Anxious to play a role in commercial aviation, the Ford Automobile Company began manufacturing airplanes in 1925 with the purchase of the Stout Metal Airplane Company. Bill Stout established his company in 1922 to design and construct all-metal aircraft. By 1926, his well-designed Ford trimotor became the backbone of an emerging airline business. Ford encouraged their larger automobile dealers to establish local passenger routes using the new trimotor. Jack Maddux, a Los Angeles Ford/Lincoln dealer, formed Maddux Airlines, planning to carry passengers between Los Angeles and San Diego. The airline began operations with two Ford trimotors and, by the end of 1928, operated a fleet of thirteen Ford trimotors, two Lockheed Vegas, and two Travelairs. The airline opened a route north to Alameda and a southern route extended to Agua Caliente just south of the Mexican border. Maddux became the first successful west coast passenger airline of true consequence. 1
Larry Fritz, former chief pilot for Stout, maintained this role for Maddux. Fritz began his flying career during WWI as a member of the 282nd Aero Squadron based in England. Before signing on with Stout to test his single-engine all-metal transport plane, Fritz barnstormed and test flew Northrop’s Alpha. He took delivery of Maddux’s first tri-motor in July 27, 1927. Large crowds gathered to watch the airliner touch down at Rogers Airport. A full-time guard was hired to keep the curious spectators at a safe distance.
Realizing that he could not oversee Maddux’s expanding business alone, Fritz hired Eddie Bellande, a close friend and roommate, as his assistant. Eddie’s relaxed manner contrasted sharply with Fritz’s short fuse and propensity for profanity. The two experienced pilots commanded respect and established sound polices; they conducted business in a manner reflective of their personalities. Fritz reputedly began reprimands with “You SOB,” although he had a “heart big as his head.”2
The Alameda landing strip, located on the tip of a slender peninsula, lay between an estuary and the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay. Landing a large airplane at Alameda proved a challenge for any pilot. Not only did they have to stay centered on the narrow strip to avoid the bay but also to avoid contact with a row of hangars near its edge. Moye landed his Travelair just minutes before Eddie turned on final in a Maddux trimotor. Over dinner at his hotel, Eddie brought Moye up-to-date on recent airline developments. Rapidly expanding Maddux Airlines planned to move from Rogers to Glendale’s Grand Central Airport where Maddux held the keystone position as the newly-built facility’s first tenant. The move was scheduled for the end of February.
Eddie continued the conversation with news of a new airline. “There's a new outfit starting operations this summer, Transcontinental Air Transport. It's backed by Clement Keys financial group and involves the Pennsylvania Railroad. The first transcontinental passenger airline will operate between New York and Los Angeles. Crossing the continent will take two days and two nights. At the start, airplanes will be used only on the two daylight sections - Columbus, Ohio to Waynoka, Oklahoma, and Clovis, New Mexico to Los Angeles. Passengers will travel by rail over the two night segments - New York to Columbus and Waynoka to Clovis. 3
"Larry Fritz is working on the deal right now. Three Maddux captains, Steve Shore, Johnny Guglielmetti, and me, will leave Maddux when TAT starts and are already slated to fly the leg between Los Angeles and Winslow, Arizona. That's where you come in. We will need four captains to handle our section. Your experience, topped off with time in Hancock's equipment, qualifies you for the job except for one thing. TAT wants captains with previous airline experience. If you quit school now, I can get you on at Maddux as a captain. When TAT starts, you, Steve, Johnny Gug, and I will hold down this end."
Bellande's blunt proposition and what it promised seemed truly exciting. Moye never discussed making flying a career with Bellande; in fact, he had never given serious consideration to the idea. He thought of leaving Stanford, but not to become a professional pilot. His law classes now demanded more time than he cared to invest. While his classmates debated law cases on the steps outside the law building, Moye hurried past them on his way to the airfield. Becoming absorbed in the complexities of jurisprudence and the heated arguments they spurned no longer engaged his interest.
