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Date: 08.11.2017

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Like many, I had never even heard of Goebel until a series of seemingly unrelated events first brought this pioneering pilot to my attention four decades ago.

One evening in , as I was grading historical essays at home, the telephone rang. After answering it, my wife yelled: Thus began an unusual friendship. It happened that one of the many old photographs I had included in a Socorro County, N.

In the years following that first conversation, Goebel stopped by to visit me on several occasions while traveling from Los Angeles to Llano, Texas, where he owned a small ranch.

I learned that he had been born on October 19, , and had spent his early youth in New Mexico. His father, a German immigrant, had tried his luck in several mining camps in Colorado before moving to Socorro and opening a store in He later moved his family to Belen, where Arthur Jr. It was some time before I learned anything about his flying career. One day he casually mentioned that in he had won the Dole Race from Oakland to Honolulu.

He also divulged that he had worked as a barnstormer. But I sensed that his memories of those early days in the air were less than happy.

In he finally gave me some photos documenting his flying escapades. They included several that depicted the Dole Race, as well as others that related to the early days of aviation in Hollywood. Having served with the Allied ground forces during World War I, where he got an occasional glimpse of American pilots dueling with German fliers in the skies over Europe, he returned to Los Angeles after the November 11, , armistice, determined to take flying lessons.

He became a familiar figure at local airports β€” Rogers Field, on Wilshire Boulevard, and Glove Field β€” joining the throng of other young men and women eager to get into the new field of aviation.

The planes that were available for those brand-new aviators to fly were pretty primitive, and at first there were limited job opportunities for those bold enough to risk their necks in the early flying contraptions. A few lucky fliers managed to land paying positions with the U.

Postal Service in its fledgling airmail program. Most, however, eked out a living barnstorming around the country. He was tall and good-looking, the picture-perfect swashbuckling pilot, so he fit in well in Hollywood, where he found a variety of stunting jobs.

But he was also on the lookout for other opportunities to put his newly developed flying skills to the test in something other than stunt flying. Early in , a threatened war between Chile and Peru attracted his attention. Goebel flew to South America, hoping to become a soldier of fortune. Disappointed when a conflict failed to develop, he took a job in Lima and also taught flying.

He remained there for 14 months before returning to Los Angeles in Goebel quickly earned a sterling reputation as a movie pilot. By , he was known as the ace of Pacific Coast stunt fliers, especially celebrated for his prowess in flying upside-down.

He did seemingly every trick that could be done with an airplane at the time. He carried wing-walkers such as Gladys Ingle and Ivan Unger, who wowed crowds with thrilling plane changes.

Circuses 1920-1929

Goebel may also have been a member, perhaps even a founding member, of an unusual organization known as the 13 Black Cats sources disagree on his involvement. This was a group of pilots who specialized in stunt flying, parachute jumping, wing-walking and other aerial acrobatics in the early days of Hollywood aviation.

The group apparently never numbered more than 13 members, and it included women as well as men. In addition to appearing in films, the Black Cats would perform their crazy stunts for anyone β€” for a price. He also taught flying and did stunts for the crowds of curious locals who showed up to watch his daredevil antics. Later in life, he would return to South America and travel extensively.

Some of the photos he passed on to me show scenes from those trips. By the summer of , Goebel was ready for a new challenge when he heard about an air race from Oakland, Calif. Dole of the Dole Pineapple Company. This was just what Goebel was looking for. The race offered him a chance to do something noteworthy and at the same time make a substantial amount of money.

He apparently had no doubt that he would win. Up to that time, there had been only two Pacific crossing flights, both of which had been sponsored by the military. In September , a U. Rodgers made it to within 55 miles of the Hawaiian Islands a world record for seaplanes before experiencing engine trouble.

In June , U. Maitland and Albert F. Now that civilian pilots were lining up to try for a Pacific crossing, the American press jumped on the story. For weeks before the projected takeoff date, the newspapers covered every possible aspect of the contest, touting it as the greatest sporting event of the century. The preparations for the race were extensive. All pilots were required to have a navigator. Pilots as well as navigators were given navigation tests, and the planes had to be checked out by mechanics in order to qualify for the overwater flight.

