fleet Number 401
C/N 1996 Fleet Number 400
C/N 1999 Fleet Number 402
C/N 2000 Fleet Number 403
C/N 2001 *Fleet Number 404
NC19904 C/N 1997 (Howard Hughes)
*At one time Trans World Airlines
Fleet Number #404 (after World War II)
Pam Am Boeing Stratoliners
(Not TWA Equipment)
NX19901 C/N 1994
NX19902 C/N 1995
NC19903 C/N 2003
Transcontinental & Western Air had a heavy association with Native American names- this
partly attributed to Frye who loved the Southwest and was part Cherokee himself, and as well,
TWA was borne out of the Mesas of the Southwestern United States.
By July of 1944 the Army Air Transport Command surrendered the five Stratoliners back to
TWA. The ships which were flown with TWA flight crews over 3,000 transatlantic crossings and
45,000 plus hours of flight for the war were quickly refitted back to passenger service.
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 the very first TWA Stratoliner Boeing 307 (the
drawing shows 307-A), C/N 1998, NC19906 and NC1940 which was in service with TWA between
1940 and 1942, surrendered to the USAAF, and returned to TWA service from 1944 to 1951.
March 18, 1940
Boeing Stratoliner (B-307) Pressurized
Developed from the B-17
NX19901 CN 1994 (one of six then under production)
(First Test Flight - December 31, 1938)
4 Wright Cyclone Engines (1,100 H.P. each)
Cruise speed 240 M.P.H. @ 20,000 feet
Departure 12:55 P.M. Boeing Field (Seattle) Southbound
Just 5 short months after Jack Frye left Seattle, a Boeing Stratoliner (NX19901) slated for
delivery to Pan American Airways, crashed on this day at 1:15 P.M., killing all on board (some
reports state it was a 35 minute flight). The crash site was located near Alder, Washington, just
55 miles due south of the SeaTac Airport and 30 miles southeast of Tacoma. The futuristic
transport plunged through the clouds in a death-dive from an elevation of approximately 11,000
feet after the tail separated from the fuselage. The 500k experimental ship was undergoing a
flight procedure (as advised by K.L.M. Royal Dutch Airlines representatives) whereas the pilots
were asked to shut down two of the four engines on one side. The resulting yaw and stress to
the experimental plane caused the tail to separate when the pilots tried to compensate with
controls. The ill-advised maneuver crippled the plane and caused it to heal over and plunge to
the ground at an estimated 200 m.p.h. death-dive (verified by cockpit gauges). Crash survival
from that altitude was minimal at best and it seems parachutes were not available.
Eye-witnesses related the tail section tore off, at which the massive silver airliner veered
skyward, while the 4 engines throttled back some, then, the plane heaved toward the ground,
and started a death spiral. As soon as the Boeing airliner started down, the engines were heard
to start screaming at full throttle. It is thought the pilots were trying to pull the stricken ship
out of the dive; however, the plane was no longer controllable. In the 2 mile dive toward earth a
wing separated and an engine broke free, said to be still running (by witnesses). Bystanders
stated the plane made a horrific screaming sound as it plunged to the earth, described as a
death-scream or deafening roar, with engines “wide-open”, and full power; however, the engines
were shut down right before the horrific impact seemingly by the pilots. The plane was observed
locally, before and after, the malfunction and subsequent plunge to earth.
After the crash, Boeing officials immediately rushed to the scene which was about 35 minutes
south of Seattle. The crash site was determined to be at Nisqually Canyon, which recently had
been logged and was covered in brush and slash. Meanwhile, the State Patrol at Tacoma
committed all its officers to secure the scene, while a shortwave transmitter was rushed to the
wreck site from Olympia. The crash site soon became a mob scene with traffic jams and people
milling around the wreck grabbing souvenirs. Fortunately, the fuel load at 3000 gallons did not
ignite and the engine ignition switches and fuel feed valves were shut off before impact. The
missing tail and one engine (port outboard) was found near the crash site.
Miraculously, even though the plane resembled crumpled tinfoil some of the cockpit windows
were not shattered. The pilots were found strapped in their seats. The plane was not configured
with passenger seats yet, as it was still under going flight testing for the last three months.
