Aero Service Corporation (and N5000E)

[This page was started for details on a particular DC-3, but expanded itself by the various contributions
into a page about Aero Service Corp.

In March 2005 Robert Welshe wrote me:
"I read your website with great interest, particularly with respect to the DC-3 I knew as N5000E, when it was with Aero Service. Originally Aero Service Corp, Philadelphia Pennsylvania and operating from the North Philadelphia airport then Aero Service Division of Western Geophysical in Houston.
Although Aero Corp had had previous DC-3's in the 1950's, N5000E was the 1st of 4 DC-3's set up with alkali-vapor magnetometer systems in the middle 60's and through to the early 80's. As has been pointed out, these aircraft had two sensors towed on stainless steel coaxial cables. One sensor was about 100 feet below, the other about 300 feet below and both were vertically aligned to measure the difference in magnetic field intensity at two heights. The 'birds' were some 250 feet or more behind the aircraft. At an early stage, in order to fly during periods of minimum turbulence in Texas, the aircraft flew at night, using an infrared tracking camera [liquid nitrogen and all!] and had two B26 landing lights under the fuselage illuminating the 'birds'in an attempt to make their presence known to light aircraft. Fortunately, this practice was not continued. This was in 1968.
As it turns out, two of these DC-3's are now in the vicinity of the airport in Tamanrasset, Algeria. Both crashed there. N7119 crashed after losing an engine just after takeoff and did not make it back to the airport runway. All the crew survived ok. This was in 1974 1973 as I remember.

Dave Fenwick reacted on the N7119 crash as follows (sent Dec.2007):
N7119 at TammanrassetJust to set the records straight, the crash of Aero Service D.C.3 N7119 occurred on 17 June 1973, at Tamanrasset,Algeria.
Flight crew on board were: Left seat Jim Bennett, right seat Dave Fenwick, electronics operator Mike O'Connor.
Three pilots were working this survey: myself (Dave Fenwick), Jim Bennett, and the late Warren Kuech, all captains.
We flew a schedule of L seat, R seat. day off.
We lost the right engine on take off without enough distance to stop... Due to very rough terrain we made a left turn out and attempted to return to the airport. Unfortunately while trying to climb over a rather large rock hill, the aircraft stalled and we smacked the top of it. We then had a spectacular and very rough toboggan ride to the bottom of it, leaving the right engine behind to follow us down! The left engine departed the wing as we slid to a stop and after passing through and partly under the fuselage, ended up behind the right wing.
We had nearly 1.000 gallons of fuel on board, which was now pouring out of ruptured tanks... Luckily with no hot engines left there was no ensuing fire.
We all had mainly minor injuries and departed Tamanrasset the following day for medical attention.

Dave Fenwick wrote, when he sent these 2 photos in March 2008:
"N7119 in its last resting place. Please note the engine on the right is the left eng, the one on the left is the right engine"

N189UM crashed on landing on a ferry flight from the US to Africa enroute to a job with a ferry crew. All the crew were ok. I have trouble remembering the year, but it was around 1976 (Herman Buttigieg offered the date: 07Apr78). Ironically, Aero also bellied in an Aero Commander 680F at Tamanrasset just after takeoff, in 1973, but it was repaired and returned to service. The density altitude was a factor at this airport, but not a good excuse. This was during a period when N7119 and two Aero Commanders were in the country for approximately 3 years doing a very large geophysical survey.
All of Aero's DC3 aircraft had fuel tank capacity beyond the 'standard' 800 gallons, but N5000E had the best setup, and was a kidney buster with it's 1200 gallon capacity. N5000E was the most traveled of the fleet. It had worked in Adak, at the end of the Aleutian chain, and also in Tiera del Fuego, as well as Niger and Mauritania to name a few places.
Canadian Aero [later Spartan] had a fine history, and I spent a spring at Canadian Aero in Ottawa in the late 1960's.
I worked for Aero Service from Sept 1961, when I joined them in Australia [also with another old R4D], then through Philadelphia between field assignments and then heading the equipment development through it's time in Houston until the remnants were sold off in August of 1990. It was a great time. Amongst other aircraft, we also operated two Douglas B26 Invaders during this time, and a Caravelle 6R N1001U bought from United Airlines and used as a platform for Synthetic Aperture Radar for mapping purposes. All of Brazil was imaged with this system, as was large areas of Indonesia the Philippines , all of Liberia, Gabon and Japan, and many areas in the US and elsewhere.
Aero's aircraft fleet had included B17's, PBY's and even a couple of P38's before I joined them. The company was actually founded in 1919, and got involved in aerial photography and photogrammetry in the 30's and then immediately after WWII in geophysical work with the magnetometer developed by Gulf Oil. Aerial photography was the dominant business until the late 50's, when geophysics became dominant. A Canadian division was setup during this time, Canadian Aero Service, later sold to Spartan Aerial Services.
The last B17 was still there when I came to Philadelphia and then was sold to the Confederate Airforce. It had been used for high altitude photography and then in it's last missions as a laser profiler during the early 60's."

"I joined Aero in 1961 [Sept] and worked in Australia until 1965. Then I moved elsewhere in the world, including the Middle East. I was in / out of Philadelphia in the middle late 1960s and 1970; moved to Houston with the merge with Western Geo in 1973 until the demise of Aero in August 1990. About people: I remember I worked with Bud Thomae [Pilot], Harry Hughes [mechanic ex TapCo and Aramco] and others."
Thanks Bob!

Aero Service contact details
Former Aero Service staff are invited to contact Bob Welshe at the above adress.

The photo used as background to this invitation is from and has no bearing on Aero Service (afaik).

