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Early Encounters with the C-6: Bill Sievert Founder # 272

Amigos del Ciel:

The cover picture of a C-6 powered Curtiss Oriole on the September Daedalus Flyer was very nostalgic. (Incidentally, never before had I seen sleeve loops on a trench coat.) My first contact with this post WWI aircraft was at Rockewell Field, North Island, San Diego, California in the summer of 1919. (The U.S. Navy had made only minor encroachments on North Island at that time).

I was in the 2nd Observation Squadron (Gil Ervin, C.O.) and we were awaiting transport to the Philippines. One weekend my very high rank (?) drew O.D. duty. (No BOQ at ROckwell and a few of us lucky ones lived in the Hotel del Coronado Annex at a very special rate of one dollar a day. The quarters, heat and light allowance of a second looie just about toook care of the rent. There were also special rates in the dining room and grill so it was a case of turning over our monthly paychecks to the hotel cashier.)

About four o’clock on this particular Saturday afternoon, from in front of headquarters, I noticed an unfamiliar type of aircraft perform a landing pattern and then land. I met the aircraft in the OD’s side car as it taxied up to the hangar line and shut down the vertical and uncovered engine.

Very soon from the front cockpit there emerged a lady clad in full fox hunting attire (red coat, white breeches and riding boots). It was quickly determined that the lady was Mary Roberts Rinehart, the well known authoress, and the charter flight had just come from Chaplin (Syd) Field, Venice, California (located then between now LAX and SMO) for a weekend in Coronado. Transportation was requested to the Hotel Del but only the motorcycle sidecar was available. So Mrs. Rinehart got to the headquarters building that way and there phoned the hotel, not for a taxi, but a “limousine”.

Meanwhile the pilot stated he would RON so that meant taxiing the aircraft into the parking area. I “declined” the pleasure of propping the C-6 so we changed places and I taxied the Oriole in my first experience with a non-military aircraft.

In passing, might mention that after returnign from the Philippines I flew a Curtiss Seagull C-6 powered and with a battery operated self-starter! This was at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago, the summer & fall of 1921. All our Founder members will appreciate the “self-commencer” innovation after several years of hand “twirling” OX’s, Hissos and Liberties. The C-6 engine (Kirkham design) was the sire of the V1570 and D-12 engines we all know how smooth they were.

Finally, I might remark that the spooky stage plays of Mary Roberts Rinehart were quite an aid to romance. It seems that young ladies, after attending an evening performance of the play, were averse to being left alone.

Hope to see you all at the 1971 Convention if the Tucson Flight can wangle Air Force transportation. It couldn’t this year.

Vaya con Dios,

Bill Sievert ID 272