Engineers not in the cockpit were standing in the fuselage. The pilots bravely tried to save the
airliner and passengers. Right before the plane contacted the ground it leveled out slightly and
plowed into the clearing nearly level. The speed of the ship, though, guaranteed the
disintegration of the fuselage, leaving a trail of debris over a quarter mile area. All onboard
were thought to have died instantly.
A tragedy unimaginable, let alone a setback for the Boeing Stratoliner development program,
which was immediately suspended pending an investigation. The cause of the accident was found
to be in tail assembly components which had been re-used from the B-17 heavy bomber designs
and were not substantial enough to handle the massive Stratoliner. After the accident,
modifications were scheduled and implemented on the production line.
The accident killed 11 of the nations foremost aviation engineers, to include Frye representative
Harlan Hull, one of TWA’s most experienced and tenured pilots, and Chief Test Pilot for
Transcontinental and Western Air Inc.
Earl A. Ferguson (31) Boeing Chief Test Pilot (Operating Pilot)
Julius Barr Boeing Test (Co-pilot)
William C. Doyle Flight Engineer-Test Pilot
Ralph L. Cram (33) Boeing Aerodynamics Engineer
John (Jack) Kylstra Boeing Chief Engineer
Walter F. Benson Flight Mechanic
Harry T. West (36) Boeing Foreman
Benjamin J. Pearson (32) Boeing Assistant Sales Manager
Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) Representatives:
A. G. Von Baumhauer Aeronauticals Engineer, Netherlands Government
Peter Guilonard Royal Dutch Airlines Assistant Manager
Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc. Chief Test Pilot
Captain Harlan A. Hull (33)
Assistant to TWA President Jack Frye, Hull represented TWA’s interest in the new Boeing
design and was a guest pilot advisor.
The poignancy of this incident is that Jack Frye could very well have been on board this flight.
Thankfully though he was not. Frye was one of the aviation visionaries who helped spearhead
the Stratoliner project. He was hands-on and was involved in several test flights. From the early
1930’s Jack Frye felt that in order for TWA to lead the way (as they ultimately did), flying
above the weather in pressurized comfort, was the only way it could be accomplished. Frye can
be thanked for this vision which eventually enabled TWA to encompass the world with several
innovative airliner designs.
Quote from an official Frye biography (1947)
“A leader in the development of high-altitude, all weather flying equipment, Frye engaged in
more than a year of research in the sub-stratosphere to gather data for a plane that could fly
above rough weather. This information was used in the design of the first commercial transport
featuring a pressurized cabin. This was the Boeing "Stratoliner" introduced by TWA
commercially in 1940. Before the "Stratoliners" were even in the air, Frye, together with
Howard Hughes, was at work on plans for a high-speed, high-capacity express transport to cruise
above 20,000 feet. Completed five years later, the famed "Constellation" set a new pattern for
air transportation by inaugurating 300 mile per hour over-weather service from coast to coast
and across the Atlantic.
TWA received five of the futuristic Stratoliner planes in 1941; however, their peacetime use was
short-lived. After the advent of World War II (December of 1941) Frye committed his
Stratoliner fleet to the war effort as military personnel transports (flown by TWA flight crews)
on overseas service. By 1944, the U.S. Army Air Corp Transport Command surrendered the
(now designated C-75’s) back to TWA. They were promptly retrofitted and re-entered into TWA
stateside passenger service by 1945. Unfortunately though the Stratoliner design was severely
outmoded by then, having been eclipsed by the well-received and ultra-successful Lockheed
Constellation which was faster and larger. Both projects can be traced directly back to Frye.
Lest We Forget....
Boeing Stratoliner Plummets to Ground Near Mt. Rainier WA.
Credit: The image aside was originally used by
a media-news agency (possibly originating with
the Seattle Times). 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 1939 is
owned by Sedona Legend. Further information
regarding photos seen on Sedona Legend can
be found at the bottom of Page 2010.