"There's one aspect of the plan that bothers me.” Moye confided to Bellande. “Going to work for Maddux, knowing I would be leaving them in a few months, seems pretty shifty. I wouldn't feel too happy about putting them to the expense of checking me out and then having to repeat the procedure with my replacement."
"Wait till you see the bankrupting cost of a checkout.” Bellande replied drolly. “But, even if it were an important amount, it wouldn't make any difference. If you're not available for the job, we plan on taking another Maddux captain. When he goes, they'll have to check out a pilot to take his place. The airline is saddled with a checkout either way. Believe me it won't work a great hardship on Maddux.
"The pay involved should be of interest to you. With Maddux, it's $250 a month base pay and five cents a mile for daytime flying, ten cents a mile nights. It generally works out to around $500 a month. On TAT, the pay will be a flat $500 a month. This could be an advantageous setup in view of what the weather in the Rockies might do to schedules. Think it over, but we can't wait too long. I'll have to make other arrangements if you decide not to go along. This is Tuesday. Tomorrow I return to Los Angeles. Thursday, I round trip to Caliente. I have Friday and Saturday off. I'll be back in Alameda Sunday. See if you can't come up with an answer by then. You might meet me here to let me know what you decide."
Over the next five days, Moye agonized over his future and weighed his options. He believed that his father looked forward to the day he would join the family law practice. He also believed that defecting from the family tradition would be a bitter disappointment for Moye Sr. With two more years remaining to obtain a J. D. (Juris Doctor), Moye questioned whether he possessed the stamina to complete the program, and further, did he have the character necessary to sit in a stuffy office? He knew he didn’t. Having experienced the freedom of flight, a lawyer’s job seemed stifling and constrained. Whatever he decided, Moye felt obligated to obtain his father’s approval.
Moye compared the differences in compensation between the two careers. His first few years as a law clerk would net him approximately $75 a month. Promoted to lawyer status, his earnings would be less than that of an airline captain. The possibility of a greater, ultimate reward practicing law existed. Could that goal be reached by a less than dedicated lawyer? Once Moye realized the progression his passion for flying had taken, accepting an airline captain’s position seemed a natural development. That being the case, what better opportunity could he hope for than the one Bellande tossed into his lap?
Never did he imagine, as he poured through those early aviation texts, that he would fly for an airline. Moye knew about early attempts to provide air transportation for the public. A mixture of endeavors included the Zeppelin in 1912 and a Benoist seaplane a year later. Other companies followed using Junkers and Fokkers. American Airways, United Aircraft and Transportation Corporation, Pan American, and Western Air Express under the direction of C.C. Moseley were, by 1928, among the largest. Confident that airlines would evolve as an essential part of public transportation, Moye saw an opportunity to be part of a definitive epoch of aviation. He welcomed the responsibility the job entailed.
Moye applied for an indefinite leave of absence from Stanford, packed his belongings, said goodbye to Trow, now a freshman at Stanford, and flew home in the Travelair. He debated about giving the family advance notice of his visit but decided it best not to reveal his purpose ahead of time. He believed a face-to-face meeting would somehow lessen the impact of his decision. Countless rehearsals of how to respectfully inform his father consumed Moye during the flight south. By the time he touched down at Clover Field, he felt prepared to calmly argue his resolution. His reserve, however, failed him as he walked through the front door of his home. Seeing the looks of surprise on his parent’s faces, Moye nervously blurted out, "I've been offered a full-time job as captain on an airline, Dad, and I want to take it." Attempting to disguise his mixed emotions, Moye Sr. replied, "Okay son. If you'll shave off that god damned mustache, I'll give your decision my blessing."
Rather than expressing excitement over his father’s reply, Moye felt like crying - tears of joy, relief, and respect. The significance of earning a living doing what he loved most was prodigious. His father’s approval validated his choice. In all probability, Moye’s decision did not surprise Moye Sr. Eight years of animated conversations about flying and airplanes could not be dismissed. Moye, thankful for his father’s insight, shaved his mustache off that evening.
Excerpted from "Flying Carpets, Flying Wings" by Barbara H. Schultz. Copyright © 0 by Barbara H. Schultz. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.