Fuel tests were run over measured distances, in an effort to accurately determine how much would be required by each plane.

What century is 1929

Then each competitor had to add additional fuel tanks to the standard ones so that each aircraft could carry 15 percent more gas than was estimated as needed for the trip. Each plane was also required to be equipped with an air-to-ground radio. The aircraft piloted by Goebel and navigator Bill Davis, a Travel Air monoplane, carried a watt radio with a wavelength of meters.

That expense was in addition to the acquisition cost for the aircraft and the cost of getting plane and crew to Oakland. Although he had been the first pilot to sign up for the race, Goebel was the last to arrive in Oakland and the last to qualify for the race, due to difficulties in securing financial support for his attempt.

He had ordered the Travel Air, which was constructed in Wichita, Kan. In addition, Goebel agreed to use a new aviation fuel developed by Phillips. On August 14, , 11 aircraft were qualified for the race. Their fuel requirements had been tested and auxiliary tanks installed. The navigators had honed their skills for the challenge, and all seemed ready.

However, the weather refused to cooperate, which resulted in the takeoff being delayed for two days. By the 16th, conditions had improved somewhat, and nine of the aircraft were lined up, ready to take off one at a time. The weather was still pretty bad β€” leaden skies, a low ceiling and fog all seemed likely to make flying risky.

The planes were heavily laden with extra fuel, and wet, muddy field conditions made their takeoff doubly difficult. Two of the racers did not even attempt to take off, reducing the field further. Two other planes did not make it off the ground due to the excess weight they were carrying and the muddy conditions. One plane experienced engine trouble within a few miles of takeoff, forcing its crew to Oakland for hurried repairs before returning to the contest.

Three of the aircraft disappeared over the Pacific.

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The radio equipment installed on the planes was primitive and unreliable, and no messages were ever heard from the lost crews. Moreover, the weather was so bad that crews of ships stationed along the route of the race never saw any of the planes.

All efforts to find the lost racers would prove unsuccessful. Only two of the planes made it to Honolulu β€” Goebel and Davis in Woolaroc, arriving 27 hours, 17 minutes and 33 seconds after taking off, and Martin Jensen and his navigator Paul Schluter in the Breese monoplane Aloha, who arrived two hours later.

The auxiliary gas tanks had been placed inside the cabin, between the pilot and the navigator. The two crewmen ended up passing each other notes back and forth along a line strung over the fuel tank. Goebel later gave me a photograph of one of the notes, the only one to survive the trip.

Since the note needed no answer, Davis discarded it through a vent. By chance, the note caught on one of the tail struts, where it was recovered on the ground. Goebel recorded how the note was preserved on the photo itself. The search for the lost planes lasted several weeks and riveted the attention of the media and the public. The race was generally regarded as a disaster.

Goebel repaid his sponsors for their contributions to the effort, then gave half of the remaining money to his navigator and bought a new aircraft with the rest. He returned to flying stunts in the movies, and even achieved the rare distinction β€” for a stuntman β€” of getting a role and a screen credit in The Air Patrol and Won in the Clouds, both released in Also during , however, he embarked on what would be his most outstanding year as a record-setting flier.

Not content merely to wow crowds with aerial tricks, he undertook the role of aviation advocate. It is the greatest thing of the age. The first thing you know we will be stepping into planes and flying around the world. At each stop they demonstrated the aircraft and gave interviews. After sailing to Tokyo, they barnstormed around Japan, giving rides, performing stunts and selling the Japanese on the idea of flying. Tucker made the first nonstop crossing of the United States from west to east, flying a Lockheed Vega 5 monoplane dubbed Yankee Doodle.

The Vega, which had not been modified for the flight, had a cruising speed of mph, with a top speed of The extra fuel they needed to complete the long flight was carried in 5-gallon cans, then hand-pumped by Tucker into the main fuel tank as they needed it.

Goebel traveled widely to participate in races, hoping to garner additional prize money. Some races he flew in Yankee Doodle, while others he flew in Woolaroc, sponsored by Phillips. Due to incorrect estimates of the fuel needed, they were forced to land in Arizona. Although they were the only participants to finish the race, they were disqualified because they had not made the trip nonstop.