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man crush monday

  • MCM: James Herman Banning

    The belief that freedom of the sky would help create freedom on the ground made James Herman Banning one of the revolutionaries of his time.

    James Herman Banning James Herman Banning

    Born in 1899 in Oklahoma, Banning grew up with the determination to one day fly despite lack of resources and prejudice. Moving to Iowa where he studied electrical engineering for a little more than a year, his passion for aviation grew. Flight obsessed, he applied to multiple flight schools where he was rejected. Finally he found a pilot, Lt. Fisher, who saw the spirit in Banning and agreed to teach him to fly on the sly.

    Unfortunately, Lt. Fisher died in a plane crash just as Banning was near ready to fly solo. Without Fisher’s help, Banning was faced with finding a plane to fly when no one would lend him a plane to complete his required solo hours.

    Banning, undeterred, bought the engine from Lt. Fisher’s crashed plane and acquired plane and auto scraps to build his own plane, “Miss Ames”. Flying on his homemade plane, he earned his solo hours and was the first African American to receive a pilot’s license from the United States Department of Commerce.

    His love of flight, gave him the idea to become the first African American to fly across the United States, during the Great Depression. With no backers or newspaper coverage, Banning went out to find a way to fund his flight. In 1932, teaming up with mechanic, Thomas Cox Allen, the two came up with the idea to fund their flight along the way by soliciting small donations from the towns they landed in. Whether the donation was a meal, a place to sleep, or gas money, these donors would then inscribe their names on the wing of the plane, called “The Gold Book”. Each contributor was sharing their name in a piece of history, with a total of 65 individual names written on “The Gold Book”.

    "Miss Ames" & pilots James Herman Banning & Thomas Cox Allen "Miss Ames" & pilots James Herman Banning & Thomas Cox Allen

    Starting in Los Angeles, Banning and Allen faced many hardships and adventures on their cross-country flight due to the color of their skin, having no money, and flying a rickety plane. In one city, a whole town searched to find the right car parts to send them on their way after they crashed into a barn. In another city, Allen had to sell his suit for gas money. The last trek of their journey was funded by the Democratic Party in exchange to have Banning and Allen throw “Vote Roosevelt” flyers out of the cockpit as they flew over towns on their way to New York.

    After an exhausting, exciting 21 days of flying they completed their journey with a victory circle around the Statue of Liberty then landed at Valley Stream Airport. However, Banning’s accomplishment was unattributed. As a “race pilot”, his accomplishment was not considered news worthy by the white-owned newspapers.

    After their plane failed in Pennsylvania on the flight back, Banning and Allen were stuck returning to the West coast in the back of a bus.

    Trying to raise money to repair his beloved airplane, “Miss Ames”, Banning decided to fly a number of stunts in an AirTech Air Show. On the day of the show, the Chief Flight Inspector refused to allow Banning to fly one of his planes because he believed Banning couldn’t be trusted due to the color of his skin. An unlicensed white Naval mechanic offered Banning a seat in his friend’s plane, as a passenger. The mechanic wanted to preform the stunt, but during a loop stalled the plane, causing it to crash into the ground, costing Banning his life. In his honor, a group of his friends tried to rescue his beloved plane, only to find out it had been sold for scrap without Banning’s permission or knowledge. The physical record of the journey and “The Gold Book” were all destroyed.

    Banning’s determination, courage and hope for freedom was an inspiration to many other aspiring African American pilots and those who want to feel the freedom of the sky.

  • MCM: Tom Landry

    Before he became one of the most innovative and distinguished coaches in NFL history, Tom Landry was a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force during WWII.

    Tom Landry circa 1944 Tom Landry circa 1944

    Starting off as a quarterback in high school, than continuing his game at the University of Texas, Landry put a hold on his education to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, both his brother, Robert had enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Unfortunately, during a flight over the North Atlantic Ocean, Robert’s plane went down and he was declared dead.

    Tom enlisted in the armed forces in honor of his brother, Robert. Though his first experience in a bomber did not go as planned, he was committed to flying. Training as a co-pilot for a B-17 in Sioux City Iowa, in wasn’t until 1944 that he received his first orders and sent off to England. Landry was assigned to the Eighth Air Force, 493rd Squadron in Ipswich.

    Earning his wings and a commission as a Second Lieutenant at RAF Debach, he was co-pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress in the 860th Bombardment Squadron. From November 1944 to April 1945 he completed a combat tour of 30 missions and even survived a crash landing after his plane ran out of fuel.

    Tom Landry coaching the Dallas Cowboys in 1971. Photo from Harold Valentine/AP. Tom Landry coaching the Dallas Cowboys in 1971. Photo from Harold Valentine/AP.

    After the war, he went back to playing football while at college. Then went on to become one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, creating the “4-3 defense” alignment and winning two Super Bowl Championships. His service to his country and the heart he put into all he did is just one of the many reasons we consider Tom Landry an American inspiration.

  • MCM: The Montgolfier Brothers

    Some of the first sky explorations took place as far back as the 1780s, though they weren’t with planes. The Montgolfier Brothers were the pioneers of the hot air balloon, who conducted the first untethered flights.

    The Montgolfier Brothers were the pioneers of the hot air balloon, who conducted the first untethered flights. The Montgolfier Brothers were the pioneers of the hot air balloon, who conducted the first untethered flights.

    Joseph-Michel and Jacques- Étienne were born in France, the sons of a paper factory owner. The factory helped lead them to their discovery that heated air would cause a large lightweight paper or fabric bag to rise in the air.

    Starting their discovery by raising just a balloon, they advanced a few months later on September 19, 1783 by sending a sheep, rooster, and duck into the air. The animal passengers stayed up in their balloon for 8 minutes landing 2 miles from the launch site.

    Then on November 21, 1783, the first untethered flight took place in a balloon that sailed over Paris for 5.5 miles in 25 minutes. Without the curiosity and heart of these early explorers, the sky would have taken another century to reach.

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