Herb Torberg

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Herb Torborg worked at Grand Central Airport in 1939-40 and then moved over to Bendix Company at Burbank. He is active in the New England Aviation Museum

Herb says, "I continue collecting material regarding Grand Central and Curtiss Wright Tech for my files at the New England Air Museum. I would like to get in contact with anyone interested in sharing information on the subject. Some months ago Prof. Conrad Newberry corresponded with me regarding 'Curtiss Wright Technical Institute'; he has edited a comprehensive book for the AIAA covering the early days of aeronautical engineering education. Of course CWTI was a prominent proprietary school in the field."

"There aren't many of us left who roamed the tarmac of Grand Central every day in 1939 / 40--- so it is past time to record and compile the story. There are loads of interesting facts but they need to be tied together. So, please let me know if you have any contacts active in the history of Glendale's Grand Central, etc."

"Best regards, Herb Torberg torbergh@juno.com "

Photo 1 American Airlines

"Those were the days when the copilot put out the flag before landing!" Herb


NOTE: I try to identify comments between Herb, who took the photos and John Underwood, whose remarks are an effort to help identify images.

Beech B-18


"The Douglas B18 was a transient ---- not uncommon to see all kinds land there, have lunch, and go. Wish I had more pictures now. Too bad Bergen's picture came out lousy." Herb

"My involvement at Grand Central was pre war, and it is that part of the history, which interests me most. In particular the contributions of Jerry Vultee, Hawley Bolus, Shanley, Al Novotny, Bill Atwood, etc. It is here that I need the help to straighten the timeline and some details of the accomplishments, like the Crosby racer, the Bunting, the sailplane, etc. The Grand Central photos were taken during noon hour when we roamed the "tarmac" and occasionally where chased away by Hughes' guards, etc." Herb


John Underwood writes of his Glendale neighborhood: "The Bowlus family and Al Novotny were neighbors in the 1950's. Mrs. Harry Crosby was also a neighbor, as well as Milo Burcham's widow, Jack Northrop and Ken Jay. Conrad Newberry looked me up once also."


"I was enrolled in the engineering program at Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute in August, 1939 and was graduated in September 1940. Some references state that the school became known as Cal-Aero immediately upon Major C.C. Mosely's purchase in 1934. I believe the name change was made during the war." Herb


Waco QCF, NC11479

Underwood, "Looks like Ross Butterworths Waco."


"American Eagle 129, NC550H

Underwood: The sister ship to Mary Haizlip's 1929 Powder Puff Derby Special R551H."


"Fairchild 125 Special, NC 244V was owned by Laura Ingalls until she got her Ryan ST. Laura liked it for aerobatics." Herb


Underwood "Laura lived nearby. She was very reclusive after doing two years in a Federal pen for her anti war activities. She died alone, like Pancho Barnes, with her dogs. She lived in the last house on Country Club Drive, she raised dogs and had a 'one car' driving school."


"Boeing 100, NC872H.

Herb, "Could this have belonged to Howard Hughes?"


Capelis XC012 photo from Aerofiles (www.aerofiles.com)

"At school we used the text "Structural Design of Metal Airplanes" by Younger and in it was a construction photo of a strange airplane, the same ugly hulk of which was parked off the tarmac just south east of the terminal at Glendale." Herb

According to Aerofiles: Capelis Safety Airplane Corp, Oakland Airport and El Cerrito CA. Capelis XC-12 [X12762] with fake tail number for a motion picture; that's Mr Capelis holding a yardstick. Site is Grand Central Air Terminal, Glendale CA (RKO via Paul Mantz collection) Capelis XC-12 Revised cockpit and windows (Frank Rezich coll) Capelis XC-12 Oakland Airport (William T Larkins) XC-12 1933 = 12pClwM rg*; two 525hp Wright Cyclone; span: 55'0" length: 42'0" load: 3000# v: 220/190/65. Dr John E Younger; POP: 1 [X12762]. All-metal; triple biplane tail; partly-retracting gear, which extended automatically when the throttle was closed. Funded by local Greek restaurateurs as a promotional aircraft, and constructed with help from University of California students. US patent #1,745,600 issued to Socrates H Capelis, of El Cerrito, in 1930 (a modified application for patent of the design with a half-span dorsal wing and two more engines appears in 1932). The main spar was bolted together, and much of the skin attached with P-K screws rather than rivets. These tended to vibrate loose, requiring tightening or replacing every few flights. Promotional tours were soon abandoned, and its career ended as a movie prop, appearing in ground roles in several motion pictures ("Five Came Back" 1939, "Flying Tigers" 1942, others) before being scrapped c.1943. Flying shots in films were of a model; the plane itself was grounded by the studio's insurance company.

Capelis XC-12: flown to GCA from OAK via Fresno by Jack Beilby, Mose's right-hand man. The X-12 made a wheels-up landing at Fresno, with little damage and Jack continued on to GCA. Never flew again, but was extensively modified (windshield, etc.) for movie work by Timm."

