Walter Mathew "Red" Cary
Aviator and Artist
AA Occupational Seniority, Date 2-1-40; Company Seniority, Date 12-17-39
Grey Eagles Newsletter, Spring 1999
(The Grey Eagles is a non-profit corporation of Retired and Senior American Airlines Pilots founded in 1962)
I was born October 1, 1909, in Neligh, Nebraska. At age 7, my parents moved to Gothenburg, NB. At the age of 10, I saw my first airplane, a Curtiss JN4C "Jenny." It was in Gothenburg for two days carrying passengers. The pilot's name was E. L. Sloniger. (E.L. Sloniger later was Number 1 on the American Airlines Pilots June 1, 1939 Pilots System Seniority List.) This was late summer 1919. I knew right then I was going to be a pilot.
At the age of 13, I was left an orphan and supported myself from then on.
Still having that urge to be a pilot, I quit school at age 16 and hitch-hiked to Detroit to work in a factory and learn to fly. My first solo flight was in 1926, in a Curtiss JN4C "Canuck." The Overcashier Avaiation School charged me $60 for a mechanic's course, and $250 for one solo flight. I was soloed in five hours and 20 minutes, so my flight time cost me about $50 an hour. A lot of money at 1926 prices.
To continue flying, I built a "Jenny" out of wrecks and parts of wrecks in a shop I rented in Detroit. When finished, it flew real well, and I was in business for myself. $5 per ride.
I left the automobile factory and moved to the Stinson Factory in Northville, Michigan. I got to know Eddie Stinson and he let me keep my "Jenny" at the factory airport in Northville.
[Right: "Red" Cary's OX 5 "Jennie" 5414. He carried this photo in his wallet.]
My next move was to fly a larger machine. It was a Stinson biplane with a Wright 15 engine, dual wheel control, wheel brakes, cabin heater and carried five passengers.
I tried to get into the Ford Pilot Program at Dearborn, Michigan, but they said I was too young. However, I met a group buying a new Ford Trimotor to barnstorm and I was hired as mechanic and co-pilot. On September 9, 1928, I left Ford Airport in Dearborn for Balitimore, our first barnstorming stop. We spent the winter in Miami flying from the Venetian Causeway.
Business was so good the machine was paid for by April 1929.
[Above, top: OX 5 "Jennie" 3813, in Northville, Mich., 1927. Bottom: Walter "Red" Cary's mechanic's ID card.]
My next job change was April 1930, to fly Fords for Sky View Lines in Niagara Falls, NY [where I met my wife-to-be]. They had three Fords for sightseeing, charter work, and as an airline from Buffalo to Pittsburgh. Rocky Kent, later a Captain with American Airlines, also was a pilot there.
My wife, Lucille, and I were married on June 12, 1933. I was barnstorming in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. I rode the train down to Chicago and my soon-to-be wife rode the train from Niagara Falls to Chicago. We were married in Chicago the next day.
I had CAA 6 months physical examination due the day after we were married. The next day, the man who owned the Boeing 80A airplane drove us from Chicago to Manitowoc, where the airplane was.
My next move was a good one. Sky View Lines went broke and put their Fords up for sale and, needing a job, I went with one of the Fords to Chicago. It was bought by Air Tours Incorporated and I flew for them for nine years.
This was all barnstorming, two to three towns a week. North in the summer and South in the winter. I flew their Ford from 1931 to 1935, their Boeing 80A from 1935 to 1939. Checking my log books, I find that I played 533 cities and towns in my 13 years of barnstorming.
My biggest day was in Rochester, Minn., July 9, 1939, on a Sunday. I carried 2,654 passengers. I started at 9 a.m. and flew steadily until 1:45 the next morning. I've always thought this must be a record.
I obtained an Instrument Rating in Chicago. I was hired by American Airlines in December 1939, and I was based in New York. I made Captain in 1942. My first assignment was to Fort Worth to instruct in the DC-3 School that AA operated under a contract with the Navy. I did this thorough 1944, then returned to New York.
I spent all of 1945 flying DC-4s on the Air Transport Command (ATC) routes operated by American Airlines.
Then it was back to the line in 1947.
In June 1958, I received a bid for Captain in Los Angeles. We moved to the "West Coast, " bought a home in Laguna Beach and I am still living in it.
My last ten years with American Airlines was flying Boeing 707s out of LAX.
We have one daughter, Judith [born March 1940] who lives in Fort Bragg, California.
My dear wife Lucille passed away January 20, 1997. We were married 64 years.
--- "Red" Cary
458 Hilledge Drive
Laguna Beach, Calif. 92651
> DOWNLOAD Walter "Red" Cary's first Log Book: 1928-1931 [Logs not kept 1926-1927] (PDF)