January 25, 2011
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Last week we started our story on Dewey Bonbrake, airplane builder. If you haven’t read part one yet, don’t miss the adventure; grab a copy of last week’s paper.
Dewey’s friend, Tom “Gene” Gabbert, an engineer and test pilot for Unit Motors & Airplane Co. of Kansas City, Missouri, took the prototype to Los Angeles for the 1928 National Air Races, and brought Arthur Hardgrave along.
Hardgrave, who was also a pilot and wealthy businessman in his own right, worked for Insull as President of City Ice, and was president of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and the Rancho De La Osa Guest Ranch outside of Tucson. On the way from Kansas City to Los Angeles they landed at Davis-Monthan (in Tucson), the first municipal aviation field in the U.S. Davis-Monthan’s historic register records airplanes that have landed there, their pilots and passengers, between 1925-1936. That register has the signatures of Gabbert and Hardgrave, who signed it on the morning of September 5, 1928. According to http://www.dmairfield.com/, the register records seven landings by six different Inlands. The website offers a good narrative on each of the Inlands listed. Their next stop was the Guest Ranch.
Linda: With Insull’s backing, Inland Aviation Co. began producing airplanes at Fairfax Airport in Kansas City. The Inland Sport was built in the same building as the Rearwin; American Eagle, and others were built at Fairfax as well.
Inland Aviation placed well in several air races including the 1930 National Air Races in Chicago where female pilots Mae Haizlip, Vera Dawn Walker, and Marty Bowman flew Inland Sports, and Arthur Hardgrave captured first place in the Sportsman class followed by Inlands in second and third place. These finishes gave the company a boost. By now they had three models: the Sport, a 70HP LaBlonde, a five cylinder radial which sold for $3,500, the Sportster, a 90HP five cylinder Warner Scarab Jr. offered for $3,700, and the Super Sport, a 125HP Warner Scarab, seven cylinder radial with a price tag of $4,500.
We’ll have more on the fascinating Bonbrake-Inland story next week.
Photo 1: Inland Sport Prototype, Photo 2: Lawrence Dewey Bonbrake with Inland, 1929. Photos courtesy Lance Borden, from family photo albums