A very readable volume about the Grand Central Air Terminal is this book:

Underwood, John. 1984. Madcaps, Millionaires and 'Mose'. Heritage Press, Glendale, CA. 144pp.


the register


I'm looking for information and photographs of this airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.


Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.






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Nate Morse, Fullerton High School Senior, 1920 (Source: ancestry.com)
Nate Morse, Fullerton High School Senior, 1920 (Source: ancestry.com)



Nathan Charles Morse was born in September 18, 1901 in Orange County, CA. He attended local schools, graduating from the Fullerton, CA high school in 1920, right.

Morse signed the Grand Central Air Terminal Register 44 times during 1930-31. His first landing was on December 21, 1930 and the last on May 13, 1931. Most of his flights were short-duration, local flights for "instruction." He flew five aircraft, NC372H, a deHavilland DH.60GM Gipsy Moth, NC235K, another deHavilland DH.60GM Gipsy Moth, NC8674 and NC8675, both Curtiss Fledglings and NC971K, a Curtiss Robin. All the aircraft were owned by Curtiss-Wright Flying Service, which Morse worked for.

Morse was signed in the Register every time simply as "Morse." The only way I was able to determine his first name was by accidentally finding it on an immigration form on which Mason and a Curtiss-Wright colleague were both signed. This form is exhibited at the biography page for Otis McKenzie, his colleague.

The 1910 U.S. Census finds Morse living in Fullerton, CA with his father, mother and brother. They have a live-in "hired man" who "works outside" on the family farm, an orange orchard.

Nate Morse, 1923 Passport Photo (Source: ancestry.com)


Oakland Tribune, April 4, 1930 (Source: Woodling)


The 1920 Census places Morse at age 18 living with his father, Nathan F. (age 45) and mother (age 48) and brother John (16). He applied for a U.S. passport November 5, 1923. His intention was a very agressive round-the-world tour. He listed travel to Japan, China, Hongkong, Straits Settlements, Signapore, Java, India, Norway, Sweden, Denmark Italy, Ceylon, British Isles, France, Germany, Madeira and Gibraltar. Whether he intended to do his travel as one contiguous adventure he didn't say. He planned to depart on at least part of his voyage on December 4, 1923 on the S.S. Franconia. His application describes him as age 22, 6'1" tall, round chin, high forehead, dark brown hair, brown eyes and oval face. Photo, left, is from his passport application.

According to an arrival list at ancestry.com, he arrived back in the U.S. on March 27, 1924, Morse disembarked in New York from Naples, Italy on the Franconia. The ship had departed Naples on March 13th. I could find no actual departure information for his outbound trip, except that on his passport application. So it is not clear if the four months between his passport application and his return from Naples comprised his intended round-the-world adventure.

In 1928 he made another voyage aboard the S.S. Olympic. The ship sailed from Cherbourg, France On March 28, 1928 and arrived at New York on April 3rd. Perhaps this was another let of his tour.

The 1930 Census has Morse living at 2885 Tanoble Drive in Pasadena, CA. This was a large home that his mother owned, valued at $100,000 in 1930. It was in a neighborhood of other homes whose owners had live-in cooks, chauffeurs, maids and gardners. He still lived with his mother, Lottie, now divorced and head of the household. According to the Census, she owned and operated the orange ranch. He shared the home with his brother John, John's wife, Maud, a nephew, John S. (10 months) and a lodger. Both Nate and his younger brother were employed as an "Aviator" in the "Aviation" industry. The article from the Oakland Tribune of April 4, 1930, right, identifies John and Nate as part of a cross-country training flight while they were learning to become transport pilots. This article was accompanied by a large photograph showing the students, in jumpsuits, leather helmets and parachutes,and their aircraft lined up before their departure. Note mention of C.C. Moseley and of GCAT Register pilot James P. Gaskill.

We know he made at least one more known trip out of the country. His return from Mexico was documented by U.S. Immigrations on the form exhibited at Otis McKenzie's Web page at the link above. That document was dated March 22, 1931.

Almost nine months later, Morse died on December 28, 1931 from injuries sustained in an airplane crash on December 19th. The airplane was owned by Transcontinental & Western Air (TWA). It took off from the Oklahoma City, OK airport and was about 6 miles from the airport, still in the climb phase of flight, when it crashed. It was assigned to the Tulsa – Oklahoma City – Amarillo run. Below, two photographs of the aftermath of the crash.

Aftermath of Crash of Ford NC7119, December 19, 1931 (Source: Woodling)


Sandusky (OH) Register, December 29,1931 (Source: Woodling)
Sandusky (OH) Register, December 29,1931 (Source: Woodling)


The Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives had this to say about the accident, "Crashed on takeoff from Oklahoma City Airport, while performing a position flight to Amarillo with one engine inoperative. The copilot was killed while the captain was seriously injured. The aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. Causes Takeoff attempted with one engine inoperative." The Sandusky (OH) Register reported Morse's death on December 29, 1931, left. The airplane does not look like it burned.

The photograph below shows that the airplane was a Register airplane, NC7119, S/N 4-AT-033. NC7119 was barely a year old when it crashed (manufactured August 28, 1929). The pilot and copilot (Morse) were repositioning the airplane, perhaps for repairs to the inoperative engine and to have it at Amarillo for the next day's flights. While the Ford trimotor was completely capable of flying on two engines, truthfully no modern pilot I know would ever attempt to depart with a multi-engine aircraft with one engine inoperable. What happens if another one quits?

Aftermath of Crash of Ford NC7119, December 19, 1931 (Source: Woodling)

Morse was 30 years old, not 26 as stated in the article. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, CA.



THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 11/03/15 REVISED: 11/05/15