Tom O'Malley wrote me in August 2006-
"What a surprise, I came across your website when I googled Aero Service just to see if it still existed... Since you are familiar with 'Aero' and 'Canadian Aero' you are probably familiar with the name Tom O"Malley: my father. The Aero sites are a real nostalgia trip.
As a child I met the late great Virgil Kaufman, he was legendary even then. Some of my earliest memories are of flying between Ottawa and Phily in one of those old Dacks peering down the camera hole.
Did you know Bob Reckoweg, Bill Deslaurier, Tom Rowlands, etc.? As a kid my summer jobs included EM surveys in the arctic ( single engine Otter ), airborne mag in Utah, Idaho ( Aero Commander ) etc..
Well, thanks for the trip, many fond memories.
Tom O'Malley

Tom further clarified:
"Virgil Kauffman was a veteran WW I pilot. He went to work for Aero in 1919 an subsequently bought the company in 1924. He, and his contemporaries, were instrumental in developing the art of photo-interpretation, and the field of photogrametric engineering.
Before the U.S. entered WWII, several Aero staff, my father included, were sent to London on diplomatic passports for technical aid in photo-interpretation - this work had a direct impact on the Normandy invasion.
Yes, the people mentioned above were all Aero Corp personnel; they, and many others had remarkable stories. E.g. Bob Reckoweg ( pronounced Rekaway ) was an American fighter pilot, shot down in the English Channel, and who obviously survived!
Canadian Aero was started by my father (c.1950 ). Their primary job then was to photograph almost the entire country using surplus B 17's from which platt maps were made by what was then known as Energy Mines and Resources Canada.
As the 1950s progressed, there was frentic airborne mineral and oil exploration. It was a golden age for the industry. By the way, for any historians out there, if you google Aero Service Corporation Philadelphia Pa. you will find extensive archives of interesting and historic arial photographs documenting many events of the early and middle 20th century."
Thanks Tom!

Col. (US Army, Ret.) Joe Rodriguez wrote me in July 2014 (this posting was done a year later due 'circumstance'):
"Virgil Kauffman was my great uncle. My grandmother Christine Kauffman (of Yardley,PA) was his close sister, being born 2 years after Virgil.
I have been busy the past few months putting together the Kauffman family history and I would like to get some interesting stories about Virgil (both professional and personal, serious and humorous).
I just googled your Aero Services webpage and thought that might be a good place to collect (more) stories."
The idea was to collect them for the Kauffman family reunion in May 2015. But that has passed...
Still, there may be more reunions?
Email: joerod777 ATSign aol DOT com. Or by snailmail to Joe Rodriguez, 202 Admiral Ct, Hampton, VA 23669."

Mike Barrett is also an old hand at geophysical surveys; while he wrote on the subject of DC-3 C-FSAW, he also shared some general sentiments on this subject:
"I was on the geophysical survey in Iran where C-FSAW crashed back in 1977.
These were long flights, usually each over 10-11 hours each. For these flights, we always took full fuel and even had an additional 260 imperial gallon fuel tank inside the cabin. Along with all the survey gear which was a lot heavier back then, it was a really heavy bird!"


DC-3 C-FSAW in flight
DC-3 C-FSAW in flight

"I am still involved in airborne geophysical survey and earlier this year we completed an oil-mag survey for Shell in Libya. I had heard of a WWII bomber that had become lost there perhaps in 1942, I think. I’d hoped that our survey area would take us near the crash site but this was far from where we working, out near the Egyptian border. The name of the aircraft was the “Lady be Good.”
I think it was discovered by some Pommy seismic surveyors in the 60s sometime.
Apparently, the crew had attempted to walk out but had never made it.

But I have flown over another lost DC-3, this time up in Irian Jaya. It was also lost back in WWII, while flying over the high mountain range that traverses New Guinea and Irian.
There had been survivors including an Aussie nurse, but the wreckage (with occupants) was also only found in the 60s when the Freeport Mining geos were exploring up there.
I have been in airborne surveying since 1974, and although I do little actual flying today, more design and testing of electromagnetic equipment, I still enjoy the travel aspect of the business.
This industry has more than its fair share of stories and I think a very good book could be written on the subject. Airborne surveying began just after the war and used modified old sub-hunter magnetometers to look for minerals. A large variety of aircraft have been used for this purpose, beginning with the old war-birds of course.
Personally, I must have flown in perhaps 30+ varieties of fixed and rotor-winged aircraft over the years.
It also has a risk factor associated with it. We ourselves lost an aircraft in Namibia only last year. V5-AAG, a Cessna 210, and to this day we still do NOT know the reason why (the equipment now is much smaller and lighter and we can now do a better job using a Ce.210 than we ever could with an old DC-3!)
With regard to the airborne risk factor angle, I can personally attest to a few of them…
Getting lost (in pre-GPS days):
  • Power lines
  • Jet fighter interception
  • Rough mountain terrain
  • "Bird" towing cable getting tangled around control surfaces
  • Interception by Law-enforcement Rambos..
  • Over-flying of international borders by accident
  • Military area infringement by accident
  • Onboard electrical & engine fires
  • Engine failure
  • Poor mountain weather (cloud & winds)
  • Helicopter tail-rotor failure
  • Gunfire from the ground
  • Running low of fuel
  • Pilots overstressing their aircraft…
  • To mention just a few that I now recall off the top of my head..."
    Thanks Mike !

    VH-MJR Bob Welshe During Nov.2006 Doug Morrison wrote me:
    "Many years ago now, somewhere in March or so 1965, I flew on an aerial survey test flight (being one of many in my life); it was in the DC-3/RD-4 VH-MJR (ex N9032H) and it was along the south coast of Tasmania, Australia.
    It was not such an important flight, but I thought I should let you know that when I stumbled across your website recently and sighting some submissions by persons I have met or worked with, I couldn't resist sending the accompanying image of Bob Welshe on board VH-MJR...
    I have maintained my interest in the history of the aerial survey companies Aero Service, Canadian Aero, CGG, Geoterrex, etc. And I really have found it interesting that I have worked with your three correspondents who have discussed the Aero Service DC-3s with you i.e., Bob Welshe, Tom O'Malley Jnr and Mike Barrett."
    Doug Morrison


    Bill Swirsky wrote me in March 2021: 'My Dad, Charley Swirsky, worked at Aero Service from 1957 to 1961.
    He was an aircraft mechanic, maintaining their DC-3s'.
    Flightcrew with DC-3 N9032H

    Flightcrew with DC-3 N9032H

    B-17 N66573 @Saigon - copyright Bill Swirsky
    Bill: 'My father Charley worked in South America, and I think Brazil, Vietnam as well as North Africa, between 1957 & 1961. Here is N66573, a B17 by the looks of it and crew from 1958 in Viet Nam.'

