Aviators in the 1930's often painted a symbol or logo on the sides of their ships. Plainly in view is Aline's which shows a horseshoe crossed by a prop and paint brush. Aline was a horsewoman, artist and pilot extraordinaire.
Please Note: All of the information contained here is from Aline Rhonie's log book which I found at the Smithsonian. Some of the images are from the Long Island Early Fliers Club Newsletter, Summer, 1985 Cradle of Aviation Museum,Garden City, New York and the wonderful movie on page 2 from Keith Folkerts - Specials and Monocoups.
During the spring of 1984, my husband Ron purchased a 1931 Stearman 4E Jr. Speedmail. The Stearman is a rather large, opencockpit biplane of beautiful proportion with a 38' wing span. A multi-purpose aircraft, many were sold to sportsmen pilots and business houses looking to catch the public's attention. Among the companies that owned Model 4's were Standard Oil of California and Texaco. It was also offered as a mail carrier with a payload, depending on engine option, of 600 to 1,000 lbs. American Airlines, Western Air Express and some Canadian companies used the model 4 as a mail and cargo aircraft.
Our Stearman, serial #4025 rolled out of the Stearman Factory in Wichita as a 4D with a Pratt and Whitney Wasp Jr. engine of 300 hp. During restoration, the "N" number was changed from NC796H to NC774H since it ws to be painted as the Western Air Express aircraft, but that's another story and this narrative concerns 796H and her 1st owner during the 1930's.
My curiosity was first awakened by the old paperwork that came with the aircraft. Her first owner was Aline Rhonie who kept the Stearman at the Aviation Country Club on Long Island, New York. Mistakenly thinking the name Aline was male, I was surprised to learn from Deed Levy, the original Stearman test pilot, that Aline Rhonie was a well known aviatrix of the 1930's. A trip to the Smithsonian Institute's Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. answered my questions.
Aline was born in York, Pennsylvania on August 16, 1909 and learned to fly in Reno, Nevada in 1930. Her first ride in an "open" plane took place on July 29, 1930 in a D.H. Moth, NC914M with a Gypsy engine. She took the standard instruction which consisted of familiarization of controls, straight and level flying, taxiing, normal glides, 90 degree precision turns, turns and spirals, stalls, landings, "lots of them," and forced landings. She received dual instruction from Frank B. Cochran from July 29 until her 1st solo on her birthday, August 16, 1930. Log book entries show: "1st solo, Boeing Field, two three point landings, two dual landings before 1st solo, barnstorming after 1st solo." Aline worked on her Private and passed her flight test at Oakland, California on September 21, 1930. She was required to do 4 snaprolls, 3 loops, 3 spins, precision wingovers and chandelles.
On October 9 while flying a Travel Air with a Hisso engine (NC5423) Aline made a forced landing "dead stick, motor quit in midst of spin. Picked field, spiraled down 1,500 feet to 3 point landing." All of this excitement after only 46 solo hours.
Aline owned three aircraft. The Wasp Jr. powered Stearman, a Lambert Monocoupe of 90 hp and a Luscombe Phantom, 272Y with a Warner 145. The Stearman, NC796H was the first and she received it at the Stearman factory. It cost $15,000. She flew with Jim Collins (her instructor) from Wichita to Miami, then on to New York for a total of 27 hours. More dual and airwork from Jim lasted about 3 more hours and then a "1st solo." I wonder how many pair of socks she had on for that solo the 18th day of January, 1931. Aline's total time was about 78 hours and she was 21 years old.
On January 25, during a flight from Roosevelt Field to Warrensville, New Jersey she got lost: "no visibility, blind flying 1st time, low ceiling, ice collecting on wings, forced landing in a poor field, ship indisposed". This happened on Chestnut Hill, Wilton, Connecticut. Miss Rhonie was badly shaken according to a newspaper clipping.
Apparently, Aline wasn't as shaken as the newspaper had reported and was back in the air the next day at the Roosevelt School. She did airwork and landings over the next several weeks in a Fleet, Stinson, Monocoupe and Bird Biplane.
The big Stearman flew again on April 4, 1931 and she test hopped and soloed it with Russ Thaw as instructor. A month later there was "nite flying with first landings at Roosevelt Field."
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