Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb



Born, Denison, Iowa, Nov 11 1893 - Died Nov. 2, 1967
Gained fame with a New York to Germany non-stop flight and
carried the first passenger on such a flight June 4-6-1927.

On June 4, 1927, Clarence Chamberlin, of Denison, took off on a record-setting, long-distance flight to Germany, piloting the Columbia, two weeks after Charles Lindbergh’s non-stop solo flight from New York to Paris.

The owner of the Bellanca airplane that Chamberlin piloted was Charles Levin, the first passenger of an non-stop airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Chamber had planned a solo flight but the owner climbed aboard the plane just minutes before take off.

Levine’s wife hadn’t known her husband had planned to accompany Chamberlin. She had wanred him, “If I even thought you wanted to go along, I would burn the plane!”

On June 6 the last drop of fuel was consumed by the engine and the Columbia made a successful landing in Germany. The non-stop flight was 290 miles farther than Lindbergh’s flight to Paris.

Several years ago Billy Tooma from New Jersey contacted me about Chamberlin. He informed me that the Columbia was destroyed in a hangar fire in Canada two weeks before it was to be placed in the Smithsonian museum. He had visited with Chamberlin’s son and daughter. About 10 years prior I read an article in a magazine about Chamberlin’s plane burning in Delaware. I located the article and sent it to Tooma.

He then did extensive research and found that I was correct. Months later the doorbell rang. I went to the door and found the visitors were Billy Tooma and his father, William.

As they walked in Billy waved an envelope and said, “This is why I am here.” It was the envelope in which I had mailed the magazine article about the Columbia burning in Delaware. He told me it had gotten him to do research. As a result the article was right.

He interviewed me for several hours while making segments for his movie, “Fly First and Fight Afterwards.”

It was mainly about the pilots in the 1920s in a race to be the first to fly non-stop from New York to Paris.

Included in the film were Lindbergh, Admiral Byrd, Amelia Earhart and several others.

One of the others was Ruth Nichols who flew a new BIRD airplane to be delivered to Ralph Weberg at Weberg Airways on Chamblin Day, August 24, 1930. The Weberg Airways was dedicated as Chamberlin Field. Clarence Chamberlin, flying a Ford Trimotor airplane, escorted Ruth Nichols and Weberg’s new airplane to Denison.

About a year after the dedication and air show, I was offered my first airplane ride by Ralph Weberg in the plane that had been delivered by Nichols.

During Chamberlin Days in 2012 the movie “Fly First and Fight Afterwards” was shown at the Donna Reed Theater as well as at the Optimist Club’s Flight Breakfast.

Used with permission of Mearl Luvaas

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