    History of B-17 N66573 by Warbird Registry

    History (by Warbirds Resource Group):
    Delivered to USAAF as 42-102715, 19??.
    Boy Scouts, Polo, IL, September 1946-1952.
    - Displayed as memorial Polo Queen.
    California Atlantic Airways, St. Petersburg,FL, April 12, 1952
    - Purchased for $600.
    - Registered as N66573.
    Fairchild Aerial Surveys, September 8, 1953-1961.
    - Purchased for $130,000.
    - Litigation filed for ownership, $10,000 payed to U.S. Government to relinquish it's claim on the title.
    - Flew as Batmobile #33
    - Survey contracts in Middle East and SE Asia.
    Ewing Aviation, Los Angeles,CA, November 20, 1961.
    - Flew as #E85.
    Black Hills Aviation, Spearfish,SD (later Alamagordo,NM), July 15, 1964-1979
    - Flew as tanker #A10, #B10, #10.
    - Crashed while fire bombing, Cayuse Saddle,MT, July 1979.
    Mountain Flying Museum, Missoula, MT, 1998.
    - Acquired parts.

    Saturday 21 July 1979
    Type: Boeing B-17G
    Operator: Black Hills Aviation
    Registration: N66573
    C/n / msn: 8217
    Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2 (crew)
    Aircraft fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
    "The air tanker was engaged in fighting forest fires in Montana, USA. The aircraft was re-loaded with 1,800 gallons of retardant and departed from the airport at 17:48 on the second run in the Lolo National Forest.
    Upon returning to the fire, the aircraft made a high pass over the fire and then an approach for a second pass. The fire was located near the top of a mountainous ridge on an even slope that provided an easy target for a retardant drop.
    Once the pass had been made, no retardant had been dropped.
    Immediately after the airtanker passed over the drop target, it made a steep left turn and impacted a densely timbered hillside. Ground impact occurred in an estimated 5 to 10 degree nose low attitude and approximately a 40-degree left bank."

    Fairchild (b.07Apr1896 – d.28Mar1971) wanted to expand the capabilities of his cameras for map making and aerial surveying. In 1921, he formed Fairchild Aerial Surveys and bought a surplus World War I Fokker D.VII biplane, to take his aerial photographs.
    Shortly afterward, Fairchild landed a contract to make a photomap of Newark, New Jersey, which was the first aerial mapping of a major city.
    In 1923, Fairchild formed Fairchild Aerial Surveys of Canada, Limited after he was asked by the chief forester of the Laurentide Paper Company to perform aerial surveys of Canada.
    Back in the United States he made an aerial map of Manhattan Island, which became a commercial success and was implemented by several New York businesses. Other cities began using aerial mapping, as they found it was faster and less expensive than the ground surveys of the time.

    Aerial photography proved to be a successful commercial venture. Fairchild Aerial Surveys benefitted of this growing commercial demand for aerial surveys.
    But in 1965 Fairchild sold Fairchild Aerial Surveys to Aero Services Inc., which decided to keep only the more recent photographs and dispose of the others.
    A former Fairchild employee learned of this plan and was able to get the older material to three Southern California Institutions: Whittier College, UCLA, and California State University at Northridge, where he knew professors who would put the material to good use.
    Whittier College closed access to the photographs in 2010, and in 2012 the collection was put up for sale. The University of California Santa Barbara acquired the collection in December 2012.



    David Owens wrote me in March 2007:
    "Our company purchased most of the aerial negatives and hired most of the photo-lab personnel from Aero Service as well as most of the photo equipment from that day. We have negs dating back to the 1920's and 1930's from the Philly days to last present...
    I stumbled across your article about the planes in a search for a turbine Commander for lease with camera port(s).
    Go to if interested in what has become of the last days...
    David Owens
    Aerial Viewpoint

    Aero Service and (world wide) survey flights also feature as subjects in Allan MacNutt's interesting book, about his varied flying career: Altimeter Rising (written with Norman Avery, published by Mac's Aviation Books in 2000; subtitled "My 50 years in the cockpit". Recommended reading!

    Received following request in Oct.2007:
    "I am putting some history together of my Dad (about to be 86 this oct.2007). He was a HUMP pilot during WWII, then worked out of Saudi Arabia for Aramco for 8 years and later for Aero Service photographing all of Egypt in 1961.
    My Dad's name is Foster "Mac" McEdward. He flew for 54 years and was fortunate to fly a DC-3 N8009 for the last 20 years of his career. He was a member of the Hump Pilots Association for many years. Anyone out there remember him? He would love to hear from you all.
    Dad is now 86 and resides in Vermont where he has called home for over 60 years. I also live in Vermont and would be happy to relay any information / reactions.