Jack Frye @ Seattle Washington
November 4th 1939
In the image (left) Jack Frye is photographed
while having breakfast at Seattle Washington
on November 4, 1939. Shortly after his visit to
the rainy city he became critically ill with a
sinus infection, as reported in the press. This
has to be one of the very best photos I have
ever seen of Jack, even if he may not have
been feeling well. He was in Seattle, meeting
with Boeing, in regard to the five Stratoliners
which had been ordered by TWA. An article
accompanied the photo in local newspapers.
Stratoliner To A Streamliner
The Fryes always kept several cars at the
ranch which they would use to drive back and
forth to the airstrip or Winslow airport. Jack
seemed to favor Pontiacs and he and Helen
drove such at Kansas City and Sedona for
years. I don’t know whether Jack felt Pontiacs
were just solid powerful cars or whether this
was related to his sponsoring the make with
TWA. The Frye Pontiacs were always new with
posh leather interiors and Helen was seen
often around Sedona in hers. Jack Frye even
located a new ‘42 Pontiac for his first ranch
foreman (Roy Kurtz) after he admired Helen
Frye one day driving into the ranch in her
stylish ‘41 Pontiac convertible. In an article
called “Jack Frye- Vision Unlimited”, written
by Douglas J. Ingells, for Coronet Magazine, in
1942, he describes Frye and his Pontiacs thus,
“He drives his Pontiac-- upholstered with red
leather-- so fast that there isn’t a policeman in
Kansas City who won’t tell you ‘Sure, I know
Jack Frye-- he’s the guy who tries to fly his
automobile all over town.’”
Caption: Jack Frye- President and Director of Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc., is the only
executive head of a major airline holding an Airline Transport Pilot’s License. He has over 5,000
flying hours in his pilot’s log, (as of 1941) and when not busy concentrating on management
problems, Mr. Frye frequently flies his airline’s research plane (L12A) on survey trips.
Please click on ad for larger file.
Little known, is the fact, that Jack Frye is responsible for a consistent shade of crimson red
seen on all TWA flying equipment, from the 1930’s forward. At his palatial office in New York
City (described as a masterpiece of design by the press) visitors were struck by the rich red
leather furniture reflected as the exact shade seen on all Transcontinental & Western Air Inc.
flying equipment. This custom color was also seen in Jack Frye’s leather appointed automobiles-
brilliant “TWA RED”. Talk about a man dedicated to the public signature of the airline he
developed. At the infancy of TWA, when Frye (as commercial pilot) would fly himself
tenaciously around the country on inspection tours, he noticed that TWA planes had various
shades of red, with no consistency. He was alarmed at this sloppiness to detail and dedicated
himself to find the perfect shade of red he desired for TWA logos and planes. This, he found, on
a lowly piece of colored stationary as it crossed his busy desk one afternoon. His memo, sent to
the Maintenance Department at TWA, read as follows, “I don’t care what color red you use on
our planes from now on as long as it’s this one.” Obviously, he left no room for variation. TWA
initiated a new policy with that famous memo and from that point on all TWA (red) paint was
the new Frye formula TWA paint code, "Sherwin Williams Vermillion Lacquer #32092". This,
from a man who always took the time to pour over TWA advertising checking it for mistakes
and accuracy. Case in point, once Frye sent a advertising piece back to the TWA Ad Department
when the color scheme looked (to his eye) to be unrealistic. This was the memo he fired off,
“Scrap this, if you can’t get pictures in color that look natural, don’t use color. Use black and
white.” Frye also favored short sentences and paragraphs in all TWA literature and promos.
Jack Frye was a professional photographer and served as CEO of General Aniline and Film (or
GAF as you may know it) for 8 years. His experience with photography made that company a
unprecedented success. GAF was the only company in the world which rivaled Kodak under
Frye's leadership. If you submitted anything to Frye, you had better pay attention to your
presentation. This care to detail is what made TWA great, and when Frye left the airline in
1947, (after 17 years), well, although still a great commercial airline, it lacked the loving
attention only a man like Frye could instill. Instead, TWA became a corporate-run organization.
(Sources: Coronet Magazine 1942 Frye Profile. TWA Work Order, Paint Call-Out Codes.)
Jack Frye Possessed An Acute Sense Of Color
Especially- As displayed On TWA Planes Nationwide