Remembering an Old, Bold Pilot

By Guest Contributor January 13, 2017 12:30

Frank Tallman

Remembering an Old, Bold Pilot

By Bill Edwards

On September 16, 1962 the city and port of Oakland held an airshow to dedicate the new jet terminal and 10,000 feet of runway. A committee was established, headed by Nils Eklund, a Kaiser Industries executive, who asked me to chair the airshow portion.

I flew to Los Angeles and contacted Tallmantz Aviation headed by two men, Frank Tallman and Paul Mantz (“Mr. Upside-Down”), stunt pilots for the movie industry.

Mantz was Amelia Earhart’s mentor and confidant and was a grand nephew of Mark Twain. Unfortunately, Mantz perished in an airplane accident while filming The Flight of the Phoenix starring Jimmy Stewart.

Tallman would make several trips to Oakland to discuss plans with myself and Nils Eklund for the airshow, flying in with his P-51 North American fighter aircraft. The show would feature dog fights with his antique aircraft and then with modern WWII-type aircraft.

He came up to Oakland the prior week in a trailer carrying a French Bleriot, built in 1909 and was the first airplane to fly across the English Channel. I assisted him in assembling the Bleriot which he flew over the Bay bridges to bring the public’s attention to the upcoming dedication, which act concerned the Federal Aviation Commission, the FAA!

One of his airplanes was a standard J-1 “Jenny” airplane which was featured in the movie Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World starring Spencer Tracy and Ethel Merman. It was adorned with numerous patches, bailing wire and tape to make it appear unsafe to fly. Frank took me for a spin in that plane which was very stable and sound.

We became good friends and my wife and I socialized with Frank and his wife, Boots. The show was spectacular, viewed by thousands, and the climax was flown by two F-101 Interceptor jets from the Hamilton Airfield near Novato. The western-area supervisor was on the viewing stand with us on top of one of the terminal wings. At the last minute as the two jets came across the Bay, they were illegally very low and fired off their afterburners as they passed over the crowd which was a deafening and thrilling finale! The FAA chief said, “I’m outa here before my phone starts ringing!”

There is an old axiom among us pilots that states, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.”

Frank Tallman perished while instructing a student pilot over the mountains near Los Angeles. Apparently Frank Tallman and Paul Mantz did not believe that axiom applied to them. They were truly old, bold pilots.

Bill Edwards, 86, is a Sonora resident and pilot who has “walked away” from two airplane crashes, earning him the nickname “Crash”.

By Guest Contributor January 13, 2017 12:30
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