    Do you have any suggestions as to where I can find out more about the Aero Service and people who worked for them during the early 60's?
    Pennie Rand


    Jim Peden replied:
    "I flew N8009 for almost 3 years with Foster MacEdward. At the time it was owned by International Shoe Machine Corporation. Captain MacEdward is still going strong in his 80's and lives in Middlebury, Vermont, where the plane was often taken for service.
    Prior to that, it was the flagship of Johnson & Johnson during the 1950's and before that was used by China National Aviation Corporation. The "chung" or Chinese symbol for "Center" or "Central" was preserved on the aircraft."
    Jim Peden

    In Nov.2007 I received following email from Dave Rowlands, good to see the trail continues:
    I have just crossed your 5000E & Aero Service Corp site which includes reference to Canadian Aero Services Ltd. started by Tom O'Malley. My father, Tom Rowlands is referred to and he was the President of Can Aero from near inception. Dad is still trucking at 91 and it would be good to contact O'Malley Jr. Can you help?
    I too grew up in the photo/mag world. It is interesting that Canadian Aero being of US Aero Service Corp parentage, could not operate aircraft in Canadian Register. Spartan Air Sercice Ltd., Bradley Air Service Ltd. and Survair Ltd. (Tom Rowlands' Company) were all used by Can Aero.
    I have been with the aviation world all my career and have many stories.

    By all means, Dave: share!

    And he did: "Most memorable was an aeromagnetic survey done by Survair Ltd. in an Aero Commander 680E using Decca Navigation, flying lines over the Beaufort Sea towards Russia from a base at Mould Bay, Prince Patrick Island in the high Arctic..."

    Survair Twin Otters

    "Though we saw it as cold as -62F, it was 24 hour daylight in early spring. We therefore flew round the clock using triple crew of which Mac was one of the pilots. I was an apprentice mech. We flew 500 hours in a little over 6 weeks.
    An article in the Ottawa Citizen (our home town newspaper) noted that "in one calender day" our Commander flew 25 hours and 20 minutes air time! This consisted of 4 sorities of 6+ hours with the first fllight off just after midnight and the last before midnight. We log flight time in the day of takeoff and thus logged more that 24 hours in one day!!
    The photo is of two Twin Otters we operated for International Nickel on Elctromagnetic survey."

    Marty Platt wrote me in April 2008-
    "I flew for Aero Service in the mid-1980s, flying Navajos and Cessna 404s. I remember the DC-3 hangered at Goodyear airport along with the Side-looking radar equipped Caravelle.
    I don't think the DC-3 or the Caravelle were ever used again after the time I was employed at Aero Service.
    You probably know that the Caravelle is now parked at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson,AZ.
    My last job flying for Aero was in May of 1986 in Berbera Somalia, the aircraft was a C-404 80DS which I also flew out of King Salmon,AK from August to October of 1985.
    Probably of more interest is the fact that my father was a pilot for Aramco in Dhahran, from 1949 to 1966. He often talked about the Aero Service crews mapping Arabia. I wish he were still alive because I know he would remember names."

    Doug Morrison wrote me in May 2008:

    Good to visit your website every now and then - interested to see Dave Fenwick included some photos of pranged Aero Service Corporations DC-3 in Libya. I was very interested to see that Dave Rowlands has also contacted you and I was more than interested to see his father was still alive at the end of 2007.
    I thought Dave and his father may be interested in the attached item I found in a 1955 Flight magazine in the UK.
    I have an old unidentified photo of an SNB-1 that was doing aeromagnetic work in Canada in the late 1940s (maybe as early as 1945) and Dave's father may be able to identify it... Bob Parmerter, the expert on Beech 18s etc, knows of this photo but he has not been able to identify it either. See below.
    Doug Morrison
    Sydney Australia

    Aero Service SNB-1
    Article on the subject of Survey in Flight Nov. 1955 PART 1 + PART 2

    Dave Rowlands commented on the above image:
    "I am not able to shed light on the SNB-1, but wonder if it was a Bradley Air Service AT-11..? Canadian Aero used Bradley for lift briefly after the demise of Spartan Air Service and prior to Survair Ltd. But I cannot remember specifically if the Beech was configured for Mag with a bird in trail."

    I received a request and in Dec.2008 a response came to this request. Since it has a bearing on Aero Service Corporation, I decided to add this, even though it has no bearing on DC-3 N5000E...
    (The question was initially put on my Qestions & Answers page)

    QUOTE In surfing the net for a picture of N161V, I typed in Aero Service Corp. and came across a piece written by Robert Welshe (March 2005)

    Harry Hermanson and I, Nancy Hermanson, were married on Feb. 17, 1968 and flew to Texas on Feb. 19, 1968 to start employment with Aero Service Corp.
    on the Texas project. Harry was hired as co-pilot under Walter Byrd who was then captain of N161V. When Walter was transferred out of the country, George Vine took over as captain of the aircraft. While in Texas Harry initiated the night flying as he was the only one on the crew who completely understood the Doppler system. The reason for the night flights was to avoid the daytime thermals causing the birds to vacillate. What with the wind and the thermals during the daytime, they weren't getting a lot of airtime.

    From Texas we went to Italy for a couple of months and on to Thailand for 13 months.

    We arrived in Bangkok on July 11, 1968. From there we were sent to Bethel Alaska, for a stay of 6 months.

    We were employed at Aero Service from February 1968 through 1972 and Harry traveled 62 countries, while I followed him to most of them. I will always hold fond memories of N161V.

    I would like to acquire a picture of N161V.

    I have been through all the histories of DC-3's and found N5000E owned by Aero Service but nothing on N161V. Could somebody please help me out? UNQUOTE

    Ron Gooding wrote me in Dec.2008:
    "Here are photographs of what I believe to be N161V taken in 1969/70 at Addis Ababa Ethiopia and Bandar Abbas, Iraq in 1969/70.
    Harry Hermanson, the pilot, can be seen sitting on a box in the foreground second pic down (with sunglasses) and I, Ron Gooding's wife Pauline, was a member of the electronics crew during this project.
    Kindest regards to Nancy and Harry Hermanson!"


    N161V Aero Service Corp

    Ron added to these photos: "The photo below, with Harry Hermanson shown seated, may in fact be DC-3 N7119; you will notice that it has different markings and double-window configuration different from N161V (above pics); it looks identical to the DC3 shown down in the desert at Tamanrasset, Algeria sent in by Dave Fenwick.
    That N7119 picture to the best of my recollection was taken at an Ethiopian Airforce Base close to the border with Somalia in early 1970.

