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Pilots, Planes, People

Henry Ford attended most, if not all, of the National Air Tours at Ford Airport. his chief engineer, Bill Mayo. In the background is the tail of a single engine Ford 2-AT, #4 from the Ford Air Transport Service the "Maiden Dearborn IV." Note the tail skid rather than a tail wheel which was common up through the mid-1920s; it helped because many aircraft did not have wheel brakes in the early tours. Wheel brakes had been tried out as far back as 1913, but they added weight and expense, and pilots distrusted them. But the 1926 air tour rules made wheel brakes essential for scoring points in quick takeoffs and landings.

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There are three aviation personalities in this picture. Bill Stout of the Stout Metal Aircraft Company (read Ford) shakes hands with pilot Frank Hawks, Texaco's "superintendent of aviation". The aircraft is a Travel Air "Mystery Ship" was named Texaco 13 and assigned the registration NR-1313. Hawks set many speed records in the Texaco Mystery Ship flying the craft over 125,000 miles in just two years. Texaco 13 today hangs in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. On the 1930 tour, it was not a contestant but rather an "Official Ship", both a Pathfinder and Official Advance Plane.

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Nancy Hopkins was one of four women on the 1930 National Air Tour, but she was the only woman pilot. She was known as a society girl; a niece of Lady Astor, her father was a member of the physician clan at Johns Hopkins Hospital, her mother was a sister of artist Charles Gibson, creator of the Gibson Girl. But she was a pilot and a good one too, "one of the most capable women pilots in the country," it was said.

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Nancy flew a Viking Kitty Hawk B4 biplane and, unlike most other pilots, did all her own maintenance earning the admiration of nearly everyone. Upon the return for the 1930 tour Nancy found that she had become a bit of celebrity. The other tour pilots called her the "most popular woman ever to fly in a Ford tour" and a "regular fellow."

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A newspaper of the time noted, "She is back, her suit case covered with stickers from some of the far distant cities she visited on the 5,000-mile air tour, her ship spattered with oil and her face grimy. The paint is worn off her Kitty Hawk and her leather jacket is spotted and a button gone." "But it was a marvelous trip!" she said as she hopped out of her ship after she had listened with expert ear to the sound of the motor. "I'm not a bit tired! And I didn't mind having a slow ship either. I came piking in last every time, but I always got there, and that's what counts." "It wasn't so hard." she insisted as she tucked her helmet and goggles under her arm and shook hands with some of her many admirers. "And I'm so glad we finished," she said as she nodded back at the blue ship which stood on the runway beside her.

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