" P-K screws!! Like my Cessna --- but it gave me something to do cross-country." Herb


Fairchild 24


British Hudson bomber




Lockheed Model 12




"The date on the attached picture is shown as 1937-1939. Clearly the date is incorrect since the quadrangle on the south side of the field hadn't been started in Sept. 1940 when I left for Bendix. You can still see the CWTI on the shop hangar. The only building on the south side was the Aero Club (off limits to us) and I think soon closed ---It was kind of a forerunner for Pancho Barnes 'Happy Bottom' resort? " Herb






"This is the way it was in early 1940 --- the PT's would take off in a daisy chain in the AM --- go to Oxnard and Ontario and return the same way late in the day." Herb


Stinson SR-10C Reliant, NC 21132.

Underwood says, "This was a factory demonstrator. Mose was the Southern California Stinson distributor. He Sold several Stinsons to Howard Hughes, one of which, NC26274, belonged to my good friend Ed Martin in the '60's. I flew it on several occasions for Ed, back and forth to air shows with his wife and little boy, while Ed flew more exotic stuff. His son is now restoring the Stinson."




Interior, Reliant








Spartan 8W

Underwood says, "This was a 'one off' for the military. It was sent to GCA in late 1939 for service evaluation by Garland Lincoln, chief pilot for Polaris Flight Academy. Polaris had three Spartan 7W's for XC training and was thought to be a likely customer. Rang up no sales after a month or so and returned to Tulsa. Originally intended for Mexican Air Force, but it was rejected."


Waco cabin


"Movies were always in the making ------around the airport, inside or outside. It made for lunch time amusement and the movie people were fun to talk to. The extras could spot a camera lens pointed at them and were always willing subjects." Herb






Virginia Bruce




Wayne Morris

"I'm told that the guy is Dennis Morgan --- but that could be wrong --- I was never much for movies but sharing lunch with Virginia was kind of special. Also the extras could smell a camera a mile away. ---- I'm told that Morris became a decorated flier ----? A guy who flew at Van Nuys Metro and a bit player was Patrick Knowles -- he loved his beer---- wonder what ever happened to him ---?" Herb






Herb spent some time at Bendix at BUR, in the old Northrop 'Avion' buildings.


"Attached is a scan from the airport directory 1941 I think, which shows Bendix buildings as No.5 at Union Air Terminal. I remember them well ----in 1940 I became the 4th guy in the engineering dept, working for Dave Brown, head draftsman and Walt Trautman the genius engineer. We were in the small block building in front of the hangar (shop). I was told that these were the offices where Jack Northrop had his modest beginnings. In those days (late 1940) we were tasked to redraw the Eclipse-Pioneer drawings for small hydraulic pumps, valves, etc. for west coast production. At that time we did the design of the landing gear shock strut for the NA35 trainer (later Vega). Also, they were busy building a new line of components. Today, I am amazed that so much was accomplished in such a short time." Herb


"It must have been 1939 or earlier when Bendix, South Bend, opened a west coast sales office in a vacant store in downtown Burbank. Then they decided to start manufacturing to serve the west coast. To start with they would, besides custom designs, produce and sell the common hydraulic components know as Eclipse-Pioneer. This is the move to the vacant Northrop facility and where I started to work for them. It was known as Bendix Aviation Ltd. and, like everything in CA then it quickly expanded. I left after only 7 months to return east and work for Sikorsky on the flying boats. Bendix Aviation Ltd. became Bendix Pacific. My roommate, Donald Earl, and I joined Bendix together----- wonder what ever became of him. Before I left, Lockheed bought the airport and started the Vega building --- and I saw the first Burbank flight of the YP38 ---I took a picture (now lost) of that flight on landing right past our office window." Herb


"Here is a photo of the display of Bendix offering 1940 at some industry meeting. Some things, like the accumulator, 4 way valves some check valves, etc. are Burbank designs; the rest is from South Bend and Eclipse." Herb

"If my memory is correct, there was a line of 3,000 psi components for the Vega Unitwin (not very reliable - they would extrude the packing right through the threads)" Herb

These are from Metropolitan Airport, Van Nuys

"If I didn't say, any pix with airplane on grass was taken at Van Nuys Metro."


Ryan ST

"This was 1940 and I recall being told that when rent was in arrears the management would remove the propeller. In one hangar was the prototype twin Aero Crusader sans props and hanging from the rafters. I was told it was also about unpaid rent." Herb

Underwood says, "Ryan ST with hatch is very rare. I can't make out the number but I feel certain that it belonged to the Ryan School in San Diego, then Hemet. Many transient and some local aircraft were grounded after 7 Dec "41 by having their props summarily removed."


"Here are some photos from Van Nuys Metropolitan. Warner Bros had a hangar with a lot of WW 1 flyables." Herb

Underwood says, "WWI Pfalz D.III Long story. Briefly, owned by Harry Crawford in 1928. Rebuilt by Buck Kennel in 1030's, then rebuilt again to airworthiness in the 1950's by Frank Tallman, which resulted in the TallMantz partnership. It's still around somewhere."




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