    Aero Service Corporation DC-3

    Photos kindly provided by Ron Gooding, Ex Canadian Aero Service Corporation 1968 - 1971
    (Hunt Club Road, Ottawa)


    Rod Erling contributed this in March 2009:
    "My name is Rod Erling and I was in charge of Aircraft Stores at both Mercer County and North Philadelphia Airports, from 1955 through 1960.
    I supplied parts support for all of the aircraft owned by Aero Service. These included 3 B-17s, 2 DC-3s, 2 AT-11s, 2 P-38s and 2 Beech Model 17 Staggerwings plus a number of Pipers. And 2 PBYs.
    When one of the birds came in for major overhaul, it meant many busy, long days because there was always contracts to fly. These aircraft were not Hanger Queens and they had extensive flying times.
    At times I would crew these planes on domestic shake down flights.
    Most large parts were stored at Vergal Kauffman's barn, near Washington Crossing Park, in Bucks County PA.
    I still have my Aero Service flight crew pin from the 1950s!"


    In March 2009 I received a request from Étienne Govare:
    "Do you know where the Canadian Aero Services Ltd archives are located?
    We would like to find an aerial photo from the Hart-Jaune project (Québec) and the 16 topographic maps produced around 1957-1958.."

    Aero Service survey map
    Help would be welcome, EMAIL


    Peter Jensen wrote me in Sep.2009:
    "My father was Homer Jensen, who was the co-inventor of the magnetometer during WWII, and ran much of the aerial magnetic surveying operations that Aero conducted, from the 1950's until the 80's.
    I have many fond memories of some of the people who've been kind enough to contribute to this website, although I was only a child during the periods they're speaking about. As a child, though, I got to play aboard many of the amazing aircraft that have been discussed here - probably to the annoyance of many of these fine contributors - at both the Mercer and North Philadelphia airport sites. The PBY's and B-17's were among my favorites, because there was so much to see in each of them. The P-38's, though, were the most impressive to see up close.

    "You may enjoy a verbal picture of what the large Aero hanger at North Philadelphia Airport looked like on a typical day in the 1960's: A B-17 parked outside, one or two PBY's on the grass outside the hanger, a DC-3 inside looking majestic, a staggerwing Beech, a helicopter or two, and often a smaller single engine plane or two. And, on a really good day, a P-38! Now THAT was a hanger full!"

    "The Caravelle jetliner is mentioned in passing on this page, and that was my Dad's last big project with Aero. He got the government to permit the commercial use of the Goodyear side-looking military radar, which was classified at the time, and mounted it in the Caravelle. That plane and radar flew all over Brazil in what was, then, the largest mapping project I believe ever undertaken from the air, and several new rivers were discovered. Also flew in Alaska and parts of the US."
    N1001U c/n 86
    Sud SE-210 Caravelle VI-R N1001U (c/n 86) seen at the Pima Air Museum (Tucson,AZ) in May 2008.

    The first production Caravelle VI-R, originally delivered to United Airlines on 18Jan61. Later it was used by Aero Service Goodyear Aerospace as a radar test bed. Now on display at the Pima Air & Space Museum.
    Caravelle N1001U
    Aero Service Caravelle

    "I also have many fond memories of Virgil Kaufman, and Aero has to be the only company in the world with both a Virgil and a Homer!

    "Dad's first pilot's license was signed off by Orville Wright, then the inspector for pilots in the US, and he had considerable, and early, experience with a wide range of planes. His two brothers, and his father, were also pilots, and were featured in the local paper as the 'flying Jensens'."

    "Many thanks to all who've contributed their memories, and any you might have of my father would also be most appreciated."

    Rolf Larsson sent me this photo of N1001U in actual use, seen on Miami on 16 October 1975.

    Caravelle N1001U by Larsson

    Jacques Hémet sent me these images (below), he wrote: "Aero Service Caravelle and crew spent some time on my Toulouse facilities in the eighties.." (See also Jacques' pages on this website ONE + TWO

    Aero Service Caravelle at Toulouse

    Wayne Roberts wrote me in Oct.2012:
    "Read with great interest about the DC-3 and aerial survey.
    I was at Goodyear airport in Arizona when the Caravelle was working; a friend, David Crisp, was flying as co-pilot at the time. Jerry Madsen was a mechanic for them as well.
    My connection was earlier, in the late-1970's.
    I found a photo-nosed P-38 in east Texas.
    The story was that Aero Services had abandoned it in Peru, and one I.N. Burchinal had recovered it. I got to fly it once for my (collectors) type rating, observed by Jimmy P Andrews of the Dallas GADO.
    The machine was later destroyed in an overshoot landing on a short cropduster strip."


    Eric Jacobsen wrote me in Oct. 2009:
    "Thank you for the interesting website on Philadelphia's Aero Services Corporation.
    I was half, or even three-quarters, raised by Ed Canfield, an early Aero Services pilot. So many stories...!
    Anyhow, the full series of Propwash, the Aero Services in-house magazine, is posted at: {=dead link by Feb.2022}

    The Nov. 1938 issue covers Ed's first trip with Virgil K (moose hunting in Canada, north of Williston ND, in a Stinson).
    The Nov. 1952 issue covers Ed's retirement from Aero Services. In between there are stories of his Cuban aerial survey and a successful emergency landing in an Airmaster in the Yukon (stranded for a week on an island, but made a comfortable camp), and the subsequent trip to Canada in a Beech Staggerwing with a replacement Warner 165, to fly the Airmaster off the island with.

    Ed's main fame, pre Aero Services, was aerial coyote hunting from a Culver Dart, for the hides/bounty. Over a thousand coyotes per winter!
    There are good photos posted by the Williston museum.
    The Culver Dart is still in license by David Foulke, near Philadelphia; it has appeared in a number of publications as it is the best preserved of its type.

