Friday, March 22, 2013

Chalk's Loening

When Grover Loening formed his Loening Aeronautical Engineering company in 1917, he was far from being a newcomer to the industry. Grover had been awarded Columbia University's first ever degree in aeronautical engineering, and had managed the Wright Brother's factory for them before WWI. In 1921, his S-1 Flying Yacht set a speed record and captured the Collier Trophy that year. His next big design success was the OL amphibian of 1923, produced first for the Army, and then for the Navy. With passenger aviation taking off, Loening's team, which included a young engineer named Leroy Grumman, was tasked with turning the military aircraft into a commercial one. The result was the C-1 and then the successful C-2 Air Yacht (which came with your choice of engine...the C-2C used the Wright Cyclone and the C-2H was powered by the Pratt & Whitney Hornet).

The C-2C in our photo, NC133H,  was first delivered on June 19, 1929 to New York & Suburban Airlines, one of the Curtiss-Wright subsidiary companies. Sometime shortly after that, the plane was sold to Kohler Aviation, which operated a unique "Air Bridge Across Lake Michigan", offering flights from downtown Milwaukee to Grand Rapids (time was reduced from a 14-hour rail trip to a one hour ten minute plane ride; details and some wonderful photos can be seen here and here as well). The service was popular and successful, but after the air mail contract scandal in the mid-1930s, Kohler was prohibited from re-bidding them, and without that lucrative source of income, the company went down.

At some point, some of the Kohler Loenings, including 33H, were then sold to Chalk's Flying Service, where they were operated from a small seaplane base on Biscayne Blvd in Miami (a wonderful old photo of the base and our plane can be seen here). Arthur "Pappy" Chalk, a WWI veteran, started the air service in February, 1919 and kept it going until he sold it in 1966! At some point, Chalk's moved their operations to Miami's Watson Island. Given the differences in the background between our photo and the one linked above, I'm guessing that our location is Watson. If anyone can confirm that, please comment below.

Another photo of 33H at Chalks can be seen here.

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