John Whitbeck, head of the Eastern division, conceived the idea
of standardizing DH-4s and assigning one to each pilot. Except
in emergencies no other aviator was to fly the customized planes.
Windshields, which protected pilots from rain and snow so it
hardly touched them, were tailored to suit each pilot; seat
heights were aligned to individual dimensions and sometimes
minor changes in the placement of instruments were made to accommodate
the pilots. Later air was piped from the motor into the cockpit
to warm pilots' feet, but that modification would not take place
for three more years.
plane assigned to me was my pride and joy," said Allie. "It
was the second plane to be fully rebuilt in the Cleveland shop
and certainly a thing of beauty. Never had an airplane been
put together that could compare with it. It had an all-plywood
mahogany fuselage. The wings were covered with unbleached Irish
linen that had been treated with clear dope; the fittings were
painted with red enamel. The cockpit entrance was padded. There
were hand-grips – one to the rear of the cockpit and the other
ahead of the windshield. There was a steel stirrup attached
to the lower longeron and also a metal step about the middle
of the fuselage to facilitate entering and leaving the cockpit.
They even provided me with an aft compartment where I could
store luggage and other personal articles. Boy what luxury!
I had never seen a plane so equipped."
Howard F. Salisbury, an airmail instrument technician at Cleveland,
drew Allie's attention to a reinforcing ring around the inside
of the cockpit between the two top longerons, he said, "In case
you crack up there is less chance of a longergon splintering
and going through your ribs."
a finishing touch, technicians inscribed the pilot's name on
the fuselage at the cockpit opening. "When I first saw my plane
I was so elated I could not speak," said Allie.
cared for his plane like an indulgent parent. By November 1921,
Allie's DH had racked up 600 hours in the air, making it the
second oldest plane in existence with that many miles to its
credit. The plane cited for having the most miles, which was
the first DH4 rebuilt in Cleveland, belonged to Elmer Leonhardt.
Because the two DHs boasted an endurance record, Post Office
officials decided to show them off at the second annual Pulitzer
trophy speed race, held that year in Omaha, Nebraska.
planes were living proof that aircraft properly constructed
and maintained could reach the ripe old age of 600 air hours.
To his dismay, Allie was informed that another pilot would fly
his plane to Omaha; officials insisted that he stay put so he
could fly the Cleveland--New York run.
I said goodbye to my plane I had a feeling I would never see
it again," recalled Allie. "The pilot assigned to it left Cleveland,
got in and out of Chicago okay but forced landed some place
in Iowa, ran through two or three fences and some ditches. That
was the end of my good plane. I never saw it again."
More from Allison
Note from Bob Reeve