    Q.: Does anyone have a cross reference of Aero Service aircraft?
    There are a few airmasters floating around with the camera windows in place. I would like to know N number of Airmaster involved in Yukon emergency landing...
    Eric Jacobson
    Grand Junction, CO

    Jacobsen wrote me 06Oct12:
    "Much has happened since my 2009 posting:

    I purchased NC20941, Ed Canfield's Culver Dart, from Dave Foulke in North Philadelphia.
    Dave had not been able to fly for several years, but kept the ship in annual. As part of the sales agreement, he was to insure it for the first 3 hours of my time, until I had enough logbook hours to put
    it under my own insurance.
    Rich B, a Korean War AF fighter pilot was hired by Dave to be my transition instructor. We flew it out of Dave's private grass strip and did practise landings. We went over to a regional airport, uncontrolled, to refuel. On take off the engine quit in climb out at about 40 feet AGL. Stall, and down we came!
    I thought we were going to simply have a hard landing, but a gear failed and the belly touched with consequent propstrike on the windmilling Hamilton.
    The Warner fuel pump is a gear pump with a spring loaded pressure relief valve. Years of inactivity had caused the PRV to gum up in the open position; in a hard climb, nose high, there was no fuel to the carb; so down we came.

    I took the family diesel Suburban, with a 30' box trailer, from Colorado to the east coast to pick up the plane. Enroute home I stopped by Carole and Ray Miller's in Lincoln,NE.
    Carole is Ed Canfields daughter. As I was leaving, they gave me about 30 six inch rolls of old/developed 16mm movie film. A lot of Aero Service footage on those rolls.....and NC20941 is currently in rebuild.

    In pursuit of Ed's airmaster, Russ Williams has an ex Aero Service Airmaster, N25485.
    His website can be viewed at
    He went through the log books; Ed flew this one back to Wichita for installation of camera ports in 1940, and he flew it for A/S in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti, but it was not the one that came down in the Yukon (Russ
    combed the log books).
    Doug Morrison of Sydney helpfully suggested that it could have been N19455, but that was a 145hp Airmaster and the Propwash article says it was a 165hp Warner that started the Yukon problems...
    On 'Barnstormers' there is a survey airmaster, with A/S camera ports, for sale: {=dead link by Feb.2022}

    A/S supposedly had about 5 airmasters, so hopefully I will yet find it.

    In the above mentioned films, there are flying shots of many A/S aircraft and a promo film about measuring coal stocks at a large powerplant via aerial photography. I am getting them digitized. Also a beautiful movie about shooting wolves/coyotes from the air with the Dart..."

    Jacobsen wrote me again on 26Feb22 (subject: aero service corp airmaster list): 'N25463, a 165 Warner Super-Scarab ship, is up for auction. Do you know if this was an Aero Service survey Cessna?
    Some-oner at your N5000E website had a complete Aero Service stable list......'

    Doug Morrison wrote me in Nov.2009:
    "I have been tracking certain events in the early postwar operations of Aero Service as part of my research into the overall history of aeromagnetic surveying. Eric, and maybe others, interested in Aero may find the following enlightening.

    Eric wrote of Ed Canfield being an early Aero Service survey pilot and this is true. He flew a good percentage of the early aeromagnetic surveys for Aero in fact he piloted the aircraft on the very first aeromagnetic survey using a fluxgate magnetometer as a test in May 1944 at Boyertown Pennsylvania in Aero's Beech D17 Staggerwing NX18575, accompanied by Homer Jensen (Peter Jensens father) and JR Balsley of the US Geological Survey.
    Only the Russians had flown survey magnetometers in aircraft before this (using old induction coil mags). The first antisubmarine magnetometers were flown in 1941.
    Ed shortly thereafter piloted the second ever aeromag survey aircraft, a Beechcraft SNB-1 or AT-11 - possibly the one that has already been posted on this blog - it still hasn't been positively identified but was likely N69575 and it did work in Canada as far as I can tell.
    I would be very interested if Eric has more detail on Ed's flying for Aero Service 1944-1947, as I am trying to track this early aeromagnetic survey work (areas, aircraft and crews).

    Eric asked if anyone knew which Cessna Airmaster it was that Ed force-landed in the Yukon. I am not quite sure when this may have occurred, but I see from old Prop Wash magazines Aero Service had an old Cessna C.38 (early Airmaster) that was workshopped in 1950 after suffering undercarriage damage in the 1949-50 winter... This C.38 was registered N19455. Was this in the time frame that Ed Canfield reportedly force landed?"
    Doug Morrison,
    Sydney, Australia.


    Linda Burchett Blythe sent me the following in July 2010:
    "I read with interest your information and stories about Aero Service Corporation.
    My father was Harry P. Burchett who was
    hired by Virgil Kauffman after Dad retired from the Army Corp of Engineers in 1957.
    He was director of Aero’s subsidiary companies and at one point, if my memory serves me well, he was Assistant General Manager under Tom O’Malley. Some of the people you mentioned are very familiar to me and stayed with us at our home when they were in Philadelphia on business.
    I remember Bill DesLaurier very well. These folks were all special people. Talented, accomplished, and loved to have a good time.

    My Dad passed away on July 5, 2008 at the age of 89. After his death I found passports from his travels and letters he wrote on some of his trips. After Aero he worked with the Department of Defense at the Army Map Service, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Mapping Agency."


