Friday, March 13, 2015

An Unlucky Vega

The story with this photo is pretty thin, if a bit unlucky, which is appropriate since today is Friday the 13th. Shown is Lockheed Vega 1 serial 12B, NC7425, and its pilot Ralph E. Morrison at Mills Field in San Francisco (which later became San Francisco International). The plane was delivered on August 21, 1928.

Hand-dated on back Feb. 1931

The one remarkable thing about this plane is its serial number. Yes, this was the 13th airplane built by Lockheed. In an era when superstitions were given semi-official status, instead of getting serial number (or construction number) 13, they used 12B (think about it from the Sales Dept's point of view: would you want to try to sell ship #13?).

After less than seven years after rolling out of Lockheed's Burbank factory, the Vega's luck ran out, and it suffered a forced landing near a place called “Fishtrap” on April 21, 1935 and was abandoned (not sure which state, as far as I can determine, there are four states that have a community called Fishtrap, Alabama, Kentucky, Montana and Washington...and it’s my guess that the crash took place either in Montana or Washington).

I've not been able to find any info on Morrison.

According to the French website Aeromovies, NC-7425 supposedly appears in the 1931 flick Air Eagles. Google translates the applicable paragraph from French to English as “At the end of the film, Eve and the agents of the mining company, embark on a Lockheed Vega 1 12B (NC7425) . This aircraft will be damaged during a forced landing in 1935 and abandoned. The Vega 1, released in 1927, was an ultra modern aircraft at the time and will be the source of a long line of famous aircraft.”

You can go see this utterly forgettable excuse for a movie for yourself at Free Classic Movies. The acting is terrible, the writing is boring, but if you want to see dog fights between a Travel Air (NC3621) and a Catron-Fisk CF-13 (NC3404, and the only CF-13 ever built, by the way) and later between two Travel Airs (the other being NC945Y) over the San Gabriel Mountains (flying was probably staged out of Glendale, and I’m pretty sure I recognized Big Tujunga Road at one point), then this is the blockbuster for you. And, where else can you still hear the smooth roar of a Lockheed Vega? The Vega makes its first appearance at 57:02, and its second at 1:05:56. I watched that first clip over and over again, and have come to the conclusion that Aeromovies is incorrect, the airplane featured isn’t NC7425, but rather sister ship it looks to me that there’s a “7” at the end of the number on the bottom of the wing, rather than a “5”. Almost a movie unlucky. And this makes sense, too, as NC7427 was registered to Wilson Aircraft, and Al Wilson was a well-known movie pilot of the late 20s and early 30s (he was killed in a crash at the 1932 National Air Races).

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