A Close Tie

This article appeared in the September-October 1970 issue of NCR World

A Close Tie

 

     History reveals some interesting and unique ties between aviation and NCR.

     Dayton, Ohio, is the birthplace of the cash register and is world headquarters for NCR.

     Dayton also is the birthplace of aviation.  It is also the home of air research and developments that have made the United States Air Force internationally famous.

     The story goes back almost to the turn of the century.  In December, 1903, Daytonians Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, an event that introduced the Age of Flight.

 

On Huffman Prairie

 

     NCR Chairman E. A. Deeds was one of the first to see the significance of aviation.  His interest was largely influenced by his friendship with the Wrights.  He was a frequent visitor at their small, almost primitive flying field on Huffman prairie, near the site of today’s giant Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Dayton’s northeast edge

     As early as 1909 when both Deeds and Charles F. Kettering, who was to become world-famous for his inventions, were employed at NCR, Deeds suggested to the Wrights that they might be interested in a special ignition system that had been developed by Kettering. . 

     The Wrights turned down this suggestion, but a lasting friendship resulted.  Deeds realized early that aviation was the passion of their lives and he caught the spark too.

     Deeds was civic-minded as well as air-minded and he cherished the idea of making Dayton the scientific center of the country with special emphasis on aviation.

 

Aviation Adventure

 

     In 1916 he established one of the first private landing fields in the United States on South Field, which was adjacent to what is now NCR’s Moraine Farm in Kettering.  The installation became an experimental field destined to be the scene of notable aviation adventure.

     Deeds placed his field at the disposal of the Dayton Wright Airplane Company, which used it for experimental work during World War I.

     It was here that Orville Wright developed his split-flap which made dive bombing possible, and it was here that Kettering perfected his World War I buzz bomb or “bug.”  The radio telephone which enabled planes to communicate with each other was born in the Deeds hanger too.

     Deeds and Kettering, with the approval of Orville Wright, purchased the tract of land then on the outskirts of Dayton which is now part of a city park area.  This 120-acre tract, later named McCook Field, was for public aviation use.

 

The Fighting McCooks

 

     McCook Field, named after Ohio’s General Anson McCook of the fighting McCooks of Civil War fame, was the first airfield to be opened virtually within the limits of a city.  And, it was the earliest military aviation center for research and experimentation.

     As Deeds’ interest in aviation grew he helped organize the Dayton Wright Airplane Company.  Deeds had no financial interest in this company, but moved it into being along with H. E. Talbott, H.E. Talbott Jr. .who later became Secretary of the U. S. Air Force, Kettering and Orville Wright.

     In addition to production of military planes during World War I, Dayton Wright stressed research, experimentation and attempted to help popularize the airplane.

     Deeds made great contributions during World War I.  He served on the Aircraft Production Board and later became a full colonel in the U. S. Army heading the Signal Corps’ Equipment Division.

     The Signal Corps included what was then a practically non-existent air corps.  Col. Deeds helped build this to 150,000 men and 13, 894 airplanes by time of the armistice.  He also played a leading role in the design and production of the famous Liberty engine.  Later these engines did much to carry forward post-war civilian aviation.

     In his book, “Colonel Deeds Industrial Builder,” Isaac F. Marcosson said:

 

Records Are Set

 

     “The power and purpose of the Liberty engine continued long after the great guns of war had been silenced.  A Liberty-engined DeHaviland 4, piloted by Captain E. F. White, made the first non-stop flight from Chicago to New York in six hours and 50 minutes in April,1919.  In the same month and in the same type of plane, also Liberty-engine driven, Captain Theodore C. McCauley flew from Tucson, Arizona, to Stillwater, Texas, in a little over eight hours. Covering 880 miles in what was then the world’s non-stop record flight.  Another DeHaviland 4, with a Liberty engine, with Lt. Maynard at the stick, won the transcontinental race from New York to San Francisco and return.

     “The supreme achievement up to that time was the first aerial crossing of the Atlantic in May, 1919, by Commander Read, U. S. N., in the Navy flying boat NC4 equipped with four Liberty engines.

     “Five years later the first round-the-world flight was made possible by planes powered by 12-cylinder engines.  These planes, called the ‘Magellans of the Air,’ covered 26,345 miles in 363 hours of actual flying time.  It was an unprecedented achievement.”

     NCR took a leading part in the development of the beautiful Wright Memorial, which is located near Wright-Patterson and commands a view of the base and the site of the area where the Wrights first tested and flew their planes.

 

Marble From Kitty Hawk

 

   Col. Deeds was chairman of the Wright Memorial Commission and other NCR officials and employees gave their time to the project.

     This memorial, the shaft and base of which is of selected North Carolina marble, chosen from the vicinity of Kitty Hawk, attracts thousands of visitors each year.  Many view it while in the area to visit the Air Force Museum.

     The Wright Memorial was dedicated August 19, 1940, Orville Wright’s birthday, in the presence of a distinguished group including General H. H. (Hap) Arnold, Captain Kenneth Whiting, U. S. N., former Ohio Governor James M. Cox, Lt. General William Knudsen, and Charles F. Kettering.

     Orville was a frequent visitor at N. C. R. before he died in January, 1948. He suffered a heart attack and collapsed on the front steps of  NCR’s headquarters building in October, 1947, then suffered a second attack while in his workshop in January.   One of the persons at his bedside was his long-time friend, Col. Deeds.

     There are still other ties between NCR and the world of aviation.

