The Liberty Gazette
January 13, 2015Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Flying Magazine is the longest running aviation publication in history; still going strong in both print and electronic versions. It used to be called Popular Aviation, but changed names sometime around the late 1930's. I happened upon an issue from 83 years ago this month and perused with great interest through several stories, such as the story of Dr. John D. Brock, of Kansas City.
Dr. Brock owned the Specialty Optical Company, which made prescription lenses, sunglasses, artificial eyes, and aviation goggles. Business was brisk, keeping more than 30 people employed through the Great Depression.
If Dr. Brock were alive today I think we’d be friends. He enjoyed air racing and aerobatics both as a participant and as a generous trophy sponsor. He volunteered for many different aviation-related events, fervently promoted the country’s airports, and served on the Advisory Committee for the Fairfax Airport which was on the northeast side of Kansas City. Amid his many aviation advocacy contributions he helped to bring the International Air Circus Exposition and Pilots Reunion to the Fairfax Airport in September of 1929 for the occasion of the official dedication of the airport. Although it had already been operated as a private airfield for eight years, this was a celebration of opening a new public airport, receiving lots of attention for development.
Thrilled and motivated by the Air Circus, within two months the doc prescribed for himself a daily dose of flying. After the first year had passed with Dr. Brock having flown every day for 365 days without missing a single one, "regardless of storms and wind, snow and sleet, rain and what not", there were celebrations and news stories, including one in Popular Aviation in January, 1931.
The article shows that the aviator doc was no sloth, as he’d earned his transport pilot’s license and had been flying since "the early days in aeronautics when the pusher type airplane with its piano wire and bent nail bracings predominated." So the question most asked in neighborhoods in Kansas City on Saturday, November 15, 1930, the 365th consecutive day of Doc-Brock flight, was how much longer will he do this?
The magazine’s writer could only answer at that point that Brock intended to "continue indefinitely and if his determination in the future equals his determination of the past year, the record will go on into his old age."
After I read that short piece I wondered just how much longer he did fly daily. As I searched through the years I was surprised to not immediately find any reports of the end of the flight-a-day. I found articles celebrating the second anniversary, that second year of daily flying which included a well-planned venture backed by the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to visit all 48 state capitols and personally bring the official good will greeting of Kansas City to every U.S. Governor.
How much longer did he fly? Ten years to be exact. Ten years, from November 15, 1929 to November 15, 1939, Dr. Brock was airborne at some time during each day.
That record was remembered in a lengthy article by Glenn Buffington in the December 1978 issue of The Vintage Airplane. The doc had passed on in 1953, and Glenn’s article was his own personal appreciation for Brock having accepted him as a young, new employee in the optical business. Among the pages describing the exciting life of Dr. Brock was Buffington's recollection of the letterhead which sported the doctor's motto, "A flight a day keeps the doctor away."