Greater Tulsa Reporter
LINDBERG LANDS IN TULSA: Persuaded by W. G. Skelly, Lindberg lands at Tulsa’s McIntyre Airport in 1927, a little over four months after his famous solo flight from New York to Paris. Greeting America’s newest aviation hero was Mayor Herman Newblock, Art Goebel, Frank Machett and Duncan McIntyre.
Courtesy Carl Gregory
Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a multi-part series about the growth of the aviation industry in greater Tulsa and throughout the region. The series explores the many unique contribution made by Tulsans to what has become a major aspect of the area economy. The editors of GTR Newspapers want to acknowledge and thank the Tulsa Historic Society, the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, the Tulsa County Library System, the Tulsa Rotary Club and The Beryl Ford Collection for research assistance and the use of many of the historic photos that accompany the articles.
On September 30, 1927, a little more than four months after his historic 3,500 mile, 33-1/2 hour solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, the famous aviator Charles (Lucky Lindy) Lindbergh landed at McIntyre Airport, one of Tulsa’s fledgling, privately owned airports. The small grassy field located at the Southeast corner of Admiral Boulevard and Sheridan had little more than a hangar, navigation lights and a well-mowed, sixty-foot wide runway. Tulsa Mayor Herman Newblock, Tulsa Chamber members, Frank Machett, aviator and winner of the Dole Race to Hawaii, Art Goebel and, owner of the airfield, Duncan McIntyre officially greeted Lindberg who arrived in his modified model Ryan M-2 aircraft called the Spirit of Saint Louis. It was the time in aviation history dubbed the “Lindberg Boom.” “Airmindedness” was sweeping America and Tulsans wanted in on the action.
Lindbergh hadn’t planned to land in Tulsa on his nationwide tour promoting air travel as the new safe, viable alternative to rail travel. His route through Oklahoma included landings at Oklahoma City Municipal Airport, Bartlesville Municipal Airport and Hatbox Field in Muskogee; all were better established fields than Tulsa’s McIntyre Airport. But early oilman and presiding president of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce; consummate promoter of aviation and of Tulsa, W. G. Skelly personally contacted Lindberg and the promoters of the tour and persuaded them to include the city, citing the upcoming Tulsa International Oil Exposition and the Tulsa State Fair as events worthy of their attention. It was not the first nor the last time oil and aviation would conspire to keep Tulsa abreast of the growing national trend to aviation.
That evening America’s flying hero was treated to Tulsa hospitality. A banquet held in his honor at the luxurious Mayo Hotel was attended by a who’s who of Tulsa civic leaders. The notably shy Lindberg took the occasion to admonish those present for not having procured a municipal airport. Indeed Tulsa, a city never comfortable bringing up the rear on anything, was loathed to think it was behind in the region, particularly when it involved something as exciting as commercial aviation.
In typical fashion, Skelly swung into action. To get the ball rolling on Tulsa’s new municipal airport, he quickly procured the signatures of no less than 48 prominent business leaders on a now famous “stud horse note.” It was a promissory note fashioned after the customary practice employed by farmers and horse breeders who would collectively underwrite the purchase of a new stud horse of promising breed. Just as a stud horse note was retired using stud fees, the Skelly’s plan was to pay back the loan with fees from Tulsa’s new municipal airport. The names that appear on that note chronicle the city’s leadership at this important moment in Tulsa history. Personal signatures of family names like Skelly, Phillips, Mayo, Halliburton, Nobel, Newblock, Frates, Hall, Harwell, Gardner, Cole, and company names like Vandevers & Company, Brown Dunkin Company along with many others appeared on the note. Together they formed the Tulsa Airport Corporation.
This was the way things happened back then. When city leaders saw a need they came together armed with the necessary resources and acumen to make things happen. Once again it was a core group of Tulsans doing whatever was necessary to build the city and it would become the norm in the early days of the city’s growth. Voters were not always consulted before hand. But, as was the case with the municipal airport, could be counted on to pick up the tab after the fact through bond drives provided of course they were pleased with the initiative. In this case they were.
With the funding secured it was time to select a site. Numerous locations were considered including Turkey Mountain in South Tulsa overlooking the Arkansas River. Ultimately a 390-acre track south of Mohawk Park was chosen for it’s flat terrain and proximity to the cities largest park. Tulsa Airport Corporation pledged $172,000 to purchase the land and the note was signed January 21, 1928 with the Exchange National Bank and Trust Company. Soon there after grading started and Tulsa’s new municipal airport began to take shape.
Six months later the airport was open for air traffic. The main attraction at the gala opening celebration was the 1928 Ford Reliability Air Tour made up of 24 planes featuring ten military planes staging mock aerial battles for marveled spectators numbering in the thousands.
In a very short time, the Tulsa mindset had in customary fashion perceived a need, understood an opportunity and through determination and initiative positioned the city to take advantage of all that was to be just a short fight over the horizon.
For more information, visit www.tulsaairandspacemuseum.com and www.tulsahistory.org.