    In an article about Indigo Airlines (, written by Tim Spearman for Propliner Magazine (No.122, 2010), I came across a remark that Tony Baxter, who flew N5000E in 1990 from the USA on its ferry flight, now operates this same vintage DC-3 in Zanzibar having been registered 5H-DAK for Indigo Airlines!
    See the profile on DC-3 ZS-LVR


    Mark Reinmiller wrote (Dec.2011):
    "My father, Harry (Bud) Reinmiller, worked for Aero Service, probably from the 1940s until the 1960s.
    I thought that he left when the company went to Texas. He then went to work for a company in Norristown, PA called Vernon Graphics.
    I believe he originally worked in the photo lab.
    He and I used to hunt with a friend of my father who also worked there (Dick Boyle), and I recall someone else he knew there (Harry Franke?). For many years after he left the company we used to hunt on Virgil Kaufmanns farm in Bucks County. He had a grass airstrip and a hanger on the farm.
    I remember going to NE Philly airport when I was young and going into an old B17 that I believe was there for spare parts. I think they had one or more B17s there that they used, but we did not get into them."



    Ed Stewart wrote me in july 2012:
    "I have been on your site a number of times and have never contributed anything but thought I would throw this out while I am still able to remember.

    In November 1966 I joined an Aero crew in Tonopah,NV doing a large survey there. I flew Commander N9372R and Cessna 320 N3007R. One of the more memorable moments was when the electronics engineer and I stopped in Hawthorne,NV for lunch only to find a dead battery when we returned.
    We spent what seemed like hours taking turns propping the plane until finally and miraculously one engine managed to start. We both almost died from heat exhaustion.
    I wish I could recall the names of the other crew members but unfortunately I do not.

    In May of 1967 Aero sent me to Little Rock,AR to check out in the A-26 N3710G, which was a thrill to say the least.
    I credited flying the A-26 with the ease with which I transitioned into the Lear 24 since some of the speeds and characteristics were similar.
    We did a small job out of Little Rock and then in June I picked up N184UM in Northeast Philly and took it to Fort Nelson,BC where we did a mag survey until September of 1967.
    That is the first time I ever worked with Homer Kent and his lovely wife, Elsa. Homer was the mechanic on the job and between he and Elsa they kept everything interesting.
    Later I would work with Homer on the India project and would meet him in Long Beach after he went into semi-retirement. The last I heard of Homer he was planning on retiring to Chile where Elsa came from.

    In November 1967 I joined the PBY CF-JJG enroute to India for a large project.
    JJG was actually owned by the Canadian Aero group but was on loan to us for a USAID project. I had Canadian license so had the “privilege” of flying it.
    I had heard many stories about JJG mishaps prior to my getting hold of it and if anyone knows any of the stories I would love to hear them.
    In any case, on the ferry flight to India we landed in Teheran to refuel and overnight. There were no chocks available on the ramp but there was no real wind so we all made a dash for the bathroom only to find when we came back out that JJG had tried to mount an Aeroflot passenger plane preparing for departure to Indonesia...
    Hardly any damage was done to JJG, but fairly serious damage to the Aeroflot. We never heard of the incident again so I suppose the Russians just fixed their plane and went on.
    Our only problem was that the nose gear doors wouldn’t press the micro-switch properly so the gear wouldn’t extend so it had to be manually extended for each stop all the way to Delhi. If you have ever tried to extend the nose gear on a PBY by hand you will know what I mean! It is no fun.
    Years later when I landed a Lear at Edmonton, the ground controller instructed me to proceed to the ramp and park next to 'the PBY' located there. I asked him if it was JJG and when he replied in the affirmative I asked him to park me well away from the old girl...
    We did surveys out of Jaipur, Udaipur and Ranchi through March of 1968 where I was medevac'd home for kidney problems.
    The notorious Cal Moss, his wife Ann, Homer Kent and Elsa and others were on the job but I don’t recall the others. For those who knew Cal, he died of Melanoma in Reno back around 1990 or so.

    In the summer of 1968 I flew N161V on a small job out of Austin,TX but was transferred to another 'lovely' PBY N608FF for a really horrible job in Nicaragua.
    They sent us in there just at the beginning of the rain season, so we mostly sat around watching it rain because you had to be VERY and we never saw the jungle for the fog and rain.

    In November of 1969 – Nov 1972 I was back in N161V for a job in Lahore, Pakistan ; Manado, Indonesia; Dar Es' Salaam,Tanzania; Tulear,Madagascar; and Mopti,Mali.

    It was a lot of fun rattling around the world from one adventure to the next. Thankfully no one was injured on any of my crew,s which wasn’t always the case.
    It would be great to hear from any of the old crew members who participated in some of these jobs.

    Ed Stewart

    In a follow up, Ed wrote:
    "I noticed a picture of N161V sent in by Ron Gooding (I think). I have a similar picture taken a bit earlier when I was flying the old girl.
    The guy on the left in the picture is Colonel Fartage of the Iranian Air Force. I often wondered what happened to him following the overthrow of the Shah."

    N161V Aero Service
    Bob Welshe wrote me in April 2013: "I had wondered what happened to Cal Moss. I knew he had an aircraft avionics business in Reno.
    Also have good memories of Homer Kent when we were together in Fort Nelson.
    Regarding the unidentified crewmember with N161V, I believe it may be Billy Clark.
    He was hired originally in Sydney, Australia when Aero had operations there; he'd recently immigrated from Northern Ireland and subsequently, after he returned to Ireland, worked on several crews around the world.
    I was in contact with Kurt Clausen the past year. He now lives in Florida.
    And I now live in Texas."


    'CV' Vorwerk sent (13Jul2013) me the following reminiscence:
    "I have just had the pleasure of reading from your site; it was very interesting in that it covered a time frame after my association with Aero.
    I was discharged from the Air Force on the 15Nov1952, and was half way across the Atlantic by midnight of the same day! I was on my way to join the Aero project, working out of Roberts Field. Headed up by John Korman. Bud Thomae (Thomas? -webmaster) was flying Aero's DC-3.

    The Canadians were flying a Ventura, which gave them more problems then it was worth! Eventually took all of them down with it, when it went down in the gulf of St. Lawrence on their return to Ottawa.

