The text contained in quotes is the history from Vern Moldrem's book "Tiger Tales" Also we want to thank Dick and Lydia Rossi for their contribution of Photo's and history information from the early day's and information on the AVG members who were early founders.. If anyone can contribute additional information to our history it would be greatly appreciated and you can email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
"Prescott knew that after the war there would likely be many new airlines starting up and competition would be fierce. His best chance for success was to get organized while the war was still in progress. The big problem was that no airplanes were available anywhere in the world. It was this inside knowledge that the entire production run of the Budd Conestoga had been canceled and the airplanes rejected by the Navy that made the airline possible. They felt that if anyone could make the Budds into reliable airplane, they could. If not, the Budds could be replaced when DC-3s became available."
"The new company bought the entire fleet of twelve Budd Conestoga's and immediately sold four of them for a price, which paid for them all. The remaining eight Budds departed Augusta, Georgia, for Long Beach California. Seven Arrived. The other one crashed in Fort Worth, Texas, and was sold on the spot for $500. It remained in service for many years...as a hamburger stand."
Vern's comments about his information in his book is as follows: The founders of the company are getting on in years at this writing, and so they tend to remember details own their own perspectives, not always the same way. Here are several views of how the company started. the left picture is of Catfish in his AVG Day's
"CATFISH RAINE: A group of investors including Signal Oil Company were trying to start an airline in Mexico to be called Aero-Azteca. Bob Prescott gave up his plans to return to China and hired on as their chief pilot. He was negotiating for three Budd Conestoga Airplanes from the War Assets Administration.
The Budd Railroad Car Company manufactured these planes, and some of the pilots have commented that they flew somewhat like a railroad car. Due to the aluminum shortage during the war, they were made of stainless steel. These twin engine planes with tricycle gear and a rear loading ramp were new, having being rejected by the Navy for MINOR mechanical flaws.
Prescott was back east to pick up a Budd for the Mexican airline when his brother, George, In Washington, D.C, Said "You guys are veterans. Why don't you buy those Budds yourselves?" (Veterans had preference in purchasing surplus items. The AVG was a civilian outfit, with no connection to the military, so technically none of the AVG pilots were military veterans. Due to their combat records, this detail was overlooked.
I, too was back in Washington at the time and Bob and I ran into each other. When he left for California with the Budd, he took me along as co-pilot, giving me a free ride home. When we arrived inn California, we began our own airline, National Skyways Freight. Bob was President, Duke Hedman vice-president and I was Chief pilot. The Aero-Azteca guys were mad as hell at us, and we didn't dare go down there for a while."
"JOE ROSBERT: Early in 1945 I was in Hollywood working on a picture at Paramount Studios about flying the Hump. That project lasted about three months, and at the end of it I got a call from Prescott in Washington. He wanted to start a cargo airline and needed $10,000 from each of ten former AVG pilots. When I hung up the phone I checked my bank balance and found I only had $4000.
I called Catfish and said, "Did you get a call from Prescott?"
"Yes I did."
"Are you in?"
"Yes I'm in."
"Well I'd like to get in, but I've only got $4000 in the bank."
"Don't worry about that. We'll go to the bank tomorrow and fix it up."
He loaned me the $6000 and I gave him an IOU. Later I paid him back in full
We all met in Pasadena at the home of Allen Chase and put the deal together. We each put up $10,000 but agreed that Bob Prescott should be given his share for having promoted the project. Sam Mosher and his group matched the $90,000 and National Skyways Freight Corporation was formed with $180,000."
When we posted this picture of Joe Rosbert on the discussion page one of relatives of a Former Tiger pilot saw this picture and sent the following message.
Mike Thank you for your response. I was lucky to meet Jim Gohm. The interest and kindness he has shown toward me is something it seems I have been seeking my entire life.
In all the years, I've only been able to locate and talk with one pilot that knew my dad and flew with him. My Father, Harry N. Taulbee was killed riding in the back of a Lockheed Lodestar on approach to Van Nuys in the fog in September of 1950. I was 9 months old, so I never got to fly with him or talk airplanes. Non pilots don't seem to understand a lifetime of talking and searching but always empty.
In 1990 while cleaning out my grandmothers garage after her death, I came upon a box. Inside were my dads log books, many pictures (mostly FTL), newspaper articles of his achievements, and several newspaper articles on the crash that took his life. This was entirely overwhelming for me. I understand the saying - "time stood still that day." These papers are real treasures to me. I have read them countless times over the last 10 years.
Then along comes Jim Gohm. The first person to ever show an interest. Then Vern Moldrem's book Tiger Tales. Then, your website, thanks to Jim.
You can imagine my excitement while reading Tiger Tales. I see Bob Prescott, Duke Hedman, Tom Haywood and then look in dads log book and wow, Dec 19th 1945 he flew with Prescott and Hedman from Long Beach to New York and return. And the list goes on and on.
Just last week, Lydia Rossi posted that great picture of Joe Rosbert, so of course I have to look. Yep, Oct 15th 1946 C-54 64354 Taulbee- Rosbert Kansas City to Los Angeles, 8:35 hours. Then Oct 21st 1946, C-47 59277 Taulbee-Rosbert Los Angeles to Kansas City, 8:55 hours. Then I find where Dads log book time was "certified correct - C.J. Rosbert Supt. Operations Flying Tiger Line.
I have what appears to be a summary of aeronautical experience of Harry N. Taulbee and it shows that from 6/1/46 to 1/15/47 he was Asst. Supt. Flight Ops, FTL. So it looks as though he was Rosbert’s Assistant.
The young man standing on the wing of the AVG fighter, wow, I feel like I almost know him. Thanks to Lydia. This is a most exciting time for me in my search for my dad, I know I'll never find him but this is as close as I've ever been.
I would like to share with you and any other interested Tigers, the pictures that I have and would very much like to have a memoriam page for my dad on your website.
I have N numbers for 3 Budds that Tigers owned. Is there anyone that can recall seeing a Flying Tiger Line C-47 with the Tiger teeth painted on the nose? I have a picture. I read where the FTL was always a little different, a little special. From my very limited exposure it is easy to see. A special organization, special people from the beginning right up through today.
Thank you Mike, hope to hear from you.
Regarding the IDs of the folks in the photo: Lady on far left is Helen Ruth Prescott (Bob's first wife), next lady is Maryann Hedman, Duke's wife (although at that time she was probably still married to Joe Rosbert). Between Haywood and Bartling, Dick is guessing that it may be Len Kimball, but not sure. Maybe Len wasn't with the company that early.
I have looked up Harry's dad's name in the seniority list. His father was senior to Goldsmith by one number. His dad was # 4 below Hedman, Haywood, Laughlin, Taulbee, then they inserted Groh, then Goldsmith. The list changed around back in those days, due to different flying contracts.
<em>"DUKE HEDMAN: Concerning the ten of us that formed the airline, it is hard to think of thing to say that haven't already been said We all respected each other very deeply. I loved Bob Prescott. We all did. He was a brilliant guy who knew how to get things done.</em>
<em>When we first started the company, I was vice president for about two months, but then I told Bob I wanted to go back to flying, so I resigned that position.</em>
<em>Our first charter was a load of flowers for Detroit flown by a new guy-Gordon, I think. Then a load of grapes to Atlanta flown by Paul Kelly, a pilot who had flown for Chenault after the AVG disbanded. Next was a furniture charter that I flew from New Your to California. It was hand to mouth for a while and things didn't look so good."</em>