 

The Patterson Name

 

     Wright-Patterson Air Force Base gets its name from the Wright brothers, and from Frank Stuart Patterson, who was the son of Frank J. Patterson, co-founder of NCR along with his brother, John H. Patterson.

     Frank Stuart Patterson was killed shortly before the end of World War I when his plane crashed on what now is the site of Patterson Field at Wright-Patterson.  First Lt. Patterson and Second Lt. LeRoy Swan, both of the 137th Aero Squadron, were killed in the crash of their DeHaviland-4 after its wings collapsed during a dive while firing at ground targets with a new synchronized-through–the–propeller machine gun.

     The Air Force complex which was later to bear Lt. Patterson’s name as a memorial was originally Wilbur Wright Field.  After expansion and various name changes a second landing field became Patterson Field in honor of Lt. Patterson on July 6, 1931.  Then in January, 1948, the name Wright–Patterson Air Force Base was made official.

     Frederick Patterson, son of John H. Patterson, and who became NCR President in 1921, also played a key role.  Like his cousin, he too was a pilot, but a bad knee kept him from becoming a pilot in World

 War I.  However, after joining the Army he earned his commission in the aerial photography service.

 

National Air Races

 

     After the war he continued his interest in aviation and as president of the National Aero Society, was responsible for bringing the national air races to Dayton in 1924.

     His father, John H. Patterson, also was an enthusiastic backer of aviation.  He led a long, though unsuccessful fight, to convince the United States to adopt General Billy Mitchell’s proposal that aviation, which had proved itself during the war, be made a separate military force directly responsible to a civilian cabinet officer.

     On May 5, 1922, underscoring his interest in aviation, Mr. Patterson arranged a gala reception for General Mitchell, at which a campaign was activated to keep McCook Field in Dayton open as a military air base.

     After JHP’s death, Frederick Patterson carried on the fight to retain the air base in Dayton.

     On a return visit to Dayton in 1959, Frederick Patterson said: “My biggest contribution to Dayton is Wright Field.  With the aid of General Billy Mitchell, I helped get that here.”

     That was when Mr. Patterson led a 36-hour campaign to raise $400,000 for purchase of Wright aviation field and land adjoining it.

 

Tip From Gen. Mitchell

 

     Mr. Patterson said that General Mitchell tipped him that the government planned to move former McCook Field to the Maryland coast.

     Then he related, he made a quick trip to Washington, “to see President Coolidge.”

     “Coolidge,” he recalled, “suggested that if Dayton were able to give the government sufficient land, he would see to it that the air installation would remain in Dayton.”

     Mr. Patterson said that it was a few nights after the Washington discussion—at an NCR dinner—when, “Fred Rike, Kettering, myself and other businessmen, raised the money for the land purchase in practically one hour.”

     Mr. Patterson was referring to Frederick H. Rike, founder of the Rike-Kumler Co., and Charles F. Kettering.

     The tie between the Wright brothers and NCR continues today.  It was while S. C. Allyn, former NCR Chairman, was Company president, that the Wrights’ home, Hawthorn Hill, was purchased by NCR.  Now it is used for visitors and guests from overseas.  The library has been preserved with the original furnishings just as it was at the time of Orville’s death.  (Wilbur Wright contracted typhoid fever and died May 30, 1912, before construction of the house began.  However, he helped plan it along with Orville and their sister, Katherine.)

     It was during World War I, Mr. Allyn recalls in his book, “My Half Century With NCR,” that the Company produced airplane parts and the Colt Automatic Pistol.

 

Five “E” Awards

 

     In World War II, NCR carried on a number of major projects in the war effort, and received five Army-Navy “E” awards.

     During this period, NCR produced MK4 rocket motors, was the sole production source for the 58 Chandler-Evans aircraft carburetor, which was used on the B-29 long-range bomber that ultimately carried the first nuclear bombs, and turned out K-3 and K-4 analogue computer gunsights, used in bomber defense systems.

     In addition, the Company produced more than two million M-42 antiaircraft time fuses, and made a million and a quarter magazines for the Oerlikon gun, a Swiss model that the Navy adapted for shipboard antiaircraft use.  In addition, the Company manufactured about 10 million spare parts for carbine rifles.

     During the Korean War, NCR entered the bombing-navigational computer field as a prime contractor for the manufacture of the A1A subsystem designed by Sperry Gyroscope Company.

     This electro-mechanical analogue computer embodied 26 separate units and 75,000 parts.  It performed necessary computations for both navigation and bombing in the B-36 and B-47 aircraft.

 

Air Force Payroll

 

     In the late 1950s, after the introduction of NCR’s 304 computer, the first of which was delivered to the Marine Corps, NCR introduced the smaller 390 computer.  The U. S. Air Force installed more than 160 of them for military payroll preparation throughout the world.

     Mr. Alllyn was an early participant in the Air Force Museum Foundation program serving as an original trustee and Chairman of the Foundation’s Executive Committee.  The committee obtained formal endorsement for the Foundation program from Secretary of the Air Force Eugene Zuckert and Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis E. LeMay.

     And, today NCR Chairman R. S. Oelman, who worked closely with Col. Deeds and Mr. Allyn on the Air Force-NCR projects, continues to carry forward this tradition.  Mr. Oelman is Chairman of the Air Force Museum Foundation and is guiding the Foundation’s expanding program, which includes a new Air Force Museum building, slated to open in 1971.

     The NCR Military Division and Electronic Communications, Inc. (ECI), an NCR subsidiary located in St. Petersburg, Fla., are actively engaged in a variety of projects today for the Department of Defense, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.