    Worked with Aero from '52 through '66.
    And I remember a number of the persons mentioned on your site!
    I worked mainly out of Beirut, and was in Liberia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, (Pop King and I were 'invited' to stop in at Tel Aviv when we strayed into a restricted air space which had been set up around Tel Aviv), Lebanon, Iran, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile (where we were using the Commander 680 for mag work north of Santiago to the Peruvian Border), as well as Nigeria and Canada; I remember Joe Snyder - he and his wife visited me here in Arizona on several occasions; and others from the winter which I spent working there in Ottawa.
    My very good friend Paul Jordan's wife, BK, forwarded several volumes of his notes and three volumes written be Carl Aslakson relating to Shoran and Hiran operation.
    In as much as I have no ongoing use for these, should anyone out there have a use for them (table leg too short etc.) I would like to see them again put to a good use.
    Enough for now.
    I don't even know if this will get anywhere at this date. If it should, I would be interested in hearing from anyone."
    C.H. Vorwerk


    Craig Woods wrote me in March 2014:
    "I came across your website whilst Googling Aero Service Corporation.
    I was employed by African Surveys in 1956 as an aerial photographer. I was in the porocess of completing my contract with the SA AirForce Gymnasium, mustered as a photographer. Through a chance meeting I was approached by Jack Webster who was in SA to start up African Surveys which I think was a subsidiary of Aero Sevice Corporation, Philadelphia. Head of the photographic section was a Mr Humphries.

    We first flew a modified Cessna 180 equipped with oxygen as we were doing mainly mapping surveys for the Dept of Land Survey of the government. I was 18 years old at the time.
    We also had a Beach At-11 and I remember a Dak being used for magnetometer surveys in Namibia.
    I was also flown up to Sierra Leone with a camera to do some photography with a Canadian team who were doing airborne magnetometer surveys with an aging Avro Anson. We were unable to install the camera in the aircraft and I returned to SA empty handed.
    After one hard landing in Bloemfontein in the AT-1,1 after a hot and heavy just-made-it take off, we put down on the just finished concrete runway at Tempe airfield. Shortly after that I resigned and went to the UK early 1964.
    Pilots that I flew with were the legendary Rhodesian Bill Williams, Seafire pilot Hinton Gilham, Aussie ex-KLM pilot Alan Tutt and two Dutch fighter pilots Rob de Koning and Rob de Groot."


    "I glanced through your web site looking for current information on Aero Service Corp.
    Aero did a mission for my project in 1964 at Barrow, Alaska. The products were 26 sheet, 1/2m contour maps at 1:5000 and a compiled 1:25,000 contoured photo mosaic.
    We have the aerial photography and maps.
    I am looking for the original ground survey from 1964. Would this exist in any Aero archives?
    The sponsor, CRREL, does not have it.
    Is there an Aero Service Corporation archive?"

    Dr. Jerry Brown P.O. Box 7, Woods Hole, MA 02543 USA Tel/Fax: +1 508 457 4982

    In response to the above here, Carl Winnefeld wrote me in august.2014:
    "Hi, I worked at Aero Service in Philadelphia and Houston during the same time frame as Bob Welshe who has several posts on your web site.
    Regarding the post by Dr. Jerry Brown regarding an Aero Service archive I'd like to respond.
    There is no archive of Aero Service non-speculative (client) data. For almost all surveys the contract required the delivery of all materials to the client and that included material that the client may have furnished to Aero Service to aid in the processing of the survey. Even if the work extended across multiple surveys or a long time frame the data were returned to the client."


    Colonel (Ret) Joe Rodriguez is collecting short stories about his great Uncle Virgil Kauffman.
    They can be professional or personal, serious or humorous.
    He intends to compile and share them at the Kauffman family reunion at Yardley, PA in May 2015.
    If you have a story send it to Colonel Rodriguez'
    Adress to :  joerod777-ATsign- AOL -singleDOT-com (Pardon the cryptic code, so as not to generate spam).
    or by mail to: 202 Admiral Ct, Hampton, VA 23669.
    Or you can send it to me, thr webmaster and I will forward it: EMAIL


    William Swirsky wrote me in April 2019: "I ran across your webpage regarding DC 3s used in aerial mapping and exploration by Aero services corp out of Philadelphia.
    My father, Charles Swirsky, was an airplane mechanic and worked for Aero Research Co, from about 1957 to 1961, mostly in North Africa, South America and pre war Vietnam.
    Below is a photo of him at the Gibraltar in July 1960 with, I assume, one of the planes that he was a crew on. There is a probe sticking out of this DC-3".

    DC-3 N88740 at Gibraltar, 1960
    Here's the history of C-47A c/n 13070, from (april 2019):
    History of C-47 N88740
    N88740 was reg'd CF-IMA for Canadian Aero Service Ltd of Ottawa, Canada on 16Aug61.

    This is another photo William Swirsky (of Yerington,NV) shared with me (in March 2020):
    DC-3 N88740 Aero Service
    William wrote: "I found another photo of N88740 that I am submitting, It is in the 1957 to 1961 era
    with Aero Service corp. By the vegetation its not north Africa, It could be south America, I think.
    It has different script on the side!"



    More on DC-3 (N5000E), as ZS-LVR


    Aero Service contact details
    Former Aero Service staff are invited to contact Bob Welshe at the above adress.

    The photo used as background to this invitation is from and has no bearing on Aero Service (afaik).

    Ed Stewart informed me in Mar.2016 that a dedicated website has been created: (dead link). It covers history from 1919 to 1990.
    The website was started by a group of former employees of Aero Service Corporation, joined together to preserve the history, memories, aircraft, employees and friends of the company.
    Recommended to check it out!

    To email me, click on the image and rewrite to the correct adress as given below
    (replace -AT- by the @ symbol).

    Please quote the url (link) you refer to, thank you.
    Sorry for the inconvenience, but this is because spam has increasingly become a problem.

    Last updated 26Feb2022